By Cam Huffman
No. 4 Kansas State (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) has put itself in the driver’s seat of the Big 12 Conference’s football race, and Baylor (3-3, 0-3) and Kansas (1-6, 0-4) seem to be the clear favorites to finish in the cellar. But with five or six games still remaining for each team, a lot could happen over the course of the next month to greatly change the direction of those three clubs, as well as the seven others grouped in a tight pack between them.
Saturday’s slate starts at noon, with Texas (5-2, 2-2) traveling to Kansas for a game that will be aired on FSN. Texas leads the all-time series 9-2 and won 43-0 last year.
At 3:30 p.m. Texas Tech (6-1, 3-1) will attempt to bring Kansas State back to the pack when it travels to Manhattan, Kan., in a game that will be shown on FOX. The Red Raiders lead the all-time series 8-4, but KSU won 41-34 last season.
Another 3:30 p.m. game puts TCU (5-2, 2-2) at Oklahoma State (4-2, 2-1) on FSN. Oklahoma State leads what has been a close series 11-9-2, including a 27-22 victory for the Cowboys the last time the two met in 1993.
At 7 p.m., Baylor will be at Iowa State (4-3, 1-3) trying to pick up its first conference win of the year in front of an FSN television audience. The Bears beat the Cyclones last year to even the all-time series at 5-5.
The Big 12 game the nation will be watching, though, isn’t a conference game, at all. It’s No. 5 Notre Dame (7-0) in Norman, Okla., to face No. 8 Oklahoma (5-1, 3-1) for an 8 p.m. showdown on ABC.
The Sooners have only beaten the Irish once in nine tries, and they lost 34-30 the last time they played in 1999.
The Irish are trying to get back in the national spotlight after more than a decade of irrelevance. With Pitt, Boston College and Wake Forest on the schedule after Oklahoma, Notre Dame could enter the Nov. 24 meeting with rival Southern California undefeated if it can get past the Sooners this weekend.
Collin Klein — Coming into the season, most would have rated Klein somewhere around the No. 3 quarterback in the Big 12. Now he’s at the top of the list.
The senior is sixth on the conference’s rushing list, averaging 85.2 yards per game on the ground. He’s second in the conference with 10 rushing touchdowns.
Through the air, Klein is now eighth in the conference, averaging 197 passing yards per game. He’s tossed five touchdowns and hasn’t thrown an interception.
Klein doesn’t pass much — he’s attempted just 80 passes in seven games — but he proved against WVU last week that he can make the throws when necessary. He finished the 55-14 win with 323 passing yards and three touchdowns, throwing just two incompletions in 21 attempts.
Klein has now replaced WVU’s Geno Smith at the top of ESPN’s Heisman Watch.
Iowa State’s home field advantage — Jack Trice Stadium, the 55,000-seat home of the Cyclones, has gained the reputation as one of the most difficult places to play in the Big 12 in recent years. Although ISU hasn’t had great teams, it’s pulled off some major upsets at home, including last year’s victory over Oklahoma State that kept the Cowboys out of the BCS Championship game.
But the atmosphere hasn’t worked its magic to this point in the 2012 season. The Cyclones are just 2-2 overall at home and 0-2 at Jack Trice Stadium in Big 12 play.
Both losses, though, have been close, as the Cyclones fell 24-13 to Texas Tech and 27-21 to Kansas State.
THEY SAID IT
Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder when asked to compare his current team to the KSU team that finished 11-2 and played in the Big 12 championship in 1998 — “I’m 73 years old. I hardly remember what happened yesterday, let alone 1998.”
BY THE NUMBERS
50 — Fifty percent of the Big 12’s 10 teams are ranked in the BCS standings this week, tied with the SEC as the league with the highest percentage of its teams ranked in the top 25.
The ranked teams in the Big 12 include Kansas State (No. 3), Oklahoma (No. 8), Texas Tech (No. 14), West Virginia (No. 19) and Texas (No. 23).
48 — Big 12 teams scored 48 touchdowns last week, while punting only 47 times. It was the third time this season that league teams have found the end zone more times than they’ve punted.
5 — The Big 12 led all conferences with five quarterbacks named Davey O’Brien Award finalists.
Klein (Kansas State), Smith (WVU), Landry Jones (Oklahoma), Nick Florence (Baylor) and Seth Doege (Texas Tech) all made the list of 16 semifinalists.
The award is presented annually to the nation’s top college quarterback.