The Chaos Conference? The Dumpster Fire Conference? The One True Champion- "Oh God we're going to have a four way tie this year aren't we?" conference? Whatever you call it, it was a rough week for favorites not playing against Iowa State and Kansas, and as a result the race for the conference championship is wide open- just with a few different teams than we assumed would be going for the title at the beginning of the year. Let's check the damage.
It is as inevitable as the changing of the seasons. Fish swim in the rivers, birds soar in the sky, Texas A&M fans are sure that next year will be their year and Kansas State beats Iowa State- barely. For the ninth year in a row, Kansas State took on Iowa State in Farmaggedon and won, but as usual it was a close and chippy affair as the Cyclones decided to try to be on the giving end of a frantic fourth quarter comeback this time, but came up one score short. The Wildcats got another accurate (if not explosive) performance out of the passing game and the run game was in top form as KSU established a commanding 21 point margin and their defense proved up to the task of handling ISU's inexplicably continuing quarterback shuffle experiment. From the stats you can see why they're having issues making a decision- Lanning was the Cyclones best running option by a sizable margin, but Park was the only one who was able to stretch the field vertically- and both played in ISU's fourth quarter drives. Eventually ISU is going to have to pick a QB to build around and live with his limitations- something that another Big 12 team should be considering. Kansas State... remains Kansas State.
Oklahoma State still can't run the football- 31 rushes, less than 100 yards, no gains of even ten yards on the ground. And yet, it hardly mattered at all, as the Cowboy's defense busted up the Big 12's best playoff hope, sacking WVU's Skyler Howard four times, causing a fumble, collecting two interceptions and generally caused absolute havoc every time the Mountaineers took to the air. Mountaineers fans will probably echo TCU fans in wondering why a ground game that looked solid and consistent wasn't featured more when it was by far the best option for attacking the Cowboys, averaging a beastly 7.1 yards per carry when you adjust for Howard's -38 sack yards. OSU, on the other hand, didn't try to force things against a stout West Virginia defense and spread the ball around effectively in the air to the tune of 273 yards on 72% passing. West Virginia actually outgained the Cowboys quite comfortably, but it simply didn't matter as the three WVU turnovers turned into 17 OSU points, which just so happened to be the exact margin of victory. The WVU defense will keep them in the conference championship hunt, but the offense has to keep the ball secure if they're going to run the table- which may be necessary now that they're a loss back of Oklahoma and need to see an OSU loss as well. OSU on the other hand is looking good, but has to avoid the potential fatigue as they play three more potentially troublesome teams in a row before a bye to get ready for Bedlam.
Texas Longhorns 35, Baylor Bears 34
Flowers and baskets of fruit and muffins are en route to Charlie Strong's house from the playoff committee today, as the Longhorns spared them the need to discuss the Bears as a serious contender for football's final four by upsetting the nation's #8 team just 24 hours after more details emerged about the Waco football program's sexual assault scandal. Shane Buechele outpassed Seth Russel, the Longhorns had more explosive plays through the air than the Bears and, while Texas was outgained on the ground, they had the most unstoppable force on the field and simply kept feeding him. D'Onta Foreman continued to establish his argument for being the conference's best back and a potential Doak Walker award winner with a 32 carry, 250 yard performance that was vintage Texas and simultaneously caused the four teams remaining on Texas' schedule to pull on their shirt collars while making cartoonish sounds of being uncomfortable. What was most surprising about this result though is how much it appeared the momentum had swung against the Longhorns, as the visitors scored 17 straight points to take an 8 point lead, and Texas' two point conversion failed, but the defense which had been so effective at getting into the backfield and hitting Seth Russel (6 sacks on the day) rallied to force a fourth and 18 that gave them the ball back. There were still a few numbskull playcalls (Everyone knows seeing Tyrone Swoopes means you're going to run the ball with him, why did you split out D'Onta Foreman to wideout on a third and two on the Baylor 18?) but this was a big first step in coach Strong's campaign to stay in Austin for a fourth season.
Texas Tech Red Raiders 27, TCU Horned Frogs 24 (2OT)
So, TCU's defense held Tech to 35 points and about 500 yards less than the Raiders managed last week against OU... and lost. Despite the return of KaVontae Turpin from injury, the Frogs offense stalled repeatedly against the nation's worst defense in almost any category you'd care to name- promising drives ended with drops, missed field goals and insane playcalls from the OCs that eventually led to a scapegoat-y pulling of Kenny Hill for the long awaited appearance of Foster Sawyer... who came in and was worse (particularly if you take out his 25 yard TD pass that looked like the Frogs benefited from a bad call on the field). Meanwhile Kyle Hicks got 5 touches. I'm sure there will be a lot of debate about the quarterback position this week, but honestly neither of them has been put in a good position to succeed by Meacham and Cumbie, which is the most frustrating callback of all to the 2013 season that this year is beginning to resemble in so many respects. Simply put, if you do not have the once in a lifetime amalgamation of soft hands, dynamic route running, top end speed and Super Mario-esque leaping ability that made Josh Doctson a first round draft pick- heaves down the sideline should not be your go-to play on third downs.
Viva the Matadors made a podcast to celebrate the win. We did not.
The only thing of note in this game is that at one point it looked like OU RB Joe Mixon possibly sustained a leg injury, but it turned out that he was actually fine and returned to the game a few snaps later. Outside of that, OU was much better at football than Kansas in every phase of the game, apart from punting, and the score is pretty much what you'd expect from the conference frontrunner playing the conference's worst team at home.
Crimson and Cream Machine is most pleased that its second string got plenty of playtime, while Rock Chalk Talk is suffering from the apathy that comes with having to care about Kansas football on a regular basis.