- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Before the season began it was clear the Big 12 Conference title race would be wide open. Four weeks into the season, it’s even more clear. Oklahoma State remains the favorite, Baylor has looked dominant, Oklahoma is improving and Texas Tech has been the surprise of the league. Yet, the majority of the league is still in the race.
Best game: The reality is there hasn’t been a great game involving a Big 12 team thus far, unless you want to count Kansas’ 13-10 win over Louisiana Tech on a last-second field goal. But Texas’ 31-21 win over Kansas State on Sept. 21 was intriguing due to all the distractions surrounding the Longhorns’ program. UT responded with a win to start off conference play in a game that was probably the most entertaining Big 12 game this season.
Best player: Bryce Petty runs away with this one. The Baylor quarterback has been outstanding through three games, completing 50 of 67 passes for 1,001 yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. And he has done it while throwing eight combined passes in the second half of three games. Many question the Bears' competition as they have rattled off 209 points in three games. But isn’t that what championship-caliber offenses should do to inferior opponents?
Best performance: J.W. Walsh was a monster for Oklahoma State in the Cowboys’ 56-35 win over Texas-San Antonio on Sept. 7. The sophomore quarterback was 24-of-27 for 326 yards with four touchdowns and added another score on the ground. He was brutally efficient while finishing with a 98.1 Total QBR and earning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors. Nine different receivers caught passes from Walsh against UTSA as OSU showed its passing game wasn’t going anywhere following a run-heavy offensive performance in its win over Mississippi State to start the season. KSU’s Tyler Lockett has a case here with his 13-catch, 237-yard performance against UT, but that outstanding individual effort doesn't lessen the pain of the loss.
Best surprise: Wreck ‘em. There wasn’t much expected from Texas Tech in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s first season. The Red Raiders didn’t get the message, saying “Why not us, why not now?” with their 4-0 start to the season, including a win over TCU. True freshman quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb have both played a key role in the Red Raiders’ quick start, but their defense has been the overlooked foundation of their success. It is allowing 4.6 yards per play, ranking third in the Big 12.
Biggest disappointment: Every season we hear about how much Texas has improved. This season was no different. But the Longhorns have been a disappointment yet again with an embarrassing loss at BYU and a home defeat at the hands of Ole Miss. Those two performances are so bad people forget the Longhorns almost opened the season by trailing New Mexico State at halftime before a couple of late first-half touchdowns. Now, even after their impressive win over K-State, a season-ending injury to linebacker Jordan Hicks and lingering concerns about David Ash’s head have put a damper on a terrific Saturday in Austin. Disappointing is a perfect word for UT’s start.
6hSam Khan Jr.
1dMax Olson and Jake Trotter