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5 Big Questions Facing the Big 12

What is the biggest surprise in the Big 12 so far?

Alex: By far it is Texas's fall. How many teams go from losing the national championship game to possibly being last in the conference?

J Martin: It has to be Texas' fall.  I never bought into the Garrett Gilbert craze, never thought he was going to step in and be an instant superstar after he made a few good throws against Alabama in the BCS title game.  I never bought into this idea that Texas was suddenly going to become a pro-style, power running team and not miss a beat on offense despite not having the personnel to do it.  And yet I also never thought we'd be here in the 2nd week of November wondering if Texas was even going to make a bowl.  That's shocking.  With the talent and the coaches that the Longhorns have, they should never, ever, lose 5 games in a year.  But here they are, sitting at 4-5, staring down the barrel of two more.

Kevin: Texas is a huge surprise but I think Okie State is just as surprising. In our pre-season preview we picked Okie State DOA and chose them to come in a tie for 5th with Baylor. Phil Steele picked them dead last in the Big 12 South calling it a rebuilding year. ESPN said they would finish in 5th and 7-5. 

Ross: The rise of Baylor, the fall of Texas, and the continued (and even greater) success of Oklahoma State have all been pretty remarkable surprises, but I'd have to say the freefall of Texas been the biggest stunner.  In hindsight, it wasn't totally crazy to see Baylor and Oklahoma State being good since they each returned an offensive star (RB Kendall Hunter for Okie State, QB Robert Griffin for Baylor), although it would have been nuts to project this much success for them.  But Texas slumming it at 4-5 and in real danger of not even making a bowl?  That's absurd to even contemplate -- especially after seeing them get so thoroughly and comprehensively beaten by UCLA, Iowa State, Baylor, and Kansas State.  None of those losses were fluky in the slightest -- Texas just got completely outplayed.  For that to happen with a team with such obvious talent (unless the recruiting services were wildly inaccurate) is mind blowing.  Barring an unlikely turnaround, this is going to go down as one of the most sudden, surprising, and inexplicable collapses of a major program in recent history.

Who is the Big 12 Player of the Year so far?

Alex: Taylor Martinez is your PotY. Nebraska would be dead in the water amongst Colorado and Kansas had it not been for his surprise appearance at QB this season.

J Martin: Can I give it to 2 guys if they're on the same team?  Statistically, it's Justin Blackmon at Oklahoma State.  He's in the top 2 in receptions per game, receiving yards per game, and scoring.  The latter of which he's done despite missing a game due to suspension.  He makes big plays and he makes them often.  However, I'd also have to give credit to his quarterback Brandon Weeden.  Someone has to get Blackmon the ball, right?  I think Weeden's emergence as a quality spread quarterback has been the biggest factor in OSU's rise from being declared DOA in most preseason publications to a Top 25 team and possible conference champion.

Kevin: This is a toss up between Kendall Hunter (1240 yds, 6.1 ypc, 14 TD) and his QB Brandon Wheedon (leds the Big 12 in passing yds, yds/attempt, TD, QB rating, etc).

Ross: Baylor QB Robert Griffin III. Without him, Baylor's a 2-3 win team rather than being a legitimate conference title contender.  He's leading the conference in total yards (416 yards rushing, 2859 yards passing), has accounted for 27 touchdowns, and he's the unquestioned leader of that team.  He's been incredible.  Oklahoma State has the league leaders in passing (Brandon Weeden), rushing (Kendall Hunter), and receiving (Justin Blackmon), but their combined excellence works against identifying one of them as the singular best player in the league.

What is the most interesting game left on the Big 12 schedule?

J Martin: There are far too many interesting games left on the Big 12 schedule.  Can I cheat and give two answers again?  As of today, it's Oklahoma State vs. Texas.  That's a huge swing game for Texas' bowl hopes.  If they win, they're in.  They'll easily top FAU the next week.  But if they lose...the Texas vs. Texas A&M showdown on Thanksgiving gets bigger than it's been in years, with the Aggies getting the chance to send Texas home for the holidays.  There's nothing more interesting than watching a national power fall on it's face (as I have learned the hard way).

