Welcome to the fifth iteration of “10 Burning Questions”, where I ask the most important questions in the Big 12 for the upcoming week. A few of last week’s questions were answered over the weekend, but the action also raised some new ones. There are plenty of unanswered questions around the conference, but I’ll keep it to one per team.
10. CAN IOWA STATE SLOW DOWN BAYLOR’S OFFENSE?
Baylor has been very impressive on both sides of the ball so far this year, although as previously noted in other articles, those stats are inflated because of poor competition. Thankfully, last week we finally got to see Baylor play a team with a pulse, and they were impressive. On the other hand, Iowa State has been, well, not impressive. They finally got their first win of the year last week against San Jose State, but if they want to continue on the winning path, everything will have to be better in this match-up. Iowa State has struggled on both sides of the ball so far this year, and if they want to beat Baylor, they have to be better, especially on defense.
9. WILL THE BYE WEEK BE THE TRIGGER FOR THE JAYHAWKALYPSE?
If you choose to read all the things I’ve said about Kansas and just assume I’m joking, well that’s your loss. I would never joke about something as noble and respectable as Kansas. That’s why I think that last week’s bye for David Beatty’s boys was just what they needed to begin the “Jayhawkalypse™”. You’re probably asking yourself “well what exactly is a Jayhawkalypse? A Jayhawkalypse is a short, catchy phrase to describe the awakening Kansas Football is about to go through. An apocalypse is typically something that will cause great harm and danger to the world, and the Jayhawkalypse is the same thing, except with birds. Watch out Lubbock, a storm might be coming.
8. IS OKLAHOMA GOING TO REVERT TO THEIR TRUE FORM AGAINST TCU?
Fresh off a bye week, Oklahoma travels to TCU this week for what has turned into the most crucial game of the year for the Sooners, as of right now, because of the start they had. Oklahoma needs to bounce back and get back on the path to competing for the Big 12 championship. To do this, they’ll have to play up to their potential against TCU, meaning that Baker Mayfield has to control the air, Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon have to be the two-headed, four-legged monster they were expected to be, and the offensive line has to help facilitate these two things. Defensively, Oklahoma needs all around improvement, especially against the pass. IF the defensive backfield doesn’t improve, Oklahoma could be in for a long afternoon against Kenny Hill and the Horned Frogs.
7. IS TEXAS TECH CAPABLE OF SLOWING DOWN STEVEN SIMS JR?
Many of you won’t believe this, but Kansas actually has quite a few good pieces on their team this year. One of those pieces is Steven Sims Jr, the sophomore receiver from Houston, and one of the most fun players you’ve never heard of this year. Steven Sims Jr has 11 receptions for 253 yards and 4 touchdowns through just 3 games. Last year he had just 19 more receptions and 2 less touchdowns in the whole season. Kansas isn’t just a laughing-stock, and while I joke about them a lot, this kid is actually a really special young man, and he could light up a really bad Texas Tech defense this week.
6. CAN OKLAHOMA STATE HANDLE THE POWERFUL TEXAS FRONT 7?
Texas has a stout front seven, led by Paul Boyette Jr, Malik Jefferson, and Anthony Wheeler. Inversely, Oklahoma State has a pretty pedestrian offense line, and their running game has been sub-par all season. You can see where this is headed. Oklahoma State needs to run the ball well to keep the pressure off of Mason Rudolph, because the passing game is the strength of this Cowboys team, and when they can’t emphasize it, they struggle (see: last week against Baylor).
5. CAN KANSAS STATE CONTINUE THEIR DOMINANT DEFENSE IN MORGANTOWN?
Kansas State leads the country in total defense, and opponent passing yards allowed, and they’re 6th in opponent rushing yards allowed. Basically, the Wildcats are really good on the defensive side of the ball. What makes this match up so intriguing is the combination or Kansas State’s defense and West Virginia’s high-powered offense, that sits inside the top 30 in most offense statistics. Kansas State needs to limit that offense this week to prove itself as a Big 12 contender ans a top defense.
4. WILL TEXAS GET PRESSURE ON MASON RUDOLPH?
As previously discussed, Texas has a very good front seven. That front seven will need to get a lot of pressure on Oklahoma State’s star quarterback, Mason Rudolph. Texas has struggled against the pass a lot this year, mostly due to a poor defensive backfield, and the front seven has to pick up some slack to avoid a breakout game from Mason Rudolph and the Oklahoma State passing attack, which is already regarded as one of the best passing attacks in the country.
3. DOES TCU HAVE THE DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD TO CONTAIN BAKER MAYFIELD?
TCU and Texas have similar problems this week. Unfortunately, TCU has a lesser front seven than Texas, and because of that, their defensive backfield will have to step up to slow down Baker Mayfield, and force the Sooners to stick to the ground game. As Ohio State and Houston have proved this year, Oklahoma isn’t invincible, and the way to expose them seems to be by cutting off the passing game, and forcing Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon to carry the team. TCU has a very good offense, and if the defense can force Oklahoma into similar situations as we saw in games one and three, Oklahoma could very possibly have 3 losses in 4 games.
2. CAN BAYLOR PUT ON A SHOW?
There really aren’t too many questions coming into this game. Baylor is a better team than Iowa State, and as long as they stay true to their strengths, they shouldn’t struggle this week. But, the question, at least for me, isn’t “will they win”, it’s more of a “will they show me something new”. If Baylor comes out and scores 40 points, I won’t be impressed, because that’s what they should do against a bad team. If they come out and score 60, and hold Iowa State under 10, I’ll be more impressed. To do that, they’ll have to play to win, instead of playing not to lose. That means they need to take risks down the field, and do things we saw them do against Oklahoma State. Fairly easy conference games like this one tell us a lot more about the better team than you would expect. We’ll get to see a basic idea of what kind of team Baylor is this year based on the effort they show this Saturday.
1. WILL WEST VIRGINIA STEP UP IN THEIR BIGGEST TEST TO THIS POINT?
I’m going to get this out-of-the-way now: West Virginia has the most impressive resume in the Big 12 so far. That doesn’t mean they’ve played good teams. Missouri and BYU are not impressive wins, they’re games West Virginia should have won, and they did that. Kansas State is better than Missouri and BYU, and West Virginia will have to perform better than they did last week if they want to remain unbeaten. Silly mistakes were the story of West Virginia’s last game against BYU, and because of those mistakes, they almost lost the game. They cannot afford to make those mistakes against a dominant Kansas State defense. I’m not too worried about Kansas State’s offense if I’m West Virginia, but it’s obvious that Skyler Howard has to have a good game, and take good care of the ball.