— by Dave Weekley
After a big Thanksgiving football weekend, we have plenty to digest in our latest Big 12 Snapshot.
Iowa State has grabbed one of the spots in the conference title game, Texas may be in the market for a new coach, Baylor won a game for the first time since September and Kansas, well, some things seem to never change.
Here’s a look at our Big 12 Snapshot heading into the first Saturday in December. Just a quick note for newcomers, our weekly Big 12 Snapshot features a fantasy football-style tier format, not conference standings or more traditional power ratings.
TIER ONE — (Serious Big 12 title contenders.)
Iowa State moves into the top spot in Tier One, after clinching a share of the Big 12 regular-season title after beating Texas, 23-20. A win against WVU on Saturday and the Cyclones win the Big 12 regular season outright. While the victory over Texas was huge for ISU, it wasn’t exactly a perfect performance in Austin. The Cyclones trailed must of the game and had trouble near the goal line, converting just one of their four red zone trips into a touchdown against the Longhorns’ defense. This week, Iowa State will be going up against a WVU red zone defense that’s allowed just six touchdowns in its first eight games; the fewest in the conference. Also worth noting, no lead is safe against Iowa State; ISU came all the way back from a 10-point deficit to win at Texas, the seventh time in the Matt Campbell era that they have rallied to win after trailing in the fourth quarter.
Oklahoma remains firmly lodged in Tier One status this week in our Snapshot, but slips back one notch behind Iowa State. The Cyclones have punched their ticket to the conference title game and the Sooners appear ready to do the same shortly. After the postponement of their trip to WVU due to covid-19 issues, OU hosts Baylor this week. Offensively, Oklahoma has been on a major roll; averaging 50.2 points over their past five games. In a season in which the OU rushing game was actually a weakness in September, Rhamondre Stevenson has rushed for 332 yards and five touchdowns in the last three Sooners’ wins. How WVU deals with Stevenson is a question that will have to wait until 12/12 in Morgantown.
TIER TWO —- (Likely bowl teams, but conference title underdogs.)
After losing last week in Bedlam to arch-rival Oklahoma and with hopes for a birth in the Big 12 title game on life support, you had to wonder what the mindset would be for Oklahoma State heading into their game against Texas Tech. OSU survived a 50-44 shootout with the Red Raiders in a game that gave us a glimpse into what the Cowboys’ main rushing weapon may look like next season. Dezmon Jackson started last week third on the depth chart behind Chuba Hubbard and LD Brown. But with Hubbard unable to suit up for the TTU game, Jackson took advantage of his opportunity to see the field, racing for three first half touchdowns and finishing the game with 235 yard on 36 carries (!). OSU fading Big 12 hopes would be helped dramatically with a WVU win at Iowa State.
Texas’ dreams of winning the Big 12 are gone after losing at home to Iowa State last Friday. Now, one of the Longhorns’ best offensive lineman is also gone. Left tackle Samuel Cosmi has opted out for the rest of the season after the loss to the Cyclones; Cosmi will now focus on the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. Falling short of the Big 12 title game leaves Tom Herman’s future at Texas in serious question. Herman is 30-18 at Texas heading into this weekend’s game at Kansas State. It will cost Texas about $15.4 million to fire Herman, but that shouldn’t be a problem for a program featuring donors with some of the deepest pockets in college sports.
After the first night game of the season in Morgantown was postponed due to covid-19 issues inside the Oklahoma program last week, we will never know how WVU would have responded to the challenge of hosting the surging Sooners on the heels of the Mountaineers’ best overall performance in their previous game with TCU. Now, West Virginia heads for Ames, searching for its first road win of the season, against the first place team in the Big 12. If you are looking for positives, the unexpected second straight week off allows WVU more time to heal up following a stretch of playing on five straight Saturdays and how will Iowa State handle their new-found success? After an emotional comeback win at Texas to clinch a conference title game berth, could the Cyclones look past West Virginia? We will that answer soon enough.
Hey, remember when K-State appeared to be a real contender in the Big 12 race? Kansas State was 4-0 and flying high when they rolled into Morgantown. That loss to the Mountaineers started a slide that has now reached five games, after losing at Baylor on the final play of the game, 32-31. In the loss, Kansas State sacked Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer seven times, just two shy of the Wildcats’ school record. While the quick start to the season for K-State was admittedly fool’s gold, no one could have seriously predicted this five-game losing streak. Yes, Kansas State owns a win over Oklahoma for the second straight year and that victory over the Sooners had a direct impact on Chris Klieman’s getting a contract extension that runs through 2026. But consider, unless the KSU Wildcats top Texas in their season finale, Kanas State will finish just 4-6.
TCU put themselves in position to still have a winning season with an easy win over Kansas, 59-23. Max Duggan completed only three passes, but all three went for scores in this lopsided affair. The Frogs rushed fo 337 yards (8.2 ypc) and held KU to only 41 rushing yards on 43 attempts — and that was the game story in a nutshell. The TCU defense that was missing in action at WVU showed up against Kansas, scoring a pair of touchdowns; CJ Ceasar had a pick-six early in the fourth quarter and Dee Winters added a late scoop-n-score. The Frogs stumbled out of the gate losing three of their first four games and now at 4-4, host Oklahoma State in their regular season finale.
Texas Tech was on the losing end of a 50-44 shootout with Oklahoma State; a loss that guaranteed a fifth-straight losing season in Lubbock. Even without Chuba Hubbard, TTU had no answers for the OSU rushing game, with rolled up 321 ground yards and converted 12-of-20 third down attempts. Alan Bowman did his part at quarterback for Texas Tech, hitting on 30-of-45 passes for 381 yards, three TD’s and just one interception. SaRodorick Thompson added 133 yards and two scores on 17 rushing attempts, but it was the defense that failed the Red Raiders again. At 2-6, TTU now owns eleven straight seasons of losing conference records in the Big 12. Fair or not, Matt Wells’ seat is currently quite toasty and getting hotter by the minute.
At first glance, Baylor’s win over K-State may not seem like much in a largely forgettable season, heavily impacted by covid-19. But for Dave Aranda, these final games of the campaign have been about rebuilding a winning culture in Waco. As the veteran quarterback, Charlie Brewer has been getting more than his share of the blame for BU’s drop-off this season, but after his attempts at second-half rallies against Texas, TCU and Iowa State came up short, he finished the job against Kansas State. After BU managed only 88 total yards in the first half, Brewer went to work. He finished the day 31-of-39 for 349 yards and 2 TDs passing and rushed for two more touchdowns. So even in a down year, BU swept Kansas this year, with victories over KU and K-State. Baylor’s Oklahoma tour starts this weekend in Norman and finishes the season at home against Oklahoma State.
TIER THREE —- (Where the worst Big 12 teams dwell.)
Honestly, what else is there to say about Kansas at this point? After a three-week layoff, KU was awful again, losing at home to TCU, 59-23. The Jayhawks are 0-8 overall and 0-7 in the Big 12. Les Miles never promised an easy fix to the Jayhawks’ program, opting to build with high school talent, rather than JUCO’s and transfers. On a day in which Kansas played three different quarterbacks in the first half against TCU looking for a spark, freshman running back Amauri Pesek-Hickson rushed for 100 yards on 22 carries, subbing for the unavailable duo of Velton Gardner and Daniel Hishaw Jr.