Texas had to wait out a three hour weather delay midway through the second quarter but it had little effect as the Longhorns rolled to a relatively easy 30-7 victory over TCU.
"They have all had a goal and a dream to play on Sunday and now they have done that, it has happened," Mack Brown joked following the game. "We handled the three-hour delay much better than the two hour delay at BYU because we have experience at that now."
I'd say so. Texas also had to wait out a nearly two hour delay prior to their game at BYU and then promptly got throttled by the Cougars in a game that turned out to be the catalyst for the team we saw Saturday night
On the other sideline, it was no joking matter as TCU's offense stalled, yet again, despite the return of quarterback Casey Pachall. Pachall completed 13 of 34 passes in his return but was plagued by several dropped passes by the usually sure handed TCU receivers.
Add to that the fact Trevone Boykin, who started the game at QB, fumbled inside their own five yard line and the Horned Frogs muffed a punt setting up another Texas score, and the mistakes were too many to overcome. Following the weather delay, TCU never crossed midfield the rest of the night.
The Horned Frogs must now win three of their final four games to keep their streak of nine straight bowl games alive.
"We dropped passes; there were a lot of things. I'm not putting anybody at fault. The bottom line is we're not very good. We're going to have to get better if we want to win ball games," Gary Patterson said.
Texas, on the other hand, has put themselves in prime position at what once seemed like an improbable run at the Big 12 title. The Longhorns are now 4-0 in Big 12 play with two very winnable games ahead against Kansas and West Virginia before facing a tough closing stretch of Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Baylor.
If the revamped Texas defense continues playing like they did Saturday night, anything is possible. The Longhorns sacked Pachall and Boykin three times and held the Horned Frogs to just 45 yards rushing. Granted, much tougher tests are ahead, but if the last two games are any indication, the Texas defense is without a doubt headed in the right direction.
On a bit of a side note, David Ash's return to the field remains a big question mark for the Longhorns. As a result, Texas burned the redshirt of freshman Tyrone Swoopes to help get him ready in case he's needed down the stretch.
Let the record show Tyrone Swoopes' redshirt was burned at 12:24 a.m. in a 23-point victory.— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) October 27, 2013
Mack Brown just told us on postgame that David Ash may not be able to play next Saturday, which is why Tyrone Swoopes played tonight.— Craig Way (@craigway1) October 27, 2013
Some may question the move, but it is probably a good indication that Ash's status may not actually be a question mark at all. Brown said following the game that he won't play against Kansas which is why Swoopes played Saturday night. But you don't burn his redshirt because Ash can't play against Kansas. You burn it because Ash might not be able to play the final three games when Texas will be fighting for the Big 12 title.
The next few weeks will obviously paint a clearer picture as to Ash's status, but there's no turning back now as far as Swoopes goes. I'd expect him to see plenty of action the next couple weeks if Texas takes care of business as expected.
But that's for the Texas coaching staff to figure out. For now, it was another Texas win and an easy one at that.
As everyone expected, Kansas became victim number seven for Baylor on Saturday night.
The Jayhawks actually starting the game by forcing Baylor to punt on their first two drives of the game but that turned out to be the highlight of the night. It was all downhill from there as the Bears scored touchdowns on their next four possessions while racking up 500 yards of offense in the first two quarters before heading to the locker room with a 38-0 halftime lead.
What did Kansas coach Charlie Weis think after seeing the Bears up close and personal?
"They've got a lot of firepower", Weis said following the 59-14 defeat. "And we never really could protect the defense early in the game by having our offense stay on the field."
Is there another team in the country that can match Baylor's offense?
"I'd have a tough time finding it," Weis said. "I think they're pretty good. They're real good. The quarterback is a really solid player. They have receivers making plays all over the field. They have good speed. They're running backs play well. And they have a couple big muchachos up front in the offensive line, as well, so I think they're really good."
Weis also talked during his postgame press conference about the schematics that make them so tough to defend.
"The two things you have to be concerned with is the tempo, which, the tempo didn't seem to bother us but the horizontal stretching of the field (did). By that I mean they have a guy two yards from this sideline and they've got a guy two yards from this (opposite) sideline. You have to cover really the whole width of the field."
