The 2010s were a decade of change for the Big 12, which survived conference realignment, welcoming in two new members as four of them left. This decade also saw the end of the Big 12 Championship game, and then saw it return in 2017. After years of dominance by Oklahoma and Texas, moreover, the 2010s saw five different schools earn a share of the Big 12 title.
As we head into the 2020s, now is as good a time as any to thus review this decade in Big 12 football, and we’ll begin by trying to pinpoint the worst loss of the decade for each team in the Big 12. For the most part, this piece doesn’t include bowl games, and sticks to losses in the regular season.
Also, rather than just list all of the games with the largest margins of defeat for each Big 12 team (not a bad way to go about this, by the way), I decided to look for losses that were bad based also on the implications of the loss itself. I’m sure a there will be some disagreement about the way “worst” losses were decided in this instance. There are definitely cases to be made there, but many of the games selected give us some insight into the low points of the decade for each squad.
Baylor 45, Liberty 48 – 9/2/2017
No matter how they do in the Sugar Bowl, this game stands as a stark contrast to where the Bears are now. Baylor was a 30 point favorite headed into Matt Rhule’s initial game as head coach in Waco, and this loss to FCS Liberty was an early indicator of just how far the Bears would have to climb following the tumult of 2016.
And it’d be remiss not to mention that off-season, which featured the biggest scandal to date in Big 12 football history. In May 2016, revelations came to light that showed that numerous officials within Baylor University had failed to adequately report and handle numerous allegations of sexual assault and rape, many of which involved current and former football players. Head coach Art Briles was fired, and multiple players left the program, followed by the decommitment of a large portion of Baylor’s recruiting class.
On the football the field, the result was that a program ranked No. 4 in the preseason in 2015 would go 1-11 in Rhule’s first year as he sought to rebuild it from the ground up. The game itself, which ESPN gave the Flames a 2.2% chance to win, unexpectedly turned into a back-and-forth contest in which Baylor couldn’t stop the Liberty passing game (which put up 447 yards on the day), and Bears quarterback Anu Solomon was up-and-down, completing less than half his passes and throwing a pick six.
This game was bad not because it was a blowout, but solely because of the Bears’ opponent. Liberty was a middling FCS team that year, and it was somewhat of a harbinger of things to come that Baylor also looked like a middling FCS team. Particularly indicative of the kind of day this became was Liberty’s second to last touchdown, in which the Flames’ pro-style quarterback Stephen Calvert ran in a touchdown on a busted play from nine yards out. Runners Up: 17-49 vs. Oklahoma State (2013), 21-49 vs TCU (2012).
Iowa State 14, Kansas 34 – 11/8/2014
Sometimes we forget just what Matt Campbell’s been able to do for the Cyclones as we enter the 2020s. Campbell entered Ames after Paul Rhoads managed to go from coaching Iowa State to bowl eligibility in 2011-2012 to averaging 2.67 wins in his last three seasons. Rhoads worst season was arguably 2014, when his squad went 2-10 and 0-9 in conference play.
This game wasn’t just any road upset for the struggling Cyclones, though. Iowa State went into Lawrence as a three point favorite, but Kansas absolutely out-physicalled the Cyclones, piling up 228 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
In a contest that Iowa State was really only playing to not finish last in the Big 12 standings, the victory was pretty much sealed for Kansas by the fourth quarter, as they were already up 31-14 at that point. It didn’t help that the Cylcones were relying on backup quarterback Grant Rohach to try pull themselves out of this one, but this game was a real low point for a Rhoads-coached squad that fired their head man the next season. Runners Up: 14-34 vs. North Dakota State (2014), 31-66 vs. Texas Tech (2015).
Kansas 38, South Dakota State 41 – 9/5/2015
Look, there’s no way to sugar coat the fact that the last decade was not a good one for the Jayhawks on the gridiron. The “Curse of Mangino” after the ouster of Mark Mangino – who coached Kansas to a Top 10 finish and Orange Bowl win in 2007 – turned out to be real. Losses piled up in Big 12 play in the 2010s and, in fact, there’s only been one year – 2014 – in which Kansas didn’t finish at the bottom of the Big 12 standings.
I think Kansas’ worst loss during that time period, however, has to be their loss to the FCS South Dakota State Jackrabbits to start the 2015 season, a year in which the Jayhawks went 0-12 under coach David Beatty. The Jackrabbits jumped out to a 31-7 lead early in this game in Lawrence, but the Jayhawks would storm back thanks to the play of quarterback Montell Cozart and running back Ke’aun Kinner, who had 157 yards and two touchdowns on the day.
