Big 12 play is barely underway and the conference has already started to consume itself. Of course, with two significant upsets, there’s plenty of good, bad and ugly to go around. And I’m not here to just let you know which games fell into what category. No, that’s too easy.
If you’ve followed this series from the beginning of the season, you know that I break down specific parts of a team’s play or a current trend, and really, nothing is off the table. I point out what stood out to me, and I try not to be shy about it. Sometimes, the truth sucks, so let’s get after it.
Texas’ Two Game Win Streak – After getting rolled by Maryland for the second straight year and barely squeezing by Tulsa, all of a sudden the Longhorns are right back into the Big 12 conversation. The Longhorns turned their season around by soundly defeated 22nd-ranked USC and then followed that up with an upset win over #17 TCU, and once again find themselves in the AP poll; checking in at number 18.
The Texas offense has started to find its groove as quarterback Sam Elingher has played well, and the defense has been lights out against two very good offenses. The Longhorns trailed 16-10 and the Horned Frogs before Ehlinger totaled three touchdowns on three drives in a row, and that was all she wrote.
Tom Herman has his team rolling and the Red River Showdown on October 5th is looking more and more interesting.
The Mountaineer’s Defense – West Virginia’s defense was also lights out on Saturday. The offense struggled, despite the yards and points put up, but the Mountaineers defense was there to bail them out, something that didn’t really happen last season. They held quarterback Skylar Thompson to a QBR of 18.7, forcing coach Snyder to pull the trigger and put Alex Delton in the game in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats also couldn’t get much done on the ground, which is saying something against K-State. They were held to just 2.5 yards a carry and to less than 100 yards rushing on the day.
The WVU defense was thought to be a weakness for this team all preseason and since then they’ve given up 12.3 points per game, and only 8 points per game against power five opponents. Both of those numbers lead the country. The Mountaineers are third in the conference in pass defense and rush defense, and first in total defense.
Tony Gibson is finding ways to create pressure from every possible formation and West Virginia has been in their opponents backfields so much you would think they live there. The defense will have to play well this week when the team heads down to Lubbock to take on the red hot, Red Raiders.
Texas Tech #25 In The AP Poll – After a dismantling of the Cowboys on the road, the Red Raiders catapulted into the AP Top 25.
Freshman QB Alan Bowman is making a case to be the Big 12’s Newcomer of the Year, if not also named to the First Team All-Big 12 Team. Although, I’m sure a man up in Morgantown might have something to say about that. (Oh, this is going to be a good game this week!) Bowman has built up incredible numbers over the last two weeks and the Red Raiders are finally playing defense in Lubbock. Well…in Stillwater, anyway.
Oklahoma States’ Hype Train – Not only did the Red Raiders rob the Cowboy’s hype train, they blew it clean off the tracks. The Cowboys were coming off a big win against Boise State in week three, and looked like a threat to Oklahoma and West Virignia’s chances to make the title game. However, this was all before Alan Bowman, and surprisingly the Red Raider defense, came to Stillwater and whooped the Cowboys 41-17.
Oklahoma State has a chance to collect the pieces and to put the train back together with a nice three-game stretch ahead with Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State all on tap, but the question will be whether they can keep it running without breaking down again.
Their struggles in the passing game needs to be addressed. Against Tech, Taylor Cornelius missed a number of throws. I’m sure he can change things and the light schedule coming up will definitely help with that but when the Cowboys head into that dreadful November, but they need more from him if they want to compete for this championship. Clearly Mike Gundy believes Cornelius is the best option right now, but that sentiment might not be shared in the locker room as signs of tension in the locker room have popped up. Most notably, when Gundy announced this week that star receiver Jalen McCleskey has decided to transfer as he’s unhappy with the number of touches he is receiving.
The Cowboys need to get it figured out, and figured out in a hurry, or there will be more embarrassing losses in the near future.
The Sooner’s Defense – I really don’t know where to put the Sooners defense after their overtime win against Army. The Knights had the ball for 45 minutes, and rushed for 339 yards. The fact that Oklahoma got the game to overtime, let alone win it, is actually impressive when you think about it.
But here’s why it’s not “ugly” and Sooner fans need to step back away from the ledge. The Sooners were heavy favorites. Army had nothing to lose, and they bring in a system they are very good at running, while at the same time it’s a system Oklahoma very rarely sees.
I get it, fans point to Army’s game against Duke where the Blue Devils took care of the Knights 34-14, and Sooner fans aren’t exactly team Mike Stoops to begin with. Here’s the thing though, This is a system Duke regularly sees against conference foe Georgia Tech. So, it makes sense that they are better prepared for it. I would be much more concerned about how Mike’s defense defends the spread this season, than to sweat this game to much.
A win is a win, let’s move on and forget about this one. The good news is the Sooners won’t see another triple option team this season.
TCU’s Last Two Weeks – The Horned Frogs were considered the Sooner’s toughest competition for the Big 12 Title headed into the season, but after the last two weeks, their conference championship chances seem very slim. The Horned Frogs had deja vu last week when their six-point lead turned into a 15-point deficit after three Texas touchdowns, which started with another third quarter collapse. A missed field goal and a Shawn Robinson interception didn’t help either.
A week prior TCU had Ohio State on the ropes before a four minute stretch in the third quarter full of mistakes led to a Ohio State win.
It was another Robinson start that wasn’t pretty, and now, against power five competition, it’s evident that his play it turning into a liability. He’s just a sophomore, and his talent is clear. However, his mistakes are proving to be crucial. I doubt TCU competes for much of anything with those results, or rather lack of results, under center.
Bill Snyder’s Retirement Plan (Or Lack Thereof) – K-State has muddled through the first four games, and quite frankly, I can’t see how they can turn it around. They simply don’t appear to have the horses in the stable. And that’s not me saying it. It’s coach Snyder. As he put it, “I can’t coach a team that can’t get six inches”.
Maybe it’s time to find someone who can.
Coach Snyder is an absolute legend, but his days of glory are behind him, and Kansas State is edging closer to the abyss that has been known as the Jayhawk’s spot in the conference, or actually, the team they were before Snyder first took the reigns. His refusal to retire, or at least his inability to recognize whether it’s time, is not only detrimental to the Wildcat program, but nobody out there, not even Jayhawk fans, want to see Snyder’s legacy tarnished.
The quarterback and offensive line situation is a mess. Alex Delton looks like he will get the start from here on out as he tries to salvage what Skylar Thompson started, which was a 2-2 start and an embarrassing offensive performance. The reality is though, in Delton’s snaps, he hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, either. So, it’s time to acknowledge that there might not be an answer to be found. It might just be what it is.
The Wildcat’s defense isn’t off the hook, either. Teams are running the ball all over them, and the only reason West Virginia didn’t last week was because they have a Heisman quarterback’s numbers to boost.
Right now, K-State’s goal is simply don’t finish at the bottom of the conference. They haven’t shown to be capable of much more than that. One thing is for sure though, the worst football in the conference is being played in the state of Kansas.