Friday, September 13, 2013
Re-assessing the Big 12 after Tech's win
By Jake Trotter
Texas Tech won Thursday over TCU.
But Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma came out of the night looking like winners, too.
On a wild night in Lubbock, in which a fox dashing along the sideline hardly seemed abnormal, the Red Raiders held on to a 20-10 victory to move to 3-0 on the season.
TCU fell to 1-2, and, despite missing out on several controversial calls throughout the game, hardly looked the part of a conference title contender it carried into the season.
Backup QB David Webb made some big plays in Texas Tech's win over TCU, and helped put the Red Raiders in the conference crown conversation.
So far, the same goes for Texas, too. And considering the Horns are struggling just to dodge total calamity, the Bears, Cowboys and Sooners look like the three most solid teams in the league to this point.
It's true that Baylor has yet to play anyone of substance. And yes, Oklahoma State has all sorts of ongoing distractions to overcome. And who knows about Oklahoma's quarterback situation, which seems no less settled now than it did six months ago.
Yet even still, all three teams have looked more impressive than anyone else, and that includes the Horned Frogs, who have major offensive concerns moving forward without quarterback Casey Pachall. Trevone Boykin had just a 28.6 QBR (scale 0-to-100) in Lubbock as the Frogs struggled to string together drives all night. TCU could wind up with defensive concerns as well, as defensive end Devonte Fields was spotted hobbling around after the game with an injured foot.
On top of all that, TCU is just halfway through its early season gauntlet, with road trips looming at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Lose both of those, and TCU would effectively be stripped from the conference race.
But while the Frogs seem to look less and less like a title possibility, Texas Tech has done the reverse. Sure, the Red Raiders had their share of issues Thursday. But they also have momentum building, and the opportunity to build even more.
After a hot first quarter, walk-on freshman quarterback Baker Mayfield struggled to complete passes against a stingy and aggressive TCU secondary. But the Red Raiders also played one of their best defensive games in years, prompting coach Kliff Kingsbury to call it the best defensive effort he’d ever been a part of as a coach.
Chances are, Mayfield will bounce back from a freshman-like effort, and if he doesn’t, the Red Raiders have other options at quarterback in Michael Brewer and Davis Webb, who made some nice throws after Mayfield left the game with a minor leg injury.
Even though Tech failed to put up the points Thursday, the skill talent is there. Tight end Jace Amaro is a nightmare matchup out of the slot, and Eric Ward, despite a quiet performance against TCU, is one of the better receivers in the league.
Combine all that with a defense that looks to be decent at the least, and the Red Raiders seemed primed to make a run into the top half of the Big 12 standings.
It’s not yet time to put Tech in the same tier with Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. But with an intriguing immediate schedule coming up, the Red Raiders could gradually work their way there. Up next, Tech faces Texas State, followed by Kansas on the road, Iowa State and West Virginia in Morgantown.
Could the Red Raiders jump to 7-0 against that slate? Absolutely. Which would then make them the viable conference title threat TCU was thought to be before the season.