SB Nation Big 12 Roundtable -- Week 3

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via assets.sbnation.com

This week, Mark over at Clone Chronicles is the host to the Roundtable.  And, you guessed it, we're back with triple the fun in response.
 

 1.  The Big 12 has looked more unimpressive than impressive thus far.  Do you attribute this to early season struggles, or does the conference look to have regressed from '08? Please explain.

BracketCat: I guess it depends on how you define regression. Are we going to have three 11-1 teams? Probably not. Is the league's top 8 going to be much more competitive and balanced? Yeah. Kansas is better; Nebraska probably is better; Missouri might actually be a little better; Oklahoma State, despite the Houston loss, probably is better; Oklahoma is a little worse; Texas is the same or maybe a little better; Texas Tech is a little worse, but not as much as people think; and Baylor and Texas A&M appear to be much improved.

I think the league as a whole is better, and the North will be more competitive with the South, but there only is one serious national title contender this season, not three. That will hurt our national profile, but the national media were overrating the top anyway. (OSU on the SI cover BEFORE they beat anybody of substance? Really?) The only true "disappointments" are the bottom three North teams, and nobody but Phil Steele expected them to be good anyway.

Panjandrum: I think college football as a whole is entering a dark, new territory that's going to rock it's world in the next ten years.  Every year since the 85-man scholarship limit has been in effect, parity has sank in more and more.  Teams like Kansas State and Virginia Tech in the 90's started to rise up and take prominence.  Neither team had inherent advantages in location, exposure, tradition, etc., but they did creative things to get their name out there.  Snyder started the whole 'soft-scheduling' that's all the rage, and Beamer took advantage of cable networks and got his team on TV all of the time.  Good coaching here, a few superstars there, and next thing you know...voila...the era of big football party crashing began.  From there, it was a matter of time before Utah, Boise St., Hawaii, etc. found a way to get into the BCS and into the public consciousness.  Every conference gets on TV nowadays, and there's all kinds of talent to go around.  Offenses have evolved so that teams can move the chains without dominant offensive linemen and a few key skill position players.

I'm rambling, but the fact of the matter is that this is the natural progression of things.  Certain teams that have more money than God have the inherent advantage, but they will still stumble from time to time.  Inevitably, there will come a day that parity is so great that a playoff will be unavoidable, and the NCAA will have a crisis on it's hands as the have's will want to split from the have not's because they don't want to share a piece of the pie.

So, long story short, everyone's getting to be around the same general place.  Like the NFL.

Man, I've been watching too much "Lost" lately.  My brain is all kinds of paranoid.

TB: Merely a regression from a banner year last season.  It's not very often you're going to have three 11-1 teams that each have a legitimate claim to playing in the conference title game and, if they win, the national title game.  Texas was the only of those three that brought back its key components and, while it appeared after week one that Oklahoma State may step into its role as "this year's Tech," that ended last week as the Coogs shocked 'em.

One thing is for sure, and that is the North's struggles.  With all due respect to my colleague rockchalk -- and he is deserving of much respect -- this season is more likely to rival 2004 as the North's worst showing than it is to be its best.  Given that Nebraska, Missouri and KU have shown they'll probably hang around the fringes of the top 25, it likely won't be as bad as the year CU backed into the conference title game at 4-4 and promptly got shellacked by OU.  But it's also going to be a far cry from the 1990s, when you could count on Nebraska, K-State and Colorado to be in the hunt nationally.

Edit: Yeah, definitely should have read RCT's Roundtable from this week, too.  My bad.

2.  When looking at our team's schedule, sometimes it's hard to get excited about non-conference portion of the schedule, except for maybe 1 game. In general, are you content with your team's non-conference scheduling? Is there an opponent you'd like to see on a regular basis, that you currently do not?

BracketCat: Our schedule is way too damn hard, considering how bad we are. Thanks for nothing, Ron Prince. Once we get back to being a decent program, I'd like to see one solid BCS squad on there for a home-and-home every year, but I doubt Bill Snyder agrees with me. It's too bad, because our series with USC in 2001 and 2002 were some of the most exciting games I have seen us play.

