The Longhorns no longer control their own destiny in the conference title race and really hurt their chances in what was the worst home loss of the Mack Brown era this past Saturday. But they’re not out of it.
Four teams have a mathematical shot to win the Big 12 right now. Baylor, the conference’s lone undefeated team, is obviously the odds-on favorite with Oklahoma State, followed by the Longhorns and Oklahoma, who have a miniscule chance to win a conference title.
There are six games — two each week for the next three weeks — that will determine who wins the Big 12 this year. This week, it’s Oklahoma-Kansas State and the Baylor-Oklahoma State showdown that ESPN College GameDay will be taking its talents to this week.
Next week, it’s Texas Tech-Texas on Thanksgiving and Baylor-TCU two days later. The conference champ might not be known until the final weekend of the regular season, when Texas faces Baylor in Waco and Oklahoma State hosts Oklahoma .
Six meaningful Big 12 matchups over the next three weeks means there are 64 different ways this can play out. Twenty-five of these scenarios result in Baylor winning its first-ever Big 12 championship and its first conference title since 1994. Twenty-two scenarios have Oklahoma State winning its second Big 12 title in three years and 14 have Texas capturing the conference crown.
The remaining three scenarios result in a three-way tie atop the Big 12 standings at the end of the regular season — two of them between Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas and the other between Oklahoma State, Texas and Oklahoma. In those scenarios, the highest-ranked team in the BCS standings wins the Big 12 unless two of them are within one spot of each other, then the head-to-head winner of those two higher-ranked teams would get the Big 12’s automatic BCS bowl berth.
Obviously some scenarios have a better chance of happening than others. Baylor still has three games left. But Art Briles may have a better chance of being struck by lightning than of his Bears ending the regular season on a three-game losing streak.
While the two Dec. 7 matchups between Texas and Baylor and between Oklahoma State and Oklahoma will be pivotal, the Longhorns’ chances to win the Big 12 could get a boost this weekend even though they don’t play.
If Baylor beats Oklahoma State, Texas’ chances to win the Big 12 go from 6.4 percent to 7.6 percent, not a big jump. But, more importantly, the Longhorns would once again control their own destiny in the conference title chase. The Cowboys would have two losses in conference play and Texas would have only one loss in conference play if it won out, giving Baylor its only defeat in the process, meaning the Longhorns would hold the tiebreaker over the Bears.
Also important is the drastic impact on Baylor’s and Oklahoma State’s chance to win the Big 12 their game will have. If the Bears triumph in Stillwater, Oklahoma State’s chances to win the Big 12 drop to 0.1 percent while Baylor’s jumps to 92.3 percent.
But if Oklahoma State finds a way to pull off the upset at home, OSU replaces Baylor as the heavy favorite to win the conference as its chances would soar to 76.9 percent while Baylor’s drops to 20.2 percent.
While Texas’ percent chance to win the Big 12 isn’t impacted much by a Baylor victory this Saturday, if the Cowboys beat the Bears, the Longhorns’ chance to win the Big 12 drops from 6.4 percent to 2.9 percent.
At that point, Texas still would not control its own destiny and would still need to win out and have either Oklahoma to beat Oklahoma State — possible but not likely — or TCU to beat Baylor — nearly impossible).
Bottom line: Texas did not do itself any favors last weekend. The Longhorns left themselves little to no error by falling to the Cowboys. They don’t play this week but they will watching Baylor’s game against Oklahoma State closely — and not just to get another look at the Bears, who they face in three weeks.