The week in Big XII football.
Texas 56 Missouri 31 [Box / Recap / Blog Coverage]
Outside a few cavalier "52-10!!" forecasts, no one came close to predicting the whipping Texas put on Missouri in the first half on Saturday. Though the Tigers fought to the end to keep the score respectable, the game was far out of reach after only five drives:
TEXAS MISSOURI Drive 1 12 plays, 94 yards, TD 3 plays, 1 yard, Punt Drive 2 9 plays, 82 yards, TD 6 plays, 13 yards, Punt Drive 3 6 plays, 43 yards, TD 3 plays, 12 yards, Punt Drive 4 3 plays, 41 yards, TD 3 plays, 8 yards, Punt Drive 5 9 plays, 92 yards, TD 14 plays, 72 yards, Downs TOTALS 39 plays, 352 yards, 35 points 29 plays, 106 yards, 0 points
Most exciting of all for Texas, the Longhorns have been progressively better through each of their first three Big 12 games and if they enjoy a fourth straight week of improvement on Saturday... the visiting Cowboys needn't get off the bus.
Looking beyond that kind of sustained dominant run, Texas fans might want to think about the scenario with the most potential to derail the Longhorns' Big 12 and/or national title dreams--an off game from Colt McCoy against one of the three remaining explosive offensive teams on the schedule (OSU, Tech, or Kansas). Winning without the Heisman version of McCoy would require a big step up from the rushing game and/or a tremendous performance from Will Muschamp's defense.
Oklahoma State 34 Baylor 6 [Box / Recap / Blog Coverage]
The creator of Unix famously advised that software should "do one thing and do it well." Oklahoma State's offense came damn close to doing just that against Baylor, romping the Bears by doing just two things and doing them well--57 rushes (235 yards, 2 TDs) and 11 passes to Dez Bryant (212 yards, 2 TDs).
Impressive as was the Cowboys' methodical deconstruction of the Bears' defense, their defense against Robert Griffin was equally eye-opening; Baylor's freshman QB sensation completed just 15 of 27 passes for 162 yards (0 TDs) and only 12 yards rushing on 12 attempts. Taken together, Oklahoma State's performance was a well-executed manifestation of a simple, coherent, both-sides-of-the-ball plan of attack for defeating Baylor--Saturday's performance being merely the latest iteration of Mike Gundy, Good Football Coach. If the Pokes upset Texas on Saturday afternoon, it's safe to assume Mike Gundy's name will start appearing on various short lists to fill high profile coaching vacancies.
The Farmers fought, yes--whoop!--but at the final gun it was yet another Texas Tech victory over the Aggies, their fourth straight in the series. With the win, Red Raiders head coach Mike Leach improved his Big 12 record to 38-29 in the Big 12, 23-18 in the South Division (including 7-2 over the Agros). Satisfying as Texas Tech's establishment as the South Division's third muskateer must be, Red Raider denizens aspire for more this season and at 7-0 (#8 in the first BCS Standings), Mike Leach's squad finds itself where it hoped to be heading into the brutal stretch run.
If the tight first half and relatively meager 18-point final spread against A&M might be reason for pause, the contest only remained close as long as it did because Tech turned the ball over on 3 of its first 7 full possessions; after Graham Harrell's interception with 10 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter, the Red Raiders outscored A&M 16-2 to close the game, A&M's only points the result of a Tech botched extra point attempt the Aggies returned for 2 points of their own. For the game, Tech outgained A&M 561 (7.1 per play) to 306 (4.9), finishing with 14 more first downs and a 23-2 scoring advantage in the second half.
Next up for Texas Tech is a road tilt against Kansas, and if Harrell and Co. can avoid ceding turnovers to the opportunistic Jayhawks (their +21 TO margin last year was tops in the nation), they might just find themselves hosting the Longhorns next Saturday night with the inside track to the BCS Title Game on the line.
Joe Ganz was exceptionally efficient, the Huskers rushed for 220 yards, and the Blackshirts completely smothered Iowa State in Ames to give Bo Pelini his first Big 12 victory as head coach at Nebraska. Though their head-to-head loss to Missouri means the Huskers likely need a victory over the Sooners in Norman (or another Tigers loss) to have a realistic shot at winning the North, Bo Pelini's squad has on the whole been an improvement over the messy seasons that defined Bill Callahan's tenure in Lincoln.
