Open Date Provides Perspective On WVU Football
Open dates on West Virginia’s football schedule help us catch our breath a bit during the hectic weekly activity that runs from interviews to previews to game coverage to post-contest analysis. It also helps get a clearer picture of the Big 12 Conference, and what lies ahead for the Mountaineers as league play unfolds.
During weeks that WVU plays, there is obviously not the opportunity to watch games live, other than snippets here and there. Postgame, there’s also a great deal of work to be done in getting our print edition out in addition to populating our website, so while a game may be on in the background, it becomes more an exercise of catching a highlight or a big play than being able to watch and process what is going on. So, open Saturdays are welcomed.
Not only do they allow a viewing a Big 12 teams, but also of previous and future opponents of West Virginia’s league compatriots. That allows for a better overall picture of how good each has been thus far, and lets us step past a simple comparison of scores. With that in mind, here’s the result of our Saturday viewing.
Kansas State – Oklahoma State: The Wildcats’ win at Mississippi State was impressive, but the Bulldogs’ performance at Auburn knocked some of the luster off it. So too did K-State’s showing at Oklahoma State, where the Cowboys throttled the Kansas State offense for much of the game. OSU is really good, in my opinion — clearly the third best team in the league and not far away from Texas. There’s a gap between that top three and the rest of the conference, but it’s not one that consigns the remaining seven to a bad rating.
Back to K-State. They have some of the same DNA of Bill Snyder’s teams, but the offense was really bad, and now juxtaposed with what the Bulldogs showed, it looks like the Cats are in a pack with Baylor, Iowa State and TCU. Oklahoma State will probably be favored against every team not named Oklahoma the rest of the way, and its offense again looks potent. They reload faster than Pistol Pete on that side of the ball.
Iowa State – Baylor: Bad offense? Good defense? The first half of this game was hard to figure out. Both teams have very good quarterbacks, and while ISU is still struggling with its offense, it was a surprise to see this game standing at 7-0 in favor of the Bears at the half. ISU QB Brock Purdy seemed indecisive at times, and didn’t display as much of the savvy and good decision-making he did last season. The Bears missed a couple of scoring chances in the first half too, making this game a bit ugly. In the second half, both teams got on a better offensive track, with Baylor getting out to, and then blowing, a 20-0 lead before getting a last-moment field goal from a freshman kicker for a 23-21 win.
Iowa State played Iowa very well, and Iowa is legit. Baylor’s first three wins told us nothing, but rallying after losing that 20-point lead says something — but is it a statement that BU is ready to challange Texas and Oklahoma, as the Dallas Morning News proclaimed? Ehhh, maybe not, but both could challenge OSU for number three if things beak right. Or, they could both wind up 7-5. For WVU, that might not be the best of news as the Mountaineers try to attain bowl eligibility.
Oklahoma – Texas Tech: OU’s offense is again blistering. Its defense is better than the past two years, but still vulnerable. It will take a team with a great offense to challenge the Sooners (see WVU 2018). That might be Texas, or just maybe Oklahoma State, but outside of that it’s hard to see the Sooners getting stressed.
The Red Raiders are, pardon the pun, a wreck with quarterback Alan Bowman on the sideline with an injury. With him, they had at least a gunslinger’s chance to stay in games, but without him, it will be tough. Projections were that he will miss 6-8 weeks, and if that is the case, he’s out until November at least, and that would put a fork in their postseason chances.
Kansas – TCU: The Jayhawks apparently put their 2018 team on the plane to Fort Worth, because not only did they play abominably, but they discarded many of the RPOs and offensive adjustments they had made earlier in the season. TCU crushed the Jayhawks’ predictable attack and cruised to a win that it sorely needed. KU might, repeat might, muster another upset effort this year, but not if they are playing the Les Miles 2010 offense.
That, in turn, dings WVU’s win in Lawrence. Yes, it’s good to win on the road, and yes, winning is not a bad thing. It does raise the question, though, whether Kansas played much better against WVU than it really is, or if it was just its normal self and the Mountaineers beat another typical KU team.
The Horned Frogs have also battled quarterback issues all year, and that will give opponents who have good play behind center a chance. TCU’s defense, though, will always be a difficult hurdle to overcome. Will West Virginia have enough offensive efficiency to put up, say, 24-27 points against it?
Finally, there were those games not involving Big 12 teams, but that had some bearing on these opinions. As noted previously, Mississippi State’s loss affected the K-State view. So too did N.C. State. In losing to Florida State, which has a host of problems, the Wolfpack now looks to be somewhat less formidable than when WVU faced it in week three. Again, this doesn’t take away from the Mountaineers’ recovery from the Missouri game, but it has to factor in to any evaluation of N.C. State’s strength.
So where does this leave us? West Virginia’s 3-1 record to date is still very good, but those wins over Kansas and State might appear to be just a bit less notable than they were at the time. The important thing, though, is that three in the win column. For the rest of the league? Good showings one week have given way to sub-par performances the next, and vice versa. That promises a very competitive October and November, with eight teams still having realistic chances to make a bowl game.