Big 12 Conference race still wide open this year

WACO, Texas – With half of the regular season behind, veteran University of Baylor head coach Art Briles understands the prize -capturing a Big 12 Conference title -is still within reach for his No. 13 ranked Bears.

But, there are also a number of pitfalls along the way.

“It (the Big 12 race) is wide open,” Briles said during the Big 12’s weekly teleconference. “I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody.

“There’s so much parity within the league. We’re not talking about it (a Big 12 title). That’s just talk. That’s all it is.”

That talk will be put on the line for the Bears (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) when they play host to Iowa State (1-4, 0-2 Big 12).

The Cyclones are coming off of a tough, 42-35, loss to then-No. 21 Texas Tech. Quarterback Sam Richardson recorded a touchdown pass for the eighth consecutive game to tie for third-most in school history and ISU scored 30-plus points for the third consecutive time for the first time since 2005.

But, it was not enough as the Cyclones will head to No. 13 Baylor in search of its first conference win in 2013.

Iowa State won’t be the only league member looking to capture its first Big 12 win of the season as Kansas (2-3, 0-2 Big 12) plays host to No. 17 Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1).

The Sooners are coming off of a 36-20 setback to arch rival Texas in the Red River Rivalry while Charlie Weis’ Jayhawks nearly picked up their first conference win in three years before falling to TCU by a 27-17 margin.

Two teams -Kansas State (2-4, 0-3 Big 12) and Texas (4-2, 3-0 Big 12) – have the week off. KSU returns to action next Saturday at 3:45 p.m. (EST) against West Virginia while the Longhorns will look to stay unbeaten in league play when they travel to TCU.

Next weekend’s game against the Wildcats will mark the third time the Mountaineers have faced a Big 12 opponent coming off of an open week.

“I don’t,” TTU head coach Kliff Kingsbury said when asked about facing a team coming off of a bye week. “I’ve never been a big proponent of bye weeks besides to get healthy. I think when you get rolling, it’s good to keep that going, keep the routine and keep practicing going. I don’t think that will play either way.”

Kingsbury will get the chance to test his theory when his unbeaten Red Raiders take on a struggling WVU squad that has had a week off following a 73-42 loss at Baylor -the second worst beating the Mountaineers have taken in school history.

“Coming off the bye week, it has been a good situation for us over the last two years,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We gave the team this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday off. Assistant coaches were able to get out on the road and recruit, and I am really happy with how that is going. The reception has been very good. Our theory and motivation on this was to get the team away from everything Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”

Whether that worked won’t be known until late Saturday afternoon.

In other news around the Big 12 Conference:

  • Big 12 Players of the Week were awarded to offense: Davis Webb (Texas Tech), defense: Chris Whaley (Texas) and special teams: Jarvis West (Iowa State).
  • Through 13 conference games this season a ranked Big 12 team has fallen to an unranked conference opponent on three occasions -the most among peer conferences. Since 2011 with the implementation of round-robin scheduling, the Big 12 has had 15 such games, also the most among peer conferences (ACC – 13, Big Ten – 11, Pac 12 – 11, SEC – 2).
  • Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk continues to lead the Big 12 in rushing with a 128.6 yards per game average. The Bears’ Bryce Petty also continues to set the standard in passing, completing 80-of-114 attempts for an average of 338.0 yards per game.
  • Texas’ Jackson Jeffcoat leads the Big 12 with five sacks. WVU’s Brandon Golson is fifth with three.
  • WVU’s Darwin Cook and Golson set the standards in interceptions and fumbles forced. Cook has a league-leading four interceptions for 65 yards and one touchdown while Golson has forced four fumbles to date.