November is a pressure cooker for college football teams, especially for those at the top. Kansas State was cooked after only a week as BCS No. 1. While Baylor kept a bowl dream alive by dismantling K-State, the Wildcats became the fifth top-ranked team since 1998 to lose to an unranked opponent. And, every time said unranked team has foiled the nation’s top dog, the crushing loss happened in November.
The Baylor upset all but ends Kansas State’s—and the Big 12’s—bid for a BCS title. There was a sense of deja vu for Big 12 fans, as November once-again claimed the conference’s BCS contenders. The same weekend last November saw the pesky Baylor Bears and RGIII beat then-No. 5 Oklahoma, while unranked Iowa State handed then-No. 2 Oklahoma State its first loss.
1. Oklahoma (8-2, BCS: No. 13)
The headlines may have come out of Waco, but the Big 12’s best game last weekend was in Morgantown, between WVU and Oklahoma. The Sooners gave up a two-touchdown lead but eeked out the win in a thriller. Landry Jones had his most impressive game yet in a crimson and cream uniform. Jones set a school record with 554 yards on 38-51 passing. He threw six touchdowns and just one interception. Facing fourth down in the red zone and only 24 seconds to play, Jones hit a slanting Kenny Stills right in the chest for the game-winner, Stills’ fourth TD of the night. Still, OU looked pathetic trying to contain Tavon Austin out of the tailback spot, as well as rushing Geno Smith. Big improvement is needed defensively to take pressure off Jones against Oklahoma State. The Sooners host the Cowboys, but they have played magically on the road and lost twice in Norman this year. Nothing is ever certain in the Bedlam Game, but Oklahoma could still snag a Big 12 title share.
This week: vs. Oklahoma State (7-3)
2. Kansas State (10-1, BCS: No. 6)
K-State can still get into a BCS bowl with a win over Texas, which would guarantee them at least a share of the Big 12 title. But their ambitions for a national title were crushed in an embarrassing loss to Baylor. They are ranked fifth in the BCS, but even if things fall their way, a loss to a team with a losing record sticks with voters. The same type of loss kept Oklahoma State out of serious title discussion in 2011. Saturday night’s game was shocking. Kansas State could not keep up with the speed of Baylor’s offense—and the Bears piled on the points. More shocking was Collin Klein struggling against the Bears typically terrible defense. Klein threw three picks in Saturday’s road loss. He had three interceptions on the season entering the game.
This week: Idle (vs. Texas 12/1)
3. Texas (8-2, BCS: No. 16)
Texas had a great thing going with its annual Thanksgiving weekend tilt with Texas A&M. It was like a sibling rivalry, fierce but respectful. Eventually the two just couldn’t get along, so A&M moved along to the SEC. Texas took the opportunity to welcome former Southwest Conference foe TCU into the Big 12 with the Thanksgiving game. It’s unclear if this matchup will be an annual Thanksgiving clash, though. Texas is more likely to make Thanksgiving a traditional home game, alternating opponents such as TCU, Texas Tech and Baylor. The Longhorns looked much improved defensively before the off week. Barring a setback on D, it should be a happy turkey day for the Horns.
This week: vs. TCU (6-4)
4. Oklahoma State (7-3, BCS: No. 21)
Two months ago, no one could have told you much about Clint Chelf or Isaiah Anderson—even close Cowboys followers. But that tandem gave the OSU faithful a show last Saturday in Stillwater. The Cowboys beat Texas Tech 59-21, including a demoralizing 52-7 stretch in the middle of the game. Anderson was expected to be the next deep threat receiver after Justin Blackmon but missed time with a hand injury. Having a quiet season, Anderson exploded for three touchdowns in the second quarter—from 60, 33, and 66 yards out. He finished with 174 yards of the 229 that Chelf threw for. OSU played aggressively on defense and dominated the special teams game, including a blocked punt for TD. The Cowboys have quietly had a very good season despite an unbelievable injury situation. OSU is red hot headed into Bedlam, but so is Oklahoma.
