Monday, October 10, 2011
Big 12 midseason overview
By David Ubben
A look back at the first half of the season.
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III is the offensive star of the Big 12 through six weeks.
Offensive MVP: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor: Griffin's team isn't one of the Big 12's three undefeated squads, but RG3 made a big debut in the Big 12's first game, a Friday night showcase against then-No. 14 TCU. That thrust Griffin into the spotlight, which has been well-deserved. He leads the nation by two with 19 touchdown passes and almost five full percentage points while completing 80.4 percent (115-of-143) of his passes. When he runs for 100 yards like he did Saturday night and people remark he had an "off night," you know he's good.
Defensive MVP: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State. A year ago, Kansas State had an argument as the slowest defense in the Big 12. Not anymore. Brown, a Miami transfer, is the biggest new piece to coach Bill Snyder's puzzle that none of the five coaches standing across from him this season have been able to figure out. K-State is 5-0, Brown has 38 tackles, two sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and a game-changing interception. Kansas State leads the Big 12 in total defense by almost 25 full yards per game, and are second in the Big 12 in scoring defense, which ranks 15th nationally.
Biggest Surprise: Kansas State. The Wildcats have done it with defense, but quarterback Collin Klein has made his case as the Big 12's toughest player, leading the league in carries and making enough plays to keep the Wildcats undefeated. His running back, John Hubert, is sixth in the Big 12 in rushing, and Kansas State's old-school attack is plodding along in a conference full of spread offenses. "Who even huddles anymore?" Tigers defensive end Jacquies Smith asked the Columbia Missourian last week. "They play like their coach." Yes, yes they do.
Biggest Disappointment: Texas A&M. No question about this one, either. The Aggies are in a class of their own when it comes to early-season disappointment. Big halftime leads against Oklahoma State (17) and Arkansas (18) evaporated into postgame gut punches and a 2-2 start. The Aggies began the season in the top 10 before sliding down to No. 24 last week. Their Big 12 title hopes took a huge hit by losing the tiebreaker to the Cowboys, and a week later, another blown halftime lead reduced A&M to a college football punchline. The defense was supposed to be one of the best in the Big 12, but currently ranks last nationally in pass defense, 99th in total defense and hasn't forced a turnover in 19 quarters.
Best Game: Oklahoma State 30, Texas A&M 29.Brandon Weeden had one of the best halves of football of anyone this season, rallying the Cowboys from a 20-3 halftime deficit to a season-defining win that may have lit a two-month fuse for an explosive finale in Stillwater on Dec. 3 against Oklahoma, a rematch of last year's 47-41 game that decided the Big 12 South. Oklahoma State shocked the Kyle Field crowd, and its fans unleashed what may have been the first Big 12 chant in league history.
Best Coach: Bill Snyder, Kansas State. For all the reasons above. Admittedly, this award parallels coach's abilities to prove preseason polls wrong, and the Wildcats were picked to finish eighth in the league by the media. They're one of just three undefeated teams remaining. Maybe we were wrong, but I still maintain that in terms of pure talent, Kansas State is no better than sixth in the league. So far this season, the Wildcats are far, far above that mark.