The week in Big XII football.
Texas 28 Oklahoma State 24 [Box / Recap / Blog Coverage]
Over at Barking Carnival, Scipio Tex argues in his always excellent post-game wrap that Saturday's outcome was not the result of Texas being flat:
Make no mistake, we brought our A game. The notion that we did not implies that we’d look different if we played them again or that effort was lacking. We wouldn’t. It wasn’t. They’d expose us in the same exact ways; just as we’d expose them. A team that converts 11 of 14 on third down isn’t in B game mode. OSU is a very good team with top flight skill personnel and a physical mindset. They are the team you’d design in a lab to give us fits. They’re just two vials of badass short on defense. This is who we are against that team. Period. There’s a difference between playing badly and being made to look bad.
Insofar as I wasn't in love with our game plan or coaching adjustments, I'm not sure I quite agree that we saw Texas' "A game," but I agree wholeheartedly with the spirit of Scipio's point: The closeness of Saturday's battle was affirmation of the Cowboys' strength, rather than some kind of letdown by the 'Horns. Texas beat a great team to move to 8-0.
Texas Tech 63 Kansas 21 [Box / Recap / Blog Coverage]
Todd Reesing after two drives: 9-10, 98 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Todd Reesing the rest of the game: 7-16, 58 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT
What changed? Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeil abandoned the zone under Cover 2 scheme Reesing was picking apart in favor of man under Cover 1. The Tortilla Retort explains:
There’s not a damn thing I can really complain about except for our option defense, which I’ll get into later. McNeill adjusted his coverages and leveraged that into sacks and turnovers... I’ve hinted that what makes this unit special is the ability to get pressure on the QB without blitzing. McNeill is starting to use that more to his advantage as we’ve played almost 4 quarters of significant man coverage in our last 6. In those 4 quarters, we’ve outscored our opponents 65-2 getting damn near 2 sacks per quarter. That’s enough punts for Tech to win football games.Lest Longhorns fans dismissively wave off these developments with any "Yeah, but that's Kansas" talk, it's worth pointing out the similarities between Texas' and KU's offenses. The Jayhawks have a mediocre running game which provides little support for their absurdly accurate and gutty quarterback, who succeeds despite lacking any real deep receiving threat. Sound familiar?
Even so, Saturday night will be "Prove it" time for Texas Tech, who have allowed Texas to score 59, 35, 52, 51, and 43 points in the last five meetings--all Tech losses. Even in the Red Raiders' 2002 win in Lubbock the Longhorns managed 38 points, and you have to go all the way back to 2000 to find the last time Texas Tech held Texas under 30 points.
ESPN's College Game Day will once more be on hand to feature what will be the biggest game ever played in Lubbock; Mike Leach's entire 9-year career has been a steady build to this moment. The stakes? Enormous: If Texas wins, the South Division is locked up barring a total collapse. If Tech improves to 9-0, they'd find themselves ranked no worse than #3 and likely controlling their destiny to Kansas City and, even, Miami.
If the last three weeks have seemed intense, the matching 8-0 records of these two teams mean Saturday night will elevate that intensity to a level like nothing we've seen since Texas' last trip to Pasadena. And like nothing Texas Tech fans have seen... well, ever.
Game on, ladies and gentlemen. I advise you to wear a helmet.
Mike Venables is 38 years old. Hmm. Is he a man? And thereby fair game for criticism?
Looking at him, I'm not so sure. He looks confused. About his manhood. Like he goes to dance clubs with gel in his hair. I just don't know...
Ah, forget it. Dude makes $400,000 a year; he's fair game. So here goes: OU's defense under Venables rather sucks. And if I were Big Game Bob Stoops I'd consider taking over as defensive coordinator and/or hiring someone else.
Kansas State racked up 28 points and 367 yards of offense on 41 first half plays, and it might have been worse if the Wildcats hadn't coughed up two drive-ending fumbles along the way. Less hair care, more work on the defense, Brent. Yes?
Of course, Oklahoma's offense met no resistance whatsoever on the other side, posting 48 points and 381 yards on 40 first half plays of their own; add in a punt return touchdown and the Sooners entered halftime with a 55-28 lead. Ron Prince should lose his job.
A nice win for Nebraska, who shut out the Bears in the second half to come back from a 14-7 deficit after one quarter to move to 2-2 in Big 12 play. The excellent Huskers blog Corn Nation pinpoints the key to the win:
Baylor was 0/10 on third down plays, including plenty that were third and short. Good play by the defensive line. Once again, Suh is an awesome force in the middle. Doesn't get a lot of press though, does he?Au contrair, my friend: Mr. Suh and his cohorts on the defensive line were my non-con MVPs just a few weeks ago. But yeah. Corn Nation has a point, and I think it's fair to say the Huskers--due both to their rebuilding under first-year coach Bo Pelini and the multitude of high profile teams in the conference--are flying a bit under the radar. In truth, that's not necessarily a bad thing as the team grows under Pelini and, even if the Huskers lose in Norman on Saturday night, should they finish the season with a three-game run over KU, KSU, and Colorado, the Huskers would wrap Pelini's first season 5-3 in conference play.
