We’re back again to wrap the day across the Big 12. Let’s get to it with my main takeaways from Week 1.
The Big 12 (minus Iowa State) should be proud of itself. You couldn’t ask for much more from the conference outside of Ames this week. Texas Tech was the only team who had any mild struggles with an overmatched opponent. Oklahoma State and West Virginia turned in admirable efforts against the nation’s top two teams. OSU had the ball twice in the fourth quarter with chances to take the lead and West Virginia had a chance to tie in the fourth against an Alabama team that didn’t look all that much better than the Mountaineers for 60 minutes.
Texas, Oklahoma, TCU and Kansas State all dominated and didn’t have competitive games in the second half. OSU and West Virginia’s outcomes mean the most and helped the Big 12’s perception the most, but you couldn’t ask for much more for a solid debut for the conference. There won’t be an easy win for any team in the conference when it plays one of the league’s top eight teams.
Tyreek Hill is going to be a star. Did you see that blur wearing No. 24 on Saturday night? He’d never played an FBS football game before Saturday and he was playing against one of college football’s best defenses and its reigning national champ. He looked as good as any player on the field all night.
"We know he’s fast. We’ve confirmed that because those guys chasing him are fast," Mike Gundy said after Oklahoma State’s 37-31 loss. He’s just blessed with tremendous speed and ability. … Our team kind of rallied around him. I thought our offensive staff did a great job with using him in certain ways. Had a really good plan."
So, what happens when Hill takes the field against Texas Tech’s defense? Or Iowa State’s? Borderline unspeakable things, methinks.
Hill amassed 106 yards of offense on 16 touches, as well as breaking a 46-yard kick return and a 28-yard punt return. When it was all over, he had 278 all-purpose yards in his first game ever and against Florida Freakin’ State. Gundy wasn’t joking about getting him the ball, and I loved what OSU’s coaches did to get him those 15-20 touches Gundy talked about in the preseason. Defenses better know where he is on every single snap this season and even if they do, it’s a safe bet he’ll etch his name in a record book or two at some point this season.
West Virginia needs to be taken seriously. The Mountaineers showed they have some big talents in Kevin White (9 rec, 143 yards, TD), Daryl Worley (INT) and Mario Alford (100-yard KO return TD), but this could not be further from a four-win team. Clint Trickett is healthy and looked like a new man compared to what we saw in ugly losses last year when he was trying to play through a ton of pain in his throwing shoulder. The defense leaves a little bit to be desired, but when you talk overall depth at the skill positions, there might not be a better team in the Big 12 than WVU. That showed on Saturday. I thought it before the season and I still do: West Virginia is a bowl team.
Texas’ defense is going to have a case as the Big 12’s best. Poor North Texas. The Mean Green’s only real strength coming into this year was the offensive line, but defensive wunderkind Charlie Strong did a number on them in his debut as the new head Longhorn. Holding anyone to 79 yards on 43 carries (1.8 YPC) is impressive and that average was closer to one yard a carry for most of the game. North Texas’ QBs were 3-of-17 for 15 yards and four interceptions. Yes, it’s just North Texas, but that was a nine-win team a year ago and the Longhorns made their offense look like a junior high squad. Texas has the athletes to truly field one of the nation’s best defenses, and the discipline and composure are there early for UT. I’m excited to see what they can do against a more talented offense, but I’m already buying on this D.
Texas Tech’s defense … will not. Was that Arizona State game just a dream? Texas Tech doesn’t have LB Will Smith or DT Kerry Hyder anymore, but the defense looked like a disaster against Central Arkansas. Ask Baylor: If you don’t fix that, you will never, ever reach the next rung of the Big 12 ladder. It’s a real issue for Matt Wallerstedt and Tech’s defense, who gave up 28 first downs to an average at best FCS team in a performance Kingsbury called "embarrassing." Considering he announced a new deal that nearly doubled his salary a day earlier, you couldn’t ask for a worse time for it, too. It’s only one game and there’s time to fix some of those issues, but the talent to be a defense in the top half of the Big 12 just isn’t there for Tech this year. A knee injury to 350-pound nose tackle Rika Levi, who watched the second half in street clothes, doesn’t help, either.
Don’t sell on Iowa State just yet. ISU survived the loss of Quenton Bundrage on the opening drive and jumped out to a 14-0 lead. The loss of Tom Farniok, its best overall offensive player, the heart of the team and the offensive line was too much. Iowa State didn’t score again, but it’s within reason that if he can indeed return next week against Kansas State, the Cyclones will have something almost resembling an offense. The rush defense was a disaster, and there’s not a lot of talent on campus to fix that, but ISU is good enough to win a couple Big 12 games with Farniok on the field. They looked like a bowl team in the first quarter before the wheels came off, and if they can rediscover whoever that team was, we’ll see the Cyclones bounce back with some nice wins over the next couple months.