Big 12 Football Preview - Week Eleven: Fights For CFP and Bowl Spots Continue

It's a battle for positioning, both in the College Football Playoff standings and the conference ladder, as all ten Big 12 teams take the field on Saturday.

THE NOTES

Just how worried is the Big 12 hierarchy over the seemingly random set of criteria used by the College Football Playoff committee in its weekly rankings? Publicly, a brave front is being put up, hinging on the backloaded nature of the top contenders' schedules, but in reality there has to be concern. The CFP committee has clearly demonstrated, by trumpeting one set of factors for the high ranking of one school and a different set for another, that it favors “brand names” in its playoff, and will emphasize whatever criteria are necessary to keep some of them up top – even when those reasons are diametrically opposed.

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Baylor, Oklahoma and TCU will all play five conference games away from their home stadiums this season. Will that be a factor that boosts the top finisher in the Big 12 in the eyes of the committee, or will it be less valued than the fact that Stanford had to play an “early body clock” game? What's next? Biorhythms?

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Kansas State is bucking the national trend of declining attendance. The Wildcats have sold out 25 games in a row, including last Thursday's match-up with Baylor.

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Oklahoma has been on an offensive tear since its ugly loss to Texas. The Sooners have gained more than 600 yards of total offense in each of their last three games, and averaged 60 points in wins over Kansas State, Texas Tech and Kansas.

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Oklahoma State has won five of the last six Big 12 Player of the Week awards. The only category the Cowboys missed on was the Special Teams Player of the Week on Nov. 2.

THE PICKS

Texas (4-5 / 3-3) travels to West Virginia (4-4 / 1-4) in a fight for the inside track to a fifth-place finish in the league. That standing won't be determined solely in this game, but the victor will have a two-game winning streak and a good bit of momentum in the battle for an upper division finish. Texas needs the win to give it a good shot at a bowl – with Baylor and Texas Tech also remaining, the Horns must go 2-1 down the stretch – but WVU's resurgent running game and resilient defense give the Mountaineers the edge, and the pick, at home.

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Oklahoma State exposed TCU's (8-1 / 5-1) deficiencies in a rout last week, but Kansas (0-9 / 0-6) doesn't have the weapons to do so. The Jayhawks are battling to avoid a winless year, but they missed their best chance to do so in their season opener, and appear headed for that toughest of results. TCU gets back on the winning track at home.

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Kansas State (3-5 / 0-5) visits Texas Tech (5-5 / 2-5) in a tone setter for the rest of the season. Despite its cellar-sharing league placement, the Wildcats have been very competitive in all but one of their league losses, while the Red Raiders have to be a bit nervous about getting the additional win they need for bowl eligibility. K-State has begun to hone a power running game that will gash the Tech defense and ride the same game plan that West Virginia did last week for a win over the home team.

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Oklahoma State (9-0 / 6-0) hits the road for Ames to face Iowa State (3-6 / 2-4) in the very definition of a trap game. For the Cowboys, the contest falls between last week's monster TCU win and a potential showdown of unbeatens with Baylor. Iowa State must win to keep its bowl hopes alive, and perhaps to safeguard the job of head coach Paul Rhoads, despite a win over Texas two weeks ago. It's quite tempting to take the Cyclones, but Oklahoma State is just playing too well right now to go against them. ISU could make it competitive, but the Cowboys continue their magical season.

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Oklahoma (8-1 / 5-1) is playing as well as anyone in the league right now, and will attempt to become the first team to deal Baylor (8-0 / 5-0) a loss in its two-year old stadium. The Bears appeared to weather the loss of quarterback Seth Russell well in last week's win over Kansas State, but the Sooners are on a roll in all phases. BU has rarely been tested at home, and OU is primed to do just that, which will stun a complacent fan base that's become accustomed to wins without stress. OU shakes things up in the league race with a win.


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