Pre-Bedlam Bedlam in The Big-12
JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK
BIG 12 POWERS HAVE WORK TO DO EVEN BEFORE OKIE STATE/OKLAHOMA
There's a perception in college football right now that the Oklahoma/Oklahoma State game on Saturday November 27th will determine the Big 12 South Champion. The rivalry is called "bedlam," but that makes it seem pretty cut-and dried. The winner of that game plays Nebraska for the Big 12 championship in early December. What's complicated?
Well, the whole thing can pretty complicated depending on what happens today and tonight in the Big 12. And, Nebraska hasn't mathematically wrapped up the North Division either. We've spent this week getting you caught up on races across the BCS conferences. Yesterday we looked at the ACC. Back on Tuesday we ran through the Big 10, Pac 10, and Big East. Be sure to check the archives if you missed those reports. (There's nothing to talk about in the SEC in terms of the divisional races because Auburn and South Carolina have clinched).
Today, it's time to jump into the Big 12. The showcase games are in prime time:
Nebraska at Texas A&M on ABC
Oklahoma at Baylor on ESPN2
So, we focused on the Saturday afternoon games in the ACC yesterday in the NOTEBOOK, and the prime time action from the Big 12 today to make sure you weren't studying seconds before kickoff.
The Big 12 South is the most interesting, so let's start there.
BIG 12 SOUTH STANDINGS
Oklahoma State 5-1
Texas A&M 4-2
Texas Tech 3-5
Everyone plays eight games in league action...so Texas Tech is already finished! You can see the potential for a logjam at the top if Oklahoma and Texas A&M keep winning. The Sooners winning out means they beat Oklahoma State...inflicting a second loss on the Cowboys (and possibly third should Okie State get stunned at Kansas today.
There's a lot of cross-divisional action today, so let's run the Big 12 North numbers...post the schedule, then talk about what it all means.
BIG 12 NORTH
Kansas State 3-4
Iowa State 3-4
There are two games left for the two at the top, and Nebraska owns the tiebreaker over Missouri because of a head-to-head victory. Nebraska is likely safe because the season finale is at home against Colorado. Just remember that Nebraska has a knack of playing close games against bad teams...and that Colorado beat the Iowa State team that took Nebraska right down to the wire.
Oklahoma State (-24) at Kansas
Oklahoma (-7.5) at Baylor
Nebraska (-2) at Texas A&M
Missouri at Iowa State is probably meaningless, but the Tigers are 11-point favorites to make Nebraska work for their Northern title by winning tonight or next week.
- Oklahoma State looks on paper like they should get an easy win. This is a potentially dangerous sandwich spot on the schedule though. They just upset Texas on the road in a landmark win for the program against a rival. They have OU up next. We've seen bigger upsets than this in the past in terms of the pointspread/situational mix.
- If Oklahoma State takes care of business in Lawrence, they'll actually win the Big 12 South TONIGHT if Oklahoma is upset in Waco by Baylor. Oklahoma State owns a two-way tie-breaker over Texas A&M because of a head-to-head win. The Sooners better not start thinking about next week too soon. Next week won't matter if they lose on the road to Baylor. And, we're talking about a team that lost on the road to A&M, lost on the road to Missouri, and didn't impress on the road against struggling Cincinnati.
- A potential three-way tie at the top of the Big 12 South is far from a longshot. Nobody would be stunned if Oklahoma beat Baylor and Oklahoma State these next two weeks, though both would have to come on the road. Nobody would be stunned if Texas A&M beat Nebraska in a relatively meaningless game for the Huskers...then spanked Texas in Austin on Thanksgiving Night. That's going to be an interesting tie to break.
Oklahoma State clearly controls its own destiny, and gets its most challenging game at home. Oklahoma does as well for the most part, though must win out on the road. Texas A&M will probably get a runner-up bouquet, but has a chance to show national TV audiences how far they've come in recent weeks.
As we've mentioned with some of the other leagues, the marquee games this week and next should give you some great insights into how these teams will play in bowls. They're basically in PLAYOFF games right now. We could easily see investing in Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M in the postseason given the right matchups. They're going to be handfuls for any opponent to deal with. Baylor could do the Big 12 proud as well given the low level opponent they might draw as the 6th or 7th team coming out of the conference.
Before we call it a day, let's run some stat matchup data for the prime time TV games:
Oklahoma: 11th on offense, 61st on defense (24th ranked schedule)
Baylor: 9th on offense, 97th on defense (40th ranked schedule)
Oklahoma is the better side...and played the tougher schedule. It's worth noting though that Oklahoma generally crushes people at home...but has trouble playing to norms on the road. That means we might be looking at a turnover prone 11th ranked offense and maybe the 70th defense or so in terms of the standards listed above. That gives Baylor a fighting chance to pull a stunner in Waco. We also want to mention that Big 12 rankings tend to skew toward the offense because of game tempo and wide open styles. When you get to the bowl games, the offenses won't wow the way some of you expect...but the defenses will be better than you realized in games that have slower paces. We saw that very clearly two years ago when most Big 12 defenses held opponents below seasonal scoring norms despite having soft reputations.
Nebraska: 22nd on offense, 6th on defense (55th ranked schedule)
Texas A&M: 12th on offense, 55th on defense (18th ranked schedule)
It's a shame the Aggies had to stumble around with the wrong quarterback for awhile (talented, but too mistake prone). You can see in the numbers that this is a legitimate team. They've played a tough schedule thanks to scheduling Arkansas outside of league play. You may have watched them take out the Sooners in College Station a couple of weeks ago. A replay could certainly happen...particularly if Nebraska comes in with the mindset that they only have to win next week at Colorado to clinch their spot in the championship finals.
JIM HURLEY has spent the past few days talking very closely with his Texas sources. He knows whether or not Nebraska is going to show up with 100% intensity. He knows if Baylor is so worn down physically and emotionally from their loss to Texas A&M last week that they won't have anything left for OU. He's been studying the whole Saturday card in ALL conferences very closely morning, noon, and night every day this week because so much is at stake in so many different places.
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