The final crystal football of the BCS era will not wind up in the trophy case of a Big 12 school. But credit the league’s football programs with being the drama kings of college football on Championship Saturday.
Most leagues have trimmed their list of title contenders to two teams at this point. The Big 12 has three: No. 6 Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1 Big 12), No. 9 Baylor (10-1, 7-1) and No. 25 Texas (8-3, 7-1).
Because OSU closes Saturday against No. 17 Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2), followed by the Baylor-Texas matchup in Waco, we’ve seen 30 percent of the league’s 10 members make it to Week 15 with legitimate Big 12 title hopes. That gives the Big 12 a de facto doubleheader of title games while other conferences have only one. Such final-week drama demands a tip of the cap to the league schedule-maker, which we’ll distribute along with other honors from the 2013 Big 12 football season:
• Most Valuable Player: Bryce Petty, Baylor QB. When coaches and media ballots are cast, he’ll be the runaway choice as the league’s Offensive Player of the Year. Petty, a junior, has earned that by leading the Bears to a 10-1 record while ranking second nationally in passing efficiency (183.8 rating) and first in yards-per-completion (17.87). In his first season as a college starter, Petty has topped the 300-yard passing mark on nine occasions and posted a 28-2 ratio of touchdown passes to interceptions.
• Most Valuable Administrator: Tim Allen, Big 12 senior associate commissioner. Allen creates the Big 12 football schedules and he deserves a bow for Saturday’s high-profile finales. Having two significant national telecasts with title implications on Championship Saturday, when other leagues have only one, is huge for the Big 12 profile.
• Most Memorable Game: Baylor validated its mettle as an elite team by taking down then-No. 10 Oklahoma 41-12 in front of a standing-room-only crowd in a Thursday night national telecast.
• Most Memorable Debut(s): Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield, an incoming freshman walk-on, threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns, without an interception, in a 41-23 victory over SMU. Because the contest came in Tech’s season opener, it also marked the first career win for first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury, 34.
• Most Unexpected Result: Texas upset then-undefeated Oklahoma 36-20 as a two-touchdown underdog to break a three-game losing streak in the Red River Rivalry and slow the talk about finding a replacement for embattled coach Mack Brown.
• Most Puzzling Result: West Virginia stunned No. 6 Oklahoma State 30-21, giving the Cowboys (10-1) the loss that is keeping them out of the BCS national title picture. The Mountaineers finished 4-8, lowlighted by a 52-44 home loss to Iowa State (3-9).
• Best Newcomer: Greg Robinson, Texas defensive coordinator. Without Robinson’s input, the Longhorns would not be in the Big 12 title mix. Since taking over for fired predecessor Manny Diaz in September, the Texas defense has allowed 355.4 yards and 23.1 points per game in Big 12 play under Robinson. In nonconference games, Texas allowed 491.3 yards and 30.3 points per game.
• Worst Newcomer: A season-opening loss by the reigning champion to an FCS opponent. Kansas State turned the trip against North Dakota State, marking a league first. It also served as a season low on the national prestige meter.
• Best Unintended Statement for Big 12 Football: Texas A&M and Missouri. Two teams built in the Big 12, with Big 12-styled spread offenses, have made a major impact in the SEC in their first two seasons. A&M finished 11-2, with a Heisman Trophy winner, in 2012 and No. 5 Missouri (11-1) will play for Saturday’s SEC title against No. 3 Auburn (11-1). SEC loyalists will disagree, but the immediate success of the Aggies and Tigers suggests the nation’s most dominant football league in the BCS era is not as far ahead of peers as some would like to believe.
• Worst Unintended Statement for Big 12 Football: September struggles by projected front-runners Texas (1-2 start), TCU (1-2 start), Kansas State (loss to FCS opponent) and Oklahoma State (Sept. 28 loss to West Virginia) kept all league teams out of the top 10 rankings until midseason, the longest drought to start any season in Big 12 history.
• Best Fresh Wrinkle: Every school won at least one conference game for the first time since the 2010 season.
• Worst Fresh Wrinkle: Only six teams qualified for bowl berths after nine made the postseason last season.
• Best Stat Related to Bottom Line: The Big 12’s top three teams in turnover margin are tied for the league lead heading into Saturday’s games. All rank among the nation’s top 19, led by Oklahoma State (No. 2, plus-16), Baylor (No. 15, plus-9) and Texas (No. 19, plus-8).
• Worst Stat Related to Bottom Line: Four of the league’s top eight teams in passing yards lost more than half of their conference games, including Big 12 pacesetter Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5). Tech ranks second nationally, at 392 yards per game, and West Virginia (4-8, 2-7) is No. 35, with a 262.1 average. TCU (4-8, 2-7) and Iowa State (3-9, 2-7) also make the list with season averages of 226.3 (TCU) and 219.2 (Iowa State).