The first two years of the 10-team Big 12 was a bowl-a-rama for the league. Eight teams marched to the postseason after the 2011 season, nine after 2012.
But the number of bowl eligible teams dropped to six last season, and the league could have trouble reaching that mark this year.
The next loss by Kansas, Iowa State and Texas Tech will be the seventh and eliminate them from the postseason.
Texas must find two victories in its remaining three games, two of which are against ranked opponents. Oklahoma State is one victory away, but if the Cowboys don’t beat Texas next week, the final two are at Baylor and at Oklahoma.
Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State took some nonconference risks that didn’t pay off. The Longhorns fell to Brigham Young and UCLA, the Red Raiders to Arkansas and the Cowboys to Florida State. That meant the schools needed to win at least four conference games — Texas five — to qualify for a bowl.
Kansas and Iowa State buried themselves in league play.
The league needs to continue to play marquee games. In the only conference that plays a complete round robin, but one of three challenging nonconference games should be a minimum.
And then you have to win them.
The Big 12 has agreements with seven bowls, including the College Football Playoff. There should be a game for every team that qualifies.
Saturday’s SEC games
▪ Georgia at Kentucky, 11 a.m., on ESPN: A funny thing happned on the way to Georgia roll to the division championship. Last week’s brutal loss to Florida means the Bulldogs have to win out, and have Missouri lose at least one to win the East. After Kentucky, Georgia plays host to Auburn. The Wildcats have lost three straight after opening 5-1.
▪ Presbyterian at Mississippi, 11 a.m., on SEC Network: Injuries have crushed the Rebels. Linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche (ankle) and wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (broken leg) are out for the season. After this breather to get on track, Mississippi finishes the season at Arkansas and home to Mississippi State.
▪ Texas A&M at Auburn, 2:30 p.m., on CBS (Ch. 5): As there been a more abrupt about-face in college football than Texas A&M? The 5-0 start and dreams of an outstanding season have melted away, and the Aggies became bowl eligible last week by beating Louisiana-Monroe, desipite being outgained by more than 100 yards. Freshman quarterback Kyle Allen makes his second consecutive start this week.
▪ Tennessee-Martin at Mississippi State, 3 p.m., on SEC Network: The Bulldogs are all but assured to spend another week at No. 1, but everybody will be thinking about the following week when Mississippi State travels to Alabama.
▪ Florida at Vanderbilt, 6:30 p.m., on SEC Network: The Gators couldn’t have scripted last weekend any better. Florida took the pressure off freshman quarterback Treon Harris, starting his first game, by pounding Georgia on the ground. Harris attempted only six passes. Meanwhile running backs Kelvin Taylor (197 rushing yards) and Matt Jones (192) were unstoppable. The Gators remain part of the SEC race, but likely would have to win out at Vandy and against South Carolina to have a chance.
▪ Alabama at LSU, 7 p.m., on CBS (Ch. 5): Les Miles said it earlier this season. This Tigers team was going to improve with each game, and after dropping their first two SEC games, that’s precisely what’s happened. A three-game winning streak includes last week’s 10-7 victory over Mississippi. The pressure is on the Crimson Tide, which needs a victory to remain part of the national championship conversation. The good news for Alabama: Running back T.J. Yeldon and left tackle Cam Robinson are expected to return.
Saturday’s Big 12 games
▪ Baylor at Oklahoma, 11 a.m., on Fox Sports 1: Before the season, this looked like the Big 12 game of the year. Now, it has more of an undercard feel to Kansas State-TCU. The Sooners need a victory to remain in the mix for a New Year’s Eve/Day bowl, and Baylor needs a triumph to remain in the national title conversation. The Bears’ nonleague schedule hurts them in the College Football Playoff ranking, but they have games remaining against the Sooners and K-State to make up ground.
▪ West Virginia at Texas, 2:30 p.m., on Fox Sports 1: Defense has marked West Virginia’s vast improvement this season, and it’s been Texas’ calling card most of the season. The Longhorns are coming off a 34-13 victory at Texas Tech and have to find two more victories in their last three games to qualify for a bowl game in coach Charlie Strong’s first season. The Mountaineers, 4-2, are not out of the Big 12 title chase.
▪ Iowa State at Kansas, 2:30 p.m., on Fox Sports KC: Plenty of intrigue here for two teams winless in league play. Former Jayhawks coach Mark Mangino returns as an Iowa State assistant. Kansas will try to beat the Cyclones for the first time since 2009, Mangino’s last season. Both teams laid an egg last week, with Kansas falling at Baylor 60-14 and Iowa State losing to Oklahoma 59-14.
▪ Kansas State at TCU, 6:30 p.m., on Fox (Ch. 4): The purple bowl for Big 12 supremacy between teams that don’t make many mistakes. The Horned Frogs were opportunistic in last week’s victory at West Virginia, which lost five turnovers. TCU leads the nation in turnover margin (plus-1.88 per game). K-State ranks second nationally in fewest penalties and first in fewest penalty yards.