They aren’t fighting for a Big 12 championship and their chances of reaching a BCS bowl game are low, but that doesn’t mean the Texas Longhorns aren’t playing well. At the moment, they are the hottest team in the conference.
After losing a heartbreaker to West Virginia and suffering a humiliating loss to rival Oklahoma in back-to-back weeks, most wrote them off. Even when they bounced back with victories over Baylor and Kansas, few took notice because they came in ugly fashion.
But then came a solid win at Texas Tech and a blowout victory over Iowa State. Just like that, Texas is flexing its muscles. It has won four straight games and is all the way up to No. 15 in the BCS standings.
“For two weeks the product wasn’t very good,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “We needed to get better and that’s what we did.”
The turnaround started with quarterback David Ash, who shook off a terrible game at Kansas in which he was benched. He has performed well in back-to-back victories, and only had five incompletions while throwing for 364 yards against Iowa State. But the biggest difference has come on defense. The Longhorns went from allowing 48 or more points in three straight games to holding teams to 22 or fewer points in three straight games.
Granted, Kansas and Iowa State are weak on offense, but the Longhorns did a fine job against Texas Tech and are showing progress.
“The guys have just understood we didn’t play well at times against West Virginia and didn’t play well at all against Oklahoma,” Brown said. “… The biggest thing is they quit listening to any outside sources and went back to work.”
They now get a week off before closing out the season with games against TCU and at K-State. With one more win, they will likely land in the Cotton Bowl. If they win both, they might land a spot in a BCS bowl, though Oklahoma will be hard to leap in the bowl pecking order.
Texas would still be an attractive pick on a six-game winning streak, especially with a victory over the top-ranked team in the BCS standings in the season-finale.
There’s no guarantee that will happen. K-State hasn’t lost to Texas since Snyder’s first stint with the Wildcats, and they will be favored.
But it at least seems possible. That wasn’t the case a few weeks ago.
“They’ve stepped up,” Brown said. “Now we just need to finish strong.”
New No. 1
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder had this to say about his teammoving up to the top spot in the BCS standings Sunday night: “I’m honored and pleased that we are, but today hasn’t been any different.”
A typical response from a calculated coach. There is no denying that the Wildcats’ No. 1 ranking is an accomplishment. This is the first time they have been ranked No. 1 anywhere since 1998, when they spent four weeks on top of the USA Today coaches poll. But it is not the accomplishment Snyder is hoping for. He wants more. He knows his players feel the same way.
“I’m just going to encourage our guys to not change the way we approach things and stay grounded,” Snyder said. “That’s not something you all of a sudden jump up and say. That is kind of the way we have been throughout our time here.”
New quarterback? No problem
It doesn’t seem to matter who plays quarterback for Oklahoma State. Facing injury problems, the Cowboys gave third-stringer Clint Chelf his first start against West Virgina. He responded by throwing for 292 yards and four touchdowns.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy admits he never expected to use so many quarterbacks this season. But he’s glad they were all ready to step up.
“We’ve been very fortunate those guys have been prepared, well-coached and understand our system,” Gundy said.
Though Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville crossed the line by yanking the headset off one of his graduate assistants during Texas Tech’s overtime victory over Kansas on Saturday, he is unlikely to face the severe punishment some have suggested. He downplayed the incident afterward, and video replays confirmed there was no physical contact. It didn’t look like anything that warranted termination or suspension. Still, it wasn’t good.
K-State picked up another Big 12 Player of the Week award on Monday with Meshak Williams winning defensive honors. The senior defensive end made seven tackles and two sacks against TCU. He is ties for the Big 12 lead with 8.5 sacks.
Meshak Williams: After Arthur Brown, he is K-State’s best defender.
David Ash: Texas quarterback threw for 364 yards and two touchdowns with only five incomplete passes.
Clint Chelf: Oklahoma State is loaded at quarterback. Chelf, a third-stringer, threw for 292 yards and four touchdowns.
John Hubert: After a big start, K-State’s running back might not hit the 1,000-yard mark. He is 217 yards short with two games to go.
Trevone Boykin: TCU quarterback struggled against K-State and got hurt after one of his better plays.
Tommy Tuberville: There are better ways to show frustration than yanking the headset off an assistant’s head
Steele Jantz: Iowa State quarterback completed passes to 10 different receivers and still didn’t throw for 150 yards.
What to watch
Must-see games: Oklahoma at West Virginia, K-State at Baylor.
Worth watching: Texas Tech at Oklahoma State, Iowa State at Kansas.
1. Kansas State (10-0, 7-0): Wildcats have BCS championship game in their sights.
2. Oklahoma (7-2, 5-1): Sooners are eyeing another BCS bowl.
3. Texas (8-2, 5-2): Few saw this coming, but Longhorns are white hot.
4. Texas Tech (7-3, 4-3): Kansas win was as ugly as they come.
5. Oklahoma State (6-3, 4-2): Solid win over West Virginia, but tough schedule remains.
6. TCU (6-4, 3-4): Horned Frogs could use a week off.
7. West Virginia (5-4, 2-4): Mountaineers still aren’t bowl-eligible.
8. Iowa State (5-5, 2-5): Hard to pull off road upsets without an offense.
9. Baylor (4-5, 1-5): Hard to win anywhere without a defense.
10. Kansas (1-9, 0-7): Can Jayhawks turn close calls into victory against Iowa State?