Big 12 storylines: Week 8
Let’s take a closer look at what you should be watching to keep a bead on the stories that will tell the tale of Week 8 in the Big 12.
If the book is out, will Bill Snyder be hosting a signing? Kansas State shed some light on a few kinks in Baylor’s previously impenetrable armor last week, despite a 35-25 loss. The Bears haven’t been strong away from home, but return to Waco this week. Kansas State’s defense played well, but was aided by Baylor’s WR drops and a time-sucking running game on offense. Will Iowa State try and duplicate that formula in hopes of pulling off another season-making upset? Or is this another 60-point outing for Baylor’s offense?
Take the money and (let him) run. Oklahoma strayed from the quarterback run game against Texas, and it cost them. The Sooners didn’t exploit what had emerged as Texas’ biggest weakness and one of its own strengths early in the season. Bob Stoops indicated he didn’t feel comfortable with Blake Bell running the ball. Will we see Trevor Knight or Kendal Thompson get some time in a package this week against Kansas?
What’s the method behind the magic? Texas Tech and coach Kliff Kingsbury have dealt with injuries to the team’s top two quarterbacks, but No. 3 Davis Webb threw for 415 yards and three touchdowns in place of Baker Mayfield, who started the first five games because of a back injury to Michael Brewer. Mayfield’s leg injury is healing up, and Brewer’s been easing back into action, too. Mayfield or Webb could both start this week, but it’ll be another chance for Kingsbury to showcase his golden touch with freshman QBs.
You’ve got a big hole to fill. Oklahoma already knew it had a problem early in Red River when Texas exploited the loss of linebacker Corey Nelson. Jordan Phillips didn’t suit up either, but Bob Stoops told reporters that Phillips’ season is done, leaving the Sooners without two of their top defenders the rest of the way. Kansas has a good set of backs capable of taking advantage, but the offensive line has struggled and leaves that strategy in doubt. We’ll see what James Sims and Brandon Bourbon can do against the Sooners, though. If KU wins, it will do so with its running game.
To chuck or not to chuck, that is the question. I love watching Clint Trickett, but my paycheck and livelihood do not depend on West Virginia’s success. He’s attempted to stretch the field a whole lot since taking over, most likely too often. Dana Holgorsen wanted his QBs to stop playing scared after a 37-0 loss to Maryland, but will Trickett be asked to rein it in a bit this week? He’s completed about 41 percent of his passes this season, including less than 33 percent in a loss to Baylor. That number needs to be at least 60 if West Virginia’s offense is going to be operating at a level that would please Holgorsen.
What’s the fix for TCU? The Frogs haven’t scored more than 27 points in a game against Big 12 and SEC opponents, and are averaging just over 20 points a game in those contests. That’s not good enough to win with any consistency. Trevone Boykin will be the quarterback again this week against Oklahoma State, but will the offensive skill positions be forced to grow up with inexperienced talents like David Porter, LaDarius Brown and B.J. Catalon? Or will more experienced talents like Brandon Carter and Waymon James finally click and get TCU’s offense back on track? This week, on the road against Oklahoma State, would be a good time to make either happen.
Clear the path, big fellas. Oklahoma State talents like Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon may have earned most of the headlines in Stillwater the past couple years, but you can’t overlook the importance of the running game. The Pokes have the Big 12’s longest streak of 1,000-yard rushers, at six consecutive seasons. Nobody’s come close this year. Jeremy Smith has just 233 yards so far, and QB J.W. Walsh is the team’s leading rusher. Smith and backup Desmond Roland are averaging a poor 3.8 yards a carry so far, and the schedule is only going to get tougher. TCU’s defensive line poses a difficult task, but the offensive line needs to kick it into gear if OSU is going to play its way back into the Big 12 title discussion.
Failure isn’t because of complacency. Kansas still hasn’t snapped its Big 12 losing streak, but Charlie Weis is ripping up the depth chart one week and this week, rearranged how the coaching staff works. He’s handing off the playcalling duties, with Ron Powlus handling the passing game and tight ends coach Jeff Blasko taking charge of the running game. Plenty of KU fans have wanted Weis to surrender playcalling duties for some time, but will it matter?