Gary Patterson, the final coach each week on the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference, was asked about the conference’s status through three weeks.
He paused, searching for the words.
“You look at other leagues … for us, it’s that we’re playing those tough games,” he said, referring to most of the league’s teams upgrading non-conference schedules. “Obviously we’ve got to do better in ‘em. Only thing I can talk about is TCU and we lost in double OT (to Arkansas). You’ve got to find a way to win those games.
“It’s how we are in November and December.”
Unless there’s an incredible turnaround, November and December won’t matter much. Three weeks into September, the Big 12 doesn’t have a team ranked in the top 15 of this week’s Associated Press poll.
That’s never happened.
Patterson’s TCU team could conceivably make a run to the College Football Playoff. So could Texas. Each have just one loss. So does Oklahoma State and its loss deserves an asterisk. However, considering that in five seasons of round-robin play, not one team has gone through the gauntlet undefeated, it’s a long shot for those teams to go 9-0.
The Cowboys play at Baylor Saturday in their Big 12 opener. The Bears and West Virginia are the league’s lone undefeated teams. This is how much respect the Mountaineers, who face BYU Saturday in Baltimore, are getting. In this week’s AP poll, WVU received zero votes. The following teams did receive votes: Toledo, USF, Central Michigan, Virginia Tech and Maryland.
The poor non-conference showing thus far devalues future accomplishments. If West Virginia defeats BYU, it will have victories over Missouri and the Cougars … but BYU would fall to 1-3. Texas’s best victory is over Notre Dame … which is now 1-2. Once conference play starts, Big 12 teams will be beating up each other instead of getting beaten up by non-conference foes.
Baylor is 3-0 and the Big 12’s highest-ranked team at No. 16. The Bears also have played the worst non-league schedule. A questionable non-conference schedule plus the lack of a championship game kept Baylor out of the CFP in 2014. Plus, the school’s off-field sexual assault scandal will be a lurking PR issue the CFP committee would need to address.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, for the second consecutive week, pointed out the degree of difficulty before Big 12 play starts.
“I mentioned this last week that we’ve been instructed to up our non-conference schedules and that’s what everybody is doing,” he said. “A lot of the Big 12 teams have been doing a great job of scheduling high-profile, non-conference games and when that happens, you are going to have some years that are tougher than others. What I see is a bunch of good teams in the Big 12, it’s competitive and looks pretty wide open to me.”
Point well taken. Aside from Kansas and Iowa State, the case can be made that any of the other eight schools could win the Big 12 title.
Outside of the five states with member schools, few will care. Consider the selections made by the Big 12 television partners for Oct. 1. Eight teams, four games and the telecasts are not ready for prime time.
— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) September 19, 2016
Freshmen … SMDH
The media is often frustrated by restrictions coaches place on player access. Many coaches make freshmen – even redshirt freshmen – off limits. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has restricted freshmen from being interviewed until after they’ve at least played.
That’s probably going to change.
OU freshman quarterback Austin Kendall played in the Sooners’ blowout of Louisiana Monroe. In an interview last week, he provided Ohio State with extra motivation it didn’t need by calling the Buckeyes’ defense “basic,” and that Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield would “light up” the Buckeyes.
That’s not why the Sooners got spanked, 45-24. There’s some irony here that Kendall made his comments on an in-house show – Sooner Sports Spotlight; this wasn’t a veteran scribe or a pack of reporters goading a rookie into an inflammatory statement.
“We’re just not going to have guys available to talk because I can’t trust what they’re going to put out,” Stoops said at his Monday news conference. “I’ll have some of the older guys. It’s not like you won’t have anybody. I’ll make some of the older players that understand (how to deal with the media) available.”
“Ridiculous comments. I don’t know what he could have been watching, to be quite honest with you. He must not have watched any tape if he had that to say. There’s no place for it.”
(Consider this an Oklahoma gag order that has nothing to do with a 21-point home-field loss.)
- Oklahoma redshirt freshman guard Cody Ford suffered a broken tibia in his left leg on the Sooners’ first possession. He had surgery to insert a pin in the bone Monday and will probably miss the rest of the regular season. OU’s defensive line is also having depth issues as Matt Roma and Marquise Overton are out for the season. Nose tackle Jordan Wade played 66 snaps against Ohio State.
- While Texas has some major defensive issues, the Longhorns’ offense is displaying a competence and productivity that has been missing in Austin most of this decade. According to this graphic on the Longhorn Network, UT’s new offensive coordinator is a wizard. Maybe that’s why it took the school president, athletic director and coach Charlie Strong to convince “Merlin” Gilbert to take the job.
- Iowa State junior receiver Allen Lazard extended his school record for receptions in consecutive games. It’s now at 26, but it came with just one catch against TCU Saturday. It was just the third time in his career and the first since his freshman season that he finished with one reception. The eight receiving yards were a career low.
- Kansas coach David Beaty continues to look on the bright side. He points out KU’s defense has 29 tackles for loss through three games after totaling 59 in 12 games last season. The Jayhawks are tied for last in the FBS in turnover margin, but he notes the defense has given up just 22 points off the team’s 11 turnovers. “That’s amazing,” he said.
- Oklahoma sophomore Joe Mixon had a career-high 225 all-purpose yards against Ohio State Saturday night. Would have been 224 if the instant replay official had been alert.
The last word
Oklahoma State wide receiver James Washington, who had 296 yards receiving, on quarterback Mason Rudolph setting the school record with 540 passing yards Saturday:
“When Mason feels like the job is on him. He can do anything. To see him smile and to just be the Mason we all know. It put a smile on my face.”