Big 12 Football Notes and Picks: Week Four
The Big 12 went 5-2 in non-conference games last week, earning notable wins over USC (Texas) and Boise State (Oklahoma State). TCU acquitted itself well against Ohio State, Kansas continued its surprising play with a waxing of Rutgers, and Texas Tech outgunned Houston. Was that enough to earn the league a bit more respect as it heads into a weekend with four conference clashes and a final pair of non-conference contests?
Through three weeks of the season, every conference school except Iowa State has at least two wins. The Cyclones’ 0-2 start came against Iowa and Oklahoma, probably the toughest opening schedule this side of LSU.
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Defenses in the Big 12 had their moments last week. Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma State all scored on blocked kick returns, and the Cowboys doubled up with another punt block, bringing their nation’s best total to 23 since 2013. Kansas’ resurgence was fueled by two interception returns for touchdowns.
So far this year, Big 12 defenses have scored 13 touchdowns while recording two safeties. Those scores get credited to the offense in official statistics, and contribute to the myth of the league as toothless defenders.
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Texas Tech is known for big offensive numbers, so it might be a bit of a surprise to see two Red Raiders set records this week. Quarterback Alan Bowman set the Big 12 freshman passing yardage record with 43 completions for 605 yards and five touchdowns against Houston, en route to becoming the third freshman in FBS history to throw for 600 yards in a game.
His primary target was Antoine Wesley, who had 13 catches for 261 yards to set the Red Raider standard for receiving yardage.
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Kansas attracted 28,044 fans to its win over Rutgers. Baylor fans have been bailing out, with just 40,442 showing up for its home loss to Duke.
Oklahoma State is at home again this week, completing a season-opening four game stand at T. Boone Pickens Stadium. The Cowboys have just three home games the rest of the year.
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Kansas is an eye-popping +12 in turnover margin through three games. The Jayhawks have forced 13 turnovers, while giving the ball up just once. Texas Tech is the only other league team in positive numbers, sporting a +3 mark.
Akron at Iowa State
Sat Sep 22 12:00 PM FSN
The Cyclones are an 18-point favorite over the Zips, which seems a bit odd considering ISU is 0-2 and Akron just knocked off Northwestern. However, remember that betting odds don’t necessarily indicate the relative strengths of two teams. They are designed to get equal money bet on both sides. With Akron hitting the road to Ames, this might do the trick, but Iowa State is still the selection straight up, although it won’t cover.
Kansas State at West Virginia
Sat Sep 22 3:30 PM ESPN
K-State showed the ability to throw the ball after settling on Skylar Thompson as its primary quarterback against UTSA, although its bread and butter remains its running attack, fueled by Alex Barnes. Will that be enough to overcome West Virginia’s offensive prowess? Both of the Mountaineers’ first two foes tried to win with ball control, and it wasn’t enough. The Wildcats are always a threat, but the Mountaineers will prevail, giving them their third consecutive victory in the series.
Kansas at Baylor
Sat Sep 22 3:30 PM FS1
Put them both in generic uniforms to avoid bias, and Kansas looked much better than Baylor last week. It must be taken into account, though, that the Jayhawks were playing Rutgers, while the Bears were hosting Duke. These might be the teams that finish ninth and tenth in the league this year, but Baylor gets the call here. One more win by Kansas, though, and the recently-established rule about not being fooled by the program may have to go in the dumpster.
TCU at Texas
Sat Sep 22 4:30 PM FOX
Texas defeated USC. TCU was bumped off by Ohio State. Again, though, there’s much more to consider than just the final scores of those two contests last week. There’s no questioning the strength of the Buckeyes, but is there as much to the Trojans as their national ranking made them out to be? The Horned Frogs are relentless on defense, and will give the Longhorns more to deal with than USC did. If Gary Patterson’s crew contributes as much effort as he shows on the sidelines, the Frogs will scurry out of Austin with the win.
Army at Oklahoma
Sat Sep 22 7:00 PM FOX PPV
Playing Army calls for discipline on defense. Execute the base, stick to assignments, and the Black Knights will struggle to score enough points to stay with most opponents. They’ll break a couple of long runs, but the Sooners won’t have much trouble putting this one away early.
Texas Tech at Oklahoma State
Sat Sep 22 4:00 PM FS1
Paging the maintenance crew at T. Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater. Check the supply of light bulbs for the scoreboard, and make sure that the “tens” position works all the way up through five, and maybe even six. Both offenses are prolific, standing 1-2 in the Big 12 in scoring. The difference though, as it was last week in Orange Country, is a better defense for the home team. OSU makes more stops and completes a 4-0 home stand with a win.
* All Times Eastern