Football

Ramblin’ Man: Week 4 in the Big 12

My Week 3 Game of the Week was Boise State @ Oklahoma State, and boy was I wrong. The Broncos were not up to the challenge of hanging with the Cowboys through a full four quarters. After a scoreless first on both sides, the Cowboys went into halftime with a 17-7 lead and never looked back. The Broncos outpassed the Cowboys 380 yards to 246 yards but were held to only 34 net yards rushing on the day. Justice Hill shined for Oklahoma State with 15 carries for 143 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Taylor Cornelius was second on that list with 42 yards and two rushing touchdowns. I thought the Broncos offense would translate into this situation and really test the Xerox U defense, unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and the Cowboys have built momentum and confidence moving into a matchup with the original, Texas Tech.

Week 4 Game of the Week:

Texas Tech @ Oklahoma State

The Red Raiders are going to Stillwater for what I’m sure everyone is expecting to be a full-on fireworks display of offense. As I write this the over/under is 79.5. My gut tells me that will probably be true, but that defense is still going to decide the day for the Red Raiders. If Texas Tech can force turnovers and pressure Cowboy quarterback Taylor Cornelius there’s a real opportunity for an upset victory to end a nine-game losing streak and get their first win in Stillwater since 2008. The overall series between these two teams is also tied, leaving an opportunity for the winner to take the overall lead in the record books as well.

KEITH’S PICK RECORD

 

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Baylor

Iowa State

N/A

Kansas

Kansas State

Oklahoma

Oklahoma State

TCU

Texas

Texas Tech

West Virginia

N/A

Totals

7-2

9-1

5-4

Season Total: 21-7

Kansas @ Baylor

                               

Last Week:  Kansas (2-1, 0-0) demolished the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 55-14 in Lawrence to earn an incredible second win on the season AND their first back to back wins over FBS opponents since 2009. Rutgers turned the ball over an astonishing six times, coughing up three fumbles and throwing three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. They also never forced a Kansas punt. True freshman Pooka Williams led the rushing attack for the Jayhawks with 158 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, an 8.6-yard average, and a 52 yard long. Kansas rushers combined for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns on 48 carries for an 8.3-yard average. The Scarlet Knights only managed 14/31 passing for 124 yards and no touchdowns. They gained 150 yards rushing and a touchdown on 33 carries. Their other touchdown came after blocking a 33-yard field goal attempt, they blocked a second field goal attempt later as well.
 Baylor (2-1, 0-0) picked up their first loss of the season 40-27 at home against a depleted Duke Blue Devils team. The Blue Devils played close to mistake-free football. They did not record a single penalty and outside of a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, had no other miscues. The Blue Devils went into halftime up 23-0 on the Bears. Once again head coach Matt Rhule utilized both Charlie Brewer and Jalan McClendon at quarterback, they combined to go 24/42 for 270 yards, 1 interception, and 1 touchdown. They also were Baylor’s top two rushers combining for 83 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. This was the first Power 5 nonconference home game for the Bears since playing Washington State in 2008. Baylor outgained the Blue Devils by 1 yard of total offense but couldn’t overcome their two turnovers and Duke’s disciplined football.
Date & Time: Saturday, September 22, 2:30 p.m.
Location: McClane Stadium, Waco, TX
Television: FS1
Line: Baylor -8.5
All-Time Record: KU 4-0-13 BU
Overview & Breakdown:

