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 shot of making the title game — Texas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Kansas State — though a plethora of other possibilities exist if three, or even all four, of those teams lose in Week 13.
Simply speaking, Texas and Oklahoma State are in prime position to clinch a berth while Oklahoma and Kansas State each need a couple of breaks to fall their way. There are some complex 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 make it to the Big 12 title game, as well as what the landscape would 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. A 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 to come on this later, but the Longhorns are the only team left in the race that can brunt a loss.
Oklahoma State also needs just one more win to secure its spot in the Big 12 title game. The Cowboys close the season at home against a BYU team that’s one win away from bowl eligibility, giving the Cougars plenty of motivation for an upset. Oklahoma State is 2-0 against Oklahoma and Kansas State, meaning it holds the head-to-head advantage in a tiebreaker scenario and thus controls its own destiny.
Oklahoma doesn’t control its path to Arlington, but some simple scenarios could get it there. First, the Sooners need to beat TCU Friday afternoon; a loss basically eliminates them from contention. Though TCU has regressed after its Cinderella run to the College Football Playoff last season, the Horned Frogs are just a couple of weeks removed from playing Texas down to the wire 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 qualify for the second spot in the Big 12 title game, setting up a Red River rematch with Texas.
Kansas State requires a lot more help. Obviously, the Wildcats have to close the season out with a win against Iowa State. In the event that Texas also wins, both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would have to lose in order for Kansas State to qualify.
Kansas State has a head-to-head loss to Oklahoma State, though that wouldn’t matter if the Wildcats are 7-2 and the Cowboys are 6-3. However, Kansas State and Oklahoma didn’t play this season. If those two teams finish tied, it would come down to “record against the next-highest placed common opponent in the standings.”
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, that would be Texas — a team that beat them in the regular season but lost to Oklahoma.
If Texas loses …
Texas losing to Texas Tech might open Pandora’s box, though the Longhorns wouldn’t be mathematically eliminated. Texas could still clinch a berth 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 team that didn’t lose.
If Texas loses and at least two of the other two-loss teams win, it creates a convoluted situation with as many as four teams being tied for first place. Without delving too much into that realm of possibility, the most likely outcome is a rematch of the Bedlam rivalry between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Here’s how that would play out:
- Texas loses to Texas Tech; Oklahoma and Oklahoma State both win.
- Oklahoma holds a tiebreaker over Texas, giving it the No. 1 spot in the conference standings.
- That would set up a tiebreaker between Texas and Oklahoma State, dependent upon their record against a common opponent highest in the standings. Oklahoma State and Texas both played Oklahoma. The Cowboys won, the Longhorns didn’t. Thus, the Cowboys would secure a spot over Texas and advance to Arlington.
Other possibilities exist, but they are better left explored if they even fall into place.