The Big 12 has been a chaotic mess that has had its presumed standard bearers consistently disappoint this year, which from a non-TCU perspective has been highly entertaining. This week, however, things have settled back into the sort of groove that we've come to expect over the past few years: thumping victories by the favorites. How they got there actually sets the stage for a very interesting gauntlet that will play out over the second half of the season- let's check it out.
Oklahoma Sooners 38, Kansas State Wildcats 17
In many ways Oklahoma did what they needed to do to care of business early against the Wildcats, scoring quickly and putting KSU into a hole that they're not really equipped to pull out of by taking a 14-0 lead. However, all was not well in the Soonerverse, as the Big 12's premier masher Samaje Perine left the first quarter with an apparent right knee injury. The Wildcats mounted one of their specialty drives, devouring almost nine minutes of game time and punching in an answer, with some actual decent passing from KSU's Jesse Ertz. Now generally when an offense is off the field for that long it takes them out of their rhythm and it takes a while to get back into the groove- not so for the Sooners, who made their way back into the end zone in just 5 plays to give them a lead that KSU couldn't touch. This point was made even more clear when Ertz had to leave the game, as Huebner is simply not a Big 12 level quarterback, managing just barely over a 50% completion rate, even with OU letting him take shots in exchange for burning more clock. Baker Mayfield put on a great performance against one of the Big 12's best defenses, completing over 80% of his passes and throwing for 11 yards per attempt, but we've seen from OU's games against OSU and Houston that the Sooners can't beat the really quality teams with Mayfield alone. For Kansas State, while they'll find a way to get back into a bowl one way or another, any dreams of a Big 12 title died here- but at least they won't lose their winning streak against the Jayhawks this year.
The fine folks at Bring on the Cats condensed things down in only learning three things this week, while Crimson and Cream machine continues their trend of matching boring thread titles with impressive wins.
West Virginia Mountaineers 48, Texas Tech Red Raiders 17
So in their losses this season we've seen that Texas Tech can be beaten with an explosive offense (against ASU) or by a decent defense (against KSU), which likely made a lot of Raider fans nervous as West Virginia came to Lubbock with both of them in tow. Sure enough, the Mountaineers bombed away on the Tech secondary for 300 yards, gashed the Raiders on the ground for 300 more and repeatedly pummeled Patrick Mahomes, sacking him four times and hitting him a number of others to ensure that West Virginia's win was not only never in doubt, but it made a statement. Last time an undefeated and ranked West Virginia team came into Lubbock they not only left defeated, but they were blown away in a 35 point rout as the Raiders exposed West Virginia's lack of defense. This time a complete team came into Lubbock and left absolutely no doubt about who the better team was in all three phases of the game. WVU's dominance over Tech was so complete that Kingsbury actually waved the white flag, pulling Mahomes out for Nic Shimonek in the fourth quarter, an almost unthinkable act for an Air Raid coach to do. Tech now has to find three wins out of OU, @ TCU, Texas, @ OSU, @ ISU and Baylor to make a bowl this year- Not a great position to be in.
Baylor Bears 49, Kansas Jayhawks 7
"When the clock strikes midnight, the spell will be broken and all will be as it was before." So it was for the Kansas Jayhawks who, having completed their annual heart attack induction with the Frogs reverted back to their terrible offensive selves just in time to get their doors blown off. Once again, the KU defense actually did quite well, holding Baylor to below a 50% completion rate, but their extreme generosity with the ball (including a pick 6) ensured that the Jayhawks never really had a chance. There's really not too much to get into on this one, as again, it's nothing that you shouldn't have already known- Kansas is bad at football (364 days a year) and Baylor is... well, better than Kansas.
Texas Longhorns 27, Iowa St. Cyclones 6
This one was a tale of two halves, as Iowa State got a quick stop and mounted a tremendous drive to start the game before stalling out and settling for a field goal. They followed that by stripping the ball from Texas' D'Onta Foreman and kicking another field goal, but already the issues were starting to show up. Texas' offense wasn't working particularly well early on, but they kept trying new things and eventually in the second half things tarted to click and they amassed a score of big plays. On the Iowa State side, the frustrating quarterback shuffle continued, the playcalling stagnated to the point where even the LHN folks were calling "Here comes the QB draw on fourth and short."- it was more a QB dive, but that's not too bad for an LHN analyst. Iowa State's zone running worked pretty consistently well, but that was because on those plays they didn't even have to to even pretend to attempt to block the Longhorns DEs. The rest of ISU's offense was less successful though, as being unable to block the Longhorns resulted in regular losses and a total of eight(!!!) sacks between the two ISU QBs. In many ways Texas was very similar to 2016 TCU in this one- a ton of talent that isn't always deployed in the best way, a mobile QB that doesn't run quite enough, an offense that can't get out of its own way with penalties (both procedural and stupid varieties). It's too early to say if this will actually help Coach Strong stay at Texas past the end of this season, but it certainly didn't hurt- unlike last year's shutout loss to ISU.
Burnt Orange Nation is happy to give Coach Strong another week after this result (at least for now), while Wide Right and Natty Lite had dreams of messing with Texas, but found that they were the ones who got messed with instead.