Sunday, September 23, 2012
What we learned in the Big 12: Week 4
By David Ubben
So after a bit of an eye-popping night in Norman, what did we learn about the Big 12?
K-State is all kinds of bad news. Kansas State coach Bill Snyder loved what his defense did. "They just kept rowing the boat," Snyder said. Indeed. Oklahoma got all the way to the 1-yard line and fumbled a snap in the Belldozer. It settled for field goals of 28 and 34 yards, going without a touchdown in the first half at home for the first time since TCU sprang a season-opening upset in 2005. There wasn't an ounce of quit in the defense, and the Wildcats made big plays when they were in position. This team is remarkably consistent despite a few slow starts. The defense is disciplined, though not very speedy. The offense is efficient and doesn't make mistakes. If K-State keeps playing like that, preventing big plays and squeezing the life out of opposing defenses, can anybody in the Big 12 beat it?
Bill Snyder's defense keeps "rowing the boat" for Kansas State, which made a big statement with its win over Oklahoma.
There's a good chance Oklahoma is just average this year. The evidence was there, out on display in the desert when a very mediocre UTEP defense stymied the Sooners' offense and made Oklahoma look pretty bad. Those concerns are officially confirmed. Landry Jones quite obviously has shown a constant penchant for making big mistakes in big games, and Saturday night was no exception. Sterling Shepard broke out on Saturday, but with a young receiving corps, the margin of error for the defense in a loaded Big 12 is not very large. Don't be surprised if Oklahoma finishes with nine wins or so, which qualifies as a big disappointment in a season with big dreams in Soonerville.
West Virginia's offense can be slowed. Maryland's a pretty good defense, and became the first team this season to frustrate the Mountaineers. They harassed and hit Geno Smith more than anybody and forced an offense that had punted three times in two games to do so seven times in 60 minutes. That was a big-time performance from the Terps, which fell 31-21. Look for Big 12 defensive coordinators to be watching that film for hours on end in the weeks to come. WVU's got more speed and explosiveness in the passing game than anyone in the Big 12, but it can be contained to some extent.
Kansas still has a ton of work to do. Northern Illinois is a pretty good team, but Kansas yet again coughed up a late lead, and it's about to get much more difficult for the Jayhawks. When you've got a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, you've got to prevent the big play and not turn the ball over. Unlike two weeks ago versus Rice, Kansas didn't have a late turnover this time, but it gave up a 65-yard touchdown pass just 10 seconds after taking a 23-13 lead in the eventual 30-23 loss. It also gave up three fourth-quarter sacks. The Huskies were dominant in the fourth quarter, and that's got to be seriously alarming for the Jayhawks, even early on in this attempted reclamation project.
TCU needs to figure out what's going on in the red zone. You don't have to start pounding any alarms quite yet, but TCU has left a ton of points on the board in consecutive weeks now. In a 20-6 win over Kansas, TCU made seven trips to the red zone and came away with points on just three. In Saturday's 27-7 win over Virginia, Skye Dawson fumbled the ball out of the end zone and Casey Pachall threw his first interception of the season inside the Hoos' 5. Yes, it's out of character for each player, but that margin of error is about to disappear as Big 12 play heats up.