Texas Football: Looking at a Jumbled Big 12 Title Race

Steve Sarkisian, Brent Venables, Texas football. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Sarkisian, Brent Venables, Texas football. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Texas football enters November with a 7-1 (4-1 Big 12) record. This is its best start to a season since the 2009 National Runner-Up finish. They will likely be the top-ranked team in the Big 12 when the first College Football Playoff Rankings are released on Tuesday night.

Despite the Horns’ successes through the first nine weeks of the season, they have no margin for error as the season hits the November stretch. Texas is one of five teams in the Big 12 with a 4-1 conference record (Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State).

The good news for the Horns? They are now in complete control of their Big 12 fate. There is not a scenario in which Texas does not make it to Arlington if they finish with an 8-1 conference record. The bad news? The convoluted top of the conference makes just one more less detrimental to the Longhorns’ Big 12 title hopes.

I looked at the Big 12 title race and how three massive matchups this weekend can affect the Longhorns’ standing in the conference.

Looking at the Big 12 title race:

College football power rating king Kelley Ford (@KFordRatings on Twitter) has a useful “Championship Game Leverage” model that shows how certain results will affect a team’s chances of making their conference championship game.

Below, I have attached Ford’s “Big 12 Championship Game Leverage” graphic ahead of Week 10.

As you can see, this Saturday’s Big 12 slate will create a clearer picture of which teams will end up in Arlington on Dec. 2.

Ford’s model currently gives Texas a 57 percent chance to reach the Big 12 Championship. A win on Saturday raises that to 74 percent. A loss would drop their odds to a mere 26 percent. Conversely, a victory for Kansas State increases their Big 12 Championship odds from 44 percent to 77 percent.

What a win on Saturday does for Texas football:

A win on Saturday moves Texas to 5-1 in Big 12 play, with games at TCU, at Iowa State, and at home against Texas Tech remaining.

A win gives Texas the much-needed head-to-head tiebreaker over the Wildcats. Even if Kansas State won their remaining three games, they would need the Horns to lose two of their final three to earn a title game bid over Texas.

It also goes without saying that a win on Saturday is another positive result with starting quarterback Quinn Ewers on the mend.

What a loss on Saturday does for Texas football:

A loss on Saturday moves Texas to 4-2 in Big 12 play. At that point, Texas would not only have to win out to have a realistic shot to end up in Arlington, but they would also need a lot to go right around them.

They would lose the tiebreaker to Kansas State and Oklahoma, meaning Texas would need one of those teams to finish with three conference losses to jump them in Arlington. Texas fans would spend the final three weeks of the regular season scoreboard-watching, hoping the Wildcats and/or Sooners took losses to inferior opponents.

Elsewhere on Saturday in the Big 12:

Kansas State vs. Texas is one of three massive Big 12 matchups this weekend. Elsewhere around the conference, we get a big-time Bedlam showdown in what is the last scheduled meeting between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Both holding 4-1 conference records, the winner of their Saturday matchup in Stillwater will sit in pole position to wind up in Arlington in early December. As a Texas fan, it’s sacrilege to root for the Sooners. I am not saying Texas fans should pull for Oklahoma on Saturday, but having lost the head-to-head matchup, the Horns are facing an uphill battle if they hope to make the Big 12 Championship and not see Oklahoma.

Because Texas does not play Oklahoma State this season, the tiebreaker between the two would be the win percentage against the next highest-placed common opponent in the standings. Sure, that team could be Oklahoma, in which case the Longhorns would lose the tiebreaker. However, it could also be Iowa State. The Cyclones beat the Pokes on Sept. 23, and Texas gets their shot in Ames on Nov. 18.

The other important matchup in Big 12 play this weekend comes as the 3-2 Kansas Jayhawks take on the aforementioned 4-1 Iowa State Cyclones. Texas is a loss up on Kansas while also controlling the head-to-head. Longhorn fans should be pulling for the Jayhawks here, leaving both teams with a 4-2 conference record heading into Week 11.

While it is important to know what is happening around you, the scenarios I laid out regarding Big 12 tiebreakers are confusing and convoluted. Texas can avoid these headaches by handling their business, and that starts with a win over a red-hot Kansas State squad on Saturday.

Next. 3 key injured Texas players heading into Kansas State. dark