Kansas IS BACK! Nah not really, but they have become more interesting. David Beatty has more to prove, but maybe he’s got something brewing in Lawrence? Pooka Wiliams is the real story, he’s now rushed for 283 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first two college games. If the Kansas rushing attack can continue moving the ball at will they’ll have the chance to hang in some other games as well. Obviously, their competition is about to get a little tougher as they enter conference play, but they may be slightly more competitive. Still a dumpster fire though.
Biggest Question: Can the Jayhawks get a conference win? Baylor may be their best opportunity unless Kansas State continues to struggle. Rivalry games are a little wild and the Sunflower Showdown may not be the best-known, but I’m assuming it means something to people in Kansas? Oh wait, Kansas will still play Texas – just sayin.
Baylor is hard to figure out. They have weapons, but Matt Rhule seems determined to keep his quarterbacks not only guessing, but totally unable to find a rhythm or lead this team. I get that Jalan McClendon is a grad transfer and you want to do right by him and get him some snaps, but Charlie Brewer is playing reasonably well, let the kid own the position for pity’s sake! I’m just kidding I’m not worked up, I couldn’t care less about the Baylor Bears. This was the best team that Baylor has faced and they crumbled in the face of competition. They missed a 44-yard field goal and had a 47-yard field goal blocked in the first half. Baylor did not reach the red zone until the second half. Baylor did show signs of life in the third quarter, forcing three 3-and-outs in a row, scoring their first offensive touchdown, and blocking a punt for a touchdown as well. Duke responded though and put the game out of reach for good.
Biggest Question: Can Baylor put together a full game? The Bears have playmakers on offense and two quarterbacks capable of leading this team. However, Matt Rhule appears to be damaging the continuity of his team by continuing to play both quarterbacks every game rather than choosing a starter.
My Pick: I’m taking the Bears here, I think their offensive upside is higher than the potential of the Kansas running game. If they bring back the tarp I’ll pick them automatically next week too.

Akron @ Iowa State

                               

Last Week: Akron (2-0, 0-0) defeated the Northwestern Wildcats 39-34. Northwestern had over 400 yards passing for 491 yards of total offense compared to 367 for Akron. The Zips went into halftime down 21-3, but head coach Terry Bowden didn’t let his team quit. The Zips returned two interceptions for touchdowns and stripped Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorsen leading to another score. The Zips’ last win over a Big 10 opponent was a 12-6 victory over Ohio State in 1894 when they were Buchtel College. That was their only game of the season, and they were led to victory by second-year head coach John Heisman.
Iowa State (0-2, 0-1) lost their Big 12 opener to the Oklahoma Sooners in Ames 37-27 in a game that was much closer than expected. Zeb Noland finished the day 25/36 for 360 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. The Cyclones only combined for 87 yards rushing on the day with David Montgomery leading the way with 82 yards and 1 touchdown. Kyler Murray truly was the difference-maker on the day for the Sooners, taking care of the football with no turnovers and serving as the leading rusher on the day with 77 yards. 
Date & Time: Saturday, September 22 @ 11:00 a.m.
Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
Television: FSN
Line: Iowa State -18
All-Time Record: Akron 0-0-1 ISU
Overview & Breakdown: Akron had a big win for their program last week but ultimately the story was Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorsen gifting the game to the Zips in the second half. “We shot ourselves in the foot,” Thorson said. “I was responsible for three of their TDs. You can’t have that. I think everyone on our team played well enough to win and I didn’t.” Akron’s first game with Nebraska was canceled due to weather and they blew out the Morgan State Bears. I’m certainly not convinced by their current data set to think they’ll perform well against a Big 12 team with reasonable potential.
Iowa State lost a tough home game to the Sooners, but the country was surprised to see how close that game was. Kyler Murray continued to impress in this win and there was a feeling that Oklahoma coasted a bit in the second half. I still believe the Cyclones have more potential than we’ve seen. Sixth-year senior Kyle Kempt missed this game, he is listed as day-to-day with an ankle injury so backup Zeb Noland performed well being thrust into a starting role. In my opinion, Kempt is the key to the Iowa State offense and their ability to make big plays.
Biggest Question: Can the Cyclones get their offense rolling? This game provides Iowa State an opportunity to really see what their offense can do if Kempt is back healthy. With their first game against South Dakota State canceled, El Assico always a toss-up against the Iowa Hawkeyes, and facing a top-tier OU team without their senior quarterback, this may be their first time to learn who they are.
My Pick: I think this is an Iowa State win over the Zips. The Cyclones have questions and at 0-2 things aren’t looking great for a repeat of a solid 2017 campaign. It’s time to get back on track.

