Big 12 picture clearer with final month remaining

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November is often the deciding month in college football. In the Big 12, it only took two weeks in the final full month of the regular season for the conference’s story to be decided.

The Big 12 conference has essentially become three separate tiers. The top tier clearly contains three teams – TCU, K-State and Baylor.

TCU and Baylor are on a different level than the other teams in the conference. While the Horned Frogs currently have the upper hand in the rankings, the Bears have the fast track to win the conference since they won the head-to-head matchup earlier in the season.

Head coach Gary Patterson’s squad has already done their work for the season. TCU’s final three games are against teams that have a combined five conference victories – and three of those come from beating each other.

This is both good and bad for TCU. While the chance of running the table is incredibly high, they will not have another signature win this season.

Baylor will have the opportunity to make one more statement before the season is over. They have two teams that they could dispose of easily, in Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, before facing K-State to end the season.

As far as rankings go, Baylor’s problem this season has been their weak nonconference schedule.

However, TCU’s out-of-conference slate was not as difficult. Minnesota was its lone nonconference game against a power five opponent. The Golden Gophers have just one loss excluding the drubbing they endured against TCU. The Horned Frogs also faced SMU, who is the laughing stock of college football, and D-IAA Samford.

It would be asinine for the College Football Playoff committee to put TCU in the playoffs instead of Baylor if both teams finish with just one loss. The nonconference schedule issue should be thrown out the window. Baylor’s head-to-head victory makes all the difference.

K-State’s season could be looked at as a success if they win their final three games. They face a tough West Virginia team in Morgantown, West Virginia on Nov. 20, host in-state rival Kansas on Nov. 29 and then take on Baylor in Waco, Texas on Dec. 6.

In 2012, the Wildcats’ possible championship season was spoiled by the Bears. In 2014, K-State can return the favor in the team’s last game of the season.

The second tier of the Big 12 is becoming wider by the week. Oklahoma, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas make up this group. All of these teams have major strengths and are very solid. Each of them could beat any of the teams in tier one and the Mountaineers have proven that in beating Baylor. They also have much different stories in getting to this point.

Oklahoma’s season turned into a total disappointment after they sustained their third loss of the season against Baylor.

West Virginia’s year has been surprising. They were picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 and have already won six games. Texas’ expectations were unclear. They started the season 2-4, but have won three of their last four games. Oklahoma State started 5-1, but has lost three straight games.

All the teams in the second tier will most likely end their season in bowl game.

The bottom tier of teams in the conference have looked inept at times. Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas have proven they can only beat each other and each team has glaring weaknesses that take them out of contention in nearly every game.

Texas Tech’s defense is miserable as it allows nearly 41.6 points per game. Kansas and Iowa State’s offenses both average under 25 points per game. All of those are terrible numbers. Unless the Cyclones are able to knock off the Red Raiders, they’ll finish the season in sole possession of last place.

Regardless of how these bottom three teams finish, each program will face big questions on how they approach the direction of their programs.

Austin Earl is a sophomore in fishing, wildlife and conservation biology.

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