The Big 12 does not have a conference championship game. It sure looks there is one on the schedule on the night after Thanksgiving.
That night, TCU will host Baylor in a clash of the defending Big 12 co-champions. So far, no other Big 12 team has played as well as the second-ranked Horned Frogs or the third-ranked Bears or indicated it might be able to crash the already sold-out party set for Black Friday in Fort Worth.
Baylor (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) , which won the Big 12 outright in 2013 before sharing the title last year, again has the nation’s top offense and is scoring the most points. The Bears have scored at least 56 points in every game so far, all against teams from Texas.
Despite an injury-plagued defense that has used 14 first-time starters, the Horned Frogs (5-0, 2-0) have their own high-powered offense and their 13-game winning streak is second only to top-ranked and defending national champion Ohio State’s 18 in a row. TCU has scored at least 50 points in the past four games, the last 50-7 over woeful Texas last weekend.
Nearly halfway through the season, here are the title contenders in the Big 12, the only of the five power leagues with a round-robin schedule and no title game:
TCU: With Heisman hopeful quarterback Trevone Boykin and highlight-reel receiver Josh Doctson, TCU hasn’t lost since the wild 61-58 setback at Baylor a year ago this Sunday. Coach Gary Patterson has called this the most important stretch of the season, three road games in four weeks before an open date Oct. 24. The home game vs. Baylor is their regular-season finale.
BAYLOR: The Bears are more than six-touchdown favorites Saturday at Kansas before playing three of their next four games at home, where their 18-game winning streak is the longest among FBS teams. Baylor is the only FBS team to rank in the top-10 nationally in passing (369 yards per game) and rushing (377 yards per game). The Bears will have one more game after TCU, but that will be at home against Texas.
No. 10 OKLAHOMA (4-0, 1-0): If the Sooners take care of business until mid-November, they will have full control of whether they win their eighth Big 12 title — and first in three seasons to end their longest championship drought under coach Bob Stoops. Oklahoma finishes the regular season against Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State.
No. 21 OKLAHOMA ST. (5-0, 2-0): Like their Bedlam rivals, the Cowboys can have a very significant impact on the top of the Big 12 standings late in the season. Their only venture away from home in November is a trip to Iowa State, while TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma all have to go to Stillwater.
WEST VIRGINIA (3-1, 0-1): Maybe no team got a tougher draw than the Mountaineers, who opened conference play last week with a 20-point loss at Oklahoma, and will finish October with consecutive road games against Baylor and TCU.
KANSAS STATE (3-1, 0-1): Kansas State has a good enough defense to hang with the Bears and Frogs, but their offense has been abysmal even when it’s been healthy. But now that quarterback Joe Hubener is banged up — the Wildcats had to resort to wide receiver Kody Cook, their emergency fifth QB, against Oklahoma State — things are looking dire in Manhattan with TCU coming Saturday night.
COUNT THEM OUT: Texas Tech lost its first two Big 12 games, to TCU and Baylor. The conference opener at home was a heartbreaker, with TCU winning 55-52 after running back Aaron Green’s diving catch of a deflected fourth-down pass in the back of the end zone with 23 seconds left. … Texas (1-4), coming off that embarrassing performance at TCU, is off to its worst start since 1956. … Iowa State (2-2, 1-0) is in the upper half of the Big 12 standings right now after going winless in league play last season. But the Cyclones play TCU and Baylor in consecutive weeks later this month. … As for Kansas (0-4, 0-1), first-year coach David Beaty’s crew follows Baylor this weekend with Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and a homecoming game against the Sooners before trips to Texas and TCU.
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this report.