Sunday, September 16, 2012
What we learned in the Big 12: Week 3
By David Ubben
Here's what I learned after one more week in the Big 12.
The Big 12 will have a few close calls, but its teams won't play down to bad competition. This was an awful week of scheduling across the Big 12, but there were really only two games that made Big 12 teams sweat. Baylor trailed Sam Houston State by 10 at the half and Kansas State led North Texas by just one in the third quarter, but both made late runs to finish well ahead weak opponents. Besides that duo, everybody else took care of business, and the Big 12 finished 7-0 in nonconference play. Kansas State's 14-point win was the closest margin of victory in the Big 12. None of these wins will impress anyone, but cumulatively, they help the league's perception.
At one point against Mississippi, Texas quarterback David Ash completed 15 consecutive passes.
Texas showed something close to its offensive ceiling, and it was scary. The last time we saw Texas play offense like that, Vince Young was on the field and Texas was a few weeks away from being crowned the national champion. It's too soon to talk about anything like that, but this Longhorns defense is already stacked despite some ugly tackling in the Horns' 66-31 win over Ole Miss. David Ash completing 15 consecutive passes? Running backs pounding linebackers and running through huge holes? We'll find out in time whether Texas can do that every week, but the idea of Texas scoring 60 was pretty close to an impossibility these past two years, much less doing it on the road against a BCS conference opponent.
Oklahoma State will play games with injury information in advance of its Big 12 opener vs. Texas. Just about everybody across the Big 12 wants to know the status and specifics surrounding Wes Lunt's injury. Too bad. Oklahoma State traditionally releases an injury report on the Friday before games, and Mike Gundy said that was the team's plan with the Lunt injury. OSU will be off next week, and offensive coordinator Todd Monken said he expected Lunt to be back in a couple of weeks. Reports surfaced on Saturday that Lunt's injury was not a dislocated kneecap, but don't expect to hear any official word. In the meantime, Texas will have to prepare for both Lunt and J.W. Walsh, who are two very different quarterbacks. That's exactly what Gundy and Monken want. Expect reports of Lunt's status to leak between now and then, but we won't get any official word until Sept. 28. Annoying as it may be from a media perspective, I respect the gamesmanship from Gundy's Pokes.
Kansas can play some defense, and TCU's got work to do. Kansas may be in for another frustrating year, but you can already see the Dave Campo-inspired improvements at KU. The linebackers and secondary know where they need to be, and there are at least defenders in the vicinity of where the ball is headed, which is more than you could say for this team last year. TCU made a lot of mistakes, but the Horned Frogs had to work for most of their offense on Saturday. Last year, Kansas made a serious case as the nation's worst defense. The Jayhawks have already made huge strides defensively, and that'll keep them in games this year.
Geno Smith is the Heisman front-runner. It was going to be difficult for Smith to do enough to surpass USC's Matt Barkley, but the Trojan suffered a shocking loss on the road Saturday night at Stanford, and though his offensive line played poorly, Barkley completed less than half his passes and had two interceptions without a touchdown. Smith? Oh, he's been OK through two games. He's got nine touchdowns and nine incompletions, and WVU has rolled in its first two games. It's a long season, but through three weeks, Smith needs to join Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas as co-front-runners in this still-wide-open race.