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2021 Season

What We Learned In The Big 12: Week 5

October just started, but Big 12 play already looks like it’ll be chaos.

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After another wild week of Big 12 play, it’s time to reflect on what we can take away from Week 5 as we get halfway through the season.

Oklahoma May Have Rediscovered Their Offense

The Sooners never punted last week against the Wildcats, finding points on seven of their eight meaningful drives. This game was the best the Oklahoma has looked against FBS competition this season, with Spencer Rattler and the offense having seemingly found a rhythm on the road in Manhattan.

Rattler was especially sharp. Aside from an interception late in the third quarter, the sophomore quarterback was dealing on Saturday, averaging 9.7 yards per pass attempt. There are still questions about the offense, but Riley’s group could be hitting their stride as we approach the mid-point of the 2021 season.

Don’t Discount The Pokes

Oklahoma State is a testament to the idea that winning ugly is still winning. The Pokes sit at 5-0 and are the second-highest ranked team in the Big 12. They put up 219 yards rushing on Baylor last Saturday in Boone Pickens Stadium, and the Oklahoma State offense looked better than it has probably all season. That is, if you take out the three Spencer Sanders turnovers.

If “winning ugly” is what the Pokes have to do from here on out, though, there’s no doubt they can continue to compete in this conference. They’ll probably need to minimize some of those turnovers, but Oklahoma State has a defense that should keep them in (nearly) every game.

Texas Might Be Putting Something Together

Steve Sarkisian’s squad got their second consecutive victory against an in-state foe on Saturday, winning in Amon G. Carter Stadium for the first time in eight years. That’s a monkey off the Longhorns’ back, and it was a step in the right direction for a team that feels like it’s been making steady progress these past few weeks.

This isn’t a team without its flaws – the passing game has looked very average at times, and the defense is still somewhat of a project overall. The Longhorns appears to be putting together a season that could have them in the Big 12 title picture come November. The proof, of course, will be in the pudding these next few weeks.

Iowa State May Be Down, But They’re Not Out

It’s officially October, and we all know what that means. This is normally right around the time that a Cyclones team that played an uninspired first few weeks of football begins to look like they can truly compete at the top of the Big 12.

It’s too early to tell if that’s actually happening, but last week’s 59-7 beatdown of Kansas could certainly be seen as a tune-up for the remainder of league play. The Cyclones amassed 564 total yards, and were up 28-0 before the end of the first quarter. Now that we’re past all that early season hype, Iowa State could definitely go on a run if they start getting things turned around.

The Bears’ Offense Has Some Limitations

Despite all of the strides that Baylor appears to have made on that side of the ball in 2021, it looks like there’s still room to grow. The Bears held a plus-three turnover margin advantage against Oklahoma State, but they were ultimately unable to do anything with a trio of Spencer Sanders interceptions.

Baylor actually had negative total yards (minus-six yards) in all three of the possessions they got off turnovers. A rushing offense that seemed to hum through the first several weeks was held to 107 yards on the day, highlighting that the Bears haven’t exactly arrived offensively, yet.

Bowl Hopes Stay Alive For The Red Raiders

The Matt Wells hot seat cooled a bit after Texas Tech pulled off the road upset over West Virginia. The Red Raiders pulled together a few good drives in the first half, and managed to amass a 17-0 lead with backup quarterback Henry Colombi taking over a familiar role as QB1. Despite giving up 330 yards through the air, the Texas Tech defense did just enough to limit the Mountaineers’ offense.

Texas Tech now sits at 4-1, and a bowl game is once again looking like a real possibility. With the rest of the conference being so up in the air, the Red Raiders showed on Saturday that they can compete with many of those teams around the middle of the conference.

The Wildcats Are Still That Team

No, Chris Klieman didn’t beat Lincoln Riley three times in a row. If you were looking at this game as evidence that those first two wins were a fluke, though, look elsewhere. In a game that the Sooners have to have circled since last year, there were the Wildcats, with 1:20 left, down 37-31, preparing for their second onside kick of the game.

Kansas State had the advantage of a bit of gamesmanship, as Skylar Thompson got the surprise start, giving Bill Snyder Stadium an instant jolt of excitement. Thompson helped the Wildcats keep the game close, and they reminded everyone that this squad will be tough competition for the entire conference.

What’s Ailing The Horned Frogs?

The Horned Frogs’ loss to Texas last Saturday marked the first time that they’d been defeated by the burnt orange in Fort Worth since 2013. The TCU squad went 4-8, which is not a record that seems at all likely for the Frogs in 2021, but it doesn’t feel like TCU is on track to be the Big 12 title contender so many thought they might be.

Aside from all the questions about why star running back Zach Evans only got 15 carries when he was averaging 7.5 yards per tote, something seems off about this team. The Horned Frogs are currently giving up 204 yards per game on the ground, and they currently rank ninth in the Big 12 in total defense. Right now, this looks like a team that could find themselves in a dogfight every week in conference play.

West Virginia Might Be In For A Rough Season

Suffice to say, Neal Brown’s third year in Morgantown in not going so well. West Virginia’s struggles offensively continue to limit the ability of the Mountaineers to win consistently. That showed up on Saturday at home, where West Virginia outgained their opponent by almost 100 yards, but ultimately the Mountaineers were unable to put up points.

Now, West Virginia’s in a position where they’ll need to go 4-3 through the remainder of their Big 12 slate in order to qualify for a bowl. Given the issues that have plagued them the past few weeks, that seems like it’ll be a real uphill battle for this team.

Kansas Is Probably Ready For A Bye Week

We’re not quite halfway through the 2021 season, but Lance Leipold and the Jayhawks are probably ready for a breather. Kansas avoided the shutout with touchdown early in the second half of their game against the Cyclones, but there aren’t a ton of positives to take away from the game other than that. Continuing to build an identity around Jason Bean will likely be the long term project here, and hopefully Kansas can take this opportunity to regroup.