Big 12 Report: Week 9

As sports fans, we like to believe that we can rationally explain, and subsequently predict, everything that happens and will happen.  After all, with enough knowledge, analysis, and evidence, we can confidently deduce which teams are superior to others and predict outcomes accordingly.  There is, of course, a lot of truth to this, which is why we bother to blog about this stuff in the first place.  Teams with more experience, talent, and/or skill beat others who don't have as much.

However, if you watch sports enough, you know that any given game can be decided by a whole host of factors that are not limited to a team's talent or skill level.  Teams can play out of their minds or play terribly, bad calls can be made, matchups can differ from game to game, and sometimes there's just plain ol' luck involved (boy, do fans hate admitting that last one).  If this is true of even professional sports, it sure as heck applies to 18-22 year old athletes.  It can be very dubious trying to predict the behavior of such young players sometimes.  Add to all this the fact that the Big 12 is pretty deep and competitive this year outside of one team, and you have a recipe for some chaos.

To illustrate, simplistic logic would have told us that since Oklahoma whipped Texas on a neutral field who thrashed Iowa State in Ames, Texas Tech, who took down OU in Norman, would therefore crush the Cyclones in Lubbock.  Instead, the Cyclones beat the Red Raiders silly to the tune of 41-7, one of the more surprising outcomes of the weekend.  And if I were a betting man, I'd bet that OU will pummel ISU to dust when they play them.

This inconsistency of play is embodied by the Aggies more than anyone else.  In their three losses, they've been outscored by a margin of 73-15 in the second half after jumping out to big leads in the first.  The undefeated Cowboys better take note because a flat game, or even a flat half, can get punished by almost anyone.

Undefeated Kansas State?  They've been living precariously for weeks, and finally things came crashing down.  We'll take a look at their game against OU first.

#6 Oklahoma

LAST WEEK:  Well that didn't take long to regroup and throttle the next whistle stop on the Sooners schedule.  While the freight train derailed against Texas Tech, the linemen got it back in gear quickly and made mince meat of Kansas State, walloping the Wildcats 58-17.  I suppose getting out of the Norman bubble provided an opportunity for the snake charmer Stoops to focus his scaly beasts on annihilating KSU.  Whatever the magic dust employed, it worked as Landry Jones set the school record (hard to believe) with a 505 yard passing day and hurling 5 TD's.  He spread the ball around to all of the Sooner high-drawer receivers including All-American candidate and NCAA receptions record holder Ryan Broyles, who caught passes worth 171 yards and added a touchdown.

The win was hardly surprising given the success rate Coach Stoops has in rebounding his protégés after a loss.  The Sooners had not lost back-to-back games since the 2003 season and still stands as the nation's longest streak.

THIS WEEK:  The Aggies march into Norman with conquest on their minds.  I'm sure hopeful that the Sooners send them packing in what is remaining of the A&M GTFO Tour.  Look for the Aggies to make it competitive for a quarter and a half before the defense reverts to form and rolls over.  OU should comfortably win this by three touchdowns.

SEASON OUTLOOK:  Those tires burning are the high-octane OU offense sending a message to OSU they will face in the annual Bedlam game on December 3.  Needing to tap into the gullible Harris and Coaches poll voters to make headway in the voting after the Red Raider upset loss, the first week in operation blietzkrieg worked as OU climbed the ladder landing at #6 in this week's BCS ranking.  They'll continue the breakneck pace and might wind up a top-5 team when they face the Cowboys.  That game will be the de-facto Big 12 championship and will determine which team represents the conference in the year end national picture. - TXStampede

#14 Kansas State

LAST WEEK:  K-State hung around with Oklahoma for a half and even scored 17 straight points at one moment to take the lead.  Unfortunately for them, Oklahoma came out red hot in the second half and the pace of the game got out of control, and the Wildcats got blown away.  OU piled up 690 yards of total offense, and Collin Klein still only attempted 16 passes as KSU was left completely without answers.  It is a bitterly disappointing loss for K-State, but as everyone has noted, they've been living on a razor's edge all season.  This time, the other team didn't shoot themselves in the foot and turned the game into a style of play that the Wildcats couldn't handle. 

