Big 12 thoughts: Week 10
My takeaways from Week 10 in the Big 12:
TCU is the most disappointing team in college football. USC has rebounded since firing Lane Kiffin. Texas kept its coach, but bounced back after firing DC Manny Diaz. Georgia (5-3) isn’t that bad, and they’ve been hurt by injuries more than TCU. The Frogs began the year in the preseason top 20 and got more first-place votes in the Big 12 preseason poll than every team but Oklahoma State. With three games to go, the Frogs are 3-6 and 1-5 in Big 12 play. The offense showed flashes of competence early and late in the overtime loss to West Virginia, but TCU made mistake after mistake and kept the Mountaineers alive. There were drive-extending penalties, a turnover deep in WVU territory and a disaster of an offensive drive that left the Frogs kicking a 62-yard field goal on the opening drive of overtime. There’s talent and potential in Fort Worth, but you are what your record says you are. TCU’s record says it needs a miracle to get to a bowl game with road trips to Iowa State and Kansas State and a home game against Baylor left on the schedule. One last quick thought on the Frogs: If they somehow rally down the stretch, Casey Pachall will be the reason why. He completed 40 passes for almost 400 yards on Saturday, but the offensive line let him take a beating. He won’t make it to the end of the year if he keeps getting put on his back that often.
Kansas State is in position to climb the Big 12 ladder in the second half of the season. Two weeks ago, I said Kansas State was the best 2-4 team in the country. The Wildcats proved me right in their last two games, routing West Virginia and Iowa State by an average of 28.5 points. I’d like to see Daniel Sams play a bit more, but K-State’s got a decent feel of the two-quarterback system and both have played winning football the past two weeks. K-State is back to 4-4 and goes to play a vulnerable Texas Tech team before hosting Oklahoma two weeks later. K-State’s got a great shot to finish 3-1 down the stretch and 4-0’s not out of the question, either. The Wildcats are a dangerous, dangerous team. If you’re looking to spoil your season, Kansas State would love to oblige.
Oklahoma State’s offense is pretty close to being officially “back.” Clint Chelf isn’t stuffing the stat sheet, but Oklahoma State’s offensive line is playing better and running backs Desmond Roland and Rennie Childs have given the ground game some pop and made life easier for the entire offense. OSU ran for 281 yards and five touchdowns, and Roland has seven scores in two games. Oklahoma State scored 78 points and went 2-1 in its first three Big 12 games. The Pokes have 110 points in their last two games. The reason for the change isn’t so much the change at QB as it is the change at running back from Jeremy Smith. OSU’s offense suddenly starts on the ground, and when it runs the ball as consistently as it did on Saturday, the whole offense looks almost impossible to stop. Chelf has an ability to stretch the field that Walsh doesn’t, and he’s got time to do it now that defenses have to respect the passing game.
What happened to Texas Tech’s defense? Through the first seven games of the season, Texas Tech was in position, wrapping up and racking up fantastic defensive numbers. That hasn’t been the case for the last two weeks in losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Yes, there’s been a huge upgrade in the quality of offenses they’re trying to tackle, but Tech doesn’t look anywhere near as sound as it did early. It missed boatloads of tackles against OSU, especially against the Pokes’ running backs. Defenders were trying to lay big hits or strip the ball. Those mistakes cost yards and Tech’s defense hasn’t been able to get off the field in the last two losses. Matt Wallerstedt’s unit is missing defensive lineman Dartwan Bush, but it needs to get back to the fundamentals or more losses could be on the way. All of Tech’s final three games could be lost if the Red Raiders don’t play well.
Baylor’s toughest test on the way to the title is in Stillwater. Baylor has been almost unbeatable in Waco the past couple years. They play with confidence and the offense is going to hang at least 50. Color me skeptical that Thursday’s game against Oklahoma will be dramatic in the fourth quarter. Baylor’s trip to Oklahoma State on Nov. 23 is a different story. After seeing OSU’s resurgence the last couple weeks, that looks like the most difficult game left on Baylor’s schedule, and could be where the league title hinges.