We’re now almost eight weeks into the 2020 season of college football. By this time, a clear picture of the Big 12 should have emerged. But it’s 2020, so expect the unexpected.
COVID 3 Big 12 0
The coronavirus pandemic has had wide and deep impact across the sports landscape. In the Big 12, at least one team has the dubious distinction of being a cautionary tale in public health management. The Baylor Bears have had three games postponed and/or cancelled by COVID so far this season. Baylor’s originally scheduled non-conference game with Louisiana Tech was cancelled when the Bulldogs ran headfirst into COVID-19. A late-scheduled game against Houston was then cancelled when Baylor failed to meet the Big 12’s threshold for playing safely.
Then it happened again. After going 1-1 in the first two games, the Bears suspended all football operations and that carried through the bye week and into the scheduled game Week 7 game against Oklahoma State. That game has been postponed to December 12.
This presents an interesting situation for the Pokes. First, the team has not played an actual game since beating Kansas on October 3, despite efforts to find a last-minute replacement for Baylor. Well-rusted but a little rusty, Oklahoma State will take on an Iowa State team that is much improved from Week 1. Second, should the Pokes somehow run the table, the Big 12 Championship Game will have to be postponed by a week (to December 19) to accommodate the rescheduled game with Baylor. This also means that Oklahoma State’s opponent would have an extra week to prepare.
The Red River Battle of Interminable Nonsense
The annual contest between Oklahoma and Texas takes up a lot of air and headspace in the Big 12. But in 2020, with both teams floundering in the run-up to the Red River Showdown, the game suddenly felt ordinary, i.e. just another game. That may have been useful to both squads, because it took the programs’ expectations off the table, at least temporarily.
On October 6, the two teams lined up to just play football. Then they played and played and played. It took four overtime possessions, but Oklahoma beat Texas 53-45 in a contest that was definitely much less interesting than the scoreline suggests. Both teams were sloppy in protecting the ball, and neither defense was up to snuff. The Sooners won by virtue of being a bit better in the crunch, and that’s pretty much it.
So where do the two teams go from here? For Oklahoma, the game was a much-needed boost after starting the season 1-2. Has order been restored for the Sooners. Who knows? For now, they’re still basking in the glow of their most important win of the season. You know, just Oklahoma doing Oklahoma things.
For Texas though, the situation is very different. This wasn’t just the Longhorns second consecutive loss of the season. It was also the third straight loss to the Sooners, and an acknowledgment the program hasn’t come that far since Sam Ehlinger famously declared the Longhorns’ backness. To quote the folks at Burnt Orange Nation, “there’s been no answer for [where Texas goes from here] since Colt McCoy graduated.”
Iowa State announced its arrival in 2020 by beating Oklahoma, and then cemented its shared spot atop the Big 12 standings with a 31-15 beatdown of Texas Tech. The game began evenly enough, with the two teams traded scores in the first quarter. After that, it was pretty much all Iowa State. The Cyclones launched Brocktober with over 500 yards of offense, including a 300-yard passing game from Brock Purdy and 135-yard game from running back Breece Hall.
Texas Tech looked lost for much of the game. The Red Raiders passing attack only tallied 212 yards and the rushing attack was even worse, with the team combining for just 58 yards on the ground. The fans are devastated, and you know you’ve hit rock bottom when you start comparing yourself to Kansas.
Which bring us to the inevitable closing remarks in this feature...
For an entire quarter, Kansas looked like a competent football team. The Jayhawks hung with the ‘Eers for much of the first half, and generally played well on defense. But the dream turned quickly into a nightmare 38-17 loss to West Virginia.
The second half was an unmitigated disaster, with the Jayhawks managing just eight (8!) yards total. As for West Virginia, it’s not clear if we can learn much about a team from a win over Kansas, but the defense is mostly good, the offense is adequate, if not exactly the big play machine of yore.
And now for your Sunflower Showdown moment of Zen: