What momentum Texas had generated by winning four straight games quickly vanished Thursday night and with it, any hopes of winning a share of the Big 12 title and claiming a spot in a BCS bowl game.
TCU won the game, 20-13, and for most of four quarters looked like the better team.
It simply wasn’t the Thanksgiving performance Texas had been hoping for. The same issues that have plagued Texas at different time this season showed up again. Spotty quarterback play led to four turnovers – two in the red zone after solid drives – and the defense couldn’t stop the run, yet again.
The Horned Frogs rushed for 214 yards to the Longhorns 88 yards on the ground. Combine that with UT’s four turnovers to just one for TCU and it doesn’t take much investigation to figure out how and why TCU notched it first win in Austin since 1967.
Not only did the loss hurt Texas in the Big 12 standings, but the fact it came at the hands of its former Southwest Conference mate, TCU, probably doesn’t make those in Austin all that thrilled, either.
The bright side is, at least when know what TCU head coach Gary Patterson is thankful for.
“This goes out to DeLoss Dodds, the University of Texas, and the Big 12 Conference for giving us the opportunity to be here tonight,” Patterson said following the win. “For them, the Big 12, and TV to put us back on and put us on Thanksgiving – to be in this place – it’s a long way since I was here when we started 15 years ago. You’ve got to give them a big thanks for just me being able to sit right here and do the things we’re doing.”
You’re welcome, coach! I'm sure Texas was happy to oblige. Heck, the Longhorns might be wishing the Texas A&M was back in the Big 12. That’s probably a stretch, but you know Texas isn't doing cartwheels after losing to a team that spent the past 16 years living in the WAC, Conference USA, and most recently the Mountain West after the SWC disbanded
Not that most people had any doubts, but TCU proved on Thursday night they’re going to be a thorn in plenty of teams’ side during their stay in the Big 12.
TCU is one of the youngest teams in the country this season. They lost their starting quarterback and are down two running backs not to mention several defense starters that were dismissed over the summer.
Add to that, Patterson is one of the best coaches in the country, TCU is located in the heart of the best recruiting area in the country, and now they has the funds in the Big 12 to keep expanding their program however they choose. And after Thursday night, they are one-for-one against the bell-cow program in the state since joining the Big 12 meaning things are certainly looking up in Fort Worth.
For Texas, it’s back to the drawing board, once again. The loss knocks Texas, at least temporarily, a half-game behind Oklahoma State in the Big 12 standings. The Cowboys take on Oklahoma this weekend.
Even with the loss, the Longhorns still look like a solid bet to be playing in the Cotton Bowl but what happens in the Bedlam matchup will go a long ways in deciding who goes where for their bowl games.
A win by Oklahoma State could potentially send Texas to the Alamo Bowl and either the Cowboys or Sooners to the Cotton.
Of course, Texas still has to take on Kansas State in Manhattan, a team they haven't beaten in their last four meetings. They also have to figure out who will be playing quarterback (probably still David Ash, I'd guess) all the while trying to figure out how to stop one of the best rushing offenses in the league. It should be fun week in Austin coming up.
On Monday, the USA Today released their annual compilation of college football coaching salaries for every FBS level team across the country.
What did it tell us? Coaches make a lot of coin, that's what, but of course we already knew that. And the salaries continue to go up.
One thing conference realignment continues to teach us, it pays to have a good football team (or in the Big Ten's case, to have football teams in highly populated areas) and in order to have a good football team, you need to have a good coach and in order to have a good coach, you'd better be willing to open your pocketbook, for starters.
With all the additional money schools - namely the schools in the current BCS conferences - are raking in with their new television agreements, it's hard to imagine coaching salaries starting to slow down anytime soon.
Schools are either in one of two positions. Their football program has had a run of recent success and in order to keep that coach on your sideline and not on your opponents, you pay him more to make sure he knows he wanted.
Or on the flip side, the football program is struggling and if a school is serious about getting back on track, nothing says it better than cutting a big check to a new coach.
Here's a look at how the coaching salaries rank in the Big 12. It's interesting to look back on the numbers from two years ago. It's no surprise the Mack Brown and Bob Stoops remain the two highest paid coaches in the Big 12.
The biggest mover of the bunch has been Mike Gundy who parlayed the Cowboy's recent success into a new long term contract this past January. Back in 2010, Gundy checked in with an annual salary of $1.9 million. His pay this season stands at $3.2 million with potential bonuses that could take the number up to $3.7 million.
Art Briles is another coach who was awarded for his recent success with a new contract this past winter. Going back two years, Briles' base pay checked in at $878K but the Bears recognized they have a pretty good thing going in Waco and he'll pull in just over $2.2 million this season. Not bad, not bad, at all.
Here's the complete rundown with the link to all the head coaching salaries from the USA Today.
|Nat'l Rank||Coach||School||Compensation||Max Bonus|
|11||Mike Gundy||Oklahoma State||$3,275,000||$550,000|
|30||Dana Holgorsen||West Virginia||$2,380,000||$600,000|
|36||Bill Snyder||Kansas State||$2,200,000||$455,000|
|37||Tommy Tuberville||Texas Tech||$2,155,000||$1,025,000|
|52||Paul Rhoads||Iowa State||$1,601,550||$950,000|
The news of the Big Ten adding two more teams this weekend came as a bit of a shock to anyone and everyone who thought conference realignment was going to take back seat for the time being.
We should have known better.
It also brought to the forefront that the Big 12 has a problem and it's a problem that has no easy solution.
Maryland and Rutgers are now in the Big Ten giving the conference 14 members.. The ACC loses a team in Maryland but will likely add another to stay at 14 teams. The SEC is already at 14 teams. The Pac-12 remains at 12 teams. The Big 12 remains at 10 teams.
