Conference play in the Big 12 officially kicked off last week, but the lion’s share of games were played this past weekend. The outcomes ranged from inevitable to predictable, but overall, there were no big surprises. Indeed, things remained largely the same as last week.
There are three undefeated teams in the Big 12 right now. Two of them are leaving, and the other one is...Kansas. Sigh. Fortunately, given the way the conference schedule breaks in the next couple of weeks, at least two of the three teams will no longer be undefeated by mid-season.
Texas versus Baylor
Let’s start with the obvious. Is Texas back? Probably. The Longhorns Big 12 Farewell Tour continues apace, with no signs of Texas being karmically rewarded for hubris, or even having their burnt orange pride dented a little.
Certainly, Baylor put up little resistance. In a 38-6 beatdown, Texas pretty much had its way with the Bears. The defense was great, the offense was fine, and the special teams were, well, not that special. But it was enough, and that may be all Texas needs to run the table, even if the entire fanbase appears to be fueled by misplaced spite and a (totally understandable) desire to have scoreboard over every team in the Big 12 one last time. Next week, they get a shot at 4-0 Kansas. I’m rooting for the meteor.
But what ails Baylor? This 1-3 start is the worst run the program has had since at least 2016 (the first year of the post-Art Briles era). Quarterback Sawyer Robertson wasn’t terrible, but everything around him was. Whether it was the offensive line, the rushing attack, or the defensive secondary, all units flunked out.
Baylor will try to right the ship next against a UCF team still licking its wounds after a less-than-stellar maiden Big 12 outing.
BYU versus Kansas
Of the Big 12’s new teams, BYU was the most likely to win its inaugural conference game (even as an 8-point underdog) and cement its status as one of conference’s better teams. Instead, the Cougars got a rude and bone-jarring welcome to the big leagues, courtesy of Kansas’ Cobee Bryant.
BYU would go on to lose the game, but it was actually closer than the 38-27 scoreline suggests. Quarterback Kedon Slovis went 30-of-51 for 357 yards and two scores, but the Cougars only ran the ball for nine whole yards, settled for field goals, and turned the ball over four times, more than enough to cost them the game. BYU might have better luck when they host Cincinnati tonight.
Kansas has now begun a second consecutive season with a 4-0 record, the first time since 1915 the Jayhawks have managed the feat. That might not last much longer, with a game against Texas coming up. Cf. meteor GIF above.
Cincinnati versus Oklahoma
Unlike their fellow newcomers, Cincinnati got to make their Big 12 debut at home in front of a huge and excited crowd of fans at Nippert Stadium. Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite enough to get the win, and the Bearcats dropped their second straight game, this time a 20-6 decision to Oklahoma. Cincy wasn’t terrible, but the team’s inability to find the end zone and the defense ultimately giving up over 400 yards of offense to the Sooners was not a formula for success.
Aside: a Cincinnati fan redesigns the Bearcats’ logo to mimic the opponent’s logo on a weekly basis. I can’t wait to see what happens with the BearPowerCat.
For their part, the Sooners looked competent in every aspect of the game, and especially on defense. Oklahoma is currently leading the conference in scoring defense, giving up just 8.5 points a game. Say it with me: OU ain’t played nobody, Paaawwwwl.
Iowa State versus Oklahoma State
Oklahoma’s next opponent is Iowa State, a team that finally managed to win a game last weekend after dropping two of the last three in the most inexplicable (and quintessentially Iowa State) ways.
In a 34-27 victory over Oklahoma State, the Cyclones exchanged leads with the Cowboys several times before pulling ahead for good early in the second half, with Rocco Becht airing the ball out all over the field (to the tune of 9.8 yards an attempt).
The Pokes, playing with just Alan Bowman taking the snaps instead of their usual three-quarterback lineup, rallied and mounted a comeback with just three minutes to go, but it ultimately fell short. Still, despite being a little better than in their last game, Oklahoma State is left with mostly questions and no good answers. The offense and defense are both barely adequate (near the bottom of the Big 12 in both categories), and the schedule only gets tougher from here on out.
The Pokes catch a break this weekend, because even Oklahoma State can’t lose to BYE.
Texas Tech versus West Virginia
West Virginia began the season with a blowout loss to a Penn State team that is now in the Top 10, and head coach Neal Brown’s seat was hotter than a couch on fire in Morgantown. But all the ‘Eers have done since then is win, including in a goal-setting win over Pitt in the Backyard Brawl. Last weekend, West Virginia took care of business against Texas Tech, a mistake-filled but workman-like 20-13 win where the ‘Eers led 13-3 at halftime and never looked back.
The Red Raiders, on the other hand, are hurting, and not just because quarterback Tyler Shough had to leave the game hurt for the third straight season. His backup, Behren Morton, isn’t quite up to the task despite being a 13-game veteran. The offensive play calling makes no sense, and head coach Joey McGuire is just 9-8 so far. What gives?
Interestingly, West Virginia is quietly 3-1 and in the top half of the conference standings. Texas Tech, meanwhile, started the season in the Top 25, is now 1-3 with exactly zero wins over FBS teams so far. Things could change this weekend when the ‘Eers take on TCU and Tech tries to get out of the conference cellar against Houston.
At least the Red Raiders never quit, right?
The team made its Big 12 debut last week against TCU, and like the other three teams new to the conference, promptly lost the game. This time, taking on a much less challenging opponent, the Cougars wrapped up their non-conference schedule with a 38-7 rout of Sam Houston. Running back Parker Jenkins, a freshman making his first start, racked up 105 yards on the ground, to go with three touchdowns while Donovan Smith had 294 yards through the air along with a touchdown. The defense played well too, holding the Bearkats to just 178 yards of total offense.
The Cougars will play Texas Tech in a game of conference cellar dwellers this weekend.
Last but most definitely not least, let’s take a look in on the Frogs, shall we? In what could be one of the last Iron Skillet matchups ever, TCU easily took down crosstown rivals SMU 34-17. The Frogs started the game a bit shakily, and in fact, the Mustangs were briefly ahead before TCU pulled ahead in the first half.
This was a terrific game for the Frogs offensively with 452 total yards of offense and a great day from quarterback Chandler Morris (24-of-33, 265 yards, 3 TD), running back Emani Bailey (25 carries, 126 yards, 1 TD) and wide receiver Jared Wiley (2 TD).
But it was also a game where the team wasn’t perfect. The defense struggled at times, and the offense, as good as it was, stalled out at least four times inside the red zone. That didn’t matter against SMU, but it could prove costly in a Big 12 game, maybe even against a much improved West Virginia defense?