Another week, another blow to the conference's image. The Big XII has built up a lot of equity with voters and media alike, but this season is starting to test that image. Someone needs to emerge as a national contender, and quickly. Who will it be?
TCU Horned Frogs vs. SELA Lions (W, 38-17)
It's too obvious of a metaphor to use, but TCU certainly looked like they were suffering a post-LSU hangover for the first half of their game against the Lions. In the second half, however, TCU was near dominant on defense outside of penultimate drive of the game, and the offense put together three touchdown drives. Two things occurred before halftime that played a large role in this about-face:
First, Casey Pachall, as you likely already know, injured his forearm shortly before halftime while being tackled. Here's hoping for his speedy recovery, it has to be frustrating to spend that much time away from football only to be injured in your second game back. That said, Trevone Boykin looks like the better choice for the Horned Frogs at QB right now, and probably for the rest of the season. His legs give their offense an added component that makes their already potent running game even more dangerous, and it is crucial that their offense is able to grind out drives to allow their defense to remain fresh and (potentially) dominating. He also looks like a much improved passer, particularly in the speed of his reads and release of the football. He doesn't have the arm that Pachall does, but TCU doesn't really have playmakers at wide receiver this season now that Josh Boyce has left for the NFL so that might not be as big of a deal as I thought it would be.
The second change for TCU was that Gary Patterson apparently decided that his suspension of Devonte Fields had made its point after 1 and ½ games instead of the promised 2, and reinstated his star defensive end after halftime. This made a big difference, as you would expect when you add the best defensive lineman in the Big XII back to a defense built around him. It's hard to judge TCU after their two games because they look to have a new starting QB for the foreseeable future and their defense has only played a half with their true talent on the field, but the one half they have played looks like they could contend for a Big XII Title.
Stats of note: 264 yards. Number of total offensive yards for former Oregon QB Bryan Bennett, now a Lion. One reason that TCU had trouble shutting down SELA without Fields in the lineup was the play of Bennett, the guy most thought would be the starting QB at Oregon around this time last year.
Also of note: SELA's first 5 drives after Fields' reinsertion to the lineup: Turnover on downs, Interception, Punt, Punt, Punt. That's more like the TCU defense we're used to, and probably more like what we're going to see in the future.
Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. UTSA Roadrunners (W, 56-35)
In the first quarter, Okie Lite looked to be suffering its own post-SEC opponent hangover. UTSA, with the help of a surprisingly loud Alamodome crowd, were able to respond to OSU's first TD with one of their own, and went into the 2nd quarter down only 14-7. Hell, against OSU that almost counts as winning the 1st quarter. As the game went on, though, OSU predictably pulled away. It is hard to take away much valuable insight from games like these, but one very positive sign for Okie Lite after last week was that J.W. Walsh was able to get his receivers involved in the offense, after really struggling to do so against MSU. Don't let the final score fool you on this one - Okie Lite was up 42-7 with 10 minutes to go in the 3rd, after which they swapped QBs and proceeded to coast to the finish.
Stats of note: 491 yards receiving yards for OSU wide receivers, up from less than 100 against MSU. Contrast that with the 87 rushing yards Okie Lite put up as a team (down from 286 last week), and you see that OSU is willing and able to take whatever the defense is giving that day.
Also of note: 4 passing TDs, 3 incompletions, 326 yards passing. J.W. Walsh had a pretty good day.
Another week goes by, another attempt by the Bears to break the scoreboard. I don't know what to take away from this one, other than whoever is going to beat the Bears probably has to be significantly more talented on defense than Buffalo. Baylor's offense is so sublime, however, that it is just hard to envision it not working until someone stops it.
Stats of note: 18.1 yards per pass. I didn't know it was possible to average 18 yards per pass unless you were a triple option team like Georgia Tech. When you pass it 25 times...that's kind of crazy. Bryce Petty himself had 3 incompletions (on 16 attempts) and finished with 300 yards. One incompletion for each hundred yards passing.
Also of note: 1.7 yards per carry. That was the rushing average for Buffalo after the game, which comes a week after Baylor held Wofford's triple option attack to 3.0 yards per carry (ask Alabama how hard it can be to stop the triple option). Phil Bennett might just be figuring things out in Waco, which would mean bad things for the rest of the conference.