The numbers themselves aren't the real problem. In theory, who's to say 14 is better than 10 or that 12 isn't better than 16? In reality, those numbers are simply a snapshot of how things stand today. Tomorrow? Who knows. The Big Ten could go to 16 members, so could the SEC. So could the ACC, but they also stand the greatest chance of losing members if the Big Ten and SEC continue adding teams.
What's true today might not be true tomorrow.
So how does all this affect the Big 12?
On the surface, it's easy to say that it might not have any affect. There is nothing wrong with the Big 12 having ten teams. It's an easy manageable number. Scheduling is simple. Rivalries are intact and more will be developed over time given the fact teams are playing each other every season. The league has big television contracts in place that allows its member to make significantly more money than ever before. The new contract with Fox has provided additional national exposure on a weekly basis.
Things are good. Today, that is. But the world as we know it is changing which brings up several problems for the Big 12. Namely, under the current structure of the league, it's simply not set up well to capitalize on expansion.
The Big 12 has said repeatedly it won't expand unless there is a school out there that brings significant value with it, or said another way, it won't expand unless it means a significant increase in a renegotiated television contract. Otherwise, why divide up the pie into more pieces meaning schools will be making less than they are now? You just don't expand for the sake of expanding especially when it means each school is making less money.
Well, that is, unless you're the Big Ten. Why? Because its structured to be able to do so. It's schools won't be making less money no matter who they add. The Big 12, not so much. The other three conferences (SEC, B1G, Pac-12) don't need to reel in the big fish in order to capitalize, necessarily. That's not the case in the Big 12 as it stands now and therein lies the problem.
"We’re not always going to be able to add a member that has got a nationally relevant, top-tier program like Penn State and Nebraska. If that’s the litmus test, then there wouldn’t be a lot of expansion around the country,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said on Monday.
If the Big 12 can indeed lure schools such as Florida State and Clemson, for example, then it might be in business. If not, it's going to be in real trouble in the future. And I don't necessarily mean in trouble in the sense the Big 12 might cease to exist, but it's going to continue to fall further and further behind if it stands for the status quo.
The problem, however, isn't just standing for the status quo. The problem is it might not have any other choice but to stand for the status quo. Do you think TV executives are going to come running with bags full of additional money if the league adds say, Louisville and Cincinnati?
Not exactly, which is likely one reason the league has decided to stand pat for the time being with ten teams.
The Big Ten just added Maryland and Rutgers which in essence would be similar to the Big 12 adding Louisville and Cincinnati, for example. The Big Ten can capitalize where the Big 12 cannot.
Let's look at the primary reason the Big Ten is expanding. Demographics. There's the recruiting angle for one, which isn't a problem for most of the schools in the Big 12 based on their access to the athletes in Texas.
The Big Ten struggles in recruiting to a certain extent based on where the bulk of its schools are located. This opens up potential new recruiting inroads in areas that are highly populated. Again, not an issue for the Big 12 per se.
But the Big Ten now moves into two new areas which are what, again? Highly populated. And highly populated means there are a lot of TV sets being watched. And the Big Ten has something to sell those companies that are filling those TV sets with programming, the Big Ten Network.
In areas that already offer the BTN, they'll be able to increase the subscription rates which means millions and millions of more dollars in additional revenue. It can also move into new markets entirely which again means millions and millions of new dollars. Even if it doesn't all happen initially, the potential is there and is something the Big Ten can continue to try and capitalize on over the long haul.
What does the Big 12 have to sell in new markets? Nothing, which is why they need a big fish to renegotiate its first tier TV package. Without it, all the Big 12 does is dilute their pool of money as mentioned earlier.
The schools that would quickly jump on board with the Big 12 right now simply don't move the needle nationally. That means the Big 12's first tier rights holders aren't going to offer a significant dollar increase in a renegotiated TV deal.
What is the Big 12 going to sell into those new cable/satellite markets? The Longhorn Network? The can barely sell that in Texas. And even if they could, who does that benefit? Texas and Texas only.
All the Big 12 can offer a school is the rights to their third tier content which unless you're Texas, Oklahoma, or potentially Florida State or maybe Clemson, doesn't add a significant dollar increase.
Most of the schools in the Big 12 have already partnered with Fox for their third tier rights which no doubt adds to the value they'll take home annually from their overall TV deal, but it pales into comparison to the potential the Big Ten (or the SEC and Pac-12) stands to make over the long haul from their television contracts and conference networks.
Again, the Big Ten can stand to add schools whose athletic departments don't have, on the surface, the national clout that moves the needle. And to hammer home the same point, that's not the case in the Big 12 which severely limits the moves it can make.
So why is this a potential problem for the Big 12? One, because it's not about how things stand today. It's where things are going five, ten, and 15 years from now. As conferences continue to expand, so does the potential for additional revenue and we're not talking chump change here.
And secondly - let's switch gears away from the financial concerns for a moment - is because of scheduling. Take a look at the current BCS standings. It is littered with teams from the SEC. Are these teams simply better? Maybe, but they're also maximizing on the fact they play only an eight game conference schedule and the fact that schools don't play five teams every season from the other division (six division games, two cross division).
Some might argue that is actually a disadvantage and they would have a point. But not when it comes to what really matters at season's end; wins. You can argue until you're blue in the face about who played who during the year, but what do people really look at in the end? Team A is 12-0 (they must be good). Team B is 12-0 (they must be good). Team C is 11-1 and on down the line.
Yes, the new strength of schedule component in the upcoming playoffs might help that to an extent because you'll now have a selection committee which could award a team for having a tougher schedule. But you know what? You're not even in that conversation if you're 9-3 or even 10-2.