This week: @ Oklahoma (8-2)
5. TCU (6-4, BCS: N/A)
The Horned Frogs had the week off in preparation for their Thanksgiving matchup with Texas. TCU will need to get their run game going via BJ Catalon and quarterback Trevone Boykin to outshine the Horns on Thursday night. Texas has been vulnerable defensively until this month, but appears to be on the right track. Defense is certainly TCU’s strong suit, and they will have their hands full with a Texas offense that loves the power run game but accents it well with play action for QB David Ash. Big stage for Texas—on a four-game winning streak—who is a home favorite. The Horned Frogs could not spoil Kansas State’s season, but they could ruin the Longhorns’ Thanksgiving plans.
This week: @ Texas (8-2)
6. Baylor (5-5, BCS: N/A)
Baylor had lost five straight games before handling the nation’s No. 1 Kansas State. It goes to show that any team is vulnerable on the road in college football, particularly when the pressure is high. Nick Florence and the Bears’ passing attack had been mostly stifled in the loss to Oklahoma, but RB Lache Seastrunk had a coming out party. The party continued for Seastrunk on Saturday as he compiled 185 yards rushing, including an 80-yard touchdown. Fellow rusher Glasco Martin had 113 yards and three scores. K-State was obviously not ready for the speedy running back duo. The Wildcats were never within seven points past the first 10 minutes of play. Baylor’s defense finally arrived—after ten games—to force three turnovers from Collin Klein. Still, Baylor is a win from bowl-eligibility. They have Texas Tech this week—two teams headed in opposite directions—at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
This week: vs. Texas Tech (7-4)
7. Texas Tech (7-4, BCS: N/A)
Texas Tech has lost three of four games—its one win came against Kansas which required overtime. The defense was supposed to be better this year, and the Red Raiders allowed 11 points per game after four games. Granted, that was against cupcakes. But there has been no semblance of defense during conference play. Texas Tech has given up 41 points per game in the last seven contests. It begs Seth Doege to play heroically in order to win. Oklahoma State blew Tech off the field last week by disrupting Doege. The Tech signal caller threw for only 230 yards—nearly 100 yards below his average. He had 34 TDs entering the game, but threw only one in Stillwater, while getting intercepted twice. Texas Tech needs a complete turnaround this week to compete with a revived Baylor team and finish the regular season on a positive note.
This week: vs. Baylor (5-5)
8. Iowa State (6-5, BCS: N/A)
The Cyclones won handily at Kansas last week, behind their third quarterback, Sam Richardson. Starter Steele Jantz left the game in the first quarter, but Richardson cruised to a four-touchdown day, going 23-27 for 250 yards passing. Iowa State forced four turnovers in the 51-23 win. The Cyclones reached bowl eligibility with their sixth win of the season. Who would have thought that the one bowl-eligible team in this week’s Iowa State-West Virginia game would be the Cyclones?
This week: vs. West Virginia (5-5)
9. West Virginia (5-5, BCS: N/A)
Tavon Austin may have had the most impressive running back debut of all-time against Oklahoma. The wide out was moved to RB as a wrinkle in Dana Holgorsen’s offense. That wrinkle worked. Austin rushed for 344 yards on 21 carries – an other-worldly 16.4 yards per carry. He rushed for two scores. Along with his rushing, Austin added 82 yards receiving and modest kick return marks for a Big 12 record 572 all-purpose yards. He fueled the Mountaineers in a thriller, but WVU lost 50-49. They have lost five in a row and remain outside of bowl-eligibility. However, the next two games are Iowa State and Kansas. If the Mountaineer lose those games, Holgorsen will be job hunting.
This week: @ Iowa State (6-5)
10. Kansas (1-10, BCS: N/A)
This Kansas team is the worst since their 1988 team went 1-10. One last game against West Virginia gives them the chance to set a new mark for futility. The Mark Mangino Jayhawks that went to the Orange Bowl a few years ago must seem like a distant dream in Lawrence now.
This week: Idle (@ West Virginia 12/1)
Aaron Pepper is a Big 12 contributor for TDdaily. Follow him on Twitter @thatpepper.