Big 12 thoughts: Week 8

Time for a few thoughts on a less-than-surprising day across the Big 12 in Week 8. 

Texas Tech has a very good QB problem. Baker Mayfield is hurt. Davis Webb has 877 yards, five touchdowns and just one interception in his first two starts. We’ll see what happens when Mayfield gets healthy, but even with two true freshmen, Kliff Kingsbury has lots of reasons to feel confident about both going into next week’s showdown in Norman against Oklahoma. Even better? Michael Brewer is supposedly even better than both of them? Once all three are healthy in the spring (knock on wood), Kingsbury’s going to feel like the luckiest man on earth with these guys. Tech has replaced Oklahoma State as the Big 12’s deepest group of QBs. 

Oklahoma State has a very bad QB problem. Speaking of the Pokes, it’s dangerously close to panic time in Stillwater at QB. OSU still has just one loss, but its offense hasn’t been able to move the ball consistently beyond short passes over the middle to Josh Stewart, who caught 10 balls for 141 yards and returned a punt 95 yards for a score. J.W. Walsh got benched early after a pair of picks, and the decision looked overdue. Clint Chelf got hit and threw an ugly interception on his first pass of the game. Neither passer completed more than 50 percent of his passes or threw a touchdown. Walsh’s completion percentage is down this year and his yards per attempt is down more than three yards from 2012. There’s no reason that two experienced quarterbacks should be regressing like that. If there’s no improvement by the end of the season, how much blame does new OC Mike Yurcich deserve? Last year’s running game with Joseph Randle was a clear upgrade, and the offensive line has struggled, but pure QB decision-making and accuracy just isn’t as sharp as it was last year.

TCU’s got a problem on the sidelines. Think Gary Patterson knows something is wrong with his offense, too? He made the switch from Jarrett Anderson to Rusty Burns as offensive playcaller at halftime. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of that happening in mid-game. It didn’t matter all that much, but it’s clear that Patterson a) knows his offense just hasn’t been good enough to compete and b) isn’t going to stand around and not try to do anything about it. Maybe it reeks of desperation a little bit, but TCU is now scoring less than 20 points a game against Big 12 and SEC competition. There’s simply too much talent all over the field for the Frogs for that to be even close to OK.

Quit doubting whether or not Baylor belongs among the elite. Will Baylor run the table? Time will tell as the schedule toughens up and the Bears face tougher tests. Still, the combination of outstanding offense, defense and special teams make it clear that the Bears are the best team in the Big 12, and may be very, very close to the top five when the polls come out. One bad week can mar a season, as Oklahoma State and Kansas State found out in each of the last two seasons, but the Bears have the talent to go 12-0 and the top of the Big 12 is weak compared to plenty of other years. Showdowns against Texas Tech and Oklahoma won’t be easy, and an upstart Texas looms in the season finale, but Baylor is likely to be favored the rest of the way. If the Bears were wearing crimson or burnt orange, they’d likely be ranked in the top three.

Oklahoma’s defense has both problems and potential. The problems were obvious in the first half. James Sims and the Kansas offense rolled over Oklahoma to a 13-0 lead while the offense sputtered. The Sooners rallied for a wacky 34-19 win (three extra points were missed, two punts were blocked and Oklahoma CB Aaron Colvin returned one of those extra points for two points). You see the tape of those first few drives and want to press the panic button for the Sooners defense. Then, you see they gave up just 16 passing yards to the Jayhawks, and Kansas had just one first down in the second half. The Sooners are missing Jordan Phillips and Corey Nelson in the middle of the defense, and will face better, more balanced offenses, but there’s both reason for encouragement and alarm from the Sooners’ performance against the Jayhawks.