After the hectic display that was week 4, week 5 presents a simpler layout: two conference games (one per weeknight), and two non-conference games (both on Saturday afternoon). The battle of the purples kicks off the week, as undefeated Kansas State (have you talked to your kids yet?) takes on TCU. Former Big XII North foes Kansas and Iowa State follow that up on Friday. On Saturday, Oklahoma looks to cool down a red-hot Pittsburgh, while red-hot Texas Tech looks to stay undefeated at Washington. It should be yet another great week of football in the nation's most exciting conference, so let's talk about the games.
TCU (1-2) at Kansas State (3-0)*
In the closing weeks of the 2018 season, TCU rode a 13-game winning streak into a showdown with a 1-8 Kansas State. After the Frogs stormed out to a 10-0 lead, Kansas State rallied to give them a fight before falling 37-34 in Manhattan. That was the penultimate win of TCU's 15-game win streak, and a sign of things to come for TCU. Kansas State wasn't able to parlay that near-miss into any further momentum--but they can still use it as motivation in their next meeting. It's possible that this is the most important game of football Kansas State has played since the 2016 Heart of Dallas Bowl. With a school-best 3-0 start in hand in non-conference play, Kansas State has a very real path to the postseason so long as they can find a way to snap their 16-game losing streak in conference play. This is a bellwether game in both directions: if Kansas State can beat TCU, then they have a path to 6-6; if TCU can't beat Kansas State, their path gets significantly narrower. So how will this go down? Any number of ways. Both teams have parts of this matchup that they love. Kansas State should be excited to throw on a TCU secondary that's given up more than 300 yards through the air per game; TCU should be ecstatic for Shamar Burroughs to run against a Wildcat defense that's given up more than 5 yards per carry and nearly 120 yards per game on the ground. They also each have parts of this matchup that they hate. Sam Milner's 116.0 passer rating is the second-lowest in the Big XII, just as Kansas State's 106.0 passer rating allowed is the second-lowest in the conference. Kansas State is going to give Elijah Humphrey carries as usual, but that comes against a TCU defense that's given up 3.7 yards per carry and 53.0 rushing yards per game so far, the best in the conference in both categories. I think that's actually going to be what decides this game. If TCU can force Kansas State into long 2nd and 3rd downs, that puts more of the game on Rahim Murrell's shoulders, and Murrell's performances have been up-and-down at best against bad competition. TCU's held up reasonably well for having had to face Jamel Armstrong, Andre Webb, and Eric McLean; Murrell isn't consistently in that tier yet. Meanwhile, Burroughs is probably going to get the TCU offense better set up for those passing downs, taking some of the pressure off of Milner. I think TCU will win the line of scrimmage, win the run game on both sides, and use that to remain undefeated against Kansas State.
TCU 28, Kansas State 17
Kansas (1-2) at Iowa State (1-2)*
Iowa State and Kansas met last year as ranked teams, with the 20th-ranked Cyclones finally snapping their oh-fer against the #5 Jayhawks in a 29-24 upset win. Since that game, though, both teams have hit rough patches. They won their bowl games, sure, but neither team finished the season ranked. And now, they meet in 2020 as 1-2 teams who need this win if a bowl game is to be in the cards. Both have had some serious issues crop up in non-conference play. Kansas has dealt with inconsistency in the passing game, as freshman quarterback Christian Graham fired off 3 interceptions in his most recent outing against Notre Dame, bringing his season total to a conference-high 6 picks. With a completion percentage of 62.1% and a passer rating of 130.4, Kansas isn't getting the positive production they need out of him. That's a problem coming against an Iowa State defense that's been lockdown this season, holding opponents to 18.3 points per game and finding success against both the pass (165.0 YPGA, 109.1 passer rating allowed) and the run (4.04 YPCA). The Cyclones can get pressure and force turnovers, and it won't matter how open Malcolm Davis and Noah Hills can get against the Iowa State secondary if Graham can't get the ball to them and the slumping offensive line can't keep Mekhi Tolbert, Jalen Pittman, and Kai Voss out of the backfield. Adding to Kansas's sense of urgency on offense is their defensive struggles: they're giving up 31.3 points per game, they're giving up a lot of yardage per pass (7.72) and per carry (5.14), they're not really getting sacks or forcing turnovers at an above-average rate, and they most recently gave up 40 points to Notre Dame. However, Iowa State's been spinning its wheels on offense. After scoring 7 points on Minnesota, they benched their starting backfield, and the duo of quarterback Peter Edge and runningback Josiah Edmonds is set to start this week. Whereas Iowa State had been going with a more power-run and option-run attack for non-conference play, they bring in a starting quarterback who's more of a pure pocket man and a runningback who's less of a between-the-tackles runner and more of a corner-turner. A drastic change like that can pay dividends, but it usually takes time to iron out all the kinks. No matter what shape Kansas's defense is in, I'm not expecting Iowa State to finish that process overnight. I'll take the Jayhawks in a close one.
