This week, BOTC jumped in to host the Big 12 Roundtable. Questions and answers are below, and the recap post will be coming soon.
Though not true of everyone -- Texas continued its "just take care of business" approach -- Saturday shook a lot assumptions we had about some teams. What, if anything, can you say with confidence about your team?
BracketCat: I can say nothing with confidence regarding the 2009 Kansas State Wildcats. We lost to a team 66-14 and then beat a team 62-14 eight days later. That's a 100-point swing. It's the very definition of schizophrenic. Confidence doesn't even begin to enter the equation. Just strap in, hold on to something and enjoy the ride, Cat fans.
TB: Daniel Thomas is really good. The defense is generally getting better, although they'll still have their moments (or games) against teams like Texas Tech. Brandon Banks is a threat everytime he takes a kickoff. You'll notice there's nothing in here about overall team results or anything of the kind. That's because we never have any idea what the pieces will ad up to.
Two weeks ago, we discussed whether the divide between K-State, Iowa State and Colorado and the rest of the conference was widening. After the North's total faceplant in "referendum" weekend, do we need to ask if the gap between the divisions is continuing to widen?
BracketCat: Nah, we (the blogging world) don't need to ask. The media will do that for us plenty. I think it's clear that it isn't narrowing, though. However, I would rephrase it slightly. Instead of the North-South gap, it's more like the Oklahoma-Texas-Texas Tech vs. everybody-else gap. Those three are so far ahead of everyone else, even Oklahoma State, that it's stunning.
And it doesn't figure to get any better this week. Although Kansas hosts Oklahoma and Missouri hosts Texas, and some fans of both schools are thinking "upset," it's important to remember than Bob Stoops and Mack Brown are a collective 21-0 in the week following the Red River
ShootoutRivalry. Sorry, Jayhawks and Tigers -- it ain't happening.
TB: It's clearly not getting any narrower. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are not national title contenders this year, and both showed they are clearly better than two of the top three or four teams in the North this year. It will be interesting to see how Oklahoma plays against K-State, Nebraska, and KU this season. If, despite being mired in its worst season since before Bob Stoops took over, the Sooners still run roughshod over these three opponents, we may have reason to despair for the North.
Speaking of that question two weeks ago, does yesterday's 3-0 showing by the three teams originally discussed -- K-State, Iowa State, and Colorado -- change your answer to that question, or was it just a random weekend where those three teams beat teams who weren't as good as we thought?
BracketCat: Well, Kansas definitely isn't as good as most people thought, but I don't know what people saw there -- I saw this coming weeks ago when the Jayhawks were giving up chunks of yardage to Duke and Southern Miss. Although Iowa State let almost-certain victory slip through its fingers, I knew it was only a matter of time before the serious losing began in Lawrence.
Baylor and Texas A&M are awful. It's not totally Baylor's fault, given the injury to Robert Griffin, but I thought the rest of the team would play better than they have, even in his absence. I was wrong. Frankly, the Bears lost their bowl bid when they lost to Connecticut in September. There's no margin for error for a scrub team in the Big 12; you have to go 4-0 in the non-conference when you schedule like Baylor did.
As for Texas A&M, any last, lingering shred of respect I might have had for Mike Sherman (and that really wasn't any, don't worry) disappeared quickly on Saturday between raucous peals of laughter. Each Wildcat touchdown seemed to add 70 worry lines to his already craggy face. Oh, wow, what a train wreck Bill Byrne has on his hands down there.
So, my roundabout point is that it's not like Colorado, Iowa State and Kansas State suddenly flipped a magic switch that makes them "contendas." But at the same time, anyone who knows anything about football could see steady, sometimes surprising improvement from week to week in Ames and Manhattan (excepting the Texas Tech setback, of course).
And as for Colorado, it's probably too late to salvage the season, but Tyler Hansen always was the best choice for that job. The worrisome sign for Colorado's long-term future is that it took Dan Hawkins this long to realize it.
