As the Big 12 rolls into the second half of the football season, our three beat writers are as fresh as the first week of the season. Check out what Sean Cordy, Garrett Kroeger and Wendell Barnhouse have to say in this week’s Big 12 Round Table.
1. Let’s beat a dead horse, (hopefully?) for the last time. Your thoughts on the Big 12 board of directors deciding on the status quo and voting not to expand.
Sean: My biggest question is how much that Cincinnati Big 12 banner could sell at auction. But really, there’s not much to see here. Last week I figured there wouldn’t be any conclusion. All we got is, “We don’t want to expand now but it’s something we’ll consider later.”
Garrett: I sort of figured that no expansion would be the outcome. The only thing I wonder is: How long will the Big 12 last? The backlash showed there are some cliques within the league and if these sub-groups can’t come to a 100 percent agreement, the conference may be on life support in the coming years.
Wendell: The Day After was more interesting than the Day Of. News of a leaked “talking points” memo and Iowa State athletic Jamie Pollard being truthful and honest were at opposite ends of the spectrum. The Big 12 needs more telling it like it is, and it needs to stop having David Boren being the mouthpiece for the conference. The memo leak was more evidence that the top leadership in the Big 12 are challenged to organize a one-car parade.
2. A couple of important games Saturday, let’s take a look at each. First, TCU at West Virginia – how impressed were you with the Mountaineers, and what do the Frogs need to do to spring the upset?
Wendell: TCU coach Gary Patterson said that during the bye week he came the conclusion he hasn’t pushed the right buttons with his team during the first half. If the Frogs are going to give West Virginia its first loss, Patterson needs to push the “no turnovers” and “fewer penalties” buttons. As my colleagues correctly note, TCU quarterback Kenny Hill is turnover-prone. His eight interceptions are most in the Big 12. One or fewer would be preferable in Morgantown. The Frogs also need to be disciplined and avoid penalties. Yardage could be tough to come by against the Mountaineers’ defense, so the offense needs to avoid penalties that keeps the offense off schedule.
Garrett: During the offseason, the question was rebuilding West Virginia’s defense, how it would either make or break the season. And through five games the Mountaineers defense has been phenomenal. The unit is No. 3 in total defense in the Big 12, behind Baylor and Kansas State. The offense has also been very impressive, led by the rushing duo of Justin Crawford and Rushel Shell. If TCU wants to pull the upset, quarterback Kenny Hill will have to play a mistake-free game, which he couldn’t do against Kansas, almost costing the Frogs that game.
Sean: I’m incredibly impressed with the ‘Eers right now. I’m even more impressed that polls reflect that, too. But for TCU to go to Morgantown and pull the upset, it will have to stop that deadly rushing attack of Justin Crawford and Rushel Shell. Luckily for the Frogs, they’ve been pretty stout against the run this year and are no slouch running it either with Kyle Hicks. Most important, though, Kenny Hill can’t keep making mental mistakes like he did against Kansas.
3. Oklahoma plays a night game in Lubbock against a Texas Tech team that was embarrassed last Saturday. Also, Baker Mayfield returns, and the Red Raider faithful figure to be fired up.
Garrett: Baker gets to return to where his career started and has a chance to embarrass Texas Tech. However, this is the Big 12 we are talking about here. Nothing is predictable in this league. Just look at Iowa State for an example. The Cyclones were able to play strong against two of the top teams in the conference – Baylor and Oklahoma State – for two straight weeks and then get embarrassed against a declining Texas team. So even though the Red Raiders did get fooled by West Virginia last week, I expect Patrick Mahomes and company to come out firing to try to spoil Mayfield’s return to Lubbock.
Wendell: As someone who witnessed the 2008 Texas-Texas Tech game, I’m an expert witness in the craziness that can happen in Lubbock during a night game. Kliff Kingsbury and his team were embarrassed last Saturday, and that’s bad news for Oklahoma. Baker Mayfield has to have the “it’s not personal, it’s business” attitude. He can’t play too geeked up. I don’t know if Texas Tech’s defense can get enough stops or turnovers but the Sooners had best bring their “A” game if they want to avoid the upset.
Sean: I’ll liken this to TCU visiting Lubbock last season with the night atmosphere/Mayfield-revenge factor helping Texas Tech bounce back from last week’s loss to West Virginia. Pat Mahomes and his receivers didn’t show up. Consider this: Kansas almost beat TCU and then goes to Baylor and is down 42-0 at halftime. Things change from week to week, and Mahomes is as strong a competitor as Mayfield. Expect something to change in the right direction for the Red Raiders.