"They've got good athletes and they can expose you. There were times there was a guy running the ball and somebody goes to fill in the hole and one guy makes you miss and there is no one within five yards of you and the next thing you know, the guy is hitting is head off the goal post. He just scored a touchdown. That happened several times today. That horizontal stretching of the field is pretty tough to defend."
Every coach that has faced Baylor this season has left impressed, but those comments nearly mirrored what UL-Monroe coach Todd Berry said earlier this season after facing Baylor.
"It's a very unique scheme they have. Art (Briles) keeps re-inventing the wheel there. Their wide receivers are (lined up) wider this year. They'll put three wide receivers out by the numbers on the field side, and even if you try and go three-on-three, you've lost a support player (for the run game) and they really put you in a bind because they have this huge O-line" (see his full comments here).
"They just stress you so much schematically. They are for real. I am going to be very curious to watch the rest of the season to see how people try and defend them."
Hopefully Coach Berry didn't fret too much about giving up 70 to Baylor. We're about to hit November and nobody has exactly figured it out yet, either.
Next up for Baylor is Oklahoma a week from Thursday in what looks like will be one of the biggest games of the season in the Big 12. If there's a defense in the league that can hang with the Bears, it may very well be the Sooners' secondary who will have a couple extra days to prepare.
Oklahoma knocked Texas Tech from the ranks of the unbeatens on Saturday but they'll need to be even better next Thursday night when they head to Waco. Buckle up because the fun is just getting started.
West Virginia (3-4) @ Kansas State (2-4)
Following the Mountaineers upset victory over Oklahoma State, West Virginia got blown off the field in Waco and followed that up with a solid performance against Texas Tech albeit in a losing effort. One was at home, one was not.
In three games away from Morgantown, the Mountaineers have scored, 7, 0, and 42 points (although 21 of those points came in the fourth quarter after Baylor had called off the dogs).
Now Dana Holgorsen's crew heads to Manhattan to take on Kansas State who is in the middle of a three game losing streak themselves. After falling to Texas, the Wildcats hung tough against Oklahoma State and played Baylor far closer than anyone has to date.
Holgorsen said this week he's sticking with Clint Trickett as his starting quarterback. Trickett played his best game of the season against Texas Tech, but still remains far from a finished product. The good news for WVU, however, is it appears as if Trickett will give the 'Eer's some consistency at the position which should not only benefit Trickett, but the offense as a whole. This will be Trickett's fourth straight start.
On the other sideline, Kansas State continues to juggle Daniel Sams and Jake Waters at the quarterback position. Now that we're entering the season's second half, it looks like it's a rotation that will continue not only this week, but until season's end.
Sams has received the bulk of the snaps the past two weeks, not only because of his running ability, but because K-State's top wide receivers, Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett, have been out of action battling injuries. Both are expected back this week and Waters may see increased playing time as a result if the Wildcats choose to turn to their passing game more frequently.
West Virginia, Keys to the Game:
1. How about some offense? It's no secret the Mountaineers offense hasn't been up to par this season. Blame it on whatever you'd like, but it appears there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Trickett played his best game of the season last week and appears to be improving running Holgorsen's offense. They also have had success with the combo of Dremius Smith and Charles Sims running the football. That's great if.....
2. Improved offensive line play. Holgorsen was less than complementary of the play up front earlier this season. It appears to be improving, however, as WVU will go with the same starting five for the third straight week. That continuity along with Trickett's improvement could be better days - and more points - are on the horizon.
Kansas State, Keys to the Game:
1. Hold onto the rock. One thing that rarely affects a Bill Snyder coached team is turnovers. That hasn't been the case this season and it's cost them dearly. In their three Big 12 losses to date, they Wildcats are -7 in turnover margin. For the season, they are -9 (6 gained, 15 lost). We all know Bill Snyder is a genius, but it's even tough for him to look good when that stat is working against you.
2. Special teams. Lockett and Thompson's return on offense is big, but it may be even more important on special teams. Their return to action can't leave WVU's specials team coach - Joe Deforest - feeling to good at the moment. See below.
