- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Baylor seeks to reach 6-0 while Oklahoma looks to bounce back big; TCU and Oklahoma State fight for their Big 12 title hopes, and we’ve got a battle of mentor versus apprentice in Morgantown. Add all that up and it could be a sneaky fun weekend in Big 12 country.
Here’s what to watch in the Big 12 for Week 8:
1. Can TCU turn its season around this weekend? With games at No. 21 Oklahoma State and against Texas up next, the Horned Frogs are in serious danger of starting this season 3-5. Who would’ve expected that from the preseason No. 3 team in the Big 12? TCU has yet to win consecutive games in 2013 and is coming off a five-turnover performance in a close victory over Kansas. Play that sloppily in the next two weeks and a turnaround will definitely be hard to come by.
2. Oklahoma’s offensive plan following the Texas loss. Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel has admitted he would’ve tweaked a few things about how the Sooners offense approached Texas last week, including in the quarterback run game. What changes does he have planned this week, and what will OU do to get Blake Bell back on track? Its talented receivers had a hard time making an impact against Texas, and none of the running backs was able to take over. Let’s see who emerges as a go-to guy against Kansas.
3. Will J.W. Walsh get the critics off his back? Oklahoma State fans, dissatisfied by some recent struggles by the Cowboys offense, are starting to turn on Walsh. Backup Clint Chelf essentially lost the starting job just six pass attempts into the season, and if the Pokes stumble again, a faction of their fan base will demand he get another chance. It’s time for Walsh to step up and prove he’s the right passer to lead OSU back into the Big 12 title discussion.
4. Can Iowa State slow down the Baylor tempo? One of the more impressive stats from last weekend was Kansas State holding Baylor’s offense to 58 plays, almost 23 fewer than the Bears’ season average and one week after BU ran 94 against West Virginia. Good luck scoring 70 points on 58 plays. Texas Tech kept the Cyclones defense on the field for 101 plays last Saturday. That’s a tough spot no matter who you play.
5. How good can Oklahoma State’s defense be? Coach Mike Gundy made a bold claim this week: This Cowboys defense is the best Oklahoma State has had during his nine-year tenure. Let’s see if this unit can back that up against TCU in what could end up being a low-scoring affair. OSU has a Big 12-best plus-7 turnover margin this season and should be able to contain Trevone Boykin.
6. West Virginia’s defense tries to clean up the Baylor mess. Nearly two weeks have passed since West Virginia gave up 73 points and 872 total yards in getting utterly destroyed by the prolific Baylor attack. Will a bye week and extra prep time mean the Mountaineers stand a chance against another pass-happy offense in Texas Tech?
7. Does Michael Brewer make an impact this week? Brewer, the presumed starter for Texas Tech before getting injured this summer, is back and got his first game action late in Tech’s blowout win over Kansas. But he has yet to attempt a pass this season while backing up Davis Webb. Maybe he’ll finally get his chance in Morgantown.
8. Will Charlie Weis’ new coaching plan pay dividends? This week, Charlie Weis gave up some of his duties as offensive coordinator by putting Ron Powlus in charge of the passing game and Jeff Blasko in charge of the run game. It’s possible the results won’t emerge for another few weeks -- especially with OU on the schedule this weekend -- but Weis is hoping he can help KU’s skill players more now. We’ll see if that change makes an immediate difference.
9. Kingsbury versus Holgorsen: Who ya got? Dana Holgorsen was responsible for getting Kliff Kingsbury his first job at Houston in 2008. They even used to live together. Now they’re facing off for their first time in their careers. You can bet both are looking forward to finding out just what kind of tricks each coach will have up his sleeve on offense this week.
10. Seastrunk starts a new Sea-Streak. Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk’s streak of eight straight games with 100-plus rushing yards came to an end against Kansas State. So did his run of six straight games with rushing scores. He had his quietest day since going for 30 yards on seven totes in Baylor’s last game against Iowa State. Might he be in for his first career 20-carry day this time around?
5dJake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon