Oklahoma State was a team that was seen as a darkhorse to make the BCS National Championship Game at the start of the season, and as the race makes the November turn, the Cowboys are dark no longer, sitting at #3 in the BCS rankings and poised to play the winner of LSU-Alabama for the national title if they can only take care of their own business. But that will be no easy feat, as this still remains a hot three-team race for the conference championship and OSU's biggest games are ahead of them this month.
One of those games is Saturday against Kansas State. We'll preview the specifics of that matchup tomorrow, but for now, know that K-State, even with the 58-17 thrashing they took from Oklahoma last week, still controls its destiny for a share of the league crown. They can win this game and pull into a tie for first, and if Okie State can turn around and beat Okahoma at the end of the year, the Wildcats would get the league's Fiesta Bowl bid, their natural BCS location if the champion isn't playing for the top prize. Oklahoma holds the same level of control, as they point to their Thanksgiving Saturday battle with the frontrunning Cowboys. The biggest games are yet to come in the Big 12, as they proceed without a conference championship game for the first time since the league's inception in 1996.
The Big 12 is well-positioned to grab a second bid to a major bowl, something they haven't done since 2004 when Texas went to the Rose Bowl against Michigan and Vince Young delivered a prelude to what would be an even greater performance one year later in Pasadena. If form holds, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would each go to marquee games, while an 11-1 Kansas State team would be tough to deny. Below this level, the top prizes are the Cotton Bowl (possible opponents being Auburn or Arkansas), and the Alamo Bowl, where the top Pac-12 team available after the BCS will be found–either the Oregon/Stanford loser, or more likely Arizona State. Though these games would be big disappointments for the Sooners or Cowboys, they would be solid prizes for Kansas State, as well as teams like Texas A&M, Texas, Texas Tech, Missouri and Baylor, who are all jousting in the middle. There's a good chance the Thanksgiving night game of Texas-Texas A&M determines who gets into this echelon of games, and who drops down into the bowls after that involve playing mostly middling Big Ten schools. Kansas is the only one of the league's ten teams who is below .500, so nine bids overall is realistic right now.
Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden should be the runaway choice for Player of the Year in this league, at least if the voting were held today. I can give a nod to Landry Jones at Oklahoma, and you can certainly can't blame A&M's Ryan Tannehill or Christine Michael for the fact the defense does an even worse job holding a lead then the Texas Rangers did in Game 6 of the World Series. And Baylor's Robert Griffin is another do-it-all dynamo. But Weeden is pulling the trigger on an offense nothing short of explosive and he's done it against good teams and he's brought his team from behind, notably against A&M. Now all that's left is for him to produce in the team's biggest games this month and he can lock up this honor, as well as make a very strong case for the Heisman.