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Big XII Roundup: Order and Chaos

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The more things change...

Tulsa v Oklahoma State Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

In the midst of all the pandemic-related chaos, the return of college football has brought some order to our lives, at least between the hash marks. This was particularly obvious when the Big 12 conference season kicked off this past weekend.

We all know what K-State did to Oklahoma, but the rest of the Big 12 schedule went approximately to plan.

Defense wins championships

It may be time to recognize our orange overlords. And no, I don’t mean Texas, although we’ll get to the Longhorns shortly. Oklahoma State and head coach Mike Gundy were briefly in the news this summer for non-football reasons. But since then, the Cowboys have operated with little fanfare and quietly become the most consistent team of the Big 12, at least so far. Unusually for the program, they’re winning games with defense.

The Pokes are at Kansas next week and should be able to get to 3-0 without breaking a sweat.

A close 16-7 win over Tulsa was punctuated by the Pokes’ defense holding Tulsa to just 19 rushing yards. Last week, lining up against West Virginia, Oklahoma State just hit the ‘Eers in the mouth and won a gritty 27-13 contest on their home turf. The Pokes’ Chuba Hubbard and LD Brown each had 100+ yard games, and the defense held West Virginia to just 68 yards (not adjusted for sacks) on the ground, while sacking West Virginia’s Jarret Doege five times.

West Virginia was left licking its wounds. On paper at least, the ‘Eers were probably the better squad, but the offensive line didn’t give Doege the time he needed to find a rhythm, and West Virginia failed to recover any of three fumbles the Pokes made in their own territory. For his part, Neal Brown has moved on from the loss, but the ‘Eers have now lost their last six games against Oklahoma State, and fans are at a loss to explain the distance between perception and reality for their program.

Up next, the ‘Eers visit Baylor and look for a bit of redemption.

Texas is back. Again. Still. Maybe?

At this point in pretty much every college football season, we’re hotly debating the degree of Texas’s backness, and this remains one of the rare constants of college football in 2020. Is Texas back? Nobody really knows.

A wild 63-56 win over Texas Tech in Lubbock didn’t exactly derail expectations for Texas (2-0, 1-0 Big 12) the season, but it did nothing to cement them either. The Longhorns have plenty of questions to answer, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where Texas gave up five touchdown passes and missed tackles all game long.

Texas hosts TCU on Saturday, and will look to beat the Horned Frogs for just the second time in six years.

On the other side of the scoreline, Matt Wells’ Red Raiders are well on their way to perfecting the Kliff Kingsbury strategy of scoring a lot of points without actually winning a lot of games. Up 15 with just three minutes to go, the Texas Tech defense could not get a stop, force a turnover, or do any of the things needed to deliver the program a signature win. Still, hope springs eternal, and Tech fans believe their team could still win the Big 12.

Then again, that hope should be tempered by this reminder of an actual thing Texas Tech did last season:

Iowa State does Iowa State things

At halftime against TCU in Fort Worth, Iowa State had a mostly comfortable 16-7 lead. But a second half surge from the Horned Frogs cut the Clones’ lead to just two in the fourth quarter, and it took an interception from Max Duggan to preserve a 37-34 win for the Cyclones.

Matt Campbell has gotten plenty of attention for his work in Ames, but maybe the biggest change is that Iowa State wins these close games now instead of just melting down in the waning minutes as the Clones have done for years (generations?). So, in honor of this hard-fought conference win, here’s a recap of Iowa State’s mostly unjustified enthusiasm:

This might also be short-lived as Iowa State hosts an angry Oklahoma squad this weekend.

This was TCU’s first game of the season, thanks to the cancellation of their annual grudge match with SMU. The Frogs actually started the game with Matthew Downing taking snaps at quarterback, but he was mostly ineffective, and Duggan replaced him in the second half, immediately sparking the offense and putting TCU back in the game. The indecision in picking quarterbacks and an offensive line that gave up six sacks with Iowa State only rushing three are both sources of concern for the team. The Frogs get Texas next week, a team TCU has beaten five of the last six times they’ve played.

And now this...

Baylor finally got to play football this season, or whatever it’s called when you take on Kansas and win 47-14. This was the Jayhawks’ 11th straight loss to the Bears and dropped then to 0-10 in Waco.

To be fair, the game was closer than suggested by the scoreboard alone. Kansas held the ball for nearly as long as Baylor did and was outgained by only 24 yards. Quarterback Jalon Daniels got his first start and looked about as solid as a true freshman can. But the Jayhawks gave up a lot of big plays too. Baylor’s Trestan Ebner did his best imitation of a Kansas State player, returning a kickoff for a touchdown and scored on a post-safety free kick to help Baylor pour on the points in the second half. Baylor’s offense did the rest, with quarterback Charlie Brewer making his 31st start.

So where does Kansas go from here? It’s clear that Les Miles’ squad has made some progress, but that doesn’t seem to be translating into wins. Thanks to the weirdness of 2020, Kansas will at least be eligible to play in a bowl game this year, but nobody actually believes the team will be above .500. Playing Oklahoma State this weekend will not make things easier.