Welcome to the sixth 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 KANSAS PUT EVERYTHING TOGETHER?
There was point in Thursday night’s matchup between Kansas and Texas Tech where I really thought Kansas had a chance to win the game. The were within striking distance until the third quarter, and they actually looked like a pretty solid team. Due to inconsistent quarterback play, poor defense, and a lack of discipline, Kansas fell behind as the game continued on, and eventually fell out of the game, but the biggest question is, how do they fix these problems? Well firstly, they need to work on the talent disparity between themselves and most other teams in the Big 12. But this year, they need to stick with one quarterback. Switching back and forth doesn’t work, and Ryan Willis is the answer. He makes far fewer mistakes and he would help bring some security to a team that desperately needs security. I don’t know the answer to the defense problem other than just “get better players”, and the discipline problem is fixed with practice.
9. CAN IOWA STATE START FINISHING GAMES?
Iowa State nearly took down Baylor on Saturday. They couldn’t finish in the fourth quarter, and they lost because of it. If Iowa State could come out in each game with that much energy they would win at least 6 games. Unfortunately for Iowa State, it’s extremely difficult to get 18-22 year old to be that consistent. Iowa State has a similar problem to Kansas: lack of talent. That can’t be fixed in one year, but holding on at the end of games can be helped, but the Cyclones have to avoid mistakes and learn how to play with the lead.
8. DOES KANSAS STATE HAVE A GOOD ENOUGH DEFENSE TO SURVIVE?
They almost did when they took on West Virginia. The survive part comes from their severe lack of an offense, and without an offense, even the best defense often can’t win a game by itself. In an offense heavy league like the Big 12, being a team that just tries to get a couple plays and then sit back and play defense is very difficult, and so far, Kansas State hasn’t really been able to pull it off. West Virginia is pretty good this year, so we’ll likely see Kansas State get a good share of wins this year, but they won’t be a top team until they can find a way to consistently get in the endzone.
7. CAN CHARLIE STRONG FIX HIS DEFENSE?
Charlie Strong is taking over defensive play calling. Will this fix all of the Longhorn’s problems? No. Will it help? We will see this week, when Texas hosts Oklahoma for the Red River Showdown. I think if Texas loses this game Charlie Strong will lose his job. I know it was said that if he’s fired it will happen after the year, but I also know Texas, and if they can’t beat their newly ranked rival, they will be coached by Sterling Gilbert until the offseason, when they’ll make a huge push for Houston head man Tom Herman. I don’t expect Texas to win this week, because defense isn’t their only problem, though I do expect the defense to look better this coming week.
6. CAN TCU STOP THE KANSAS OFFENSE
TCU couldn’t stop Oklahoma’s offense, and despite scoring an astounding 46 points, they still managed to lose because of their disregard for the other side of the ball. Kansas obviously isn’t on the same level as Oklahoma, but if they stick with one quarterback they could do some serious danger to a terrible TCU defense that’s currently giving up 258 yards in the air per game.
5. WILL TEXAS TECH BE ABLE TO RUN THEIR OFFENSE WITH SUCCESS AGAINST KSU?
I’m not going to talk anymore about Patrick Mahomes being hurt. It’s been discussed, and dissected, and at this point it’s watered down. There’s a bigger question for the Red Raiders this week, and it revolves around the matchup between Texas Tech’s #1 ranked offense and Kansas State’s 4th ranked defense. Matchups like this are always extremely enticing, and I will certainly be watching this one. If Texas Tech can establish the pass early and avoid turnovers they will win, but Kansas State is very good at forcing mistakes, as West Virginia learned last week.
4. WILL OKLAHOMA STATE MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE BAYLOR DID?
Thankfully for Oklahoma State, they don’t have to play at the aforementioned Jack Trice Stadium, bu they still have to play an Iowa State team that wants a statement win. Oklahoma State is seemingly more susceptible to chaos this year compared to other teams. Iowa State could be this year’s Big 12 chaos team, and Oklahoma State needs to avoid sleep walking this week to make sure they aren’t the first victim.
3. CAN OKLAHOMA AVOID THE TEXAS TRAP?
Texas beating Oklahoma last year was hugely surprising. It was close all the way through, and ultimately it was the defense that won Texas the game. This year, it would take a similar performance from Texas to pull the upset, and with the news of Charlie Strong now leading the defense, and Oklahoma coming off a tough win over TCU, this game is prime for some rivalry game nonsense. If Oklahoma can’t establish their offense early they could be in for a long day on Saturday.
2. IS WEST VIRGINIA JUST LUCKY?
Fresh off their second straight game that came down to the last-minute, West Virginia has people asking questions. The main one, at least for me, is identifying if the Mountaineers are actually good, or if they’re just really lucky. Their last two wins could be attributed to luck, and their matchup with Texas Tech next week is very intriguing, as we will get to see how they perform against a dominant offense.
1. WAS THE IOWA STATE FIASCO JUST A FLUKE FOR BAYLOR?
Anytime it takes a last second field goal to knock off a team with 1 win is cause for concern, especially when the team that struggled is trying to compete for a national championship. Baylor was the better team on Saturday, but they played lazy and looked like they didn’t want to be there, which is probably due to the players not wanting to be there. Top teams sleep through games all the time, but I’m not entirely convinced that Baylor is good enough to do this kind of thing every week and still survive, and if they come out slow against a team like TCU in a few weeks they’ll be adding a loss to their record.