Another weekend, another crazy batch of results in the Big 12. Our answers to the most pressing questions of the day are below.
This question was posed by Rock Chalk Talk's Denverjhawk in Rock M Nation's Live Thread on Saturday: Could a Big 12 North all-star team compete with and/or beat Texas?
TB: Yes, they could compete with UT, but sadly, I can't say with certainty they would win. I really miss 1996-2003.
Panjandrum: Honestly? Yes. It's not a silly question, per se, but to think that one team in this conference is THAT much better than an entire division is silly. Texas is not a complete team themselves; they struggle running the football, and that will come back to bite them.
I get why someone would ask this question, but truthfully, the answer is simple. The North all-star team would probably roll UT.
BracketCat: To properly answer this question, I need to see what such a team actually would look like. Here's my best stab at a two-deep:
WR X: Jared Perry (MU) / Scotty McKnight (CU)
LT: Nick Stringer (KSU) / Tanner Hawkinson (KU)
LG: Alex Alvarez (ISU) / Keith Williams (NU)
C: Jeremiah Hatch (KU) / Wade Weibert (KSU)
RG: Ricky Henry (NU) / Kurtis Gregory (MU)
RT: Dan Hoch (MU) / Ryan Miller (CU)
TE: Riar Geer (CU) / Jeron Mastrud (KSU)
QB: Todd Reesing (KU) / Blaine Gabbert (MU) (if healthy)
RB: Alexander Robinson (ISU) / Daniel Thomas (KSU)
WR H: Kerry Meier (KU) / Danario Alexander (MU)
WR Z: Dezmon Briscoe (KU) / Brandon Banks (KSU)
LDE: Jeffrey Fitzgerald (KSU) / Barry Turner (NU)
DT: Ndamukong Suh (NU) / Curtis Cunningham (CU)
NT: Jared Crick (NU) / Daniel Calvin (KSU)
RDE: Jake Laptad (KU) / Aldon Smith (MU)
SLB: Sean Fisher (NU) / John Houlik (KSU)
MLB: Jesse Smith (ISU) / Will Ebner (MU)
WLB: Sean Weatherspoon (MU) / Phillip Dillard (NU)
LCB: Cha'pelle Brown (CU) / Joshua Moore (KSU)
FS: David Sims (ISU) / Tysyn Hartman (KSU)
SS: Darrell Stuckey (KU) / Emmanuel Lamur (KSU)
RCB: Chris Harris (KU) / Carl Gettis (MU)
PK: Alex Henery (NU) / Jacob Branstetter (KU)
P: Matt DiLallo (CU) / Mike Brandtner (ISU)
PR: Daymond Patterson (KU)
KR: Brandon Banks (KSU) / Kendial Lawrence (MU)
Head Coach: Bill Snyder (KSU)
Associate Head Coach: Paul Rhoads (ISU)
Offensive Co-Coordinators: Ed Warinner (KU) / David Yost (MU)
Defensive Co-Coordinators: Vic Koenning (KSU) / Carl Pelini (NU)
Two things stand out to me when looking at this list:
1) It quickly becomes clear why Kansas and Kansas State basically will be playing for the Big 12 North title next week.
2) This team could give Texas trouble. It might not win, but Reesing throwing to his and Missouri's receivers would be a major threat. The big weakness is the offensive line. I'm not sure there are enough standouts to hold off the likes of Sergio Kindle.
But ohmygod, that defense. Fitz, Laptad and Suh teeing off on McCoy, while Jesse Smith and 'Spoon prowl the middle, and half a dozen NFL prospects man the defensive backfield? Yeah, that could make a statement. And Banks at returner would be the X-factor offsetting Jordan Shipley's contributions for the Horns.
Hell, Bill Snyder could win a national title with this roster.
Forget ACC Roulette. For our intents and purposes, the Big 12 North is now the most entertaining battle of supremacy in mediocrity. Handicap what happens with the division from here.
TB: K-State needs only one more win to get into a possible tiebreaker, and two more wins would probably win the division outright. Two home games against division opponents remain. Odds: 10-1
Nebraska is 1-2, so it needs to win three out of five if we assume a 4-4 tiebreaker, or four out of five if we assume 5-3 wins it. Still has a home game with Oklahoma and road trips to Colorado and KU. Oh, and no confidence right now. Odds: 12-1
KU is 1-2 and, with road trips to Lubbock and Austin remaining, has zero margin for error. Throw in a trip to Manhattan and playing Missouri in Kansas City, and this is looking more like history <s>a</s>waits. Odds: 15-1
Missouri is 0-3 but by far has its easiest games left. Still, they need to win out to get to 5-3, and that's a tall task for a team with a hobbled quarterback and a defense that's pointing fingers right now. Odds: 15-1
While Iowa State is 2-2, they needed every bit of eight Nebraska turnovers to get there, and who knows how long they'll be without Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson. Without those guys, it looks like a bleak picture for ISU, although it's entirely possible they get bowl eligible as they only need one more win. Odds: 30-1
Colorado is 1-2, but has a coach who is hell-bent on playing his son at quarterback. Also, can't win on the road. Will be a threat at home, but they're the least likely team to take the division, in my opinion. Odds: 50-1
Now, do you see why I'm not an oddsmaker?
