The Big 12 already has a higher percentage of bowl-eligible teams than any other conference.
Now the Big 12 gets one more weekend to find out if the league can add to that and make it eight out of 10 teams in bowl games. Plus, No. 3 Oklahoma needs an opponent for the conference’s revived championship game – easily determined if No. 10 TCU wins at home against Baylor.
”It’s an opportunity to get to 10 wins,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. ”That’s what we’re trying to get accomplished.”
Get that 10th win on Friday, and the Horned Frogs (9-2, 6-2) will also get their much-desired second chance. Oklahoma (10-1, 7-1), which would be set for a College Football Playoff appearance with a win over West Virginia and then a Big 12 title, beat them 38-20 just a week ago.
TCU’s 27-3 win Saturday at Texas Tech, combined with home losses by No. 18 Oklahoma State and West Virginia, gave the Horned Frogs sole possession of second place in the Big 12. The Sooners clinched their title game spot with a more lopsided win at Kansas.
If TCU somehow falls to Baylor (1-10, 1-7), the Frogs could still get their rematch in the Big 12 title game even though it would then be possible for as many as five teams to finish 6-3 in conference play. TCU would have the upper-hand in most potential tiebreaker scenarios , except a head-to-head to Iowa State (7-4, 5-3), which has clinched its first winning conference record since 2000.
Those losses by Oklahoma State (8-3, 5-3) and West Virginia (7-4, 5-3) on Saturday came in games that also gave the Big 12 two more six-win teams – Kansas State and Texas.
”We just got bowl-eligible and beat a top-10 team, so I mean, yeah, that’s huge. We really needed that win for the team,” linebacker Jayd Kirby said after the Wildcats (6-5) won 45-40 win at Oklahoma State to get bowl eligible for the eight consecutive year under 78-year-old coach Bill Snyder.
The Longhorns won at West Virginia to ensure an extra game in coach Tom Herman’s first season. They were coming off consecutive seasons without a bowl game for the first time in more than two decades.
Texas (6-5, 5-3) plays its home finale Friday night against Texas Tech (5-6), which has to win to become the Big 12’s eighth bowl-eligible team – and maybe to save coach Kliff Kingsbury’s job.
Since going 3-0 in non-conference play, the Red Raiders’ only Big 12 victories have come against one-win teams Baylor and Kansas. TCU held them without a touchdown, the first time that has happened in their five seasons with former big-play quarterback Kingsbury as head coach at his alma mater.
”We have a lot of conversations off camera about what we need to do to execute and how we can improve,” Kingsbury said. ”It’s frustrating, obviously, for everybody, for our fan base and the players and the coaches when we don’t execute at that level, but I’ve seen us do it and that’s the most frustrating part. I know we can do it, we just got to find a way to do it this last week.”
The Big 12 had only six bowl teams last season. With seven of its teams already bowl eligible – 70 percent of the Big 12 – the SEC is the closest right now with nine of its 14 teams (64 percent) headed to bowls and no other teams in position for a postseason berth.
Eight of 14 teams (57 percent) in both ACC and Conference USA already have at least six wins. Seven of the 12 Pac-12 teams already reached that mark for bowl eligibility, and two more are guaranteed to get there since the four remaining five-win teams are matched up against each other in two games on the final weekend of the regular season. The Big Ten has half of its 14 teams already at six wins, and at least one more will get there.
For the first time since 2010, when Oklahoma defeated Nebraska in its last conference championship game, the Big 12 will finish its regular season on the final Saturday in November.
Then comes a rematch for Oklahoma – whether it be TCU or anybody else after a round-robin schedule – on Dec. 2.
More AP college football: http://collegefootball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25