THIS WEEK:  No breaks for KSU, as they travel to Stillwater to take on #3 Oklahoma State.  The Wildcats can find more success running the ball than against OU, and they better; they can't keep up with OSU's offense either.  If Kansas State can control clock and get a few big stops, then they'll have a chance to keep this close, but if the Cowboy offense starts clicking, it will turn ugly for them again.

SEASON OUTLOOK:  Kansas State obviously came crashing down to earth after living precariously throughout the season, and it is likely they'll have their second straight loss this Saturday.  They play hard and smart, but the athletic discrepancy is apparent compared to other top teams, and Oklahoma showed that.  A&M awaits after the Cowboys, so K-State could find themselves drop out of the rankings entirely with a bad slide.     - TheElusiveShadow

Baylor

LAST WEEK:  One of those games in which Baylor put up incredible offensive statistics but could not capitalize and turn the yards into points.  The Bears finished with video game like output of 622 yards of offense in a 59-24 losing effort.  Heisman hopeful RGIII finished with a strong performance passing for 422 yards on a 34-51 day but threw two interceptions and only one touchdown.  That lone passing touchdown fell well short of his over three per game average.  Combine the picks with three fumbles and the Cowboys raced off to a five touchdown lead at half, virtually ending the game.

THIS WEEK:  The Bears have a date against Missouri in Waco. 

SEASON OUTLOOK:  Having now met the top teams in the conference, the Bears must play at peak performance to manage becoming bowl eligible as each team remaining on their schedule, save for Kansas, are capable of beating them.  I like their home field chances against Mizzou and Texas and that gets them over the hump. - TXStampede

Iowa State

LAST WEEK:  Count them.  Three seasons in a row ex-Tommy Tuberville assistant and current Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads and his Iowa State Cyclones have a signature road wins, this year blowing a hole in Jones Stadium and beating the Red Raiders to a pulp with a final score of 41-7.  And even more spooky are the upset road wins occurred around the same calendar date during each successive season - 2009 Nebraska (10/24), 2010 Texas (10/23), 2011 Texas Tech (10/29).

Replacing Steele Jantz in the prior game, redshirt quarterback Jared Barnett barn- stormed the hapless Red Raider defense, leading them to an impressive 512 yards of offense of which almost one-half was his either passing or rushing.  This was the first game the Cyclones had rushed for over 300 yards since a 2001 victory over Kansas.

THIS WEEK:  Iowa State gets the hapless Kansas Jayhawks at home, looking to rebound after the embarrassing showing against the Longhorns.

SEASON OUTLOOK:  The win over Tech puts them comfortably behind in the race toward the bottom of the conference.  Beat Kansas, and Iowa State will not serve as the Big 12 doormat.  This year, that title won't be held in Ames. - TXStampede

Kansas

LAST WEEK:  Over matched, out hustled, and physically whipped is how best to describe the historic 43-0 loss to the Texas Longhorns.  Having faced 6 undefeated teams in successive weeks, I'm sure the Jayhawks thought travelling to Austin might give them some reprieve given the recent two game Longhorn skid.  Kansas could not get anything going against a fired up UT defense and could only muster 46 offensive yards and 3 first downs (1 by penalty and 1 against 2nd string players) on the day.

THIS WEEK:  Kansas is on the road again this week facing fellow conference cellar dweller Iowa State in Ames.

SEASON OUTLOOK:  This team's plight turned for the worse after their showing against Texas.  Coach Turner Gil was looking for bright spots and his offense was one of very few prior to the match up with Texas.  Now, with their confidence in shambles, it will take the work of miracle men on the coaching staff to get their players ready each and every week from here on out.  Nothing I have seen changes my prediction of zero conference wins. - TXStampede

Missouri

LAST WEEK:  Missouri watched film of A&M's games against OSU and Arky, went down by a double digit halftime margin on purpose, lulled the Aggies to sleep, and then came back to defeat them in overtime.  All part of the plan.  In all seriousness, while the similarities between these three games are interesting, Mizzou came back primarily through rushing yards rather than gashing the Aggie secondary through the air, running for 284 yards at 5.7 yards per carry.  It was a much needed win for the Tigers if they want to be bowl eligible, but they still have to win two more.

THIS WEEK:  Missouri will face Robert Griffin and Baylor at Waco this Saturday.  The only reason Baylor doesn't have the worst defense in the Big 12 is because Kansas' defense is a special kind of awful, but they're still bad.  Missouri should not have a problem moving the ball in whatever way they choose, but their own defense hasn't been very good this year and the Baylor offense is more than capable of winning in a shootout.  Turnovers probably decide this one.

