Now that we've reached the halfway point of the season, we have a lot better idea of which teams to take seriously, and which ones we can forget about. Of course, there's still a lot of football to be played this season, so in the Midseason Report we'll be taking a look at what each team has remaining in front of them, and what they'll have to do to call themselves conference champions. In this post, we'll take a look at the Big 12.
1. Missouri (6-0, 2-0) - Raise your hand if you thought that come the midpoint of the season Missouri would be 6-0, ranked 11th in the BCS and alone atop the Big 12 North. Now put your hand down and hang your head in shame, you liar. Looking at this Missouri team through six games it's hard to see a weakness. They have an offense putting up 34.5 points a game, and a defense that's only allowed 10.8 -- which is the second best mark in the country. The problem is that the Tigers are just now reaching the part of their schedule that will truly put them to the test. Over the next four weeks the Tigers will host Oklahoma, travel to Nebraska and Texas Tech, then return home to play Kansas State. If Mizzou comes out of that stretch unscathed it finishes up with Iowa State and Kansas. In other words, they wouldn't just be playing for a Big 12 title, but for a shot at a national title as well. Can they get there? My gut says no, but this weekend's game against Oklahoma will tell us all a lot more about how good this team is and can be.
2. Nebraska (5-1, 1-1) - If there was ever going to be a season in which Nebraska finally got the monkey that is Texas of its back, this was supposed to be it. It wasn't, though, and now there are questions in Lincoln about how good Taylor Martinez actually is. Personally, I'm not sure. One week he looks amazing, and then the next he looks anything but, and the fact of the matter is that how Martinez goes, so go the Cornhuskers. Nebraska's next two weeks will be tough as they head to Stillwater on Saturday before returning home to host Missouri. Unless they win both of those games Nebraska's swan song in the Big 12 will not end with a conference title. The good news is that even if Martinez does struggle, Nebraska has a defense strong enough to keep it in any game, but the defense can't win games on its own. Martinez simply needs to play well from here on out.
3. Kansas State (5-1, 2-1) - To me, Kansas State is one of those teams that is more a byproduct of their schedule than a real contender. It's 5-1 through six games, but those five wins have come against teams like UCLA (college football's answer to schizophrenia), Missouri State, Iowa State, UCF and Kansas. The one test the Wildcats had this season came two weeks ago when they hosted Nebraska. They lost that game 48-13. I just have a hard time believing that the team that got killed by Nebraska and struggled with Iowa State and UCF is going to beat Oklahoma State, Texas and Missouri in consecutive weeks. Maybe the Wildcats will prove me wrong, but I doubt it.
1. Oklahoma (6-0, 2-0) - If you're ranked first in the BCS rankings, then I guess you have to be the favorite to win your conference by default. Not that the Sooners don't deserve to be, as they've had a few impressive wins over Florida State and Texas already this season. Still, the Sooners don't exactly have an easy path to the finish line. Four of the Sooners first six games this season have been played in Norman, with another on a neutral site against Texas. Of its final six games, four will be on the road, including games against Missouri, Texas A&M, Baylor and Oklahoma State. The one time the Sooners hit the road this season they had trouble fending off a Cincinnati team that had no business hanging with them. Also, the Sooners went 1-3 on the road last season. There are no easy road games in college football these days, so Oklahoma's trip to the Big 12 title game is anything but a guarantee at this point.
2. Oklahoma State (6-0, 2-0) - There isn't much question that the Cowboys can put points on the board, as Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon have led Oklahoma State to the third-best passing attack in football, and the second-highest scoring offense in the nation as well. The concern with Oklahoma State is it's defense. A unit that is giving up 27.2 points a game is likely to cost the Cowboys a game at some point. Looking at the Cowboys remaining schedule, plenty of tests remain. The Cowboys host Nebraska this week and then have Kansas State, Baylor, Texas, Kansas and finish with Oklahoma. Aside from Kansas, there isn't a guarantee in the bunch. You have to think that either the Texas defense or Oklahoma's will figure out how to slow down Weeden and company, and if they do, do you trust the Cowboys defense to stop either? I certainly wouldn't write off Oklahoma State's chances to reach the title game, but its schedule and defense certainly doesn't do it any favors.
3. Baylor (5-2, 2-1) - Baylor is off to a nice start, being led by Robert Griffin III, but it has a lot of landmines to avoid if it wants to play for the Big 12 title. First of all, the Bears already have one more conference loss than either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State. The good news about that is that Baylor still has a chance to hand either of those teams its first loss. The bad news is that Baylor still has to play Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Kansas State. Yep, four of Baylor's last five opponents this season are in the BCS top 25. That seems like a lot more work than I think Baylor can handle.
4. Texas (4-2, 2-1) - Texas is the wild card in all things Big 12 right now. Following back-to-back losses to UCLA and Oklahoma there was plenty of doom and gloom in Austin, but following Saturday's win against Nebraska, the Longhorns aren't in as bad a shape as you'd think. Texas is still only one loss behind Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, and still gets to play the Cowboys at home. What could end up killing their chances, though, is that loss to Oklahoma as the Sooners would have the tiebreaker should the finish with an equal mark. So Texas needs to win out and hope that the Sooners lose twice, which isn't likely, but not all that crazy either. They have the defense to do it, but unless an offense that has been everything but impressive this season improves, I wouldn't expect it to happen.
Prediction: So who is going to be playing for the Big 12 title when all the dust has settled? It's a good question, and one that isn't all that easy to answer. Every team that remains in contention has question marks and some tough games remaining on its schedule.
Still, when it's all said and done I think Oklahoma and Missouri will meet at Jerryworld in December, though I don't think either team will get there without a blemish on its record. As for who wins, I'll go with Oklahoma as I believe they have more weapons on offense with Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles and Demarco Murray.