The fifth of nine key matchups that will determine the 2013 Big 12 football champion is being contested this weekend in Austin, Texas, where the 12th-ranked Texas Longhorns will host 12th-ranked Oklahoma State.
No conference has more top-25 matchups over the final month of the regular season than the Big 12. After Saturday’s game between Oklahoma State and Texas, still to come are games between Oklahoma State and Baylor at Oklahoma State on Nov. 23, Texas at Baylor and Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, both on Dec. 7. And when you factor in matchups between Texas Tech and Baylor this weekend and Texas at Texas Tech on Thanksgiving night, Nov. 28, there are a lot of things that can happen in the coming weeks to throw the Big 12 race into a free for all.
Texas (7-2, 6-0) comes into Saturday’s game with Oklahoma State (8-1, 5-1) with six consecutive conference wins and undefeated in the Big 12. Oklahoma State has one league loss (early in the season against West Virginia) and can’t afford to lose on Saturday if it wants to stay in contention for its second Big 12 championship in football.
To prevent that from happening, the Cowboys will have to overcome several historical facts that do not work in their favor. Texas has an overwhelming 23-4 edge in the all-time series between the two schools, including winning 13 of the previous 15 meetings. And Texas is 13-4 against Oklahoma State when the game is played in Austin. Texas won last year’s game in Stillwater 41-36 and also won the last time the two teams played at Texas, 38-26 in 2011.
“You’re at the point in the season where you have to win one to get to stay in the race,” Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said in his weekly press conferenc on Monday. “You have to contiunue to move forward. This (the game at Texas) will be a new challenge for us. This (Texas) is a very talented football team, and we’re playing on the road. We’ve got our work cout out for us.
“Texas is arguably the best team in this league up front on both sides of the ball,” he said. “They cause a lot of issues in their ability to rush the passer.”
A key matchup that willl be interesting to watch in this game will be the how the Texas offense does against the OSU defense when the Longhorns are in the red zone. Texas is No, 2 in the conference, 30th nationally, in coming away with points when its offense enters the red-zone. On the other side of the ball, though, the Cowboys are the 11th best in the FBS (29 percent success rate) in shutting out teams in the red zone.
Four More Things To Watch For In The Oklahoma State-Texas Game
- Texas’ game plan will probably be similar to the way it attacked Oklahoma. The Longhorns want to be able to run the ball and stop the Oklahoma State running game on defense. The problem being that Texas is eighth in the conference in rushing defense, giving up 15 more yards a game than the Cowboys’ 169 per-game average. The Cowboys are second in the Big 12 in defending against the run. They have been yielding 132 yards a game, while the Texas running game averages 197 yards a game.
- Oklahoma State is very opportunistic on the defensive side of the ball. The Cowboys lead the Big 12 with a plus 11 turnover ratio. Texas is right there too, though, with a plus-nine takeway-to-giveaway ratio. The team that wins the turnover battle should win this game.
- If Oklahoma State can start out strong against Texas, like the Cowboys did in their last road outing at Texas Tech, and get balance out of both the run game with Desmond Roland and the passing game with quarterback Clint Chelf and their talented group of receivers, it will put tremendous stretch and strain on the Longhorn defense and also keep the Big 12′s third best offense off the field.
- Since Greg Robinson took over for Manny Diaz as the Texas defensive coofdinator, the Longhorns have gone from giving up 7.0 yards per rushing attempt in their two losing efforts, against BYU and Ole Miss, to a an average of 3.2 yards per running play against their last six opponents (all victories).
Game Prediction: Oklahoma State 38, Texas 34
Other Big 12 Picks For Week 12
Iowa State 17 @ Oklahoma 41 – Sooners will still be smarting from the Baylor loss, and this is their final home game of the season: Senior Day.
West Virginia 30 @ Kansas 20 - Something in my gut tells me this could be the Jayhawks’ day, the day the 27-game Big 12 losing streak finally ends. But I thnk the West Virginia defense is better than Kansas’ “D,” and that will be the difference.
TCU 13 @ Kansas State 27 - A good friend of mine, and a Cats’ fan, told me after K-State’s loss to Baylor that the Wildcats would run the rest of the table in the big 12. I’m beginning to believe him.
Baylor 51 vs. Texas Tech 28 (Arlington, Texas) – This will be a high-scoring shootout, but too high for even a much-improved Texas Tech offense. I’m not sure there is a team in the league that can slow down the runnaway Baylor Express.
Last week’s results: 3-2
For the season: 46-15 (.741)