Big 12’s playoff hopes rest with Baylor, West Virginia

The Big 12 has hardly been mentioned in any playoff discussions.

Yet Baylor and West Virginia remain very much alive for a spot in the postseason.

The Bears (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) and Mountaineers (5-0, 2-0) have quietly racked up impressive seasons so far and they’re each shooting up the Top 25 .

Baylor moved from 11th to ninth this week after thrashing Kansas 49-7. West Virginia’s 48-17 win at Texas Tech helped it jump from 20th all the way to No. 12.

“We’ve still got some things we can get better at … but being 6-0 right now, I think at the start of the season, no matter how you got to it, you’d feel pretty good about that,” Baylor acting head coach Jim Grobe said.

If both keep winning, it would set up a de facto Big 12 title game — possibly for a playoff spot — in the season finale in Morgantown on Dec. 3.

But should either team make it to December unscathed, they’ll have earned it.

Baylor has trips to Texas (3-3, 1-2) and No. 16 Oklahoma (4-2, 3-0) in the next month. The Mountaineers, second only to Baylor among Big 12 teams in scoring defense at 19.4 points per game, host TCU (4-2, 2-1) on Saturday. West Virginia then goes to Oklahoma State (4-2, 2-1), and it also has to face the Longhorns and Sooners.

“They play hard. They play physical, and they come downhill at you,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said of West Virginia’s defense.


Grobe said Monday that the Bears are hoping to get a medical redshirt for defensive tackle Byron Bonds, who hasn’t played this season because of a knee injury. Bonds, who played in eight games in 2015, was expected to start for Baylor his season.

“I don’t think we’re counting on getting him back. He just didn’t come back from his injury like we had hoped,” Grobe said.


Texas’s defense, which had allowed 50, 49 and 45 points in a three-game skid, did much better in last weekend’s 27-6 home win over Iowa State. The Longhorns held the Cyclones (1-6, 0-4) to 280 yards and just 2.3 yards per carry. It’s not like Iowa State had been struggling on offense either, scoring 40 points per game in its previous three.

“It gives the players confidence. But you can’t let one game define (you) and then all of a sudden say, ‘Hey. We’re back,'” Strong said. The Cyclones get a much-needed bye this week.


Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook’s performance in the last three games has put him in the discussion for Big 12 player of the year. Westbrook, helped by a Sooners rushing attack averaging 202.5 yards per game, caught 26 passes for 574 yards and eight touchdowns in wins over TCU, Texas and Kansas State. He is now tied with Jonathan Giles of Texas Tech for the league lead with 43 receptions. The Red Raiders defense, still smarting from that home loss to the Mountaineers, will look to slow Westbrook down on Saturday.

“If you can run the ball effectively, it makes it difficult to take (Westbrook) away you need those other people to handle the run game as well,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.


“They caught me in a weak moment. I like variety.” — West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen after being caught on camera drinking a Red Bull last weekend. Holgorsen went on to make a somewhat tongue-in-cheek stump speech for Coca-Cola, which sponsors West Virginia’s athletic department.

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