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2021 Season

What We Learned In The Big 12: Week 1

What can we take away from the first week of action?



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Football is back, at least what feels like real football, with all pageantry that entails. After a full week of action, it’s once again time to dig into the results from the weekend. The Big 12 went into Week 1 against a mix of FBS and FCS squads, and the results weren’t pretty. A common theme was heavy favorites finding themselves in surprisingly close games late. The conference went 9-1, though, and hopefully everyone was able to shake off some rust.

Don’t Anoint The Sooners National Champs Just Yet

Oklahoma came into the season looking like Lincoln Riley’s most complete squad yet, with some pundits seeing this as a team to win it all in 2021. Well, that wasn’t exactly how things played out in Norman on Saturday. In what was effectively a home game, the Sooners tussled with the Green Wave initially before taking a 37-14 lead into halftime.

Tulane didn’t go away, however, and the Sooners seemed to fall apart in the second half. Starting midway through the third quarter, the Green Wave went on a 21-3 run, their comeback falling just short as Oklahoma escaped with the W. Heisman hopeful Spencer Rattler threw two picks, and no Sooners running back picked up more than 100 yards. Granted, this was only one game, but it definitely calls into question whether this is “the year” for the perennial Big 12 champ.

For Now, Kansas Is Undefeated

How you could not be excited for the Jayhawks to get their first win in almost two years? This game gives new head coach Lance Leipold a 1-0 record to start his tenure in Lawrence, where the football program has been basically dormant for over a decade. This one didn’t come easy, either, as Kansas needed some late game theatrics to secure the three point win.

Kansas was up 10-0 by the middle of the third quarter, and looked like they might be able to control this game from wire to wire. South Dakota found some offense, though, and put up two touchdowns. The Jayhawks went on a four minute, 11 play drive, and put the ball in the endzone with 1:10 left in the game. It’ll be an uphill climb for Kansas and Leipold from here on out, but they can enjoy getting a victory last Friday.

Non-Conference Iowa State Is Back

Why did we expect anything different? Iowa State in the non-conference is almost always the worst brand of Iowa State. This week everyone will talk about whether the Cyclones can get rid of their Hawkeye problem, but Matt Campbell’s teams seem to struggle with pretty much any other squad from the state of Iowa.

The Cyclones came out sluggish against Northern Iowa, not taking the lead until a seven minute drive in the second quarter put Iowa State up 10-7. Neither offense didn’t exactly found much of a spark after halftime, when six possessions ended in punts, and two end in interceptions. In the end, Iowa State pulled out a one score win, one that was probably the ugliest of any of the Top 25.

Kansas State Is Ready To Play Football

Chris Klieman’s group really brought it on Saturday in Arlington, holding Stanford scoreless until 3:16 left in the game. The defense for the Wildcats bent periodically without breaking, all the while holding the Cardinal to 1.8 yards per rush on the day. Stanford looked decidedly outmatched by the more veteran Wildcats, who had 200 yards on the ground.

In seemingly classic Kansas State fashion, quarterback Skylar Thompson only needed to complete nine passes for the Wildcats to secure the victory. This type of imposing non-conference win might have been the most surprising one of the weekend, and right now Kansas State looks like a squad to be reckoned with.

West Virginia Still Struggles Away From Morgantown

West Virginia went into this one as more than a field goal favorite, and seemed to always be a step behind Maryland, a program that hasn’t had a winnings season since 2014. To their credit, the Mountaineers only lost by six points despite turning the ball over four times. West Virginia gave up more total yards (495) to the Terps, quarterbacked by junior Taulia Tagovailoa, than they gave up to any opponents last season.

Under Neal Brown, the Mountaineers are now 3-8 in road games, and they have plenty to work on before West Virginia takes on No. 19 Virginia Tech in ten days. Particularly disturbing was a seeming regression on defense and a lack of carries for the nominal workhorse Leddie Brown. If the Mountaineers can’t turn it around, they’ll likely enter Big 12 play 1-2 with a sub-.500 season a real possibility.

The Sark Era Begins On A High Note

The Longhorns probably had the toughest opponent of any team in the first week of play, and they opened the Steve Sarkisian Era with a convincing performance. Redshirt freshman Hudson Card made his debut as well, and he looked good doing it. Card passed for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Bijan Robinson put a good effort as well, posting 103 rushing yards against No. 23 Louisiana.

Through one game, the Texas defense also looked improved, holding the Ragin Cajuns to six first half points and 2.6 yards per rush. True, the Longhorns didn’t play a traditional FBS powerhouse. Still, they solidified their status as an upper tier Big 12 team with a 20 point win over a Top 25 opponent.

The Season Looks Brighter For The Red Raiders

This game was almost universally understood to be key to the Red Raiders’ bowl hopes this season, and this ended up being a big win for the program. This is certainly one of the best wins of the Matt Wells era, and it provided a picture of what looks like the most complete team he’s had at Texas Tech.

The defense for the Red Raiders picked off quarterback Clayton Tune four times in the 38-21 win. Offensively, Texas Tech was effective through the air and on the ground, wracking up 376 yards of total offense with an early game fumble as their only blunder.

Baylor’s New Offense Looks Consistent, But Not Spectacular

Their victory over Texas State was by no means an easy win for the Bears, who had to put in a workmanlike effort to get the 29-20 win. The first half included two Texas State scoring drives that took 11:29 off the clock, as both offenses seemed to nickel-and-dime their way down the field. Up 24-13, Baylor picked off Bobcats quarterback Brady McBride twice and kicked a field goal to put this one just out of reach.

The “new look” Bears offense looked efficient, but the relative lack of explosiveness has to raise some concerns. How much success can the Bears have with the formula they provided in the first week? We likely won’t know that answer for another two or three weeks.

TCU Took Care Of Business

The Horned Frogs were 42 point favorites headed into their home opener, and they managed to just cover with 45-3 blowout. Max Duggan and the entire offense looked sharp against FCS Duquesne, blazing to a 21-0 lead after the first quarter. After taking control early, the Horned Frogs mostly put the clamps on the Dukes’ offense.

Duquesne didn’t reach 100 yards through the air or on the ground, and TCU put together a mostly complete performance against a significantly overmatched opponent. There’s not much to take away from that, other than the fact that TCU looks buttoned up to start the 2021 season.

Are There Problems In Stillwater?

Oklahoma State might have had the most head-scratching under-peformance of any Big 12 team last weekend. The Pokes were without starting quarterback Spencer Sanders, who was out due to COVID protocols, so sophomore back up Shane Illingworth had to step up in this one. Outside of a missed PAT, the first half went mostly how you’d expect, as Oklahoma State went into halftime with a commanding 17 point lead.

The offense went into a veritable shell in the second half, however, as the Pokes seemed to have a three-and-out every drive. The Bears, meanwhile, managed to find enough offense – and a turnover – to find themselves down 23-16 with a fresh set of downs and 1:15 left in the game on the Oklahoma State 26 yard line. In a theme that continues from last season, the Pokes defense saved the offense with two straight sacks of Missouri State quarterback Jason Shelley.

“Let us never speak of this again” would be an appropriate response to this game by Oklahoma State fans, and let’s hope this game doesn’t portend a significant drop-off for the Pokes this season.