By Adam Gibson | Sports Writer
Another college football regular season comes to a close with seven out of 10 Big 12 teams being bowl eligible. Oklahoma and Texas will face off in the Big 12 championship game to decide the Big 12 champion. I have ranked the teams heading into bowl season.
1. Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1) (No. 5 in AP poll)
The Sooners are headed back to the Big 12 championship game after a 59-56 shootout against then-No. 13 West Virginia in Morgantown, W. Va. Despite throwing an interception, junior quarterback Kyler Murray threw for 364 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 114 more yards and another touchdown. The powerful offense for the Sooners continues to be one of the best in the country, leading all teams in both total yards and average points scored per game with 50.3. While the offense has been stellar, the defense has had a hard time keeping opponents from finding points of their own. Over the past four weeks, the defense has failed to hold an opponent under 40 points. That hasn’t been significant up to this point; however, that will change if the Sooners make the playoffs. Their offense is likely to be slowed down and their defense will have to make plays in order for the team to have success.
2. West Virginia (8-3, 6-3) (No. 15 in AP poll)
The Mountaineers almost found a way to beat Murray and the Sooners but fell three points short as the Mountaineers lost their second game in a row to end the conference season. Senior quarterback Will Grier had off-the-chart numbers with 539 passing yards for four touchdowns, but lost two fumbles — both of which were recovered by the defense for touchdowns — making the challenge of upsetting the Sooners that much harder. West Virginia finds itself toward the top of the Big 12 and finished the season as the second-highest scoring offense in the Big 12 while allowing the second lowest amount of points in the conference.
3. Texas (9-3, 7-2) (No. 9 in AP poll)
After a 24-17 win over Kansas, the Longhorns are headed to face the Sooners in the Big 12 title game. Texas has already defeated Oklahoma once this year 48-45 in the Red River Showdown with a late field goal to grab the lead. In its win over Kansas, Texas did not have its best game as sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger threw two picks and two touchdowns with the offense ending the game with 297 yards. The Longhorn defense gave up all 17 points in the fourth quarter as it looked like the Jayhawks were on their way to a comeback. Heading into the title game, this Texas team is going to have to figure out a way to fix their mistakes before they take on an offense that refuses to slow down.
4. Iowa State (7-4, 6-3) (No. 24 in AP poll)
The Cyclones finished conference play with a 42-38 comeback victory over the Wildcats after being down 31-21 heading into the fourth quarter to secure their seventh win of the season. Freshman quarterback Brock Purdy threw two career-high interceptions and a career-high 337 yards while also throwing for two touchdowns. The Cyclones cut the lead to three just 1:44 into the fourth quarter with a passing touchdown and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown by freshman linebacker Mike Rose. Junior running back David Montgomery rushed for a season-high three touchdowns in the win. Iowa State faces Drake in its final game before the bowl season.
5. TCU (6-6, 4-5)
With back-to-back wins, the Horned Frogs became bowl eligible at the end of the season with a 31-24 win over Oklahoma State. When TCU needed to step up to make sure its season didn’t end on Saturday, fifth year senior quarterback Grayson Muehlstein made his first career start, passing for two touchdowns and 180 yards. He also had the help of sophomore wide receiver Jalen Reagor who rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown on five carries, averaging 24.2 yards a carry. Not only did Reagor have a big impact on the ground, but he also led receivers with a touchdown and 91 yards receiving. The defense held the Oklahoma State offense to only 280 yards, which is 240 below the season average.
6. Baylor (6-6, 4-5)
Coming from a 1-11 season to a 6-6 season, Baylor is bowl eligible after a 35-24 win over Texas Tech. Head coach Matt Rhule brought the team from a one-win season to a six-win team in just one year. Sophomore quarterback Charlie Brewer led the team to the victory with three passing touchdowns and 308 yards through the air. The game was close through the first half, but thanks to a 14-0 third quarter by the Bears, Baylor grabbed its sixth win from the Red Raiders to send them to a bowl game.
7. Oklahoma State (6-6, 3-6)
The Cowboys lost their sixth game of the season to TCU, but they have one more game ahead of them due to grabbing bowl eligibility the week before. Offense was not the strong suit for Oklahoma State after giving up a defensive touchdown off a fumble recovery and being held to 280 total yards. For the second time this season, senior quarterback Taylor Cornelius had no touchdown passes to go along with one interception. He instead had to look to the ground, rushing for two touchdowns. The running game had 99 total yards. Thankfully, for Oklahoma State fans, a bowl game was already set for the Cowboys.
8. Texas Tech (5-7, 3-6)
The Red Raiders closed out their season with a 35-24 loss to Baylor in a game where the winner got bowl eligibility and the other got to go home. Texas Tech played its third-string junior quarterback McLane Carter who only had 14 passing attempts this season before the game. In the matchup with the Bears, Carter had 21 completions, two of which went for touchdowns. Late in the game, he threw two costly interceptions to essentially seal the fate of the Red Raiders. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury was fired shortly after the loss and now Texas Tech will prepare for the next season under a new coaching system.
9. Kansas State (5-7, 3-6)
In what seemed to be a late season upset, the Wildcats could not hold the lead to become bowl eligible and ended their season against Iowa State. Kansas State took a 17-point lead and had to hold that lead to get to 6-6, but two touchdowns in less than two minutes in the fourth quarter took that chance away from the team. Sophomore quarterback Skylar Thompson threw for his season-high three touchdowns and 183 yards in the disappointing loss. This was not the way Bill Snyder wanted to end the season, and if he decides to call it an end to his career, it will certainly be a hard way to go.
10. Kansas (3-9, 1-8)
The Jayhawks ended their year with a 24-17 loss to Texas, unable to upset them as they did in 2016. Kansas did manage to hold the Longhorns to under 300 yards and intercepted two of Ehlinger’s passes. Senior quarterback Peyton Bender also had one pick in the game and an interception. The Jayhawks had just one conference win this season that came from a 27-26 win over TCU, but with new head coach Les Miles coming in for the upcoming season, the Jayhawks look forward to a brighter future.