Halfway through the college football season, things are starting to come into focus for every conference. That is every conference except for the Big 12.
Expect this to be even crazier than last season when the conference with “One True Champ” crowned two teams — Baylor and TCU — as co-champions.
There really is no shortage of great teams in other conferences. But with each of those conferences consisting of a minimum of 12 teams, the spread seems less daunting since some teams are able to dodge playing the top teams of the conference until the conference finale. That isn’t the case in the poorly named Big 12 with only ten teams after realignment.
The advantage to having just ten teams is that each team plays each other in a round robin style schedule — true parity. But that’s also what will make this one of the bumpiest rides in the nation as we head towards the homestretch. Since there is no championship game, it’s all based upon regular season results and each contending holds some advantage over the others.
Baylor and TCU are the two favorites as the No. 2 and No. 4 teams in the nation. That much was expected heading into the season (though the two have flipped spots based on preseason rankings). After Oklahoma lost the Red River classic, the Sooners were discounted by most of the conference. Now after a 55-point shutout over Kansas State who threatened TCU’s 13-game win streak (now 15 wins), the wagons are starting to circle once again and are now ranked No. 17 in the nation.
There’s another team silently lurking in the corner, though, the Oklahoma State Cowboys ranked No. 14 in the nation as one of the ten remaining unbeaten Power Five teams. Perhaps no other team in the nation holds the advantage that the Cowboys do: homefield advantage.
Coach Mike Gundy has the pleasure of the playing the three other contenders at home. Stillwater is not a place you want to travel, just ask 2013 Baylor. Like this season at No. 2, the Bears reached an all-time peak as the No. 3 team in the nation as they headed into Boone Pickens Stadium. They left with a 32-point loss.
Baylor’s team is even better this season with hopes of being the most productive offense of all-time, but even if Seth Russell and crew come out alive after facing OK State’s daunting defensive front, Baylor still has to travel to Fort Worth to take on a hungry TCU team still bitter from a 21-point collapse last season in Waco.
On the TCU front, the Frogs have looked depleted over the past two weeks with scares from Kansas State and Iowa State. They too have to travel to Stillwater, but also have to travel to Norman, Oklahoma where the Sooners are just as bitter about their four-point loss to the Frogs. However, Baylor plays host to Oklahoma this year.
Homefield advantage isn’t the be all, end all to the discussion, but it’s a good place to start. Anything can happen. Baylor should even be wary of heading into Bill Synder Family Stadium, as the ‘Cats gave TCU a good scare.
What’s most exciting (or concerning) about this whole picture, though, is that there’s a chance for more public outcry as there could be a three-way tie similar to what happened in 2008 between Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech.
Hypothetically, Baylor loses against TCU while the Horned Frogs lose to Oklahoma State and Baylor beats the Cowboys while the Sooners lose at least one game. That would put Baylor, TCU, and OK State at 10-1. In this event, the tie would be decided against the next highest team (likely Oklahoma).
This is where Baylor and Oklahoma State would likely hold the advantage, playing at home against the Sooners. The conference champion would be decided by point differential against the Sooners. If that still does not settle the debate, the title would “be determined in a draw at the conference office” per ESPN‘s Max Olson.
Lock your doors, November is going to get ugly (and by that, I mean beautifully chaotic).