Oklahoma State knocked TCU from the ranks of the unbeaten over the weekend and almost certainly knocked the Horned Frogs out of the College Football Playoff picture, too.
Now, it is Oklahoma’s turn to try to do the same thing to Baylor.
The No. 12 Sooners, who have been rolling since a stunning loss to Texas a month ago, visit fourth-ranked Baylor on Saturday in the Big 12’s marquee matchup. Oklahoma still has conference title aspirations, even if its loss in the Red River Rivalry crippled its own national championship hopes, while the Bears are trying to ensure they don’t miss out like they did a year ago.
“Every game you play is a big game, and the biggest game you always have after you finish this one is the next one,” Baylor coach Art Briles said on Monday’s coaches teleconference.
“We’ve got to be good every week,” Briles said. “We’ve got to be mentally sound, physically ready to go. If you’re not, you’re not going to like the outcome.”
The Bears (8-0, 5-0, No. 6 CFP) may have learned that lesson last Thursday night.
In their first game with freshman Jarrett Stidham under center, the Bears got everything they could handle from Kansas State in a 31-24 victory. In fact, the Wildcats — winless in league play — had the ball with 44 seconds left needing a touchdown to force overtime.
The Bears came up with an interception to seal the win.
“You can say what you want, but when you look up in November, we are still around,” Briles said. “When you play us, it is going to be a tough out regardless of the location and nature of the game. We are going to stave, we are going to fight and we are going to find a way to win.”
The Sooners (8-1, 5-1, No. 15) always figured to give the Bears a tough test in their road to perfection, but it was the Horned Frogs — Big 12 co-champs a year ago — that everyone pointed to as the big late-season matchup. The two Texas schools meet on Nov. 27.
That story line changed when fifth-ranked Oklahoma State (9-0, 6-0, No. 14) rolled to a 49-29 win over No. 13 TCU (8-1, 5-1, No. 8) last weekend, vaulting the Cowboys into the national title conversation and sending the Horned Frogs searching for answers.
In some ways, the month of November is shaping up to be an elimination game in the Big 12 title race. But all of those tough matchups could ultimately be a bad thing for the Big 12, leaving the league once again without one national championship contender.
In other Big 12 news Monday:
— The Cowboys swept the league’s weekly awards with quarterback Mason Rudolph the top player on offense, linebacker Chad Whitener on defense and punter Zach Sinor on special teams.
Rudolph threw for 352 yards and five touchdowns without an interception against the Horned Frogs, while Whitener had 12 tackles and two interceptions, one he returned for a score. Sinor had nine punts, six of which were downed inside the 20-yard line.
— There was more good news for Oklahoma State: Wide receiver James Washington was added to the Biletnikoff Award watch list, giving the Big 12 seven players on the list. Already on the list are Baylor teammates Corey Coleman and KD Cannon, Oklahoma star Sterling Shepard, Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant, West Virginia’s Shelton Gibson and Josh Doctson of TCU.
— Speaking of Doctson, coach Gary Patterson said “no update” when asked about the status of his star wide receiver. Doctson appeared to have his wrist rolled over late in the first half and did not return against Oklahoma State. Doctson has 78 catches for 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns.