Big 12 storylines: Week 6

These are the storylines that could decide winners and losers on Saturday.

It’s about time, Bears. West Virginia’s defense has been one of the Big 12’s most improved units from a year ago, and they’ll be by far the best defense Baylor has played yet. The Bears haven’t scored fewer than 69 points in their first three games, and after two byes in the first five weeks of the season, will finally give their offense something of a challenge against a defense with the athleticism to make the game interesting. I still picked Baylor to score 55 points, but I want to see how Baylor’s offense looks against a good pass rush with Will Clark, Dontrill Hyman and Kyle Rose up front and two quality safeties deep in Karl Joseph and Darwin Cook. That defense held Oklahoma State to its worst offensive outing since the end of the 2009 season.

Never as bad as it looks: On the subject of the boys in Stillwater, are we ready to see some bounceback from Oklahoma State? That was ugly last week vs. West Virginia. Jeremy Smith averaged 2.4 inches on his 15 carries (props to Oklahoma State blogger Kyle Porter for the breakdown on that stat) and J.W. Walsh completed just 42 percent of his passes, the lowest for an OSU offense since Alex Cate’s first and only start against Colorado back in 2009. Mike Gundy said he’s not concerned about Mike Yurcich’s playcalling, but the Cowboys ought to go back to the designed QB run game out of the Diamond formation and let Walsh throw the ball down the field a bit more.

Let’s hope they don’t streak the quad: Kansas would love to end the Big 12’s most infamous streak, but it won’t be easy. Saturday will be 1,063 days and 21 games since Kansas’ last Big 12 victory: A crazy, 28-point, fourth-quarter comeback against Colorado. KU’s last Big 12 win against a current Big 12 member was its conference opener in 2009 vs. Iowa State. Coach Charlie Weis has been open about the streak, but KU took Texas Tech to overtime last season in Lubbock. The Red Raiders’ defense is much better than the last time these two teams met.

We need a medic: Poor West Virginia. It’s offense is trying to find some chemistry with new QBs, new backs and new receivers. Paul Millard struggled against Oklahoma and was benched for Ford Childress, but Childress got hurt in a loss to Maryland and a week later, Clint Trickett banged up his shoulder and suffered a leg injury in a win over Oklahoma State. Coach Dana Holgorsen says if both players are 100 percent, Trickett would get the start, but it’s safe to say WVU’s quarterback situation right now is less than ideal. Whoever starts will need to put up big points to beat Baylor in Waco.

Time to bounce back: Baker Mayfield had 780 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions back when Texas Tech was 2-0. The Red Raiders are now 4-0 and headed to Lawrence, Kan. this weekend, but he’s thrown just one touchdown pass to four picks in the last two games, and was benched for Davis Webb against Texas State. Mayfield’s keeping his starting spot for now, but with Michael Brewer inching closer to getting back on the field, he’ll need to be a whole lot better to keep his starting spot by the end of the year.

A duo of dynamic duos?: Trevor Knight was injured and benched earlier in the year and K-State seemed inexplicably against letting Daniel Sams throw the ball in a loss to Texas. Could this be the return of the true quarterback tandem? Jake Waters is the unquestioned starter at K-State, but Sams will for sure be part of the game plan against Oklahoma State and moving forward. Could Knight earn a role in Oklahoma’s offense like Bell did behind Landry Jones? Knight broke a 30-yard run in spot duty for Bell after he suffered from cramps against Notre Dame that had OU’s coaches wondering how they could continue to utilize his running ability in the open field.

A youth invasion on an already young team: TCU played more than 20 freshmen a year ago, and looked to be older this year, but last week’s second-half explosion against SMU was ignited by more freshmen. The receiving corps has been disappointing thus far, but freshmen Ty Slanina and Cameron Echols-Luper made plays and sophomore transfer Ja’Juan Story turned his only catch of the day into a 56-yard touchdown. Was that a blip on the radar screen? Will Brandon Carter, Cam White and LaDarius Brown reassert themselves as more experienced players? Or is this what QB Trevone Boykin can expect for the rest of the year? Oklahoma’s defense will be a tough test.

It’s not a trap game: TCU’s two losses came by 10 points away from home against top 20 teams. If Oklahoma loses to TCU this weekend, why can’t it just be because TCU is a pretty good team? That’s the truth if it happens. Bob Stoops was indignant about any talk that his team was looking ahead to next week against Texas or wouldn’t be sharp coming off an emotional win at Notre Dame last week.

Battle of the breakout backs: Iowa State QB Sam Richardson is still nursing an ankle injury and Horns QB David Ash will not play after suffering a head injury, handing over starting duties to Case McCoy. Texas’ Johnathan Gray and Iowa State’s Aaron Wimberly are both young players coming off career highs in badly needed home wins. Expect both to get at least 20 carries tonight. Whoever turns them into the most production wins. This game could be just that simple.