It's been another very good year for the Big 12, with half of the schools having won 7 or more games.
It won't be a great one, not after Kansas State's upset of Texas knocked the Longhorns out of the national title picture. Instead, heading into the bowl season the conference has a look of parity with no truly dominant teams.
#11 Texas (9-2, 6-1) was 5th in last week's BCS standings and had hoped to move up after #10 Louisville lost to Rutgers. Kansas State's Josh Freeman spoiled that thinking, throwing 3 touchdown passes and running for a fourth in a 45-42 victory on Saturday night.
Nebraska (8-3, 5-2), which returned to the rankings Sunday at #24, will represent the North in the Big 12 championship game against either the Longhorns or 16th ranked Oklahoma. To join the Huskers in the title game on December 2nd in Kansas City, Oklahoma needs to win its last two games and Texas must lose at Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3) on November 24th.
The conference has 8 guaranteed bowl slots and 8 qualifiers. Kansas (5-5, 2-4) needs a win at home this week against Kansas State or at Missouri (7-3, 3-3) on November 25th to make it 9.
Oklahoma (8-2, 4-1) got a big game from former 4th string tailback Chris Brown, a freshman who scored 2 4th quarter touchdowns in a 34-24 victory over Texas Tech. The Sooners overcame 4 turnovers and benefited from 2 missed field goals by Tech.
``I love the way our team is competing and playing,'' coach Bob Stoops said. ``We made it hard. We have got to take care of the football.
``But I love the character.''
Oklahoma's 15 game streak with a 100 yard rusher, the longest in the nation, was snapped with Brown gaining 84 yards on 16 carries. The Sooners compensated with a career high 309 yards passing and two touchdowns from Paul Thompson.
``Going into this week, we knew we wanted to wing it around a little bit, establish a little more balance in the offense,'' Thompson said. ``I felt comfortable the entire game.
``Last week, I was a little nervous, but tonight I was calm.''
Thompson's play was an eye opener for Tech coach Mike Leach.
``Certainly as far as throwing the ball, this is the best game I've seen him play,'' Leach said. ``The thing I thought he did well, even though he was inconsistent as well, was he dealt with adversity and disappointments and just kept plugging away.''
Kansas State fans who had already seen Texas quarterback Colt McCoy sidelined by a sore shoulder after scoring a touchdown got a momentary scare when their own freshman quarterback trotted to the locker room after a scoring run.
Freeman left the sidelines late in the 3rd quarter after running for a 1 yard score that put the Wildcats up 42-21.
He returned at the start of the 4th quarter, though, and finished out the game.
``It was just a cramp in my hand,'' he said. ``I couldn't open it.''
Kansas State went 3-and-out in its only possession with senior Dylan Meier, who lost his starting job to Freeman after 5 games. Meier completed his only pass attempt, an 8 yarder to Cedric Wilson, but came up short on a keeper on 3rd & 1 from his own 29.
The day's most impressive offensive showing helped Oklahoma State (6-4, 4-3) qualify for its fourth bowl in five seasons and the first under second-year coach Mike Gundy. Keith Toston ran for 2 touchdowns and Bobby Reid hit tight end Brandon Pettigrew for 2 1st half scores in a 66-24 rout of Baylor.
The point total was Oklahoma State's best for a conference game, and the school's highest since a 70-7 victory over Southern Illinois on September 29, 1973.
Gundy's only quibble was with the number of passes for the offense.
``We attempted about 15, which was probably about 10 too many with the success we had running the football,'' Gundy said. ``Our running backs did a nice job of making some guys miss.''
Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford provided some incentive by promising to let players shave his head if the Cowboys won by 18.
``It was not something we wanted to miss out on,'' defensive end Nathan Peterson said.
Baylor (3-4, 4-7) is among the minority of conference teams who won't go bowling. The Bears will try to play spoiler this week at home against Oklahoma.
``A lot of people will tell you that you don't have anything to play for, but anytime you put on the pads you have something to play for,'' defensive back C.J. Wilson said. ``It's just that after the Oklahoma game we'll be at home watching everybody else play.''
Baylor has been blown out in consecutive weeks, also losing 55-21 to Texas Tech.
``I thought we had the Tech loss out of our system, but we come out here and have a total meltdown,'' coach Guy Morriss said. ``At halftime, we try to be as positive with them as possible. It does no good to come in screaming and yelling and punching lockers.
``They do not respond to that.''