The Big 12 Roundtable welcomes in a new month by tackling three more hot topics from around the conference. Check out what beat writers Sean Cordy, Garrett Kroeger and Wendell Barnhouse have to say.
- Who has been most valuable for Oklahoma in its recent resurgence?
Sean: It’s Dede Westbrook. A lot of credit should be given to Baker Mayfield, of course, but Westbrook is putting up great numbers across the board (OU even tried two trick passes with him). Four consecutive games with over 100 receiving yards is one thing, but couple that with the threat he’s proven to be on special teams, he becomes an even greater asset OU can’t lose. With Joe Mixon out this week, we’ll get an even greater look at Westbrook.
Garrett: You can go with a number of players with this question: Baker Mayfield, Joe Mixon or Dede Westbrook. Ultimately it has to be Westbrook. In the past five games, the receiver has tallied 881 yards and 11 touchdowns. He even caught more touchdowns in the month of October than 38 FBS teams have on the season. With Mixon and Samaje Perine being out against Iowa State, I expect to see a lot of Mayfield to Westbrook.
Wendell: Dede Westbrook had a spectacular October but I’ll offer some variety here and go with the guy throwing him the ball. Baker Mayfield leads the nation in passing efficiency. That’s a statistic and also a description. Mayfield can at times let his emotions dictate his play; he appeared to be pressing in the Sooners’ losses to Houston and Ohio State. Mayfield’s performance and leadership have been key factors in OU’s 5-0 Big 12 start.
- TCU has been an overwhelming disappointment. Is that because it was overhyped or that Patterson teams play best as underdogs?
Wendell: TCU’s season is a great example of “you don’t know until you know.” We know Kyle Hicks is a pretty capable replacement for Aaron Green, but we also know the offense misses Josh Doctson’s down-the-field play-making and Trevone Boykin’s judgment and arm. It turns out that Kenny Hill is a significant downgrade at QB. The defense had a bunch of starters returning so we all thought that would be a strength. We all thought wrong.
Garrett: TCU has been disappointing probably because it was overhyped–primarily the offense. The Big 12 is an offensive league. If your team can’t play offense, your team probably won’t win the conference. The Horned Frogs lost a lot of talent from last season: quarterback Trevone Boykin, running back Aaron Green and wide receiver Josh Doctson. Entering this year, people were hyping up transfer Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill, who sat out last season due to transfer rules. Hill’s issues from A&M were supposed to have been fixed in that time. However, his problems are still lingering, which is why TCU is disappointing.
Sean: I think it’s a matter of getting starry-eyed over Kenny Hill. He had a few great games in College Station and all the bad was supposed to be “fixed” after sitting out a year. After the Alamo Bowl win, I questioned how well TCU could function without Trevone Boykin. As an oversimplification, the heart and soul of this team was ripped away, and that’s not easy to rebound from even with other talented pieces in place.
- Big 12 refs — let’s talk about them. How has the officiating been this year compared to years past and has there been a specific beneficiary?
Garrett: There is a reason why a Big 12 Ref Twitter parody account exists. The referees over the past few years have been laughable. Last week, refs missed a targeting penalty on Baylor quarterback Seth Russell when a Texas defender hit him in the head. Also there was a bunch of no-calls during West Virginia-Texas Tech a few weeks ago. Being an Iowa State reporter, I have seen my fair share of Big 12 ref mistakes this season and in years past.
Wendell: Few can match my ire regarding officiating. However, I know that the Big 12 has a high standard for grading officials and does the best it can. I believe officials have been and are being put in impossible situations regarding the targeting rule. The rule is no more than a cover-your-butt response to firewall the NCAA and schools from potential lawsuits. Two players on a high-speed collision course with helmet-to-helmet contact is not always targeting. The Baylor play referenced by Garrett, in my mind, was correctly called because Seth Russell ducked his head and helped create the head-to-head contact. One last snarky comment: If Texas gets all the calls, why haven’t the Longhorns won more national championships?
Sean: Jokes about how much Texas has benefited from refs certainly aren’t stopping this year. Just look at the game against Baylor where a fumble that would have helped Baylor take control of the game went un-reviewed. Then the review of the targeting on Seth Russell went dismissed. Just two anecdotes, but they’re largely representative of how UT is viewed by the conference. Oh, I hear Oklahoma State is missing a win somewhere? Yeah, things aren’t looking good.