Bowl positioning comes down to final week and three games
By Krista Pirtle
With the removal of the Big 12 championship game after the exit of Colorado and Nebraska, this final week of games will decide which team earns the automatic BCS bid. Although only six teams are playing this week, all of them have earned bowl bids, making each matchup important for the Big 12 standings and potential bowl positions.
No. 22 Texas (7-4, 4-4) at No. 17 Baylor (8-3, 5-3)
Solid offense meets solid defense.
While the Baylor offense leads the Texas offense by a landslide, the opposite can be said for the Texas defense. The only ground where the two stand evenly is the rush game with senior Terrance Ganaway for Baylor and freshman Malcolm Brown from Texas.
Ganaway stepped up in big ways for Baylor last week, rushing for 4 yards short of a school record with 246 total. Texas’ Brown only rushed for 44 yards, but the Texas A&M front line does not usually offer holes big enough to run through.
The player that was highlighted in the Thanksgiving game was senior kicker Justin Tucker, who hit the game winning field goal from 40 yards out. For Baylor, sophomore kicker Aaron Jones has been hit or miss throughout the season. What matters is that he usually hits when the team most needs it.
On the Texas side of the game, the Longhorns need to figure out their offense. Brown might have some openings to run through but Texas should look to attack the secondary for success against Baylor. This will mean the Longhorns will need confidence in the pocket, something that sophomore Case McCoy has more of.
For the Bears, the defense needs to continue to improve. The line has done well penetrating the offensive line to sack the quarterback, and the cornerbacks have played with more passion later in the season and have read the offense well. Linebackers need to get more knowledge of who they’re facing in order to fill the gaps and make the tackle. As for the safeties, the speed and effort is there. They just need to have confidence in what they know about their opponent.
If Baylor wins, the Bears will secure a finish in the top four of the Big 12. If Texas wins, the Longhorns will be in a three-way tie for fourth with Baylor and Missouri.
No. 10 Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2) at No. 3 Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1)
The Big 12 doesn’t have a conference championship game this year, but this matchup is most definitely the deciding factor of who the conference champion will be.
If Oklahoma wins, the Sooners should take hold of the title, making Oklahoma State second and Kansas State third. If Oklahoma State wins, the Cowboys could have a shot at the National Championship while Kansas State should finish second and Oklahoma will come in third.
This matchup features two high- profile quarterbacks in Oklahoma’s junior Landry Jones and Oklahoma State’s senior Brandon Weeden. Offensively, with the Sooners’ loss of senior wide receiver Ryan Broyles, they have struggled to find a true threat through the air. For the Cowboys, junior wide receiver Justin Blackmon provides a deadly target down the field.
On the opposite side of the ball, Oklahoma prevails over Oklahoma State. In the red zone, the Sooners have found more success in the past at 90 percent compared to the Cowboys’ 87.
For the Cowboys to find success defensively, they must blitz often to force Jones to move around in the pocket. Once he is forced in motion he is not as good as when his feet are confidently set.
For the Sooner defense, pressure is needed on Weeden, who has 12 interceptions on the season. Oklahoma has pulled in 13 interceptions in 2011. Oklahoma State beats that number by 10.
This game will most definitely be a shootout as both defenses try to slow down the prolific power offenses.
As long as the Cowboys can shut down Jones and the Sooner offense, they should be begging at the gates of the Superdome.
Iowa State (6-5, 3-5) at No. 11 Kansas State (9-2, 6-2)
The Wildcats should come away this weekend with a victory, ensuring them a top three finish in the conference and 10 wins for the season, the first time in eight years.
After a shaky start to the season, Kansas State rose beyond expectations, thanks to its junior quarterback Collin Klein.
Klein has rushed for 1,013 yards on the season and passed for 1,587. Individually he is responsible for 36 of Kansas State’s touchdowns.
As for Iowa State, the Cyclones should be happy they are bowl eligible. With a mid-season switch at quarterback from junior Steele Jantz to freshman Jared Barnett, Iowa State has put up a better fight against its opponents.
This fight, however, probably will not sustain a victory for the Cyclones against such a destructive offensive presence as Klein.
Missouri (7-5, 5-4)
The Tigers ended their season with a 3-game winning streak, including last week’s 24-10 victory over the Kansas Jayhawks at Arrowhead Stadium. Sophomore quarterback James Franklin threw for 187 yards and two touchdowns but also had three interceptions.
The game was Missouri’s final Big 12 matchup, as the Tigers will be heading to the SEC next season. Missouri currently ranks fourth in the Big 12, with its final position depending on whether Texas wins or loses against Baylor.
Texas A&M (6-6, 4-5)
The Aggies ended their final Big 12 season on a sour note, losing four of their last five games.
Last week, Texas A&M hosted the last Lone Star Showdown for the near future, losing to the Longhorns 27-25 on a last-second field goal.
Junior quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 224 yards and two touchdowns but also had three picks. Senior receiver Jeff Fuller had 107 receiving yards and a touchdown in the losing effort.
What began as a season with high hopes, as the Aggies were ranked in the top 10, has ended in mediocrity.
The Aggies will play one more game this season, as their blowout victory over Kansas two weeks ago made them bowl-eligible. They currently rank seventh in the Big 12, but could move down to eighth if Iowa State pulls an upset against Kansas State.
Texas Tech (5-7, 2-7)
The Red Raiders had their chance to become bowl eligible Saturday at Cowboys Stadium but were unable to out-score the RG3-less Baylor Bears, losing 66-42.
The loss was the last of a five-game streak for Texas Tech.
Junior quarterback Seth Doege threw for 355 yards and three touchdowns as well as two interceptions. His main target was sophomore Eric Ward had 151 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
Texas Tech ended the season ranked seventh in passing yards but 118th in points allowed.
Kansas (2-10, 0-9)
Rejoice Jayhawks fans; football season has come to a close and the main focus can now switch to basketball. After beating its first two nonconference opponents, Kansas lost its remaining 10 games, many by double-digit differences.
Its final loss was at the hands of rival Missouri 24-10. The only touchdown of the game for Kansas came on an interception return.
Head coach Turner Gill has been fired, giving the Jayhawks a clean slate for next season.