Welcome to the ninth 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 RESURRECT THEIR HOME FIELD MAGIC?
I talked about Iowa State’s home field magic in past 10BQ’s so I won’t go too far in-depth on the history of Iowa State causing chaos in Jack Trice Stadium. They almost knocked Baylor out of the ranks of the undefeated at home a few weeks ago, and now they’ll play a game in their home stadium for the first time in 28 days, after two road losses and a bye.
Kansas State is fresh off a surprisingly dominant win over Texas if you look at everything but the score, and comes to Ames with a lot of confidence, needing to continue their winning ways to set up a chance to become bowl eligible next week against Oklahoma State. Iowa State has the home field advantage, and while they don’t hold many other advantages, if they can get some points and keep Kansas State out of the red zone, where the Wildcats lead the nation in scoring, they’ll have a chance.
9. WILL MONTELL COZART IMPROVE OR REGRESS?
Kansas has had a very tough year when it comes to quarterbacks. The year started with Montell Cozart, before a 2 interception performance led to a change to Ryan Willis. Willis followed a similar path, as he started solid, and then regressed before losing his job back to Montell Cozart against Baylor.
Now Cozart has a chance to improve upon a pretty solid performance against Oklahoma State this week against a horrendous Oklahoma defense. If Cozart shows improvement, or at least looks solid like he did last week (aside from the 2 interceptions).
8. HOW HUGE WOULD A BAYLOR UPSET BE FOR TEXAS?
Obviously, a win this week in Austin over the 8th ranked Baylor Bears would be huge for a sputtering Texas team. It wouldn’t save Charlie Strong’s job, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt if this team could pull everything together and get to a bowl game. Texas would have to put together their best performance of the season to win this game, meaning that their defense has to slow down Baylor’s 4th ranked offense, and Shane Buechele needs to keep being solid, while D’Onta Foreman needs to get back to the end zone.
This game will likely turn into a shootout, and it’ll be interesting to see if Texas can hang when defense becomes unimportant.
7. CAN TEXAS TECH KEEP THE OFFENSIVE ONSLAUGHT GOING?
Texas Tech broke pretty much every passing record that they wanted to last week, and while TCU’s defense isn’t terrible, they certainly aren’t good. Patrick Mahomes seems 100%, and Texas Tech desperately needs to get a win against a solid team soon if they want to make a bowl game.
We know the offense is good for 50 points if needed, but the defense needs to force a turnover or to for Texas Tech to win this game. PAtrick Mahomes is an incredible player, and it feels like a waste when his defense can’t give him any help, so hopefully the defense finds a way to make pays this week.
6. WILL KANSAS STATE STIFLE AN UNDERESTIMATED IOWA STATE OFFENSE?
Iowa State is the best 1-6 team in the country. I know that sounds silly, but all of their last 3 games have been close(ish), and 2 of them were on the road. Iowa State is improving as the year progresses, and if Kansas State isn’t ready, they’ll be back to .500 when I write this next week. Joel Lanning’s home statistics are solid (67% completion, 7 scores, 2 interceptions) and Iowa State might be able to take away Kansas State’s “gutty” passing game (gutty is just a synonym for bad but he’s a good leader, if you didn’t read yesterday’s ‘What We Learned’).
This game will center around the trenches, and if Kansas State wants to win, they’ll have to run successfully, and force a bad running team(105th nationally in yards) in Iowa State to keep it on the ground
5. CAN TCU BOUNCE BACK IN TIME TO SAVE THEIR SEASON?
TCU looked primed for an upset in Morgantown last week. They couldn’t pull it off, as their offense became stagnant, and the defense, well, looked the same as it always does. The Horned Frogs are at a bit of a crossroads now. If they bounce back they would still have a shot at a higher level bowl like the Russell Athletic Bowl, but they could very easily fall off and miss a bowl game entirely.
