Rarely does a 15-week season come down to the final weekend with three teams still with a chance to take home one of the season’s top prizes: a conference championship. That’s a big deal, and well worth playing for, which Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas will be doing on Saturday.
And then there’s also Oklahoma, which stands in the way of Oklahoma State’s claim to the conference crown and has been there plenty of times itself and has eight pieces of Big 12 championship hardware in its trophy case to prove it.
There’s a lot at stake in college football on so-called Championship Saturday, and that includes the Big 12. Championship games are being played this weekend in the Big Ten (Ohio State vs. Michigan State), SEC (Missouri, formerly of the Big 12, vs. Auburn), Pac 12 (Stanford vs. Arizona State) and the ACC (Florida State vs. Duke ).
The Big 12 has not hosted a championship game since 2010, the final year for Missouri and Texas A&M as Big 12 members. When those two teams departed for the SEC, the Big 12 was reconfigured as a 10-team league and the North and South Divisions were dissolved and replaced with a nine-game roiund-robin schedule under which every team plays every other school in the conference.
The Big 12 may not have an official championship game in football any longer, but the contests in Stillwater, Okla., and Waco, Texas, this weekend have all the makings of a championship playoff, depending on how the two contests turn out. Oklahoma State can clinch the title with a win over the Sooners. But if the Cowboys lose, the winner of the Baylor-Texas game, which likely will kickoff after the OSU-OU game is over, will take home the trophy.
Here is what the coaches are saying about Saturday’s Big 12 games:
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State Cowboys, on the Bedlam rivalry with Oklahoma:
“It’s the same as it has been for a long time. The difference in this game and the other rivalries across the country is that we don;t have professional football in this state, so it’s different on that aspect. Other than that, every game we play is a big game if we want to get to the next one.”
Glenn Spencer, Oklahoma State defensive coordinator, on staying grounded after the Cowboys’ terrific performance against Baylor:
“That’s not a challenge at all. When you look at film, OU has won nine games for a reason. They move the ball on a lot of people. They take pride in running the football, and they’ve done it effectively. When we watch the film, it’s easy to have a lot of respect for what they do. They have a good offensive line, they have great skill players and they’re explosive. They’re a physical team.”
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma Sooners, on going into the Oklahoma State game as an underdog:
“I think our team, in any situation, is always capable of winning and capable of playing well and doing well in this game or any game. I think our history speaks to that.
“If you look at them (Oklahoma State) in the past four or five game, they’re like plus 16 in turnover margin. If we’re at the bottom end of that, we’re not going to win these games. If you’re on the plus end of it, picking up third downs and scoring and getting your opportunities together, that’s how you win these games. That’s how they beat Baylor. They win in the turnover margin. They win in third downs. They win the time of possession by a long shot. That’s how we beat Kansas State. We won third and fourth downs by a long shot, and we won the time of possession by probablyt 11 minutes more than they (K-State) did, and that’s how you win. That’s what we have to do.”
Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma All-Big 12 senior cornerback, on the importance of winning the turnover battle against OSU:
“It’s huge. Coach Stoops is preaching it (constantly). We have to win the turnover battle. They (Oklahoma State) do so good at getting takeaways and not necessarily giving the ball away as well. Their turnover ratio is great, and we have to be great, as well.
Art Briles, Baylor Bears, on the final game at Floyd Casey Stadium and playing for a potential conference championship:
“It certainly worked out nicely. Whoever made up the Big 12 schedule is sitting around getting the hands off their back because it certainly turned out well at the end with the two games (Oklahoma-Oklahoma State and Baylor-Texas) that are going on (this weekend, the final one of the regular season). You couldn’t ask for a better scenario., other than winning the game, and that’s the bottom line all the way around. That’s where our focus will be, plus closing out the stadium. (Baylor will move into a brand new facility on campus beginning nect fall.)”
Major Applewhite, Texas offensive coordinator, on Baylor’s run defense:
“Their statistics are night and day, from 123rd in the country last year to 29th. So they are a much different football team…Those guys have played a lot of football (together). They have been there for some good years and some not so good years, and they have been just a more difficult group to move the ball against this year because they have so much experience.”
Greg Robinson, Texas defensive coordinator, on Baylor’s spread offense compared to other teams:
“Do they do a better job? I don’t know. I will say this: I see the film and I see some of the numbers they’re throwing up, but I also see some of these other teams that are pretty good, too. I just look forward to getting in there and matching our guys up and letting the chips fall as they may.”