Luke’s Locker: K-State is Big 12’s only chance to save face against Texas and OU

(Graphic by Catherine Eldridge | Collegian Media Group)

The Big 12 is nearing its worst nightmare. Two teams ranked in the AP Top 25 appear on a collision course for the Big 12 Championship game. Those teams are departing powerhouses No. 3 Texas and No. 12 Oklahoma.

This leaves the Big 12 with the possibility that the championship could be played by two teams that will be gone less than seven months later, leaving the conference embarrassed. Both universities received heavy criticism by Big 12 fans since the announcement. Even Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark made comments insinuating that he was rooting against Texas. All of this leads to the Big 12 likely hoping at least one of the teams doesn’t make the December trip. With a conference struggling so far, this potential disaster can only be stopped by one team: the Kansas State Wildcats.

As the defending Big 12 champions, it may fall solely on the Wildcats to protect Arlington, Texas, from a sea of future SEC fans. Sitting just outside the top 25, K-State still has the capability to truly compete with both schools, with one of the best coaches in the conference and a fluid roster with multiple players soon returning from injury.

K-State has slightly failed to reach expectations, highlighted by the heartbreaking loss to Missouri. Injuries played a major role, with quarterback Will Howard, right tackle Christian Duffie and others either playing hurt or missing time. A healthier roster could lead the Wildcats back to its 2022 season performance of winning the Big 12 Championship game and playing in the Sugar Bowl. That level of play could certainly return K-State to Arlington.

Still, the odds are high for Oklahoma vs. Texas, because if K-State slips and falls, who else can do it?

The rest of the Big 12 has shown no ability to rank inside the top two as the season ends. All four newcomers had their moments but have not risen to the occasion yet. Baylor, Iowa State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State can all be easily dismissed with records at or below .500. Kansas may have the best quarterback in the conference, but his lack of consistent health and defensive help leaves the Jayhawks too far behind. College Football Playoff runner-up TCU has fallen, with much of its 2022-23 talent now in the NFL. West Virginia has impressed but doesn’t have the necessary talent. This leaves the Wildcats alone to compete with the two powerhouses. 

Sportsbooks heavily agree with this sentiment. Fanduel has Texas as -130 favorites to win the Big 12 Championship Game with Oklahoma following at +200. K-State comes in next in a big drop at +900. TCU, Kansas and West Virginia are tied for fourth at an even bigger drop-off of +3000. 

While the task of keeping Texas and/or Oklahoma out for K-State isn’t an absolute necessity, it still matters. Do Big 12 teams want discourse to surround their shortcomings with Colorado and head coach Deion Sanders taking over the Big 12? No. They would rather have the all-time great and his team join the conference to be thought of as a fun new contender and not as the new powerhouse. 

No matter what, the Big 12 shouldn’t allow the Red River Rivalry meeting up in December. It will lead to mockery from Texas fans, Oklahoma fans, SEC fans and college football fans in general. The Wildcats provide the one hope to show the rest of college football that the Big 12 doesn’t rely on its deserters to remain strong and relevant.