Here are two teams sitting with a combined 5-8 record at the season's midway point. Not great, no, but don't get caught up in the records and think this won't be a great football game.
Both teams have played all their conference games against teams in the top half of the league. For West Virginia; OU, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Texas Tech. For Kansas State; Texas, Oklahoma State, and Baylor.
So, what does that mean for Saturday? Well, for one, both are probably better than their records indicate. And two, even with sub .500 records for each, bowl eligibility is well within reach. That is what makes Saturday's game so important for both teams.
Even though WVU looks to be improving, I'm still giving the edge to Kansas State on Saturday. Daniel Sams running along with Thompson and Lockett's return will be the difference.
Not to mention, I'm still not sold on the Mountaineers offense being consistent enough to win on the road in an environment like the one they'll see on Saturday.
It'll be close through three quarters before the Wildcats were them down up front in the fourth and walk away with a 17 point victory in hand. Kansas State 34 West Virginia 17.
#9 Texas Tech (7-0) @ #12 Oklahoma (6-1)
Texas Tech may be 7-0 but there remains plenty of doubters wondering if their perfect record has more to do with their schedule than anything else. Wherever you stand on Tech, Saturday is their chance to start turning those doubters into believers when they head to Norman to take on the 6-1 Sooners.
Even though their schedule hasn't been stout, don't underestimate their victory over TCU nor their road win at West Virginia last weekend. As Oklahoma State already knows, traveling to Morgantown to play the Mountaineers is no Sunday picnic.
Even so, Saturday's contest in Norman will be their toughest test of the season. Beat OU on their home field and there should be little doubt the Red Raiders are serious contenders for their first ever Big 12 title.
The Sooners struggled last week at Kansas coming off the disappointing performance against the Longhorns. The loss of Jordan Philips and Corey Nelson to season ending injuries were obviously huge for OU's defense and through two games without them, one has to wonder just how much if affected the team's psyche overall.
A win Saturday against an undefeated Tech team would be the spring board to get OU right back into the thick of the Big 12 race, not that they were ever out of it. It would also give the Sooners a shot of needed confidence with Baylor next up on the schedule. But first things first.
Texas Tech, Keys to the Game:
1. Do what you do on offense. Texas Tech has a run/pass ratio of 40/60 so far this season. Logic says, however, that since Oklahoma has had trouble stopping the run of late, Tech should run the ball more on Saturday.
That theory makes sense except for the fact that is not what Texas Tech does well. Of Tech's total yards this season, 74% has come through the air. If that's what works, then do it, despite the fact Oklahoma has the top ranked pass defense in the Big 12.
Dig a little deeper into OU's pass defense and find a team that has the ability to throw the ball the way Texas Tech does. Still looking? So am I. West Virginia was able to move the ball through the air with Paul Millard at quarterback. TCU had some success, as did Texas even though they relied on the ground game.
Oklahoma's pass defense is the strength of their defense, but that doesn't mean Texas Tech can't or won't have success throwing the ball. Couple that with the fact Tech can also move the chains complementing the pass with Kenny Williams and DeAndre Washington and that 40/60 run ratio is exactly what they should stick to against the Sooners.
And who exactly is going to cover Jace Amaro? Mike Stoops is probably wondering the same thing.
2. Clean it up. Texas Tech leads the Big 12 in penalties and is also tied with West Virginia for the most turnovers (16). It hasn't hurt them yet, but it can and will against a team like Oklahoma.
Oklahoma, Keys to the Game:
1. Get Texas Tech off the field. The Red Raiders have faced 120 third downs in 2013. They converted 59 of them or 49.2%, good for second in the league behind only Baylor. Oklahoma, on the other hand, has been respectable on third down defense allowing a 33.7% conversion rate. Who wins the battle when Tech faces third downs on Saturday is going to have big leg up in walking away with another victory.
2. Can OU hit a big play in the passing game? It's likely Tech will load the box trying to stop the run and Oklahoma will still try and run it because that's what they do. But, there has to be more.
ESPN stats had some good info this week indicated Bell has hit on just 8 of 31 passes of 15 yards or longer this season. That's not great, but if Bell can find the connection a couple more times on Saturday, that will make everything just a little bit easier.
