How did Oklahoma State lose to West Virginia?
In Big 12 country, that’s the football question of the week.
The Cowboys (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) are the new class of the conference after their thorough 49-17 victory over the previously unbeaten Baylor Bears over the weekend. Oklahoma State used ESPN’s “College GameDay” into a day-long commercial for its football program. That’s how dominant it looked.
If it beats rival Oklahoma at home in the regular-season finale on Dec. 7, it will claim a league championship and represent the Big 12 in a BCS bowl. But it could have been even better. If not for a bizarre loss at West Virginia in late September, the Cowboys would be in the running for a BCS championship.
The Mountaineers (4-7, 2-6) failed to score in a lopsided loss to Maryland and failed to compete in a defeat at last-place Kansas. But they beat the Cowboys 30-21.
How, again, did Oklahoma State lose that game?
There are several explanations. The Cowboys weren’t set at quarterback the way they are now with Clint Chelf, who put on a show against the Bears by throwing for 370 yards and three touchdowns. They were using Chelf and J.W. Walsh, depending on who was hot. Their defense was also up and down.
And Oklahoma State was playing in a new environment. No one associated with the program had played in Morgantown before.
Whatever happened, Mike Gundy deserves credit for getting his team back on track after that game.
Chelf is now in command of a gifted offense, and the defense now ranks among the Big 12’s best. Oklahoma State has won seven straight and it could finish with a 12-win season.
“College football is a great teaching tool for life,” Gundy said. “We would like to win them all and we prepare to win them all. That didn’t happen. We didn’t play or prepare well that day. The team came together. We had a lot to play for and we were in tournament play at that time. We had to win the next game to get that next round. That’s the approach they took throughout the year and it is has worked out for them. They decided they wanted to be a good football team.”
Oklahoma State controls its owns destiny for a conference title and the Big 12’s automatic BCS bowl berth that comes with it, but four teams are still in the running.
Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State all have one Big 12 loss and Oklahoma has two. And wouldn’t you know it: they all face each other on the final day of the regular season, with Texas traveling to Baylor and Oklahoma heading to Oklahoma State.
The Bears, Longhorns and Cowboys can all clinch at least a share of the conference title by winning out. Baylor and Texas can claim sole possession of the league championship by winning their final two games if Oklahoma State loses to Oklahoma. All four teams could potentially share the conference title if Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State.
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, here is a guess at where each bowl-eligible team in the Big 12 will end up this postseason.
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State will get there with one more win.
Cotton Bowl: Baylor will be an obvious choice if it misses the BCS.
Alamo Bowl: Texas played in San Antonio last year, but the Alamo Bowl will always take the Longhorns.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Oklahoma could jump up with a win at Oklahoma State.
Holiday Bowl: Kansas State has always played well in San Diego, and it owns a head-to-head victory over Texas Tech.
Texas Bowl: Texas Tech needs a win over Texas and maybe even a K-State loss to avoid another trip to Houston.
If two Big 12 teams qualify for a BCS bowl, the Texas Bowl would have to look elsewhere for a team to play a Big Ten opponent.
Brennan Clay: The Oklahoma running back burned K-State for a career-high 200 yards and two touchdowns.
Clint Chelf: The Oklahoma State couldn’t have played any better against Baylor.
Grant Rohach: The Iowa State quarterback threw for 300 yards in hockey conditions against Kansas.
Oklahoma State’s defense: Held Baylor’s high-powered offense to 17 points.
Baylor defense: The Bears have been great all season under Phil Bennett, but they were no match for the Cowboys, allowing 594 yards.
Charlie Weis: He finally got to coach a conference game with momentum on his side, and Kansas responded with a shutout loss.
John Hubert: Just when it looked like K-State’s running back was back on track, he has struggled in back-to-back games.
Big 12 weather: The fans who attended Big 12 games over the weekend deserve a standing ovation. All three games were played in frigid temperatures.
Ranking this week’s games
Don’t miss it: Texas Tech at Texas.
Worth watching: Baylor at TCU, Iowa State at West Virginia, K-State at Kansas.
Big 12 football rankings
1. Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1): Chelf has the Cowboys on track for a Big 12 championship.
2. Baylor (9-1, 6-1): Injuries finally caught up with the Bears, and they paid the price with a blowout loss.
3. Texas (7-3, 6-1): Believe it or not, Texas could play in a BCS bowl if it wins its final two games.
4. Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2): Trevor Knight will give Oklahoma a shot against Oklahoma State.
5. Kansas State (6-5, 4-4): Tyler Lockett has topped 235 receiving yards twice this season, and K-State has lost both games.
6. Texas Tech (7-4, 4-4): Red Raiders need to beat Texas to avoid a five-game losing streak.
7. TCU (4-7, 2-6): Don’t be surprised if the Horned Frogs challenge Baylor in their final game.
8. West Virginia (4-7, 2-6): A loss to Iowa State won’t help Dana Holgorsen’s hot-seat status.
9. Iowa State (2-9, 1-7): Paul Rhoads deserves kudos for keeping his players motivated in a down season.
10. Kansas (3-8, 1-7): The Jayhawks will carry a 27-game road losing streak into next season.