AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 3: Running back Fozzy Whittaker #2 of the Texas Longhorns runs over safety Tanner Leland #8 of the Rice Owls to score his second touchdown in the fourth quarter on September 3, 2011 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
The Big 12 lost a few members since last season. As a result, the format is a winner-take-all schedule with each member playing the other, which is probably good news for all the former South division squads. This year, TXStampede and I will take a weekly look at the conference race and give our perspective on each team's game the previous week and the next week and how they currently rank in the conference.
The Big 12 had a couple of ugly games but escaped opening week without a loss. Three teams sit in the Top 10 (OU, OSU, and A&M), and it will make for an interesting season for a conference that looks to be dissolving sooner rather than later.
LAST WEEK: In what was one of maybe two must watch TV games for opening weekend, the Baylor Bears all but gave away the game in the 4th quarter to the visiting #14 ranked TCU Horned Frogs. This was the first time since 2004 the Bears beat a ranked opponent. Up 47-23 entering the final period, the Bears gave that advantage up plus one to trail 48-47 on a valiant comeback by TCU. However, Robert Griffin put the team on his back and fought off a valiant Horn Frog effort leading on a game winning drive ending in a field goal with a little over one minute remaining for the final score of 50-48. Griffin III made a strong statement out of the Heisman watch gate with 5 touchdowns on 21-27. That is a strong stat line. And Baylor was named the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team of the Week. With all that said, Baylor had better figure out the non-offensive side of the ball heading into conference play because what they showed will not cut it against big-boy football teams.
THIS WEEK: Coach Briles psyched the team out claiming the TCU game was a "one game season". It worked as the Bears get their first bye-week out of the way early this season.
SEASON OUTLOOK: Baylor got off to a surprise start last year but faltered down the stretch losing its last four games. The Bears have high expectations this year with a lot of talk surrounding their All-American candidate Robert Griffin III. He, along with their dynamic receiver Kendall Wright, will be putting up ridiculous numbers but that is about as far as they go. Baylor has three tough road games this year at Stillwater, Kyle Field and KSU. This may be what keeps them out of contention for a bowl game. - TXStampede
LAST WEEK: Quarterback Steele Jantz (seriously?) scored a come from behind touchdown keeper with 0:40 remaining in the game to beat FCS powerhouse Northern Iowa 20-19 in their home opener.
THIS WEEK: In yet another cross-state rival game, the mighty Iowa Hawkeyes come to town. Early line is Iowa -7. Give the points on this one as Iowa handily wins by three scores 30-17.
SEASON OUTLOOK: Finishing 11th in the conference last year in scoring, the Cyclones are going to be hard pressed to improve offensively losing their top specialists to graduation. After a 5-7 2010 campaign, Iowa State may have a difficult time fielding a more competitive squad this season as a result of the attrition. - TXStampede
LAST WEEK: Coach Turner Gill's Jayhawks posted an impressive home win over McNeese State 42-24 displaying speed, according to reports, that was sorely absent the last few seasons. Their quarterback, Jordan Webb, went 7-10 for 146 yards and managed to dabble in THREE touchdown passes. Nice work if you can get it.
THIS WEEK: At home again, KU takes on Northern Illinois in a warm up game before facing the stiffer competition. The Jayhawks will win this one by a TD 33-28.
SEASON OUTLOOK: Let's face it, Kansas will be hard pressed to win a Big 12 game this season in spite of the returning experience (8 starters on both sides of ball). Even so, it is not senior leadership that is returning. It would not surprise me in the least if the Northern Illinois game is the last game they win the rest of the year. - TXStampede
LAST WEEK: An ugly 10-7 victory against Eastern Kentucky. K-State tried their darned hardest to give the game away with five turnovers, but Eastern Kentucky refused to concede the loss.
THIS WEEK: Also off before taking on Kent State the following week, which is a hard game to care about.
SEASON OUTLOOK: K-State will not field that strong of a team this year, but they will still beat us. Sigh. - TheElusiveShadow
LAST WEEK: The big question for Mizzou this season was how they would replace Blaine Gabbert at QB... and it remains a question after last week's uninspiring offensive performance against Miami (OH). James Franklin has room to grow but it wasn't pretty. At least the defense clamped down to keep Miami at six points to take the victory.
THIS WEEK: The Tigers play Arizona State on Friday night. The offense is going to need to grow in a hurry because ASU has a competent enough offense to put more than six points on the board, but I do like Mizzou's defense here. I'll bet on their offense showing some improvement by Friday and taking the victory here.
SEASON OUTLOOK: Missouri's defense should be pretty good this season and may be the best one Pinkel has had there, but I think the questions on offense will keep them from being serious conference contenders against high-scoring teams like OU and OSU. - TheElusiveShadow
LAST WEEK: The #1 ranked Sooners (you have no idea how hard it is for me to type that) got off to a fast start offensively against Tulsa and before the Hurricane had a chance to catch their breath, OU won another one at home 47-14. The score is a bit misleading as the game was never really that close, or in doubt. Landry and Broyles had outstanding games and the walk-on tailback, Dominique Whaley, scooted for a buck thirty-one with, ahem, four TD's. Interesting trivia: Former standout Sooner JC Watts son, Trey, caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Tulsa's Kinne late in the game.
