As TCU closed the books on a well-deserved road upset of No. 6 Oklahoma State on Saturday, the Big 12 was officially put on notice. Gary Patterson and the No. 16 Horned Frogs are ready to be a part of the Big 12 championship conversation.
There may be just one problem with that idea, though, which is that Oklahoma State is far from behind in the rearview mirror thanks to the Big 12 bringing back its conference championship game this season.
Because the Big 12 only has 10 members and a nine-game schedule, every team in the Big 12 will play each other. The top two teams in the standings at the end of the season will advance to the Big 12 championship game. As it stands now, TCU not only has the one-game lead on the Cowboys, but also a very important head-to-head tiebreaker.
So who do you trust more the rest of the way, TCU to win as many games as Oklahoma State, or Oklahoma State to win one more game than TCU?
Both TCU and Oklahoma State have a ton of common opponents remaining in Big 12 play, including Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kansas State, and Texas. TCU may feel homefield advantage is nothing after winning games this season at Arkansas and Oklahoma State, but let’s point it out anyway.
TCU must play at Oklahoma. Oklahoma State will host Oklahoma.
TCU will host West Virginia next week. Oklahoma State will have to travel to Morgantown later this season.
TCU will host Texas in early November. Oklahoma State will visit the Longhorns in mid-October.
TCU will visit Kansas State. Oklahoma State gets the Wildcats at home.
If Oklahoma does manage to secure one of the top two spots in the Big 12, then the Big 12 race could come down to these four common opponents for TCU and Oklahoma State. Or maybe you’re ready to throw Kansas State into the mix. The Wildcats get TCU, Oklahoma, and West Virginia at home, and must travel to Oklahoma State.
Is Oklahoma State out of the running for the Big 12 championship? If this were last year, one loss could have been lethal for any Big 12 contender’s conference title hopes, but the re-introduction of the Big 12 championship game means there is still hope for Mason Rudolph, Justice Hill, James Washington, and the rest of Mullet Master Mike Gundy’s Cowboys.
The path to the conference title game is still clear, but the margin for error has been reduced unless TCU takes a couple of lumps along the way, which is still entirely possible.
There are still two months of football to play, and the Big 12 race is now more competitive after one week of conference play than many expected it to be. Welcome to the race, TCU.