The SEC could finish this regular season with six teams having at least 10 wins and a seventh team with nine wins. The Big 12 could have three teams with 10 wins and another win nine wins. Part of that is the numbers (14 teams vs. 10) but it goes deeper than that.
The Big 12's nine game conference schedule where everyone plays every team in the league is nice and tidy, but it's also hurting the teams within the conference in the overall standings. And not necessarily because of the nine games, but because you have to play everybody else in the conference.
On one hand, that's an extremely weak argument as a reason for adding teams. On the other hand, you don't think Alabama benefited by not having to play Florida, Georgia or South Carolina this season? (In the Big 12, remember 2007? Kansas went 12-1, won the Orange Bowl, and got there without having to play OU or Texas in the regular season).
That takes us right back to the financial implications of adding new teams in the Big 12. Are there two, four, or six teams available the move the needle nationally or at least enough to require the TV networks to rework the newly inked TV contracts?
From a sheer numbers standpoint, would adding four or six teams bring, at a minimum, an additional $20 million per school. We're talking about adding an additional $80 to $120 million annually to the current deal. And that just keeps everyone in the conference making the same as they are now. You would have to think that by expanding, schools would expect to make even more which only adds to the numbers that would be required to make expanding financially feasible.
The new Champions Bowl agreement with the SEC (the Sugar Bowl going forward) certainly helps what each school pockets in the future. But in the big picture, that's essentially a wash when comparing it to the other conferences. The SEC will also be splitting that money as will the Big Ten and Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl.
So what is the solution? That is probably for people smarter than me to figure out but here are a couple thoughts.
In a perfect world, it's creating a Big 12 network that maximizes every school's second and third-tier content. It would give the Big 12 a valuable product to sell into those cable markets. We all know, however, that isn't happening. Maybe it was possible a few years ago, but Texas simply has too much invested, as does its TV partner, to pull the plug and change course on the Longhorn Network now.
That's leaves two options: one, stay as is and just ride this out. Obviously since I'm writing this, that's not really an option at all, at least not for long term sustainability.
And two: expand. Find the best four teams (six if you can) and bring them on board. The Big 12 might be rolling the dice with its TV partners, but then again, when the new TV deal was announced, there were supposedly stipulations in the new agreement for expansion. Who knows what exactly those stipulations were, but they had better be good.
This is mission critical, especially if you believe both the Big Ten and SEC are going to 16 teams. Better to pick first than to wait and have to rummage through the left-over's.
The Big 12 was reactive once and nearly got picked apart. You'd have to believe it's going to be proactive this time around, that is if it wants to keep up with Jones'.
Aim high and go for the biggest fish out there (looking at you FSU) which likely includes adding one or more schools from the ACC.
It's only option available unless the Big 12 is content with continuing to play second fiddle to the SEC and Big Ten.
Where did that come from Baylor? With the Bears' convincing win over top ranked Kansas State, the Big 12 race is once again wide open. The Wildcats still control their own destiny for the Big 12's spot in the BCS, but the door is now open for Texas and Oklahoma State along with Oklahoma to slide into the top spot.
After Oklahoma State's win over Texas Tech, it's also clear who are the top four teams in the league with everyone else still jockeying for position.
Here's a look at how the Big 12 shakes out with just two weeks remaining in the regular season.
1. (-) Kansas State (10-1): Not many people saw the loss to Baylor coming especially the way it went down with Kansas State being dominated from start to finish. The Wildcats brought their "A" game in the first seven Big 12 contests and found what happens when you don't.
Even with the loss, there is still plenty out there for Kansas State to accomplish and they'll have an extra week to figure out how to get their mojo back before taking on Texas. Up next: bye.
2. (-) Oklahoma (8-2): It wasn't easy - mainly because of a guy named Tavon Austin - but the Sooners still found a way to score one more point against West Virginia and that's all that really matters. Their BCS bowl hopes are still alive but they'll need to play better against the Cowboys if they want to be saying the same thing as this time next week. Up next: Oklahoma State.
3. (-) Texas (8-2): The Longhorns have hung around in the Big 12 standings with four straight wins and because of it, their Big 12 title hopes haven't been completely dashed following Baylor's upset of K-State. If the pieces fall right and Texas takes care of its own business, they could still find themselves representing the conference in the Fiesta Bowl. Up next: TCU.
4. (-) Oklahoma State (7-3): With the Cowboys'clubbing of Texas Tech last weekend, Oklahoma State left little doubt who are the top four teams in the Big 12 this season. Like Texas, with Kansas State's loss, the race for a share of the Big 12 title isn't over. If they hope to get there, they'll have to win in Norman this weekend where they haven't had to play the last two season. Up next: @ Oklahoma.
5A. (↑1)(TCU (6-4): Playing Texas on national TV on Thanksgiving night is as sure a sign as any that things have changed for TCU playing in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs already have six wins taken care of, but they can make a big impact on their bowl prospects with a strong finish. Up next: @ Texas.
5B. (↓1) Texas Tech (7-4): The second half swoon that put a damper on the Red Raiders season last year looks to be happening against in 2012. Texas Tech has lost three of their last four games with the lone win being a double overtime victory over bottom-feeding Kansas. They now get to take on a Baylor team that will be heading to Dallas with a huge boost of confidence following their dismantling of top ranked Kansas State. Up next: Baylor (in Arlington).
7. (↑1) Iowa State (6-5): The Cyclones turned to little used third string quarterback Sam Richardson to take care of Kansas and he responded with a huge debut performance. Iowa State is now bowl eligible and will face a team in West Virginia that still - believe it or not - hasn't reached sixth wins themselves. Up next: West Virginia.