Kansas State @ West Virginia

                               

Last Week:  Kansas State (2-1, 0-0) took down a down-and-out UTSA team in Manhattan 41- 17. KState quarterbacks went 14/19 for 285 yards and 3 touchdowns with Skylar Thompson accounting for the bulk of that production. Thompson was also the Wildcats’ leading rusher with 66 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. The team rushing total was164 yards and 2 touchdowns on 44 carries. Remarkably, Kansas State gave away two fumbles on the day but continued to roll through the Roadrunners who netted only 300 yards of offense.
West Virginia (2-0, 0-0) did not play this week, their game with North Carolina State was canceled due to Hurricane Florence. Visit last week’s road trip to read my predictions and EXACTLY what would have happened.
Date & Time: Saturday, September 22, 2:30 p.m.
Location: Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV
Television: ESPN
Line: West Virginia -16
All-Time Record: KSU 5-0-3 WVU
Overview & Breakdown: Kansas State has struggled this season. Historically Bill Snyder relies on a strong rushing game to open up the offense and set up the usually exceptional special teams unit to be successful. KState’s rushing game this season has struggled to find its footing and the offense has suffered as a result. Against South Dakota, the KState “faithful” were booing their own team’s inability to move the football. The Wildcats barely beat the Coyotes in their season opener, were blown out by Mississippi State, and defeated UTSA all at home.
Biggest Question: How will this team respond to their first road trip? With well-documented struggles and inconsistencies existing in Manhattan, finding answers to existing questions while on the road in Morgantown will be very difficult for this Wildcat team.
West Virginia has rolled through two sub-par opponents in a Tennessee team that hasn’t finished in the top 10 since 2001 and Youngstown State. While their offense looks strong led by senior quarterback Will Grier, they do still need to find answers in the running game. Normally in a Big 12 opener, I would say this will be an opportunity for the Mountaineers to test themselves but unfortunately, the Wildcats don’t appear to be poised to compete much this season.
Biggest Question: Will there be layoff lag? It can be disruptive for teams to find themselves with unexpected time off, especially in the face of natural disasters. Will the Mountaineers find themselves coming out flat or will the time off for preparation and focusing on health be a benefit?
My Pick: Although the Bill Snydercats always seem to steal a couple wins they shouldn’t have because they’re rarely caught sleeping, I don’t think this will be one of them. The Mountaineers have had an unexpected bye week to get healthy and prepare for the Wildcats and I expect them to take this one in Morgantown.

Army @ Oklahoma

                               

Last Week:  Army (2-1,0-0) defeated the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors 28-21. The Black Knights posted 162 yards and no touchdowns passing doing all of their work on the ground. They rumbled to 303 yards and 4 touchdowns on 66 carries, with quarterback Kevin Hopkins leading the way with 110 yards and 2 scores. The Black Knights handed Hawaii their first loss of the season (and first time to even trail in a game) and extended their home winning streak to nine games. The game continued to be in question until the final minute when Army broke up a pass in the end zone to seal the win. Much-heralded Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald, the nation’s leading passer, had a great day but was kept under pressure by Army’s pass rush. Hawaii made a 5,000 mile trip to Mitchie Stadium arriving on Wednesday for this game. They dropped to 2-11 in games in the Eastern Time Zone.
Oklahoma (3-0, 1-0) won their Big 12 opener over the Iowa State Cyclones 37-27 in a game that was much closer than expected. Kyler Murray was the difference-maker for the Sooners by taking care of the football and going 21/29 for 348 yards and 3 touchdowns. Murray, the Sooners’ leading rusher with 77 yards, was only 10 yards shy of the Cyclones combined 87 yards rushing on the day. The Sooners extended their nation-leading winning streak to 17 games and showed poise in overcoming adversity throughout the day. They responded to highlight plays and a fumble recovery with strong scoring drives and didn’t flinch when Iowa State pulled within a score late in the third quarter. 
Date & Time: Saturday, September 22 @ 11:00 a.m.
Location:  The Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, OK
Television: PPV, AFN, SoonerSports.tv
Line: Oklahoma -31
All-Time Record: Army 1-0-2 OU
Overview & Breakdown: Army is going to find themselves outmatched in this one. Kyler Murray’s skill set appears to be growing as he is picking up the slack for injured running back Rodney Anderson. The Sooners showed confidence and poise in adversity as Iowa State hung around, made big plays, and forced turnovers. Oklahoma made it clear they could also play a game of ball control burning over eight minutes on a drive culminating in a field goal. The Black Knights’ rushing attack is impressive but they haven’t faced anyone close to the Sooners in talent or athleticism on either side of the ball yet this season.
Oklahoma started conference play early with a week three game against Iowa State and now have another tune-up contest against what should be an overmatched opponent. The Sooners’ quarterback Kyler Murray is truly an exceptional talent and appears to continue to improve. The loss of running back Rodney Anderson is a concern and they will need to find an answer beyond Murray’s legs if they look to be competitive at the highest levels. Offensive balance is important, even in the Big 12.
Biggest Question: Can the Sooners pull away? Army and Iowa State are probably reasonably comparable at this point, and the Sooners struggled to put the Cyclones away, not sealing the game until an interception with 1:11 left in the game. They did find ways to win and overcome adversity, but if they are truly elite, should there have been any adversity in the first place?
My Pick: I like Oklahoma in this one, but it will be interesting to see how they bounce back from a closer-than-comfortable win in Ames.

