What is the key to Texas pulling off the upset over Baylor?
Brandon Chatmon: If Texas actually decides to walk the walk. The Longhorns players haven’t been bashful in sharing their thoughts on Baylor’s rise. UT hung with Baylor for a while a year ago before the Bears finally pulled away, but that Longhorns squad had rebounded after a horrible start to the season and entered the 2013 meeting with some confidence. That’s not the scenario this time around. Are the Longhorns are trying to talk themselves into believing they can win?
Max Olson: Charlie Strong is the kind of coach who'll tell you Texas just needs to score one more point than Baylor. Well, how many points is that going to take? His track record suggests Strong and his staff will draw up a game plan that gives Texas' defense a chance to slow down Bryce Petty and his infinite weapons. But Tyrone Swoopes and this slow-moving Longhorn offense must find easier ways to run the ball and score and, more important, they must answer whenever Baylor does strike. It's going to take resilience, but Texas can't win unless its offense rises to the challenge in a way we've yet to witness in 2014.
Jake Trotter: The only way Texas will have a chance is if it runs the ball. Swoopes isn’t Blake Bortles or even Clint Chelf, so the Longhorns aren’t going to be able to simply outscore the Bears. That means Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown will have to move the chains to keep Petty and Co. off the field. The Longhorns actually are talented enough defensively to create issues for the Baylor offense. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown has been a beast in the middle, and the back seven is creating turnovers. But they can hold the finger in the dam for only so long. Eventually, the Bears will hit Texas up for big plays. Which is why it’s imperative the Horns grind out some drives and limit Petty’s opportunities to gouge them.
What is the key to TCU pulling off the upset over Oklahoma?
Chatmon: Trevone Boykin. Nobody knows how Boykin will react against the chaos the Sooners defense will create nor do we know just how much Boykin has improved since last season. It could get ugly for the TCU signal-caller. Or he could be the biggest nightmare this Sooners defense will see all season. If he executes TCU’s new offense like a veteran quarterback, Boykin has the ability to stress a defense unlike any other quarterback in the Big 12 with his ability to run like a running back in the open field. A great game from Boykin could be the worst-case scenario for OU.
Olson: Brandon is right, it's Boykin and the way he responds to the pressure of this Oklahoma defense. But I'm curious about the other side of the ball, too: How will the Horned Frogs attack Trevor Knight, make him uncomfortable and force him to make difficult throws? Against Tennessee and West Virginia, Knight was efficient when passing against blitzes. TCU needs to get after him and throw off the timing of this offense. OU will take this game over if Knight gets off to a sharp start.
Trotter: The TCU offensive line has to hold up against Oklahoma’s swarming front seven. The Horned Frogs’ defense traditionally has fared well against the Sooners, but TCU has been unable to win in its two Big 12 meetings with the Sooners because of its inability to move the ball. The Horned Frogs opened last year’s game against Oklahoma with seven three-and-outs. TCU got dominated at the line of scrimmage and finished with only 44 yards rushing in that game. That didn’t cut it last year, and it won’t Saturday, either. Gary Patterson switched up his coordinators in the offseason to jump-start the offense. But it won’t amount to much if TCU gets obliterated up front again.
Under Bowen, will Kansas win another game?
Chatmon: Sure, why not? It only takes one team to slip up against the Jayhawks, and KU’s defense has actually been pretty good this season. But it has been overshadowed by the lackluster performance of its offense and sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart. The Jayhawks could find themselves hanging in a game thanks to their defense then getting one or two big plays to somehow pull out a win. I can’t say who should be on upset alert, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they pull off an win.
Olson: You would think that Texas Tech will have its house in order by the time KU plays in Lubbock on Oct. 18, though clearly at this point that's a team with some vulnerabilities. Realistically, though, Kansas' best chance comes at home against Iowa State on Nov. 8. And I think Bowen will treat the season finale at Kansas State like the Jayhawks' bowl game. That's going to be a throw-the-kitchen-sink game and a prime chance for Bowen to prove he deserves a shot at the job.