8. (↓1) West Virginia (5-5): The Mountaineers solved their offensive issues by moving Tavon Austin to running back and my oh my did it work with Austin rushing for 344 yards against a very good Oklahoma defense. Now if they can just figure out how to play some defense of their own, they'll be in business. The problem is a five game losing streak has already put the damper on what was once a promising season. Up next: @ Iowa State.
9. (-) Baylor (4-6): Well how about that? Just as everybody had written Baylor off, they come out of nowhere to stun the top ranked team in the country. The Bear's played by far their best game of the season on defense and now a third straight bowl game is well within their reach. Up next: Texas Tech (in Arlington).
10. (-) Kansas (1-10): What looked like the Jayhawks best chance to win a Big 12 game quickly turned into one of their worst defeats of the season after the Cyclones pulled a rabbit out of their hat and found an answer to their quarterback problems. If Kansas wants to avoid an 11 game losing streak to end the year, they'll have to do it on the road in Morgantown. Not saying a win against West Virginia isn't possible, but they'll need to play much better than they did against Iowa State. Up next: bye.
What a night. The Big 12 entered Saturday having one team on the verge of playing for a national title and another hoping to keep its BCS hopes alive.
The conference now heads into Sunday with its best team, Kansas State, having to pick up the pieces after a 28 point defeat to Baylor, a team that had one Big 12 wins to it name coming into the game.
We won't know until the polls come out on Sunday exactly what the damage is for Kansas State, but one thing seems all but certain, there won't be any national title games in their immediate future.
Sure, there probably exists a scenario where Kansas State finds its way back into the top two before season's end. But the laundry list of things that would have to happen in order for that to become reality is too long to even begin thinking about. (Remember Nebraska in 2001? They lost their final game to Colorado 62-36 yet still played Miami for the BCS title. Never say never!).
Meanwhile across the country, Oklahoma kept its BCS bowl hopes alive by escaping Morgantown with a one point win to avert an all out catastrophe for the Big 12 as a whole.
Had Oklahoma not pulled out its last second win, the Big 12 likely would have been reduced to none of its teams playing for the title and just their champion, likely K-State in that scenario, playing an at-large team in the Fiesta Bowl. That is the bare minimum the Big 12 can expect any season and certainly a far cry from what were the prospects were entering the day.
So now that we can forget about any national championships, what about the Big 12 race?
It's all of a sudden rather convoluted at the moment.
Kansas State still controls its own destiny for Big 12's automatic bid given the tiebreaker they hold over Oklahoma. The Wildcats have one game remaining against Texas. Win that and they'll represent the Big 12 in the Fiesta Bowl although given what happened Saturday night in Waco, who knows how they'll bounce back.
Oklahoma can still win at least a share of the title if they win out in games against Oklahoma State and TCU. If Texas beats Kansas State, OU can win the conference outright by winning its final two games
Oklahoma State hasn't lost site of the title, either, although they need a K-State loss to Texas to get there, not to mention that have to win in Norman and Waco to finish the season.
What about Texas? Yeah, believe it or not, we can't forget about the Longhorns. If they finish with wins against TCU and Kansas State, coupled with an Oklahoma State win against Oklahoma, they could also share in the title.
If that scenario plays out, it's entirely possible the Big 12 could end in a four-way tie with Kansas State, OU, Oklahoma State, and Texas all finishing with 7-2 records. The Big 12's tiebreaker rules will be out in full force in that case.
Man, it would have been much more cut and dry had Kansas State not laid an egg Saturday night.
Even so, it still could turn out to be a solid season. Kansas State can still finish the year ranked in the top five. Oklahoma has a better than average shot at the top ten. So does Texas for that matter.
It won't measure up to the number of teams the SEC will have ranked at the top but then again, the numbers were never going to work in the Big 12's favor as far as that goes.
What could have been a great year can still be a good year, even if it's not going to end like many of us thought or hoped it would.
Of course, what could have been a great year can also turn into nothing more than an oridinary year for a league that had hopes of a national title going for it until Saturday night.
How was that for a debut?
With bowl eligibility on the line and Iowa State already down 7-3 in the first quarter, the Cyclones pulled senior quarterback, Steele Jantz, after only two series.
On his first series, Jantz drove the Cyclones the length of the field only to lose a fumble inside the Kansas 10 yard line. On his next series, Jantz and the ISU offense had to settled for a field goal after a three and out following a Kansas fumble on the 27 yard line.
And that was that for Jantz (Paul Rhoads wouldn't say after the game whether or not Jantz was injured).
Enter Jared Barnett, right? After all, he was listed as Iowa State's backup quarterback and had already started three games for Iowa State this season.
Nope. Instead Iowa State decided to insert redshirt freshman, Sam Richardson, who had only played in one game during his career mopping up against Western Illinois and had never thrown a collegiate pass.
It was news to everyone watching the game - I did a double take when I looked up at the TV which was on mute at the time - and news to Richardson himself who had no idea he was going to see the field, especially in the first quarter.
“I was just waiting for my opportunity,” Richardson said. “I have been all year.”
All he did was throw for 250 yards and four touchdowns. He completed 23 of 27 passes and added 45 rushing yards and another touchdown on the ground for good measure.
What prompted Rhoads to make the switch? He joked in his postgame press conference he liked the way Richardson warmed up, "he was really crisp and throwing great spirals."
Whatever it was, the moved worked like few could have expected. After a rather slow start, especially on defense when it took ISU a quarter to figure out exactly what Kansas was doing on offense, the Cyclones tacked on five first half touchdowns with Richardson at the helm and took a commanding 38-17 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Iowa State added another touchdown and two more field goals in five second half possessions and that was the ball game.
Rhoads wouldn't comment on whether or not Richardson had earned the start next week in Iowa State's final game of the regular season against West Virginia, but given that performance, how do you not start him?
