And then there were 2. 6 of the Big 12 teams have wrapped up Big 12 play, and at least 8 of the 10 will be entering conference play with at least one loss. The margin of error for the Big 12 in terms of producing a playoff contender has shrunk to virtually nil, which may honestly make this the most interesting Big 12 title chase since 2001's weird Texas/Colorado/Oklahoma/Nebraska kerfuffle. Let's check out the week's action!
Baylor Bears 38, Rice Owls 10
KD Cannon is a very good player. Rice is a very bad team, as previous blowout losses to Western Kentucky and... Army would indicate. Other than that it's hard to say anything about Baylor for sure, the offense wasn't particularly consistent again, the defense was solid, holding Rice to 4 fewer points than either... Western Kentucky or Army allowed. Still, the only thing on anyone's mind whenever Baylor takes the field now was spelled out quite clearly by the MOB.
More on that in the Power rankings, though.
For actual analysis of the game, check Our Daily Bears here.
TCU Horned Frogs 41, Iowa State Cyclones 20
TCU remains a very confusing team. After another slow start, the Frogs started what would be a game-long struggle to pull away from the Cyclones- the offense alternately sputtering, putting together some very good plays and shooting itself in the foot with continued penalties that disrupted the rhythm. The defense was alternately good, lucky, gashed and provided decent pressure- on the one hand ISU finally got last year's RB star Mike Warren on track a bit, but on the other the Frogs still held him under 100 yards. On the one hand ISU had some decent completions, but they were held beneath 50% completions and the Frogs secondary actually shut down one of the Big 12's top receivers in ISU's Allen Lazard. The two biggest issues coming out of the game, though, have to be the health of TCU's most versatile man Kavontae Turpin, who went down with what looked like a serious leg injury (though he was seen walking around later in the game) and the strange and predictable offensive playcalling- which seemed to use tempo with little rhyme or reason and fell in love with very simple internal run plays with Kyle Hicks (which ISU keyed in on) mixed in with very deep balls, even when a third down conversion would have been simple. This isn't a matter of Anderson and Burns simply not knowing how to call successful plays, as Meacham and Cumbie have come up with some very creative playcalling the past two years, so perhaps it's trying to limit the number of useful plays for opponents to scout ahead of conference play- but I'd like to at least see a bit more rhythm throws early on to get Hill into the swing of things without chucking it deep every third play.
For the contrary point of view on this one, check out the fine folks at Wide Right and Natty Lite here.
This was... not a fun time for the Jayhawks. Memphis moved the ball well early, but the big issues came from the Jayhawks repeatedly putting the ball on the ground, fumbling twice in Memphis territory in the first quarter alone, which kind of neutered the Jayhawks push to stay in the game. Then when Memphis finally started to put their foot on the pedal in the second quarter, the Jayhawks didn't have the firepower to keep up. The Jayhawks defense actually played decently through much of the game, but they were repeatedly put in bad situations by the offense's ineptitude and turnovers until you see the score that was almost inevitable when your QBs average less than five yards per attempt. So, expect the Jayhawks to struggle again when Big 12 play starts, apart from their annual "why the heck are we locked in a dogfight with Kansas in the fourth quarter" game with TCU. Sigh.
Catch up with the Jayhawks at Rock Chalk Talk to understand why you should be frustrated when this happens
If you were looking for this bloodletting of FAU to allow you to feel better about Kansas State's prospects this year... prepare to be somewhat disappointed. The cats defense was stout, holding the Owls to just a late garbage time TD in the fourth quarter, the running game was pretty good, with two players busting out huge YPC averages, and the QBs were at least efficient, completing about 70% of their passes... but there were still no big plays. The QBs managed 159 yards of passing and barely had a receiver manage over 40 yards, much less a reception of over 40 yards. So yes, KSU crushed their hapless opponent, but I still fear that when the Wildcats have an opponent that can stop the run they may find themselves in the 10 to 17 point range, which isn't likely to win many games in the Big 12.
The Wildcat fans over at Bring on the Cats are optimistic, though, so maybe I'm wrong.
