Big 12 storylines: Week 7
OCT 10, 2013 10:01a ET
All eyes on Mack: Oklahoma is a heavy favorite in one of the most lopsided lines we've seen in awhile for the Red River Rivalry. Still, there's not a more intriguing figure in this game than Texas coach Mack Brown. He's in his 16th year at Texas, and if he has any chance to be around for a 17th, he'll have to leave the State Fair of Texas as a victor over the Sooners for the first time since 2009. That may not be enough, but it's a start.
Greatest show on turf: Baylor's offense is the hottest thing in college football. The Bears are averaging more than 70 points a game and showcased their explosive scoring attack in last week's 73-42 win over West Virginia to reach 4-0. They've looked like the Big 12's best team thus far, but this week's game at Kansas State will be Baylor's first away from home. As we wrote this week, Baylor is 1-8 on the road in Big 12 play since beating Texas on Oct. 30. 2010.
Balance without Ash: David Ash will sit out a third game this season after suffering a concussion against BYU, but the Longhorns trusted backup QB Case McCoy to throw 45 passes in last week's game against Iowa State. OC Major Applewhite inexplicably offered Johnathan Gray, Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown just 23 carries, and during the week, Mack Brown admitted he'd want more reliance on the run this week. Keep an eye on that number against a stout Sooners defense.
Big Brother is watching: Last week's Texas-Iowa State game was one of the most controversial finishes in recent Big 12 history. The conference confirmed the replay official's decision to call Johnathan Gray down by contact, rather than give possession to Iowa State after LB Jeremiah George emerged from the pile with the ball. Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads' postgame tirade was played ad nauseum in the following days, and the end result is Big 12 officials will be under major scrutiny this week. Another controversial call would be a major story after last week's issues.
Finding another option: Receiver/running back Tony Pierson has been Kansas' best offensive weapon all season long, and featured back James Sims has had a quiet start for the Jayhawks in 2013. He'll be needed against TCU this week to establish some balance for Jake Heaps and the passing game. Kansas doesn't have a true receiver with more than four catches in four games.
You'll need a better start than that: TCU didn't have a first down in the first half against Oklahoma. The offense has struggled for much of the season, especially since losing quarterback Casey Pachall to a broken arm. Kansas' defense isn't the Sooners, but QB Trevone Boykin is still looking to find his footing and show the improvement that Gary Patterson raved about in the offseason. Will that start in Fort Worth this week? A win would be TCU's first ever in Big 12 play at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
No more musical chairs: Daniel Sams' offensive production last week (181 rushing yards, 118 passing yards) and Jake Waters' struggles meant there would be plenty of talk about the starting job and a change in the way the duo rotates moving forward. The Wildcats will need big points against Baylor's offense. Bill Snyder has mostly run with the hot hand this year. How will the rotation look against the Bears?
All about how you respond: Emotional losses tell you a lot about a team. What will Iowa State look like after a crushing loss to Texas last week that sent ISU to 1-3? A bowl game looks doubtful, but the Cyclones surely felt they should have and could have beat the Longhorns on a big national stage last week. It's been nine days, but has the team remained engaged? Everyone will say yes, but the proof will be on the field this week.
They love gold: Keep an eye on Oklahoma and Texas' new digs for the Red River Rivalry. The Sooners' white duds and Texas' vintage burnt orange unis will feature gold trim, gold gloves and cleats with gold bottoms to pay tribute to the Golden Hat Trophy, which goes home with the winner of the Big 12's signature rivalry in Dallas each year. Both schools have stayed traditional in the uniforms arms race, but I like the hint of flare.