The Cyclones hadn't scored more than 40 points in any game this season and they tallied 51 on Saturday night. Sure, it was against Kansas, but the Jayhawks hadn't been horrible on defense this year. They had only surrendered that many points in two games this season and that was to Kansas State and Oklahoma. They held Oklahoma State and Texas to a combined 41 points.
The Cyclones will now take on West Virginia in the season finale without having the pressure of needing that sixth win for bowl eligibilty. It looks like they also be doing it with a new quarterback adding another wrinkle the Mountaineers will have to prepar for as they look for bowl eligibilty themselves.
Sam Richardson is Iowa State's new quarterback? The Cyclones are bowl eligible before West Virginia? Who would have guessed? Crazy stuff.
#12 Oklahoma (7-2) @ West Virginia (5-4)
This preview is certainly different than the one which would have been written in early October had Oklahoma's visit to Morgantown been scheduled earlier in the season. The Mountaineers were 5-0 following a 48-45 win at Texas and ranked fourth in the country. The Sooners, after falling to Kansas State, had just pummeled those same Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl and were looking to get back in the national title picture.
For the Mountaineers, it has been a steep decline into the abyss ever since. West Virginia suffered back-to-back losses to Kansas State and Texas Tech in which their high-powered offense went into hibernation and their youth on defense was exposed more than anyone could have imagined.
Dana Holgorsen's team followed that up with an overtime loss to TCU after the Horned Frogs scored a 94 yard touchdown on a defensive lapse with two minutes to play in regulation. The next week, special teams blunders led to a 21 point loss in Stillwater.
So here we are one month later and West Virginia still isn't bowl eligible and there are plenty more questions than answers for a team whose first year in the Big 12 has been bumpy ride to say the least.
As for the Sooners, whatever chances they had a playing for the national title following the early season loss to K-State went out the window when Notre Dame's defense rolled into Norman. Oklahoma managed all of 15 yards rushing against the Irish.
Oklahoma's only blemish on their Big 12 record, however, remains the defeat to KSU meaning their hopes for a Big 12 title aren't completely out of reach yet, nor is the opportunity for an at-large BCS bowl bid if they take care of business in their final three regular season games.
Saturday night's contest will feature a West Virginia offense that is still looking for the rhythm it had early in the season, although it has been better each of the past two weeks.
Baylor provided some hope in the fact last week, the Bears were able to rush for 252 yards against a very good OU defense.
The only problem being, West Virginia's running game as been inconsistent at best - since Shawne Alston was injured early in the year - and practically nonexistent at its worst.
Instead, West Virginia will have to rely on their passing attack to put points on the board which normally isn't a bad thing considering Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey, and Tavon Austin are on your side. The only problem, Oklahoma happens to have one of the best secondary's in the country. Oklahoma leads the Big 12 in pass defense surrendering 187 yards per game.
One reason Baylor was able to rush for 250+ yards last week was because OU game planned to stop the Bears' passing attack, which they did forcing Nick Florence into a 12 for 33 day throwing the ball for a season low 172 yards.
That was only the second time all season Florence hadn't topped 300 yards pass. That is also the same Florence - as you might well remember - that lit up West Virginia's defense to the tune of 581 yards and five touchdowns back in September.
West Virginia can probably expect more of the same this week from the Sooner defense.
The biggest question mark facing the Mountaineers is what if they can't run the ball as Baylor did last week to take advantage of the schemes they'll likely see Saturday night? If that's turns out to be the case, then it could indeed be another long night on their home turf.
All that talk about West Virginia's offense versus the Oklahoma defense is great, but what happens there likely won't matter of the Mountaineers can't slow down Landry Jones and company.
The Sooners will bring in a balanced attack that has been held under 35 points only once all season in Big 12 play. Notre Dame did have success in keeping OU out of the end zone, but the WVU defense is a far cry from the one the Irish puts on the field every week.
On to the keys of the game...
West Virginia, Keys to Victory:
1. Clean up their special teams play. It cost them last week when Justin Gilbert returned a kickoff for a touchdown , they muffed a kickoff when the ball bounced off Andrew Buie's helmet, and a punt ricocheted off of Tavon Austin's leg. It won't matter how well their offense or defense plays if they gift wrap any scores for OU on special teams Saturday night.
2. Start fast. Yes, the Mountaineers have an offense capable of digging themselves out of a hole if they get behind early. They did it last week against Oklahoma State after falling behind 14-0 and 21-7. But this isn't a team full on confidence at the moment and a quick start would help alleviate some of the concerns regarding the team's psyche following four straight defeats.
Oklahoma, Keys to Victory:
1. Avoid turnovers. Oklahoma has been solid in this department most of the season turning the ball over just 10 times in nine games. If they come out of Saturday's night game on the plus side of turnover margin, it will be happy flight back to Norman after their victory.
2. Keep up the pace. West Virginia is no stranger to playing fast themselves, but the speed at which Oklahoma runs their offense is going to pose problems for the Mountaineers, especially in the second half. West Virginia simply doesn't have the depth to keep guys fresh.
If Oklahoma keeps the pressure on, holes are going to get bigger and wide receivers will have more space to work with in the fourth quarter.
West Virginia is slowly trying to work themselves out of the funk they've been in the past four ball games. There's been evidence of slight improvements - at times - over the past two games.
The problem is Oklahoma simply isn't a team you want to work the kinks out against. The Sooners have too many weapons to exploit the problems that sent the Mountaineers into their skid to begin with.
A powerful OU offense to go along with a defense capable of slowing down West Virginia's passing attack is going to mean tough sledding for a team trying to break a four game losing streak. Frustration could set in early for a team that has had to deal with plenty of it this season.
Landry Jones will have a monster day, Damien Williams will provide the balance on the ground, and the OU defense will follow the blue print already laid out by Texas Tech and Kansas State.
