Welcome to the 14th 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. Teams that have no remaining regular season games will be skipped, and addressed in the postseason or offseason edition, depending on their post-season fate.
6. SHOULD BAYLOR BE INVITED TO A BOWL GAME?
Baylor’s struggles have been frequently discussed here, and the Bears are reaching a level of play where a bowl bid would almost certainly end in disappointment. While I am a Big 12 blogger, and should focus on raising up the conference, I’m not here to be unreasonably biased. So, I won’t sugarcoat this. Baylor is not good. Baylor isn’t as good as Texas or Texas Tech, two teams that didn’t reach bowl eligibility, and at this point the only team I would expect them to beat consistently is Kansas.
Zach Smith isn’t bad, but he’s not the leader that Seth Russell is, and as the competition has become stronger, Baylor’s defense has faltered, giving up 47.6 points in their last 5 games. This is compared to 17.2 in their first 6 games. Baylor has said that they will still accept a bowl bid, but I honestly don’t think that’s the best course of action for the Bears at this time. Baylor would likely be embarrassed in their bowl game, and while the extra practice is good for development, it would be under a coach that won’t be in Waco next season. Sitting at home this December, and looking to find the right coach to turn the program around may be the best course of action, but I don’t get to make that choice.
5. WHAT DOES TCU NEED TO BEAT KANSAS STATE?
TCU is averaging nearly 80 more yards throwing in wins than in losses, as well as 1 more passing score. They’ve actually had more success running in losses than in wins, by about 66 yards, surprisingly. These stats tell a simple story, and give a great guide for what TCU needs to win: Kenny Hill. When Hill does well, tossing scores instead of picks and making good decisions, it takes pressure of the running attack, and allows the offense to run as something Hill is more comfortable with.
Another stat modifier to look at is Hill’s stats at home versus on the road. At home, Hill completes 63% of his throws, 5% more than on the road. He also has thrown 5 more touchdowns at home, yes, some of this could be attributed to more games played in Fort Worth. Hill passes picking up almost an entire yard more on average at home compared to on the road is not due to volume, and serves as a great metric to determine Hill’s efficiency in Fort Worth. The matchup with Kansas State is at home, and if Hill stays true to the stats, and finds success against Kansas State’s weak link defensively, the backfield, TCU could pull out the win at home.
4. CAN KANSAS STATE GET THE UPSET FOR BILL SNYDER’S FINAL BIG 12 GAME?
Kansas State is winning a lot right now, 4 of their last 5, but interestingly enough, they’ve only won those 4 games by an average margin of 11 points, a number that was inflated by their 21 point win over Baylor. The Wildcats aren’t built to blow teams out, and that’s okay. Bill Snyder has never built teams for blowouts, and if Kansas State wins on Saturday, it’ll almost certainly be close. Kansas State is a 4 point underdog, which is probably fair due to their typical lack of an offense, and the location of the game.
One thing spreads and stats underestimate is emotion, and I can guarantee that the Wildcats will play their hearts out and give everything they have to win Bill Snyder’s final Big 12 game. This game is being overlooked due to the matchup in Norman, but it should be a great game, and might be worth watching even if you aren’t a fan of either team.
3. HOW MUCH SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM WEST VIRGINIA?
West Virginia still has to host Baylor on Saturday, a game I expect them to win easily, but the Mountaineers likely can’t avoid looking ahead a little bit, and feeling some disappointment about how they fared this year. There are lots of teams in college football that would love to have the chance to go 10-2 in the regular season and play in a bowl game like the Russell Athletic Bowl, but West Virginia isn’t really one of them, at least not this year. With the level of experience and talent the Mountaineers put on the field, losses in the two biggest games of the year certainly stings.
Even though losses bring some fair questions about the team’s ability to win when the pressure is on, I think it’s fair to expect West Virginia to represent the conference well against an ACC opponent in the Russell Athletic bowl.
2. WHAT DOES OKLAHOMA STATE NEED FOR A PLAYOFF BERTH?
The path to the playoff for the Cowboys becomes a lot clearer after this Saturday, but right now, the Cowboys need to beat Oklahoma. If they do that, they likely need an Clemson loss to Virginia Tech, a Washington loss to Colorado, and a close Wisconsin win over Penn State. Even with all that, Oklahoma State would likely need to blowout Oklahoma to claim a spot over a team like Michigan, Wisconsin, or Colorado.
1. WHAT DOES OKLAHOMA NEED FOR A PLAYOFF BERTH?
Oklahoma’s path is already far more likely. With a win over Oklahoma State, the Sooners would look for Clemson and Washington losses, as well as a Penn State B1G win. That would likely give Oklahoma the 3rd spot, and a rematch against Ohio State. How likely is that? Not very. 538 estimates that there’s about a 9% chance Oklahoma makes the playoff, though it’s better than Oklahoma State’s 1% chance.