Welcome to Week Two of our regular feature, the Big 12 Conference roundtable. Each week, our three featured writers who cover the conference – Sean Cordy, Garrett Kroeger and Wendell Barnhouse – will offer their takes on topics/questions around the Big 12 and college football. Here we go.
- Usually on the round table we’ll spin the discussion forward, but because it was the opening weekend with some important games, let’s review: What was your biggest takeaway from Week One?
Wendell: Oklahoma can’t handle the spotlight or a high preseason ranking. The Sooners have been that waiter who trips bringing in that luscious dessert tray. Just when you think you’ll have a sweet treat to end a perfect meal – splat. There were a number of top-ranked teams that had the entire offseason to prepare for showcase openers. Oklahoma was one of those teams. Houston was another. The Cougars played better and Houston was the better team.
Sean: Maybe this is more big-picture for the entire nation, but it’s worth looking at: Preseason rankings have made a mess of things. Oklahoma was ranked third in the nation and lost in a major way to the No. 15 team. On the opposite end of the spectrum, unranked Texas beat a top-10 team. I think those games are giving fans false expectations. Maybe both Houston and Notre Dame were wrongly (if only slightly) evaluated coming into the season. On that same note, we saw No. 13 TCU struggle against an FCS program while lesser-ranked Baylor and Oklahoma State routed their FCS foes. It’s a bit premature to draw any major conclusions.
Garrett: The biggest takeaway from Week One was, hands down, Texas’s revamped offense under Sterlin Gilbert. It looks 100 times better than what the Longhorns ran last year in Austin. Texas was moving the ball up and down the field at an accelerated rate with precision. The Longhorns’ offense was balanced — 280 yards passing and 237 yards rushing — which is something it couldn’t say last year. In 2015, Texas averaged 146 passing yards and 225 rushing yards per game.
- Can Oklahoma recover to reach the College Football Playoff?
Sean: This is more a question if Oklahoma can go undefeated the rest of the season. Maybe a two-loss team can sneak in, but based off the past two years, it looks like a team can suffer only one loss. That said, before even getting to conference play, the Sooners have to get past Ohio State. Should they get by the Buckeyes, they’ll have to exact revenge on a Texas team that looks improved, not to mention road games against West Virginia and TCU. That’s not exactly a promising forecast.
Wendell: Basically the Sooners will have to run the table. Even if they can gear up to plow through challenges in the first half of the season – Ohio State, TCU and Texas – the effort to get to mid-October with just one loss could leave OU running on empty. Another hurdle for Oklahoma is the 12-game schedule. The Sooners won’t have that coveted “13th data point” the CFP committee considers for the conferences with a championship game. Going 11-1 might not be enough.
Garrett: The only way Oklahoma can recover and reach the College Football is to win out. Looking at the Sooners’ schedule, they could win out. However, they have one major bump in the road: the Ohio State Buckeyes. Ohio State obliterated its Week One opponent, Bowling Green, 77-10. Also, during Week One, the Big 12 didn’t look all that scary — except for Texas. Oklahoma could have an easy road to the Big 12 title — which also increases its chances to make the CFP.
- While the Week Two schedule is mostly “meh,” there are some important contests. Pick a game and explain why it’s a Big Deal.
Garrett: The Big 12 game this week that is a “BIG DEAL” is the Iowa State-Iowa game. It’s a rivalry game, but some rivalries are friendly. This one isn’t. The Cyclones and the Hawkeyes hate one another, so much so that the week leading up to kickoff is dubbed “Hate Week.” The Matt Campbell era at Iowa State got off on the wrong foot as the Cyclones lost to the Northern Iowa Panthers, 25-20. If Iowa State can go into Kinnick Stadium and upset Iowa, the Cyclones’ season could change course. Right now, it looks like it’s heading south very, very quickly.
Sean: Two teams really dropped the ball over the weekend, Oklahoma and Iowa State. Oklahoma gets a cupcake matchup against Louisiana Monroe, so that’s off the table. That leaves Iowa State trying to find redemption against Iowa in prime time slot on the Big Ten Network. The Cyclones came close to taking down their FCS opponent, but that’s hardly enough to justify the hype around Matt Campbell. Getting past a team ranked in the top 25 will be a chore, but if accomplished, it would really give the conference a lift.
Wendell: I’ll be in Fort Worth for the Arkansas-TCU game … but that’s not why I’m saying it’s a big deal. Anytime the Big 12 takes on the S-E-C, it’s a big deal. Last week, the SEC was 6-6 in its non-conference openers. The Razorbacks accounted for one of the wins, edging Louisiana Tech, 21-20. If the Frogs are going to contend for the Big 12 title and make a run at the College Football Playoff, this is a “prove it” game. It’s all about the here and now, but for the gray hairs of both schools, the fact that these two used to be Southwest Conference foes – Google it, kids – adds some meaning.