The Big 12 has been a wild ride so far. And with a couple of major upsets over the weekend that led to the removal of potential Big 12 title contenders from the AP Top 25, it’s anyone’s guess how things will pan out the rest of the season.
From overtime to upsets, Big 12 fans questioned whether Texas was back, if Texas Tech was the real deal, and if TCU’s offense was just riding off a decent defense. Perhaps the real question after 25 percent of the season is over should be what team will be playing Oklahoma for the Big 12 Championship?
In any event, here’s how the teams stack up through Week 5:
10. IOWA STATE
The Cyclones remain at the bottom of the conference after a 1-2 start, and an uninspiring first win of the season over Akron. Quarterback Zeb Noland threw for 233 yards and a touchdown, and the Cyclones had 132 rushing yards for a touchdown. Interestingly enough, the Cyclones defense was its weakest link, allowing 244 total yards, and lacking in the turnover department, which is becoming an increasingly necessary objective for teams in the conference.
Iowa State opens its conference schedule this weekend against a TCU team that is licking its wounds following a Week 4 loss in Austin. And unless Matt Campbell wants to reverse the Cyclones’ progress throughout the years, they have to find a way to win.
Over the weekend, I read a Tweet that questioned whether TCU offensive coordinator was just an average play-caller, and if the offense relies too heavily on a defense that was struggling. Those are valid points to consider, especially following back-to-back losses for TCU against Ohio State and Texas. The Longhorns ended a four-year streak of losses to TCU, and that should have TCU head coach Gary Patterson worried.
While 372 total yards of offense is acceptable in the Big 12, TCU also had four turnovers against Texas, and struggled to control the clock. If the Horned Frogs want to get the season back on track, this is the perfect weekend to to so, as they face an Iowa State team that’s struggling to find serious momentum, or identity.
The only reason Kansas is ranked higher than TCU and Iowa State is because it’s likely downhill from here, unless David Beaty’s team can pull out another epic upset this season. While the Jayhawks’ 7-26 loss against Baylor looks bad, there are some things they should be proud of. Kansas allowed just 7 of 14 third down conversions, and 4.9 yards-per-carry. Kansas was also more disciplined, which is surprising considering this was an away game, as they finished the day 7-55 yards, compared to Baylor, which finished 13-141.
Those types of stats are important down the stretch, and if anything, Kansas highlighted some areas to fix for Baylor. With Kansas facing an angry Oklahoma State team at home on Saturday, ESPN matchup predictors only give the Jayhawks a 16 percent win probability, but just as Tech was the underdog last weekend, anything is possible.
7. KANSAS STATE
Kansas State was handed an embarrassing 6-35 loss at the hands of the Mountaineers last weekend to open Big 12 play, and it’s a game that has a lot of people wondering if things will turn around for the Wildcats this season. Quarterback Skylar Thompson threw for just 145 yards against a tough West Virginia team, but managed zero touchdowns and averaged just 1.5 yards-per-carry. Comparing his rushing stats to more mobile quarterbacks in the conference, it’s an area of major concern, considering that’s how many of these offenses are able to stay on the field.
What’s more, Kansas State’s defense allowed 464 total yards of offense by the Mountaineers, which includes 8-12 third down conversions. And despite four turnovers including two interceptions by Will Grier, the Wildcats just couldn’t cash out and tilt the needle.
With K-State hosting Texas this weekend, there’s time to get back on track, but it’s going to be an uphill battle.
6. OKLAHOMA STATE
Oklahoma State not only had an 80.1 win percentage at kickoff, Texas Tech hadn’t won in Stillwater since Kliff Kingsbury was playing at Tech. To say this loss was a shocker to the Cowboys would be an understatement. After a hot 3-0 start which included a 44-21 win against then, No. 17 ranked Boise State, every possible variable was in Oklahoma State’s favor headed into Saturday night. Unfortunately, the Red Raiders’ defense held OSU to just 386 total yards of offense, 18 first downs, just 18:43 in total possession, and a complete second-half shutout.
While it’s too early to hit the “panic button” in Stillwater, Kansas is this week’s unlucky rebound opponent, but it might take a few weeks of solid wins for the Cowboys to work their way back into the polls.