Kevin: I've got Oklahoma/Oklahoma State because this is the game that the Big 12 South should come down to. Plus, it's in Stillwater which should make this very very interesting.

Ross: Oklahoma-Oklahoma State.  Not only is it the annual "Bedlam" game and a heated rivalry between two top programs that's seen a few upsets in recent years, but it's likely to be the game that decides the Big 12 South race this year.  The stakes should be very high for this game, which ought to make it awfully intense.  There's also a lot of star power in this game, since you have arguably the Big 12's two best quarterbacks (Weeden and Landry Jones), two best running backs (Hunter and DeMarco Murray), and two best wide receivers (Blackmon and Ryan Broyles).  This game has all the makings of a wild shootout between two high-powered, star-laden offenses, which should make for a pretty exciting affair.

Who wins the Big 12 South?

J Martin:I like Oklahoma State.  Baylor is having a nice year, but it's hard to take them seriously as a legit title contender.  Same with Texas A&M.  And after the Sooners' loss to A&M, it's perfectly conceivable that they could slip up against Baylor or Texas Tech and take themselves out of the running before they get to Okie State.  Meanwhile, unless Texas can muster another Nebraska-caliber effort this weekend, the Cowboys are playing a one-game season from this point forward.  The odds are in their favor.

Kevin:Right now I'm leaning towards Okie State because they have the home-field advantage in the final game. Ask me again next week and the answer could be very different.

Ross:  I think Oklahoma State edges Oklahoma on the basis of an easier schedule and home-field advantage in their season-ending clash.  Texas is reeling and Kansas is dreadful, which should enable Okie State to get to 6-1.  Oklahoma should be able to handle Texas Tech at home, but they've struggled on the road and Baylor will be very tricky.  Assuming they get by that game, a season-ending road game against Oklahoma State looks pretty daunting, too.  Baylor and Texas A&M are out of the running since Oklahoma State already has head-to-head wins over them and they'd need Okie State to drop TWO more games in their final three -- which doesn't seem likely.  

Has Tommy Tuberville's debut season at Texas Tech been a success?

Alex: I say yes as it is hard to gage a coaches success rate over the first season. Texas Tech made a huge mistake when they fired (and not just reprimand) Leech. Tubbs needs his own players for his system and do remember he was on the way out of Auburn before exploding with 2 and 1/2 great seasons. He is holding his own, give him three more years before the axe comes crashing down at a school without any expectations.

J Martin: I think he's mostly succeeded at maintaining the status quo under Mike Leach (win 7-9 games consistently) while avoiding the meltdown that a lot of Tech fans feared when considering Tub's last foray into the spread offense.  That was probably the best case scenario for this season.

Kevin: I wouldn't call it a "success" but it's not a failure. Tech should go 2-1 in their last 3 which would put them at 7-5. If he continually posts 7-5 then that's not what Tech wants but if he can build on this season then I think we can look back on it as a success.

Ross: If he can string together three more wins and close out at 8-4, it would be a pretty solid season.  Anything less than that would be pretty disappointing.  The wins over Baylor and Missouri are nice, but the losses are embarrassing, especially the games against Texas (in light of what they've become) and Iowa State (Tech collapsed in ugly fashion against them).  Plus, this was a very vulnerable Big 12 and a favorable schedule for them -- no Nebraska, the worst Texas team in well over a decade, and an Oklahoma team that's good but not great -- so only mustering a 7-5 schedule with that would be pretty lackluster.  8-4 still wouldn't be great, but it would at least be palatable.  Still, it's hard to look at this season and think that Mike Leach couldn't have done more -- and possibly led Texas Tech on the breakthrough season that Oklahoma State instead seems to be enjoying.

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