Sunday, October 28, 2012
What we learned in the Big 12: Week 9
By David Ubben
Here's what I learned during a pretty wild weekend in the Big 12.
Kansas State needs style points or losses by top-five teams. I didn't buy Notre Dame as a team good enough to run the table ... until last night. The Fighting Irish beat Oklahoma convincingly, and in the process won over a whole lot of voters. K-State did its dirty work early, beating the Sooners, West Virginia and then Texas Tech on Saturday. But in the final month of the season, the Wildcats might go without a matchup against a Top 25 team, while BCS challengers Notre Dame and Oregon go head-to-head with USC, and the Ducks also get a shot at Oregon State to close the season. The chances of K-State hanging on to the No. 2 spot if Notre Dame wins out are minimal at best. Oregon will be a nail-biter. It's unfair for the Wildcats, but somebody has to get left out if there are three or four undefeated teams. As it stands, K-State looks like the team that will get stuck on the outside looking in. That said, there's still a month of football left to be played. Nobody thought Oklahoma State would lose to Iowa State last year, or that West Virginia would lose to Pitt back in 2009. Anything can happen.
Skies could be sunnier for Mack Brown and Texas even though the Longhorns improved to 6-2.
Texas' season is hanging by a thread. The Longhorns narrowly avoided disaster, but there are still quality teams left on Texas' schedule. The Longhorns wouldn't have beaten any of them playing like they did on Saturday, needing a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback led by Case McCoy to beat Kansas, a team with a 16-game losing streak in the Big 12. A loss to Kansas would have legitimized all the talk about Mack Brown being on the hot seat. He's OK for now, but if Texas stumbles to another eight-win season, will that still be the case? As one fellow scribe reminded me on Saturday, if you change two fourth-quarter throws on fourth down, Texas would be slumming at 4-4. It's 6-2 instead, but not a very impressive 6-2.
Oklahoma State might be preparing for a late-season charge. Quietly, the Cowboys beat up on good teams at the bottom of the Big 12 standings. TCU and Iowa State aren't that far off from being Top 25 teams, and the Cowboys beat both by three touchdowns. When OSU runs the ball, it's really hard to beat. Texas looks overrated, but Arizona knocked off USC on Saturday, and OSU will get its chance to prove just how good it really is with a trip to K-State next week, then a visit from West Virginia the following week. Then it's Texas Tech and OU. That's a whole lot of Top 25 teams, but OSU is going to be a tough out.
Baylor is in big, big trouble. The Bears looked to have the offensive firepower to withstand the losses of Robert Griffin III, Terrance Ganaway and Kendall Wright, but I'm not so sure any more. The defensive deficiencies are catching up to Baylor, and the offense isn't playing well enough to keep up. The Bears are now 0-4 in Big 12 play, joining Kansas as the only teams to lose every league game so far. Baylor talked a big game about validating what RG3 did for the program, but has fallen flat to this point.
Winning at Oklahoma doesn't seem so hard anymore. Oklahoma lost two games under Bob Stoops in Norman from 1999 until the 2011 season. Before this season, it had never lost to a ranked team at home under Stoops. But now? Texas Tech pulled a huge upset last year, and ranked foes K-State and Notre Dame walked into Norman and outplayed the Sooners. The mystique from that 39-game home winning streak is gone, and Notre Dame beat the Sooners by 17 on their home field, dominating the line of scrimmage and the fourth quarter. Ugly stuff. It's worth noting that OU's two losses came to teams that are among just six undefeateds left in college football, but Oklahoma hoped it would be among the nation's elite this season. It's not.