OMAHA, Neb. — Five Big 12 teams enter November bowl-eligible. Defending champion Texas, which played in the national title game last season, is not among them.
The Longhorns need to win two of their last four to reach postseason play. Neither Saturday's game at Kansas State nor home games against Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are gimmes.
Coach Mack Brown said Monday that heavy graduation losses, key injuries and an inability to generate opponent turnovers have been factors in the team's 4-4 record. The Longhorns, coming off back-to-back home losses to Iowa State and Baylor, are in danger of missing postseason play for the first time since 1997.
"I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about Kansas State," Brown said. "It's obvious we're not in the Big 12 South race, we're not in the Big 12 race, we're not in the BCS race.
"I'm not worried about anything except this football team getting better and getting back to where we were, and we will do both."
The Big 12 is guaranteed eight bowl slots, but more teams could land bids if things fall right.
Nebraska and Missouri are the only bowl-eligible teams from the North. Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are eligible from the South.
Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas A&M need one more win, and Texas Tech and Texas need two.
The Cyclones (5-4), picked last in the Big 12 North, are closing in on a second-straight bowl despite having played three top-10 opponents. No. 9 Nebraska, which visits on Saturday, will be a fourth.
"It would be huge this year, based on our schedule strength," Rhoads said. "To gain bowl eligibility would be extremely important to everybody surrounding this program."
Iowa State also has a chance to secure a winning season, and it's in the running, mathematically at least, for the North Division championship.
But Rhoads declared on Monday: "We're not in the race in the Big 12 North. Maybe numerically speaking we are. We're just out there trying to improve. This is our next game. We want to be better this football game."
Rhoads was simply trying to be realistic considering what the Cyclones face down the stretch. They travel to Colorado after playing Nebraska, then finish the season at home against No. 14 Missouri.
Colorado looks to be the best chance for the Cyclones to get their sixth victory for bowl eligibility; the Buffaloes (3-5, 0-4) have lost 11 straight conference games. But Iowa State has won only once in its last 13 trips to Boulder.
As for Missouri (7-1, 3-1), the Tigers have given Iowa State all kinds of grief lately, including an overtime victory in 2004 that kept the Cyclones from winning the North title. Iowa State has beaten the Tigers only once in the last seven years.
Kansas State, which hasn't gone to a bowl since 2006, failed to earn a bid with a 6-6 record last year because it played two Football Championship Subdivision oppponents.
Wildcats coach Bill Snyder said his team shouldn't be content to win just one of the last four regular-season games.
"I would like to think our players are a little more mature than that," Snyder said.
Kansas won six games in 2006 and was one of the Big 12's hottest teams at the end of the season, but the Jayhawks didn't get a bowl bid. Snyder said a similar scenario can't be ruled out this year.
"If we're fortunate to be bowl-eligible, we would be perhaps one of 10," Snyder said, "so there are no guarantees that you're going to end up in a bowl with six wins."
Colorado and Kansas remain mathematically alive. Colorado needs three wins and Kansas four.
Colorado's Dan Hawkins and Kansas' Turner Gill are concerned about other things, like posting their first Big 12 wins of the season. The two teams meet this week in Lawrence, Kan.
It has been widely speculated Hawkins will be fired. Gill's situation has destabilized since the departure of athletics director Lew Perkins.
Gill is in his first year at Kansas, but fans already are grumbling about embarrassing home losses to FCS North Dakota State, Kansas State and Texas A&M.
"We believe in what we're trying to get accomplished and our style of coaching and our schemes," Gill said. "We're still trying to mesh together what we have as a football team, trying to get the right players at the right place.
"I have confidence in the administration, and who they end up hiring (as athletic director) will give us the opportunity to build this winning program."
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