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. IS A SIGNATURE WIN COMING SOON FOR IOWA STATE?
After back-to-back losses where Iowa State allowed a big fourth-quarter comeback, the Cyclones will likely be out for blood this Saturday in Austin. With Texas struggling (three straight losses) Iowa State has a great opportunity to jump on the disorganized Longhorn defense.
The Cyclones have a great team, and the talent disparity between these two teams is large, but Matt Campbell is proving to be a good coach already, and if I were a betting man, I would put some cash on the Cyclones this week.
9. IS KANSAS THE CHAOS TEAM?
I have frequently shown my affection for bad teams in the last few months with these articles, and while I’m not a Kansas fan, I honestly want nothing more than the Jayhawks to be the chaos team in the Big 12. Chaos teams are my favorite thing in college football, and if it doesn’t happen this year, it will happen very soon, and Kansas will become the resident chaos team, and it will be great.
8. CAN TEXAS HANDLE THE ENIGMATIC JAYHAWKS?
As I previously mentioned, Texas is sputtering, and at this point I would go as far to consider their postseason (see: bowl game) hopes as foggy at best. The defense is broken and the offense isn’t good enough to cover for it. They take on Kansas this week, a team many will dismiss based on history and logic, but not I.
When playing Kansas last week, Kenny Hill had just a 17.3 QBR, and if you aren’t familiar with QBR, that’s really bad. Kansas has a way of making good teams play badly, and Texas isn’t a good team, meaning that if they play poorly they’ll likely lose. To make matters worse, Kansas has figured out their quarterback situation, and while Ryan Willis isn’t great, there’s something to be said for consistency being more important than talent.
If the Kansas wide receivers can start getting on the same page as their quarterback, they could be surprisingly dangerous, and Texas might have to face the brunt of that this Saturday.
7. WILL TEXAS TECH STOP MAKING SILLY MISTAKES?
Texas Tech lost to Kansas State last week because they gave up a pick six, a kickoff return for a score, and three field goals. Their defense is porous, and they make really bad mistakes at really bad times, and if they can’t stop doing that, they won’t win many games in this conference. If you’ve watched many Big 12 games this year, you’ve probably noticed that having dominant special teams seem to be the Big 12’s new thing, and Texas Tech isn’t very good on that side of the ball, which is just another thing they need to improve.
In a perfect world, Texas Tech could completely stop practicing offense and just work on defense and kick coverage, but unfortunately they can’t do that, and they’ll have to go up against one of the better teams in the Big 12 this week with 2/3rds of their team being below average and the other third being the best offense in the country.
6. IS “JUST PLAY DEFENSE AND FORCE TURNOVERS” A FORMIDABLE STRATEGY FOR KANSAS STATE?
If you told me that Kansas State was going to throw for just 104 yards against Texas Tech and still win last Thursday I wouldn’t have believed you. I drastically underestimated Kansas State’s ability to play the least amount of offense and still manage to outscore the best offense in the country. However, they did it, and seeing if they can do it again is one of the biggest things I’m looking for this weekend as they take on a surging Oklahoma team.
If Kansas State can completely ignore the typical Big 12 strategy of “score a bunch and hope for the best” and still win games you better believe that I’ll lead the bandwagon all the way to a severe dumping at the hands (or paws) of some speedy ACC team.
5. CAN TCU FIND SOME EFFICIENCY?
TCU beat Kansas on Saturday, although based on the way they played they probably didn’t deserve to win that game. The offense struggled all day as Kenny Hill and company made mistake after mistake all afternoon. TCU has struggled with staying out of their own way all year, and if they had done this against a non-Kansas opponent, they likely would’ve been blown out. The Horned Frogs take on West Virginia in two weeks, and they’ll have to be far more consistent and less mistake prone by then if they want to pull the upset.
4. IS OKLAHOMA STATE A CONTENDER FOR THE CONFERENCE TITLE?
Fresh off an extremely impressive come from behind win over Iowa State, Oklahoma State is 4-2, 2-1 in the Big 12, and looks like they’re slowing return to the form we saw them in last year. I don’t think this year’s team is a good as last year’s, but I don’t think the Big 12 is any better, in fact, it’s probably worse.
If Oklahoma State can keep improving and win out they could be in a position to be crowned Big 12 champion at the end of the year. First, they’ll have to avoid sleeping through their match-up with Kansas two weeks from now.
3. IS OKLAHOMA OPERATING AT FULL CAPACITY?
No. Luckily for Oklahoma, they really don’t need to play their best to run the table in the Big 12, and as long as they don’t sleep through games, the talent disparity will probably take them very far. One obstacle Oklahoma will have to face are injuries to Matt Dimon, Charles Walker, and possibly Ahmed Thomas. Thomas was injured after taking a helmet to the knee against Texas, and if that injury was to linger it would severely hurt an already bad secondary.
2. CAN WEST VIRGINIA CONTINUE TO WIN WITHOUT SPECIALIZING?
West Virginia isn’t ranked in the top 10 in any statistical category. They’re a very balanced team, and while that is typically a good thing, teams not being great at anything and being good at everything have struggled in the Big 12 as of late, and West Virginia may suffer the same fate. Their offense is far better than their defense, but that offense still isn’t great, and as we get deeper into conference play that lack of a fall back plan for the Mountaineers seriously worries me.
1. IS BAYLOR’S SUCCESS SUSTAINABLE?
It’s not surprising that Baylor is at the front of the conference right now. We knew they would return a lot of talent even with the mass off-season exodus and they did just that, and through five games they’ve looked like the best team in the Big 12, but something just feels off about them. The offense is one of the best in the country and they have a solid defense to go with it, but it just feels like anytime now Baylor will come out slow against a solid team and get demolished.
The best way to describe it is that Baylor is playing with an Alabama mindset and Baylor talent, and while that will likely get them quite a few wins in the bad Big 12, it will also get them destroyed when they have to play a talented team, which will happen eventually. I don’t know the answer to this question, but Baylor is likely the Big 12’s only hope for a playoff berth this year, meaning the Bears really need to hope this current style of winning is sustainable.