Welcome to the 13th 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. WOULD KANSAS BEAT ALABAMA?
Okay, I’m partially kidding, but off their first Big 12 win in 2 years, Kansas has more momentum than they’ve had in a long time. One win doesn’t seem like a lot, but I’ve been on bad teams, and I know just how important those wins are to morale.
Kansas has been quietly close in quite a few games this year, and while the Jayhawks likely aren’t ready for Alabama, they could do some damage to Kansas State in their last game of the year. Look for David Beaty to pull all the tricks out.
9. WHAT CLICKED FOR IOWA STATE?
Iowa State played the best game they’ve played all year against a hapless Baylor team (should have cancelled the season while they still could) on Saturday. The Cyclones showed no mercy, putting up touchdown after touchdown, with their final score tally being higher than the amount the Cyclones scored in the first three games of the season combined.
If Iowa State plays as well against West Virginia as they did against Texas Tech, we could see a huge upset on Saturday.
8. HOW CAN TEXAS TECH FINISH WITH SOME PRIDE INTACT?
Texas Tech was embarrassed on Saturday, but they still have one more game to play, and even if they’re just playing for pride they still have to play. With the way Baylor is currently playing, Texas Tech has a big chance of taking down the Bears on Friday, especially if Patrick Mahomes can get back to his usual self.
The spread puts Baylor at -6, and I say bet the rent on Texas Tech (I am not responsible for your eviction). A win over Baylor doesn’t mean much, but it would put a little bit of positivity into a program that needs that right now.
7. WILL TEXAS LOCK UP A BOWL BID ON FRIDAY?
Texas was supposes to lock up their bowl bid against Kansas, but then JAYHAWKALYPSE took over and brutally decimated all Longhorns, football variety or other, in its path on the way to the second Kansas win of the year.
That wasn’t supposed to happen, at least according to the loads of sportswriters and fans that use “logic” when predicting games. Logic doesn’t exist in college football. Texas now has to take down TCU to get bowl eligible, and I would consider that a winnable game, but I honestly have no idea how good or bad TCU is.
6. DOES ANYONE KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT TCU?
I’m not the only one that doesn’t understand TCU. The enigmatic Horned Frogs sit at 5-5 on the year, and followed up a blowout win over Baylor 3 weeks ago with a blowout loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday. Which TCU team shows up seems to depend on quarterback Kenny Hill.
Kenny Hill has played significantly better in games TCU ultimately won compared to games they lost this season. Hill has been held under 200 yards passing in 3 of TCU’s 5 losses this year, while he’s never been kept under 200 in a win. If Kenny Hill throws for over 200 yards, TCU’s chances of a win on Friday increase exponentially.
5. HOW LOW IS BAYLOR’S FLOOR?
Baylor has dropped four straight games, and looks like one of the worst teams in the conference. Seth Russell is out for the rest of the year, and there’s real chance that Baylor finishes the regular season with six losses.
Baylor still has to take on Texas Tech and West Virginia, and if they’re getting crushed by Iowa State, I can’t imagine games against 2 better teams, especially West Virginia, will go much better. To get another win or two, Baylor needs the defense to find its talent again, along with Zach Smith cutting down on the turnovers and Shock Linwood finding the end zone more frequently.
4. IS 8-4 A POSSIBILITY FOR KANSAS STATE?
Kansas State is one of the hottest teams in the conference right now, though they have a tendency to be inconsistent. Their last 2 games are very winnable, with a home matchup against Kansas and a road battle with TCU left to play. Both teams have had plenty of struggles this year, but Kansas State still needs to do a couple of things to win out.
First, Jesse Ertz needs to continue being a solid game manager. If Ertz can keep the turnovers to a minimum and get the ball to his playmakers, Kansas State is golden. Along with that, those aforementioned playmakers need to make plays happen. That means that the running game needs to be as solid as it was against Baylor, and the receivers need to continue winning their individual battles, opening up the field.
If Kansas State can keep playing solid defense, combined with Ertz and the Playmakers accomplishing their goals, Kansas State will find themselves in a great place come bowl season.
3. DOES HOLGORSEN KEEP HIS JOB WITH 10 WINS?
West Virginia hasn’t won either of the big games they needed to win this season, and getting manhandled at home was a big blow to the program. The Mountaineers are out of Big 12 championship contention, NY6 contention, playoff contention, and after getting embarrassed, Dana Holgorsen might be out of a job.
Firing a coach after a 10 win season seems crazy, but with Les Miles, Tom Herman, and Jimbo Fisher all reportedly interested, Dana Holgorsen’s seat remains at least luke warm. I think that blowout wins over Kansas and TCU need to happen, and a big win in their bowl game (likely the Russell Athletic Bowl) may be required to bring Dana Holgorsen back another year.
West Virginia has the talent to accomplish this, they just need to avoid silly mistakes and stick to what works.
2. WHAT DOES OKLAHOMA STATE NEED TO DO TO BEAT OKLAHOMA?
If it wasn’t for their zero-seconds-left escapades, Oklahoma State would be the Big 12 playoff representative with a win over Oklahoma on December 3rd. Unfortunately, that loss still counts, and the Big 12 will likely be shut out of the playoffs if chaos stays in check these last few weeks.
That doesn’t mean the season is over for Oklahoma State. A win over Oklahoma would make Oklahoma State the conference champions, and send them to the Sugar Bowl for the second straight season.
Beating Oklahoma is easier said than done, as the Sooners have won 8 straight games with an average score margin of nearly 19 points. They have the best offense in the country, and no team has gotten close to beating them since their late October shootout with Texas Tech (Iowa State wasn’t that close). The key on this streak has been a combination of Baker Mayfield getting in a groove, Dede Westbrook taking over, Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon getting more touches, and the defense finally putting up a little resistance against opposing offenses.
To beat Oklahoma, the Cowboys need to balance their offense, feed Chris Carson and Justice Hill, and open up the field for Mason Rudolph to throw the ball. The defense won’t be able to stop a high-powered Sooner offense, but if they can bottle up the run they could at least slow it down.
1. WHAT DOES OKLAHOMA NEED TO DO TO BEAT OKLAHOMA STATE?
The same question could be posed to the team just 85 miles away. Oklahoma State, like Oklahoma, has quite the winning streak going. Oklahoma State has generated less hype over their 7 wins, but the Cowboys have been just as solid as Oklahoma.
Chris Carson and Justice Hill have both become solid, consistent backs, and Mason Rudolph has emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the country over these last few weeks. The defense is one of the better defensive units in the conference (not saying a lot), and Oklahoma will have to bring their best to remain undefeated in conference next Saturday.
When Mason Rudolph has struggled, his team has followed, and if Oklahoma can get pressure on him, the pressure on the defensive backfield and the Sooner offense will be greatly alleviated.