Big 12 thoughts: Week 9

A few thoughts after an interesting five games in the Big 12 this week. 

Oklahoma State’s offense has found a spark. The Cowboys’ 78 yards passing were its fewest in a win since throwing for 23 in 2004 against UCLA and 70 in a win against Tulsa the following week. How can you not love what Desmond Roland did in his first day as a featured back? Mike Gundy complained that the offensive line wasn’t playing well and the running backs weren’t breaking enough tackles. Roland broke about five on one of his four touchdown runs and finished with 219 yards on 26 carries. He’d never had more than 13 in a game before, and OSU hadn’t had a 200-yard performance from a back since 2010. I’m not sure OSU can extend its streak of 1,000-yard rushers to seven consecutive seasons, but Roland offered reason to believe that OSU’s offense can keep up with the defense, which has been a superior unit thus far. The quarterbacks have to be better, though. OSU won’t win many more games completing 10-of-26 passes like Clint Chelf did.

Don’t sell on Texas Tech. No matter what your friendly Lubbock natives told you, Tech was never going to go undefeated. That said, the 7-0 start hardly a mirage. Tech still looks like a 10-win team and you saw how much Kliff Kingsbury’s players love playing for him after rallying from a two-touchdown deficit. The fourth down conversions, trick plays and onside kicks give you an idea of how much fun this team is having. Kingsbury has them playing loose, and he’s loving life as the head Red Raider. A loss to Baylor will make it hard to win a share of the league, but Tech is proving preseason projections wrong, and the offense has just two seniors. The future is bright and the youth experiment on Texas Tech’s coaching staff is paying off. Tell me you don’t love the idea of the Red Raiders turning up the music and having a freestyle rap battle while eating some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches during the weather delay? Who wouldn’t want to be there? Don’t be surprised if you see Tech’s recruiting surge even further, taking the momentum Tommy Tuberville established to the next level.

Oklahoma’s right back in the thick of the Big 12 title race.  The loss of Trey Millard is huge, and another reminder of how cruel the injury bug can be. He’s got a great case as the Sooners’ best player. Despite the loss to Texas, Oklahoma is back in the thick of the Big 12 title race after knocking off one of the Big 12’s final two undefeated teams. It will get a shot to take down the other next Thursday against Baylor. The Sooners are likely to be double-digit underdogs, but after the loss to Texas, it was easy to wonder how good this Oklahoma team really was. Those gutsy final drives to seal the win against Texas Tech showed you just how good it can be. If it can take that running game on the road in Waco next week, Baylor’s in big trouble. 

Casey Pachall is not the cure for what ails TCU’s offense. The Frogs haven’t done much of anything in Big 12 play on offense. Before tonight, TCU averaged just 16 points in league games, and finally got Pachall back after he suffered a broken arm in TCU’s second game. The result? Seven points. Losing Josh Boyce has had a bigger effect than perhaps anyone could have expected, and a deep corps of running backs hasn’t been able to make a dent behind a thin offensive line. The point: TCU’s problems on offense clearly run much, much deeper than quarterback. Gary Patterson said it best after the game: “The bottom line is we’re not very good,” he told reporters. “I’m not pleased with anything.” 

Baylor is still the frontrunner, but the Big 12 is still wide open. Half of the Big 12 has zero or one loss in Big 12 play and so far, we’ve only seen two games between teams in that top five. That means we’ve got a whole lot of relevant games coming up in the final month of the season, starting with next week’s game in Lubbock between Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. Loser can kiss their Big 12 title hopes goodbye.

It’s safe to assume Texas played Tyrone Swoopes because David Ash’s status is in doubt. When Tyrone Swoopes trotted out to play his first collegiate snaps in the fourth quarter of a 23-point game after midnight, it was easy for anyone who saw it to wonder where Swoopes had been earlier in the season. Iowa State, perhaps? Mack Brown said after the game that David Ash’s status is in doubt and he won’t play next week at Kansas. Maybe he comes back at some point this season, but it’s clear that Texas knows it needs to have its backup quarterback situation settled with a possible run at a Big 12 title ahead. It would have loved to redshirt Swoopes, but it seems Ash’s health forced Texas’ hand.