By Jeffrey Swindoll
Kansas (14-1-0, 4-0-0)
The Jayhawks just keep rolling in the Big 12. Many predicted West Virginia or Texas Tech to be the dominant team in the conference, but Kansas has proven to be the team to beat this season, currently on a six-game win streak. Both on the road and at home, the Jayhawks are favored in just about any Big 12 matchup at this point. Making a strong case for best player in the Big 12, KU forward Liana Salazar is at the top of the league in goals and assists. For any defense, Salazar is a hassle to defend. The Jayhawks host Texas Tech on Friday.
West Virginia (9-2-2, 2-0-1)
Though Kansas is the clear frontrunner in the conference this season, West Virginia should not be counted out for a second. West Virginia hasn’t lost a conference game this season and currently have one of the Big 12’s most prolific goal-scorers — Ashley Lawrence. Lawrence leads the conference in goals per game. The Mountaineers travel to Ames, Iowa to face winless Iowa State, alone at the bottom of the conference standings.
Oklahoma State (8-7-1, 3-1-1)
The Cowgirls have only lost to the league-leading Kansas Jayhawks this season. Other than that, Oklahoma State has started conference play strong right out of the gate. OSU has big wins over TCU and Baylor to their 2014 resume. Their offense is clicking right now with Allie Stephenson and Madison Mercado leading the Cowgirls with shots and goals. OSU hosts in-state rival OU on Friday.
Oklahoma (8-3-3, 2-0-1)
Last weekend, the Sooners led the Bears 1-0 at halftime but did not get to finish the rest of that game due to lightning warning. Oklahoma is undefeated this season but have played the lesser ranked teams in the conference. The hardest portion of the schedule is coming up for the Sooners with games against Oklahoma State, Kansas and West Virginia still remaining. The Sooners play Oklahoma State and Baylor this weekend.
Texas (7-5-2, 2-2-0)
The Longhorns have been inconsistent all season. Texas started with a 1-0 victory over the undefeated Texas Tech Red Raiders, but then lost 2-0 to West Virginia the next week. For the most part, the Longhorns have won the games they were favored to win, and lost the games they were expected to lose. Texas also has one of the country’s hardest schedules this season because of earlier matches against top teams like Florida State and Florida. UT travels to Fort Worth to play a winless TCU team this Friday.
Baylor (7-5-1, 1-2-1)
The Bears’ first game last weekend against Oklahoma was cancelled due to lightning, and they lost their Sunday match against the streaking Oklahoma State Cowgirls. Originally slated for a bye week this week, the Bears rescheduled their Oklahoma match to this Sunday. For the second weekend in a row, Baylor soccer will get on a bus and head to Norman, Okla. for a pivotal Big 12 game. Junior midfielder Bri Campos and senior forward Justine Hovden are the Bears’ most valuable players so far this season. Campos has the team lead in goals, and Hovden has the team lead in assists. Both are very critical to Baylor’s offensive gameplan. If both are feeling it and playing well, the Bears as a whole play better. Campos is the heartbeat of Baylor’s attack and Hovden is the flare. Campos starts and often finishes the attacking drives. Hovden receives and takes the Bears down to the other end for her team to finish it off. The Bears had a successful pre-conference span of games, but have stumbled in offensive production since their first Big 12 match against Kansas.
TCU (7-5-3, 0-2-3)
Winless in five matches, the Horned Frogs are fighting with Texas Tech and Iowa State for the worst record in the conference. TCU has tight matches this season, but have failed to capitalize in big games against West Virginia, Oklahoma and Baylor. The Horned Frogs host Texas on Friday and Texas Tech on Sunday.
Texas Tech (10-3-1, 0-3-1)
The Red Raiders began Big 12 play with a perfect 10-0-0 record but dropped straight down in the standings, failing to pick up a win in four matches, only drawing once. Texas Tech has conceded the most goals in conference play and the Jayhawks are the highest scoring offense in the Big 12 this season. Texas Tech will have their hands full with Salazar attacking their leaky defense. The Red Raiders travel to face Kansas on Friday.
Iowa State (6-8-0, 0-4-0)
Halfway through their Big 12 campaign, the Cyclones have been a train wreck this season. Each game has been relatively close on the score line, but Iowa State does not have a star to string things together on offense. Their defense is good enough to keep them in the game, but the Cyclones haven’t scored a single goal in Conference play this season. No team can win many games if they’re not scoring goals. That is the state of Iowa State soccer right now, and, to make matters worse, the Cyclones play the Mountaineers on Friday in Morgantown, W. Va.