The upsets are starting to roll in as we move through the gauntlet of Big 12 play. With each surprising performance, there’s also a setback we didn’t see coming. What do we take away from last week’s action?
1. The Red Raiders Have An Option At Quarterback
For a while, it seemed to be of a major concern that Texas Tech, a team that had struggled offensively leading up to last week’s tilt against Oklahoma State, was without Alan Bowman. In stepped backup Jett Duffey against Oklahoma, and then against Oklahoma State, and the junior is making the case for himself as starter. Facing the Pokes, Duffey took advantage of his dual threat abilities, accounting for four touchdowns through the air and one on the ground. His outing against Oklahoma State was arguably the best performance by a Texas Tech quarterback this season, and it may have breathed new life into the Red Raiders.
2. Freshman Gonna Freshman
You know how you hear people in the offseason talk about how freshman quarterbacks sometimes “take their lumps”? Sanders’ turnover-filled Saturday is an example of what they mean by “lumps.” The young redshirt freshman played by far his worst game to date, accounting for all five of Oklahoma State’s turnovers on the day, throwing three interceptions and giving up two fumbles. Gundy will hope that he’s seen the ugliest of his young signal caller’s quarterback play, and it’s altogether likely that Sanders has more jaw-dropping plays left in the 2019 season.
3. Bears Are A Far Cry From 1-11
It’s worthwhile to recognize just how Baylor has come under Matt Rhule. From a one-win team two years ago, the Bears are now being discussed as a realistic challenger for the Big 12 title. It’s hard to find a noticeable weakness through five games for the Bears, who’ve stepped up on defense and have managed to showcase all the offensive weapons we already knew they had. This looks like one of the most complete teams in the conference, and it’s a testament to Rhule’s coaching that they’ve only improved since 2017 and have now bolted into the Top 25.
4. How Will ‘Cats Fare In Big 12 Play?
Kansas State dropped to 0-2 in conference play, and once again were unable to muster enough offense to overcome Charlie Brewer and the Baylor Bears in Manhattan. The Wildcats weren’t able to punch it in for a touchdown until early in the 4th quarter, and were minus-2 in turnover margin. Kansas State was able to put up a respectable amount of yardage in those games, but their home performance does raise questions about how explosive this offense can be.
Their longest play from scrimmage as a 29 yard run by James Gilbert, which isn’t terrible, but the Wildcats are in need of someone who can take it for six. Is the answer here as simple as getting back wide receiver Malik Knowles? Head coach Chris Klieman has a bye week to figure it out.
5. The Sooners Look Fallible, But Not Very
Before CeeDee Lamb caught a pass in the flats and turned it up field for a ten yard touchdown, Oklahoma was leading Kansas by a less-than-dominant score of 14-7. The score, which occurred with 31 seconds left in the half, gave the Sooners momentum going into the locker room. Oklahoma struggled somewhat to consistently move the ball on the Jayhawks to start this game, but eventually they pulled away behind 268 yards rushing. That game was the most human they’ve looked so far in 2019, a season in which the Sooners have yet to average less than 7.0 yards per carry on the ground.
6. Kansas Vs. The Spread
The Jayhawks bounced back last week, at least in one sense. If you had Kansas covering the five touchdown spread on Saturday, congratulations. Les Miles’s squad didn’t win, but they were one first half possession away from going into the locker room down one score to the reigning Big 12 champ. That’s progress for a program looking to find silver linings wherever they may be. Even though their massive upset of Boston College seemed to raise the bar for the 2019 Jayhawks, there’s definitely a possibility the wins may be scarce from here on out. If that’s true, at least being able to hang in for a half is a positive.
7. Iowa State’s Offensive Roller Coaster
The Cyclones are 2-0 against TCU under Campbell, and are undefeated in those black and white jerseys. Halfway through the season Iowa State feels like the hardest team to get a bead on. If they were 5-0 and had just put up 42 points on a Gary Patterson defense, we’d probably all be discussing their oath to the Big 12 Championship.
But they don’t permit do-overs in college football, and Iowa State’s ugliest performances keep making us question their most outstanding ones. However the Cyclones will play next week is anyone’s guess. If they want to still be in the mix in November, though, Iowa State will need to become more consistent, and consistently good at that.
8. TCU’s Defense Is On The Struggle Bus
The Horned Frogs entered the 2019 hoping to surprise some folks, and to an extent, some things about their season have been surprising. Particularly, the fact that Iowa State was allowed to run the ball for 5.1 yards per carry and throw it for 10.3 yards per pass. You are not going to keep many offenses off the field with those kinds of numbers. Against rival SMU, letting an opponent hang 40 points on the Horned Frogs seemed like an aberration, but the Horned Frogs now have two such contests on the books. And those are against teams not named Oklahoma.
9. Are The ‘Horns Red River Ready?
In the game right before that little ‘ole match in the Cotton Bowl, the Longhorns did about as well as Vegas expected. Now we all have to discern if whether that’s a good thing. An unwelcome sight for Texas defensive coordinator was Austin Kendall lighting up his secondary for 367 yards. Of course, the Longhorns’ defense did manage to get four picks, which will definitely balance out any of that anxiety.
Headed into Dallas, though, the Longhorns have to be concerned about that secondary. Getting Jalen Hurts to turn the ball over four times is a tall order, but if the defense is able to get a pick or two, those extra possessions may outweigh the actual yardage.
10. The Mountaineers Might Be Figuring Things Out
As rough as their start to the season actually was, West Virginia appears to be improving as the season wears on. The Mountaineers are 1-1 in conference play, and have shown that they’re competitive at home. At one point, we thought this could legitimately be the worst team in the conference, but if West Virginia continues to hang with other Big 12 foes they way they hung with Texas – trailing by only four points headed into the fourth quarter – any step back from last year won’t feel like such a big step.