It’s official: the Big 12 most of us grew up with has closed shop. Texas and Oklahoma now have a new residency in the SEC. 2024 will see Utah, Arizona, Arizona State, and Colorado become new league mates like UCF, Houston, BYU, and Cincinnati did this season. So while the aroma still lingers of the season, Last Word is going to take a look at the top five Big 12 games of 2023. Non-conference games will not make this list, no matter how good we may think Texas/Alabama, Kansas State/Missouri, Iowa/Iowa State, or Oregon/Texas Tech was. But in a conference that will be increasingly more competitive in the years to come, it still delivered some college football gems worthy of re-watches for years to come.
Top Five Big 12 Games Of 2023
Honorable Mention – Farmagedon
This game would have gotten attention strictly for the aesthetics of the scene in Manhattan. The Big 12 was blessed with a snowy scene as Iowa State and Kansas State squared off to close out the season. In addition to getting a rare weather scene in Big 12 country, these rivals delivered quite a show for those in attendance. Matt Campbell and Chris Klieman watched their respective teams combine for 77 points. Iowa State scored what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown with 8:04 left in the game as the Cyclones scored the road rivalry win 42-35.
5. Kansas State At Texas
When the Wildcats and Longhorns squared off in week ten of the season, there were major Big 12 championship implications on the line. Early on in the game, Texas appeared they would run away with this game. With 4:13 remaining in the third quarter, Steve Sarkisian’s squad held a 27-7 lead. But Texas, like many games down the last month of the season, could not put the Wildcats away. Kansas State quarterback Will Howard led the comeback effort for Kansas State and was able to force overtime with Texas. Kansas State was able to hold Texas to a field goal to open the first overtime period. The Wildcats found themselves at the Texas 4-yard line on fourth-and-goal. Instead of kicking a tying field goal, Kansas State went for the win. But the Texas defense rose to the occasion and held on by a score of 33-30.
4. Baylor At UCF
UCF’s first season in the Big 12 was the best of the four newcomers as they were the only bowl-eligible team of the four. Baylor’s 2023 season was a major disappointment. But these teams played an absolutely bonkers game in week five of the Big 12 season. UCF was playing its first-ever home Big 12 game and looking to make a statement. For three quarters, that is exactly what the Knights did. It was 35-10 and the party was starting in Orlando. However, the Bears put together the best quarter they would play all season. They scored 26 unanswered points and with 1:21 left, Baylor hit a 25-yard field goal to go up 36-35. Thanks to some miraculous efforts by Knights quarterback Timmy McClain, the Knights were able to attempt to win the game with a 59-yard field goal. However, the kick fell well short and Dave Aranda’s team escaped with a one-point victory.
3. West Virginia At Houston
Thursday night used to be a uniquely prime-time opportunity for college football. The NFL had Mondays as its alternate day and college had Thursdays. However, with the NFL starting Thursday Night Football in 2006, college football started to shift away from putting marquee matchups head-to-head with the NFL. If the casual football fan ignored this college football game, they missed out on some absolutely bananas football. West Virginia scored with just under four minutes to cut the lead to three. After forcing a three-and-out, Garrett Greene found Hudson Clement’s for a 50-yard catch-and-run with 12 seconds left.
The last-second heroics did not end there. Thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Houston was able to get in Hail Mary range. With a flick of the wrist by Donovan Smith, he sailed a perfect jump ball that Stephon Johnson brought down for the shocking 41-39 win for the Cougars. Unfortunately, it did not save Dana Holgorsen’s job in the end, but it gave everyone quite a thrill for a Thursday night.
2. Red River (Oklahoma Vs. Texas)
This is one of the very few games every college football season that never disappoints. Both teams seemingly play to the top level of their talent when they descend upon the state fairgrounds of Texas. In 2023, fans were treated to the final Big 12 version of the Red River Rivalry and it started with a bang normally reserved for the Smokey The Cannon. The game also had a combined seven lead changes and ties. Every time it seemed Texas would pull away, Brent Venables’ team had an answer.
The Horns took the lead on Bert Auburn’s 47-yard field goal with 1:17 remaining in the game. However, it proved to be too much time for Sooner’s quarterback Dillon Gabriel. It took only five plays that culminated with a touchdown pass to Nic Anderson in the back corner of the end zone. And even though Texas was able to get in Hail Mary range, the prayer-filled pass by the Longhorns did not connect as Oklahoma gave Texas its only regular season loss by a score of 34-30.
The Best Of The Big 12 Games Of 2023 – Bedlam (Oklahoma At Oklahoma State)
Bedlam is an unquestioned heated rivalry in the state of Oklahoma. But, in terms of the on-field results, the outcome was far from how one would define Bedlam. Coming into the 2023 edition, Oklahoma held an impressive record of 91-19-7 over “Little Brother.” But this one had more juice to squeeze coming into the game. The winner of this game actually decided a spot in the Big 12 championship game. However, the real drama stemmed from Oklahoma deciding to leave the Big 12 and head to the SEC with Texas. The details of how the Sooners decided to leave are no secret at this point. Cowboy Nation made it clear that they are not going to make any attempt to play the Sooners again for the foreseeable future.
With the break-up fresh on everyone’s mind, and two evenly matched teams, Bedlam fell upon Stillwater one last time (for now). All fans were treated to a back-and-forth game. Mike Gundy saw his All-American running back Ollie Gordon rush for 33 carries for 137 rushing yards and two touchdowns. With one last late fourth-down stop, fans clad in Orange and Black stormed the field to celebrate a 27-24 victory with Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” blasting through the speakers. The on-field game may not have been the heavyweight fight that Red River was.
Bedlam Was A Victory For The “Small” College Football Fan
But when it comes to the Big 12 Games Of 2023, this one held so much more significance. Realignment, focusing on consolidating more big brands for bigger TV deals, has plenty of college fan bases feeling they are being left behind. The victory secured by Oklahoma State was a victory that so much more of the college football world could celebrate. Playoff focus and crowning a champion will now forever rule the sport. But this victory was a reminder of how much one win over a rival can mean to the college football fan.