Welcome to the BCS championship race, Oklahoma. At 4-0 with a road win over Notre Dame, we know the Sooners are for real and the current class of the Big 12.
It might be a while before we learn who their top competition will be.
The Big 12 is a jumbled mess. Baylor and Texas Tech are undefeated, but the Bears haven’t played anyone of note and the Red Raiders might get to 7-0 before they are challenged. Oklahoma State looked like a contender until it stubbed its toe at West Virginia. The Mountaineers looked hapless until they upset the Cowboys. Who knows what to make of Texas, Kansas State and TCU?
As conference games become the norm, the league appears wide open.
“There is more parity than ever,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “Week to week, games change. You can’t get a read on teams by looking at scores when people play other teams. It’s so different than it has been in forever in college football. It is filled with parity. You have to be ready to play each week.”
Gundy was reminded of that message on Saturday, when West Virginia bounced back from a 37-0 loss against Maryland with a 30-21 victory over Oklahoma State. Just like that, the trajectories of two teams were changed.
Now the Cowboys will try to prove the loss, which was filled with turnovers and uninspiring offense, was a fluke against K-State, another team out to prove it is better than its record. The Mountaineers now head to Baylor, a team out to prove its gaudy numbers can hold up against Big 12 competition.
Texas-Iowa State and TCU-Oklahoma are equally important games.
You could call this moving week for Big 12 teams. You could also call it identity week. We are about to learn a lot about the conference.
Pushing the right buttons
When West Virginia failed to compete against Maryland two weeks ago, some wondered if Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen might soon be coaching for his job.
Things certainly were going downhill in Morgantown. West Virginia lost six of last eight games last season following a red-hot start. Then it looked inept in its first four games. Not a good combination.
But Holgorsen gave himself room to breathe with an important win over Oklahoma State. He earned trust with his players a week ago by handling the poor start with class.
“There’s plenty of blame to go around,” Holgorsen said of the Maryland loss last week. “The one that can be blamed more than anybody is me, that’s for dang sure. That was not an acceptable performance. ... We’re not clicking, and that falls 100 percent on me.”
When asked about poor quarterback play, he once again absorbed the blame.
“I see bigger issues,” Holgorsen said. “The bigger issue is me. I’ve got to do a better job on all three sides of the ball.”
His team clearly appreciated Holgorsen’s approach and responded with its best overall effort. It will be interesting to see the way he approaches the next game at Baylor.
Good response, bad response
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini made headlines recently for firing back at critical comments from a former Nebraska star.
“We don’t need him,” Pelini said.
That reaction didn’t sit well with Nebraska fans, considering the former player Pelini was referring to was popular standout quarterback Tommie Frazier. Imagine Bill Snyder saying the same about Michael Bishop or Art Briles suggesting Baylor didn’t need Robert Griffin III. Not a good look.
Texas coach Mack Brown was in a similar situation on Monday. Former Texas running back Earl Campbell suggested it was time for Brown to be fired over the weekend.
Brown’s response: “He’ll always be welcome at our school. I’m disappointed in his comments, but he’s entitled to his opinion.”
Blake Bell: In his first road start, the former Bishop Carroll standout helped Oklahoma beat Notre Dame.
Aaron Wimberly: Cyclones running back was a workhorse against Tulsa, gaining 137 yards on 19 carries.
West Virginia’s uniforms: If wearing bright yellow is what it takes to beat top-15 teams, the Mountaineers should wear bright yellow every week.
Oklahoma defense: The Sooners swarmed Notre Dame and finally look strong on defense again.
J.W. Walsh: Threw 27 incomplete passes and two interceptions for OSU against West Virginia.
Mike Gundy: Maybe it’s time for Gundy to stop pushing for such a soft schedule. Oklahoma State has lost its last two games following easy wins over FCS opponents.
Tulsa: Oklahoma and Iowa State both pounded Tulsa and looked good doing so. Every Big 12 team should have tried to schedule Tulsa.
Open weeks: Only five Big 12 teams were in action last week.
Ranking this week’s games
Don’t miss it: West Virginia at Baylor, Kansas State at Oklahoma State, TCU at Oklahoma
If you have time: Texas at Iowa State (Thursday), Texas Tech at Kansas
Big 12 power rankings
1. Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0): Sooners have quietly entered BCS championship conversation.
2. Texas Tech (4-0, 1-0): Red Raiders will be bowl eligible after six games if they take care of business.
3. Baylor (3-0, 0-1): No one has challenged Baylor yet. That could change this weekend.
4. Oklahoma State (3-1, 0-1): Cowboys offense needs major work.
5. Texas (2-2, 1-0): Oklahoma game looms, but Texas can’t overlook Iowa State.
6. TCU (2-2, 0-1): Brutal schedule gets even tougher this week.
7. West Virginia (3-2, 1-1): Didn’t show up vs. Maryland. Upset Oklahoma State. Who are these Mountaineers?
8. Kansas State (2-2, 0-1): Bill Snyder on the open week: “It wasn’t a bad week.”
9. Kansas (2-1, 0-0): Jake Heaps needs to excel for Kansas to have a shot against Texas Tech.
10. Iowa State (1-2, 0-0): Cyclones hope a midweek game once again works in their favor.