We kept hearing last year that if Baylor and TCU were Oklahoma and Texas, one or the other would have made the College Football Playoff, no questions asked.
Brand name they called it. TCU and Baylor didn’t have it. It didn’t matter that TCU and Baylor were each one-loss co-champs of the Big 12, or that both walloped those two traditional powers last year by a whopping 147-43 combined. Baylor, a doormat for so many years, and TCU, a successful wanderer of the lower-tier conferences, just didn’t dial up the right amount of name recognition, so the story went.
Well, Baylor (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) is out once again to make a name for itself when the sixth-ranked Bears (and quite likely fifth-ranked — or higher? — after tonight’s CFP rankings are released) take on No. 15 (again a higher ranking is to come) Oklahoma (8-1, 5-1) in Waco on Saturday night.
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Baylor will be seeking its 21st consecutive home win. Oklahoma will be looking to end a two-game losing streak to Baylor in which it has absolutely been crushed.
Baylor coach Art Briles, who could have jumped to Texas before it hired Charlie Strong to replace Mack Brown, said he knows all about this mighty tradition.
"If they want to talk tradition, they can talk tradition about as well as anyone in the United States over a 50-year period," Briles, talking about OU, told reporters Monday. "That’s not going to change, and it hasn’t changed. It’s our job to change it. We have to make them uneasy, we have to do what we do and do it better than what they do. They have good people, they have good schemes, they have good coaches and they have good tradition. But so do we. So what you have are two really good football teams playing each other."
The Sooners must win to have a shot at the Big 12 title and the playoff. Ironically, their lone blemish surprisingly came to that other traditional power Texas, which still hasn’t reached .500 for the season. So OU will enter McLane Stadium in the untraditional role of underdog.
"The way we’ve been playing you have to feel confident the way we’ve been executing really in all parts of the game," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops told reporters Monday. "As much as anything, [it’s] playing together as a team. Offense is moving the ball and putting pressure on the other team the way they’re scoring and moving the ball. Defensively [we’re] coming up with pressure and getting turnovers and a lot of good stops. We’ve got to play that way Saturday."
Get to know this duo
The Big 12 has thoroughly focused on the passing combinations at Baylor (Seth Russell, and now Jarrett Stidham, to Corey Coleman) and TCU (Trevone Boykin to Josh Doctson), and for good reason. But now there’s a new combo emerging.
Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington are producing fireworks of late that are unmatched.
In the last three games, wins against Kansas, Texas Tech and TCU, Washington, a sophomore, has 15 catches for 487 yards — an average of more than 32 yards a catch — with six touchdowns. His last five touchdowns have gone for 73 yards, 75, 48, 50 and 74. The first four came on consecutive touches.
On Monday, he was added to the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, given to college football’s most outstanding receiver.
"He’s got a great ability to step on the gas when the ball is in the air to really accelerate and turn on the afterburners, so to speak, when the ball is up in the air go get it," Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said of Washington. "He’s just a very, very good athlete with a lot of explosion."
TCU on the rebound
Coming off their first loss of the season at Oklahoma State, a game that significantly damages TCU’s Big 12 title and playoff hopes, the Horned Frogs at least get to come home and face the worst team in the conference.
The Kansas Jayhawks still haven’t won a game this season, and haven’t won a road game since 2009. That’s not likely to change Saturday even if TCU is without star receiver Josh Doctson, whose status is uncertain due to an injured hand.
The Horned Frogs can use this game to regain their bearings before a two-game finishing stretch at Oklahoma and at home against Baylor that could put them right back in the Big 12 title hunt depending what happens elsewhere. TCU, OU, Oklahoma State and Baylor are in the midst of a November round-robin.
Quick hits: Kansas State has lost five consecutive games and needs to win three of its last four to become bowl eligible starting with Texas Tech on Saturday. K-State might be the hard-luck team of the year with a two-point loss against No. 14 Oklahoma State and seven-point losses to both No. 6 Baylor and No. 8 TCU. After Tech, K-State plays Iowa State, Kansas and West Virginia … Texas has a chance to define itself, or perhaps destroy itself, with its three-game finishing kick at West Virginia, at home against Texas Tech and at Baylor. The Longhorns are 0-3 in true road games and must win two of their last three to become bowl eligible. If they fail, coach Charlie Strong’s seat is going to get awfully warm … Texas Tech running back DeAndre Washington surpassed 1,000 rushing yards last week to eclipse the mark for a second consecutive season, joining Baylor’s Shock Linwood in that category. Washington has 1,037 yards, nine yards behind Linwood, although Washington has played in two more games … Saturday will be Tech’s 10th consecutive game without a bye week. A week off finally comes next week before playing at Texas on Thanksgiving. Tech has lost its last three games.