Panjandrum: If the magic number is five, I will try and handicap how likely it is that each team gets to five wins:
KSU: KSU has two more home games against North teams (KU/MU) and two road games (OU/NU). I still think NU beats KSU in Lincoln, but I'm going to favor KSU against KU and MU in Manhattan at this point. Neither of those teams look good on the road, and KSU has played well enough at home to win.
Since KSU only needs to win two of their next four to get to five wins, they seem the most likely at this point.
Nebraska: I don't like discounting a team with a really good defense, but unless they get their offense right, i don't think they can win four of five to get to the title game. A team with no confidence and a shaky QB situation is a bad, bad combo (just ask KSU about one month ago), but maybe the defense can carry them through.
Missouri: Missouri has to run the table to get to five wins. However, that's a little more manageable now that they have NU, UT, and OSU off of the table. We'll see how they fare against teams more on their level. But, the real question is what their 'level' is without a healthy Gabbert.
Iowa State: The Clones are a real feel good story right now, but they shouldn't have gotten out of Lincoln with a win. They need three wins, and with road games in College Station and Columbia, and a home game with Oklahoma State, I would say the chances of getting to five wins are pretty slim.
Kansas: KU needs four wins, and they have the most brutal schedule left of any of the North teams. They have three true road games (Texas Tech, Texas, Kansas State), one neutral site game (Missouri), and one home game (Nebraska). There is no way in Hell that they're winning four games. Truthfully, KU fans better hope they win one more to get bowl eligible with that schedule.
Colorado: I'm not even going to do an analysis. Colorado is the worst football team I've watched KSU play this year (with the exception of the FCS teams). Yes, I thought Louisiana was better. They have no hope of winning the North or going to a bowl game, and Dan Hawkins should be fired because I can't stomach watching football that's that bad ever again.
BracketCat: Oh, man, I don't know jack about gambling. I'll defer to TB on this one.
Is Oklahoma back on track after taking care of business against Kansas? Their national aspirations are obviously done, but can we expect to see a fairly dominant Sooner team down the stretch?
TB: I'll say that they showed they won't mail the season in. Also, they showed that it wasn't a fluke that they lost close games to (relatively) good teams in the non-con and the RRS. When it's all said and done, they'll be second or third in the South, meaning they'll be second or third in the conference overall. Not what Oklahoma is used to, but with an all-new offensive line and the injury bug biting at every skill position, not bad.
Panjandrum: Oklahoma is like a lot of the other teams in this conference; they're incomplete. Defensively, they're very, very good. Offensively, they struggle. I don't know if they're 'back on track' as much as exposed as a 'good but not great' team.
BracketCat: No, because KU sucks. Don't get me wrong -- Oklahoma is better than people have been giving them credit for, but the offense still is pretty painful to watch. Ironically, the Sooners remind me a lot of some of the classic TCU teams, including the one that beat them in Norman. Lots of defense, unimaginative offense. It's ironic because I think TCU would beat OU this year nine times out of 10.
Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Kansas State managed to completely shred the transitive property. What did the games between these schools tell us about these teams?
TB: They showed us each team's floor and each team's ceiling. K-State is only as bad as it played in Lubbock on its worst night, and is only as good as it played against Texas A&M on its best. Ditto A&M and Texas Tech. I understand the punditry's desire to use logic as an explanation for every result, but sometimes everything just goes horribly wrong in a game played by 18-22 year olds.
Panjandrum: Honestly, I think this says more about A&M than it does about any other team. I think they have a lot of weapons, but Mike Sherman is a mouth-breathing moron that can only gameplan a victory by blind luck.
BracketCat: They told me that comparative scoring is worthless and predicting game outcomes is all about understanding matchups. Texas Tech beat Kansas State because Tech's system is a terrible matchup for any team that has trouble scoring points. K-State beat Texas A&M because A&M hadn't yet played outside the state of Texas and was starting a gazillion freshman and sophomores.