All in all, this loss was bad because it almost didn’t even look like an upset (it barely was one, with the Jayhawks favored by only three going in). It also spoke to the state of a program that Beatty had inherited from former head coach Charlie Weiss. Runners Up: 24-25 vs. Rice (2012), 7-66 vs. Baylor (2015).
Kansas State 0, Oklahoma 55 – 10/17/2015
It hasn’t been uncommon for teams in the Big 12 to get routed by the Sooners, but this one was especially rare for a Bill Snyder-led squad. After Snyder came out of retirement in 2009, he rebuilt a deflated Kansas State program into what he’d left after the first go around. By 2014, the Wildcats were Big 12 Champs (technically, they were “Co-Champions” but I still don’t understand how you can “share” a title with a team that you actually beat).
In 2015, Kansas State struggled to find a starting quarterback who might replace Jake Waters, but Joe Hubener battled to bring in a passer rating of 107.3 on the season. His numbers against Oklahoma on this October day were not great either, with Hubener throwing for 39 total yards and two interceptions. Transfer quarterback Baker Mayfield and the No. 19 Sooners wasted no time in amassing a 35-0 lead before halftime.
Oklahoma was coming off a 17-24 loss to Texas (who didn’t qualify for a bowl that year) the week prior, and so this was no doubt a bit of a “get right” game for the Sooners in Manhattan. The end result was that the Wildcats were shut out for the first time since 1996. Kansas State wasn’t able to get back to championship level play for the rest of Snyder’s tenure, and in hindsight this game was evidence of the late decade stagnation which led to his retirement in December 2018. Runners Up: 24-52 vs. Baylor (2012), 6-35 vs. West Virginia (2018).
Oklahoma 14, Baylor 48 – 11/8/2014
With all of their recent domination, it’s easy to forget that the Sooners had years where they didn’t win the Big 12. The “lean years” for Oklahoma came in 2011, 2012, and 2014, when they lost a total of 11 games in those three seasons under then head coach Bob Stoops. 2014 was the worst of those, which saw the Sooners go 8-5 and lose 6-40 to Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Little did the Sooners know then that they were hosting a Baylor team led by quarterback Bryce Petty that would vye for a spot in the CFP that year. The game began as a close contest, with Oklahoma signal caller Trevor Knight looking like he’d be able to lead the Sooners to match scores with the high-powered “veer and shoot” offense of the Bears. After a Knight interception and missed field goal, Stoops’ Oklahoma squad was down to Baylor 14-24 at halftime.
Things would get worse for the Sooners, who only picked up three first downs the rest of the game and were shutout in the final two quarters. Baylor’s offense, which had been a veritable scoring machine all season, continued to churn out points as wideout Corey Coleman finished with 224 yards receiving in Norman. The type of offensive struggles the Sooners experienced that day would eventually lead Bob Stoops to go and hire offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley from East Carolina in the offseason. Runners Up: 13-30 vs. Notre Dame (2012), 28-63 vs. LSU (2019).
Oklahoma State 17, Texas Tech 41 – 9/22/2018
One reason that Mike Gundy’s considered one of the best coaches in the country is that his teams almost never get blown out by anyone not named Oklahoma. As often as the Cowboys had double digit-winning seasons this past decade though, they’ve also certainly seen some low points. The 2018 campaign was one, as it followed on the heels of the Pokes losing quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington, two of the best offensive players in Oklahoma State’s history.
As a result, the Cowboys were up-and-down in 2018, and their home contest against the Red Raiders was certainly a down. This contest was a coming-out party for Texas Tech’s Alan Bowman, who threw for 397 yards and two touchdowns on the day. The Red Raiders also ran the ball for 224 yards, as everything seemed to be working for them in Boone Pickens Stadium that night. The Pokes, meanwhile, converted only 23.07 percent on third down, and possessed the ball for 18:43. Considering this was against a team that failed to be bowl eligible that season, this was the biggest upset suffered by Oklahoma State in the 2010s. Runners Up: 9-42 vs. TCU (2014), 23-58 vs Oklahoma (2016).
TCU 24, Iowa State 49 – 10/5/2019
Much like Mike Gundy, Gary Patterson rarely ever gets blown out by a wide margin. Even in their worst games, the Horned Frogs are almost always competitive no matter what year it is. Patterson’s teams are known for having top notch defenses, but the offense has usually stepped up whenever the other side of the ball falls short. This game saw both sides of the ball struggle, however.
Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy and the offense had been inconsistent to start 2019, but in this game it seemed like TCU was incapable of keeping the Cyclones out of the endzone. Purdy threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns, and they had the game well in hand as it entered the fourth quarter with Iowa State up 35-10. The Horned Frogs lost two fumbles on the day, and ran the ball for only 3.3 yards per carry. Considering that this ended up being a bit of a disappointing season for the Cyclones, who ultimately went 7-6, this game stands as a bad blowout in the Patterson era at TCU. Runners Up: 7-30 vs. Texas (2013), 6-31 vs. Oklahoma State (2016).
Texas 21, Kansas 24 – 11/19/2016
The 2010s were one of the worst decades ever for Texas football, and may even go down as the worst decade of the program’s history. It started with a complete backslide in the tail end of Mack Brown’s tenure, one in which Brown went 30-21 in four seasons after nine straight campaigns with ten or more wins. The Longhorns did get blown out a few times under Brown, but some of Texas’ worst losses this decade came under head coach Charlie Strong.
It’s never easy to be “the guy who follows the guy,” and no one probably knows that more than Strong, whose loss to Kansas in Lawrence in 2016 made his exit from Austin inevitable. Texas had been declared “back” to start that season, when they beat what would turn out to be a bad Notre Dame team, and things had been all downhill from there. Sitting at 5-5, the Longhorns went into Lawrence knowing that a bowl berth could potentially give their head coach another year at the helm.
In a contest that would spark endless ribbing across the country, the Longhorns lost this game by committing six turnovers that continued to give the Jayhawks life in a game where Doak Walker Award winner D’Onte Foreman ran for 250 yards and two touchdowns. A pick thrown by quarterback Shane Buechele in the first overtime period set Kansas up for a game-winning field goal that put the nail in the coffin. Runners Up: 21-63 vs Oklahoma (2012), 50-7 vs TCU (2015).
Texas Tech 10, Iowa State 66 – 11/19/2016
The Red Raiders didn’t know in 2016 that Matt Campbell would continue to have their number like he has these past four seasons, but this game definitely predicted that if anything did. If there was an award for best loss of the decade, Texas Tech would probably get that for their 59-66 shootout against the Sooners this same year. This was a game that featured current Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Pat Mahomes behind center, and that makes it hard to believe the Red Raiders only put up 10 points in this one.
From the opening whistle, a couple of things were clear in this game. One was that 2-8 Iowa State very much came to play, and the Red Raiders, who still had a shot at bowl eligibility, did not. The other was that the Cyclones had Mahomes’ number in this game, as the junior threw two picks and completed just half of his passes on the day. Iowa State wracked up over 600 yards of offense in a game that makes more sense now that we know what we know about Campbell’s ability to get his guys up for a game.
Sadly, this loss didn’t do much to help Kingsbury’s case to be the guy who would help Texas Tech get back to the glory of the Mike Leach days. This defeat meant that the Red Raiders couldn’t qualify for a bowl for the second time under Kingsbury. Runners Up: 66-6 vs Oklahoma State (2011), 27-82 vs TCU (2014).
West Virginia 0, Maryland 37 – 9/21/2013
The Mountaineers are still a relative newcomer to the Big 12, but they’ve managed to hold their own in conference games, even in down years. It’s no surprise, then, that the worst loss of the decade for West Virginia came against a non-conference opponent. The Mountaineers were still reeling from the loss of NFL talents Tavon Austin and Geno Smith headed into the 2013 campaign, and this loss foreshadowed the 4-8 year that was to come.
In 2013, the Terrapins went 6-6 in the ACC, so there probably wasn’t a lot that actually separated these two teams. If the Mountaineers would have had a shot to win this one, though, they’d need to be pretty mistake-free. That did not happen in this game. Within the lasts six minutes of the first quarter, West Virginia muffed a punt that gave the Terps the ball at the Mountaineer 24 yard line and West Virginia’s Ford Childress threw a pick six to give Maryland the 14-0 lead.
The rest of the game went pretty much like that. In total, the Mountaineers committed six turnovers, on which the Terrapins capitalized. West Virginia was 2-of-12 on third down, and finished the game with 62 yards passing. This was the first time the Mountaineers had been shutout since 2001. Runners Up: 14-49 vs. Texas Tech (2012), 42-73 vs. Baylor (2013).