Your weekly Big 12 roundup.
Missouri 41 Texas Tech 10
Heading into this week, I thought Texas Tech had a good chance to get on the kind of roll that would lead to a real shot at upsetting Oklahoma and winning the Big 12 South. I also thought after last week that Missouri might have had its cage rattled by OU and would have a tough time getting back on track.
Wrong and wrong. Yesterday's game in Missouri reminded me very much of Texas Tech's visit to Austin in 2005, when the Raiders accumulated 400 yards of total offense but were thoroughly contained overall. Missouri played Graham Harrell and the Red Raiders as well as you possibly can, keeping constant pressure on him as he threw and, ultimately, intercepting him four times.
I didn't think Mike Leach had his finest afternoon as a coach, and if there's one common factor I notice in so many of Tech's defeats, it's the lack of a committed and balanced approach to running the football. The Red Raiders called just 10 running plays on the afternoon, allowing Missouri to key in on their gameplan for Harrell. Even though so many of Tech's passing plays serve as rushes of sorts, there has to be more touches for Shannon Woods to free up the space the receivers need in the passing game. That was totally absent on Saturday.
For Missouri, it's a very impressive conference win that assuages concerns they aren't legitimate Big 12 contenders. They very much are and with the win remain in control of their conference title hopes. They win out, they're in the title game.
Kansas 19 Colorado 14
Winning in the altitude of Boulder is no small feat, but the Jayhawks just keep rolling along. Kansas was never spectacular on Saturday night, but they were the steadier of the two teams from start to finish. Mark Mangino has put together a surprisingly efficient offense and a defense which controls the running game and disallows big plays in the passing game. That's a winning formula, and we're well past the point of calling the Jayhawks fluky anymore.
It's really time to start asking how far this magic carpet ride can go. Kansas misses both Texas and Oklahoma this year, with a remaining schedule of: at Texas A&M, vs Nebraska, at Oklahoma State, vs Iowa State, vs Missouri.
Winning in College Station won't be an easy task, but Kansas is allowing opponents a meager 2.7 yards per rush on the season. None of those opponents can run the football like the Aggies, of course, but Texas A&M has become alarmingly one-dimensional, enough so that the Jayhawks can comfortably sit their talented corners in man coverage and load the box up to try to stop the run.
Oklahoma 17 Iowa State 7
Iowa State, allowing 32 points and nearly 4 yards per rush on the season, held the Sooners to just 17 points and 3 yards per attempt to make Saturday's game in Ames surprisingly competitive. The Sooners eventually overwhelmed the Cyclones in the second half when Stoops turned to Demarco Murray (9 carries, 66 yards), but the outcome was in question for most of this contest.
Just like the game with Texas, the Sooners were merely average in the running game until Murray took over. Longhorn fans who think their coaches are the only ones who make occasionally dense personnel decisions need look no further than OU to see that it's a widespread practice.
However uninspiring, the win is all that mattters for OU, and they'll keep inching back up the top five of the rankings. I'm not in the camp who believe this team to be a true national championship contender, but if they win out, the odds are solid that they'll get a chance to prove me wrong. I don't think the defense is anything special like we've seen in Stoops' best teams, and the offense is too hit or miss. Still, they're in fine position heading down the backstretch of the season.
Oklahoma State 41 Kansas State 39
Kansas State built a 21-7 first half lead, somehow let Oklahoma State get them into a shootout, fumbled the ball three times, and wound up losing. I didn't see any of this one, so I'll refrain from passing too much judgment on how the Wildcats blew this, but when I look at the box score and see 51 pass attempts from Josh Freeman when the 'Cats were averaging over 5 yards per carry on the ground (only 23 rushes), I have to wonder if Prince and his staff made a mistake of letting OSU dictate the pace of this game. I know KSU likes to open the field up with passing, but there are opponents against whom you don't want to engage in a track meet. Oklahoma State is one such team.
Texas A&M 36 Nebraska 14
How do you help a coach in as big a rut as Frantana? Match him up against an even more hapless coach, of course. If there was any bit of nail protruding up out of Bill Callhan's coffin rim, the Aggies hammered it down and shut on Saturday. Losers of three straight, the Huskers drop to 4-4 overall, 1-3 in Big 12 play.
Texas A&M, meanwhile, improves to 3-1 in the conference and still very much controls its fate from here forward. Like last year, however, the schedule is backloaded; the Agros conclude the season with four straight games against opponents currently ranked in the Top 25 - vs Kansas, at Oklahoma, at Missouri, and vs Texas.
Frangino really needs to win all four of those games - given his VIP Newsletter troubles - but three wins (assuming one included Texas) might be enough to save his job.