It’s time for the best football teams in the Big 12 to prove themselves.
After a dull start to the season that featured few entertaining games, this Saturday will feature several put-up-or-shut-up matchups across the conference.
The biggest, as it usually is, will be the Red River Rivalry. Oklahoma is the class of the league with wins over Notre Dame and TCU, but Texas is also undefeated in Big 12 play. Most expect the Sooners to roll at the Cotton Bowl, but the Longhorns have desperation on their side.
They have nothing to lose. Even after back-to-back wins, Texas fans continue to suggest this will be Mack Brown’s final season. A win over Oklahoma would ease that speculation. Of course, a Sooner victory could seal his fate.
Meanwhile, the undercard will feature an intriguing game between Baylor and Kansas State. The Bears and their high-flying offense have become the talk of the league. They are averaging more than 70 points, and piled up 864 yards in a blowout victory over West Virginia over the weekend. They may be the Big 12’s best team, but it’s impossible to say for sure until they play stronger competition and win on the road.
So far, Baylor has pummeled Wofford, Buffalo, Louisiana-Monroe and West Virginia at home. Its schedule, which includes four road games, toughens considerably from here. The Bears have lost eight of their last nine conference road games (the only win was in overtime at Kansas) and have never won at K-State. Beat the Wildcats, and the hype can officially begin.
Undefeated Texas Tech also looks like it will have a say in the conference race. But can it hold off Iowa State if quarterback Baker Mayfield can’t play?
Some are already circling Oklahoma at Baylor on Nov. 7 as the game of the year in the Big 12. Texas Tech at Oklahoma the week before could be just as meaningful. Who knows, maybe Texas Tech at Texas on Thanksgiving will be the game no one wants to miss.
It all might depend on what happens this weekend.
It’s trendy to say Baylor has a video-game offense, but is it accurate?
Think about it. Even the best gamers can struggle to score at the rate Baylor has. Through four games, the Bears are averaging a tad under 71 points. Perhaps even more impressive: They are averaging nearly 50 points in the first half. Few basketball teams can do that.
When asked about the challenge of facing such an offense, K-State coach Bill Snyder said he hoped to hold Baylor under 100 points and joked that K-State would slow it down by taking a knee on the opening play and heading to the locker room.
Said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen following a loss on Saturday: “I said it all week. If it got into a track meet, we wouldn’t be in good shape.”
Opposing coaches might want to try something new on defense against Baylor. Otherwise, it will take a lot of points to beat it.
New, but familiar, quarterbacks
Texas and Oklahoma will use quarterbacks who haven’t started in the Red River Rivalry before this weekend, but they are both familiar with the game.
Case McCoy will get the start for Texas with David Ash out indefinitely with a head injury. McCoy doesn’t bring nearly as much to the table as Ash, and his arm is suspect, but Brown doesn’t think he will be fazed by the atmosphere surrounding a big game.
“He did a nice job Thursday night bringing us back for a win,” Brown said. “He has been around this game. We are excited to see what he can do.”
Blake Bell will lead Oklahoma’s offense. He has played at the Cotton Bowl before, but Bob Stoops thinks what he has done this season will be more beneficial.
“His experience at Notre Dame will help him more than anything,” Stoops said. “That was a good game, a significant game, a game he impacted in a major way. He will build on that going into this game. He just needs to take what’s there and continue to operate the way he has.”
Is the walk-on in or out?
Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield left a win over Kansas with an injury, and he might not be able to play against Iowa State.
Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury isn’t sure when he will be able to return to the field, but said Monday that the injury won’t sideline him the entire season. Texas Tech will need to give its backup additional work in practice this week.
Receivers remain questionable
K-State may have to once again take the field without its top two receivers on Saturday. Snyder said that the playing status of Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett remains uncertain. Thompson traveled to Oklahoma State, but did not play. Lockett started the game, but left in the first half with an apparent hamstring injury.
One long day of evaluation and critical analysis left Kansas coach Charlie Weis with a pretty good idea of what needed to be tweaked following a 54-16 loss to Texas Tech on Saturday in Lawrence.
“There will be a number of changes in the depth chart that I put out tomorrow,” Weis said Monday.
Weis didn’t get into many specifics on potential changes, but a shaky offensive line will likely be one of the first position units to be overhauled. A largely unproductive receiving corps could also undergo a few changes. But Weis also said he scoured the game film looking for players that played hard throughout Saturday’s loss, which turned into another ugly blowout after the Jayhawks took a 10-0 lead into the second quarter.
“The ones that played hard,” Weis said, “will still be sitting in the same situation where they were last week — playing.”
Ranking this week’s games
Big 12 power rankings