With only a few weeks left in the regular season, the quest for the Big 12 title has come down to a two-team race. Texas, Iowa State and Kansas State are clinging onto hope by a thread, as Baylor and Oklahoma have separated themselves from the pack and look destined for a massive showdown next weekend. Before that happens, both must take care of business this weekend. The Sooners will host the Cyclones in a game that could see Iowa State all but eliminated from the title race. Meanwhile, the Bears hit the road to face a TCU squad that took down Texas two weeks ago at home (all games Saturday).
|Baylor Bears||-2.5 (-112)||-135||O 48 (-111)|
|TCU Horned Frogs||+2.5 (-108)||+115||U 48 (-109)|
Baylor’s offense has been terrific all season long, but last week its defense was the difference in a 17-14 win over West Virginia. The Bears were able to overcome three turnovers and held the Mountaineers to only 219 yards of total offense. More importantly they held West Virginia to only 14 yards rushing on 26 carries, which does not bode well for a TCU team that leans heavily on their run game.
The Horned Frogs rank 19th in the nation in rushing and ninth in time of possession, but their 89th-ranked passing attack has failed them when their opponent has been able to shut down the ground game. Quarterback Max Duggan is questionable after he injured his hand late in the loss to Oklahoma State last weekend, and the situation behind him is an absolute dumpster fire, so added pressure will be placed on a rushing attack that ranks third in the Big 12.
TCU’s defense is no slouch, but it has struggled against teams with balanced offenses over the past month, including losses to Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. However, those games were on the road, and the Horned Frogs’ last home game saw them defeat Texas, so they will have some confidence. With Oklahoma on the horizon, it would be easy for the visitors to overlook TCU, but last week’s squeaker should have them locked in. The Bears will protect the ball much better, and with all the concerns under center for TCU, look for Baylor to take home the win to set up a massive showdown in Waco next weekend.
Pick: Baylor -2.5
A month ago this game looked to be just another bump on the road to a dominant season for the Longhorns. Now Kansas State is the ranked team, as the Wildcats come into Austin on a three-game winning streak, highlighted by the 48-41 win over Oklahoma two weeks ago.
The Wildcats boast one of the top pass defenses in the nation, ranked 27th in passing yards allowed and second in the number of plays they allow their opponent. This has been aided by their rushing attack, which piled up 213 yards on 45 carries against Oklahoma. Quarterback Skylar Thompson has improved every week, and he will look to control the ball and put pressure on a Longhorn defense that ranks among the worst in the nation in yards allowed per play and has allowed more than 475 yards per game.
If there is a bright spot for Texas, it is the fact that a much-needed bye week has allowed the Longhorns to get some defensive players healthy enough to return. Two of those, B.J. Foster and Caden Sterns, are in the secondary and are among the best defensive players on the team, which will help their 126th-ranked pass defense. But it may not be enough for a defense that has allowed 30 or more points in each of its last five games, and Texas will likely need to load the box to have a chance to win, leaving it exposed to Kansas State’s terrific play-action attack.
Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger will do his best to keep the Longhorns in the contest, but even if they come away with the win, covering a full touchdown is very unlikely.
Pick: Kansas State +7
The Sooners have had two weeks to stew on their loss at Kansas State, during which the first College Football Playoff rankings came out. They looked for much of the season like an automatic fill-in for one of the top four spots, but now Oklahoma is on the outside looking in, with four teams between them and the last position. They now know they must play their way back in, and a win over Baylor next weekend would go a long way.
A visit from Iowa State precedes that, however, and the Cyclones are coming off of a bye week after a loss, as well. At 5-3 their hopes of playing in the Big 12 title game are on life support, but a win over Oklahoma would be massive for their season. Their loss to Oklahoma State was a struggle on defense, and they compounded that with three fourth-quarter interceptions that killed their comeback hopes. They will likely need to end a streak of eight straight games against the Sooners where they’ve given up more than 31 points, if they want to win this game.
The spread looks to be right about where it should be, so the better play here may be the total. While the Over has hit in this matchup in six of the last seven meetings, only three of their combined ten conference games this season have seen 69 or more points scored. Oklahoma has yet to allow more than 16 points in any home game this season, outside of a 72-20 win over Louisiana-Monroe, and I don’t see this game turning into a massive blowout.