THIS WEEK: The Sooners get to nurse their bodies in the first of two bye-weeks this season.
OUTLOOK: I will let other discuss this as it appears, barring some unforeseen upset in their future, OU will win another Big 12 championship. This is a disturbing trend if you're a Longhorn fan. Isn't everybody else getting tired of this broken record? Seriously, they look fast and tough which are the two basic ingredients needed to go all the way..that and a little luck. Here's to someone punching their ticket. - TXStampede
LAST WEEK: The 61-34 affair against Louisiana-Lafayette may suggest shootout, but that would be a bit unfair to the Pokes' defense. Brandon Weeden uncharacteristically threw three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, and the backups in the fourth quarter gave up two more touchdowns. The starting defense, then, conceded only six points and 177 yards in three quarters. Offensively, the Pokes were dangerous, as expected, and aside from the three picks they ransacked the hapless Ragin' Cajuns.
THIS WEEK: They play Arizona this Thursday on ESPN, whom they beat soundly in the Alamo Bowl last season. The Wildcats' offense will provide a stiffer test for OSU's defense than ULL, but it will be a tall order for ‘Zona's thin defense to control Weeden and Blackmon, not to mention OSU's run game. Arizona can score a few points, but I can see the Pokes posting 40+ this game.
SEASON OUTLOOK: Oklahoma State features an extremely dangerous offense and an improved defense, and they have the necessary firepower to threaten Oklahoma. The Pokes have fielded some strong teams the past few years but have been unable to topple the Sooners, which they will most likely have to if they want to finally win the Big 12. - TheElusiveShadow
LAST WEEK: The Longhorns started slow with a brand new offense and defense en route to only a 13-6 lead at halftime. However, the offense picked up steam in the second half while the defense tightened further, and the result was a solid 34-9 win with over 500 yards of total offense. Yes, it was only Rice, but it doesn't take more than a short viewing to be excited about what Harsin is doing with the offense. Defensively, a couple of sustained drives by Rice were annoying, but Diaz was true to his word that teams will find it difficult to get into the end zone.
THIS WEEK: Texas hosts BYU, who may very well be a conference mate soon (for all we know). BYU's victory over Ole Miss last week was of the ugly variety, winning on a fumble recovery in the end zone, but they should nonetheless provide a stiffer test than the Owls. BYU will actually challenge the coverage abilities of our back line, but hopefully that gives our DE's better opportunities for sacks. Offensively, the Longhorns will want to start a little cleaner since the Cougars will have a better defense than the Owls. However, as long as Texas takes care of the ball, they should be able to win this one.
SEASON OUTLOOK: Needless to say, the Horns are perhaps the most mysterious team in the Big 12 after coming off a shocking 5-7 campaign. If the Rice game taught us anything, it's that we have to be patient: The team is heading in the right direction but there will continue to be execution errors as they get comfortable in new systems. Overall, the Horns have some exciting young talent, and I think we can become an extremely dangerous team by November with a little luck with injuries. - TheElusiveShadow
LAST WEEK: Texas A&M struggled early on defense against SMU before settling down and thrashing the Mustangs 46-14. SMU had a legitimate chance to turn this into a wild shootout early in the game, as they were moving the ball at will, but poor QB play and bad coaching decisions ruined their chances at an early lead. A&M was probably going to win anyway because SMU's defense didn't have a prayer in stopping the Aggie offense, but at least it would have been a more interesting game. Eventually, the lead grew, the SMU offense lost confidence, and A&M's defense rebounded to shutout the Mustangs for the second half.
THIS WEEK: Off this week. Their next game is on the 17th against Idaho, which is probably going to be really ugly for Idaho.
SEASON OUTLOOK: One of the other major contenders in the Big 12, the Aggies also have an offense dangerous enough to challenge the Sooners. Their defense has some ways to go to catch up with their offense, but a second half shutout against SMU should be encouraging. That said, their game against Oklahoma State is only three weeks away, and the Pokes will likely not leave that many points on the field if the Aggies are similarly shaky to start the game. - TheElusiveShadow
LAST WEEK: In a laugher of a scrimmage against the San Marcos Bobcats, the Red Raiders rallied and rolled to a 50-10 win at home after falling behind early to open their 2011 campaign. Their quarterback, Seth Doege, threw for three touchdowns.
THIS WEEK: Bye
SEASON OUTLOOK: After opening with four fairly doormat programs to begin the season, and likely wins, the Raiders will be flying high heading into their showdown on October 8 against the Aggies at Jones Stadium. Tech will struggle to hit their 8 wins from a year ago in Tuberville's second season as head coach but manage to eek out another bowl invite winning four conference games. - TXStampede
Upcoming Game of The Week: Arizona vs. Oklahoma State (-14)
Player of The Week: Robert Griffin III (21-27-0, 5 TD, Big 12 Player of the Week, National Offensive Player of the Week by Rivals.com and the Walter Camp Football Foundation, earned Player of the Week honors from Heismanpundit.com and is one of four finalists for both the Capital One Cup Performance of the Week and AT&T All-America Player of the Week.)
Big 12 Rankings:
2. Oklahoma State
3. Texas A&M
8. Kansas State
9. Iowa State