NCAA FB

Big 12 title could go distance of 15-week season

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(Eds: Updates. With AP Photos.)By STEPHEN HAWKINSAP Sports Writer

The Big 12 regular season spans 15 Saturdays from August to December, and easily could go the distance before a champion is determined.

With five weeks left, fifth-ranked Baylor (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) is the league's only undefeated team and controls its fate for its first Big 12 title. The Bears get their toughest test of the year Thursday night when they host their first ranked opponent, No. 12 Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1), which beat rising star and No. 25 Texas Tech in its last game.

Baylor also has games left against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas, and a trip to rival TCU. The Bears have won a school-record 11 games in a row since a loss to the Sooners last season.

''From a realistic standpoint, we just feel like this season is just getting started,'' Bears coach Art Briles said Monday. ''I know we've played seven games, but we're ready and willing and anxious to get into the grind time, get into where we're fighting and scraping for every single thing that's out there, and that's the way we've always approached the game.''

There are several games remaining between now at the first weekend of December that match teams in the upper half of the Big 12 standings

''This will be probably the most exciting and fun five weeks in the history of the Big 12,'' said Texas coach Mack Brown, whose Longhorns have won all five of their Big 12 games since going 1-2 in their non-conference games. ''Our league's got some huge games left. ... It should be a lot of fun.''

After hosting Kansas (2-6, 0-5) this week, 15th-ranked Oklahoma State (7-1, 4-1) has consecutive games against Texas and Baylor. Texas Tech (7-2, 4-2), which has lost to the two Oklahoma schools the past two weeks, plays Kansas State before ending the regular season with its chance against the only two teams without a league loss so far, including a trip to Texas on Thanksgiving night.

If all that isn't enough to settle things, there are the two potential blockbuster games to end the regular season Dec. 7. Texas goes to Baylor as the last opponent ever at Floyd Casey Stadium in a possible title-deciding game. And there is the Bedlam Series with the Sooners going to Oklahoma State.

''There's a lot of great games, and so much to be decided,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.

''We talked last night as a team only about Kansas,'' OSU coach Mike Gundy said Monday. ''That's the great thing about college football. The way the BCS is set up, essentially we're in March Madness every week.''

Based on this week's BCS standings, no league has more Top 25 conference matchups over the rest of the regular season than the four for the Big 12. The 14-team SEC, which has four teams more than the Big 12, also has four while the Pac-12 has two such games.

Oklahoma shared last year's Big 12 title with Kansas State (4-4, 2-3), a definite longshot for another championship even after winning its last two games.

A year after the Big 12 sent a record 90 percent of its teams to bowls, it is the only conference so far this season to have half of its teams bowl eligible.

Iowa State (1-7, 0-5) has already been eliminated from bowl contention and TCU (3-6, 1-5), with its first three-game losing streak in coach Gary Patterson's 13 seasons, has to win the rest of its games to avoid the same fate. Kansas (2-6, 0-5) has lost 26 consecutive conference games.

West Virginia, coming off a big overtime victory at TCU, hasn't had a losing season since going 3-8 in 2001. That was the last time the Mountaineers (4-5, 2-4) didn't go to a bowl game.

''We weren't really looking at the big picture,'' WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. ''Going into that TCU game, there was some talk with some of the guys about that very thing. Especially the seniors getting together, not wanting to be the first team to have a losing season in a while. It's important to go to a bowl game.''

Tagged: Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas

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