My head says Oklahoma wins on Saturday. Texas Tech hasn't been seriously tested just yet and Oklahoma has the capability to wear them down over four quarters. The Red Raiders have been great all season, but I'm guessing that depth will become a bit of an issue against the Sooners.
My gut, however, says Texas Tech finds a way to win, again. There's something to like about this Texas Tech team. Freshmen quarterbacks or not, they don't play with fear, and that confidence seems to spread throughout the team. Maybe that's the moxy Kliff Kingsbury has instilled in them, but whatever it is, the recipe is working.
So what wins out, head or gut? I picked against Texas Tech last weekend - and lost - but am not going to do it twice in a row.
Tech will face more adversity than they have all season and how they respond will be the difference between staying in the driver's seat at 8-0 or falling back to the pack at 7-1. Here's guessing they handle it well, or well enough. Texas Tech 30 Oklahoma 27.
Kansas is faced with the unenviable task this week of trying to slow down a Baylor team that is steamrolling nearly everything in its path. The Bears have scored 69 points or more in five of their six games this season.
The good news for the Jayhawks is that in the one game in which they failed to put a ridiculous number on the scoreboard happened to be their one game away from Floyd Casey Stadium. Baylor travels to Lawrence this weekend, likely the only advantage working in KU's favor.
"The only team that has slowed them down was actually Kansas State. Remember, they've only played one game on the road and the one game on the road was Kansas State and they were down in the fourth quarter. So it's not quite the same on the road as it is at home," Charlie Weis said during his Tuesday press conference.
Kansas State held Baylor to 35 points, half of their season average, and did so while limiting the Bears to a season low 446 yards of total offense.
So what was the key? Weis believed the crowd noise in Manhattan played a part in the final outcome.
"I'm hoping for a six o'clock loud boisterous crowd to not make it so easy on them. I think that's what they got when they were at K-State. It was a loud boisterous crowd and Kansas State played conservative," Weis added.
Ok, it's loud in most road venues. Why might it affect Baylor more than others?
"They call everything at the line of scrimmage and everything at the line of scrimmage quickly. When you're calling plays at the line of scrimmage and not worrying about how fast you're calling them, you can go up and down (the line of scrimmage) and get it communicated.
"When you're trying to snap the ball as fast as they're trying to snap it, they're counting on verbal commands for everyone to know (the play). It's a lot easier when you can yell it to them than when you have to walk up and tell it to them. When you have to walk up and tell it to them, that can slow down the tempo."
It sounds reasonable and in fact, it's probably absolutely true. The question is will the crowd show up to do its part?
Kansas is averaging just 39,639 in attendance so far in four home games. Given the fact KU is sitting at 2-4 and on a 23 game Big 12 losing streak, excitement isn't exactly running rampant around the football program. Maybe having one of the best - and most exciting - teams in the country coming to town will do the trick. The 6:00 kick time won't hurt, either.
However many show up, Weis hopes they get their vocal chords tuned up early. Asked when they should start yelling:
"When they get there," Weis said. "When our defense goes on the field and when our defense goes off the field. That would be a good time. They can yell the whole time. They can yell bad things at me, I don't care, just make it very loud the whole time we're on defense."
While the crowd in Manhattan likely played a role in slowing Baylor down, the Wildcats' defense had plenty to do Baylor's limited output (by their standards). K-State held Baylor to just 114 yards on the ground.
"They played conservative. They only blitzed a couple times the whole game. They just lined up in their defense and said we're going to try and make you one dimensional and take away the run and make you just have to throw it," Weis concluded. "If they don't give up a couple big plays in the fourth quarter, they might have beat them."
The Jayhawks have been respectable defending the run although Oklahoma did pile up 235 yards on the ground and averaged over five yards per carry last Saturday. Add to that the fact Kansas hasn't seen a running back like they'll see when Lache Seastrunk rolls into town - not to mention their mammoth offensive line - and you begin to realize the difficulty in slowing down the Bears' attack.
