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Big 12 report: League showing its football depth

  • Published Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, at 2:11 p.m.

With four teams ranked in the top 15 and four more receiving votes in the Associated Press Top 25, now seems like a good time to trumpet the Big 12’s early success.

“As strong a league as there is in America,” Baylor coach Art Briles said Monday during the league’s coaches teleconference.

“The league is stronger now than it has been in a long time,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.

“I feel better now than I’ve ever felt about this conference,” Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. “It’s a tough conference from top to bottom.”

West Virginia, with its scintillating offense, and Kansas State, with its error-free style, are currently the favorites. The Mountaineers are ranked fifth, the Wildcats sixth. They meet on Oct. 20 in Morgantown.

West Virginia’s Geno Smith is the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, and K-State’s Collin Klein is a contender, too.

Both teams have already given the Big 12 and their television partners great games. West Virginia’s 70-63 victory over Baylor might go down as the game of the year. Its 48-45 win over Texas wasn’t far behind.

“That was one of the reasons we were excited about going to the Big 12,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said.

K-State’s 24-19 victory over Oklahoma was equally exciting, albeit lower scoring.

With Texas and Oklahoma meeting on Saturday in the annual Red River Shootout, there is no shortage of quality Big 12 games to choose from.

Outside of struggling Kansas, every team in the league has shown promise. Only the SEC has a larger group of talented teams.

Compare that to the four teams that left the Big 12, and it makes the league seem in an even stronger position. Colorado is 1-4, Missouri is 3-3 and hasn’t won a SEC game, and Nebraska is underachieving at 4-2. Texas A&M is the only former member playing well at 4-1.

Early success and exciting games are a good mix.

"We lost four good teams these past couple years,” Tuberville said. “But we gained two very good teams."

Upset or not?

Iowa State players didn’t care for the media labeling their victory at TCU on Saturday an upset. The victory marked the straight season the Cyclones have defeated a ranked opponent on the road. And they beat highly ranked Oklahoma State at home last year, too.

’’I don’t think they are so much upsets anymore,’’ linebacker Jake Knott told reporters after the game. ’’There’s a lot of people now that respect us on a new level.”

The Cyclones can pull another upset, if you want to call it that, when No. 6 K-State comes to Ames on Saturday.

Practice shakeup

Charlie Weis changed up the Jayhawks’ usual practice schedule on Sunday following a blowout loss to Kansas State. Instead of making the whole team practice, he asked his seniors to run and work in the weight room while the players who will be back next season scrimmaged.

“We’re looking for development,” Weis said. “I got the response I was hoping for.”

Weis is hoping to find a way to get his players to fight for an entire game. Kansas held late leads over Rice and Northern Illinois, but still lost. On Saturday, it led K-State early 14-7 and trailed 21-14 at halftime. But the Jayhawks weren’t competitive in the second half.

“That’s a good starting point to come in there and know you have gone through 30 minutes of the game,” Weis said. “… The bottom line is they know we can’t turn the corner until we play the second half like we play the first half.”

Tracking stock

Stocks soared and sank throughout the Big 12 last weekend. Fans were down on Oklahoma after a home loss to K-State, but the Sooners looked like a vintage Bob Stoops team on Saturday, blowing out Texas Tech on the road. Coming into the game, the Red Raiders were undefeated and looked capable of pulling a few upsets this season. But that hope has been somewhat dampened.

Iowa State also helped its cause with a victory at previously unbeaten TCU. The Horned Frogs fell out of the top 25 with the loss.

Who’s hot

John Hubert: 101 yards and four touchdowns … on 10 carries.

Geno Smith: The Heisman Trophy is his to lose.

Oklahoma defense: Sooners looked dominant against Texas Tech.

Josh Lenz: Iowa State receiver caught five passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns at TCU. He threw a touchdown, too.

Who’s not

KU in second half: Third and fourth quarters have spelled doom for Jayhawks.

Steele Jantz: Lost his starting job again, and Jared Barnett looked good at TCU.

Seth Doege: Just when it looked like Texas Tech was making real progress, Doege throws three interceptions and the Red Raiders lost badly at home to Oklahoma.

Casey Pachall: TCU quarterback gets suspended, and the Horned Frogs look weak without him.

What to watch

Must-see games: Texas vs. Oklahoma, West Virginia at Texas Tech

Worth watching: Kansas State at Iowa State, TCU at Baylor.

If there’s nothing better to do: Oklahoma State at Kansas.

Power rankings

1a. Kansas State (5-0): Scored 56 points on 51 plays against Kansas.

1b. West Virginia (5-0): No one has stopped Geno Smith.

3. Texas (4-1): Missed field goal hurt against Mountaineers.

4. Oklahoma (3-1): Sooners played up to expectations in Lubbock.

5. Texas Tech (4-1): Things got ugly against Oklahoma. Could get worse against West Virginia.

6. Iowa State (4-1): Another year. Another road upset.

7. Baylor (3-1): TCU should be easier to defend than West Virginia.

8. TCU (4-1): So-so resume looks much worse after home loss to Iowa State.

9. Oklahoma State (2-2): Trip to Lawrence provides chance to improve.

10. Kansas (1-4): Suspect defense will be tested again by Oklahoma State.

Reach Kellis Robinett at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com.

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