College football coaches tend to treat moral victories for exactly what they are -- losses. But there was something different about a pair of narrow misses in the Big 12 over the weekend.
After Oklahoma State pushed No. 1 Florida State to the final whistle of a 37-31 loss in Arlington, Texas and West Virginia stayed close with No. 2 Alabama in a 33-23 defeat in Atlanta, Big 12 coaches spoke positively about both outcomes.
“It looks like the Big 12 is going to be fairly strong this year,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “Everyone played pretty well.”
“All these teams are better than people gave them credit for,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops added. “It doesn’t surprise me.”
“This is a loaded league,” commented Kansas coach Charlie Weis.
It is too early to know how good the Big 12 is, for sure. But the league’s coaches are right to view the opening weekend of college football optimistically, despite a 6-3 record for the conference. Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas State, Texas and TCU all looked good demolishing inferior competition, while Oklahoma State and West Virginia showed they may exceed the expectations that placed them in the middle of the league’s preseason poll.
If two average Big 12 teams can stay within a combined 16 points of the nation’s top two ranked teams, that reflects well on the conference’s depth.
The only teams that truly looked shaky in their openers were Texas Tech, which piled up 636 yards but barely survived 42-35 against Central Arkansas, and Iowa State, which allowed 34 straight points in a humbling 34-14 defeat to North Dakota State.
Perhaps we will learn more about the Big 12 next weekend, when K-State and Iowa State meet in the first conference game of the season, Texas takes on BYU and West Virginia goes from facing Alabama to Towson.
For now, the early results are encouraging, even though they included three losses.
“We aren’t interested in any moral victories, but we felt like we could play with those guys and entered the game in a good frame of mind,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We learned we are going to be in a lot of those games. We were in games like that against good teams last year ... I twas a good learning experience. I was proud.”
Texas quarterback David Ash will not play against BYU on Saturday, Texas coach Charlie Strong said Monday. Ash, who has a history of concussions, complained of dizziness after the Longhorns beat North Texas in their opener. Backup Tyrone Swoopes, a sophomore, will take Ash’s place.
Also on the bad news front, Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said top receiver Quenton Bundrage is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Player of the week
Tyreek Hill. The Oklahoma State receiver and former Garden City Community College star did it all against Florida State, piling up 234 all-purpose yards.
What to watch
BYU at Texas could be one of the most entertaining games of the early season. Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill obliterated the Longhorns last year, and he dominated in an easy victory at Connecticut in BYU’s opener. The Longhorns will be looking for revenge, and a new look defense that stymied North Texas should be up for the challenge. How Texas responds to the loss of Ash adds further intrigue.
1. Oklahoma (1-0): The Sooners had a care-free opener, pummeling Louisiana Tech 48-16.
2. Baylor (1-0): The Bears looked good against SMU, but McLane Stadium looked better.
3. Kansas State (1-0): Running backs Charles Jones and DeMarcus Robinson both had big moments against Stephen F. Austin.
4. Texas (1-0): Charlie Strong’s defense is for real. North Texas gained 94 yards against the Longhorns.
5. Oklahoma State (0-1): No moral victories in Stillwater, but pushing No. 1 Florida State to the wire was impressive.
6. West Virginia (0-1): Mountaineers looked much better than expected against No. 2 Alabama.
7. TCU (1-0): The Frogs held Samford to 143 total yards.
8. Texas Tech (1-0): After beating Central Arkansas 42-35, coach Kliff Kingsbury said “We didn’t show up.”
9. Kansas (0-0): Opening opponent Southeast Missouri State beat Missouri Baptist 77-0.
10. Iowa State (0-1): Bob Bowslby should ban Big 12 teams from scheduling North Dakota State.