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Big 12 2016 Football Previews - Week Eleven

It's the final “Set-up Saturday” of the Big 12 season, where contenders for the league title have games with teams further down the standings. A stumble here will almost surely prove fatal, while wins for the top dogs set up a final three-week scrum that should be quite entertaining.

THE NOTES

The competitive nature of the Big 12 is highlighted by the fact that no team has gone undefeated in conference play since the league went to a round-robin format in 2011. An argument can be advanced that those results point to the conclusion that the league hasn't had a dominant team in that time, but it would be nice to compare all leagues on the same basis. Would a team survive the Big 10 or ACC unscathed if it had to play all of its foes?

Granted, that's unworkable now with more teams than games available, but it's also a fair point to counter those who automatically assume dominance based on a record that sometimes dodges tougher league opponents.

Either way, Oklahoma remains as the only team with a chance to do so in the Big 12 this year. Prior to the institution of the round-robin format, the Sooners fashioned three undefeated league seasons.

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Texas can reach bowl eligibility with a win this week, or in either of its remaining games against Kansas or TCU. The Horned Frogs and Kansas State are also one victory away, but will have to wait a week to shoot for their sixth wins as both have their open dates this Saturday. One of them is assuredly in, as they face each other on Dec. 3. TCU has a meeting with Oklahoma State in addition to the Longhorns, while K-State sees Baylor and Kansas before the regular season finale. Texas Tech needs to wins to venture out of Lubbock for the holidays.

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It's usually a foregone conclusion that a kicker will lead a league or group of schools in scoring. However, this year's Big 12 scoring race is a tightly contested battle that includes some non-booters. Texas' D'onta Foreman is currently atop the leader board, averaging 9.8 points per game. TCU's Kyle Hicks is third at 9.3, while Oklahoma's Dede Westbrook is tied for fourth at 8.9. With two-thirds of the season down, any of the three could grab the title if he can average a couple of scores per game in his remaining contests.

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Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Kansas are the league teams that have an open date remaining on their schedule.

THE PICKS

Iowa State and Kansas square off to avoid the Big 12 cellar. While neither has a league win, the Cyclones have clearly been the better team, at least in terms of the eyeball test. They've lost to OSU, Baylor, Oklahoma and K-State by a combined 25 points, and with just a play or two more could have had a couple of conference wins. Even though they are on the road, ISU is the selection.

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The mercurial Texas Longhorns bounced back last week with a win, riding the broad shoulders of running back D'Onta Foreman, continuing a season-long pattern of rising from “expert” proclamations of disaster after losses. Will UT be able to string together two wins for the first time since early September, and protect its perfect home record? West Virginia is poised for a monster November, but must get a win on the road over a quality foe to set that up. Given that Texas has followed almost no predictable pattern this year, they are an upset pick at home.

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The situation at Baylor is again out of control, but whether or not that has an effect on the Bears' play on the field is open for debate. It certainly looked that way last week against TCU, but it could be that the Bears were already primed for a falll due to on-field problems. This week brings a road trip to Oklahoma, and the potential for a three-game losing streak, which the Sooners will promptly execute. OU weathered an upset bid on the road a week ago, and a return of some injured and suspended players will allow them to throttle Baylor in Norman.

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Oklahoma State and Texas Tech meet in the Cowboys' final home game of the season. Tech appears to be finally wearing down under the strain of having to score 50 points just to stay in many contests, while OSU is riding high on a five-game winning streak. Tech's capable, but all the momentum centers on Stillwater, where the Pokes will get their eighth win of the season.


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