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Keeping Up With the Conference: Texas is first in the Big 12 edition

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The Longhorns are alone at the top of the conference after a home win. But how did the rest of the Big 12 fare in Week 7?

Stephen Spillman - Austin American Statesman

As you’ve probably heard/seen/felt in your subconscious, the Texas Longhorns have risen to the top of the Big 12 standings and to No. 7 in the AP Poll. This all comes after Texas survived a weekend in which they nearly lost to Baylor and watched four other teams in the top 10 lose, but hey — we’re here now.

Now, before you start booking plane tickets and hotel reservations in Santa Clara, let’s take a step back, and a big deep breath.

With Texas back in the top ten, there’s been a considerable amount of chatter surrounding the school’s path to a potential spot in the College Football Playoff. There’s been some hopeful chatter, like this piece currently on BON, for example.

Of course, there’s been the naysayers who can’t stand to live in a world where the phrase “Texas is back” applies to the national championship game.

And to all of that noise, I say: “Who cares?”

If you’re reading this, you’re most likely a Texas fan, just like me. And from one Longhorn to another— I’m all about the hypotheticals and picturing UT as one of the final four teams vying for a championship.

But at this point, that’s all that it is — a hypothetical.

Take FiveThirtyEight’s College Football Predictions model, for example. Currently, the site has Texas’ chances at the CFP at 15%. A win against OSU next weekend would bump that up to 21%. If Texas were to win out, or go the rest of the season without another loss, then that measly 15% jumps up to a whopping 95%. Hook ‘em freaking Horns!

But if Texas were to lose a game, say even their next game, those odds obviously wouldn’t go up. FiveThirtyEight has the odds falling from 15% to 6%. (Cries in Bevo noises)

A nine-point drop in percentages is definitely not good, but what’s crazy is that a Texas win or loss isn’t the only thing that would impact Texas. If you click through different teams winning and losing games, almost all those games will impact the chance Texas has to make the CFP.

Basically, all I’m saying is this — we can project and speculate where Texas will finish at the end of the season as much as we want, but ultimately it will come down to more than just how the Longhorns play.

So for now, let’s focus on the Horns. Let’s enjoy the victory over Baylor heading into the bye week. Let’s enjoy the turnaround this season has brought us compared to the last several years. Let’s get healthy and ready for Oklahoma State in a little over a week.

As Tom Herman puts it, let’s go 1-0.

So, we know what’s been going on with Texas. But... what else happened in the Big 12 this past week?

BIG 12 STANDINGS (through Week 7)

  1. (7) Texas (4-0) (6-1)
  2. (13) West Virginia (3-1) (5-1)
  3. (9) Oklahoma (2-1) (5-1)
  4. Texas Tech (2-1) (4-2)
  5. Iowa State (2-2) (3-3)
  6. Baylor (2-2) (4-3)
  7. TCU (1-2) (2-3)
  8. Oklahoma State (1-3) (4-3)
  9. Kansas State (1-3) (3-4)
  10. Kansas (0-3) (2-4)

BIG 12 BREAKDOWN

West Virginia

Week 7: L at Iowa State, 14-30

Highlight: Not many fun things to discuss here if you’re a fan of the blue and gold, as WVU got beat in just about every way by Iowa State. Instead, an anti-highlight fun fact that everyone else and only the most masochistic Mountaineers would enjoy: Before this game, WVU was the only school in the country to have never trailed at any point this season. Of course, that was all for naught because WVU ignored the golden Big 12 rule — never EVER be a ranked team and play Iowa State in Ames in the dark.

Trending: DOWN. By all accounts WVU should still be regarded as a good team and as a threat to Texas in the Big 12. This is because Iowa State is looking more and more like a force to be reckoned with, as I will write more about down below. Despite the poor showing, a Big 12 championship game appearance is still on the table for the Mountaineers, who will take their bye week after suffering their first defeat of the 2018 season.

Oklahoma

Week 7: Bye

Highlight: Oklahoma had the week off, so no highlights this week from the Sooners. Instead, they had to reflect on their most recent game, which, in case you forgot, was against Texas.

Trending: NEUTRAL. Oklahoma will move into the second half of their schedule without DC Mike Stoops, who was fired following the 48-45 loss against the Longhorns. We’ll get to immediately watch and see what good a change in coaching has done, as OU gets back to action at TCU this weekend.

