After a weekend where we only had one Big 12 team in action, this week’s “What We Learned” will be a bit shorter. With conference play officially starting on Saturday, we’ve now got impressions of eight of the ten teams in the league. With all those teams scheduled to take the field in Week 4, expect the next “What We Learned” to be longer. There’s definitely a lot left to learn, but we can still take away a few things from the action thus far.
1. It’s Probably Good That The Non-Conference Is Over
Last weekend capped off the last time we’ll see the Big 12 face off against non-Big 12 competition, and I wouldn’t blame you for wondering whether the non-conference games were actually worth it. Yeah, I understand the consternation over a “ten games” threshold that the conference felt it needed to meet for CFP reasons. Nonetheless, over the last two weeks, we’ve had multiple game cancellations, three upsets over Big 12 squads, and only three teams cover as favorites in their respective contests. With the news that the Big Ten is playing an eight game schedule, which will most definitely be enough to get an undefeated member into the Playoff, you could argue that in hindsight maybe the Big 12 should have just played a conference-only lineup.
2. Oklahoma State Needs Spencer Sanders To Be Healthy
Sanders got in two series for the Pokes before heading to the locker room on Saturday. We’ve yet to get a definitive timeline for his return, but any kind of lower extremity issue can definitely be problematic for a guy who uses his legs to pick up yards. Sans the presence of the redshirt sophomore quarterback, Oklahoma State struggled offensively, and put up only three points on the board before true freshman Shane Illingworth entered the game. To be fair, Sanders didn’t look especially sharp when he was in the lineup, but anyone watching their game against Tulsa should be able to see how critical he is to this team’s chances for making a Big 12 title run.
3. The Pokes’ Defense Is For Real
Oklahoma State’s offense probably owes steak dinners to every member of that defense, one that kept Tulsa out of the end zone all but once while the other side of the ball struggled to figure itself out. Even when considering that the Golden Hurricanes are probably not going to be a great team this year, only allowing seven points is a feat for any defense. The Cowboys’ secondary did give up a few plays early, but the Pokes were able to bottle up Tulsa for the entire second half to get the shutout in the final two quarters of play. Having ten of eleven starters back looks like it’s definitely going to pay some dividends this year.
4. We Don’t Know Anything Yet
I feel like I need to say this every year after the first game of the season – it’s important to remember that this is one game. However well or poorly your team played in their opener, you officially have the smallest possible sample size off of which to make a judgement. Your team could have looked the best they’re going to look all season, or they could have looked the worst they’re going to look. For you less-seasoned fan bases out there, take it from someone who’s seen some highs and lows himself – take a deep breath and realize it’s a long season. Teams that appear sharp and crisp one week will come out sluggish and sloppy the next; teams that seem out-of-sync and lifeless one game will emerge out of that tunnel firing on all cylinders the game right after.
5. This Year Will Be A Gauntlet Like No Other
The name of this site refers to the “gauntlet” of every member of the conference having to play everyone else, and this season the rest of college football will get a taste of that. On top of that challenge, we of course are still dealing with COVID 19, and all of the uncertainty that has brought. We would have had two Big 12 contests last week if it weren’t for the virus, and most likely last week’s Baylor-Houston cancellation will not be the last. A fair amount of us thought back in March that things would go back to “normal” in the fall, but this season is going to present a test unlike anything college football has ever experienced.