Big 12

Big 12 in big trouble as nonconference losses mount

Oklahoma State linebacker Chad Whitener sits alone in the end zone while the Central Michigan team celebrates its 30-27 victory in Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday.
Oklahoma State linebacker Chad Whitener sits alone in the end zone while the Central Michigan team celebrates its 30-27 victory in Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday. Associated Press

Saturday was a dark day for Big 12 football.

Forget the conference’s 4-5 record. That doesn’t paint a true picture of the ugliness. Sure, the results look bad on paper, but they felt worse watching in real time.

Texas Tech scored 55 points at Arizona State and still lost by double digits, Iowa State was overmatched against Iowa, Arkansas beat TCU in double overtime, and Kansas and Oklahoma State lost at home to Mid-American Conference teams.

Frustrations ran highest for the Cowboys. Victory was within their grasp until they failed to properly run out the clock on their final possession, earning a penalty for intentional grounding as time expired. Officials improperly allowed Central Michigan to run an untimed play that resulted in a miracle game-winning touchdown. Officials later acknowledged the play shouldn’t have happened.

Ouch.

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“I’m disappointed in myself that I called a play that could have been interpreted as intentional grounding,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said Sunday. “That play has been in our playbook for 12 years now and intentional grounding and an untimed down after the last play of the game never crossed my mind.

“Of course in hindsight, I wish I would have done it differently, but in the big picture the game should have been over.”

At least Oklahoma State fans can take solace in the fact there are only three remaining undefeated teams in the Big 12: Baylor, Texas and West Virginia.

Combine Saturday’s losses with a lackluster opening week, and the Big 12 is off to an 11-8 start. That translates to an unsightly .579 winning percentage, last among the five power conferences. The Pac-12 is fourth at .682.

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“It has everything to do with the nature of who we are playing,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “The schedules are changing. No one is playing three cupcakes anymore. Everyone is playing challenging games now. When power-five teams play power-five teams, there are going to be guys who lose.”

Still, the losses are mounting. Odds of a Big 12 team making college football’s playoff already seem remote, and they will slip even further without a strong showing this weekend.

That’s when Oklahoma hosts Ohio State and Texas heads to California. Is it too early to declare both must-wins?

Two victories and suddenly the Big 12 isn’t in such bad shape. A pair of losses, and it will be up to Baylor and West Virginia, teams picked to finish near the middle of the conference standings, to carry the flag.

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Blame game

A 68-55 loss to Arizona State was nothing new for Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury.

It was the third time in the Red Raiders’ past 11 games they have lost while scoring more than 50 points. A year ago, they lost to TCU 55-52 and to Oklahoma State 70-53.

Those type of results are sure to create a rift between Texas Tech’s offense and defense, but Kingsbury says he doesn’t think that way.

“I don’t place blame on anyone,” Kingsbury said. “There were plenty of opportunities the other night on offense to not go three-and-out or not turn the ball over and keep our defense off the field. When you lose a game like that everyone takes blame.”

Big 12 refs

A 30-27 loss to Central Michigan continued to be the main topic of conversation in Stillwater, Okla. Gundy did his best to focus on the future, but he did say something interesting about officiating.

In future years, he hopes Oklahoma State only schedules nonconference games against teams that will agree to let Big 12 officials work them. MAC officials worked Saturday’s game.

“I would not go into a game without Big 12 officials,” Gundy said. “We’re playing a school that does not want to use our officials, you move on and find another school. … When we’re playing in these games, we need to use our officials. Or we don’t sign a contract.”

Power rankings

1. Texas (2-0): Followed win over Notre Dame with blowout of UTEP.

2. West Virginia (2-0): Needed a strong second half to pull away from Youngstown State.

3. Baylor (2-0): An undefeated record is an undefeated record.

4. Oklahoma (1-1): Needs to beat Ohio State to salvage playoff hopes.

5. TCU (1-1): Waited too long to get offense going against Arkansas.

6. Oklahoma State (1-1): Central Michigan loss among the most painful in school history.

7. Texas Tech (1-1): Where’s the defense?

8. Kansas State (0-1): Wildcats get Florida Atlantic in their home opener.

9. Kansas (1-1): Could have beaten Ohio without miscues on special teams.

10. Iowa State (0-2): Matt Campbell might wish he was back in Toledo.

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett

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