NCF Nation: JW Walsh

Diagnosing the Big 12

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
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Texas is crumbling, Oklahoma appears to be on the right track, Texas Tech has surprised and Oklahoma State remains the favorite. Here are some things that are ailing the Big 12 and some cures for those ailments:

What’s ailing the Big 12

Losing to FCS teams. After a summer in which Big 12 coaches touted the overall depth of the conference, Iowa State and Kansas State -- both bowl teams in 2012 -- lost to FCS opponents in Week 1. West Virginia escaped with a late win over FCS opponent William and Mary. Big 12 teams already have lost seven nonconference games, including against Ole Miss (over Texas), LSU (over TCU) and Iowa (over Iowa State).

The cure

Don’t talk about it, be about it. Oklahoma State did knock off Mississippi State and OU gets a shot at Notre Dame on Sept. 28, so all is not lost. But the league’s reputation has taken a hit.

On to Part II:

What’s ailing the Big 12

Lack of defense. The Big 12 has a reputation for poor defense. While nobody in the league likes that reputation, nobody’s done much to change it during nonconference play. The league average is 19.3 points and 384.5 yards allowed per game against FBS schools during the first three weeks of the season. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech have had strong single-game performances, but no Big 12 defense looks dominant.

The cure

Is there one? Things aren’t going to get any easier for Big 12 defenses when conference play begins. All is not lost for Big 12 defensive coordinators, however, because several Big 12 squads remain riddled with uncertainty at quarterback. This isn’t the Big 12 of old when defenses had to slow Robert Griffin III one week, then deal with Brandon Weeden the next. So there’s hope for Big 12 defenses. But based on the first three weeks, don’t hold your breath.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Zuma Press/Icon SMIPotential Big 12 breakout stars haven't emerged yet in 2013, but Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty could be on the verge of becoming one.
Part III:

What’s ailing the Big 12

Fluid quarterback situations. The season is 3 weeks old, yet 22 quarterbacks on Big 12 teams have thrown at least one pass this season, and 17 of them are in double digits in pass attempts. Blowouts have played a role in those numbers, but 15 quarterbacks have started a game in the 10-team league. Meanwhile, Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU and Oklahoma State already are pinning their futures on the shoulders of a quarterback who didn’t take the first snap of the 2013 season.

The cure

Better quarterback play. Oklahoma State's J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma’s Blake Bell and West Virginia’s Ford Childress appeared to have upgraded their team’s offenses when they took over. TCU’s Trevone Boykin has a ton of talent, but he hasn’t become the run-pass threat he should be to this point. And Texas ... they’ve got other problems.

Part IV:

What’s ailing the Big 12

What happened to RG III, Tavon Austin, etc? There seems to be a lack of star power in the league. Stars were expected to emerge early this season, but they’ve been few and far between. Several standouts such as Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk, Kansas’ James Sims and Oklahoma State's Josh Stewart have performed well, but supplemental stars haven't emerged. Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty is showing good signs and several other players have had strong single-game performances. But the lack of legitimate game-changing performers is a surprise.

The cure

Time will tell. Petty, Oklahoma's Bell, TCU’s B.J. Catalon and others have the shown the potential to be stars, but the difference between stars and good players is pretty simple. Stars play like stars. Every single week. No excuses.

And finally, Part V:

What’s ailing the Big 12

Nobody has been challenged. Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas Tech are the current favorites to win the conference. Now, which from that foursome has recorded the best victories so far? Oklahoma State's victory over Mississippi State leads the pack, followed by Texas Tech’s win over TCU. Do we really know anything about these favorites? And what about Texas, West Virginia, Kansas State and TCU? It’s not crazy to think they can recover and insert themselves in the Big 12 race. (Sorry, Kansas and Iowa State, but you’ll have to prove it on the field.)

The cure

Conference play. We’ll start to learn how good Baylor and Petty really are in October. And the same can be said for a host of Big 12 teams and players. True favorites will start to separate themselves and pretenders will fall by the wayside. Some players with potential will blossom into stars, and other potential standouts will continue to flash some upside, but lack consistency. Should be a fun October.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 2

September, 5, 2013
9/05/13
9:03
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Let's take a look the top storylines in the Big 12 for Week 2:

[+] EnlargeTrevor Knight
Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsTrevor Knight showed off his mobility in Week 1, but Oklahoma will need his arm to find long-term success.
1. Will Trevor Knight make a major jump from Week 1 to Week 2? Oklahoma’s redshirt freshman quarterback had lackluster passing yards (86) in his first collegiate start, but the Sooners put up 34 points thanks in part to his legs (103 rushing yards) and red-zone efficiency (three touchdown passes). But if OU expects to make it through September without a loss, Knight will have to make defenses pay with his arm.