So there you have it, the recipe for a Saturday upset special. A loud crowd to get the Bears out of their rhythm and halt a Baylor ground game averaging 300 yards per game. Sounds easy enough (not to forget Baylor throws for 415 yards per game)
No, it won't be that easy, but he is on to something. Whether or not KU and their crowd can actually execute it is another story.
Take a look at the Big 12 standings and you'll see a clear division among the top and the bottom half of the league.
Oklahoma State currently occupies the fifth place slot with a 2-1 conference record. TCU and West Virginia are next in line but they're already a game-and-a-half out of fifth place with 1-3 records and are three games behind conference leader Texas Tech.
In essence, what the bottom five teams in the league are playing for at this point is bowl eligibility.
At the top, it's an entirely different story.
Of the top five teams in the league (Texas Tech, Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State), only Texas and Oklahoma have already played each other.
Texas Tech, Baylor, and Oklahoma State all have yet to play the other top four teams in the league. Oklahoma and Texas, by virtue of having already having played each other, still have to play the other top three teams in the league. I'd say this all means we're in for one heck of a finish.
With so many games remaining, who knows how this Big 12 race will shake out but if you're handicapping the race down the stretch excluding all other factors besides strength of schedule, here's who you're favorites should be:
What's to like: They've already beaten Oklahoma which is the biggest win by any of the top five teams. That by itself gives the Longhorns the early advantage. They also get Oklahoma State and Texas Tech at home which is another plus on their side. And they've yet to chalk up a win against Kansas.
What's not to like: Of the three games remaining against teams outside of the top five in the league, two are road games at TCU and West Virginia. While both teams have struggled early in the season, neither will be easy for Texas to handle away from home. And of course, there is the road trip to Waco to end the season which will be the last ever game at Floyd Casey Stadium.
What's to like: Outside the fact they might have the best team in the league, they get both Oklahoma and Texas on their home field. They also get to play Texas Tech in Arlington which could play to their advantage by avoiding a trip to Lubbock which is never easy. And like Texas, they have yet to chalk up the proverbial win against Kansas.
What's not to like: Baylor has no bye weeks the rest of the way which could be a disadvantage given their heavily back loaded schedule. Can they hold up physically against Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas to end the season, only two of which are at home?
3. Oklahoma State:
What's to like: The Cowboys get Baylor and Oklahoma on their home field to end the season. Plus, they've yet to play the two weakest teams in the league, Iowa State and Kansas.
What's not to like: They already have a loss to a team outside of the top five (West Virginia). This gives them little margin for error heading down the stretch. Can they find enough offense on the road to win at Texas Tech and Texas?
4. Texas Tech:
What's to like: The Red Raiders are the only team already with four conference wins.
What's not to like: Of the top five teams, Tech arguably has the toughest road home. Of the four remaining games against the top five, only Oklahoma State is in Lubbock. Baylor is on a neutral field while they have to travel to Oklahoma and Texas. They do get Kansas State at home, as well, but you can bet the Wildcats will be a better team by that point than there were when the others got to play them early in the season.
What's to like: They get Texas Tech at home this weekend. And they have yet to play Iowa State which happens to be in Norman, as well.
What's not to like: Everything else. Oklahoma already has a loss to Texas putting them at a big disadvantage. Plus they have to go to Baylor and Oklahoma State on top of a trip to Manhattan which won't be a walk in the park.
So what does it all mean? We are about to find out.
Texas Tech, Baylor, Texas are the only teams with a chance to make it through the league schedule unscathed although the odds of that happening are about the same as the league champion finishing with two losses.
We've witnessed the SEC beating up on each other of the past couple weeks and the same thing could be about to happen in the Big 12. Bob Bowlsby talked during the offseason about the weak early season schedule (and man was he ever right) and the tremendous schedule set for November (no, he apparently wasn't kidding).
You're guess as to who comes out on top is as good as mine, but buckle up, because the fun is just about to get started.
There was very little movement in this week's power poll as the top five teams in the league continue to distance themselves from the pack.
As we expected, the Big 12 race is still wide open although this weekend's game between Oklahoma and Texas Tech will provide a bit more clarity, if only a little.
