Sunday, November 10, 2013
What we learned in the Big 12: Week 11
By Jake Trotter
Here's what we learned about the Big 12 in Week 11:
1. Baylor is a legit national contender, but it still needs help: In their first test against a ranked opponent this season, the Bears acquitted themselves well on Thursday with a 41-12 demolition of No. 10 Oklahoma on national television. The offense wasn’t quite as crisp in the early going, but the defense proved it is for real by completely shutting down the Sooners. Baylor got some help, too, with Stanford knocking off second-ranked Oregon the same night. The Bears, however, still need additional help. ESPN BCS guru Brad Edwards projects Baylor will only be ranked fifth when the BCS standings are updated tonight. Given the remaining schedules, the Bears could still pass Stanford and Ohio State. Baylor is the only one of the three with a remaining tilt against a top-15 opponent (Oklahoma State), and a victory in Stillwater would be impressive. But even then, Baylor would need either Alabama or Florida State to lose. The way both the Tide and Seminoles looked Saturday, that is looking less and less likely.
Daniel Sams and Kansas State have won three in a row including Saturday's rout of Texas Tech.
2. K-State is a team nobody wants to face: Like Baylor last season, the Wildcats have caught fire in November. On Saturday, K-State put an old-school beatdown on No. 25 Texas Tech, blasting the Red Raiders 49-26 in Lubbock in a rout that was never in doubt. It was the Wildcats’ third straight landslide victory. Tag-team QBs Daniel Sams and Jake Waters continued to be errorless and efficient through the air. In fact, of players who had more than five plays at QB, Sams and Waters produced the two-highest Big 12 Adjusted QBRs for the week (98.4 and 94.9). The Wildcats also destroyed Tech in the trenches. K-State piled up 291 rushing yards, averaging a whopping 6.5 yards per carry. The defense sacked Tech QBs Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb five times. The Bears, Cowboys and Longhorns are fortunate they faced K-State earlier in the season. The Sooners, however, are not so fortunate, as a trip to Manhattan looms in two weeks.
3. OU’s offense is a train wreck: What exactly was Oklahoma’s offensive game plan in Waco? I’m still trying to figure it out. The Sooners attempted 35 Blake Bell passes while giving the ball to their breakaway running backs just a combined 20 times. Yeah, OU fell behind and had to throw in the second half. But it took three possessions for the Sooners to hand the ball to anyone named Brennan Clay, Damien Williams or Roy Finch. This is an offense with no clue on what it should be. Then again, it’s hard to judge offensive coordinator Josh Heupel too harshly. He’s clearly limited with what he can call due to the quarterback. Bell’s unadjusted QBR on Thursday was just 5.9, giving him two of the four-worst raw QBR performances of the Big 12 season (he had a 4.2 against Texas). The Sooners must have little confidence in the passing acumen of backups Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson, too, considering Thompson never saw the field and Knight never attempted a pass, even after it quickly became crystal clear OU had no shot to win with Bell at quarterback. Injured fullback Trey Millard isn’t coming back, and receiver Sterling Shepard might be out for awhile, as well, after suffering a head injury in Waco. The Sooners are going to have to make major changes this week. Because if they take the same offense to Manhattan and Stillwater they did to Waco, they will finish the regular season 8-4.
4. Texas Tech is staring down another November collapse: Dating back to 2011, the Red Raiders are an astounding 1-9 in the month of November. With games against Baylor and Texas away from Lubbock left on the schedule, that record could plummet to 1-11, which would offset the exciting 7-0 start to the season that lifted Tech all the way into the top 10. Coach Kliff Kingsbury has brought energy and enthusiasm to the Tech program, and he and his staff have recruited very well so far in their first year. Tech is still a young team, too, especially at quarterback, where true freshmen Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield have rotated. Under those circumstances, this season has been a success, regardless of what happens these next two games. But for the Red Raiders to take the next step and truly contend in the Big 12, they’re going to have to start winning some of these key games down the stretch.
5. It’s time for KU to hand the offense over to Cozart: The only time the Jayhawks moved the ball in a 42-6 loss at Oklahoma State was when true freshman Montell Cozart was in at quarterback. This is becoming a trend. Cozart’s passing needs work. A lot of work. But his ability to move the chains out of read and speed options is stark compared with when junior Jake Heaps is behind center. Of Kansas’ 15 first downs in Stillwater, 13 came when Cozart was at quarterback. Heaps had another disastrous QBR rating of 9.9, and hasn’t scored higher than 37.8 all season (50 is average). It’s past time for the Jayhawks to build toward the future. And that future clearly is with Cozart at quarterback.