Trotter: I want to say yes, but look at the schedule and tell me who Kansas is going to beat? The Jayhawks have only three more home games. I don’t see Kansas being able to score against TCU on No. 15. I don’t see them being able to score with Oklahoma State on Oct. 11. That leaves Iowa State on Nov. 8. And if I had to pick that game today, I’d pick the Cyclones, who, by the way, slaughtered Kansas last year, 34-0. I think the Jayhawks will compete harder under Bown than they did under Charlie Weis. I’m just not sure this Kansas offense is competent enough for it to matter.
Both offenses have been dominant, too, with the Sooners running through opponents, and Baylor running past them.
But the next three games will be telling for both programs.
Beginning this weekend with challenging road tilts against a pair of tough defenses.
Oklahoma heads to Fort Worth for a showdown with TCU, which debuted in the Top 25 this week after a strong start to the season. Baylor travels south to Austin, where the Bears have won just once since 1991.
Next weekend, the Sooners have the Red River Showdown, which they lost as heavy favorites last season. Then, Oklahoma will have to bounce back quickly for Bill Snyder and a tenacious Kansas State defense, which will be coming off a bye with an extra week to prepare for the Sooners.
But Oklahoma and Baylor, especially their offenses, can set the tone for these key three-game stretches on Saturday.
The Sooners have struggled to move the ball on the Horned Frogs in the past, with TCU losing both games by a total of 10 points. Even without preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields, the Horned Frogs have been stifling on the defensive side yet again, allowing just a single touchdown in their last two games. TCU was especially impressive in a 30-7 win over Minnesota, which moved to 4-1 after stomping Michigan in Ann Arbor last weekend.
“TCU looks really, really good and has played really well to this point,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Monday.
Oklahoma’s seasoned offensive line has overpowered opponents this season, but the Horned Frogs appear to be one of the few teams in the league capable of matching up with the Sooners in the trenches. Davion Pierson and Chucky Hunter form one of the best one-two punches at defensive tackle in the league, and defensive end James McFarland is coming off a three-sack performance in TCU’s 56-0 victory over SMU.
“They always have played great defense,” Stoops said.
This, however, could be the best overall team Gary Patterson has fielded since joining the Big 12. Patterson’s revamped hurry-up, no-huddle offense hasn’t been tested much yet, but has shown signs of improvement under new coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham. Quarterback Trevone Boykin’s Adjusted QBR is up 30 points from last year, and behind a more sturdy offensive line, the Horned Frogs are third in the league at the moment in rushing. That has taken some of the pressure that has been on Patterson’s defense in the past.
“They’re doing a great job of route running and (Boykin) is throwing the football really well, accurately,” Stoops said. “You can tell he’s comfortable in the offense and is playing really well.”
With a new quarterback and a diminished line, Texas, meanwhile, has struggled offensively again this season. But the Longhorns have also been formidable defensively in their past two games.
Texas picked off Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart four times on the way to a 23-0 shutout. Two weeks before, the Longhorns hung tough behind their defense in a 20-17 loss to now eighth-ranked UCLA, which dropped off 62 points on Arizona State last week.
Baylor is rightfully a two-touchdown favorite to win in Austin. But the Longhorns still have the talent on the defensive side to surprise anyone, as Oklahoma found out last year as a two-touchdown favorite.
Defensive tackle Malcom Brown has been a menace on the inside. And the Texas defensive backs -- led by preseason All-Big 12 selection Quandre Diggs and Duke Thomas, who had two picks last weekend -- are better equipped than most Big 12 teams to deal with Baylor’s prolific array of wide receivers.
“They always play good defense, and this year is no exception,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “That’s always what you’ve seen from their staff and it’s something you expect.”
The Baylor and Oklahoma offenses have been exceptional so far. But their playoff mettle is about to be tested.
Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU and Kansas State all scored victories over the weekend, but Kansas seemed to be the big story, as the Jayhawks lost head coach Charlie Weis, who was fired after compiling a 6-22 record and earning only one win against a Power 5 school in three seasons.
What will this mean for recruiting? Currently, the Jayhawks have 13 commits in the 2015 class, and while the consensus is still committed, the idea of exploring other options is a definite. Find out more about Kansas and the rest of Big 12 recruiting with these highlights.
College football has been a well-kept secret so far, as it has been hiding the true identities of teams. Not this week. It's time to play or go home. There are six games between ranked teams. Of the 17 undefeated teams remaining, eight play against each other this week. It's the most relevant weekend the sport has had in regard to the new College Football Playoff.
Here are the games you can't miss, ranked from least to most likely to affect the playoff:
No. 14 Stanford at No. 9 Notre Dame -- Stanford already has one loss, and this is the second straight road trip for the Cardinal. If Stanford loses again, its playoff hopes will be in serious jeopardy but not over, given that it could still win the conference. This game should reveal more about Notre Dame's place in the playoff, as it will be the first ranked opponent for the Irish.
No. 4 Oklahoma at No. 25 TCU -- ESPN's Football Power Index gives Oklahoma a 64 percent chance to win and predicts this to be Oklahoma's hardest remaining game -- slightly more difficult than Nov. 8 against Baylor. If the Sooners can't handle TCU, they'll be on the outside looking in.
No. 15 LSU at No. 5 Auburn -- LSU gave Auburn its only regular-season loss the past year, but LSU has already lost to Mississippi State, which put the Tigers behind in the SEC West race. Considering the rest of LSU's schedule -- and the hole it's already in -- this is a must-win. For Auburn, this is a chance to erase some doubts and make a push from the bubble into the top four.
No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 12 Mississippi State -- Two terrific quarterbacks will be on display in the Aggies' Kenny Hill and the Bulldogs' Dak Prescott, who both rank in the top 10 in total QBR. A&M's stock dropped a bit this past week after it needed overtime to beat Arkansas, but it could be a top-four team if it can survive the state of Mississippi the next two weeks.
No. 3 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss -- This is the most interesting matchup of the day. Alabama ranks third in offensive efficiency, and Ole Miss ranks second in defensive efficiency. Neither team has played a ranked opponent, so there is still some margin for error, but the Tide have a chance to separate from the crowded West.
No. 19 Nebraska at No. 10 Michigan State -- Surprise. The game with the biggest playoff implications is not in the SEC West. This Big Ten matchup could knock Sparty out of the playoff entirely. It's one thing to lose to Oregon; it's another to try to make the four-team playoff with two losses and your best win coming over Nebraska in the Big Ten title game. Conversely, a win in East Lansing could vault the Huskers into the playoff conversation. They're the only undefeated team left in the Big Ten, and the toughest game left on their schedule is against No. 17 Wisconsin. If Nebraska pulls off the upset, it's time to take it seriously as a playoff team.
- We've reached the end of Baker Mayfield's fight to become eligible for Oklahoma this season, and as you can imagine, the Mayfield family is not too thrilled. In an interview with The Oklahoman, Mayfield's father called Kliff Kingsbury a "scoundrel" who is "hellbent on punishing Baker." Strong words, eh? James Mayfield did more finger-pointing in this interview with the Tulsa World, too. To his credit, Kingsbury has publicly taken the high road throughout this ordeal. The Mayfields are entitled to their disappointment, but it's the NCAA that rejected their waiver and it's the NCAA that empowers coaches to dictate transfer stipulations.
- Is TCU ready to win the big one? That's the argument that Mac Engel of the Fort Worth-Star Telegram makes in this column, which offers reasons why the Horned Frogs have a chance to at least go 1-1 in their back-to-back games with Oklahoma and Baylor. TCU has never led against OU the past two years but has lost by a combined 10 points. Gary Patterson knew it'd take three to five years to build up TCU's roster into Big 12-caliber. This is year three, and he's got the big fellas up front now to compete.