With Colt McCoy having led the rival Longhorns to a Red River Shootout victory, Zac Robinson leading the upstart Cowboys to a 7-0 start, and Tulsa's David Johnson on pace to obliterate the NCAA QB Rating record, Sooners QB Sam Bradford may have had himself the quietest 468-yard passing day in NCAA history last Saturday. Just a sophomore, Bradford is having another stupendous season passing the ball and finds himself near the top of the leaderboards in virtually every conceivable category.
But he may yet continue to fly a bit under the radar as Oklahoma takes a three-week back seat (at Kansas State, vs Nebraska, at A&M) while the rest of the Big 12 focuses on OSU at Texas, Texas at Texas Tech, and OSU at Texas Tech in successive weeks. If those three teams can canibalize one another, however, the Sooners--already #4 in the first BCS Standings--will be very much back on center stage when they close the season against the Red Raiders in Norman and Cowboys in Stillwater. Oklahoma is far from done.
Just peruse the box score of this one for 10 minutes to get an idea of how ugly this football game really was. If Colorado can be excused a bit for trying to rebuild amidst a sea of injuries, were I a Kansas State on the fence about Ron Prince's future in Manhattan, Saturday's sorry excuse for a "game plan" in this contest would tip me permanently over the edge into the "fire him" camp.
THE RACE FOR THE SOUTH
Unless you're turned on by the thought of trying to untangle the mess of 2-1 mediocrity atop the ACC Atlantic Division, the most exciting divisional race to follow down the stretch will be the four-team scrum for the Big 12 South title. With each of the four contenders winning last Saturday, Texas, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech sit atop the division at 3-0, while Oklahoma lurks behind (but far from out) at 2-1. A quick look at each team's remaining schedule:
|@ TX||OSU||@ KU||@ KSU|
|@ Tech||BU||OSU||@ A&M|
|@ CU||@ KU||@ OU||Tech|
WEEK 8 AWARDS
BEST WIN: TEXAS, OVER MISSOURI Though most Longhorns fans felt hopeful the team could manage a 2-2 mark during this brutal stretch, few--if any--thought the team would take down Oklahoma and Missouri in successive weeks. They have and enjoy a deserved #1 ranking for their work.
WORST LOSS: KANSAS STATE, TO COLORADO If outsiders wondered why the highly successful Mack Brown had some redeeming to do with his fan base, look no further than his 0-4 mark against Ron Prince and Dennis Franchione in 2006-07.
TOP PERFORMER, OFFENSE (TEAM): TEXAS Had the Longhorns pressed for the full 40 minutes, they might have accumulated 800 yards of total offense.
BUM STEER, OFFENSE (TEAM): KANSAS STATE The Wildcats are a mess. Fire Ron Prince.
TOP PERFORMER, OFFENSE (INDIVIDUAL): DEZ BRYANT, OKLAHOMA STATE Colt McCoy once again has a strong case here, but he's receiving plenty of attention as it is. The nod, then, to Dez Bryant--the Cowboys' imposing sophomore receiver who after his 11 catch, 212-yard performance on Saturday (including 2 TDs) finds himself second in the nation in receiving yards per game.
BUM STEER, OFFENSE (INDIVIDUAL): RON PRINCE, KANSAS STATE Accuse me of piling on, but I can't get over this one. The lack of a coherent strategy in this game was simply sad.
PB'S POWER RANKINGS
Last ranking in parentheses.
1. Texas (1) - They've summited the mountain, but staying their is going to be a challenge.
2. Oklahoma State (3) - Good team, good coach. The Cowboys are 2-20 all-time against Texas but bring their best-ever squad to Austin on Saturday.
3. Oklahoma (2) - Though this team's weaknesses have been on bright display the last two weeks, the Sooners are far from out of the Big 12 and national title races.
4. Texas Tech (4) - It's Prove It time.
5. Kansas (6) - If the running game continues to progress, the Jayhawks can win the North.
6. Missouri (5) - All those big guys in the middle of the Missouri defense? Are also slow guys.
7. Nebraska (7) - Nice win for NU in Ames last week.
8. Baylor (9) - The Bears got Gundied.
9. Colorado (10) - It wasn't pretty, but the Buffs got off the matt with the win over...
10. Kansas State (9) - Ronald: You're a bad football coach.
11. Texas A&M (11) - Still better than SMU and North Texas!
12. Iowa State (12) - The tunnel is dark.