Welcome to the seventh 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. WILL IOWA STATE GET AN UPSET THIS YEAR?
Iowa State nearly had a signature win for two straight weeks, as they lost their las two games before last week by a combined 10 points. Those losses were caused by Iowa State allowing 17 points in the fourth quarter in both games. Their most recent loss was not as heartbreaking, the scoring barrage came in the third quarter instead of the fourth, and they lost by 21 instead of by 3 or 7.
The Cyclones still have opportunities at an upset, and in looking at their schedule, two games pop out. Oklahoma in week 10, and West Virginia in week 13, the two ranked teams left on Iowa State’s schedule. If Iowa State can learn to play with the lead before those games, the Cyclones could be celebrating a huge upset before the year ends.
9. CAN KANSAS FIND SOME CONSISTENCY AT QUARTERBACK?
It seemed like Kansas had finally found the answer. Ryan Willis won the job, proved he was the better quarterback, and the Jayhawks were ready to start building the chemistry between Willis and his receivers. Then, last Saturday, Ryan Willis threw 3 interceptions before being replaced by the former starter, Carter Stanley. Stanley also threw a pick, and arguably looked worse than Willis.
Kansas takes on the 99th best pass defense in the country this week as they host Oklahoma State, and they need to use this opportunity to try to build some confidence in Ryan Willis for the future, as Willis is just a Sophomore.
8. IS TEXAS TECH’S OFFENSE GOOD ENOUGH TO OUTSCORE OKLAHOMA?
We’ve learned from just about every game this year that Texas Tech is not going to beat a team by stopping them. This week’s matchup with Oklahoma is interesting because of that, as for the most part, Oklahoma hasn’t beaten teams with their defense either, as it sits below the 70’s in almost all defensive rankings. Texas Tech has a better scoring offense than Oklahoma (2nd in offense to 11th) and if this game turns into a shootout, Texas Tech could give Oklahoma a run fr their money.
The biggest problem for Texas Tech is that their offense has lacked consistency while Patrick Mahomes has been recovering from his injury, and he most likely won’t be 100% for this game either, meaning other facets of the offense will have to step up (I’m looking at you, running game).
7. CAN TEXAS GET SOME OFFENSE GOING AGAINST KANSAS STATE?
Kansas State’s defense was exposed a bit last week, as Oklahoma dropped 38 points and over 500 yards on what was previously though as of one of the best defenses in the country. While that game was likely either a fluke or a case of Oklahoma just being really good, Texas also has a pretty good offense, top 20 in the nation, and if they can get going on Saturday they could get above .500 while knocking the Wildcats below it.
If Texas wants to score on Kansas State, they’ll need Shane Buechele to continue to be good for 2 scores consistently, and they’ll need D’Onta Foreman to continue on the trajectory he’s on, as he’s almost a sure thing for more than 1000 yards on the ground as of right now.
6. WILL KANSAS STATE GET BACK ON TRACK?
As previously mentioned, Kansas State struggled last week, and they have to do a couple of things to get back to winning this week as they host Texas. Firstly, they need to cut down on big passing plays allowed, as they currently average 7.79 yards against on completed passes, 94th in the country, and over 21 completions a game on average, 102nd in the country.
Shane Buechele isn’t a great quarterback, but he’s good enough that he’ll pick apart a defense giving him that much room to find open receivers. Kansas State doesn’t have a great pass rush either, 71st nationally, and to stop Texas and get a win, they’ll have to improve on the front seven and back four against the pass.
5. WILL TCU BE THE STREAK BREAKER?
West Virginia hasn’t lost through 5 games and that streak has them all the way up to 12th in the AP poll. While many could argue that West Virginia has played an easy schedule to this point, with their best opponent likely being Kansas State, the Mountaineers have impressed against the teams they’ve beaten and TCU has struggled in quite a few games they probably shouldn’t have struggled in, including their near loss to Kansas two weeks ago.
Statistically, West Virginia is slightly better than TCU on both sides of the ball, but having watched college football for my entire life, I know that statistics can’t predict winners. The game is being played in Morgantown, so there will likely be no upset, but TCU has gone a bit under the radar this year, and they could surprise a surging West Virginia team on Saturday.
4. CAN OKLAHOMA STATE AVOID OUR FAVORITE FEATHERED TRAP GAME?
Oklahoma State takes on Kansas this week, and to most people, that seems like an automatic win for Oklahoma State, but don’t be fooled by their poor record, Kansas is not to be slept on, and if Oklahoma State doesn’t focus and prepare for this game, they could suffer the fate TCU nearly experienced two weeks ago.
Kansas does a few things pretty well that Oklahoma State struggles against, mainly, Kansas has a go to receiver, Steven Sims Jr. Oklahoma State has struggled against star receivers and the passing game in general this year, and while Ryan Willis isn’t a very intimidating quarterback. Oklahoma State needs to keep Steven Sims Jr in check and stay focused for 60 minutes to avoid an upset in Lawrence.
3. WILL OKLAHOMA MAKE A STATEMENT AGAINST TEXAS TECH?
Most, if not all questions about Oklahoma this season center around the defense, especially the secondary. This week, Oklahoma will face the best passing team in the country, in what could serve as a great opportunity to show improvement in the secondary.
Patrick Mahomes is still banged up, and while the Oklahoma offense won’t struggle against a terrible, their defense could make a huge statement this week if they can hold Texas Tech’s offense under 20 points. It’s unlikely, but with the aforementioned injury, it’s possible, and if the Sooners can pull it off they would likely leap forward in the polls.
2. CAN WEST VIRGINIA STAY UNBEATEN AS THEIR SCHEDULE RAMPS UP IN DIFFICULTY?
The first five opponents West Virginia has faced this year have a combined record of 12-13 (48%), not including FCS Youngstown State. Their next seven have a combined record of 23-19 (54%), and that last seven includes all of the other teams in the Big 12 with an above .500 record currently. West Virginia has beaten one team currently above .500 in the FBS, BYU, and they did it by just 3 points.
Pointing this out does not mean I think West Virginia is bad, because I don’t. I think west Virginia is a good team that might get exposed as they start to play better teams. Their difficult path begins this week as they host TCU and Kenny Hill.
This game will test the defense more than it will the offense, and West Virginia has a chance at a “silence the haters” kind of win this week if they perform to their potential.
1. WILL THIS BYE WEEK HELP BAYLOR?
Baylor is heading into their second bye in three weeks, which could be looked at as a luxury or a curse. In the context of Baylor’s season and current performance, I think the timing is pretty bad for the Bears. They’re undefeated, coming off a blowout win, and have all kinds of momentum, that can only be decreased with a week off.
Bye weeks are great if your team is struggling, but Baylor isn’t currently struggling, and out of the bye they aren’t heading into a huge game (Texas isn’t that good), meaning they the extra preparation isn’t nearly as vital as it would be against a team like West Virginia, who they face in the last week of the year on the road. And that follows a night game banger with Texas Tech and their number one offense.
That’s unfortunate scheduling for the Bears, and while they could certainly prove me wrong, as of right now, I think this bye week will hurt Baylor in the long run.