SEASON OUTLOOK:  The win at Kyle Field is big, but like I said, they still need two more wins to get to a bowl game.  The prospects of that look a whole lot better because they still get to play Kansas, but a win over their next three games (Baylor, Texas, Tech) will not be easy. - TheElusiveShadow

#3 Oklahoma State

LAST WEEK:  The Cowboys raced off to a surprising 42-0 lead before settling for a 59-24 destruction of Baylor.  The fact that their offense shredded that terrible Baylor defense was not the surprise; the surprise was that they shutout Baylor until the third quarter despite the Bears piling on 622 yards of total offense (and Baylor only had three points until 21 meaningless points in the fourth). 

THIS WEEK:  Okie State hosts the Wildcats this week, and unless Weeden starts the turning the ball over and allows Kansas State to control the pace of the game, the Cowboys should win.  The matchups aren't as greatly in their favor as OU's were, but they still have the advantage.    

SEASON OUTLOOK:  The Cowboy defense is an interesting squad.  As I've stated many times before, the vast majority of the points and yards they have allowed have come well after the game is in hand, which is why they rank #6 in an advanced metric like Defensive S&P while ranking 110th in total defense and #61 in scoring defense.  I wouldn't call them a great defense by any means but they are opportunistic, getting stops or turnovers when they need to.  With their offense, that seems to be good enough for them, and the road looks like it's pretty much set for the Cowboys to go into Bedlam undefeated.  However, as the Big 12 has shown this year, consistency is hardly something that is guaranteed and the Pokes will have to stay focused to avoid stumbling before what may be the biggest game in their history.  - TheElusiveShadow

#21 Texas

LAST WEEK:  The Longhorns came out of their bye week to crush the Kansas Jayhawks, 43-0.  The defensive stats are well known, but some of them are worth repeating:  46 yards of total offense allowed (-2 rushing), three first downs allowed (one from a penalty), and 15 minutes of possession allowed.  At halftime, the Jayhawks were sitting at 10 total yards of offense.  As bad as the Jayhawk defense has been, their offense has actually been okay and it was a heck of a performance by the D.  The offense did they part as well by amassing 441 yards rushing and eating up clock, although some miscues kept some points off the board.

THIS WEEK:  Texas hosts a Texas Tech team that is either seething or down after getting humiliated at home by Iowa State.  Texas Tech doesn't have a good defense and has been susceptible to the run all year, giving up an average of 226 yards per game at 4.91 yards per carry.  However, they have a dangerous offense when it's clicking, and it will be yet another test for our young defense.  If they can build on the performance they had against the Pokes, I like our chances of controlling the Red Raider offense despite the fact that I fully expect them to look tons better than they did last week.

SEASON OUTLOOK:  The last five games are against beatable opponents but there are no guaranteed victories.  Even Baylor can get us if Robert Griffin has a Superman day.  Still, I like our chances to finish 8-4 and I'm even modestly hopeful for nine wins.  The defense and running game are progressing fairly well, but the big question is if our passing game can make enough strides these next few weeks to convert a few third and longs and generally keep defenses honest.  Also, while Texas destroyed Kansas, the Longhorns still blew a few scoring opportunities which could be disastrous against better competition, so that's something to watch as well. - TheElusiveShadow

Texas A&M

LAST WEEK:  What's new?  The Aggies gave away a second half lead.  This time, however, it was to a 3-4 Missouri squad and not a Top Ten team, and so the Aggies have plummeted from the rankings.  The Tigers were able to run the ball well, and while the Aggie defense certainly deserves a large part of the blame, the offense didn't help as they once again went into hibernation after halftime, scoring three measly points in the 2nd half and OT and turning the ball over.  Sherman's playcalling was again curious, culminating in a weird handoff to Ryan Swopes on third and short in overtime that lost yardage (they eventually failed to convert on fourth down).  I think Swopes is a very good player and I know he's a former RB, but when you have Gray and Michael on your team, you don't run that play.

THIS WEEK:  Texas A&M has to try to rebound against an angry Sooner team in Norman.  The Aggies have the weapons to put up some points, but I am not remotely optimistic about their chances.  The good news for them is that OU is hurting in the secondary and they should be able to find some holes there, but their defense against that offense is not going to be pretty.

