Big 12 Football Notes and Picks: Week Five
Just when you think you have a handle on things, the Big 12 football conference throws you a bouncing onside kick that’s impossible to cover. Baylor shows signs of life and improvement, albeit in a loss. TCU flexes both defensive and offensive muscle in knocking Oklahoma State from the ranks of the unbeaten. Texas Tech remains unscathed with a win over giant-killer Houston. Not only does it show how much teams can change from year to year, it also demonstrates the narrow margins that separate so many teams in the league. It makes for fun Saturdays.
It’s the biggest off week of the season, as Kansas, Oklahoma, TCU and West Virginia are all idle. Out of conference play is also complete – from here on out, it’s all Big 12 match-ups until the postseason.
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Oklahoma, TCU, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech went undefeated in their non-conference schedules. Each had a win over a Power Five conference team. Three of those four wins, over Ohio State, Arkansas and Pitt, came on the road.
While that was good, overall the Big 12 was only fair-to-middling in non-conference play overall. The league was just 20-10 in non-conference games, the worst winning percentage of any of the Power Five leagues. That stat also has to be looked at through this filter, though – the league’s ten teams play fewer total non-conference games, and fewer against lower level leagues, than the other P5 conferences. When the non-conference games are limited to games against other P5 teams, the results narrow markedly. Big 12 teams were 4-6 (.400) overall in such contests, better than the ACC’s 5-8 (.385) and very close to the SEC’s 5-6 (.455).
Break it down even further, and the Big 12 has done better against current members of the AP Top 25. The league is 2-5 against current members of that group (.286), but that’s the best mark of any of the P5 conferences. The ACC is next at 3-8 (.273) while the SEC is third at 3-9 (.250). The Pac-12 has zero wins in seven tries against the Top 25.
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The nation’s top four total offenses are from the Big 12: No. 1 Oklahoma (605.5 yards per game), No. 2 West Virginia (594.8), No. 3 Texas Tech (587.3) and No. 4 Oklahoma State (580.0). TCU is 18th (497.0), followed by Texas at 24th (487.3).
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League teams hold top spots nationally in several other statistical categories.
Iowa State has made all four of its fourth down conversions and not given up any so far this year – the only team in the FBS to sport an unblemished mark in both categories. TCU is tops nationally in third down conversions, making an incredible 63.2% of its attempts. West Virginia is first nationally in first downs, racking up 113 over four games, an average of more than 28 per contest. Even with that big number, the Mountaineers aren’t dominating time of possession – its scoring drives have been very quick, often coming on up-tempo possessions. WVU has an average possession time of just 27:14 per game.
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No Big 12 team has punted more than Baylor, but that hasn’t necessarily been a bad play for the Bears. BU is averaging 45.2 yards per boot, and actually has a net punting average of 45.8, owing to the fact that the coverage team has produced a net 11 yards of losses on returns.
Texas (1-2 / 0-0) at Iowa State (2-1 / 0-0) Thu Sep 28 8:00 PM* ESPN
The Cyclones’ biggest win in recent history came over the Longhorns at home in 2015, so this one will have the rabid ISU fans (who have to get a medal for the most supportive in the league, given the on-field performance of their team) fired up. It’s a bit of a shame it’s on Thursday night, as that will keep the crowd numbers down some, but expect a loud and rowdy student section on the Ames campus. Pedigree means nothing here – the difficulty is in deciding which Texas team is the real one – the squad from the home opener against Maryland or the solid road showing against USC? Iowa State has taken another step or two forward, but UT gets a very narrow pick to bring home the win.
Baylor (0-4 / 0-1) at Kansas State (2-1 / 0-0) Sat Sep 30 3:30 PM ESPN2
Baylor coach Matt Rhule believes the Bears are improving week to week. Given their identification of a new starting quarterback in Zach Smith, BU has a puncher’s chance now, even though it has yet to win a game. Kansas State’s running game was stymied a week ago at Vanderbilt, so the question is whether or not the Wildcats’ defense can reverse the trend of Baylor improvement while its offense gets issues sorted out. K-State is very tough to beat at home, so that, rather than the most recent results, drive the pick of head coach Bill Snyder’s team.
Oklahoma State (3-1 / 0-1) at Texas Tech (3-0 / 0-0) Sat Sep 30 8:00 PM FOX
51-50? Or is that too low for what promises to be a scorefest in West Texas? The Cowboys have to be smarting after yielding a ton of yards and points to TCU, while the Red Raiders aren’t bothered by such happenstances, knowing that offensive productivity is their current route to success. While it’s tempting to go with a home upset, OSU has better talent on both sides of the ball. That should be enough to return the Cowpokes to the win column in this abbreviated Big 12 weekend.
* All Times Eastern