MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Well, the 2013 football season became known for an avalanche of Baylor touchdowns and almost as many Mack Brown rumors. Now that the coup at Texas finally came to pass—surpassed only by North Korea for familial infighting—let’s focus on the best the conference had to offer this fall:
Best game: Oklahoma’s Bedlam rally—capped by two touchdowns in the final 19 seconds—left the folks stunned in Stillwater. Oklahoma State lost 33-24 and saw the Big 12 title ripped away, but on the positive side, at least we learned that a 4.5-magnitude temblor is no match for Boone Pickens Stadium.
Best game NOT involving an earthquake, a kicker catching a touchdown, and 58,000 OSU fans wondering “WTH?”: With six lead changes after the half, it’s hard to overlook the dramatic impact of Texas pulling out a 47-40 win in overtime at West Virginia.
Best player who didn’t hypnotize voters by barking out the cadence: The immediate reaction says go with Bryce Petty, but that’s superficial Heisman-type thinking to pick a quarterback—so congratulations, Cyril Richardson. Baylor’s hulking left guard, a four-year starter who’s viewable from space, was the knockdown leader on a physical and dominant offensive line. Baylor doesn’t pile up 85 touchdowns and lead the nation in scoring without Mount Cyril, who’ll be a high-round draft pick in May.
Best nonconference win: Precious few candidates here, considering the Big 12 was only 3-6 in nonleague games against teams with winning records. So the easy choice—the only choice, really—is Oklahoma’s 35-21 victory at Notre Dame.
Best coaching job: Art Briles, with zero room for debate. (Here’s hoping he doesn’t return messages from the meddling power barons in Austin.)
Best upset: West Virginia knocked off then-No. 11 Oklahoma State, in part because the Cowboys’ special teams loused things up—just as they did again on Bedlam weekend. (Such are the consequences when a school lets Joe DeForest walk away.)
Best one-and-done: Blocked from transferring to Texas Tech by his former coach at Houston, Charles Sims came to WVU and showed he could be equally effective in a power conference. He ran for 1,095 yards, second in the Big 12, and caught a team-high 45 passes.
Best one-and-done by a dude who’s not done yet: Texas Tech walk-on Baker Mayfield won Big 12 freshman of the year honors and then walked away. Next destination? To be determined.
Best postgame celebration leading to a water hazard: The 30,000 fans on hand at half-empty Memorial Coliseum found the perfect excuse for anarchy—KU ending a 27-game Big 12 losing streak by defeating West Virginia 31-19. So the Jayhawk faithful took down the south goalpost and tossed it into Potter Lake a few hundred yards away.
Best postgame eruption: Stage actors should learn from Paul Rhoads’ unique and emphatic delivery—the sprinkling of pregnant pauses between SPEAKING IN ALL CAPS—which Iowa State’s football coach turned into high art after a controversial loss to Texas.
Best postgame eruption of a more personal nature: Following a 41-38 loss to Baylor, TCU’s Gary Patterson went on an extended rant about Briles purportedly challenging him during the game. “He comes across the field at me? Nuh-uh. I didn’t build this program to back down to anybody, and I’m not going to do it to him. … Gary Patterson lives in Fort Worth. If he’s got a problem with me, here’s where I live.”
Best player (WVU-specific): Sims arrived in a heroic cloak of solemn diligence and went about his work like a Justice Leaguer in training. As bad as the Mountaineers’ offense looked at times this season, try imagining it without Sims.
Best nonconference win (WVU): Considering Georgia State wound up with a big, obese zero in the win column, let’s rewind back to the season opener against William & Mary.
Best play (WVU): Was tempted to choose Dreamius Smith’s 75-yard romp at Oklahoma, but let’s side instead with Icky Banks’ 58-yard pick-six that jumpstarted the Mountaineers to the upset of Oklahoma State. Almost as memorable as the play was Darwin Cook’s astonishment that Banks actually scored on the runback. “Icky didn’t make no moves—he ain’t got no bake,” joked Cook. “But he ran fast though, and I saw him break some tackles.”