Oklahoma State Cowboys 45, Pitt Panthers 38
The Cowboys bounced back in a big way from their heartbreaking (and incorrect) loss to Central Michigan last week and brought the fight to the Panthers from the opening snap, connecting on a 91 yard touchdown pass to open the game. While Pitt fought back and would tie several times, they would never end up taking control of the game and only had the lead for a brief two minute period in the first quarter. Oklahoma State put up virtually an anti-Kansas State performance, as the Cowboys weren't particularly efficient on offense, but the big plays came in bushels- a 67 yard rushing touchdown, a 91 yard TD reception, an 86 yard reception (that was punched in for a TD shortly afterward). The best news for Oklahoma State out of this game, apart from the win, is that they may actually have the makings of something at least passable on the ground with senior RB Rennie Childs who accounted for that huge run, and also managed a respectable YPC even with the 67 yarder removed- significantly better than leading carrier Justice Hill managed, though. The OSU defense actually held up pretty well against Pitt as well- they gave up some big plays on both the ground and in the air but managed to do enough to get the ball back for its offense in key points, and kept Pitt's star RB more or less in check, with James Connor only managing one TD and just over 100 yards in 24 carries. Oklahoma State may well be the class of the conference again, freak loss not withstanding, but they have to keep that running game going to manage the short yardage situations.
So... Between this season, last season and the entire Kingsbury era, I'm kind of running out of ways to say Texas Tech's offense is very good and their defense is very bad. Sometimes their offense is better than their defense is bad, sometimes it's not. When the offense is better, the Raiders win, when the defense is worse, they lose. I may honestly just copy and paste this recap of sorts every week from here on, only clarifying whether Tech's offense was better or defense was worse this week. Let's try it! Yesterday, Tech's offense was better.
Viva the Matadors uses big words like "Unacceptable" in their recap, if you want to read more details.
So... Oklahoma is not going to make the playoffs this year, and for the first time since 2005 the Sooners are 1-2. There are a number of reasons for this, including the quality of the opposition, but to my eyes as I watched the game there were four factors that made this game into a relatively easy road win for the Buckeyes. The first was that the Ohio State running game scheme is impeccable. and J.T. Barrett is probably the perfect man to lead that sort of attack. The second is that Oklahoma repeatedly showed that it is unable to cover flag routes from the slot- Ohio State had some of the easiest touchdown receptions I'd seen tonight (in addition to one frankly incredible catch) from running a simple eight yard and cut 45 degrees toward the sideline route in the red zone- so opposing OCs, take note. The third is that Oklahoma was consistently tackling high- in many instances Stoops' defensive schemes actually were in perfect position to make a play at or behind the line of scrimmage, but the Sooners repeatedly bounced off ball carriers like Mike Weber because they attempted to hug them down instead of hitting the hips or legs. Finally, the entire complexion of the game changed on Mayfield's somewhat flukey tipped pass that turned into a pick 6- Oklahoma had been moving the ball well to that point, and had just gotten burned on one big run. The pick 6 completely flipped the script though, as Mayfield started to push harder and harder to attempt to make up for that mistake, resulting in a very substandard game for the OU signalcaller. The teams are probably closer in talent level than the scoreboard would indicate, but OU just seems more psychologically frail than the Buckeyes and were unable to deal with the adversity. Knowing Stoops he'll still somehow turn this 1-2 start into a share of the Big 12 title, but at the moment it looks like he's going to have a lot of hard questions to answer this season.
Crimson and Cream Machine is hosting the wake for OU's playoff hopes here.
The strangest thing about this game is that it honestly didn't feel that close for much of the game. Texas' talent level was simply superior, they were getting good pressure on Webb and they were able to do a lot of good things on the ground and in the air. Except... penalties and turnovers. You knew Buechele might be due for a bit of a regression in his first true road start, and Swoopes has never been particularly secure with the ball, but the duo's performance in the first two games made one think that maybe things would actually be all right... but no. Despite the feel of the game, Texas was unable to ever get more than ten points of distance from the Bears, and was also unable to stop ex-Raider QB Davis Webb from picking their secondary apart for almost ten yards per attempt at a 67.5% completion rate, and with some incredible catches from the Cal receiving group thrown in, there was just no keeping Cal off the field. Finally, Cal burst through the middle and a combination of stupidity from the RB and the referees led to a fumble at the one that was recovered by Texas... but apparently it wasn't fast enough, and Cal kneeled out the win. So the good news from a TCU perspective is that Texas can still be bombed on, and the offense will occasionally screw itself up with penalties or a turnover- but that also sounds like TCU at the moment. It will be a bit of a race to see which team matures faster before the eventual clash, but honestly I'll bet Texas fans are more or less okay with a 2-1 non-con record.
Burnt Orange Nation noted several of the same things that I did, apparently, but don't let that deter you from reading up