DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Texas-Oklahoma game is usually a bellwether matchup every year for the Big 12 title race.
This weekend, the Red River rivalry showdown is not even the biggest game in Texas. That distinction belongs to a matchup between No. 9 TCU (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) and No. 5 Baylor (5-0, 2-0), the league’s last undefeated teams.
That’s just the way things are in the Big 12 these days. Programs that used to be pushovers are instead pushing for a title. Programs that used to be powerhouses might not even make a bowl game.
“We understand the significance of this ball game. We’re both undefeated,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “Whoever wins the ball game would have the driver’s seat along with the other unbeatens going forward.”
TCU, which knocked off Oklahoma 37-33 over the weekend, could contend for the Big 12 title for the first time. The Horned Frogs were just 6-12 in their first two years of Big 12 play.
Quarterback Trevone Boykin gained a career-high 395 yards of offense on Saturday and guided TCU to its biggest Big 12 win so far.
“If you want to win championships, you’ve got to play the best,” Patterson said. “The Oklahoma game was a big win. But that’s why you saw me in my press conference, even in the locker room. I just kind of really (said), ‘Hey look. I understand what we just got done and accomplished, and we’ll look back on this. But you have maybe, you have a better football team that you have to play next week.'”
Just 10 months ago, Texas and Baylor faced each other with the Big 12 title on the line. The Bears rolled past the Longhorns 30-10 to win their first league championship and the game suggested a changing of the guard that remains in place as the Charlie Strong era begins at Texas.
This time, Baylor leaned on its defense to overcome an uncharacteristically poor day from quarterback Bryce Petty. No one was really surprised to see Baylor beat Texas in Austin, a relatively easy 28-7 win.
“We’re getting to the stage to where we are really a complete football team, and that’s how you have opportunities to win every time you step on the field,” Baylor coach Art Briles said.
Baylor showed that the Longhorns — who won the old Big 12 South seven times from 1996 to 2009 — still has a long way to go on offense.
Texas (2-3, 1-1) has been outscored 69-14 in two games at home. Now it heads to the Cotton Bowl to face the Sooners, who know they’ll likely have to run the table to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.
“We just have to develop some consistency on offense,” Strong said.
Texas is one of four Big 12 teams below .500. But while Iowa State (1-4, 0-3) and Kansas (2-3, 0-2) were expected to struggle, Texas Tech was expected to be more competitive by now.
The Red Raiders (2-3, 0-2) have dropped three straight by double digits, including last week’s 45-13 blowout by Kansas State (4-1, 2-0). Texas Tech, which has followed up nine straight years of at least a .500 mark in the Big 12 with four straight losing seasons in the league, hosts against West Virginia (3-2, 1-1) on Saturday,
The Mountaineers, like fellow newcomer TCU, could be poised for their first winning season in the Big 12. West Virginia’s only losses came against No. 7 Alabama and No. 11 Oklahoma.
“What’s happening in the Big 12 is happening in college football. There’s just a lot of parity out there,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said.
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