The Mountaineers will have to wait one more week for that all important sixth win. The Sooners roll. Oklahoma 48 West Virginia 24.
#25 Texas Tech (7-3) @ #24 Oklahoma State (6-3)
Kansas State has been atop the Big 12 from the get-go. Oklahoma has hung around following their loss to the Wildcats and Texas has stayed close, as well, following a four game winning streak.
Then there is Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, two teams that have been neck-and neck in the Big 12 standings the entire season with little differentiation between the two.
Texas Tech (4-3) has one more Big 12 loss than do the Pokes (4-2) with the difference being their loss to Oklahoma during October's first week. The Cowboys get the Sooners next week in Norman.
Both teams lost to Kansas State and Texas. Both teams beat West Virginia decisively and each knocked off TCU although it took Texas Tech three overtimes to do it. Both also struggled to beat Big 12 cellar dweller, Kansas, along the way, as well.
Saturday's game between the two will have a huge impact in the Big 12's bowl selection order. The winner would seem to have a leg up on the Alamo Bowl and maybe even the Cotton depending on how everyone else fares over the final three weeks of the season.
The Cowboys also - in theory at least - haven't been completely eliminated in the Big 12's race for the top spot although it would take Kansas State losing both of their final two games in order to get there.
So what does it all mean for Saturday's game? The Cowboys come in as 10.5 point favorites, which seems a bit high in my opinion, but then again, this is a team that beat Tech by 60 points a season ago.
That game is a distant memory for Texas Tech, however. They are a vastly improved team, especially on defense even if that defense has shown a few chinks in its armor over the last several weeks.
The Red Raiders have given up at least 150 yards rushing in each of the last four games. They've also given up over 50 points twice in that span (it did take TCU three OT's to get there) since holding West Virginia to just 14 points in a game that seems like it was light years ago.
For the Cowboys, the biggest story surrounding the team has been the game of musical chairs it has been forced to play at the quarterback position. The good news is that whoever has been on the field has fared better than average. Wes Lunt, J.W. Walsh, and Clint Chelf all have Big 12 wins under their belt despite the fact that none had any significant playing experience coming into the season.
We won't know who is going to start this weekend until kickoff on Saturday, although as Tommy Tuberville said Thursday night, you don't really prepare for a particular quarterback when it comes to the Cowboys, but rather the offense in general.
That offense has only been held under 30 points once all season and that was against Kansas, believe it or not, in a game that was played throughout in the rain.
The Cowboys offense presents off myriad of challenges in trying to stop, namely their balance. The Pokes have ran the ball 358 times this season while they've thrown it 348 times. They have arguably the best running back in the country and their trio of quarterbacks is completing 64.4% of their passes.
While a 64.4 completion percentage might be solid, it still doesn't compare to Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege who is completing 70.5% of his passes and has also thrown the ball 62 more times himself than has Oklahoma State.
We know both offenses can move ball so the biggest key to Saturday's game is which defense is going to get a few stops. Statistically, the two defenses are almost mirror images of each other.
|Ok. State||Texas Tech|
|Scoring defense||26.7 pts/gm||27.1 pts/gm|
|Total defense||388 yds/gm||324 yds/gm|
|Rush defense||129 yds/gm||152 yds/gm|
|Pass defense||259 yds/gm||172 yds/gm|
Texas Tech's defense has been solid against the pass most of the season and as mentioned earlier, has struggled against the run of late.
The Cowboys have done a decent job in slowing team's rushing attack but have been susceptible against the pass.
All of that should make for an entertaining game at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday where the last four games between these two teams have been decided by seven points or less.
On to the keys for victory.
Oklahoma State, Keys to the Game:
1. Joseph Randle. There's no question the OSU's coaches spent plenty of time this week pouring over Texas Tech's game tape from last week when KU rushed for 390 yards trying to figure out how they can have similar success. You can bet regardless of who plays quarterback, Oklahoma State will try and pound the ball on Saturday.
2. The quarterback. This is fairly obvious. We likely won't know who the starter will be until just before game time, but odds are the Clint Chelf will make his second straight start after a solid game against West Virginia. The sample size isn't large, but Chelf appears to be the best decision maker of the three, although whoever has been under center hasn't caused the Cowboys offense to slow down much, if at all.
3. Forget about Bedlam. There's plenty to play for this week so this shouldn't be an issue, but you can bet the Cowboys know who is on the schedule next weekend.
Texas Tech, Keys to the Game:
1. Can they improve the rush defense? Kansas ran for 390 yards last weekend without much of a threat of this invention called a forward pass.
This week Tech will have to be much more cognizant of the Cowboy's passing attack and won't be able to commit the defensive backs to run support nearly as quickly. Tech's front seven, especially the linebackers, will need to play much better than they have the last several weeks if they hope to slow down the Cowboys' offense.
2. The run game. Tech's offense can be explosive at times, but life would be much easier if they could run the ball more effectively.
The Red Raiders rank last in Big 12 games rushing for just 96.7 yards per conference game. They haven't rushed for more than 115 yards in the past four weeks which include overtime wins over TCU and Kansas and losses to Kansas State and Texas.
Seth Doege has been carrying this offense, but if Tech's ground game can give him a little help on Saturday, it will go a long way in helping end their three game losing streak to the Cowboys.
3. Avoid the big play, or in other words, make Oklahoma State work for whatever they get. A team never wants their defense to be on the field for long, but if OSU's time of possession creeps up there, that might actually be a good sign for Texas Tech in a weird sort of way.
I've been back-and forth with this one all week but I'm going with the Cowboys for one main reason, they have Joseph Randle and Texas Tech does not. In actuality, it might not be all Randle, but rather Tech's inability to stop the run the past several weeks.