Baylor has started the season with a 3-1 start, which is considerable progress for a team that has spent the past few years in a complete rebuilding phase. Over Kansas last weekend, quarterback Charlie Brewer finished the day with 221 passing yards, and three touchdowns. Baylor improved in rushing, with six players –including Brewer–rushing for double-digit yardage to finish the day with 190 total yards on the ground. This type of balanced approach is becoming increasingly important, as teams are looking to control the time and tempo. As Baylor looks to continue the upward momentum of a balanced approach, opponents are also retooling to defend them, so if you’re a Big 12 fan, that’s a big point of emphasis for defenses.
Baylor takes on Oklahoma this weekend, and with the Sooners controlling the tables right now, this will be the Bears’ biggest test to-date.
Is Texas actually back? Nobody knows. It’s a question we ask ourselves every single week, but after toppling the formerly 17th ranked TCU Horned Frogs last weekend, Texas is back into the AP Top 25 poll at No. 18.
Momentarily, at least, Texas is back, but the most impressive area during the game was at the half, where Texas defense held TCU to just a field goal to start the second-half. Statistically, both teams were about the same in the major categories, but a place that helped catapult Texas to the stunning win was in turnovers. TCU gave the football up four times, including a fumble, and three interceptions. And in this league, ball control is a crucial difference-maker.
The Longhorns look to keep the streak going on the road against a struggling Kansas State team on Saturday on FS1.
3. WEST VIRGINIA
West Virginia has emerged as one of the top programs in the country through three games, however, with its toughest opponent (NC State) cancelled due to Hurricane Florence, the sample size in terms of comparable competition is relatively low. Kansas State has been struggling this season, so it was a little disconcerting to see quarterback Will Grier struggle with ball control in the Mountaineers’ 35-6 win on Saturday. The Heisman hopeful threw for 356 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions, yet the West Virginia offense was shut out the last quarter of play.
The Mountaineers, however, spent 33:23 of the game on defense and only gave up a total of six points, but keeping your defense on the field for that long adds up over the course of the season, especially if substitutions are limited, as tends to be the case in they league. From a durability perspective, the offense will need to balance it out a bit, but against a Texas Tech team coming off a monster upset in Stillwater, it could be a challenge.
2. TEXAS TECH
DOWN GOES OKLAHOMA STATE!
As mentioned previously, the last time Texas Tech won in Stillwater was when Kliff Kingsbury was the quarterback, and it had been nine years since Tech beat Oklahoma State in any other venue. To say knocking off the 14th ranked team and entering the polls at No. 25 is an accomplishment for a team with plenty of red flags headed into the season, would be grossly understated.
True freshman quarterback Alan Bowman threw for 397 yards, and two touchdowns, but with two interceptions thrown into tight windows, he needs to focus on locating the DBs to avoid those mistakes in the future. The Red Raiders dominated in almost every statistical category, but the critical areas were in time of possession, play-calling, and on defense. With Tech able to keep a high powered offense off the field, it wore their defense down, giving Tech the ability to put together its most complete game in the Kingsbury era. The 806D also managed a complete second-half shut out, which is the momentum they need as they prepare this week to face Will Grier at home on Saturday.
What a week for the Sooners.
Former quarterback and reigning Heisman winner Baker Mayfield was named the Browns’ starter after its historic win last week, and Oklahoma is off to a 4-0 start, but not without an upset watch.
In their 28-21 OT victory over Army, Heisman hopeful Kyler Murray was limited to just 165 passing yards, but that didn’t stop the gunslinger from racking up three touchdowns, including a 10 yard pass to CeeDee Lamb in the end zone to seal the victory. The Sooners’ offense was held to a second-half shutout, just 19 first downs, and only controlled the clock for 15:19. Those are certainly areas of concern Oklahoma will have to correct this week against Baylor, and especially before the gritty portion of the Big 12 schedule.
Side Note: Very classy, Sooners. Thank you to Army Football for your continued service.
— Eric Bailey (@EricBaileyTW) September 23, 2018
Want more Big 12? Check out: Q/A: Former Texas Tech quarterback BJ Symons on Kingsbury, Quarterbacks, and more