Big 12 storylines: Week 9

Here are a few storylines to watch this week across the Big 12. 

Prove it or lose it, Tech. You know what real top 10 teams do? They win on the road against top 20 teams. Just one of Texas Tech’s seven wins has come against a team with a winning record, and that’s Texas State. The Red Raiders took advantage of a soft early schedule to reach the top 10, but the schedule starts up for real this week against Oklahoma. Can the Sooners bring Texas Tech back down to earth like they did back in 2008? Or are the Red Raiders about to take another step forward toward a season of destiny? Tech will have a whole lot on the line in Norman.

Was that real or a mere mirage? Texas has been basking in the glow of a Red River beatdown for two weeks, enjoying a spot atop the Big 12 standings at 3-0. That doesn’t erase the nightmarish 1-2 start with blowout losses to Ole Miss and BYU, but it does offer plenty of reason to believe a six or seven-win season won’t be happening in Austin. Has Texas turned a corner, even without David Ash, who will miss his third consecutive game with a concussion? It still has to deal with the likes of Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State to stay in the Big 12 title conversation, but a convincing win in Fort Worth would add more legitimacy to this Texas turnaround. 

Why pick one when you could have two? Oklahoma State won’t announce its starting quarterback against Iowa State. The Cyclones say they’re going with Sam Richardson, who started every game this year but was benched for Grant Rohach a week ago. The safe bet is Richardson and OSU’s J.W. Walsh or Clint Chelf has a pretty short leash when they take the field. Start stacking up three-and-outs or string a couple turnovers together and it’s the other guy’s turn. We might see four quarterbacks in Ames. 

Sounds like a Case for … Case. Oh, Case McCoy. The Texas quarterback struck the rare balance of defiance and self-deprecation this week. Let’s have a look. 

Could there be a more perfect response? Let me answer that for you: No, there could not be. McCoy is not Tom Brady, but to his credit, he has just two turnovers in three starts this season and was a major reason why Texas upset Oklahoma. Now, he heads to TCU. He’s never been lacking in confidence or the “it” factor. Is it possible that’s carried over to his teammates a bit? I say yes. 

Will the shakeup work? Gary Patterson handed lead playcalling duties to co-OC Rusty Burns at halftime of last week’s loss to Oklahoma State, bringing fellow co-OC Jarrett Anderson down to the sidelines. The Frogs scored 10 points compared to zero in the first half. It’s not exactly a game-changer, but it was improvement. With a week to prepare this time, will we see TCU’s offense take a step forward? The Frogs are averaging just 18.2 points in five games vs. Big 12 and SEC competition. 

On the road again. The Bears had a scare the last time they trekked to the Sunflower State, rallying in the fourth quarter for a 10-point win against Kansas State. The last time they played Kansas, Robert Griffin III got the Bears off the mat down 24-3 in the fourth quarter for an overtime win. Baylor is still just 2-8 in its last 10 road games in Big 12 play. This game is about taking the same ridiculous team in Waco on the road. We haven’t seen it yet with this group of new faces. 

Their head is bloodied, but unbowed. Or is it? There’s a clear confidence crisis in Ames. Iowa State’s egos are bruised, which tends to happen when you suffer the worst loss in program history, a 71-7 beating at Baylor’s hands a week ago. The Cyclones held a players-only meeting this week, and though quarterback Sam Richardson isn’t dishing on the details, we’ll see the results against an Oklahoma State team with plenty of issues of its own. Iowa State has won three of the last four games vs. the Cowboys in Ames, which of course includes the overtime upset in 2011 that ruined OSU’s national title hopes in a 12-1 season. 

Winner isn’t done in November. It’s a little early just yet, but don’t be surprised if the loser of West Virginia and Kansas State looks up and sees an uphill route to a bowl game. Both teams already have four losses. It’s not easy to envision a rally from a 3-5 or 2-5 record to reach a bowl game. There are just too many teams in the Big 12 that can beat anyone in the league. Both teams’ postseason hopes may hinge in Manhattan. The season finale may come on Nov. 30 for the loser.

Clarity in Morgantown. Dana Holgorsen called last week’s loss to Texas Tech the best game Clint Trickett has played at West Virginia. He was 27-of-43 for 254 yards and a touchdown. There’s plenty of room for improvement, but has WVU finally settled on a quarterback after giving starts to three different guys in the season’s first five games? Ford Childress is out for the year, so if Trickett can’t keep it rolling, junior Paul Millard is the only other option. 

Keep playing after the first quarter, guys. Oh, Kansas. The Jayhawks’ Big 12 losing streak sits at a healthy 24 games now, and KU has been quite a tease in its last two home games. It led Texas Tech 10-0 and Oklahoma 13-0 before dropping both games. College football’s not about scaring teams, even if we’re getting close to Halloween. It’s about winning games. Can KU keep it competitive against the Big 12 favorite?