- What's Texas Tech going to do at quarterback this week? Davis Webb remains a game-time decision with his left shoulder injury, and don't expect Kingsbury to tip his hand until the end of the week or game day against Kansas State. Bill Snyder says he'll prepare for the possibility of facing Webb and freshman Patrick Mahomes. If the rookie has to make his first start, Tech will be able to add more QB run wrinkles to its offense. Just getting Mahomes some confidence and a lot of reps this week should be beneficial no matter who starts.
- What should Dana Holgorsen and West Virginia expect from a Kansas team with a new coach this weekend? Good question. Hogorsen says he'll prepare assuming that KU is trying to maintain status quo, which is probably wise. The coordinators are still intact, and trying to overhaul much this week would probably be fruitless after what these coaches and players have already been through. Still, for what it's worth, I think you'll see a different energy from KU on Saturday and a team with renewed motivation.
- Paul Rhoads' biggest concern about his Iowa State team through four games: The Cyclones haven't been able to run the ball as they'd expected. ISU ranks 110th nationally in rushing at 102.2 yards per game and its backs combined for 28 yards against Baylor. The blame is being placed on the blocking, but that's on everyone. Sam B. Richardson has been effective as a run threat, but Iowa State can't hang with most teams in this league if it can't pound the rock.
But the Sooners' offensive line has been a foundation of Oklahoma's success on offense, paving the way for a balanced offensive attack that averages 6.92 yards per play, ranking second in the Big 12 behind Baylor. Oklahoma is averaging 222.8 rushing yards and 272.3 passing yards in four games this season.
At the heart of the Sooners’ success is second-year offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, who has helped transform the offensive line into one of the top units in the Big 12. Bedenbaugh left West Virginia after the 2012 season to take over Oklahoma's offensive line and instilled his mindset immediately.
"You can feel the intensity when he walks in the room and he demanded that out of us," guard Adam Shead said. "It [his hiring] was a pretty big deal, you knew he was serious about being physical. When he walked in he said, 'You may not play with the best technique, you might mess up some plays, but you’re going to play hard, you’re going to play physical.' And that’s something he’s always demanded of us."
Playing physical was nothing new in Norman, Oklahoma -- the Sooners have always aimed to be physical under Bob Stoops.
"There’s a difference, but Oklahoma football is Oklahoma football," Shead said.
Nonetheless, Bedenbaugh brought a different focus to the table. He wanted his group to be physical technicians, to combine their physical dominance with technical efficiency.
"It started with the technique," tackle Daryl Williams said. "We were already physical, we just didn’t know, technique-wise, how to block them. He really helped us with that.”
The results have been clear. The Sooners 5.9 yards per carry average leads the Big 12 and ranks No. 16 in the nation. In its first four contests, 522 of Oklahoma's 891 rushing yards have come before contact, ranking second in the Big 12.
Since Bedenbaugh arrived in 2013, Oklahoma sits atop the Big 12 in yards per carry (5.35), rushing yards before contact (2,517) and rushing yards per carry before contact (3.5). The yards before contact per carry is particularly impressive, as the conference average is nearly a full yard less (2.57) during the past two seasons.
"It’s a new day and age," Shead said. "We want to play smash mouth football."
Mayfield, who transferred to Oklahoma from Texas Tech, was seeking a waiver on the grounds that he was a walk-on for the Red Raiders and shouldn't be subject to the same transfer rules as a scholarship player.
Instead, he will have to sit out the rest of the season.
After the NCAA denied Mayfield's appeal, Oklahoma officials went back to Texas Tech to see whether the school would certify his immediate eligibility, according to a source, as a last resort. But Texas Tech officials still declined to certify the waiver.
Mayfield, who threw for 2,315 yards after winning the Red Raiders starting job in the preseason as a walk-on true freshman, was the 2013 Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
Total commits: 12
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Bears didn't land a recruit this past week, but plenty of Lone Star State prospects will be paying attention to Baylor’s trip to Austin. The Bears have been winning recruiting battles for the state top’s talent, and they have a chance to make another statement on the field.
