— By Dave Weekley
The one thing that’s certain about the Big 12 at the moment is this; nothing is certain.
Oklahoma and Texas are reeling. Oklahoma State is 2-0 in conference play without their starting quarterback Spencer Sanders. And suddenly, Kansas State, Iowa State, TCU and perhaps to a lesser degree West Virginia, are all proving to be dangerous teams each week.
And again this week, we have a lot of changes in our Big 12 Snapshot.
A quick reminder, this space provides our view of where things stand around the Big 12 each week using a tier format, rather than simple conference standings or power ratings.
TIER ONE — (This tier is reserved for elite Big 12 title contenders.)
We are bumping the OSU Cowboys to the top spot in our Snapshot this week. Oklahoma State was dominant in their 47-7 laugher over Kansas. Gundy’s gang was clicking in all three phases. Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace got their touches, and subbing for the injured Spencer Sanders again, freshman quarterback Shane Illingworth threw three touchdowns. OSU is off next week before playing at Baylor and Mike Gundy will have to make the call on whether to stick with Illingworth or start Sanders in Waco, if he’s recovered from his high ankle sprain. That’s the kind of problem every coach loves to have. POKES ON THIRD DOWN; OSU held KU to 1-for-14 on third downs a week after holding WVU to 6-for-17 on third down, the Cowboys’ defense leads the nation in that category.
Iowa State also earns elite Snapshot Tier One status this week after beating Oklahoma in Ames for the first time in 60 years. It’s a fair question to ask whether that says more about the Cyclones or the Sooners. I’m taking the former on that. After winning at TCU in their conference opener, ISU took OU’s best shot and then rallied for two touchdowns in the final 7:26 of the fourth quarter to seal the upset. Iowa State running back Breece Hall was a nightmare for Oklahoma, rushing for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries, including the TD that provided the final margin of victory. BROCKTOBER; Brock Purdy led ISU to to touchdowns on three of the Cyclones’ final five drives in the upset of Oklahoma and is now 7-1 as a starter in the month of October.
TIER TWO —- (Teams in this tier are probable bowl teams that can reach Tier One status, but are still considered conference title underdogs.)
K-State is the other Big 12 team that remains undefeated in conference play, so why aren’t the Wildcats in Tier One this week? One big reason; the uncertain status of quarterback Skylar Thompson. In the second quarter of their win over Texas Tech, Red Raiders’ linebacker Riko Jeffers hit Skylar Thompson after he threw the football and Jeffers was ejected from the game. Thompson never returned and K-State coach Chris Klieman didn’t have any details on the severity of the arm injury after the game. Thompson’s first half yardage in the win over TTU was good enough to push him over 5,000 career passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards. DEUCE’S WILD; K-State’s 5’5″ freshman running back Deuce Vaughn put up big numbers again this week; rushing for 113 yards and adding 81 receiving yards and two receiving TD’s against TTU. After three games, Vaughn is averages 9.97 yards per touch.
At this point, is it really that much of a surprise when TCU upsets Texas? Gary Patterson and TCU have been Longhorn killers for nearly a decade now, Patterson is 7-2 against UT since joining the Big 12, including wins in 6 of the last seven meetings. That’s not an upset, that’s a trend. As normally is the case, the key for TCU was its defense. Just as Keaontay Ingram appeared ready to put Texas back in front late in the fourth quarter, Garret Wallow forced a fumble on the goal line, and the Horned Frogs held off the Longhorns for a 33-31 win. Max Duggan finished with a game-high 79 yards rushing on 17 carries with two TD’s, including a 26-yard quarterback draw that provided the final margin of victory. TCU hosts K-State next week and you have to like the Frogs’ chances, whether Skyler Thompson plays or not. FIGHT ‘EM ON THE ICE; TCU’s win at Texas was its first as an unranked team against a top 10 team on the road since beating Boise State in 2011.
Be honest, we were all prepared to see Sam Ehlinger pull another rabbit out of a hat at home against TCU after his magic act at TTU the previous week. Ehlinger had rallied Texas from down 15 points with three minutes left to tie the game, then win in overtime. No such luck against the Frogs, so the Longhorns drop from Tier One to Tier Two status this week in our Snapshot. Texas looks like it has the pieces on paper, but losses like this one are becoming something of a common occurrence for Tom Herman. Since arriving on the Forty Acres in 2017, Herman’s Texas Longhorns are just 11-6 as a ranked team against unranked teams. UT leads all FBS teams in that dubious category. You think Herman’s seat is hot now? What happens if the ‘Horns fall flat this week in the Red River? SLOPPY STUFF; In the loss to TCU, Texas had 12 penalties for 92 yards and combined with the Frogs for 13 penalties in the first quarter, a Big 12 record.
One of the things we have learned about WVU football since moving up from the Big East to the Big 12; never underestimate any conference win, no matter how frustrating the route to get it. No need to rehash the problems with penalties and turnovers for WVU in the double-OT win over Baylor in this column, but there were a couple of interesting trends worth mentioning. Neal Brown is now 6-0 in the game after his first loss of the season, as a head coach at WVU and previously at Troy. That indicates that problems are quickly identified and attempted to be corrected. WVU’s defense held Baylor to 27 yards rushing, the second time in the last three games that West Virginia has held its opponent to less than 100 ground yards. That’s encouraging, specially when looking at WVU’s late season schedule, that’s backloaded with potentially cold weather tests with TCU and Oklahoma at home and at Iowa State in early December.
Oklahoma free falls to one of the lower levels of Tier Two in our Snapshot this week, after losing their second consecutive conference game, this time at Iowa State. For all of his success early in career at Oklahoma, Lincoln Riley has now dropped back-to-back Big 12 games, something that never happened to Bob Stoops. In college football, life comes at your fast. Two games ago, OU was ranked No. 3 in the nation and now they are not ranked at all for the first time since 2016. Suddenly, Red River looks like a must-win over Oklahoma. A loss to Texas would put them at 0-3 in conference play and all hope of a sixth straight Big 12 title would be gone. CURRENT LIFE OF RILEY; OU hasn’t started 0-2 in the Big 12 since 1998, John Blake’s final season.
Baylor remains in Tier Two this week, after a double overtime loss at WVU, in a game that the defenses dominated. In their first road trip of the season, the Bears’ defense started slowly, as the Mountaineers put together a 15-play, 70-yard drive that ended with QB Jarret Doege’s first career rushing score. But then, the Baylor defense starting putting some things together, holding WVU to just 104 total yards on their next eight possessions. Baylor’s offense was, to put it mildly, offensive. Charlie Brewer was sacked six times, the ground game was non-existent and the offensive line was pushed around all day by the WVU defensive front. Toss in a dozen penalties and two turnovers and it was a rough day for Dave Aranda. BU now has an off week to prepare for undefeated Oklahoma State — yikes. SLOW START; In the loss at WVU, Baylor’s first four drives featured just 21 total yards and two of the three missed field goals in the first half.
You had to wonder how Texas Tech would react this week after their heartbreaker of an overtime loss to Texas last week. The answer was, pretty darn well. TTU lost at K-State 31-21 in a game that was up for grabs deep into the fourth quarter. But, in the end, a loss is still a loss and it was a costly one at that. Kansas State’s Khalid Duke hit TTU quarterback Alan Bowman low and late in the first quarter and he never returned to the game. Henry Colombi came off the bench for Bowman and did a solid job, going 30-for-42, for 244 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. TTU surprisingly won the ground battle with K-State, thanks in large part to Xavier White, who rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries. TTU is a two-touchdown road underdog this week at Iowa State and could be looking at an 0-3 start in the Big 12 before coming to WVU on 10/24. LOOKING FOR POSITIVES; Despite losing Alan Bowman early, TTU was 9-of-18 on third down in the loss at K-State.
TIER THREE —- (If you’re here, you’re a multi-touchdown underdog nearly very week.)
Not too many positive things to say about Kansas again right now. They hold down Tier Three alone for the second straight week. Against Oklahoma State, KU couldn’t run, throw or stop the Pokes in a a 47-7 loss. The Kansas’ QB situation is still unsettled. Both Jalon Daniels and Miles Kendrick took snaps against OSU and combined to go 14-for-24 for only 92 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. KU managed only 101 rushing yards, as Pooka Williams never got it rolling, rushing for 32 yards on 14 carries. Defensively, OSU piled up 593 total yards, 295 yards on the ground. KU is off this week before visiting WVU on 10/17. GLASS HALF FULL; Kansas opens Big 12 basketball play on 12/17 at Texas Tech.