The week of the Red River Rivalry is here.
The winner of this game won't have the inside track to the Big 12 Championship this time, though. Instead, this is a game of survival. Either #15 Texas (4-1, 1-1) or #13 Oklahoma (3-1, 1-1) is going to have a losing record in conference play and will have to win out to have any hope of even a share of a conference title.
The Texas defense that was supposed to be the best in the conference has shown some unexpected vulnerability, and the Oklahoma offense, led by Landry Jones, has been much less potent than everyone thought it would be. The Longhorns have given up at least 30 points in the last three games, including 45 against West Virginia on Saturday.
The Sooners got off to a slow start this year, but have looked better as of late, especially on Saturday, when they beat previously undefeated Texas Tech, 41-20. This one should be close, and whether Oklahoma can slow down the surprisingly effective Texas offense may be the difference. As always the game will be played in Dallas, and will kick off at noon on ABC.
Iowa State (4-1, 1-1) knocked TCU from the ranks of the undefeated last week, and will be looking to do the same this week against #6 Kansas State (5-0, 2-0). The Wildcats beat up on in-state rival Kansas last week, and look to ride Collin Klein to another victory this week.
The Iowa State offense is nothing to get too excited about, but the defense has not given up more than 24 points in a game yet. The Kansas State defense has been even better, though, and the offense is much more dangerous that Iowa State's. Everything says that the Wildcats should win this game, but the Cyclones remain a dangerous team and has a habit of pulling upsets. With West Virginia on deck for Kansas State, this team will have to be especially careful in Ames on Saturday.
The Mountaineers will also look to avoid an upset when they face Texas Tech (4-1, 1-1) on Saturday. The Red Raiders have the best passing defense in the country, at least statistically, but this will be the toughest test that defense has faced all season. Heisman front-runner Geno Smith has been unreal for #5 West Virginia (5-0, 2-0) so far, and if he can play the way he has been, Texas Tech could be in for a long day.
But it has been well documented that West Virginia's defense isn't playing at a championship level at this point. Seth Doege is more than a capable quarterback, and he'll be able to put up some points against the Mountaineers. Whether or not it will be enough to earn the win is yet to be seen, but he could certainly give the Red Raiders the chance to pull off the upset.
The two other games involve unranked teams, but will still be important in terms of the conference standings.
The first will be between Kansas (1-4, 0-2) and Oklahoma State (2-2, 0-1). In all honesty, there is no reason Oklahoma State shouldn't win this game. Kansas might be pretty bad on defense, but the Jayhawks are probably even worse on defense. Their lone win on the year came against South Dakota State. They've lost to every FBS opponent they've played.
With an extra week to prepare, and a loss in their most recent game, the Cowboys should roll in to Manhattan and get back on the positive side of .500. With two home games coming up directly after this matchup, Oklahoma State has a chance to boost that record and start climbing the Big 12 standings.
One of those home games will be against TCU (4-1, 1-1), which isn't the intimidating opponent that it looked to be at the beginning of the year. After his second run-in with the law, Casey Pachall is no longer enrolled at TCU, and the Horned Frogs will have to rally behind Trevone Boykin at quarterback. In his first start, he had 344 yards, but also threw three interceptions.
This week, he'll have it a little easier when he faces Baylor (3-1, 0-1). The Bears have an offense that can score with the best of them, and if they come away with a win, it will probably be due to that offense. Nick Florence isn't having the Heisman year that Robert Griffin III did, but he's still putting up solid stats and has Baylor close to being in the top 25.
TCU's only game without Pachall was a 37-23 loss to Iowa State, so there's reason to worry in Fort Worth. If the Horned Frogs turn in a similar performance against Baylor, they'll probably have started a losing streak. That will be a tough pill to swallow for a fan base that just saw a 12-game winning streak come to an end.
The matchup in Dallas will be the game of the week in the Big 12, but there are plenty of other intriguing matchups, including two teams that will be on upset alert.
We're well into Big 12 play, and the standings are starting to take shape. Week 7 could provide some true separation from the upper half of the league and the bottom half.