TB: It's too soon to make any long-term conclusions from that, just like it was too soon to make any long-term conclusions two weeks ago. As I've always maintained, it's rare that teams are so far gone they can't get back up again within a few years, and no team is immune from hiring the wrong coach and going into a tailspin. However, last weekend did show fairly conclusively that it was premature to consider K-State, ISU and CU the obvious choices for the conference cellar, although the evidence at the time was pretty favorable for such a conclusion.
Next weekend, we see an interesting matchup of suddenly desperate teams in Lawrence, Kansas. Which team needs that game worse? Oklahoma, to show that they're not going to pack it in and have a disastrously bad season, or KU, to show that they are still in the running for the North division?
BracketCat: Oklahoma, without question. You are the University of Oklahoma, winners of eight national championships. You cannot lose to a basketball school and confer upon them any sort of legitimacy, no matter how undeserved.
Besides, Kansas can lose this game and still win the North. If you have to lose a head-to-head tiebreaker to a North team, Colorado probably is the one to do it against. 5-3 easily should win this division, but Kansas now is in a situation where it has to knock off one of the "Big Three" to get there, and Mark Mangino is 0-fer against those schools.
By the way, it's disgusting that the Jayhawks basically got to play OU twice without Blake Griffin, and now get the Sooners without Sam Bradford and Jermaine Gresham. F*** that. At least Ryan Broyles is healthy.
TB: I'm going with KU here. Before the season, it was pretty clear that KU had to run the table in the North to take the division (History awaits...), because we figured 6-2 would win the North outright and 5-3 would probably tie. Barring a complete disaster for the North, I still see the winner being 5-3, so 4-4 won't do it. Because they dropped one against a North team, they have to make that up against a South opponent, and suddenly OU looks like the best candidate. We know KU's defense will put up less resistance than the French against Tech's onslaught, and the beakers' trip to Austin will likely rank among some of the all-time horror movies.
I also choose KU because I don't think OU's coaches, players, or fans really draw much of a distinction between a 9-3 season in which they don't even win the division and a 6-6 season. If they're not winning at least the division title -- and they won't now, because I can't see UT losing two games in this conference -- they'll play for a little pride and that's about it. They don't need this game for anything. KU does.
After a low-scoring, fumble-ridden -- I seriously think the guys on the sidelines handling the footballs were eating fried butter from the Texas State Fair, thus greasing the pigskin -- win in the Red River Shootout, Texas has continued its "just win, baby" season. You're on the spot, right now: Do the Longhorns play for the national title in Pasadena this January?
BracketCat: Probably not. I can't see that team making it through Big 12 play unscathed, although I also can't point to a specific game and say, "They will lose this one." Texas Tech? Already beat 'em. Oklahoma State? Every other year, I think, "This is the year Texas loses in Stillwater," and every time, they survive. Anyone else remember that crazy Halloween game with Vince Young? OSU probably is too flaky to win in two weeks. Missouri? Not unless Blaine Gabbert magically heals this week, and probably not even then.
The telling thing to me is that the computer rankings in the BCS formula reflect the undominating nature of Texas' wins. The Longhorns are ranked 7th in the computer composite, behind fellow unbeatens Boise State, Cincinnati and Iowa. Frankly, those schools might have a better shot at playing for an MNC, too. As the pollsters continue to promote Alabama and punish Texas based on "style points," those computer rankings will get closer and closer to reality.
TB: Yes, I think Texas will be in Pasadena for the MNC game. Only two stumbling blocks remain. First is the Halloween matchup in Stillwater with Oklahoma State. Second is the "ahh, we're just playing [insert piddly North team like K-State in 2006 or 2007 here] today, we don't even have to try" type of game from Texas. It's possible Will Muschamp would murder someone on the sidelines rather than let that kind of game happen, and thus I think the Horns will make it through the conference slate unscathed, thus assuring a title game appearance.
