Oklahoma has the Big 12’s best resume and its best win. The Sooners haven’t logged many style points this year, but the switch to Blake Bell at quarterback has Oklahoma looking like a new team. No Big 12 squad can claim a better collection of wins at this point in the season. The Sooners’ 14-point win in South Bend is leaps and bounds better than any other Big 12 nonconference win this season, and Oklahoma also has a shutout against Louisiana-Monroe to go with wins over Tulsa and West Virginia. There’s nary a true cupcake on the schedule. The Sooners will be rewarded with the highest ranking of any Big 12 team this week, thanks to a rough outing from Oklahoma State in Morgantown. Oklahoma might even sniff the top 10 on more than a few ballots. What a dominant day for OU against a pretty good Notre Dame team. Tough to argue Oklahoma as the Big 12 favorite thus far, but that’s perhaps only because Baylor is totally unproven against legitimate competition thus far.
Oklahoma State has work to do if it’s going to reclaim its spot as the title favorite. You’ll see and hear a lot of knee-jerk reaction this week from people quick to write off Oklahoma State as a Big 12 title contender and slap a “Fraud” label on the Pokes. Excuse me if I choose not to join that chorus. Oklahoma State is still a very good team that had a very bad day. When you can’t run the ball consistently, nothing looks good. I don’t know why OSU went away from the diamond formation that can be so versatile with misdirection, read option, play action and draws, but if you look at the film from Saturday and compare it to the 21-3 win over Mississippi State, I bet OSU goes back to it a lot more in the future. I’ve said it since January, though: 7-2 is going to win a share of the Big 12 title, and though it was an ugly loss that sets OSU behind the pace, the Pokes still have a great chance to get back in the hunt with a solid defense that gives a sometimes shaky offense a bit more leeway. OC Mike Yurcich will face some tough questions this week, but even if his form isn’t exactly textbook, J.W. Walsh needs to be allowed to stretch the field far more often than he was on Saturday.
All is not lost in Motown. A week ago, a bowl game for West Virginia sounded like a pipe dream. That’s the kind of stuff that happens when you lose 37-0 to an unranked Maryland team. Oh, what a difference a week makes. The Mountaineers defense looks like it’s for real (the offense and special teams had a lot to do with those 37 points last week) after slowing the OSU running game and frustrating J.W. Walsh into the worst day for an OSU quarterback since Mike Gundy handed over the reins as offensive coordinator to none other than West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen back in 2010. Clint Trickett completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes, but he played through a leg injury and stretched the defense with a handful of great vertical throws that allowed WVU’s talent at receiver to shine. I’m still not convinced WVU will be a team in the top half of the Big 12 by season’s end, but they looked like one of the league’s best teams on Saturday just a week after turning in one of the worst nonconference performances from a Big 12 team in quite some time.
Iowa State is piecing together some offense. A week ago, Quenton Bundrage quietly had a breakout game in a loss to Iowa. This week, it was Aaron Wimberly. The juco transfer at running back has provided a spark and looks like the answer for the Cyclones’ running game. He’s the reason Iowa State knocked off Tulsa on Thursday night, and he’ll be the reason for more wins as the season goes on. He reminds me a little of Felix Jones and needs more than the 18 touches he got this week. Sam Richardson needed a lot of help. He wasn’t getting it early on this season, but Wimberly and Bundrage have provided a little bit in consecutive weeks. Now, can they put it all together in the same game?
TCU is two-faced. The Frogs show flashes of greatness periodically, like their 31-point fourth quarter against SMU. With the defense putting points on the board, Trevone Boykin completing 8-of-10 passes and the receivers catching everything, there aren’t many teams in the Big 12 who can beat TCU when it plays like that. Problem is, they haven’t played like that very often this season. Boykin has been inconsistent and his footwork leaves a lot to be desired (step into your throws, good sir). The defense hasn’t lived up to enormous hype, but that doesn’t change the level of talent still in Fort Worth. The potential is there to string together a run if Boykin looks more like the guy in the second half vs. the Mustangs and the guy who provided a spark against LSU, and less like the happy-footed, inaccurate, side-arm QB we saw in Lubbock and at times on Saturday.