Kansas 20, Iowa State 17
#11 Pittsburgh (3-0) at Oklahoma (0-3)
When we last checked in on Pittsburgh, they were busy racking up 44 points in Morgantown to run past rival West Virginia. Since then, the Panthers have continued their roadward prowl, hammering Virginia Tech in Blacksburg before heading to State College to end Penn State's record-tying 20-game winning streak and improve to 3-0. There are few teams in the country as hot as Pittsburgh on the offensive end, and that's obviously a bad sign for Oklahoma. The Sooners have had their fill of hot offensive teams, having already fallen to Auburn (34.3 PPG), Iowa (29.7), and Texas Tech (34.0). They haven't done much to bring down those averages either, allowing 38.7 points per game themselves. So if they want to get in the win column and continue the momentum they picked up from the Texas Tech near-miss, they have to figure out some answers defensively. As well-publicized as Eric Pope's struggles have been, the defense is the bigger issue. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 67.6% of their passes, throwing 2 touchdowns per game without an interception, and running a 162.32 passer rating against the Sooners. Ballcarriers are averaging 5.16 yards per carry, 2.3 touchdowns per game, and 141 yards per game as well. The defense has recorded 1 sack and no turnovers. Every single one of those categories (except passing touchdowns per game) ranks last in the Big XII, and Pittsburgh's not the kind of team that breaks those kinds of slumps. Grant McConnell's averaging 290 yards per game through the air with 7 touchdowns--though he's also been turnover-prone with 4 picks so far, so that's an opportunity for Oklahoma. With Adam Coles and Samuel Ritter at wideout, McConnell has plenty of devastating weapons downfield. They're also getting solid production on the ground: Jaeden Daniel isn't putting up world-beating numbers, but adding McConnell's foot speed to the mix is yet another complicating element here. Oklahoma's defense isn't really deep enough to handle all of that, and Pittsburgh should be easily able to find a way to score. So it's up to Oklahoma to run the dang ball on this Pittsburgh defense and match them score-for-score. If you weren't aware already, sophomore tailback Maurice White is very, very good at his job. Second in the Big XII with 393 yards and first with 5.46 yards per carry, White has put the team on his back. He roared his way to 166 yards on 27 carries against Texas Tech as the Sooner offense doubled down on the run. Coincidentally, Pittsburgh has also allowed 393 yards and 4 touchdowns through 3 games this season. The Panthers really aren't built to stop the run, and that's Oklahoma's best shot. I don't think it'll be quite enough, particularly if Pitt starts creeping up safeties to go all-in on stopping the run. But I think the Sooners are capable of making this one close if things go right for them on offense.
#11 Pittsburgh 40, Oklahoma 28
Texas Tech (3-0) at Washington (0-3)
Closing out this week's slate of games is another undefeated-versus-winless battle, as red-hot Texas Tech heads out west to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies. The Dubs have been...well, not good, and a lot of the spotlight has fallen on true freshman quarterback Jake Davis (and perhaps unfairly so). It's not that Davis has been lighting up the world--he's at 45-74 (60.8% passing) for 573 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions--but runningback Amir Copeland (72 carries for 260 yards, 3.61 YPC, 1 TD, 1 FUM) hasn't really been much help and the defense hasn't been able to keep its opponents in check. The Huskies' defense has given up more than 5.1 yards per carry for the season, and they've given up 7 passing touchdowns to 1 interception. Losing to New Mexico at home was alarming, and they followed it up with a respectable loss to Arizona State and a blowout loss to UCLA. Texas Tech's formula on offense really isn't going to change much for this one: despite a strong Washington defensive line led by Miles Slater and Julius Mercer, the Red Raiders should be able to replicate New Mexico's and Arizona State's success with two-headed rushing attacks. Solomon McLaughlin is the Big XII's leader in rushing yards (418) and rushing touchdowns (7), and if he can get past that initial wave then Washington's going to have a hard time slowing him down. Chase Shapiro can't be ignored on the ground either; he's already scored twice with his feet in addition to his two passing touchdowns. The one thing Texas Tech has to be worried about is if Jake Davis can get hot. He had a very solid game against Arizona State, throwing for 230 yards and a pair of scores on 16-22 passing. Luke Guy, Jason Ivy, and C.J. Hickman are a capable trio of receivers, but Texas Tech's defense has only allowed 1 touchdown through the air so far. Their run defense is more worrisome (4.88 YPC allowed), but Amir Copeland probably isn't going to be able to do anything about that. This should be a routine road win for Texas Tech, and they should be able to get to 4-0.
Texas Tech 31, Washington 10
Byes: Baylor (1-2), Oklahoma State (3-0), #22 Texas (3-0), West Virginia (1-2)