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones landed a commitment for the first time in more than a month in Kissimmee, Florida, cornerback Stephon Brown, who had offers from NC State, Hawaii, Marshall, South Florida and Southern Miss.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The first order of business for interim coach Clint Bowen was calling all of Kansas’ commitments Sunday and telling them they are still wanted in Lawrence. Despite his troubles on the field, Charlie Weis had put together another decent recruiting class that Bowen needs to hold together.
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Wildcats have been quiet on the trail lately, after landing seven commitments from June to August. More will be on the way once Bill Snyder figures out which junior-college players he wants to target in this class.
Total commits: 14
ESPN 300 commits: 6
The latest: The Sooners landed their third commitment in the month of September in McAlester, Oklahoma, tight end Dalton Wood, who jones Midwest City safety Will Sunderland and Jenks defensive tackle Marquise Overton as Oklahoma's three in-state commitments.
Total commits: 13
ESPN 300 commits: 4
The latest: The Pokes pulled off one of the better recruiting steals of the year last week in convincing ESPN 300 safety Kevin Henry to flip from LSU to OSU. Henry had been committed to the Tigers, where he projected as a safety/linebacker since January but started reconsidering his other options in July. Henry joins WR Jalen McCleskey as the second Louisiana recruit in OSU's class.
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: No new pledges for the Horned Frogs this week, but they get a chance to impress visitors this Saturday when Oklahoma comes to Fort Worth. One TCU commit worth keeping an eye on is WR J.F. Thomas, the Frogs' highest-rated pledge. He received an offer from Texas recently, and two of his Dallas South Oak Cliff teammates -- Jamile Johnson and Jordan Stevenson -- are already committed to UT.
Total commits: 17
ESPN 300 commits: 8
The latest: Texas picked up a pledge from Austin Westlake LB Breckyn Hager, a three-star recruit who was committed to Baylor. The previous staff passed on Baylor's Bryce Hager in 2010, even though he's the son of Texas all-time leading tackler Britt Hager. Stevenson, who committed nearly a year ago, took an official visit to Wisconsin this weekend but remains solid with Texas.
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Red Raiders' staff made an intriguing find in East Texas last week. Longview's Broderick Washington committed soon after he received his Texas Tech offer. He's playing offensive tackle right now for Longview, but Tech loves his toughness and mean style of play and plans to develop him as a nose guard at the next level.
Total commits: 19
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: West Virginia locked up a huge commitment last Monday when ESPN 300 CB Tyrek Cole flipped from Florida State. You don't see that too often. WVU defensive line coach Damon Cogdell coached Cole at Miramar High School in Florida last year. The Mountaineers also received a commitment from three-star ILB David Long on Sunday. This 2015 class is in terrific shape so far.
Oklahoma didn't play this weekend but still climbed into the top four of the FPI rankings this week. The Sooners took over the No. 4 spot that Georgia held last week after the Bulldogs dropped to eighth. The top three ranked ahead of OU -- Alabama, Texas A&M and Auburn -- did not change.
Following their wins in Week 5, TCU and Texas both made noticeable jumps in the national ranks. The Horned Frogs moved ahead of Oklahoma State and up seven spots to No. 22 with their 56-0 win at SMU. Their chances of winning the Big 12 nearly tripled from 3.3 percent to 9.8 percent. The computers have enough respect for TCU's start that the Frogs' wins projection went up nearly one full win to 8.9.
Texas, meanwhile, moved ahead of West Virginia and Kansas State and into the No. 30 spot nationally after its 23-0 shutout of Kansas. The Longhorns are still projected to finish 6-6. Oklahoma State's win over Texas Tech did not result in any movement in the FPI ranks, while the Red Raiders moved up two spots.
Here's how they and the rest of the Big 12 stack up entering Week 6.
