The Big 12 is coming down to a four-team race and the winner of Saturday’s game between No. 10 Oklahoma State and No. 5 TCU will be one-third of the way to the finish line.
The kickoff is at 2:30 p.m.
The loser will need some help to win the conference and get a shot at the College Football Playoff. OSU and TCU are two of only 11 undefeated teams left in major college football (Baylor is the only other Big 12 undefeated team). Oklahoma, with a single loss to Texas, can win the conference should the Sooners defeat Baylor, TCU and OSU in their final three games (plus win over Iowa State this Saturday).
TCU (8-0, 5-0 in the Big 12) has won 12 consecutive Big 12 games and is 20-1 overall over the last two seasons. TCU improved to 98-3 under Coach Gary Patterson when allowing 17 points or less.
On Saturday, the Cowboys (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) overcame an early 17-point deficit to beat Texas Tech in Lubbock, 70-53 – the second largest comeback in school history. The 70 points were a school record for a conference game.
“You would hope that you don’t have to score that many points to win a game, but in this league, with the quarterback play that you’re seeing, it’s very similar to four or five years ago when we had several NFL quarterbacks in this league,” said OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “You’re going to see some numbers that are considerably higher than other conferences in the country. That’s just my opinion. It’s based on great quarterback play.”
OSU second-team quarterback J.W. Walsh had a career-long 64-yard rush in the fourth quarter, followed by a 1-yard TD rush on the next play. Walsh has accounted for at least one touchdown in every game this season.
“I was proud of our team, proud of them for rallying in the second half,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said about backup quarterback J.W. Walsh, who helped the Cowboys outscore the Red Raiders 42-15 in the final 30 minutes. “J.W. is like the Energizer bunny. He’s so excited. He wants to do it, and he wants to run through the wall.”
Sophomore Mason Rudolph, the better passer, is the Cowboy starter over Walsh, a senior.
“We think that it’s almost like preparing for two different offenses,” Gundy said of his quarterbacks. “We have plans for Walsh. He helps us run the football because you have to defend him. We have a segment of practice each day where J.W. has a plan. For us not to use it wouldn’t be smart. We need some help as we move along to try to get better in rushing the football.”
In the first half, Rudolph was 20-for-29 for 262 yards and two touchdowns.
Jalen McCleskey scored on a 67-yard punt return in the third quarter, marking the longest return of his career and the first OSU punt return TD since Tyreek Hill’s 92-yard return at OU last year.
Emmanuel Ogbah got his ninth sack of the season. He has at least one sack in 13 of his last 16 games and at least one in seven games this season.
James Washington had 200 receiving yards. He is the first Cowboy to reach the 200-yard mark in receiving yards since Justin Blackmon had 205 vs. Kansas State in 2011.
Washington caught touchdown passes of 75 and 73 yards on consecutive fourth-quarter drives.
TCU clobbered West Virginia 40-10 with 616 yards of total offense – the seventh game in a row that the TCU offense has had more than 500 yards.
The TCU defense held the Mountaineers scoreless for three quarters.
One of the big questions for the Cowboys is how to stop TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin, the leading candidate perhaps for the Heisman Trophy.
“With all due respect to Corey Coleman (of Baylor), Trevone Boykin is the best player in college football,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, whose team lost by 24 points to Baylor 11 days ago. “I can’t get No. 2 [Boykin] out of my mind, making everybody on the field miss.”
Boykin accounted for 460 yards of total offense against West Virginia and now has a school record 12,029 yards in his career. He passed Andy Dalton (now with the Cincinnati Bengals).
“He creates a lot of issues,” OSU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said of Boykin. “It doesn’t take long on film to see that he can throw, he can elude the rush, he’s got an unbelievable release and he’s a tremendous running back with the ball in his hand. He’s got great vision. They do a great job of game planning for him and creating plays for him. Even when it’s not there, he’ll create something for himself. I don’t think he gets tackled much, he just runs out of field. I don’t have the answer on how to slow him down yet, and who knows if we’ll have it on Saturday? We’re going to do some things to hopefully slow him down a little bit, but guys like him have great games and we just have to make timely stops throughout the night and affect him.”
Against West Virginia, Boykin finished the night 32-of-47 for 388 yards and three touchdowns. He had 11 carries for a team-best 84 yards and a touchdown. Boykin has run for at least 50 yards in four straight games. Boykin has had a run of at least 20 yards in four straight games.
Jaden Oberkrom’s 57-yard field goal on the final play of the first half tied the TCU school record for distance set by Michael Reeder versus UTEP in 1996. It also tied for the seventh-longest in Big 12 history and the longest since 2012.
Last year, TCU beat OSU 42-9 in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs outgained the Cowboys 678 yards to 258 as Boykin threw for a career-high 410 yards – including touchdown passes of 77 and 84 yards to receiver Josh Doctson. Against West Virginia last Saturday, Doctson had his sixth straight 100-yard game with 183 yards on 11 receptions and two touchdowns.
Last year was the first win for TCU over OSU since 1992 and snapped a three-game winning streak over TCU
This year, OSU and TCU have some remarkable similarities.
- Both teams are undefeated at 8-0.
- TCU has won 16 games in a row – second best in the nation behind Ohio State (21 wins in a row). That’s a school record. OSU has won 10 games in a row, stretching back to the Bedlam win over Oklahoma last year.
- OSU’s defense is giving up 23.1 points per game while TCU surrenders 24.6 points. Opposing offenses average 357 yards against the OSU defense and 389 yards against TCU. OSU allows 218 yards passing in the pass-happy Big 12 while TCU gives up 216 yards in the air per game.
- TCU averages 48.9 points per game (second in the nation) while OSU averages 44 points. TCU averages 389 yards passing per game while OSU gets 351 yards.
- TCU receivers have caught 210 passes this year and their OSU counterparts have caught 201.
- OSU beat Texas Tech 70-53 while TCU beat Tech 55-52.
It is likely that the Big 12 champion will get to play for the national championship this year.
Last year, TCU and Baylor were both shut out of the four-team national championship playoff. Both had one loss and the absence of a Big 12 title game was blamed for the snub.
The first ranking was this week (after press time) and the final ranking will be Dec. 6. This year’s semifinals will be in the Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Eve. The national championship game will be on January 11 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Last year, Ohio State (with a loss to Virginia Tech) was No. 16 in the initial rankings yet won it all.