2. Dana Holgorsen’s plan. West Virginia’s simplified offense in the opener left the Sooners very little to go off of as they prepare for the Mountaineers. Expect Holgorsen to break out the creative offense that has earned him his reputation as a superb offensive mind this weekend. Yet, Holgorsen has no idea how quarterback Paul Millard will react in a hostile environment in front of 80,000 fans so it might not matter how creative the offense is if the team or quarterback can’t execute.

3. Will the Longhorns send a message? Texas travels to Provo, Utah to face a BYU squad coming off a 19-16 season-opening loss to Virginia. Much like Knight, there are mixed reviews after UT’s win to open the season. The Longhorns’ offense looked unstoppable at times and very average at other times, but all will be forgotten if UT looks dominant in its first road test of the season.

4. Kansas State needs to get back on track. KSU coach Bill Snyder isn’t happy with the leadership on his team, that much is clear after his postgame comments following the Wildcats’ shocking 24-21 loss to North Dakota State. "I would like to see a whole bunch of mad guys in all honesty,” Snyder said about the postgame locker room. “I did not see any. That is concerning, that is for sure.” The Wildcats will look to regain some confidence when Louisiana-Lafayette visits Manhattan on Saturday. Rediscovering their running game and playing more physical on defense should be high priorities if KSU plans to get back to its winning ways of 2012.

5. How will TCU’s quarterback situation continue to develop? Casey Pachall started against LSU but was replaced by Trevone Boykin, as the Horned Frogs tried to put a spark into the offense. It will be interesting to see how Gary Patterson’s squad plans to use the duo when Southeastern Louisiana comes to Amon G. Carter Stadium.

6. Saturday will provide the first look at the Kansas Jayhawks. The lone Big 12 team that didn’t participate in a bowl game, KU hopes to change that this season. The Jayhawks feature some explosive threats on offense with running backs James Sims and Tony Pierson returning to go alongside transfer quarterback Jake Heaps and receiver Justin McCay. Coach Charlie Weis has some talent at his disposal so it will be interesting to see how he plans to use that talent in 2013.

7. Will OSU, Baylor or Texas Tech suffer a letdown? Week 1 should serve as a wake-up call to all three teams, as the conference watched K-State and Iowa State lose to FCS opponents. The Bears (versus Buffalo), Cowboys (at Texas San-Antonio) and Red Raiders (versus Stephen F. Austin) could continue to impress by challenging themselves to play at a high level regardless of their opponent on Saturday. Or they could take a step backward by allowing lesser opponents to hang around until deep into the second half.

8. Were Week 1 performances a fluke? Texas Tech’s Baker Mayfield, OSU’s J.W. Walsh, Texas’ David Ash and Baylor’s Bryce Petty were among the Big 12’s stars in Week 1. Will they come back down to earth in Week 2? Consistency is what turns a good player into a great player. If those players match their performances in the season’s opening week, the Big 12 could be on its way to regaining its reputation as a conference filled with quality quarterbacks.

9. Dee-fense. OU, OSU and Baylor allowed three points or less, and Texas joined those three Big 12 squads in holding an opponent to single digits. With the majority of the conference facing teams that don’t feature Big 12-level offensive attacks, we should see similar results in Week 2. What if we don’t?

10. Will more new names emerge? Charles Sims burst onto the Big 12 landscape with a 120-yard rushing performance in his first game at WVU. TCU's B.J. Catalon showed he’s a name to know with his 233 all-purpose yards, and UT's Daje Johnson put fear into the hearts of defenses around the conference with his two-touchdown outing in Week 1. Expect other offensive skill players to make their mark on their teams this weekend.

3-point stance: Crimson Tide hurting

October, 2, 2012
10/02/12
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1. Alabama is a unanimous No. 1 for a reason but injuries have just about used up the margin of difference between the Crimson Tide and the rest. The season-ending (and non-contact!) knee injuries suffered by wideout DeAndrew White and tailback Dee Hart Saturday bring to five the number of backs, receivers or safeties lost for the season to injury. The impact will come down most heavily on special teams. I’m guessing Nick Saban will use the off week to shore up the depth chart of his kicking game.

2. If you want a top running back to make the Heisman race, you’re going to have to take a workhorse, not a showhorse. Two of the top FBS rushers, Nevada junior Stephon Jefferson and Ohio junior Beau Blankenship, average more than 31 carries per game. If you’re looking for a tailback who plays a tougher schedule, keep an eye on Oklahoma State junior Joseph Randle, who ripped through Texas for 199 yards on 25 carries. Still, as the Heisman race goes, none of the rushers is keeping pace with the quarterbacks.

3. NCAA stats are reliable, even if they continue to list Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh as a sophomore instead of a redshirt freshman. But I digress. According to the NCAA, Nebraska junior Taylor Martinez, who is 12th in the FBS in passing efficiency, is the only Big Ten quarterback in the top 40. By contrast, the Big 12 has four of the top five and seven of the top 17. You can’t pin that on Big 12 defenses, the West Virginia-Baylor game notwithstanding. Conference play really hasn’t kicked in yet.

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