Two games left. A conference title up for grabs. Here we go. The Big 12 storylines to keep an eye on this weekend:
1. Crowning a champion: The Big 12 didn’t need a big prime-time showdown at AT&T Stadium to end up with a marquee final weekend of conference play. The league’s schedule makers should get holiday bonuses for their work this year, pitting the Big 12’s four best teams against each other on championship weekend with a conference title on the line. Odds are Oklahoma State wraps it all up with a victory over Oklahoma, but if the Sooners pull the upset all eyes will be on Texas-Baylor to decide who gets the trophy.
2. Can the Pokes do it again? Mike Gundy likened Oklahoma State’s run in the month of November to playoff football. You’ve got to win one game to make the next one count. The Cowboys control their own destiny now thanks to the beatdowns they handed Texas and Baylor in back-to-back weeks, and they get the Sooners at home in Stillwater. Now they have to capitalize and secure their second Fiesta Bowl trip in three years.
3. Day of the underdog: Texas fans will be unabashedly rooting for Oklahoma on Saturday. Yep, seriously. They have to. Even Case McCoy admitted he’s pulling for a Sooners victory, even if it makes him “sick to my stomach.” The Sooners have a chance to play spoiler and knock OSU from atop the Big 12 standings. If they pull that off, can Texas notch an even more surprising victory in Waco? The Longhorns have embraced the underdog role ever since starting 1-2.
4. Finishing Baylor’s dream season: The loss to OSU knocked Baylor out of the national title hunt, damaged its hopes of playing in a BCS bowl and might’ve killed Bryce Petty’s chances of winning the Heisman. Yet the Bears still have a ton to play for this weekend. This can still go down as the best season in school history, especially if Baylor wins a share of the Big 12 title.
5. Who’s the DPOY? Good luck finding a consensus about who should win the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year honor this season, and this weekend might not change that much. Still, several candidates have a chance to make a strong final impression, including Oklahoma State linebacker Caleb Lavey and cornerback Justin Gilbert as well as Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat.
6. Oklahoma’s next BMOC: Trevor Knight is another guy who could definitely use a strong finale to help his reputation not only for 2013 but, more importantly, for the offseason and beyond. Knight is coming off nice performances against Iowa State and Kansas State. An upset win over OSU could do wonders for proving he is Oklahoma’s quarterback of the future.
7. Mack Brown: What’s on the line? Who knows what this Baylor game means for Brown’s future at Texas, other than this: If Texas wins, good luck firing a coach who brings a Big 12 trophy home after leading his team from 1-2 to 9-3. And if the Bears win a blowout, well, buckle up for another rumor-filled week in Austin.
8. December weather: Introducing the X factor in both of this weekend’s Big 12 games: Winter Storm Cleon. The high and low for Stillwater on Saturday are 28 and 17. Waco is expecting freezing rain and temperatures in the high 20s. We could be in for some very messy, conservative football.
9. Closing out The Case: It’s a historic weekend for Baylor, which plays its final home game at 63-year-old Floyd Casey Stadium on Saturday. The last time a current Big 12 school opened a brand-new stadium was 1980, when West Virginia built Milan Puskar Stadium. The Bears are breaking out retro uniforms and expect the largest crowd ever in stadium history.
10. The Sunday bowl shakeout: The bowl projections for the Big 12’s six bowl-eligible teams are somewhat obvious at this point but could be in for a big shakeup depending on how these final two games play out. You know the committees of the AT&T Cotton, Valero Alamo and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowls will be watching closely and could face difficult decisions if we see some upsets.