Of course, should they win in Norman, Nebraska would be one more Missouri stumble from the inside track to Kansas City. Either way, Bill Callahan's mess is being cleaned up nicely so far in Lincoln.
More than a few folks predicted the Tigers would take out their frustrations with incredible ferocity on the visiting Buffaloes, and boy did they ever. Colorado managed a meager 2.9 yards per play, Chase Daniel tossed 5 TD passes, and Missouri set the table for a four-game stretch that should get them back on track and prepared for a redemption game against the South Division winner.
As for Colorado, they're as far behind the conference leaders as they have been since Hawkins arrived before the 2006 season. The offensive line--young and decimated by injuries--is getting slaughtered, a setback which ruins everything the Buffs want to do on offense. Defensively, they're still a couple years and strong recruiting classes away from being contenders.
So close, Longhorns fans! So close! I heard your calls last week to drop the Farmers to 12th in the power rankings and with a loss yesterday I'd have done just that today, but... it wasn't to be. No, sir. Today, we say definitively: Texas A&M is the 11th best team in the conference. You'll just have to accept that. Hopefully Texas will have the kind of season that helps you not think about it.
Give SBN's Aggie bloggers all due credit: their postgame reaction is worthy a hat tip. And the offense under Jerrod Johnson continues to develop nicely, his effort Saturday (31-39 for 381 yards 4 TDs, 0 INT) his best yet this season. Frankly, if I wore maroon overalls, I'd just feel enormously grateful that the Jerrod Johnson era didn't have to wait behind a full season of 'meh' from Stephen McGee.
WEEK 9 AWARDS
BEST WIN: TEXAS, OVER OKLAHOMA STATE Again. Whatever happens going forward, it's truly remarkable the Longhorns will kickoff Saturday night 8-0. What a season.
WORST LOSS: COLORADO, TO MISSOURI Losing to Missouri is no crime, but a 58-0 pantsing by a division rival is beyond disheartening. Worst of all, there's no light in the 2008 tunnel right now. The Buffs are in pitch dark territory.
TOP PERFORMER, OFFENSE (TEAM): TEXAS TECH The Red Raiders racked up 63 points and 556 yards of total offense on the road as Graham Harrell moved past Phillip Rivers for 4th place on the all-time passing list.
BUM STEER, OFFENSE (TEAM): COLORADO The Buffs' offensive line is horrendous. Which means the whole offense is broken.
TOP PERFORMER, OFFENSE (INDIVIDUAL): COLT MCCOY & JORDAN SHIPLEY, TEXAS The bottom line is that Texas loses on Saturday if these two don't go superhuman. Only the 4th quarter turnovers prevents this from being the mot amazing performance of McCoy's career. He's special, and so is Shipley, who at full health is precisely the player so many fans dreamed he could be when he arrived four years ago.
BUM STEER, OFFENSE (INDIVIDUAL): OFFENSIVE LINE, COLORADO Here I am, with my stick, atop the horse, beating away. This unit is bad, bad, bad.
PB'S POWER RANKINGS
Last ranking in parentheses.
1. Texas (1) - Are you ready for a breather yet? How ready must the team be for one? Can they really win all four of these games? I'll second Scipio's call for action: Do your best healing dance for Chykie Brown's ankle.
2. Oklahoma State (2) - They did nothing to convince me they should drop in these rankings. And if I'm a lustful fan at a big name school whose coach is out or on the way out, I'm starting to clamor for Mike Gundy. The former OSU quarterback may not be interested in leaving, but I'd do my best to get his ear.
3. Oklahoma (3) - Time to drop them behind the Red Raiders? A good argument could be made, given the defensive sketchiness, but I'll hold off and let things sort out on the field.
4. Texas Tech (4) - Tech's own murderer's row began swimmingly with the road blowout. Now the insanity begins.
5. Missouri (6) - That's more like it. The Tigers were down, but too good to count out. Finish strong and they can go BCS Bowling.
6. Nebraska (7) - An interesting progress check awaits them in Norman on Saturday night.
7. Kansas (5) - With Texas and Missouri to conclude the season, Kansas desperately needs to beat KSU and Nebraska to get back on track.
8. Baylor (8) - Likely losses to Missouri, Texas, and Tech await, but a home win over A&M would be an impressive notch on Griffin's and Briles' first-year belts.
9. Colorado (9) - How did this team beat Kansas State? (Ron Prince, I'm lookin' at you...)
10. Kansas State (10) - Ronald: You're a bad football coach.
11. Texas A&M (11) - Unquestionably not the worst in the Big 12.
12. Iowa State (12) - I read somewhere this week that Gene Chizik is a candidate for the Clemson job. If true, he'd be insane not to leave Ames, where things are bleak.