TCU @ Texas

                               

Last Week:  TCU (2-1, 0-0) dropped a fun and exciting matchup against a strong Ohio State team 40-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. I picked the Buckeyes to run away with this one, but I think it was a bit closer than the final score reflects. This was a wild game with a pick-six shovel pass thrown in traffic to an Ohio State defensive lineman and a 93-yard touchdown run, the longest in TCU’s history and the longest ever against the Buckeyes. Shawn Robinson’s play ultimately decided the day. He went 24/40 for 308 yards and 1 touchdown. His two interceptions and a lost fumble ultimately spotted Ohio State 21 points. National reaction to this game did include credit to the Horned Frogs for hanging with the Buckeyes, TCU led 14-13 at halftime. They gave up a 20 point third quarter, however, and were shut out in the fourth.
Texas (2-1, 0-0) combined for 394 yards of total offense in a balanced performance while their defense held USC to an amazing 2 touchdowns on -5 yards rushing. Sam Ehlinger didn’t throw an interception and went 15/33 for 223 yards and 2 touchdowns. The defense really was the story of the day, forcing USC to be one-dimensional. Texas’ special teams also blocked a 50-yard field goal resulting in a scoop and score in the third quarter. Texas trailed 14-3 after the first quarter but shut the Trojans down not allowing another point the rest of the game. Texas earned their 900th win in front of a school-record crowd of 103,597. The Longhorns join Ohio State and Michigan as the only three programs to reach 900 wins in their history.
Date & Time: Saturday, September 22 @ 3:30 p.m.
Location: Darrell K. Royall-Texas Memorial Stadium at Joe Jamail Field, Austin, TX
Television: FOX
Line: TCU -3
All-Time Record: TCU 25-1-62 UT
Overview & Breakdown: TCU showed people some things both good at bad in their prime-time loss to the Buckeyes. They proved they can play with the big boys, but they need to play mistake-free football to compete for the win. Sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson is still growing and has a lot to learn. He simply has to make better decisions and take better care of the football in adverse situations. Great teams will capitalize on those mistakes in a big way.
Biggest Question: Can Shawn Robinson play mistake-free football? The sophomore is being asked to grow up early. The success of the Horned Frogs depends on Robinson being great, not just good. The team is strong but to compete against the best in the country (OU included) they will need to see more from the young star.
Texas IS BACK!! But don’t take my word for it. “I ain’t gonna lie: I feel like we kinda proved that we’re back,” Texas cornerback Kris Boyd said. “But it’s just the beginning.” Ridiculous. Texas played a pretty good game against a mediocre USC team. The Longhorns have a long way to go to “be back.” They haven’t won a Big 12 title in eight years and they have a lot more work to do to get to the point of consistently overcoming strong competition in the conference. Furthermore, while shutting down the USC running game is impressive, it doesn’t automatically translate to success against the still high-flying offenses of the Big 12 that are also beginning to find more balance with improved running games.
Biggest Question: Can Texas build on success? Some have described Texas’s success against USC as “getting over a hump.” As someone that is a big fan of the impacts of culture, motivation, and emotion on outcomes in sports I agree there can be a mental impact on a team and fan base from getting the monkey off your back. There has been a lot of grumbling around this Texas program and this win helped ease that, now the question remains: Does this change anything? Can you capitalize on the win and build momentum?
My Pick: I’m taking the Horned Frogs here, I think Gary Patterson gets their offense back on track and their focus lasered in on the Longhorns and regaining their footing. Herman may turn Texas into something special, he may not, but this isn’t the game it will hinge on. TCU is more prepared to win.