A&M beat Tech because Tech always has had a problem with A) defending mobile quarterbacks once they get going, B) getting into a rhythm if the other team's running game is controlling the line of scrimmage, and C) turning it over repeatedly and losing at home to coaching geniuses like Dan Hawkins and Mike Sherman. See? Matchups.
Did Texas find its mojo in Missouri, and does Oklahoma State have enough to take the Horns down in Stillwater this week?
TB: Texas definitely needed a game where it got out to the races and put up big numbers and points. I still think OSU does have what it takes. It's going to be one of those special nights that, if the home team wins, its fans will never forget. The stadium will be packed, the bright national spotlight will be shining, and the inside track to a division championship and, for Texas, a national championship, is at stake. On paper, Texas looks better, but not overpoweringly better, and perhaps not enough to overcome the fired-up team they'll face Saturday.
Panjandrum: I think Texas is the best team in the conference, so beating a crippled Missouri team wasn't a surprise. Oklahoma State is a talented team that could possibly pull off an upset, but it's going to take a monumental effort from Zac Robinson if that's going to happen. No Dez Bryant or Kendall Hunter makes it that much more difficult.
BracketCat: In short, yes and yes. Texas got its act together just in time, because Oklahoma State has the running game to keep Colt McCoy off the field for long stretches of time. That said, I still think Texas will find a way to win this one. They just seem to have a hex over the Cowboys in Stillwater, even when they get down by multiple touchdowns as has happened many times in the past decade.
Power Poll! Who wins on a neutral field?
1. Texas -- Big tilt in Stillwater will decide this team's championship aspirations.
2. Oklahoma State -- Quietly, Mike Gundy's crew is going about its business without its biggest stars, but the big test is Saturday.
3. Oklahoma -- Maybe not a national title contender this year, but still vastly superior to any North foe.
4. Texas Tech -- I'd like to drop the Pirates after that debacle in Lubbock, and I'm admonishing the Tech fans for chanting "No more Potts!" Way to throw one of your own under the bus. But back to the question: Who do you move ahead of these guys?
5. K-State -- On this day, in this place, I have to rank them here. The next four weeks will either solidify or decimate that opinion.
6. Nebraska -- Through it all, they still have that defense. Eight giveaways and ISU only scored nine points? If they ever get their offense figured out and get healthy, they'll be back as the favorite to win the North.
7. KU -- Any rational person knew they would probably lose to OU, but they didn't put up much of a fight and Todd Reesing doesn't look like himself right now. Can make amends with a win in Lubbock, but let's just say I'm not counting on that.
8. Missouri -- It's pretty simple right now. If Blaine Gabbert gets healthy, they're a contender in the North again. If he doesn't, they're not.
9. Iowa State -- I can hear the gasp to my northeast as Cyclone fans wonder how I can rank them this low at 2-2. Maybe it's a little unfair, but while you can't take that Nebraska win away from them, they needed every single one of NU's eight turnovers to win. On average, that's not going to happen very often.
10. Texas A&M -- This probably seems all wrong until you remember that some were ranking the Aggies 13th last week. Very nice win over Tech, and we're probably still putting too much stock into the big loss at K-State, but I'm not sure who I can bump.
11. Colorado -- Momentum from the KU win vanished in Manhattan. Buffs need to regroup.
12. Baylor -- Yeah.
2. Oklahoma State
4. Texas Tech
9. Texas A&M
10. Iowa State
BracketCat: Man, this gets harder every week.
1. Texas -- Finally playing like the most powerful team in the Big 12, and just in time.
2. Oklahoma -- Defense alone makes them the second-best team in the conference.
3. Oklahoma State -- After this week, both Oklahoma schools should have the same Big 12 record.
T4. Nebraska -- Despite an embarrassing two-week stretch, I still think this is the most talented defense in the North. Combined with a sort-of-favorable schedule, it should be enough.
T4. Texas Tech -- You gave up 50+ to Mike Sherman? WTF? Sorry, that negates even the head-to-head tiebreaker.
T6. Kansas -- Let's just call this the muddied middle. It should sort itself out in the next three weeks.
T6. Iowa State -- Ditto. I'm making allowances for injuries here.
T6. Missouri -- Not as bad as their record, but not as good as the hype.
T6. Kansas State - Still not sure we're not a product of our schedule a little bit. Again, will know a lot more in three weeks.
10. Texas A&M -- Big win gets you out of the basement... for a while.
11. Baylor -- Despite meeting my 12th-place criteria with an ugly blowout loss at home, I still think the Bears would beat the Buffs on a neutral field.
12. Colorado -- Oops. Guess you actually do suck after all. You just sucked a little less than KU on one particular Saturday.