SEASON OUTLOOK:  With this recent loss, any realistic hope for a Big 12 title went up in smoke.  The Aggies' three losses have come by a combined 12 points, and two of those losses are to Top Ten teams, but they can't stop anyone when they need to and their offense, as dangerous as it is, has had long moments of ineptitude in their losses that has left their struggling defense out to dry.   I've seen enough of them to know that they can be pretty good at times, but is any Aggie fan that confident in any of their remaining games except Kansas?  Sherman deserves credit for gathering some pretty good players, but he is equally deserving of blame that they haven't been able to close out these games.  - TheElusiveShadow

Texas Tech

LAST WEEK:  Only a week after potentially decimating OU's dreams of a national championship run, the Red Raiders laid an egg at home against upset minded Iowa State, losing in big fashion 41-7.  Top ranked passer Seth Doege went from hometown hero to outback goat, throwing for zero touchdowns on the day along with 2 picks and a fumble.  The no touchdown performance snapped a consecutive team streak going all the way back to 2006.  Texas Tech is only the 2nd team since 1989 to go from not receiving votes in the AP one week, to being ranked the next week, to not receiving votes the following week.  Quite an accomplishment, but hey, that's how Pirates roll.

THIS WEEK:  Tech travels to Austin to take on cross-state rival Texas.  This game is typically not lacking in high drama and this game is expected to be the same.  Tuberville will have his group poised and ready to make amends for the terrible showing at home last week.  If the Horns can't find a way to get the Raiders off the field, look for another successful outing for the Air Raid offense and a heroic homecoming in successive road games.

SEASON OUTLOOK:  I don't think I was the only person who jumped on the Tech bandwagon after their impressive victory against the Sooners.  And I know I'm not the first one to jump off the train.  The Big 12 is deep and any given Saturday you're about as likely to see at least one surprising finish.  Tech will continue to struggle against strong rushing offenses as was the case against A&M, Kansas State, and ISU.  Their next four games will be tough going but like with the rest of the conference, everybody gets a better than even chance at winning.  The team needs only one more win to become bowl eligible.  Lose this weekend and it's possible they don't make the cut. But then again they could run the table, too.  This is the wacky Big 12 we're talking about. - TXStampede

Players of the Week (courtesy of big12sports.com)

Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week
Landry Jones, Oklahoma, QB, Jr, Artesia, N.M.
Landry Jones completed 35-of-47 (.745) passes for a school-record 505 yards and five touchdowns (two interceptions) in No. 9 Oklahoma's 58-17 win at previously unbeaten No. 8 Kansas State. The junior's yardage figure also was the most for any player at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. His TD throws covered 11, 18, 29, 8 and 12 yards. OU finished with 690 yards of total offense, its highest total since the 1978 Oklahoma State game (692), and averaged 9.2 yards per play against the Big 12's top defensive unit entering the game. With his 90 touchdown passes, Jones set the Oklahoma career record previously held by Sam Bradford with 88.

Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week
E.J. Gaines, MU, CB, So, Independence, Mo.
E.J. Gaines anchored a solid second-half defensive performance as Missouri upset No. 16 Texas A&M 38-31 in overtime in College Station, Texas. Gaines notched a career-best 10 tackles and broke up a career-best four passes, including three in the fourth quarter as Mizzou rallied from a 28-17 deficit and held the Aggies to three second-half points. The first-year sophomore starter has 13 passes defended (11 PBUs, 2 INTs) on the season, which is tops in the Big 12 Conference (1.63 per game avg.) and ranks fifth nationally.

Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week
Justin Tucker, Texas, K, Sr, Austin, Texas
Justin Tucker made a pair of field goals, including a career-long 52-yarder, and connected on all five of his PATs to score 11 points in No. 24 Texas' 43-0 win over Kansas. He also dropped his one punt of the game inside the 20 at the KU 12-yard line.

Upcoming Game of the Week:  Oklahoma State at Kansas State (7:00 p.m. ABC)

Rankings

1.  Oklahoma State

2.  Oklahoma

3.  Kansas State

4.  Texas A&M

5.  Texas

6.  Texas Tech

7.  Missouri

8.  Baylor

9.  Iowa State

10.  Kansas

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