At last the non-conference season is over, and it actually ended on a high note as the Big 12 went 4-0 in non-con this week and even ended the weekend with the same number of undefeated teams as it had when it started. It helps that there were only five games in the Big 12 this week, of course, but in this sort of season you take what you can get. Let's get into it!
TCU Horned Frogs 33, SMU Mustangs 3
After another annoyingly slow start, the Frogs once again pummeled the Mustangs in their Super Bowl and making sure that another generation of SMU players and fans will graduate without ever touching the Iron Skillet. What was both interesting and concerning about this slow start, however, is that while generally Kenny Hill has taken a while to settle into a rhythm passing this season, he was actually pretty on point passing tonight... those passes just kept getting dropped. Time and again, Hill was putting balls on the numbers and hands of the TCU receiving crew, including new favorite target John Diarse, but they just kept bouncing away. Emmanuel Porter's name is conspicuously absent from the SMU box score, for example, but it was not because he was not targeted or thrown good balls On the plus side, TCU's defense kicked a sizable amount of butt, holding the Mustangs to less than 100 rushing yards, not allowing any rushes for more than 20 yards, sacking SMU four times and allowing just two passes of 30+ yards. After a few hiccups on the opening drive, the Frogs shut SMU out for the remaining 57:30 of game time, which is impressive against anyone. The second half kicked off with a 75 yard touchdown from Hill to Diarse and the rout was on, as Hicks continued his impressive season, fan favorite Trevorris Johnson picked up his first non-garbage time carries since 2014 and did well with them and Kenny Hill bombed away for 450 yards- which would have likely been closer to 600 if his receivers had wanted to play ball in the first half. The penalties were still there, which is particularly worrying with one of the victims being senior tackle Aviante Collins, but the defense's penalties were generally either acceptable PIs or a case of being overeager to get to the quarterback, which did seem to rattle SMU's Ben Hicks a bit. Holding SMU to 3.1 yards per carry (not including sacks) is probably the most heartening stat as we turn our attention to Oklahoma this week, but given how often OU has forgotten it even has running backs this year, perhaps it won't be as big a deal as we think. Bring on the Sooners!...but let's actually play the first half this time.
For the TCU take, click that little "Frogs O War" icon at the top left of your page, while on the SMU side... SMU still has no fans.
Iowa State Cyclones 44, San Jose State Spartans 10
Possibly the most satisfying/infuriating score of the week for bettors, with the Over/Under line being set at 54.5, Iowa State looked like a team that was starting to get its head around a new offensive and defensive system- though against a team like San Jose State, it would be a warning of a possible winless season if it didn't. The Cyclones QB shuffling continued early, but it's slowly starting to become clear that ISU's more consistent quarterback is the younger of the two... for seemingly the fourth season in a row. It seems that the only thing less safe than an incumbent QB in Ames is Ole Miss with a two score lead. Now, that aside, Iowa State's secondary looked pretty decent, collecting three picks and allowing less than 50% completions from the Spartans, and allowed just one play of more than thirty yards. RB Mike Warren's resurgence continued as he finally moved over 100 yards in a game for the first time this season and also for the first (and possibly only) time this season, Iowa State won.
Check out the rare reaction of cyclone fans who are on the giving end of a beatdown instead of the receiving end here.
The Mountaineers had their toughest test of the year as Big 12 hopeful BYU came to town, and in some ways it likely was a rude awakening for Mountaineer fans who had been happy with their defensive efforts so far as one thing became increasingly evident- West Virginia still can't defend a running quarterback. BYU gashed the Mountaineers on the ground repeatedly, with BYU QB Taysom Hill racking up over 100 yards and the Cougars overall averaged a massive 7 yards per carry. Overall the Mountaineers gave up over 500 yards, which would be much more worrying if the Mountaineers hadn't also collected three interceptions from Hill, including a pick 6, and held him to under 7 yards per passing attempt. The Mountaineers offense also did their part, with Skyler Howard completing over 75% of his passes and produced enough on the ground to keep the cougars both off balance and off the field. The Mountaineers have started 3-0 three times in the Big 12 so far, but none of those seasons have resulted in serious Big 12 contention- with only two teams in the Big 12 still undefeated, this needs to be the year for West Virginia.
West Virginia's analysis can be found here.
Kansas State Wildcats 35, Missouri State Bears 0
So this game was called at the half, and Kansas State actually completed a 40 yard pass. So... about as good as you could want from an FCS game, anyway. So... yay?
Bring on the Cats' only question is whether or not the stats will count if they didn't play a snap in the second half, so it was a pretty good day.
One of the age old questions- Is it better to be lucky than good? Baylor was a bit of both on Saturday, balancing out a bit of stupid aggression by their own coaching staff and somewhat baffling decisions by their counterparts on the OSU sideline. The Bears had an incredibly lucky break as a tipped up pass to one receiver who would have picked up about nine yards fluttered gently over the heads of the converging OSU secondary into the hands of Baylor receiver Ishmael Zamora, who happily scooted into the end zone untouched. It was a bad break for a Cowboy defense that actually played pretty well, repeatedly stuffing the Baylor run game, but kept biting on very simple double moves to set up deep Baylor strikes which were by far the most effective Baylor weapon- but when you can get receivers running free down the field, you don't really need much else in the way of offense to be successful. Baylor continued their trend of being aggressive on fourth down, but went far past the bravery line into the area of stupidity late in the third quarter by going for a fourth and one on their own 24 yard line while leading by four. Then Oklahoma State thought "Hey, we haven't run the ball well with anyone but Mason Hill all game. Let's run the ball without Mason Hill!" and repeatedly found themselves knocked back, only for QB Mason Rudolph to somehow scramble his way to almost salvation. Then on the goal line, they ran for it again and failed again, coming up empty when points were an absolute necessity to keep the Bears from turning it into a two score game. OSU got the stop on defense and again looked to be heading in when the run game imploded once more, fumbling on the Baylor one yard line to again come up empty handed. This set up a Baylor TD drive and pushed the lead to 11, but there was still time- until OSU wasted three of the remaining six minutes to gain 25 yards before throwing a pick. OSU would make another stop on defense, but even with just 2:13 left the Cowboys showed little thought in playcalling or any sense of urgency when running their offense (still down two scores), working in multiple running plays, passes that didn't get out of bounds, and finally Mason Rudolph made possibly the stupidest play I've ever seen- running 26 seconds off the clock in one play while attempting to throw a pass to the end zone, only to get sacked and let the rest of the clock run out. So, kudos goes to the Baylor defensive line for the consistent pressure and for Seth Russell both putting the ball on the money and being Baylor's only consistent running threat, but with two red zone fumbles, a missed field goal, a blundered opportunity on the three yard line and the most idiotic final play of a game I've ever seen, OSU also worked very hard to give the game to the Bears. I did say that I thought people were going to be done talking about Baylor after this game, which did turn out to be incorrect- my bad guys. That said I don't know that I'm any more afraid of Baylor than I was before this game, but I'm definitely less concerned that OSU is going to outcoach anyone.