Sunday, September 2, 2012
What we learned in the Big 12: Week 1
By David Ubben
After eight games on the Big 12's opening Saturday, this is what we know:
Oklahoma has a lot of work to do in convincing anyone it's the Big 12 favorite. You win in the Big 12 by scoring points, though the truly elite teams mix in a good dose of defense, too. Oklahoma had a tough time scoring in its 24-7 win over UTEP that featured a pair of late touchdowns. The Sooners were in limbo for much of the night, and when Landry Jones wasn't hurried by the pass rush, his receivers and backs were dropping balls. The defense was solid and pitched a shutout (with the aid of three missed field goals), but the league's top-ranked team had the worst debut of any team in the league, considering expectations.
Geno Smith looked like the Big 12's best player on opening weekend.
West Virginia's going to be scary. The Mountaineers turned in the most impressive performance of anyone in the Big 12 so far this year, routing a decent Marshall team and doing anything it wanted offensively. WVU scored 69 points, and if it hadn't missed a first-quarter extra point, would have scored 70 in two consecutive games dating back to last year's bowl game. Geno Smith looked like the league's best player and Big 12 defenses are going to have tons of trouble covering WVU's deep stable of weapons. The latest on Saturday? Running back Shawne Alston (123 yards, 2 TDs) and receiver J.D. Woods (seven catches, 75 yards, TD).
Texas' defense still has a lot to prove. The Longhorns looked like they'd be in a league of their own defensively this season, but looked very average against a decent Wyoming offense. Still, it's Wyoming. The Cowboys racked up 345 yards and 17 points, including an embarrassing 82-yard touchdown pass on what should have been nothing more than a 10-yard gain. Last year, the Longhorns gave up just more than 300 yards and 22 points a game. It'll get tougher in league play, of course, but I'm betting the Horns will, too. I'm still a believer in this defense, but Saturday was an underwhelming debut for one of the league's most hyped units.
The league's quarterback questions are being answered. What wasn't underwhelming? Iowa State and Texas went back to the drawing board at QB this offseason, and both had solid debuts. Steele Jantz produced some fireworks, completing 32 of 45 attempts for 281 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. That included a gorgeous 43-yard rainbow to Josh Lenz, and Jantz's only interception of the day was off a tipped ball. Texas' David Ash completed 20 of 27 passes to keep the chains moving and didn't have a turnover. If he does that all year, the Longhorns will be a major factor in the Big 12 race, if not the national title race. Oklahoma State's Wes Lunt? All he did was complete all 11 of his passes for 129 yards. Good days for the league's lesser-known QBs. The QBs as a whole in the Big 12 threw 16 touchdowns to just three interceptions, and all eight won their season openers. We'll see how Baylor's Nick Florence looks later today.
Iowa State must be taken seriously. Tulsa's a good team that will contend for the C-USA title. Iowa State struggled early on but completely dominated the second and third quarters to muscle up the Golden Hurricane on offense and lock down on defense. After two late first-quarter TDs, the Cyclones shut out a good Tulsa offense for the game's next 33 minutes. That led to a 31-16 lead and a big win. I do think the Big 12's depth will eventually swallow up the Cyclones and leave them a sub-.500 team, but they're not going to be an easy out. Play well, or they'll beat you. The way Oklahoma played on Saturday, Iowa State might have beat the Sooners on a neutral field by double digits.