We are a week away from Thanksgiving, when everyone, including Big 12 fans, should give thanks for the big and small blessings in their football lives. The 2012 season has unfolded much as expected, even if I didn't originally think Kansas State had any chance of winning the conference, let alone, be in position to play for a national championship.
But thanks to an improved Texas team and its season finale at Kansas State, the Wildcats' dreams of a title shot could still be in jeopardy. That's still a big if, however, because the Longhorns haven't defeated an elite team since beating Nebraska in the 2009 Big 12 Championship.
The undefeated Wildcats have the most to be thankful for, but they're not the only ones. Even their neighbor Kansas has reason to give thanks. We offer reasons for fans of Big 12 schools, listed in order of the standings, to give thanks in 2012.
Kansas State: For Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M for upsetting Alabama, which led to the Wildcats being ranked No. 1 in the BCS for the first time and, at the moment, gives them a good shot at playing in the BCS National Championship Game.
Oklahoma: For having a program that unquestionably is not afraid of scheduling tough nonconference opponents year in, year out. This year and next it's Notre Dame. Last year it was at Florida State. In two years the Sooners play a home-and-home with Tennessee, followed by a home-and-home with Ohio State in 2016 and 2017.
Texas: For winning the Johnathan Gray sweepstakes in recruiting. The freshman running back from Aledo High School has rushed for 607 yards (5.3 yards a carry) in a year when sophomore Malcolm Brown, Texas' leading returning rusher, missed five games with an injury.
Oklahoma State: For the injury odds breaking their way the next five years after such a tumultuous 2012 season. The Cowboys have been forced to rely on little-used junior quarterback Clint Chelf way more than expected after freshmen Wes Lunt and J.W. Walsh were sidelined with injuries. Pokes fans should expect karma to be on their side for a while.
Texas Tech: For a much-improved defense that still ranks 18th nationally, allowing 324.6 yards a game, best in the Big 12. The Red Raiders still have to contend with Oklahoma State and Baylor, which rank Nos. 2 and 4 nationally in total offense, but no matter what happens, first-year defensive coordinator Art Kaufman has done an excellent job after Tech finished near the bottom in total defense in 2011.
TCU: For freshman defensive end Devonte Fields, who has lived up to his recruiting hype, and then some. The former Arlington Martin star leads Big 12 freshmen with eight sacks and leads the conference with 15.5 tackles for a loss. He made his first-career interception last week against Kansas State and has been a great counter punch to left defensive end Stansly Maponga.
West Virginia: For not having Baylor's defense, which ranks last among 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. The Mountaineers' defense hasn't been much better though, ranking 110th while allowing 478.1 yards a game. In the midst of a four-game losing streak that's likely to extend to five with Oklahoma coming to Morgantown on Saturday, there isn't a whole lot to be thankful for. They do finish the season at home against Kansas, thankfully, so chances remain high for their sixth win and a bowl game.
Iowa State: For the career of linebacker Jake Knott, whose senior season was cut short because of a shoulder injury Oct. 20. Knott's season-ending surgery was pushed back a week and he received medical permission to play against Baylor Oct. 27, his final game. He finished with 11 tackles, forced a fumble and had a pass breakup in the Cyclones' win.
Baylor: For Terrance Williams, perhaps the best receiver in the country. The senior from Dallas White leads the country with 159 receiving yards per game, almost 15 yards more than the next closest receiver. Williams is also fourth nationally with 8.6 receptions a game. Despite defenses knowing the Bears are going his way, he still produces big numbers each week, even faced with double teams.
Kansas: For the season to be nearly over. Coach Charlie Weis, in his first year at Kansas, has the Jayhawks playing better than earlier in the season, but there's still a long way to go before they'll be able to contend for a league title.