Big 12 Report (Oct. 22)

10/22/2012 5:27 PM

10/22/2012 5:29 PM

As fun as it was to watch West Virginia and Baylor score at will last month, neither team has much to show for their offensive firepower today.

The Mountaineers have been stymied by strong defenses in back-to-back weeks and are barely hanging on in the national polls after two lopsided losses.

The Bears have allowed more than 40 points in four straight games and join Kansas as the Big 12’s only team without a conference victory.

Meanwhile, the three teams at the top of the league standings have all proven they can play defense.

Coincidence? Hardly.

“Over the span of 2000-2008 you had a lot of teams in this league that played offense, but you’re seeing more and more defenses,” Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. “It gives you an opportunity to win games when your offense is not playing that well.”

The Red Raiders might be the best example of the difference an improved defense can make. In Tuberville’s first two years, Texas Tech couldn’t stop anyone and its record hovered around .500. But now that it ranks seventh nationally in yardage allowed (282.0) and 34th nationally in points allowed (21.6) , it is eligible for a bowl after seven games and in the mix for a Big 12 championship.

Consider that undefeated K-State hasn’t allowed more than 21 points this season, and that No. 8 Oklahoma hasn’t allowed more than 24 points and it’s obvious that the Big 12 isn’t all about offense right now.

“Since I’ve gotten into this league, more teams have gotten back to fundamentals on defense by playing a lot of base defenses,” Tuberville said. “Not blitzing a lot just playing on technique, not giving up big plays and teaching tackling.”

Two of the league’s best defenses will meet on Saturday with Texas Tech traveling to K-State. Both teams have brilliant offenses, too, so don’t expect a SEC-style slugfest that comes down to who kicks more field goals. But don’t expect the final score to be 70-63, either.

The best teams in the Big 12 don’t have to score that often to win.

Must-see game

Is Notre Dame for real? Is Oklahoma back? Many have labeled Saturday night’s showdown in Norman as the game of the week, and ESPN’s “College Gameday” will be there to preview it.

OU coach Bob Stoops deserves kudos for making it happen. While most coaches stay away from challenging nonconference games, Stoops tries to schedule at least one every season. In this situation, it helps his team. Some left Oklahoma for dead when it lost at home to K-State, but it has responded with impressive victories over Texas Tech, Texas and Kansas. Everyone will be talking about the Sooners again if they beat Notre Dame.

The other must-see game

No. 15 Texas Tech at No. 4 K-State wasn’t deemed interesting enough to land a primetime slot on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean it can’t beat one of the day’s best. The Wildcats can improve their national-title resume, while the Red Raiders could create a three- or four-way tie atop the Big 12.

It’s a fascinating battle of quarterbacks. Both Collin Klein and Seth Doege scored seven touchdowns last week.

Sweet escape

Texas didn’t earn any style points by beating Baylor 56-50 on Saturday, but Mack Brown wasn’t complaining. The Longhorns coach was under fire from fans. Many wondered if he was still the right man for the job following another blowout loss to Oklahoma. But they rebounded with a much-needed victory.

“It was really important,” Brown said to reporters after the game. “Coach (Darrell) Royal told me once the only important games at Texas are the ones you lose. We are making some progress.”

Award winners

Collin Klein and Arthur Brown received weekly honors from the Big 12 for their performances against West Virginia. Klein, the offensive player of the week, was named to the semifinal list for the Davey O’Brien Award (quarterback). Brown, defensive player of the week, was named semifinalist for the Butkus Award (linebacker).

Who’s hot

Collin Klein: K-State’s quarterback couldn’t have played any better against West Virginia. He’s the Heisman frontrunner.

Arthur Brown: The first defender to intercept Robert Griffin III last year. The first defender to intercept Geno Smith this year.

Landry Jones: Oklahoma’s quarterback has been sharp since losing to K-State.

Seth Doege: Threw for seven touchdowns against TCU. He’s had back-to-back huge games.

Who’s not

West Virginia: The Mountaineers were frauds in both the Big 12 and national championship races.

Geno Smith: WVU quarterback has gone from Heisman frontrunner to all-conference team hopeful.

Baylor/Texas/West Virginia defenses: They can’t stop anyone.

Jared Barnett: Iowa State quarterback hasn’t been able to match his breakout performance at TCU.

What to watch

Must-see games: Texas Tech at Kansas State, Notre Dame at Oklahoma.

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

Avert your eyes: Texas at Kansas.

Power rankings

1. Kansas State (7-0, 4-0): Wildcats control their own destiny in Big 12 and BCS championship races.

2. Oklahoma (5-1, 3-1): Sooners wishing the Big 12 still had a title game right about now.

3. Texas Tech (6-1, 3-1): Huge game coming at K-State. Texas Tech is the Big 12’s darkhorse contender.

4. Oklahoma State (4-2, 2-1): Cowboys could move into Top 25 with win over TCU.

5. West Virginia (5-2, 2-2): What else can the Mountaineers do but nurse their wounds during bye week?

6. Texas (5-2, 2-2): Longhorns righted the ship against Baylor, but defense needs lots of work.

7. TCU (5-2, 2-2): Horned Frogs facing the grind of full Big 12 schedule.

8. Iowa State (4-3, 1-3): Can Cyclones win enough to become bowl eligible?

9. Baylor (3-3, 0-3): One of two teams without a conference victory.

10. Kansas (1-6, 0-4): At least basketball season is about to start.

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