Although the 2023 college football regular season is entering its final full week, the race for the Big 12 Championship Game is still wide open. Four teams have the most realistic chances to reach the title game — Texas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma City and Kansas State — though there are plenty of other possibilities if three, or even all four, of those teams lose in Week 13.
Simply put, Texas and Oklahoma State are in prime position to claim a spot, while Oklahoma and Kansas State need a few breaks to fall. There are some complicated tiebreaker scenarios that could come into play if chaos reigns during college football’s rivalry week.
Here’s what each team needs to do to reach the Big 12 title game, as well as what the landscape will look like if Texas loses.
Of the remaining competitors, Texas is in the best position. All the Longhorns have to do is take care of business at home on Friday night against Texas Tech. The win moves the Horns to 11-1 overall and 8-1 in Big 12 play, making them the only one-loss team in the conference. More on that later, but the Longhorns are the only team left in the race that can carry a major loss.
Oklahoma State also needs one more win to clinch a spot in the Big 12 title game. The Cowboys close out the season at home against a BYU team that is one win away from a bowl game, giving the Cougars plenty of motivation to disappointment. Oklahoma State is 2-0 against Oklahoma and Kansas State, meaning it holds the advantage against each other in a tiebreaker scenario and thus controls its own destiny.
Oklahoma doesn’t control its way to Arlington, but some simple scenarios could get it there. First, the Sooners must beat TCU Friday afternoon; the loss effectively eliminates them from contention. Although TCU was relegated after last season’s Cinderella run in the College Football Playoff, the Horned Frogs are just a few weeks removed from playing Texas until the end, and a win for them means bowl eligibility.
If Oklahoma avoids the upset, Texas beats Texas Tech and Oklahoma State loses to BYU, the Sooners advance to the No. 2 seed in the Big 12 title game, setting up a Red River rematch with Texas.
Kansas State needs a lot more help. Obviously, the Wildcats need to close out the season with a win against Iowa State. In the event that Texas also wins, both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will have to lose in order for Kansas State to advance.
Kansas State is coming off a straight loss to Oklahoma State, but that won’t matter if the Wildcats are 7-2 and the Cowboys are 6-3. However, Kansas State and Oklahoma did not play this season. If these two teams finish in a tie, it will come down to a “head-in against the next highest ranked common opponent”.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, that would be Texas, a team that beat them in the regular season but lost to Oklahoma.
If Texas loses…
A Texas loss to Texas Tech could open Pandora’s box, though the Longhorns won’t be mathematically eliminated. Texas could still earn a spot if two of the three other two-loss teams (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State) lose in Week 13. In that scenario, Texas would face the undefeated team.
If Texas loses and at least two of the other two-loss teams win, it creates a sticky situation with as many as four teams tied for first place. Without getting too far into that realm of possibility, the most likely outcome is a rematch of the Bedlam rivalry between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Here’s how this will play out:
- Texas loses to Texas Tech; Oklahoma and Oklahoma State win.
- Oklahoma holds a tiebreaker over Texas that gives it the No. 1 spot in the conference standings.
- That would set up a tiebreaker between Texas and Oklahoma State, depending on their record against a common, top-ranked opponent. Oklahoma State and Texas played Oklahoma. The Cowboys won and the Longhorns didn’t. Thus, the Cowboys would secure a spot over Texas and advance to Arlington.
There are other possibilities, but it’s better to leave them explored if they even fall into place.