Somehow, I found myself watching an inordinate amount of this game, despite its severe entertainment deficit. Any time I can convince myself that OU might just be about to lose, though, I just can't turn away. In this case, that was a mistake. One could say that OU dominated this game, but they played so sloppily and were so incapable of pulling away from a toothless WVU squad that it is hard for me to say that. Both teams had 4 turnovers. Both had significant struggles passing the ball. OU won, but they are the ones with the quarterback controversy after Blake Bell relieved Trevor Knight and lit up the scoreboard led the offense to a field goal without completing a pass. That's how bad OU's offense looked when they weren't running the ball. For West Virginia, there were some positives. Their defense looks to be massively improved from last season, but we'll have to see them against a real QB to really know how much of that improvement extends to the secondary, which was absolutely brutal for them a season ago. Their run game also averaged over 5 yards per carry, which is good news for them. But that passing game needs work.
Stats of note: 5.3 and 5.7 yards per pass. Those are the averages for WVU and OU, respectively. All nickels, very few dimes, and don't even think about trying to use quarters.
Also of note: Blake Bell attemped one pass, did not complete it, did not lead his team to a touchdown, and people are clamoring for him to be the QB. Be thankful, Wildcat fans. This is the kind of QB controversy you don't want.
Everyone has probably already fully engaged their schadenfreude drives and has lapped up enough information about this one already, but I'll go through the basics. Texas, after returning almost its entire team from last year, was expected to be the conference torch-bearer and potential national title contender. This dream died in Provo, as dreams are oft wont to do. BYU unveiled its "new" read-option attack, and Texas had no answers. Even if they thought they did going into halftime, after half BYU inverted its read option game - running the QB inside and the RB outside - and UT was back to having no idea what to do on defense. The result is that Greg Robinson is now the defensive coordinator at UT, the Big XII looks to be without a national title contender, and Daniel Sams looks like he might rush for 300 yards against Texas in two weeks time.
Stats of note: 550 rushing yards. That's the BYU record on offense, and the UT "record" on defense. Ouch.
Also of note: 9/26 passing, 129 yards, 17 carries, 259 yards, 3 TDs. BYU QB Taysom Hill had the kind of winning statline against UT that is familiar to K-State fans...although not quite to that extreme.
Kansas Jayhawks vs. South Dakota Coyotes (W, 31-14)
I'll keep this somewhat short to prevent any of my biases from seeping in. KU looks improved on offense but worse on defense, and the defensive line looks to be as much a problem for them as it is for K-State, especially given that Marquel Combs didn't play in this game and was not injured. Heaps looks like he could be a legitimate Big XII QB, but it is going to be hard for him to show it with the receivers that he has to work with. RB looks to be far and away the best unit on the team, and played like it in this game. KU got the one win that was as close to a lock as anything on the schedule, but that doesn't really show much. The coming weeks will determine if KU is actually improved this season.
Stats of note: 1 wide receiver touchdown for KU, which is more than they had all of last season. Yeah. It wasn't fun.
Also of note: 1 win for KU, which is as many as they had all of last season. Nowhere to go but up!
Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. SFA Lumberjacks (W, 61-13)
Texas Tech put the kind of whipping on SFA that ordinarily doesn't tell you that much. However, as this is a new coaching staff, I think that this game does show that KK has been able to install his offense. That's not as impressive as it might be, since Tech essentially never stopped running the Leach offense, but there is always the potential for loss of continuity during a regime change and that doesn't seem to have happened. Still, we won't know anything about Tech until they play a team with a real defense, or when they get in a shootout with a team that isn't quarterbacked by Garrett Gilbert.
Stats of note: 8 receptions, 142 yards, 1 TD. Those are Jace Amaro's stats, and anyone who saw him play before his injury last season should be worried. At 6'5" 260 lbs, he is the kind of receiver that Tech rarely (ever?) has.
Also of note: 10.5 yards per pass average for Texas Tech. That tells you all you need to know about how easy it was for them this week.
Starting with this edition, I thought we could do a short poll to see who the flavor of the week is in the Big XII, just to track who has the most hype through the season. So, put your choice for the conference winner below. Note that I've already decided who has a shot and who doesn't. I don't think there should be any issues with that.