By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
This figures to be the week the Big 12 football race begins to shake out.
This week’s game of the century, of course, takes place Thursday when the Oklahoma Sooners, ranked 10th in the latest BCS poll, travel to Waco to face sixth-ranked Baylor.
A Baylor win would put the Bears in the driver’s seat in the conference race, and would all but eliminate OU from contention with two losses.
Thus, Oklahoma State fans will find themselves in the unusual and somewhat uncomfortable position of rooting for their cross-state rivals Thursday night. If the Sooners win, that will help keep the one-loss Cowboys in the hunt for league glory. OU, incidentally, is a 141⁄2-point underdog according to Las Vegas odds.
Then, on Saturday night, Texas goes to West Virginia. The surprising Longhorns remain unbeaten in the league race, but strange things can happen in Morgantown, as Oklahoma State can attest. If the ’Horns can get through the Mountaineers, they still must face OSU, Texas Tech and, in the season finale, a trip to Baylor.
The rest of the conference is a mess. Texas Tech fell from contention after being humbled 52-34 by OSU Saturday night. The Red Raiders seek redemption when they host Kansas State Saturday, while TCU and Iowa State meet in a battle to stay out of the league cellar.
OSU, meanwhile, is a 30-point plus favorite against hapless Kansas. The Cowboys are one of the more intriguing stories in the league this year. Mike Gundy can’t seem to quite commit to Enid High grad Clint Chelf as his starting quarterback, but all Chelf keeps doing is winning.
Chelf earned Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors despite throwing a couple of bad interceptions the other night against T-Tech, including one that was returned for a touchdown. He threw for 211 yards and rushed for 88 more and a pair of touchdowns, including a 67-yard cross-country jaunt, the longest by an OSU quarterback since Brent Blackman ran for 72 yards in 1972. To show you how long ago that was, I was in college then.
The Cowboys aren’t the pass-happy offensive juggernaut they have been in recent years, but they are still putting up some impressive numbers. At present, O-State is averaging 444 yards and more than 40 points per game, in no small measure because of an improved ground game.
And OSU’s defense is proving stout, allowing 378 yards and 21 points per outing. More important, however, is the fact the Cowboys’ ball-hawking defense of 2011 is back. OSU has 22 takeaways this year, and is plus -10 in the giveaway-takeaway margin.
Hardly anybody’s offensive numbers can hold a candle to Baylor’s, however. The video-game-like Bears are averaging 718 yards and nearly 64 points per game, albeit against a somewhat tepid schedule thus far. In fact, Baylor’s opponents have a combined won-loss record of 27-31, with some of the wins coming against the likes of South Dakota, Presbyterian and Elon. The combined record of Baylor’s four Big 12 foes thus far is a whopping 10-22.
We figure to know much more about the Bears following Thursday’s game, and about the Sooners, as well, not to mention the race for the conference’s automatic BCS bowl berth.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at email@example.com.