We’ve had only one week of conference play in the Big 12, but things are already starting to get crazy in this conference. One heavy favorite fell at home, and we got our first overtime game in league play. There’s plenty to take away from a weekend that was full of exciting action. Every time we feel like we understand the full picture of this conference, the Big 12 surprises us once again. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at what we think we learned from last weekend.
1. Now The Conference Race Is Interesting
With Oklahoma having lost at home to Kansas State 38-35, the race for the Big 12 title actually appears “wide open.” While that phrase often serves merely as a cliché, the reigning league champs find themselves among the four other programs currently winless in conference play. That opens the door for teams like Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas, and Kansas State, who all got wins last week. Of course, everyone except the Wildcats will likely still have to beat Oklahoma, but the Sooners no longer look like a lock to win it all again.
2. Oklahoma State’s Defense Might Be The Strength Of This Team
Well, this is different. We’re used to seeing the Cowboys pile on points on their opponents, but through two games, it’s been the other side of the ball that’s stepped up. This week, that performance included a scoop-n-score to give the Pokes an early two possession lead. With Spencer Sanders sidelined with an injury, true freshman Shane Illingworth took over and largely depended on running backs Chuba Hubbard and L.D. Brown to carry the load against West Virginia Saturday. That meant the defense had to get stingy, and through two games they’ve done just that, allowing an average of 10 points per contest.
3. Can These Longhorns Make It Through The Gauntlet?
Both of the Red River rivals almost had their day ruined on Saturday, as the Longhorns found themselves down two scores with 3:13 left in their game against Texas Tech. The subsequent rally to tie, and then win in overtime showcased some resilience on the part of the Longhorns, but this was an ugly game for a Texas team that is looking to really take the Big 12 by storm. Problems from last season appeared to rear their head again in Jones AT&T Stadium on a night where the defensive miscues piled up faster than the stacks of freshly flung tortillas.
4. The Bears Look Solid Once Again
Granted, Baylor played a Kansas team that had lost to Coastal Carolina the week before, but the Bears blew the doors off the Jayhawks, rolling to a 47-14 victory. Charlie Brewer was the same quarterback we remember, averaging 6.2 yards per pass and tossing one pass for a touchdown. Baylor was expected to take a step back this year, but so far they’ve shown no indication of going anywhere. Their trip to Morgantown this weekend will be a telling test for this squad.
5. Kansas State Is Gritty
I don’t know that there’s any better way to describe this Wildcats squad, which was down multiple players because of COVID protocols going into a road game against the No. 3 team in the country. Their matchup against the Sooners looked all but over when they were down 28-7 in the third quarter on Saturday. Despite nagging issues with his calf, though, senior Skylar Thompson helped rally the Wildcats, who stormed back to outscore the Sooners 31-7 and beat the Sooners twice in a row.
6. Watch Out For Iowa State
Same story, different verse. The Cyclones looked better in their second game than their first, almost to the point of being night-and-day. Iowa State’s defense gave up more points than Matt Campbell is probably comfortable with, and they’re now surrendering 32.5 points per game through two matchups. The ground game was on point, though, with Iowa State posting 7.6 yards per carry on the day.
7. TCU Looks More Potent
Even though they played two different quarterbacks, the offense for TCU looked a lot sharper after an offseason where the Horned Frogs made some staff changes. The Horned Frogs put up 400 yards through the air, and TCU has a reinvigorated passing attack. Max Duggan, despite missing time in practice because of health issues, looked remarkably sharp; a late game interception most likely doomed TCU to ultimately lose the single possession contest 37-34, but Big 12 defenses should be leery of Duggan and the athletes on the outside.
8. West Virginia’s Going To Upset Somebody
The Mountaineers played Oklahoma State tough in Stillwater, bringing the game within one score with 9:01 left in the fourth quarter. Despite the fact that the Pokes would eventually seal the win with a Chuba Hubbard 23-yard touchdown run with a little over a minute left in the game, West Virginia looked improved over last year. After missing out on a bowl in 2019, Jarret Doege and the rest of the team look like they can hang with any of the teams in the Big 12. It’s only a matter of time before they catch someone napping.
9. Who Are The Red Raiders?
Had the Red Raiders pulled off the upset against Texas, it would have given Matt Wells a signature win, and his first over a Top 10 team in Lubbock. Unfortunately, Texas Tech fell short, leaving us to debate what the near-upset means about this 2020 squad. They’ve played two close games in three weeks against two very different teams. The offense was firing on all cylinders, as you’d expect, with Alan Bowman posting over 300 yards through the air. Once again, though, there are questions about a defense that allowed the Longhorns to drive down the field and score the final 22 points of 63-56 shootout.
10. The Jayhawks Need To hit Their Offensive Stride
Despite losing 47-14, Kansas was only outgained by the Baylor Bears by about 14 yards in Waco. The Jayhawks started a third different quarterback in freshman Jalon Daniels, and the results were mixed. Daniels had about an average day statistically, and Kansas managed 169 yards on the ground, but too many of the Jayhawks’ drives ended in punts for them to be able to challenge Baylor at home. Kansas has shown that they can be productive offensively, but they’ll need to start punching it in the endzone for Les Miles to have a strong Year Two.