Not often has Oklahoma-Texas served as a Big 12 undercard, but there it is.
Two teams remain undefeated and they’re meeting each other on Saturday, the day of the Red River Rivalry. Baylor plays host to TCU.
In the early years of the Big 12, before the restorative powers of Bob Stoops and Mack Brown were completed in Norman and Austin, the rivalry didn’t resonate much outside the two states. In the late 1990s, the Big 12 powers were Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas State.
The parallel growth of the Sooners and Longhorns under Stoops and Brown turned OU-Texas into must-see TV nationally. In the later years of the BCS, the SEC Championship Game served as something of a de facto national semifinal game.
For a few years, the Red River Rivalry served the same purpose. Six times in a 10-year period Oklahoma or Texas played in the BCS title game with each collecting a victory.
On Saturday, Charlie Strong gets his first whiff of the Cotton Bowl atmosphere. He’s been part of Florida-Georgia as a Gators’ assistant, and Louisville-Kentucky as the Cardinals head coach. This is different.
“We know how big it is,” Strong said.
But he won’t know until it’s over. Brown told ESPN recent that the game is so big that it’s something of a season unto itself. “You have to play that game and start over,” he said.
▪ Georgia at Missouri, 11 a.m., on CBS (Ch. 5): Stunning news on Thursday involving Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who has been suspended indefinitely by the school for possible NCAA violations. If the suspension applies to the Mizzou game, and coach Mark Richt seemed to indicate that, Georgia will go with freshman Nick Chubb, who averages 7.2 yards per carry.
▪ Louisiana-Monroe at Kentucky, 11 a.m. on SEC Network: If the Wildcats win, they’re one victory away from bowl eligibility. That kind of success hasn’t occurred often in Lexington, but Kentucky has to avoid a letdown after last week’s stirring victory over South Carolina. Lousiana-Monroe has beaten a power five conference team this season, Wake Forest.
▪ Auburn at Mississippi State, 2:30 p.m., on CBS (Ch. 5): These are heady times in Starkville. With successive victories over LSU and Texas A&M, the Bulldogs are flying high. Beat Auburn, and Mississippi State might be the division favorite. Quarterback Dak Prescott is the real deal, and so is Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall, who is coming off his best game of the year against LSU.
▪ Chattanooga at Tennessee, 3 p.m., on SEC Network: The Vols will breeze here, although the Mocs have an excellent defense on the FCS level. Tennessee is still kicking itself for the Florida loss. A victory here and the Vols could start thinking about a bowl season.
▪ Alabama at Arkansas, 5 p.m., on ESPN: The Razorbacks are much better than the last two years when they fell to the Crimson Tide by identical 52-0 scores. Alabama is dealing with injuries and is coming off a stunning loss at Mississippi. But does Arkansas have enough to stem an opponent that knows another loss could wipe out its national title chances? It’s all about ball control for the Razorbacks.
▪ Charleston Southern at Vanderbilt, 6:30 p.m., no TV: This might be an uh-oh game for the Commodores. Charleston Southern is 5-0 with a quarterback, Austin Brown, who might have pro potential. But Vandy, despite its woes at quarterback, should be able to score.
▪ LSU at Florida, 6:30 p.m., on SEC Network: The Tigers’ defense has been shredded the last two games, but Florida doesn’t have much offense. LSU went zero for 13 on third downs against Auburn. This should be an ugly game, but the Gators are still part of the East race, and LSU could climb back into the division race as West teams knock each other off. Jeff Driskell will start at quarterback for the Gators. Freshman Treon Harris, who came off the bench to spark the Tennessee victory, has been suspended. He’s under investigation by the university for a sexual-assault allegation.
▪ Mississippi at Texas A&M, 8 p.m. on ESPN: The Aggies were fortunate to get by Arkansas two weeks ago and couldn’t keep up with Mississippi State last week. This could be A&M’s last stand if it wants to be involved in the division race. Mississippi ranks second nationally in pass efficiency, so Bo Wallace and his receivers have a tough task.
Big 12 Games
▪ Texas vs. Oklahoma at Dallas, 11 a.m. on ABC (Ch. 2, 9): The Sooners are two-touchdown favorites, but the favorite doesn’t always win this game. Oklahoma should be primed, coming off a loss and having lost to the Longhorns last season. Texas’ strength is on the defensive side and the Longhorns need to make things uncomfortable for Sooners quarterback Trevor Knight.
▪ West Virginia at Texas Tech, 11 a.m. on Fox Sports 1: The Red Raiders didn’t take away much from their lopsided loss to Kansas State and they’ve lost three straight since opening 2-0. But at least students won’t go hungry for the morning kickoff. Tech is offering 10,000 waffles to students. Check out #Turndownforwaffles. And if you’re a Mountaineer, head’s up.
▪ Toledo at Iowa State, 2:30 p.m. on Cyclones.tv: The Cyclones are 1-4 and are aching for a victory to keep their bowl hopes alive, but the Rockets aren’t non-conference fodder. Toledo has won three straight. Moving the ball on the ground has been an issue for Iowa State, which averages a 108 yards per game.
▪ TCU at Baylor, 230 p.m., on ABC (Ch. 2, 9): The Horned Frogs got a signature Big 12 triumph last week over Oklahoma. A victory in Waco puts TCU in the driver’s seat for the league title. Baylor ran into a stout Texas defense last week and was held to a season-low 28 points. The Frogs also have an excellent defense. The Bears rushed for 278 last week with Shock Linwood piling up 148.
▪ Oklahoma State at Kansas, 3 p.m. on Fox Sports 1: The Jayhawks’ special teams had a good day in last week’s loss at West Virginia with Nick Harwell’s 74-yard punt return for a touchdown, a blocked field goal, a fumble recovery on a punt return and Nick Pardula’s six punts of 50 yards or more. The Cowboys have trailed in the first half of three straight games but have won them all.