Kansas State one win away from title with Oklahoma on its heels

Wes Maulsby

1. Kansas State:
The Wildcats are one win away from their first conference championship since their upset of Oklahoma in 2003. Texas has been playing better defense of late, so it will provide a better challenge than many thought capable in midseason. Though Wildcats coach Bill Snyder must once again settle after missing out on the national title game, he can make a statement Saturday he’s the conference’s — and maybe the nation’s — best coach.

2. Oklahoma: 
The Sooners are in a tough spot. They have to hope Texas can upset Kansas State at home so that they can back into yet another conference championship. If that doesn’t happen, then they need Northern Illinois to beat Kent State so they can slide into the final BCS at-large slot. A loss will doom the Sooners to the Cotton Bowl, so they will need to stay focused over a Horned Frogs team fresh off a road upset over Texas. A win would secure Oklahoma’s sixth ten 10-season inseven years.

3. Oklahoma State: 
Though their record is worse, the Cowboys are playing better football than the Longhorns right now. It doesn’t matter who is at quarterback for Oklahoma State, their offense continues to be prolific and they can beat almost any team in the conference. The Cowboys have beaten Texas Tech, TCU and West Virginia by at least three touchdowns each in recent weeks.

4. Texas: 
This continues to be a strange year for the Longhorns. In a season where they were supposed to make their return to national relevance, as soon as they look like they are about to take a major step forward, they end up going backwards. The home loss to West Virginia wasn’t very bad at the time, but it doesn’t look so good now. With a shot at the conference championship still at stake, the Texas offense fell into a coma against TCU. It hasn’t won on senior night since the 2009 win over Kansas.

5. TCU: 
The Horned Frogs have had an interesting time in their first season in the Big 12. They have played to a 4-4 record with only one win over a team in the top half of the conference. That win came last week at the expense of Texas on Thanksgiving night. Now TCU hosts Oklahoma. A win would give TCU a positive record in the conference and a shot at a Top 25 ranking to end the season.

6. Baylor: 
Don’t look now, but the Bears are hot. After going winless in their first four conference games, they have won three of their last four games and are bowl-eligible with a chance to make their record even better. They have a very winnable game against Oklahoma State at home and a win would put the Bears on a three-game win streak heading into their bowl game.

7. Texas Tech: 
The Red Raiders did not end the season on a high note. Following a 6-1 start highlighted by a bludgeoning of West Virginia in Lubbock, they floundered to a 7-5 finish. Texas Tech was only able to win one of its final five games, and that came in overtime against Kansas. The Red Raiders won’t play in the final week of the season and will not be able to increase their bowl standing. The Tech defense completely unraveled down the stretch, allowing 47 points per game over the final half of the season.

8. West Virginia:
After losing five straight games in conference play, the Mountaineers were able to hold off Iowa State in Ames to finally become bowl-eligible. With the win, West Virginia joined Baylor as the eighth and ninth teams respectively to become bowl eligible in the Big 12. Now the Mountaineers welcome the worst team in the conference to Morgantown in what has become an important game for positioning in the conference. With seven Big 12 teams at either six or seven wins, there is a pile-up in the middle of the conference. Depending on how the final week unfolds, that could mean the difference in being picked fourth or ninth for a bowl game.

9. Iowa State: 
The Cyclones had another decent year and are eligible for a bowl for the second season in a row. It will be the first back-to-back bowl appearance for Iowa State since the 2004 and 2005 seasons. It was able to get off to a 4-1 start including an upset win over TCU in Ft. Worth. But it wasn’t able to take advantage of close games as it lost to both Kansas State and West Virginia at home by a touchdown. Winning one or both of those games is the difference between the Independence Bowl and the Alamo Bowl.

10. Kansas: 
The Jayhawks have one more chance to get a conference win. They have to go on the road to Morgantown to play a West Virginia team that had been struggling before a tough win against Iowa State. Kansas has been close to several wins this season and even had a lead over Texas in the fourth quarter. But it can’t hold on and make the kinds of plays it has to down the stretch to win close games.