The Big 12 and Southeastern Conference will have champions by the end of Saturday. Two games will determine the Big 12 title, and the SEC, as it has done since 1992, will match division winners for its championship.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
Then it’s on to Sunday, when the bowl lineup falls into place. From the two conferences, a total of 18 teams are bowl eligible, which means about half of the 35 bowl games will include a Big 12 or SEC team.
• Alabama vs. Georgia, SEC championship game, 3 p.m. on CBS (Ch. 5): It’s No. 2 vs. 3 for a chance to be No. 1. It’s also the first meeting between the programs in the SEC title game. The challenge for second-ranked Alabama and its tremendous defense will be stopping Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and the SEC’s best offense. The Bulldogs have set a record for points in a season (456) and average 38 points and 464 yards per game. Murray has been terrific with 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions. But ’Bama’s offense can move with running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon, who have combined for 24 rushing touchdowns. Georgia has one of the nation’s top defenders in linebacker Jarvis Jones. The last few SEC title games got one-sided. This one figures to stay close.
Big 12 matchups
• Oklahoma State at Baylor, 11 a.m. on FX: Take the over. These are the top two scoring teams in the Big 12, combining to average exactly 90 points per game. The Bears, after starting 0-4 in league play, have won three of four, becoming bowl eligible. The rally coincides with the emergence of running back Lache Seastrunk, who has averaged 129 rushing yards in the last four games, including 185 in the upset of Kansas State. Amazingly, the Cowboys have maintained the same offense as their 2011 Big 12 title season without Brandon Weeden or Justin Blackmon. Coach Mike Gundy has gotten it done with three different quarterbacks, and although the Bears have broken through against most Big 12 opponents over the past two years (Texas, Oklahoma, K-State), they haven’t beaten the Pokes since 2005.
• Oklahoma at TCU, 11 a.m. on ESPN: How mind-blowing would it be for TCU to have defeated Texas and Oklahoma in its inaugural Big 12 season? The Horned Frogs have that opportunity but must overcome this head-scratching stat: They haven’t won a conference game at home, losing to Iowa State, Texas Tech and Kansas State. The Sooners have won four straight and put themselves in a position for a BCS berth. This game was supposed to be the season opener, TCU’s stadium dedication game, but it went to the end of the schedule after the Horned Frogs joined the Big 12.
• Kansas at West Virginia, 1:30 p.m. on Fox Sports KC: The Mountaineers’ Tavon Austin is a remarkable weapon. Against Oklahoma, he played tailback for the first time since high school and rushed for 344 yards. With the Iowa State game on the line last week, he took a short pass and went 75 yards for the game-winning touchdown. He’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball, including as a return specialist, and he’ll face a KU team that’s had trouble scoring and keeping its offense on the field.
• Texas at Kansas State, 7 p.m. on ABC (Ch. 9): One game at the end to become a champion. It worked for Kansas State in 2003, didn’t work in 1998 or 2000. The Wildcats have had two weeks to heal from injuries and the sting of the Baylor loss that ended their national championship hopes. The Longhorns are coming off a stunning loss of their own, to TCU in Austin on Thanksgiving night. Kansas State has dominated the Texas series, winning four straight. A fifth will mean a trophy celebration. If K-State loses, and Oklahoma wins its game, the Sooners would be conference champs.