Sunday, September 30, 2012
What we learned in the Big 12: Week 5
By David Ubben
Here's what I learned after an eventful week in the Big 12:
The Big 12 has great offense, but its defenses are in for a long, long season. The league spent most of Saturday reinforcing its stereotype of being an all-offense, no-defense type of association. Texas Tech and Iowa State quietly tried to dispel that in Ames, but higher-profile games between West Virginia and Baylor in Morgantown and Texas and Oklahoma State in Stillwater stole the spotlight. The Longhorns had major, major tackling issues. Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Baylor were varying shades of not very good in coverage for most of their games. Get ready for plenty of points as Big 12 play hits full swing.
Unlike the past two seasons, Texas coach Mack Brown says of the 2012 Longhorns, "we've got a chance now each week."
The rebuilding job at Texas is complete. Hear me out on this, folks. No, Texas isn't a juggernaut that's going to rumble to a Big 12 title easily. It is, however, vastly improved. Mack Brown said it best after the 41-36 win at Oklahoma State: "Two years ago we stunk. Last year we were in some fights, and then we weren't, and we were OK and we made some progress. Tonight, I told the guys, was a big step. though, that we're at least back in the mix and we've got a chance now each week. I think this game does that." Texas isn't going to play anybody in the league that it doesn't have a great shot to beat. That hasn't been the case the past two years. Texas went back to the drawing board after the 2009 season. The 2010 team was a disaster, and last year was a little better, but this is a team that will be very, very difficult for anybody to beat.
TCU had better clean itself up, or it will pay very, very soon. These sloppy mistakes are not going to get it done when TCU lines up against an offense that's actually functional. You saw those offenses on display all Saturday, and you saw TCU's mistake-laden squad, too. I know it was rainy, but TCU forced six turnovers and only beat a very underwhelming SMU squad by eight, letting the Mustangs back into the game late with a TD drive and a punt miscue that gave SMU the ball back on the TCU 1-yard line and the Frogs leading by just eight. The defense came up big with a sack and two incompletions to maintain the lead, but the Frogs can't keep putting the defense in those kinds of situations. That was absurd.
Iowa State's defense is for real. Yes, the Cyclones lost. Still, I was impressed. I had major, major doubts about the unit entering the week, but I came away much more impressed with the ISU defense than Texas Tech's, mainly because Tech has a much better offense, and what ISU's defense did was more impressive. Steele Jantz put the defense in some tough spots with three turnovers, but these guys covered well and pressured Seth Doege constantly. Texas Tech's defense may end up being pretty good, but Saturday doesn't prove it. Next week against Oklahoma will be an interesting test, but even then, it gets a lot tougher. The Cyclones may have a bad game or two, but that's now 10 consecutive games giving up fewer than 30 points. That'll keep ISU in some games this year. Credit defensive coordinator Wally Burnham. While the rest of the Big 12 is giving up points in bushels, the Cyclones are playing some great, great D.
Don't you dare turn your back on Oklahoma State. Yes, a loss is a loss. It'll hurt for the Cowboys, who fall to 2-2 and join Kansas as the only Big 12 team with more than one loss. Still, even without their starting QB, the Cowboys hung in with a very good Texas team, led by Joseph Randle, who played some tough, tough ball. He finished with 199 yards and two scores on 25 carries against an athletic Texas defense that, I will say, struggled with form tackling on Saturday. Still, this is strong program that's not going anywhere very soon. Don't be surprised if these two teams meet again next year with a ton on the line, like perhaps a Big 12 title.