I meant to get this started at the beginning of the season. Obviously, I did not, So instead I’ll use the first week of conference play to recap the Big 12’s non conference performance, take a look at the first three conference games from yesterday, and maybe even look ahead a little bit. Let’s start with the cream of the crop.
The Sooners are the team to beat in the Big 12 once again. They completed their out of conference schedule 3-0 with wins over UTEP, Tulsa, and Ohio State. None of the three were particularly competitive, not even the Buckeyes. That brings us to their first conference opponent.
Hoo boy, the Bears have been terrible. They began their non conference slate by playing a pity pay day game against Liberty, and losing. They followed that up with a loss to a very well respected UT- San Antonio team, coached by Frank Wilson. If you don’t know who Frank Wilson is by now, rest assured he will be coming to a Power 5 school near you very, very soon. Reeling, and desperately needing a win, first year coach Matt Rhule took Baylor on the road to face Duke, and came away empty, losing 34-20.
Oklahoma beat Baylor, 49-41
After the non conference performances mentioned above, this one was sort of a head scratcher. Oklahoma was on the road, sure, but this is the same OU team that went into the Horseshoe and planted their flag on Ohio State’s turf. This is also the same Baylor team that failed to defend their home field against Liberty. All things considered, OU kept the train on the tracks and, while Baylor is a disaster, they are more talented than they have displayed thus far, and probably shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Up next- Baylor @ Kansas State, Oklahoma takes their bye
Oklahoma State looked very much the contender through their three non conference games. The Cowboys whipped Tulsa, South Alabama, and then embarrassed Pitt at Heinz Field. QB Mason Rudolph looked like a Heisman contender, laying out all the throws and looking good doing it. He put up over 400 yards passing before half time against the Panthers. Unfortunately, TCU had something to prove.
Texas Christian Horned Frogs
Gary Patterson’s team was coming off a losing season, but began to show some of the trademarks off Gary’s best teams. Stingy defense, ball control and disciplined football are always present when TCU is at its best. TCU unsurprisingly handled Jacksonville State and SMU. What was more impressive was that they went into Arkansas, where Bret Bielema is almost certainly coaching for his job in the ultra competitive SEC west, and smothered the Razorbacks, 28-7. It set up a matchup between two unbeaten Big 12 teams, one seemingly already coronated for a date in the title game and the other with serious questions to answer. TCU answered those questions.
TCU beat Oklahoma State, 44-31
TCU went into Stillwater and really handled the Cowboys. Before they committed their first penalty, the Horned Frogs lead the game 34-17 and held a time of possession advantage of 30 minutes to 15. Unsurprisingly, Mason Rudolph tried his best to mount a home field comeback, but the Horned Frogs did not relent. After the Pokes cut the margin to six with 3:37 left in the fourth quarter, TCU sealed the deal with a three play 48 yard TD drive. While Rudolph turned the ball over more than usual, its hard to tell if Patterson has one of his elite defenses, or if Mason just had an off day.
Up next- TCU takes their bye, Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech
There’s been plenty of coverage of West Virginia on the Musket. WVU lost a close, neutral site game to an old rival, and had a chance down to the last seconds. The Virginia Tech loss stings, but ultimately won’t have a devastating impact on this team’s chance to meet their preseason goals. The Mountaineers then soundly pounded down two inferior teams at Mylan Puskar Stadium. Will Grier and Justin Crawford have lived up to their preseason billing but the defense has looked spotty at times, both on the line and in pass coverage. The Mountaineers went on their first true road trip to Lawrence to face the Jayhawks.
This year, Kansas football has looked like Kansas football. While they did manage to put away Southeast Missouri State, they also lost rather convincingly to Central Michigan and Ohio. If not for the mess at Baylor, it would be pretty safe to say that Kansas was looking like they still had the basement of the Big 12 all to themselves.
West Virginia beats Kansas, 56-34
Kansas came out running the football and running it well. Khalil Herbert was gashing the middle of the Mountaineer defense and kept doing it throughout the day. Despite his efforts, WVU got out to a 35-13 halftime lead and looked to have the game in hand. Kansas held West Virginia to a scoreless third quarter and cut the lead to eight. Mountaineer fans began their hand wringing and blame gaming, only to see the Mountaineers come back to life and win by 22. It remains to be seen if some of the lackadaisical efforts, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, are more a factor of the lack of competition over the last few weeks or real causes for concern going forward.
Up next- Both teams take a bye
Texas Tech Red Raiders
The only other Big 12 team to take the field yesterday was the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Kliff Kingsbury has found his name on a few lists of coaches on the hot seat. Coming into yesterday’s matchup, the Red Raiders had soundly beaten Eastern Washington and managed to escape with a win against Todd Graham’s Arizona State squad in a shootout. Needless to say, an in state road game against Houston left little room for error for Kingsbury.
Texas Tech beat Houston, 27-24
There’s not much to say about this one. Texas Tech did what they needed to do this week. It will remain to be seen if they can do all they need to do over the rest of the season to keep their coach employed. The road doesn’t get any easier as a salty OSU team is coming to town off of a loss.
Up next- Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech
Iowa State Cyclones
Iowa State is taking steps forward. They split their in state games in the non conference. They managed to hold off the University of Northern Iowa 42-24, but lost a pointsy and highly entertaining overtime rendition of El Assico 44-41 to the Hawkeyes. They rounded out their out of conference slate by whooping up on Akron. I’m kind of Bullish on the Cyclones at this point. I know that Matt Campbell’s offense is going to put up points. What remains to be seen is if they can find a way to slow anyone down in the Big 12.
Up next- Texas @ Iowa State
Oof. Kansas State put up 55 a piece in blowout wins over UCA and Charlotte. Things came grinding to a halt when they went to Vanderbilt. They lost an excruciatingly difficult to watch contest 14-7, and the narrative afterward was that Vanderbilt may have a real defense. That illusion was shattered yesterday when Alabama shut out the Commodores 59-0 in Nashville. Kansas Sate is still an enigma. There’s no telling if anything will be learned when they host Baylor next week.
Up next- Baylor @ Kansas State
Texas is not back, but they may have finally shown some signs of life last week. After looking anywhere between pedestrian and down right bad in a 51-41 loss to Maryland, the Longhorns blew out San Jose State and then really competed in a very entertaining road game against #4 USC. While Sam Darnold still managed nearly 400 yards passing, the Longhorn front looked big, athletic and disruptive. The Longhorns are not good yet, but they are too talented not to pick off a win they’re not supposed to in conference play this year. Tom Herman will get them moving in the right direction.
Up next- Texas @ Iowa State
Oklahoma is in the driver’s seat in the Big 12 and the best bet for the conference to manage to get a team in the College Football Playoff.
These early bye weeks are kind of odd. Three teams had a bye prior to conference play and after only three games. Four more have their bye this week after a single conference game.
There’s a lot of football left to play, but its already fun to think about all the crazy ways the Big 12 Championship game could cause chaos. What if OU manages to go undefeated, only to lose in the “Championship” game to a 2 or 3 loss TCU?
Hopefully more questions will be answered next week, and we’ll be here to run down the Big 12 each Sunday for the rest of the season.