- After winning just one Big 12 game as coach of the Jayhawks, Charlie Weis was fired over the weekend on the heels of a 23-0 loss to Texas. Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger told the Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait that the "program had lost support at all levels." Though it was a tad surprising that Zenger pulled the trigger after just one Big 12 game, you can hardly blame him. Kansas had showed no signs of improvement this season, scoring a combined three points in losses to Duke and Texas. Attendance was plummeting again this season, even after an 8 percent drop the year before. Under Weis, there was just no excitement surrounding Kansas football whatsoever.
- After two disastrous hires, the pressure is on Zenger and the Jayhawks to get this next hire right. Zenger, remember, fired Turner Gill after just two seasons; Weis, the man Zenger hired to clean up Gill's mess, lasted 33 months. CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd throws out some possible candidates that Zenger might look at, including Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. The Jayhawks had success previously hiring an Oklahoma offensive coordinator, as Mark Mangino took Kansas to the 2007 Orange Bowl. The Lawrence Journal-World's Tom Keegan, meanwhile, writes that interim coach and Kansas alum Clint Bowen brings some much-needed passion to the program. The Jayhawks are in some definite need of that.
- Embattled NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent interestingly met with Texas coach Charlie Strong on Sunday to discuss the coach’s five core values and his approach to building the Longhorns. Vincent was very complimentary of Strong's disciplinary stances following their meeting, telling Yahoo Sports' Eric Adelson that "this is a model that should be emulated across the country in both amateur and professional football." Vincent gave Strong and his staff plenty of ammo to use when meeting with parents on the recruiting trail. If opposing coaches try to negatively recruit against Texas because of its suspensions and dismissals, the Longhorns will be able to counter with the ultimate trump card, as defensive coordinator Vance Bedford points out.
- There were some actual games over the weekend, too, and Baylor got a huge boost from the returns of wideouts Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman from injuries, as the Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner details. Back from a hamstring injury he suffered in preseason camp, Coleman caught a career-high 12 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown in the 49-28 win at Iowa State. Goodley returned from a quadriceps injury suffered in the early minutes of the season opener against SMU to catch six passes for 114 yards. Clay Fuller also came back from a preseason collarbone injury and made two fourth-quarter catches. Levi Norwood could be back as soon as this weekend from a fractured wrist. After an injury plagued non-conference, the Baylor offense is operating at full strength again. Just in time for Texas, too.
- The next two weeks will provide an opportunity for Oklahoma State to grow, writes The Oklahoman's John Helsley. The Cowboys get Iowa State at home this weekend, then travel to Kansas. In other words, Oklahoma State has a great chance to get off to a 5-1 start to the season after dispatching of Texas Tech last week. With so much inexperience coming into the season, coach Mike Gundy has to be pleased with the way the 2014 season has begun. At one point, Oklahoma State had five true freshmen on the field at once defensively in the Tech game. Those young players have a chance to develop even more over the next two weeks before the Cowboys hit the heart of their Big 12 schedule with an Oct. 18 road trip to TCU.
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This week provides TCU and Texas the opportunity to stake their claim in the conference race with games against Big 12 favorites OU and Baylor. If the Horned Frogs knock off the Sooners or the Longhorns shock the Bears, either team would skyrocket up our projections.
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma
Cotton Bowl: Baylor
Valero Alamo Bowl: Kansas State
Russell Athletic Bowl: West Virginia
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: Oklahoma State
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: TCU
Cactus Bowl: Texas
Florida State stays at No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll after a second straight comeback victory, but support for the Seminoles is waning.
Florida State received 27 first-place votes, seven fewer than last week, from the media panel Sunday. No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Alabama both had 13 first-place votes. No. 4 Oklahoma drew the remaining seven first-place votes.
"You're always concerned, but we can't control the polls," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday. "All we gotta do is keep winning. Polls are for the polls and voters. If we keep winning and doing what we do, we'll be fine."
There was little movement throughout the rankings, with the first seven teams holding their spots. That could change next week when six games match ranked teams, including three SEC games.