MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Halfway through the season, it looked as if the Big 12 was set up nicely to have Baylor and West Virginia face off in the regular-season finale for the conference title.
That de facto championship game will be played Saturday, all right. Only it's 1,100 miles away from Morgantown with No. 7 Oklahoma hosting No. 11 Oklahoma State.
No. 14 West Virginia (9-2, 6-2) and Baylor (6-5, 3-5) couldn't maintain their early success, and now their meeting has nowhere near the flair it appeared to have when each team was 6-0 and ranked in the top 10.
West Virginia was eliminated from title contention two weeks ago . The Mountaineers still will earn their highest finish since joining the league in 2012.
Baylor has a five-game losing streak , its longest since dropping the final eight games of the 2007 season and then the 2008 opener.
“We have an option. We can fold, or we can come out fighting,” Baylor defensive back Patrick Levels said. “And right now I feel like we're still swinging. We're not done yet.”
Acting Baylor coach Jim Grobe heads back to his home state for what should be his final regular-season game. The Huntington native took over this season for the fired Art Briles and said he's committed to the program through January but plans to head back into retirement.
“I just came to help. I didn't come to re-create my career,” Grobe said. “It's been more challenging than I expected. We've had some rocky times, but I have no regrets. I came for the kids and I continue to stay focused on them.”
West Virginia's motivation is on the final home game for 21 seniors and getting to 10 wins, which has been done only eight times in school history and would be its best regular season since 2007.
“This senior group has a chance to do something that will be remembered for a long time,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said.
Some other things to know when the Bears and Mountaineers meet on Saturday:
West Virginia senior center Tyler Orlosky admits he doesn't bother studying opposing defenses. He said he doesn't see the need for watching film. “Someone asked me that the other day and I just said, `Once you start 40 games and have played close to 50, if someone throws something at me that I have never seen before, then they have reinvented the game of football or something has to be wrong,'” Orlosky said.
Baylor has committed 14 turnovers and allowed an average of 48 points during its five-game losing streak. “Right now we need as many possessions as our offense can get, and we need as many stops on defense as we can get,” Levels said. “Turnovers will be really big in this game.”
Last week at Iowa State, freshman Martell Pettaway lost his redshirt status and became the fourth West Virginia running back to surpass 100 yards in a game this season. Teammates Rushel Shell, Justin Crawford and Kennedy McKoy have been injured in recent weeks, and Holgorsen said none have been ruled out for Saturday. “Whoever goes in there is going to play good, so why does it really matter?” he said.
West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard is 18-8 as a starter after arriving from junior college for the 2014 season. He threw for five touchdowns in a win at Iowa State a week ago and enters his final home game as West Virginia's third all-time leading passer behind Geno Smith and Marc Bulger.
HE SAID IT
Holgorsen on Baylor's offense: “They're still putting up a bunch of yards. No, it's not Xbox-type numbers that it's been in the past. But it's still pretty dang good.”