Big 12 Football Notes and Picks: Week Nine
The 2018 Big 12 football schedule is out, and viewable here. Quick takes:
No one in the country will have a tougher closing stretch than West Virginia, which faces TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma in its final three regular season games.
Oklahoma and Iowa State get league play underway on Sept. 15, with the other eight schools following suit one week later.
Weeknight games are back in and again WVU is in the spotlight, as it plays two such contests. The Mountaineers host Baylor and Oklahoma, Texas Tech visits TCU and Texas travels to Kansas in non-Saturday games.
Off weeks again come early in the year, with October 20 being the last weekend where some teams (six) get time off. The last five weekends (including Thursday and Friday) of the regular season see all ten teams in action.
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The emphasis on kicking away from deep returners on punts and not allowing them to get their hands on the ball is a growing trend. So much so, in fact, that only 55 players qualify for inclusion in national statistics for punt returns. The requirements are modest: an individual must play in 75% of his team’s games and average at least 1.2 returns per game.
Even with those low thresholds, there are only three Big 12 players listed in this week’s NCAA punt return statistics. TCU’s Kavontae Turpin is seventh with a 16.3 yard per return average, followed by Iowa State’s Trever Ryen (20th – 10.5) and West Virginia’s Marcus Sims (43rd – 5.4)
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On fourth of the passes intercepted by Big 12 teams this year have been returned for touchdowns. There have been 60 picks so far, with 15 being run all the way back. Texas and Iowa State each have three scoring returns, while Kansas and Baylor are the only two teams yet to get on the scoreboard.
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The Big 12 has three of top four longest-tenured head coaches at their current schools. Bill Snyder leads the nation with his 26 years at Kansas State, followed by Gary Patterson in third (19 years) at TCU and Mike Gundy (fourth – 13 years) at Oklahoma State.
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It only becomes a cliche if it’s true again and again. Is there any league that has five better quarterbacks than the Big 12’s Mason Rudolph, Will Grier, Baker Mayfield, Nic Shimonek and Kenny Hill? Suggestions, please, if you have them.
Oklahoma State (6-1 / 3-1) at West Virginia (5-2 / 3-1) Sat Oct 28 12:00 PM* ABC
West Virginia makes its bid to move into the battle for a spot in the league championship. It has the offense to do so, but a banged-up defense is no recipe to hold down the offensive prowess of the Cowboys. OSU is the pick for the road win, setting up a potential battle for second place in the league next week.
Texas (3-4/ 2-2) at Baylor (0-7 / 0-4) Sat Oct 28 12:00 PM ESPNU</p
Baylor has played Oklahoma and West Virginia right to the wire in its last two home games. The Bears have a freshman QB that sparked a fourth quarter rally. Texas is also in a two-QB situation, and had a win against Oklahoma State slip away last week. This is a test of the way in which the new head coaches at each school guide their teams through those tough results. It’s cliché to say the Bears are the best winless team in the nation,but that doesn’t make it any less true. They’ll move out of that status with their first victory of the season.
Kansas State (3-4 / 1-3) at Kansas (1-6/ 0-4) Sat Oct 28 3:00 PM FS1
The battle for the Sunflower State is about the only thing that could get Jayhawk fans excited at this point in the football season. Perhaps a mid-game appearance by the basketball team could spur attendance. On the field, though, the Wildcats will get a methodical win.
TCU (7-0 / 4-0) at Iowa State (5-2 / 3-1) Sat Oct 28 3:30 PM ABC\ESPN2
This is the biggest game at Iowa State is at least 15 years. Ranked, with a bowl game almost secured and a top five team coming to town, the supportive fans in Ames will get the chance to show their support to the nation. The Cyclones have the defensive chops to hang with the Frogs, but TCU counters with an even better one. ISU will play the visitors close, and the fans will be in it, but in the end the top Horns in the Big 12 stay on that perch.
Texas Tech (4-3 / 1-3) at Oklahoma (6-1 / 3-1) at Sat Oct 28 8:00 PM ABC\ESPN2
What happened to Tech’s offense? Or Oklahoma’s defense? Give the way things have been contrary in the Big 12 this season, it might turn out to be a low-scoring affair. The suspicion, though, is that OU will start putting it all together for its stretch run, and that starts this week in Norman.
* All Times Eastern