Texas Tech

Week 7: W at TCU, 17-14

Highlight: Who would’ve thought that Texas Tech would win a football game scoring only 17 points? Well the last time Tech beat another team while only scoring 17 points or less came all the way back in 2001 in a 12-0 victory over Texas A&M. Unlike that A&M game, this one wasn’t always in Tech’s hands, as the Raiders needed a 38 yard TD scamper from QB Jett Duffey to put Tech over the Frogs.

Trending: UP. A big road win for Tech, that proved it was capable of winning a game without putting up a video game stat line on offense. Texas Tech is looking like a capable team, but still beatable for teams with good or fast defenses. It’s up in the air whether Alan Bowman or Jett Duffey will be the starting QB going into this weekend’s game against Kansas, but it looks like Bowman will be back sooner rather than later.

Iowa State

Week 7: W vs West Virginia, 30-14

Highlight: All of it. This game had “trap game” written on it, as many Texas fans know the difficulties that can come with playing at Ames, especially at night with a rowdy crowd. But Iowa State handily took care of WVU, holding the Mountaineers to 152 total yards and nine first downs. On the other side of the ball, ISU put up 498 yards, 25 first downs, and a $25,000 fine for storming the field.

BONUS: This is why we fear Ames at night.

Trending: UP. What a turn from the Cyclones this year. A few weeks ago, this team looked like they didn’t have a clue on offense, putting up miserable performances against Iowa, Akron, and TCU. But now, this team honestly looks like it could cause some trouble down the stretch in the Big 12 race. Freshman quarterback Brock Purdy looks like a revelation, as he continues to throw and run all over any defense he faces. He may get a lot of help from running back David Montgomery and wide receiver Hakeem Butler, but I am planting my flag on Purdy Island. It’s BROCKtober time in Ames and the kid can flat out play. ISU will head to the BYE this weekend to regroup after finishing off the first half the season strong.

Baylor

Week 7: L at (7) Texas, 17-23

Highlight: The Bears came into Austin fresh off the heels of a thrilling victory over K-State, but couldn’t achieve the same result in another thriller in a loss against Texas. Quarterback Charlie Brewer (who, believe it or not, never got an offer from Texas even though his dad played here), had a pretty good game against a stout Texas defense, throwing for 240 yards and this score to Denzel Mims for his lone TD on the day.

Trending: NEUTRAL. Baylor fought hard but ultimately came up short in a tough road game against Texas. With QB Sam Ehlinger hurt and knocked out of the game, these two teams clawed their way to a close game with pretty close stats across the board. A big second quarter from Texas did the Bears in, but this Baylor team is much better than the one we saw last year. Baylor heads off to their bye week, but look for this team to potentially pull off an upset and contend for a bowl berth by the end of the season.

TCU

Week 7: L vs Texas Tech, 14-17

Highlight: Seriously though, who would’ve thought that Texas Tech could win a football game scoring only 17 points? In a match-up between the NCAA’s No. 1 offense in Tech and a top 10 defense in TCU, it was defense that won out in this low scoring midweek affair. TCU held the vaunted Red Raider offense to just 353 total yards, but couldn’t capitalize on their own offensive side of the ball to pull out the win.

Trending: DOWN. Though TCU’s defense will always be good enough this season to keep them in most every game they play, they are really missing Kenny Hill and their offense from last year. Despite recording 411 total yards, three turnovers and two backbreaking plays but TCU’s offense in a comeback position, which the Frogs were not equipped to do. TCU will face another tough test this weekend, as they host Oklahoma coming off their bye week.

Oklahoma State

Week 7: L at Kansas State, 12-31

Highlight: Another disappointing week for the Cowboys, who got ground down all game by the K-State rushing attack until they couldn’t hold off the Wildcats anymore. Quarterback Taylor Cornelius had arguably his worst game of the season last weekend, going 17-of-35 passing for only 184 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. Running back Justice Hill was also unusually quiet, racking up a meager 51 total yards.

Trending: DOWN. So it looks like Oklahoma State, a team that’s made two appearances in the top 25, may not be that good this year. This game was a weird one, with a halftime score of just 6-3 that favored the Cowboys. OSU’s defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed in the second half, though, and K-State ran all over OSU to down the Cowboys to 1-3 in the conference. They’ll get a bye before hosting Texas, but a lot of work needs to be done to right the ship in Stillwater.