Panjandrum: I don't care about specific opponents.  My preference would be an FCS team to start off with, a couple of mid-majors, and one BCS game every year.  That seems like a good balance to me.

TB: Our schedule this year borders on terrible.  We have two games against FCS teams, are on the road against UCLA, and play a road game against a Sun Belt opponent.  That's stupid.  It's like Louisiana had the same leverage Ron Prince had over someone in our athletic department.  Given that we had a new coach with a complicated scheme and players that had zero confidence after the last two years, we needed a "typical Bill Snyder schedule" this season.  All home games, no BCS conference opponents, only one FCS team so that six wins is all that's required for a bowl.
 
Ordinarily, I'd like to see no FCS teams, three teams from the lower levels of FBS, and one BCS opponents of any degree of competence.  As RPT said over at Rock M Nation, we have zero incentive to schedule up, as KU and Texas Tech have proven.

3.  Over the years we've seen a fair share of teams lose the week they appear on the SI cover. Does the "SI Curse" exist, is it a coincidence, or is it something that we only take notice of when it rings true (but forget when it does not)? Explain.

BracketCat: I don't think it's a coincidence or a curse; I think it's a correlation. SI tends to profile trends that are surprising, out of the ordinary or striking in their suddenness. Well, those explosive trends also tend to be the ones that regress to the mean the swiftest, too. By the time SI gets on the boat, I think many phenomena already have begun to run their course. Call it the delayed recognition effect, if you will. (Can you tell I was a political science major with an emphasis on quantitative analysis?)

Panjandrum: Yes, the SI curse exists.  I truthfully believe there is a correlation between being on the cover of SI and thinking you've finally made it, leading to less effort.  However, the truth is that most of these teams haven't.

TB: It's a coincidence.  The photo on Sports Illustrated's cover does not hold some magical powers that cause the team featured to lose.  Now, it may be associated with losing in the sense that some teams don't handle success very well, but that's certainly not the magazine's fault.

4.  What is the biggest question your team has to answer heading into Week 3?

BracketCat: Well, we're probably not going to win, so it'd be nice to see if our kicker actually can make his first field goal of the season. I'd take that as a moral victory. I'd like to say that it would be nice to see either Carson Coffman or Grant Gregory step up and claim the QB job for good, but they both have looked like such unmitigated crap this season that I think that would be a pipe dream. A crack-pipe dream, that is.

Panjandrum: The biggest question?  Hell, I don't know.  The biggest question is how many damn questions do we really have?

TB: It's a tossup between finding some consistency at quarterback and fixing the disasters on special teams.  Carson Coffman was bad enough early against UL that Snyder pulled him for Grant Gregory, who was worse.  Coffman wasn't bad in the second half, kind of like he wasn't bad in the second quarter against UMass, but that's not enough.  On the other hand, we have had turnovers and mistakes galore on special teams this year, including two missed field goals, a mishandled snap, and a missed extra point last week.

5.  Choose an Offensive Player of the Week (non-QB to make it a little more interesting) and Defensive Player of the Week from Week 2.  Provide solid arguments for each.

BracketCat: I'll pick three offensive players. Jake Sharp had a nice little game, from what I can see (didn't watch it). Daniel Thomas rushed for over 130 yards, ran for a TD and threw a Tim Tebow-style jump pass out of the Wildcat formation. More importantly, he pretty much is the entire K-State offense and almost single-handedly led us back in the second half to take a brief lead. (And he's the 10th leading rusher in the nation right now.) Finally, Dez Bryant may have lost, but I nominate him over all other Big 12 wide receivers because his punt return in the second half got Oklahoma State back into the game and simply was electrifying. (And if you could pick QBs, how could it not be Taylor Potts, he of the SEVEN TD passes?)