Texas Tech @ Oklahoma State

                               

Last Week: Texas Tech (2-1, 0-0) took down the Houston Cougars in Lubbock for a welcome win over a strong G5 opponent. Houston brought the best defensive lineman in the country to Lubbock and walked away with only one sack. The Texas Tech offensive line limited Ed Oliver to 6 tackles and 1 tackle for loss on the day. Oliver did clog the middle and limit Tech’s running game, however, true freshman Ta’Zhawn Henry took the lead with multiple backs injured and gained 111 yards and 4 touchdowns on 24 carries. Henry showed a propensity for identifying holes and running lanes, as well as the speed to gain the corner. The running game helped put up points and balance the offense while true freshman quarterback Alan Bowman lit the air on fire going 43/59 for 605 yards and 5 touchdowns. Bowman earned Big 12 Newcomer of the Week and Walter Camp National Player of the Week honors for his performance which also set a Big 12 freshman record for yards passing in a game. Bowman’s favorite target in the game, Antoine Wesley, broke a Texas Tech single-game receiving yards record with 13 receptions for 261 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Oklahoma State (3-0, 0-0) defeated a surging Boise State team 44-21 in their third straight home game. The Cowboys returned a punt for a touchdown and recovered a fumble to help their offense which combined for 422 yards of total offense on the day. Taylor Cornelius took better care of the football not throwing any interceptions and Justice Hill led the way rushing with 123 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. The Cowboys’ offense doesn’t look as prolific as expected, and it was their defense limiting the Broncos’ opportunities that helped propel them forward last week. They sacked Boise state quarterback Brett Rypien 7 times and pressured throughout the day. The OSU defense forced the Broncos into multiple 3rd and long situations, limiting the effectiveness of their high-producing offense.
Date & Time: Saturday, September 22 @ 6:00 p.m.
Location: T. Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK
Television: FS1
Line: Oklahoma State -12.5
All-Time Record: TTU 21-3-21 OSU
Overview & Breakdown: Texas Tech put together a full offensive performance against a quality opponent, but the fanbase is feeling cautious about believing too quickly. The defense still allowed 49 points on the day, and while the points per possession numbers are more heartening, it’s still a big number to see. One difference for the Red Raider’s defense was that they worked along with the offense. Over the years we’ve seen the defense get stops or takeaways only for those to be squandered. Against Houston, especially in the second half, stops resulted in scores and they came at more opportune times. This is the kind of synergy we need to see from the Red Raiders for more victories to come. The special teams play continued to frustrate with De’Quan Bowman responsible for the only turnover on the day, and another coming frustratingly close.
Biggest Question: Can the Red Raiders replicate success? We saw bad play against Ole Miss in a tough situation (neutral site, first game, injured quarterback) and Lamar wasn’t a true test at all so it’s difficult to use as a guidepost. There were definitely positives for Texas Tech against Houston, but here were growth areas too. Now we’ll see if they can make weekly adjustments and find answers where needed. The secondary simply has to improve to limit the passing attacks Tech will see in the next three games.
Oklahoma State still confuses me. Their offense isn’t blowing up the world but they are finding ways to win, and much of that is due to their defense, which is where I think this game will ultimately be decided. The Cowboys are not good at protecting Cornelius, who is sneaky fast but under pressure doesn’t always make great decisions and has made some bad turnovers. Oklahoma State’s defense has capitalized on mistakes and put pressure on quarterbacks, but they haven’t faced an offensive line like Texas Tech’s yet.
Biggest Question: Can Cornelius perform under pressure? Texas Tech’s front seven are going to make him move the pocket and throw on the run. He is sneaky fast but this is a game that should have David Gibbs’s crew licking their chops for turnover opportunities. Cornelius is a product of Bushland, TX (west of Amarillo on I-40) and is a former walk-on.
My Pick: I know this is as homer as it gets, but I’m taking Tech. The Red Raiders have all of the opportunity here. They can go into Stillwater and end a long losing streak to the Cowboys. Their defense is poised for a big game, the OSU offense is not the juggernaut we’ve seen before, and Texas Tech’s offense has the potential to be Mike Leach era productive (and beyond). I think there’s a real chance for a Red Raider win. Cornelius struggles to get the ball downfield, so with pressure from the Red Raider front seven the secondary has an opportunity to have a good day, and Dakota Allen has a chance to make those great open field tackles on Justice Hill at will.

 

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