As he usually does, Seth Doege will keep Texas Tech hanging around all afternoon and he'll throw for over 400 yards, but the Red Raiders will come up one possession short.
The Cowboys defend their home field setting up their showdown with the Sooners. Oklahoma State 38 Texas Tech 35.
We are down to just three weeks remaining in the college football season. There's plenty of jockeying yet to happen for bowl bids, not to mention that little question of who will be playing for the national title has yet to be answered.
This weekend's game are highlighted by Oregon's matchup with Stanford who could very be the biggest roadblock between the Ducks and a date in Miami on January 7th.
As for the action in the Big 12, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State meet in Stillwater in a game that will have a big impact on the Big 12's bowl picture. Kansas State will also try to stay undefeated when they travel to Waco to take on Baylor.
Here's a rundown of the best games on the tube this weekend. As always, enjoy your Saturday.
|Big 12 Games|
|#25 Texas Tech @ #24 Oklahoma State||#12 Oklahoma @ West Virginia|
|Game Time: 2:30||Game Time: 6:00|
|TV: FSN||TV: FOX|
|Sirius Channel: 95||Sirius Channel: 128|
|Announcers: Ron Thulin, Brian Baldinger||Announcers: Craig Bolerjack, Joel Klatt|
|Iowa State @ Kansas||#2 Kansas State @ Baylor|
|Game Time: 6:00||Game Time: 7:00|
|TV: FSN||TV: ESPN|
|Sirius Channel: 117||Sirius Channel: 113 (KSU) 85 (Bay)|
|Announcers: Steve Physioc, J.C. Pearson||Announcers: Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge|
|National Games of Interest|
|Iowa @ #23 Michigan||Northwestern @ Michigan State|
|Game Time: 11:00||Game Time: 11:00|
|TV: ESPN||TV: ESPN2|
|Sirius Channel: 113||Sirius Channel: 85|
|Announcers: Dave Pasch, Brian Griese||Announcers: Bob Wischusen, Danny Kanell|
|#6 Florida State @ Maryland||Temple @ Army|
|Game Time: 11:00||Game Time: 11:00|
|TV: ESPNU||TV: CBS College Sports|
|Sirius Channel: 135||Sirius Channel: 134|
|Announcers: Tom Hart, John Congemi||Announcers: Ben Holden, Randy Cross|
|Indiana @ Penn State||Arkansas @ Mississippi State|
|Game Time: 11:00||Game Time: 11:00|
|TV: BTN||TV: SEC Net/ESPN3|
|Sirius Channel: 123||Sirius Channel: 117|
|Announcers: Kevin Kugler, Chris Martin||Announcers: Dave Neal, Andre Ware|
|Washington @ Colorado||#21 USC @ #16 UCLA|
|Game Time: 12:30||Game Time: 2:00|
|TV: X||TV: FOX|
|Sirius Channel: 139||Sirius Channel: 138|
|Announcers: Justin Kutcher, Eric Crouch||Announcers: Gus Johnson, Charles Davis|
|Washington State @ Arizona State||Ole Miss @ #8 LSU|
|Game Time: 2:00||Game Time: 2:30|
|TV: Pac-12 Network||TV: CBS|
|Sirius Channel: 125||Sirius Channel: 92|
|Announcers: Kevin Calabro, Adam Archuleta||Anouncers: Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson|
|Wake Forest @ #3 Notre Dame||Ohio State @ Wisconsin|
|Game Time: 2:30||Game Time: 2:30|
|TV: NBC||TV: ABC/ESPN2|
|Sirius Channel: 129||Sirius Channel: 91|
|Announcers: Tom Hammond, Mike Mayock||Announcers: Joe Tessitore, Matt Millen|
|North Carolina State @ #9 Clemson||Duke @ Virginia Tech|
|Game Time: 2:30||Game Time: 2:30|
|TV: ABC/ESPN2||TV: ESPNU|
|Sirius Channel: 135||Sirius Channel: 94|
|Announcers: Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham||Announcers: Anish Shroff, Dan Hawkins|
|Colorado State @ #22 Boise State||Texas State @ Navy|
|Game Time: 2:30||Game Time: 2:30|
|TV: NBC Sports Network||TV: CBS College Sports|
|Sirius Channel: Not listed||Sirius Channel: 134|
|Announcers: Paul Burmeister, Rod Woodson||Announcers: Grant Boone, Todd Christensen|
|Purdue @ Illinois||Minnesota @ #14 Nebraska|
|Game Time: 2:30||Game Time: 2:30|
|TV: BTN||TV: BTN|
|Sirius Channel: 123||Sirius Channel: 113|
|Announcers: Tim Neverett, Glen Mason||Announcers: Eric Collins, Derek Rackley|
|Tennessee @ Vanderbilt||Syracuse @ Missouri|
|Game Time: 6:00||Game Time: 6:00|
|TV: ESPN2||TV: ESPNU|
|Sirius Channel: 112||Sirius Channel: 123|
|Announcers: Mark Jones, Brock Huard||Announcers: Clay Matvick, Matt Stinchcomb|
|#13 Stanford @ #1 Oregon||UTEP @ Southern Miss|
|Game Time: 7:00||Game Time: 7:00|
|TV: ABC||TV: CBS College Sports|
|Sirius Channel: 86 (Stan) 91 (Ore)||Sirius Channel: Not listed|
|Announcers: Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit||Announcers: James Bates, Aaron Taylor|
|Arizona @ Utah||BYU @ San Jose State|
|Game Time: 9:00||Game Time: 9:30|
|TV: ESPNU||TV: ESPN2|
|Sirius Channel: 139||Sirius Channel: Not listed|
|Announcers: Joe Davis, Kelly Stouffer||Announcers: Beth Mowins, Joey Galloway|
|Cal @ #17 Oregon State|
|Game Time: 9:30|
|TV: Pac-12 Network|
|Sirius Channel: 123|
|Announcers: Ted Robinson, Glen Parker|
Here it is, fresh off the presses, the second installment of bowl projections trying to figure out where each team in the Big 12 is going to be spending the holidays.
