Welcome to the 12th 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. WHAT DOES KANSAS HAVE LEFT TO TRY?
Kansas has lost every game they’ve played against a Big 12 opponent for more than 2 years, and that likely won’t end until at least next October. The Jayhawks still have to face Texas and Kansas State, two teams that aren’t great, but you don’t have to be great to beat Kansas. If it weren’t for a win over 2-8 D2 Rhode Island, who may or may not have taken an 84-7 dumping at the hands of our former president, James Madison, Kansas would still be winless this year.
You get the point, Kansas is bad. But their problem isn’t just that they’re bad, it’s that there’s seemingly no way to fix it without following the patented Gary Patterson strategy of “get better” (4-8 to 12-1 in a year. How?). David Beaty deserves another year because Kansas needs some continuity, but he needs to start winning games or part time coach part time God Charlie Weis may ride his Wal-Mart scooter back into Lawrence for his revival in a few years (nothing can save us from the return of the mack).
9. IS DAVID MONTGOMERY THE ANSWER AT RUNNING BACK?
Coming off their second win of the year (even if it was just Kansas), Iowa State is looking for some momentum. Part of the solution might be David Montgomery, the Cyclones’ talented running back. Montgomery ran for a season high 169 yards on a season high 24 carries, and will likely continue to receive that many touches. If the running game can get going for these last few weeks, Jacob Park will have more room to pass, and if that happens, Texas Tech needs to be on upset alert this Saturday.
8. WHAT DOES TEXAS TECH NEED TO GET BACK ON TRACK?
Texas Tech has taken 5 L’s in 6 tries, which, to put it nicely, isn’t great. Patrick Mahomes has been playing as well as ever, and still looks like one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. Unfortunately, his talent is coupled with a lack of a running game and an unholy disaster of a defense. Because of that, Texas Tech is struggling to find a path to a bowl game.
They take on Iowa State and Baylor to finish out the season, two winnable games, though the Red Raiders have to avoid mistakes and Demarcus Felton has to get going (I know he had a good average, the defense puts 3 guys on the line and then runs backwards every play, he should average a solid amount of yards every carry) and while it’s a pipe dream, maybe the defense will make a play or two and help out the offense.
7. SHOULD D’ONTA FOREMAN BE THE HEISMAN FRONT-RUNNER?
No, I don’t think that D’Onta Foreman is the best player in the country, and if I had a vote Lamar Jackson would be taking the hardware home at the end of the year, but D’Onta Foreman deserves more credit than he receives. The junior is about as consistent as it gets, picking up over 124 yards every game this year, along with 5 games over 150 yards this year.
Derrick Henry won the Heisman last year with less consistency and more carries, and I’m not saying Foreman is a better back (he definitely is though), but if Texas were a top 10 team, D’Onta Foreman and Lamar Jackson would be in a battle for the most prestigious individual award in college football.
6. DOES THE BYE WEEK SET TCU UP FOR AN UPSET WIN?
TCU is about a talented as Texas Tech, and TCU is about to face the team that nearly lost to Texas Tech at home, and coming off a bye. The Horned Frogs crushed Baylor 2 weeks ago, and has a lot of momentum right now. If Kenny Hill and the running back contingent all have a good game, TCU will be knocking Oklahoma State out of the NY6 talk this Saturday. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but Oklahoma State has a pedestrian defense, and if TCU can get them into a shootout, Mason Rudolph, Chris Carson, and Justice Hill can only take the Cowboys so far.
5. DOES THE BYE WEEK SET KANSAS STATE UP FOR AN UPSET WIN?
The same question goes to Kansas State, who faces a free-falling Baylor team on Saturday. Baylor has been so bad in their last three games, this technically is not an upset since K-State is favored (bet the college fund). Even though Vegas disagrees, this should be considered an upset if the Wildcats win, because of the perception of both teams and where they were a few weeks ago, and even though the Bears will be without Seth Russell, K-State has been far from consistent on offense.
Kansas State needs to win just one of their final three games for bowl eligibility, and they;ll almost certainly get that win against Kansas, some insurance would be nice, and a win over Baylor would be a great way to get it. To pull out a win on Saturday, Jesse Ertz needs to keep the turnovers to a minimum, and Baylor needs to stay as bad as they have been the last three games.
4. IS THERE A WIN LEFT ON BAYLOR’S SCHEDULE?
Every sports blogger loves to overreact to teams going on a losing streak, but this losing streak for Baylor is different. They had played one good team in six games, and now that they are regularly playing good teams they are getting dumped. Baylor still has to face Kansas State, Texas Tech, and West Virginia too. The Bears also have to do this without star quarterback Seth Russell, as he’s out for the season after his leg injury he sustained against Oklahoma.
Texas Tech is the most winnable of those games, but playing Texas Tech is like fighting with the scrappy owner of your local Waffle House. You might win, but you certainly won’t have all your limbs afterwards and you’ll never be able to go back to Waffle House. Which is just a bad deal all around. Baylor isn’t beating West Virginia, and I doubt they’ll beat Kansas State, so it will likely come down to a matchup between 11 young adults and half man, half robot quarterback. I’m taking MahomeBot 5000 every time.
3. WHAT IS OKLAHOMA STATE’S CEILING?
Oklahoma State’s season to this point could be described as a tale of two teams. We’ve seen Oklahoma State get controlled for 60 minutes by Baylor and for 0 seconds by Central Michigan (still doesn’t mean it doesn’t count), but we’ve also seen Oklahoma State topple West Virginia and win six straight games.
At this point it seems to be a question of which Oklahoma State team shows up, and on Saturday it appears that the lesser of two teams arrived. Oklahoma State nearly lost to (now 4-6) Texas Tech, and struggled to find any answer defensively. Given, Texas Tech has that effect on defenses. However, for Oklahoma State to win out, they need to bring their best against TCU and Oklahoma.
2. WILL OKLAHOMA BE READY FOR THEIR BIGGEST GAME SINCE SEPTEMBER?
Oklahoma hasn’t played a game against a currently ranked team since their horrendous home showing against Ohio State. The Sooners look to erase that bad memory, and try to hop into the playoff discussion this week, two things they could accomplish with a win in Morgantown.
The spread is in favor of Oklahoma, -3, but ESPN puts Oklahoma at just a 54% chance of winning. Those predictions come from stats, and stats can’t for sure predict the future, especially in a game like football.
We have a general idea of what success looks like for each team, and for Oklahoma, success seems to come from a balanced offensive attack, with pressure being applied to the defense from the air and the ground. While they won’t be able to keep West Virginia from putting up points, if the Sooner defense can force Skyler Howard into making mistakes Oklahoma will be an in state rivalry win away from being Big 12 champions.
1. CAN WEST VIRGINIA REALLY MAKE THE PLAYOFFS?
Well being that in the most recent CFP poll the Mountaineers sat at 14th, they almost certainly cannot get in without a lot of chaos. Luckily, college football is the official sport of chaos. If West Virginia can finish out their year with wins over Oklahoma, Iowa State, and Baylor, they could slip in as the chaos team (think 2007 LSU or 2014 Ohio State).
The committee made it loud and clear on Tuesday that Baylor is not a quality win, and that they don’t think very highly of the Big 12, which, honestly, is fair. The Big 12 is in a bad place right now, and while it’s hard to see past bias, it’s becoming painfully apparent that Big 12 teams get less recognition and less media attention because the conference has struggled with performing on national stages as of late. A good bowl season this year would go a long way towards flipping the narrative.