The bright lights of ESPN Gameday are coming to Stillwater, where Saturday night’s Baylor-Oklahoma State game (8 PM ET, ABC) will be the showcase game of the week. And why not? The Bears are ranked #4, undefeated and still hoping to slip into the BCS National Championship Game. The Cowboys are #10, and in strong position to make it into the major bowls regardless of what happens on Saturday.
And what happens on Saturday will be that one of these teams takes the upper hand in the race for the Big 12 championship and, at minimum, a ticket to the Fiesta Bowl. TheSportsNotebook will briefly break down Saturday’s game and then update its Big 12 bowl projections.
Baylor is riding high, following a 41-12 win over Oklahoma, and then taking care of Texas Tech this past week. The Bears, in a potential sandwich spot, ran away from the Red Raiders 63-34 in a game played at Jerry Jones’ Palace In Dallas. Baylor has injuries–receiver Tevin Reese is out for the year, and running back Lache Seastrunk is doubtful with a groin injury, but the offense just keeps rolling on, undeterred.
When faced with the injuries last week, head coach Art Briles gave Shock Linwood the bulk of the load in the running game, and Linwood ran for 187 yards. Reese is not the team’s top wideout–that honor belong to Antwan Goodley who has already cleared the 1,000-yard barrier. But Reese was the key #2 target. This past Saturday, quarterback Bryce Petty just hooked up with Levi Norwood seven times for 156 yards. The beat goes on in Waco.
Oklahoma State has won six straight games since their only loss of the season at West Virginia on September 28. The first five were praiseworthy for the consistency, but none of the games had any real juice to them, and I was skeptical. Mike Gundy’s team went to Texas last week and shoved the skepticism down my throat and that of the Longhorns in a 38-13 win.
The win wasn’t dominant–the defense intercepted Case McCoy three times, while quarterback Clint Chelf had an efficient day throwing the ball and a good day running it (10 carries, 95 yards). But when you can be not dominant and still win a game on the road by 25 points against an opponent who had yet to lose in conference play, it says something pretty good about your team.
Baylor is a 9.5 point road favorite on Saturday night. At first glance that looked a little high to me, but you also have to look at the Over/Under of 78.5. If you combine the two numbers, that comes out to a final score in the range of 44-35, which sounds pretty reasonable. I like the Bears to win, and the Big 12 bowl projections below reflect that, but above all, I’m really looking forward to what is without question the best game of Week 13.
BIG 12 BOWL PROJECTIONS
BCS Automatic: Baylor (Fiesta, vs. Central Florida)
BCS At-Large: Oklahoma State (Orange, vs. Clemson)
Cotton: Texas (vs. LSU)
Alamo: Oklahoma State (vs. UCLA)
Buffalo Wild Wings: Texas Tech (vs. Nebraska)
Holiday: Kansas State (vs. Arizona State)
Meineke Car Care: No eligible team (vs. Iowa)
Pinstripe: No eligible team (Notre Dame vs. Houston)
If the Big 12 does not get an at-large bid to the BCS, then you can just drop Oklahoma State down into the Cotton Bowl spot and everyone else down one rung. Either way, the league is not going to fill out all its contractual bowl spots.
All the teams projected for bowls have the requisite six wins, and all of those left out are mathematically eliminated. What you see is what you get as far as who’s going and who’s not, and no matter the situation with the BCS at-large, the Big 12 will not have a team left for the final slot in the Pinstripe Bowl.
The Pinstripe chooses among three teams as it is, with the final Big 12 team being in a group that includes Notre Dame and the third-place team from the American Athletic Conference. My guess is that the Yankee Stadium-based bowl will be more than happy to just create a rematch of the 1978 Cotton Bowl, where Joe Montana went a long way to building his legend when he rallied Notre Dame from a 34-12 deficit against Houston.