This last weekend didn't help us much in making the predictions with all the favorites pulling out wins so many of the projections didn't change from the first go-around. That being said, there are still plenty of games remaining that can change the bowl outlook entirely for almost every team in the league.
What I'm saying is, don't make your travel reservations just yet, but here's a good guess as to where the teams in the Big 12 could land and a decent stab (potentially) at who they might be playing when they get there.
BCS National Championship: #1 Kansas State vs. #2 Oregon
Last week the discussion was who would play top-ranked Alabama, Kansas State or Oregon? Now both appear headed to Miami following Alabama's loss to Texas A&M. Of course, as the Crimson Tide's loss proved, this thing is far from over.
Both Kansas State and Oregon have tough roads ahead, but as it stands right now - assuming they take care of business - they both control their own destiny to meet for the crystal ball on January 7th.
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Florida
What happens here is largely going to be determined by whether or not K-State or Oregon finish ranked first in the BCS standings. If Kansas State finishes first, the Fiesta Bowl would have the first selection to replace the Big 12 champion. In that case, they very well could take Notre Dame.
The same holds true for the Rose Bowl should Oregon take over the number one position during the season's final weeks. They could then potentially select Notre Dame as Oregon's replacement.
Most experts seem to believe Oregon will end up number one so we'll assume Notre Dame is already off the board for the Fiesta, in which case they'll stay in the Big 12 and go with Oklahoma.
Trying to determine their opponent is a huge guessing game, although there's a reasonable chance they could reach into the SEC to take either Florida, Georgia, LSU, or even Texas A&M. Since Florida figures to finish with one loss and has a win over LSU, I'll go with the Gators, for now.
AT&T Cotton Bowl: Texas vs. Texas A&M
How about this? Assuming the Aggies don't get selected for a BCS bowl, Texas may have no choice but to play their former Big 12 friends in a matchup that most didn't think they'd see for a long, long, time. Who knows, maybe such a game would give Texas the nudge to schedule the Aggies more regularly down the road. Or maybe not.
From the Big 12 side of things, Texas still appears the most likely team to be selected for the Cotton Bowl (assuming OU gets a BCS bid, of course), but Oklahoma State isn't out of the running here, either.
Valero Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford
The Cowboys play Texas Tech this weekend and the winner of that game could very well be the selection here. They also have yet to play Oklahoma and Baylor so there's still plenty of room for the Pokes to move either up or down, probably more so than any other team in the Big 12.
Trying to guess the Pac-12's second place team is like trying to predict the weather a week from now; who knows. Stanford looks like a solid pick, however. They'll get their shot at Oregon this weekend and if they can spring an upset ala Texas A&M, that would change the bowl picture significantly not only at the top, but the affects would be felt all the way down the food chain.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Texas Tech vs. Northwestern
This is the same matchup that was predicted last week, but as mentioned above, Tech's game with Oklahoma State this weekend will have a big say in who's the more attractive bowl team when it comes to selection time.
If Texas Tech wins out and finishes 9-3, they could finish as high as second or third place in the Big 12 depending on what happens with Oklahoma and Texas over the next several weeks, and in doing so, would become an even more attractive team for bowl committees to consider.
As for the Big Ten side of the equation, Northwestern still appears to be the most likely selection with Nebraska, Michigan, and Wisconsin already off the board.
Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl - West Virginia vs. Oregon State
Here's guessing that the Mountaineers lose to OU this weekend and then finish with wins over Iowa State and Kansas for a final 7-5 record. That would give them a slight edge over TCU who has to play Texas and Oklahoma to finish the season. If they lose both, TCU would finish with a 6-6 record. Again, there's plenty of assuming going on but who knows, maybe probability will actually become reality, for once.
On the Pac-12's side of the game, the same holds true as it did for the Alamo Bowl selection. There are too many important Pac-12 games yet to be played yet to have a solid idea how this shakes out, but Oregon State is as good a bet as any although it could very well be USC, UCLA, Stanford, or even Arizona if the Beavers don't end up in San Diego.
Meineke Car Care Bowl - Iowa State vs. Minnesota
Again, another selection that was the same as last week. The Cyclones have a rather important game with Kansas ahead this weekend. Iowa State is still in need of their sixth win and if they don't get it in Lawrence, they'll be forced to have to beat West Virginia the following week to become bowl eligible.
Lets' assume they get the win over KU and go to Houston since they played in the Pinstripe Bowl a season ago, as I'm guessing the bowls will try and avoid the same team playing in a game in back-to-seasons.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl - TCU vs. Unknown
If the Horned Frogs finish out the season with losses to Oklahoma and Texas and a 6-6 record, they could be headed to the Big Apple and Yankee Stadium. The Big East still isn't likely to have enough bowl eligible teams so the Pinstripe committee may be forced to scour the country to find another eligible team who has yet to find home.
Heart of Dallas Bowl ? vs. ?
This is an odd-numbered year so that means the Big 12 also has a spot reserved in the Heart of Dallas Bowl to be played at the Cotton Bowl. Unless Baylor finishes with a flurry, the conference isn't likely to have a ninth team with six wins to fill the spot. The same goes for the Big Ten with Ohio State and Penn State serving their postseason bans. Whoever said there are too many bowl games, anyway?
General College Football
Saturday Down South (SEC)
Holy Turf (Big 12 and SEC)
Eye and Eer (Ohio State & West Virginia)
Big 12 team sites are on the team specific pages