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Big 12 Football Preview - Week Thirteen: Battles of Attrition

The Big 12 title race could be settled this week – or not. The final week of a full conference schedule of games again features a pair of contests with league championship ramifications, as well as fights on the standings ladder and late pushes for bowl inclusion.

THE NOTES

A Big 12 school hopped onto the firing bandwagon this week when Paul Rhoads was dismissed at Iowa State. Strangely, the school said Rhoads would coach the team's final game against West Virginia before departing. The fact that he will remain through one last week, despite the axe hovering over his neck, speaks volumes as to his character. It also says something about Iowa State, which couldn't have been more ham-handed in the entire process.

The debate over the job Rhoads did, and whether or not he deserved another year is one thing. But letting it leak that he is being fired, yet keeping him on in a lame duck role, is silly. This could have all been addressed a week from now after the ISU season was complete, and still allowed the Cyclone administration to get the word out about its vacancy and enter the derby race for new coaches, which is shaking up to be a massive endeavor this year.

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Only Baylor has the chance to make a final impression on the College Football Playoff selection committee next week, as just four Big 12 teams will be in action. Baylor is the only one of the trio of teams still in the running for a spot (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State) that will play on Dec. 5. Will a case of “out of sight, out of mind” affect the winner of the Oklahoma – Oklahoma State game in the committee's final deliberations?

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Oklahoma defensive back Zack Sanchez and Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah have each won the Big 12's defensive player of the week award three times this year. Ogbah had the triple crown of defensive plays last week, as he recorded a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery on the same play.

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The term “rivalry game” brings up thoughts of a hotly contested meeting that's competitive on both sides, but it can just as often mean a “big brother” vs. “little brother” contest. That was the case for years in Bedlam, where Oklahoma holds a massive 84-18-7 edge over Oklahoma State. However, as the Cowboys closed the gap between the programs over the last few years, the rancor has likewise taken a quantum leap. That could reach new heights this week with national, not just conference and regional, implications on the line.

THE PICKS

Texas (4-6 / 3-4) and Texas Tech (6-5 / 3-5) square off on Thanksgiving. The Red Raiders are playing for bowl style points, while the Longhorns need a win to stay alive in the race for a postseason slot. In a battle of offenses that should slice through the opposing defenses like the winds of the Texas plains, the Longhorns control the ball at home just enough with a tough ground attack to offset Tech's aerial circus.

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Baylor (9-1 / 6-1) makes the short jaunt up I-35 to visit TCU (9-2 / 6-2) in what was supposed to be the de facto Big 12 championship game. While it still has a number of ramifications, Baylor needs a loss from Oklahoma in order to get back into the league championship race, while TCU is already eliminated. The Bears are down to their third string QB, while the Frogs could get Trevone Boykin back. TCU is still hurt by injuries elsewhere, but the Bears could be without running back Shock Linwood. In a battle of attrition, TCU is the very narrow, and very shaky, selection.

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West Virginia (6-4 / 3-4) hosts frazzled Iowa State (3-8 / 2-6) as the Cyclones deal with the announced firing of a coach who, by most accounts, was liked by players and a majority of fans. Do the Cyclones mount one final big effort to honor Paul Rhoads, or does the disappointment of a fumbled loss to Kansas State carry over? The guess here is that the visitors play well, but the Mountaineers look to have things on track as they attempt to even their league record and lock up a fifth-place conference finish. WVU is the pick to grind out a tough win, but ISU won't make it easy.

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Kansas State (4-6 / 1-6) and Kansas (0-11 / 0-8) meet in the Sunflower Showdown – a name that doesn't really reflect the gritty nature of in-state rivalries. In fact, it all sounds sort of pleasant – but that's hardly the case in any contest between these two foes separated by just a few dozen miles of prairie. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, the distance between the respective football programs is measured more in light years, and with the Wildcats trying to earn a bowl bid with a late season rush, there's no chance that they will be flat for this contest. Bill Snyder's squad moves to within one game of .500 with a dominating win.

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Oklahoma (10-1 / 7-1) and Oklahoma State (10-1 / 7-1) meet in Bedlam for a game that couldn't be much bigger. Not only are the state bragging rights on the line, but it's an elimination game for a pair of teams that still have hopes of getting into the College Football Playoff. The Cowboys began building for this season with an upset win in last year's version, so OU might have the motivation edge to go along with the momentum from a six-game winning streak. This one truly appears to be a toss-up, but the Sooners' defense  will be the difference in what figures to be one of the most hotly contested games of the year.


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