The week in Big 12 football.
One of my favorite activities each week is my Friday evening chat with The Night Shift crew from Sports Radio 610 AM in Houston--a conversation which forces me to crystallize a week's worth of thoughts into a coherent Saturday narrative. After talking specifics about Texas-Colorado, Adam and Danny asked me on Friday to comment on the Big 12's other conference games, prompting me to emphasize that I thought the opening weekend's main storyline was whether the conference's five heavyweights (Missouri, OU, Tech, Texas, and Oklahoma State) would prove their worthiness by convincingly taking care of business on the road against Tier 2 Big XII teams. (Audio of this Friday's chat here.)
All five passed with flying colors, while Kansas justified my excluding them from the conversation:
If I was thrilled to see the contenders hold serve in week one, now the real fun begins as heavyweights are forced to butt heads. Click through the jump for thoughts on handicapping the race.
HANDICAPPING THE FAVORITES
If we start from my premise that the five Big 12 teams currently 5-0 are the only ones with realistic conference title hopes (sorry, Kansas), handicapping the title chase starts with a look at the remaining schedules.
|@ Texas||KANSAS||@ Texas A&M||MISSOURI||BAYLOR|
|COLORADO||@ Kansas St||@ Kansas||OKLAHOMA ST||@ Texas|
|@ Baylor||NEBRASKA||TEXAS||@ Texas Tech||IOWA ST|
|KANSAS ST||@ Texas A&M||OKLAHOMA ST||BAYLOR||@ Texas Tech|
|@ Iowa State||TEXAS TECH||@ Oklahoma||@ Kansas||@ Colorado|
|n-Kansas||@ Oklahoma St||BAYLOR||TEXAS A&M||OKLAHOMA|
The favorites, in order:
- MISSOURI TIGERS - Their conference and national title hopes appear to rest on their performance the next two weeks, with a home tilt against OSU and road trip to Austin standing between them and an eminently navigable five-game stretch to close the year.
- OKLAHOMA SOONERS - Not only do they appear to have the best team, but among the four South powers, they have the best schedule, avoiding Missouri while drawing Tech, Nebraska, and Kansas at home. Beat the Longhorns in Dallas and hold serve in Norman and the Sooners need only avoid an upset in Stillwater.
- TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS - Tech gets the advantage over the Horns and Cowboys by missing Missouri and drawing UT and OSU in Lubbock, but will have to win in Norman to overtake the Sooners.
- TEXAS LONGHORNS - It could be worse, had the 'Horns also to travel to Stillwater, but this is a tough row to hoe. Not only do they face the other four top contenders, but they face them in consecutive weeks.
- OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS - On the bright side, the schedule is staggered a bit, with lesser teams interrupting their big tests, but only the Sooners visit Stillwater. Winning at Missouri, at Texas, and at Texas Tech is hard to fathom.
THIS WEEK'S HEAVYWEIGHT CARD
(1) Oklahoma vs (5) Texas (Dallas, TX) -- While college football fans will have to decide whether to spend the 7-10 p.m. slot focused on LSU-Florida or Oklahoma State-Missouri, there's no question what everyone will be watching at 11 a.m., as the Red River Shootout returns to center stage as a season-defining clash between two top five-ranked undefeateds (the first time since '04). Oklahoma is averaging a silly 6.8 yards per play on offense, which if sustained would put them among giants of recent years. Of course, Colt McCoy would politely remind fans that the Longhorns aren't behind in that regard much at all, their 6.6 yards per play a full yard per play improved from this time a season ago. Set aside all those numbers, though: This game's getting decided in the trenches, where Oklahoma appears to have the advantage. The Sooners have the talent and experience on the offensive line to deal with Texas' rapidly improving pass rush, while the Longhorns look less well-equipped to deal with Gerald McCoy and friends.
(17) Oklahoma State at (3) Missouri -- Offense? You want off-the-charts offense? The Cowboys and Tigers snicker at the baby numbers above. And why not, when a Missouri and Oklahoma State fan could have the following pre-game exchange:
OSU fan: "Red River Shootout? We're the team north of the Red River averaging 7.6 yards per play."
Mizzou fan: "Excuse me, pantywaist, but Missouri is not only north of the Red River, but we're at 8.2 yards per play. [yawns] Have I mentioned Chase Daniel is on our team?"
OSU fan: "Chase? As in chasing Zac Robinson from behind in quarterback rating?"
Mizzou fan: "Ah, yes, that's right--the quarterback with a lovely rating and... what, one receiver with more than 10 catches? We have four. And I haven't even mentioned our tailback, who averages more than 7 yards per carry!"
OSU fan: "Are you comfortable with rounding up a tailback with a 6.6 yards per carry average to 7? Hmm? No? Okay, then we only have two tailbacks averaging seven-plus yards per attempt."
Mizzou fan: "Two words: Jeremy Maclin."
OSU fan: "Two more: Dez Bryant."
On and on they could go, and when you get down to it, neither could be considered excessively boastful: Both of these offenses have been on a planet of their own through five games. Which of course means the game is really about whether either team's defense has the ability to slow down someone else's great offense. I give the advantage in the front seven to Missouri, while preferring Oklahoma State's secondary.
So who wins? Who knows? The first to 60?