1. (-) Baylor (6-0): It was another home game and another 70 point performance for the Bears over the weekend. The offense was great, again, and the defense played its best game of the season. If I'm Kansas, I'm just a little worried about what is coming. Up next: @ Kansas.
2. (-) Texas Tech (7-0): It wasn't easy, but Tech picked up an important road over West Virginia to keep their perfect record intact. Now the real fun begins with the Red Raiders taking on both Oklahoma schools over the next two weeks. If they can win both, the focus will turn solely to Baylor and Texas in the race for the Big 12 title. Up next: @ Oklahoma.
3. (-) Oklahoma State (5-1): The Cowboys' defense had little trouble corralling the TCU offense on Saturday. Meanwhile on the other side of the ball, the good ol' quarterback controversy has reared its head yet again in Stillwater. Up next: @ Iowa State.
4.(-) Texas: (4-2): The Longhorns had the weekend off to relax but it still wasn't enough to return quarterback David Ash to full health as he will again sit out this weekend. Case McCoy will get another start in his place. Up next: @ TCU
5. (-) Oklahoma (6-1): Who are the two remaining undefeated teams in the Big 12? Texas Tech and Baylor. Who does OU play next? Texas Tech and Baylor. The Sooners can put themselves right back in position to capture another Big 12 title with wins but they'll need to play better than they did against a hapless Kansas team. Up next: Texas Tech.
6. (-) Kansas State (2-4): The Wildcats had an off week as they try to overcome three straight defeats in Big 12 play. West Virginia will pay a visit to Manhattan this week in a game that will have big implications as far as the bowl season goes. Up next: West Virginia.
7.(-) TCU (3-4): If the Horned Frogs could find a way to put some points on the board, they could be onto something. The defense played well again against Oklahoma State but the offense couldn't get out of its own way, again. What would be the best way to get this season back on track? Beat Texas. Up next: Texas.
8.(-) West Virginia (3-4): The Mountaineers had Texas Tech on the ropes but couldn't close the deal as the offense went into hibernation during the fourth quarter. A bowl bid is still well within reach for Dana Holgorsen's squad although the next two roads games are critical in making it happen. Up next: @ Kansas State.
9. (↑1) Kansas (2-4): The good news? Kansas led the Oklahoma 13-0 on Saturday. The bad news? KU then gave up 25 straight points before losing 34-19 to the Sooners. Now KU gets a crack at Baylor which is probably not a good thing if you call yourself a Jayhawk fan. The Bears are currently 36 point favorites. Up next: Baylor.
10. (↓1) Iowa State (1-5): The Cyclones hadn't lost a game by more than eight points all season and then Saturday happened. No need to worry ISU fans, Baylor tends to do that to its opponents. The biggest question this week in Ames is who will play quarterback against the Cowboys. Up next: Oklahoma State.
There's not much to say about Baylor's offense that hasn't already been said. For the fourth time in five home games, Baylor broke the 70 point barrier. This time the victim was Iowa State as the Bears did what they wanted on both sides of the ball during a 71-7 mauling of the Cyclones.
Baylor led by 37 at halftime then strolled to a 64-0 lead before Iowa State finally found the end zone in the game's final minutes only to see the Bears return the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for the final score.
One would think that scoring 70 points is the story - and it usually is - except this team seems to be redefining what usual means. Even after pouring on another 714 yards, the Bear's defense actually took the spotlight allowing Iowa State just 174 total yards. They held a relatively solid ISU ground attack to just 41 yards on 33 carries (taking out the 47 lost yards on their five sacks).
Art Briles said prior to the season to watch out (he even spelled it out) if the Bears defense played this year like it ended last season to go with their already potent offense. Saturday night's performance against the Cyclones was exactly what he was talking about.
This Cyclones team will never be confused with an offensive juggernaut, but when the Baylor defense can force a team to punt 10 times, you simply have no chance.
Kansas State may have laid out a plan last week in how to beat Baylor, but any such plan has to involve your offense moving the ball. The Wildcats were able to do it behind Daniel Sams 199 rushing yards which kept the chains moving and gave their defense a break. The Cyclones had no such luck and their defense was overwhelmed because of it.
