Can Mike Gundy lead this team from Heart of Dallas to BCS?
(Photo Courtesy USA Today Sports)
To say 2013 is a crap shoot in the Big 12 would be an understatement of well, epic proportions. If you think you've got this league all figured out with certainty then get your rear end on the next plane out of town heading for Vegas baby, because you've got more stones than most.
Is this the year Texas is back? Could Oklahoma State be the kings of the conference or will their Bedlam brethren remain top dog? What about 2nd year member TCU? Heck Baylor and K-State have been on the upswing lately… Can they survive some personnel loses and really upset the apple cart in Big 12 territory?
By now, I hope you get the picture…. The point is that this race is completely wide open and as I attempted to come up with our Top 10 Biggest games for the Big 12 it quickly became a game of second guessing. Folks, this was easily the most difficult list I had to make so far in our previews. So, enjoy what could be one wild ride through the Big 12.
10. Iowa at Iowa State (Sept. 14): The annual in-state battle is a can't miss for many reasons – the tailgating, the bitter fan rivalry, the people watching, oh and the game usually surprises you one way or the other. However, in this edition of the CyHawk Trophy showdown there could be some early season bowl game hopes crushed. Both teams will need this game to be a victory for them or they could very well likely kiss their bowl game hopes and dreams goodbye. Especially for ISU, who's playing at home and has zero margin for error out of conference. The winner of this game is likely bowl bound, the loser… well, it may be a long season in the land of corn and pigs. Expect ISU to come out on top at home – and make it interesting all the way to their late season battle at West Virginia too.
9. Texas at Baylor (Dec. 7): Call this one a bit of hedging my bets. I fully expect Texas to contend for the Big 12 title and Baylor could play sleeper once again. We'll know a lot of what this game means by the time mid-November rolls around. It could mean nothing and it could mean everything as the last game to be played in the Big 12 season. If Baylor finds a fluid answer at QB than the Bears could be contenders. For Texas this game could mean a Big 12 title or bust as I have a feeling the standings will be that close. However, I hesitate to put this game higher because it could also have very little implications to it when it's all said and done, and to be a "big game" you have to have some sort of significance to it, right?
8. TCU at Oklahoma (Nov. 7): The Horned Frogs have a pretty brutal road slate this season and this game in Norman could very well be the nail in the coffin for one of these two potential title contenders. It could also mean very little since TCU plays four bigger games heading into this one. If TCU comes into this game with just one conference loss than this game takes on more meaning than I thought. However, it's hard to imagine these two going into this game on equal footing. Look for this to be a classic Big 12 shoot out though, so no matter what this game will be entertaining.
7. Kansas State at Texas (Sept. 21): If you count out the Wildcats than you don't know your history or your Bill Synder very well. For both of these teams it will be important to get off on the right foot in conference play and since both of these teams could be potential (K-State) and expected (Texas) title contenders this game has significance. A loss by the Longhorns at home puts some major doubt into whether Mack Brown can bring this team back to the promised land of conference titles and national relevance again. It's the exact opposite for K-State, a W for them puts the rest of the conference on notice. With this game coming so early either team can recover from a loss, but in a race that is likely going to be very tight the margin for error is very slim and that means getting off on the right foot is of great importance.
6. TCU at Oklahoma State (Oct. 19): All that is on the line here are early conference title hopes for both squads. The Cowboys are the "cool" kids' pick to win the league this year while the Horned Frogs are the stylish kids pick to be the sleeper in the league. This game should be very entertaining to say the least as TCU brings it's high powered offense to town to match up with what Mike Gundy and his crew have in store for us all. It's also a classic case of great defense vs. great offense and that makes this game very intriguing to me. Regardless of records or conference standing this game holds up as one to watch and that makes it vault up the list for me.
5. Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State (Dec. 7th): The question about this game in early December is if it will actually have significance outside of the Bedlam series? I don't know if it will with the brutal slate in front of OU and OSU to get here. Chances are most likely that this game won't make or break either's chances of bowl eligibility nor will it affect who wins the Big 12. However, I'm hedging my bets a bit and I'm going to say that OSU needs this game more because they could be playing for national position in the BCS while OU is looking to avoid a .500 record in conference play this season. Like I said before OSU is the "cool" kids pick for the title and this could be the perfect cap to that type of season. There's also the whole factor of what has happened to the area these two schools call home in the last few months. No doubt that emotions will run high in this one and that alone, regardless of records or conference importance, will mean everything to these kids.
4. LSU vs. TCU (Sept. 1): They say tones and trends are set early, well consider this the major tone setter for TCU. They get to take on a legit national power in LSU on a neutral field. You say you're a Big 12 title contender? Prove it here. No doubt about it, this has statement game written all over it and we're just in week one of the season. If LSU wins, that's expected, but if TCU hangs with or even beats the Bayou Bengals than look out world, this team is for real. TCU has a bigger chance than some are giving them, with nine returning starters on defense and a seemingly clean and refocused Casey Pachal back at QB. Don't expect TCU to be intimidated in the least – they've won massive games before (2011 Rose Bowl anyone?).
3. Oklahoma vs. Texas (Oct. 12): Yes, you are reading this correctly, this game isn't number one on my list. Come on folks, think outside the box a little bit. Call me a cynic if you will, but to me this game has lost a bit of its luster over the past few years. Don't get me wrong, it's still a great game and the rivalry is far from dead. However, in 2013 the question is is this game "The Game" in the Big 12. I would argue it isn't. One it comes fairly early into the conference season and therefore a loss won't kill you and a win won't make you an instant title winner either. Two, we just don't know how this OU team responds to a new QB situation. No Landry Jones is going to be hard to replace, but if they do it with ease then I think this could be one of the closer races for the conference crown and a game in mid-October just can't do it for me as the biggest game this conference will see all season long. It's still greatly important (hence the No. 3 ranking), b
2. Oklahoma vs. Notre Dame (Sept. 28): Two blue bloods of college football just so happened to also play one whale of a college football contest last season and this one could be even more intriguing. ND plays a wicked slate of games and this won't be their first test of the season (they take on three Big Ten foes in a row before this one), so they will come in battle tested. OU on the other hand, this is their big test on the big stage with a new QB. If it goes well and they come out of South Bend winners then we've got a Big 12 title contender on our hands. If they go in to Notre Dame Stadium and lose, well that could be a great indicator too. With both teams looking for identities minus their starting QB's from a season ago this will be huge to prove to a national audience who's for real.
1. Oklahoma State at Texas (Nov. 16): If these two teams aren't the preseason darlings of the league I don't know who is…. For me this is OSU's chance to really make a statement and show the college football world they are true contenders. Let's not forget recent history (that Iowa State loss ring a bell?). Sure, each have games that are important before this one, but I fully expect this game to be between two undefeated or one loss conference teams when they meet in mid-November. All that means is conference title hopes are on the line with very little room to come back from a loss. I fully expect the winner of this one to come out of this as the conference winner when all the dust settles, so how can this not be the biggest game in the Big 12 this season?