We’re through three weeks in the Big 12, and here’s a few thoughts on the week across the Big 12.
Mack Brown is in big trouble in Texas. Where do you even begin with the Longhorns? Just like last week, Texas failed to stop the run and failed to show a pulse in the second half. The Longhorns have been outscored 40-7 in the second half of consecutive lopsided losses to BYU and Ole Miss, who are both quality teams but also teams Texas should have beaten. Texas is underachieving as much as it ever has under Mack Brown, and the switch at defensive coordinator had no immediate effect. Brown will have to answer plenty questions about his job security all week in Austin, and my guess at the party line of “We’re 0-0 in Big 12 play” won’t hold much water after Kansas State visits Austin next weekend. Brown’s talk about a team goal of winning the Big 12 sounded laughable after the game. Mathematically, the Longhorns can still win the Big 12, but it has a mountain of defensive problems to fix if that can become anything close to a reality.
Texas Tech is well-positioned to be the surprise team in the Big 12. It was Oklahoma State in 2010 and Kansas State in 2011 and 2012. This year, Texas Tech has looked the part of massive overachiever, and may crash the top 25 very soon. The Red Raiders have regained that oft-mentioned “swagger” under Kliff Kingsbury, who has his team playing loose and believing it can make plays in tight spots. It showed that ability numerous times against TCU on Thursday night and pulled the upset against the Frogs. Kingsbury’s crew is likely to be favored in each of its next four games and if it runs up a 7-0 record heading into an Oct. 26 date against Oklahoma, don’t be surprised if Tech is knocking on the door of the top 10. Ford Childress and Blake Bell have offered their teams hope at quarterback. Paul Millard struggled last week against Oklahoma and his counterpart, Trevor Knight, didn’t look much better. A knee injury didn’t help Knight, who was benched in part because of his play and in part because of his health. This week, the fans in Morgantown and Norman will be feeling a whole lot better about their teams’ situations at football’s most important position. Bell broke Sam Bradford’s school record for the most yards in a debut with 413, and did what Oklahoma’s QBs have to do: Be accurate on intermediate throws and let receivers make plays. Jalen Saunders, Sterling Shepard, Jaz Reynolds and Roy Finch made a bunch of them for Bell and will keep doing it if he keeps completing anything close to the 73 percent of his 37 passes on Saturday. Childress faced an easy test against an overmatched Georgia State team, but he helped WVU hang 41 points on the board and showcased his arm strength. He’s got a lot to prove moving forward, but he guaranteed himself another start. Bell will get the call in two weeks for a mammoth showdown on the road against Notre Dame. Iowa State may need to buckle up for a long season. You can pretty much count out any talk of a bowl game in Ames after the Cyclones’ 0-2 start against Northern Iowa and Iowa. The Hawkeyes are an aggressively average team, but the Cyclones failed to move the ball consistently until going to a faster tempo while desperate late, and Iowa’s running attack punished ISU’s front seven for 60 minutes, never relinquishing control of the game. Quenton Bundrage was a nice bright spot with a huge 146-yard, three-touchdown day, but the Cyclones’ offense is still too far behind the curve relative to the rest of the Big 12 to make up for a defense that’s struggled to get off the field in the first two games. Kansas hasn’t figured out how to win close games. Oh, the Jayhawks. The four-year streak without a road win looked like it might end after KU took the lead late in the third quarter, but mistakes and poor execution in the fourth quarter doomed the Jayhawks again, just like they did against Rice, Texas and Texas Tech in heartbreaking losses last season. It’s hard to believe KU truly believes it can win those games, and for good reason after all of the losses that have piled up in the past few years. Jake Heaps is a step ahead of Dayne Crist and the running game is still strong, but a lot of good teams are left on KU’s schedule and the Jayhawks are still well short of getting over the hump. KU’s got a nice chance to get a win at home next week against a rebuilding Louisiana Tech team that is 0-2 against FBS opponents this season.