Outside of maybe Oregon, there isn't on offense in the country that can exploit a team's weaknesses the way Baylor does. If a team doesn't match up well - and believe me this was a terrible matchup for ISU - the game is almost over before the teams come out of the tunnel.
The same thing is going to happen next week in Lawrence before the Bears finally hit the meat of their schedule with games against Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State who all have the personnel that could give Baylor a run for their money.
Is this Baylor team for real? Yeah, they're for real and the polls on Sunday are going to show it as they will be firmly placed inside the top ten right where they belong. There will still be people that don't believe, after all, this is Baylor who won all of 18 Big 12 games during the league's first 15 years of existence. That futility doesn't go away overnight.
The funny thing about Saturday's win was that it got Baylor to six wins making them bowl eligible and barely anybody is talking about it. That's probably the first sign the bar has been officially raised. So is scoring 70 points nearly every time out.
Who knows where this will all end but one thing is for sure, Baylor's play this season has made what would otherwise be a ho-hum Big 12 race a heck of a lot more interesting.
The Red River Rivalry was good and Bedlam will likely be, as well. Texas Tech is making a solid run, but the game to watch every week in the Big 12 is now Baylor and whoever they're playing. Art Briles knew it was going to happen and with all the scorched earth they're leaving behind, there's little doubt who is the team to beat in the Big 12.
TCU (3-3) @ #17 Oklahoma State (4-1)
Oklahoma State has not run the ball well the past two games. They only tallied 85 yards on 25 carries against Kansas State and finished with 111 yards on 40 carries in their loss to West Virginia.
If the Pokes couldn’t run it against K-State or WVU, it stands to reason they’ll struggle against TCU who likely has the best run defense the Cowboys will have seen this season.
If the Cowboys can’t run it, the question then becomes can J.W. Walsh win the game with his arm? You might say yes, I say no.
Even with an anemic offense, TCU finds a way to pull off a big road win that keeps their Big 12 title hopes alive even if those hopes are still on life support. TCU 24 Oklahoma State 21
#18 Oklahoma (5-1) @ Kansas (2-4)
Texas was able to exploit the Sooner run defense - minus Jordan Phillips and Corey Nelson – to the tune of 255 yards. As bad as Kansas had been the last several seasons, one thing they’ve still be able to do is run the football. That is, until this year, when KU’s run game has fallen off the map.
Even so, expect the Jayhawks to try and line up and run it right at Oklahoma just as the Longhorns did. Will they be as successful? Probably not, but they have to try something because the passing game hasn’t been much better.
Should the Sooners be worried about a hangover following last week’s disappointing performance? Maybe, but either way, Oklahoma still wins. Sooners 44 Jayhawks 10.
Iowa State (1-4) @ #12 Baylor (5-0)
If you’re an Iowa State fan, this has to be scary situation. After getting held to “only” 35 points at Kansas State last week, the Bears are back on their home field where they scored 69 points or more in all four games in Floyd-Casey this season.
As good as Baylor has been, I’d expect Paul Rhoads and Wally Burnham to devise a plan that should help keep the Bears in check. The problem is keeping Baylor in check probably means they still score at least 40 points.
Iowa State’s offense will have a better than expected performance against an improved Baylor defense. Sam Richardson will be solid and Aaron Wimberly will continue to do his thing, but it still won’t be enough. Baylor is simply too good for the Cyclones to handle this time around. Baylor 48 Iowa State 21.
To read the preview on Texas Tech's trip to West Virgina, please click on the link.
#15 Texas Tech (6-0) @ West Virginia (3-3)
Texas Tech continues to ride high under new coach Kliff Kingsbury entering Saturday's game against West Virginia with a perfect 6-0 record. The Red Raiders have done it behind the arms of two true freshmen quarterbacks and a revamped defense that is allowing only 17.3 points per game.
While there's no doubt Texas Tech is improved, they've also benefited from a soft schedule through the season's first half. The win over TCU was impressive, but after that the Red Raiders have played arguably the two weakest teams in the Big 12 and a nonconference schedule consisting of SMU, Stephen F. Austin, and Texas State.