Kansas State

Week 7: W vs Oklahoma State, 31-12

Highlight: The Purple Wizard army is back in the win column, with a vintage K-State drubbing over OSU. The Wildcats dominated time of possession, were +2 in the turnover column, and ran for 291 yards out of 421 total yards. Running back Alex Barnes had himself a game with 34 carries, 181 yards, and four touchdowns, including this TD that sealed the game for the Wildcats.

Trending: UP. By no means was it pretty or even that interesting. But a win is a win, and K-State keeps their bowl hopes alive with a victory over Oklahoma State. Sitting at 3-4 is also a whole lot better than 2-5, in the sense that one more win gives you a .500 record and provides some leeway with future tough games against Oklahoma and Texas Tech still on the radar. KSU will head into their bye week on a good note and with some momentum moving forward.

Kansas

Week 7: Bye

Highlight: The Jayhawks had the week off, but due to K-State’s win take sole ownership of dead last in the Big 12. The highlight here is that basketball is just around the corner and everything is totally fine. Seriously, everything is alright and not at all wrong for Bill Self and his Adidas Jayhawks team.

Trending: NEUTRAL. Like the Sooners who were also on bye last week, Kansas seized the opportunity the off week provided to dismiss a coordinator. OC Doug Meacham was fired last week following the Jayhawks’ three-game losing streak, and head coach David Beaty will call plays for the rest of the season. Kansas will travel down to Lubbock to face Texas Techthis weekend.

Out-of-conference observations

Maryland (4-2)

Week 7: W vs Rutgers, 34-7

Highlight: To say that Maryland took care of business against Rutgers would be an understatement. The Terps absolutely smothered the Rutgers offense, limiting the Knights to eight passing yards to go with five interceptions. No, eight yards is not a typo. If you’d like to see an extensive review of Rutgers’ air raid from this game, please take a look at the Testudo Times’ rankings of each pass attempt.

Trending: UP. After getting man handled by Michigan, Maryland returned the favor by demolishing Rutgers. Maryland is up to an impressive 4-2 on the season, and with each Maryland victory, Texas’ looming CFP hopes grow slightly larger. Maryland’s defense has been impressive all year long, but next week they’ll need more plays like this one on offense if they want to score against a rigid Iowa defense.

Tulsa (1-5)

Week 7: L vs (21) South Florida, 24-25

Highlight: Tulsa yet again squandered a late lead, this time blowing a 24-10 lead with 7:10 left in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Seth Boomer had an atrocious day through the air, going 6-of-21 passing for just 79 yards. However, three rushers totaled 220 yards on the ground and kept the Golden Hurricane in the game until the very end.

Trending: DOWN. Giving Kansas a run for their money for “worst record on the 2018 Texas schedule,” Tulsa dropped their fifth game of the season as they tunnel further down the wrong direction in the win/loss columns. Tulsa has shown that they can stay in games and play up to their opponents (Texas, Houston, USF), but have yet to finish out any of these games. Tulsa was never supposed to be good, but they weren’t supposed to be this bad, either. A road visit to Arkansas awaits this team next.

USC (4-2)

Week 7: W vs Colorado, 31-20

Highlight: The USC had a great showing on defense, holding Colorado to just 265 total yards and 170 yards passing. Freshman quarterback JT Daniels may have thrown two picks, but for the most part had a good game against a quality opponent as he continues to develop. This touchdown pass to Tyler Vaughns from 27 yards out was the first of four unanswered USC touchdowns.

Trending: UP. In an increasingly weak Pac-12, USC very sneakily has reeled off three straight wins (all in conference), as the Trojans creep their way up the Pac-12 South standings. USC will face off at Utah this weekend in what should be a close game. Looking ahead, Longhorns fans should be cheering on the Trojans, as USC is probably one or two wins away from getting back into the top 25 rankings.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Texas strength of schedule — 42-33 (.560)

Strength of opponents played 24-20 (.545)

Strength of remaining opponents — 18-13 (.581)

LOOK AHEAD

Week 8 Schedule (ESPN FPI projected winner in BOLD)

(9) Oklahoma at TCU

Kansas at Texas Tech

Texas, West Virginia, Iowa State, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas State — bye

Maryland at Iowa

Tulsa at Arkansas

USC at Utah

PARTING SHOT