6. Power Poll -- Rank 'em according to who you think would win at a neutral site
1. Texas -- Is this team really the best one the Big 12 can field this year? Sad...
2. Texas Tech -- Is there any doubt? Mack Brown better be thanking his sweet Lord that he faced the Red Raiders before Steven "Sticks and Gloves May Break My Bones, But Pirate Growls Will Never Hurt Me" Sheffield ascended to glory. Otherwise, I think Texas Tech would be making plans for its first-ever trip to the conference championship game.
3. Nebraska -- OK, ranking them No. 1 was a little premature, I admit. But Texas Tech is going to make a lot of teams look stupid from here on out; hell, they'll probably hang 70 on KU. Ndamukong Suh makes this team a threat to dominate any offense other than the Air Raid, quarterback controversy or no QB controversy, and the schedule makes the Huskers the North favorite... for now.
4. Oklahoma -- Oh, Sam Bradford, we hardly knew ye. Get well and go dominate the League, buddy. Oh, and ranked at 3-3? Must be nice to be the popular kid.
5. Oklahoma State -- Meh. The most unintimidating 5-1 team I can remember in a long time. But they're flying under the radar for now, and Halloween beckons...
6. Kansas -- Better enjoy this spot while it lasts, Squawks. With Oklahoma and Texas Tech ahead, your defense is about to be exposed like a stripper. In your case, that would be Chippendale's, right?
7. Missouri -- Mizzou might be a better team than Kansas, if Blaine Gabbert was healthy. For now, Todd Reesing and his two amigos give the Hawks the edge.
8. Kansas State -- Quite the jump from last week, eh? OK, I admit I might have overreacted slightly to the Lubbock debacle. But the Kool-Aid is flowing freely now, and as long as this team doesn't beat itself, it's fully capable of continuing to improve, and possibly even winning out at home, to get to a bowl game and challenge for the North.
9. Iowa State -- Man, Paul Rhoads has to be a nice surprise for the Cyclone faithful. Gene who?
10. Colorado -- Yes, it was a good win. But you're still a 2-4 team. I can't get that Toledo game out of my head. How did that defense sack Reesing five times? I still think midnight will toll for Cinderella sooner or later. Maybe sooner, because while I can picture Colorado players partying all week with various substances like they just won the Super Bowl, I am 100-percent positive Bill Snyder already has his team forgetting the Texas A&M win and simply "sawing wood" in preparation for Saturday's homecoming game.
11. Baylor -- Welp, sucks to be you. Reboot and try again next season.
12. Texas A&M -- This spot automatically is reserved for any team that loses a conference game by more than 40 points. Your turn in the barrel, Aggies.
1. Texas -- As I said, just win, baby.
2. Oklahoma State -- Surely they're too depleted to hang on to this spot...right?
3. Texas Tech -- Look, Mike, I love having you in this conference for the quotes alone, but it is the system. No shame in that.
4. Oklahoma -- If they pack it in, they'll descend quickly, but I can't drop them too far despite three losses. All three losses have been very close games against at least solid competition.
5. Nebraska -- Suh and the defense will keep them in every game this season, but they can't score. If you think Cody Green is the answer, you should have seen some of his high school games last year. He's got the tools, but he's not ready yet.
6. Missouri -- Get the nod here based on having played better competition in conference.
7. KU -- I can't count them out of the North race yet, but they're already on life support. They must win against OU this weekend.
8. K-State -- Mea culpa, readers. I overreacted last week. Perhaps I overreacted again this week, but we'll hope not. If the Cats can pick up a home win over Colorado, they may have enough momentum to shock the world and pick up enough wins for a bowl game.
9. Iowa State -- Paul Rhoads is doing a good job in Ames. The Cyclones will mutter about those losses to K-State and KU if they miss a bowl by finishing 5-7 this year.
10. Colorado -- Rapidly improving now that Dan Hawkins finally was beaten into the realization that his son is not the answer at quarterback. Game in Manhattan will set the tone for the rest of the season.
11. Texas A&M -- Sometimes, it just isn't your half-decade.
12. Baylor -- Same old Bears.