Defensive player is trickier, since I haven't seen a lot of stats from this week. I guess I'll cheap out and nominate the entire Oklahoma defense, since they did get the shutout. Yes, it only was Idaho State, but it's hard to get a goose egg against anyone in the age of spread offenses. Dishonor of the Week, of course, goes to the Colorado defense, and specifically Colorado safety Patrick Mahnke, who played some of the worst pass (and run, for that matter) defense I have seen from a team coached by someone other than Ron Prince in a long time.

Panjandrum: Uh, when you throw for 450+, and you toss 7TD's, my money goes on that guy (Taylor Potts).  On defense, I'm goin' with 'Spoon (Sean Weatherspoon).  Fourteen tackles is a lot, and he was huge in MU's victory this week.  I'm tossing the game ball to him.

TB: Offensive Player of the Week: Jake Sharp, RB, KU
Defensive Player of the Week: Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri

Power Poll

BracketCat:

1. Texas
2. Oklahoma (Dominating effort with Sam Bradford back pushes them back to second... for now. It helps that BYU looks like a legit Top 10 team.)
3. Oklahoma State (I'm still being generous, given how bad that defensive effort was, but I think they will improve. I don't think Houston is as good as BYU.)
4. Kansas (So far, the Jayhawks are winning with defense and running game, two things they sucked at last year, while Todd Reesing does just enough to secure the win.)
5. Nebraska (Can't wait to see the Huskers play Virginia Tech, so we finally can find out what they're made of.)
6. Missouri
7. Texas Tech
8. Baylor
9. Texas A&M
10. Kansas State
11. Iowa State (Disagree all you want, but even as terrible as Carson Coffman has been, he still only has thrown half as many picks as Austin Arnaud. And the Wildcats lost on the road and were not blown out.)
12. Colorado

Panjandrum:

1. Texas
2. Oklahoma
3. Nebraska
4. Kansas
5. Oklahoma St.
6. Texas Tech
7. Missouri

8. Baylor
9. Texas A&M
10. Kansas State

10.  Iowa State

10.  Colorado

I'm just ranking KSU, ISU, and Colorado in a tie for last because they all royally suck right now.

TB:

1.  Texas -- Until further notice, they are clearly the best team in the conference right now.  Slow start against Wyoming was concerning, but they handled their business.
2.  Oklahoma State -- Call me crazy, and I know some of you will, but I still think they're the second best team in the South.  I think Houston is going to surprise a lot of people with how good they are this year, so I don't think it's as bad of a loss as some think.
3.  Oklahoma -- Losing 64-0 to a team with Landry Jones at QB is really indicative of how bad Idaho State is.  Still, impressive that the Sooners didn't just go through the motions and slug out an uninspired victory.
4.  Missouri -- Despite narrow victory over Bowling Green, I'm keeping the Tigers here for now.
5.  KU -- Defense was dominating against UTEP, which was unexpected against a C-USA team known for its offense.  Need to show me something against a better opponent before I consider moving them ahead of Mizzou.
6.  Nebraska -- Huskers have won both games easily, and yet, and yet...something seems to be missing.  A true playmaker on offense may be that something.
7.  Baylor -- Bears were off this week, and nobody behind them did anything to move them down, so they stay right where they were.
8.  Texas A&M -- See answer to previous question.
9.  Texas Tech -- A good argument can be made that they should move up from last week after the big win over Rice.  I'm holding off and here is why.  Yes, Taylor Potts looked like a golden god against Rice, but it's not like Rice plays any defense anyway.  And oh, that Tech rushing game is a disaster.
10.  K-State -- Really should probably just follow my colleague's lead and put ISU and CU in a tie for 10th here.  Cats only retain this spot because Iowa State got slaughtered by Iowa and CU went to its Waterloo in Toledo.
11.  Iowa State -- Remember how Austen Arnaud looked pretty good against NDSU in week one?  Yeah, neither do I, because I'm still reeling from his four-interception performance against Iowa.
12.  Colorado -- Not much to say here.  My team is pretty bad, too, so I shouldn't be making any comments.

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