Now we finally get to find out just how good this Texas Tech team is as the schedule gets much tougher over the second half of the season. The trip to Morgantown on Saturday precedes a trip to Norman next week. Both games should provide a much better gauge as to just how high the ceiling is for Kingsbury's first team as a head coach.
On the West Virginia side of things, the Mountaineers are coming off their first bye week of the season. The timing couldn’t have been better following the shellacking they received in Waco two weeks ago. It also gave quarterbacks Clint Trickett and Ford Childress another week to get healthy as both have been banged up during the early part of the season.
That leads us to the biggest question heading into Saturday's contest; who's going to start at quarterback for either team. Baker Mayfield returned to practice this week after missing last week's game against Iowa State. Whether or not he's healthy enough to play remains to be seen. If he can't go, the likely starter would be Davis Webb who led the Red Raiders to 42 points against Iowa State completing 35 of his 56 pass attempts for 415 yards and three touchdowns in his most extensive action of the season.
For the Mountaineers, Trickett figures to be the guy, once again, although he's been nursing a shoulder injury making his status a bit foggy at the moment. If Trickett can’t go, Paul Millard will likely get his first playing time since starting the first two games of the season assuming, of course, Thursday's report that Ford Childress is out for the season is accurate.
West Virginia, Keys to Victory:
1. How about a pass rush? It's no secret that Texas Tech is going to throw the ball around. Take out the Baylor game and WVU’s secondary hasn’t been bad against the pass. They will, however, need some help from the front seven to pull off their second straight home upset. The Mountaineers have registered only nine sacks on the season and if they can add three, four, or five to that number on Saturday, it would pay big dividends.
2. Stop the run. The Red Raiders aren't the type of team that is going to line up and run it down your throat, but they will try and keep you honest with the ground game. One big reason the Mountaineers beat Oklahoma State is because they held the Cowboys to 2.8 yards per carry (40 carries, 111 yards). If they can have similar success against Tech on Saturday, defending the pass becomes that much easier.
Texas Tech, Keys to Victory:
1. Get out of the gate quick. West Virginia is coming off a disastrous performance against Baylor, but they'll be a team playing with much more confidence on their home field. Dana Holgorsen talked about how much a factor the crowd was following the OSU game and Tech can ill-afford to start out slow allowing the crowd to get revved up. The Cowboys were behind at the end of every quarter in Morgantown and could never make up the difference.
2. Charles Sims. Clint Trickett has been sporadic since taking over the QB job. Whether he or Paul Millard is taking the snaps, they won't be able to beat Tech by themselves. The more the ball is in Charles Sims' hands Saturday, the better for West Virginia. Give him 25 carries and throw him 15 passes; whatever it takes. If Sims isn't a big factor on Saturday, West Virginia has no one to blame but themselves for another loss.
Things are usually not as good, nor bad, as they seem in the present. So is the case of West Virginia football at the moment. Maryland 37 West Virginia 0? Baylor 56 West Virginia 14 – at halftime? The Mountaineers might not be great, but they’re not that bad, either. Just as they might not be as good as they were in beating Oklahoma State.
Texas Tech on the other hand, really hasn’t looked “bad” all season. Does that mean then, they’re really good? Maybe or maybe we simply don’t know yet.
This will be Texas Tech’s toughest game of the season. West Virginia is coming off a bye week following an embarrassing showing against Baylor but they're back on their home turf. Count on them playing like a team that has something to prove. They did it following the Maryland loss, and I’d expect it to happen again on Saturday.
So how will Texas Tech respond? I’m guessing not very well. West Virginia’s defense will come up with a couple turnovers and the special teams will do their part (how about a punt block) providing the difference. The Mountaineers pull off another upset making the race in the Big 12 even more interesting West Virginia 34 Texas Tech 27.
|09/07/13||Southern Miss||W, 56-13|
|09/21/13||S. Dakota State||W, 59-20|
|10/12/13||@ Purdue||W, 44-7|
|10/26/13||@ Minnesota||L, 23-34|
|11/23/13||@ Penn State||TBA|
|12/07/13||Big Ten Champ.||TBA|