Half of the teams in the Big 12 can claim to be conference title contenders.
The top five teams in the conference are within a game of each other with a month to go in the season. Iowa State and Oklahoma State are the only two teams in the conference with a single Big 12 loss while three teams are right behind them at 4-2.
OSU is the conference’s best hope for the College Football Playoff. Since ISU lost to Louisiana to open the season, the Cowboys are the only Big 12 team with just one overall loss this season. And if OSU wins out the rest of the way it will be well-positioned to sneak in the playoff.
With most teams in the conference having three games remaining on their schedule, here’s a look at the top five teams in the conference. The top two teams at the end of the season will play for the Big 12 title.
(Conference records listed in parentheses)
No. 17 Iowa State (5-1)
Remaining games: vs. Kansas State, at Texas, vs. West Virginia
The Cyclones have an advantage over everyone else in the Big 12 by being the first team to five wins. ISU also has that 37-30 win over Oklahoma, a victory that could end up clinching the regular-season title. The Cyclones’ only loss came at Oklahoma State — if both teams were tied in the win column then Oklahoma State would currently be No. 1 in the conference.
ISU also has a pretty tough finish to the season. All three of its remaining opponents are in the top six in the conference. Each of the four teams listed below plays at least one team near the bottom of the Big 12. Getting QB Brock Purdy back on track will be key for the stretch run. Purdy has failed to throw for 200 yards in two of his last three games and has thrown five of his six interceptions in that span.
No. 14 Oklahoma State (4-1)
Remaining games: at Oklahoma, vs. Texas Tech, at TCU, at Baylor
The Cowboys are the top-ranked team in the conference and have a schedule that has three winnable games on it.
It’s that first game listed that could be tricky. OSU is off this week before heading to Norman to play Oklahoma on Nov. 21. If Oklahoma wins that game, OSU is tied with the Sooners in the standings and OU has the head-to-head tiebreaker. That could ultimately knock OSU out of the Big 12 title game.
If Oklahoma State is going to beat Oklahoma, the Cowboy offense needs to get going. While the defense has been strong so far this year, the offense hasn’t been as explosive as you would expect. Getting WR Tylan Wallace back for the OU game will help immensely.
Kansas State (4-2)
Remaining games: at Iowa State, at Baylor, vs. Texas
Kansas State lost a chance to move into the top two in the conference with a 20-18 loss to OSU on Saturday. The Wildcats were up 12-0 at halftime before Oklahoma State scored 20 consecutive points in the second half.
The loss of QB Skylar Thompson looms large for KSU. True freshman Will Howard is completing less than 55 percent of his passes and has thrown five touchdowns and five interceptions. Before he went down for the season, Thompson was completing 63 percent of his passes and averaging nearly 10 yards a pass.
The downgrade from Thompson to Howard puts more pressure on the KSU defense and, so far, it’s responded. KSU has given up 21 points or fewer in four of its last five games.
No. 18 Oklahoma (4-2)
Remaining games: vs. Oklahoma State, at West Virginia, vs. Baylor
Is the path open for Oklahoma to have a chance to run its streak of Big 12 titles to six? We think so.
A win over OSU puts Oklahoma State in a tie for second place in the conference and wins over West Virginia and Baylor would be enough to make it to the title game if Kansas State loses one of its remaining three games.
A victory over West Virginia is no gimme, but Oklahoma is playing really well over the last three weeks. The Sooners have outscored Texas Tech and Kansas 124-37 over the past two weeks. Redshirt freshman QB Spencer Rattler has thrown 10 touchdowns to just three interceptions over the past five games and the return of RB Rhamondre Stevenson from a suspension has been important. Stevenson has rushed 24 times for 191 yards and five TDs over the past two games.
No. 21 Texas (4-2)
Remaining games: at Kansas, vs. Iowa State, at Kansas State
The Longhorns have two of the top three teams in the conference remaining on the schedule. But a 3-0 finish may not be enough to make it to the Big 12 title game depending on how teams like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State perform over the rest of the regular season.
If Texas misses out on the Big 12 title game, it only has itself to blame for that 33-31 loss to TCU at the beginning of October. The Longhorns have won three consecutive games since losing in four overtimes to Oklahoma on Oct. 10 and QB Sam Ehlinger has thrown 22 TDs to just five interceptions.
If Texas finishes the regular season with an 8-2 record, the Longhorns will be positioned for a good bowl game. It just may not be enough for a Big 12 title game appearance.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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