There are at least two more wins on their schedule as of right now (TTU and Texas) but they still have to face Oklahoma State and Baylor, so a statement this week against the worst defense in football would go a long way for the confidence of the team. Kenny Hill should be able to get a good performance this week, but the defense needs to try to force a few mistakes or they’ll find themselves in a shootout, and Texas Tech is the last team you want to be in a shootout with.
4. WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR OKLAHOMA STATE TO PULL OFF A HUGE UPSET?
If it wasn’t for a last second loss (I don’t care what Gundy says, the loss to Central Michigan counts), this would be a top 25 matchup. Unfortunately, Oklahoma State did drop that game, and while they probably should be ranked, they aren’t, so they’ll have the chance to play spoiler to the 10th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers. West Virginia is the best team in the conference right now, and probably the conference’s best hope at a playoff bid, so this is a huge game for both West Virginia and Oklahoma State.
To win, Oklahoma State will need to give Mason Rudolph time to throw the ball, and force West Virginia, mostly Skyler Howard, into making mistakes. West Virginia is averaging just 2 sacks a game, and if Oklahoma State can hold the Mountaineers to the average and the Cowboy receivers can find openings in the secondary, they should be able to put up points on the typically average WVU defense.
Most of Oklahoma State’s problems aren’t on offense though. WVU has the tenth best offense in the country when it comes to yardage, and Skyler Howard is extremely dangerous when he gets going. To win this matchup on defense, Oklahoma State will have to get in the backfield and force more mistakes than they usually do.
3. CAN OKLAHOMA CONVINCE ITS DEFENSE TO PARTICIPATE?
Oklahoma’s defense got lost on the way to their last game against Texas Tech, and it didn’t hurt them, because Texas Tech’s defense went missing at the begging of the year. No one is expecting Oklahoma’s defense to be great (well…), but as they start to play better teams (Baylor, WVU, and Oklahoma State all remain on schedule) they won’t be able to win without getting some stops.
Oklahoma probably won’t need a great performance this week as they take on Kansas (it’s all a ruse, Kansas is just waiting to surprise everyone), but the defense has to improve soon, because Oklahoma isn’t built to play in shootouts every week. It starts with the secondary, as we saw Oklahoma give up an NCAA record 734 yards in the air last week, and while a lot of that is just Patrick Mahomes being good, the defensive backfield needs to do a better job of staying with receivers if Oklahoma wants to win the Big 12.
2. CAN BAYLOR RECLAIM THEIR THRONE THIS WEEK?
Fresh off a bye week, Baylor is set to travel to Austin, and if they dominate the struggling Longhorns, they could prove to many that they’re still the best team in the Big 12. Not that it really matters, because they play each other at the end of the year, but a shift occurred over the weekend.
Upon West Virginia’s dominant victory over TCU, they became the favorite to win the Big 12 in a lot of people’s minds, instead of Baylor, who many thought would run the table this year. Baylor didn’t do anything wrong, they just really haven’t had many chances to prove themselves. I don’t think a convincing win over Texas would be big enough to recapture the attention that has now shifted to Morgantown, but a win over Oklahoma in two weeks certainly could.
1. IS WEST VIRGINIA A PLAYOFF CONTENDER?
It’s too early to say, I know. And when looking at the current AP poll and having a general idea of where the power lays in college football currently, a good idea of what some things that could put West Virginia in the playoff are as follows, if West Virginia wins out:
- Alabama loss
- Michigan loss before Ohio State game and loss to Ohio State
- Another Ohio State loss before Michigan game and another Michigan loss, putting Penn State in the B1G championship
- Clemson loss(es)
- Washington loss
- Another Louisville loss
- Nebraska loss
- Texas A&M loss
Like I said, it’s way too early. West Virginia just needs to focus on winning the rest of their games and going from there. The Mountaineers face a really solid Oklahoma State team, and they need to make sure they’re prepared for a tough environment in Stillwater if they want to continue their winning streak and keep any playoff hopes alive.