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    stormstopper

    Conference Commissioner
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    Everything posted by stormstopper

    1. Another thrilling week in the nation's most exciting conference is in the books, and this time I really mean it: every game carried some suspense into the second half or beyond. Oklahoma couldn't put Iowa State away until the clock hit triple zeroes. Texas Tech couldn't even do so against West Virginia, needing overtime to get the job done. Even the blowouts had a measure of closeness: TCU had to rally from its worst defensive first half of the season to knock out a pesky Kansas State, and Kansas was up just 1 point on Texas heading into the fourth quarter before they hit the afterburners. And if that's not enough suspense for you, there is a higher-than-usual density of obscure stats packed into this edition--see if you can collect them all. Let's talk about the games! Thursday Night Oklahoma 27, Iowa State 25 Some People Call Me Maurice: Oklahoma's backfield ace simply could not be contained on Thursday night, and more than anything else that was the difference-maker. He found holes, he broke tackles, and he flashed his breakaway speed with a 50-yard touchdown run in the second quarter for one of his two scores of the day. He finished the day with 179 yards and those two scores on 24 carries, his second-highest single-game rushing total of his career. (His personal record is 238 against Texas Tech.) He certainly outdueled Kofi McCullough--who in all fairness had a solid game with 117 yards and a score on 26 carries. McCullough also would've had a second touchdown if Trevion Volken didn't steal one from him in the fourth quarter. In all, though, Oklahoma outrushed Iowa State 204-123, and they needed every bit of that to keep the Cyclones at hand's length in a hard-fought 27-25 win. Get-Right Games: For all the well-publicized struggles that both Eric Pope and (especially) Vaughn Sheppard have undergone, both quarterbacks have to be encouraged by the games they had this weekend. Sheppard finished 9-15 for 100 yards, the first time that he's completed 60% of his passes in a 100-yard game in the true freshman's career. (Baby steps, okay?) Pope, for his part, completed a career-high 78.3% of his passes (18-23) for 209 yards and a touchdown; it's also the first time that he's thrown 20 or more passes in a game without an interception. Safety Dance: The defensive highlight of the day came in the second quarter, with Iowa State trailing 10-7 and having pinned Oklahoma deep in their own territory. On 2nd down, Oklahoma went with a play-action rollout. As Eric Pope scanned downfield, he didn't see Omar Vernon get off his block in time and had no choice but to tuck the ball in and take the safety. It is the third safety recorded by an Iowa State defender: Jalen Pittman sacked Texas Tech's Christian Barkley in the endzone in 2018 and Steven Irwin took down Washington State runningback Jim Franci (you've never heard of him) in the endzone in 2016. All three safeties have come in the first half and on the road. Laundry Day: The flags were hitting the turf so often that one wouldn't be surprised if they came out green by night's end. Iowa State matched a school record with 10 penalties, which cost them a school-record 106 yards. And they were the more disciplined team! Oklahoma was flagged a full dozen times, setting a new school record. Their 115 yards in penalties set a new record for the entire Big XII. Next up: Iowa State drops to 2-8 (2-5) after this heartbreaker, but they'll look to turn any and all positives from this game into a last-ditch effort against the two Kansas schools (at Kansas next week, then at home against Kansas State the following). Oklahoma, meanwhile, secures bowl eligibility for the eighth time in nine seasons at 6-4 (4-3). They'll get a bye week before a tough closing stretch, taking on Texas Tech on Senior Night then heading out to Stillwater for Bedlam. Saturday Morning Texas Tech 30, West Virginia 27 (OT) Solomon McLaughlin Is Really Good, Part XXIII: The mountain ground of Morgantown proved no obstacle to either team's ability to run the dang ball. They combined for 355 yards on the ground on the strength of four different runners and three different scorers. Chief among them was Solomon McLaughlin, which will come to the surprise of exactly zero people who pay attention to college football. Let's not let the frequency with which McLaughlin racks up monster games diminish the awe with which we're struck when he does so, though: his 185 yards were his fifth-highest single-game total of his career, and he scored 3 touchdowns on the ground for the sixth time. He also did so on an epic workload: his 31 carries was the most by any Big XII player since Dylan Stewart in a loss to Louisiana Tech in 2018. (The time before that was Dylan Stewart in a win over Houston one week prior. That was a strange sequence even then.) Chase Shapiro also chipped in with 30 yards on 5 carries. There's No Quit In These Boys: Precious little has gone right for West Virginia this season, and it sure as heck didn't start going right today. But down 17-10 at the half, West Virginia absolutely refused to let this game get out of hand. Despite McLaughlin's relentless assault, despite a bad day from Darren Lemons, despite a 1-8 start to the season, the Mountaineers fought back. They took to the ground and relied on their defense, cribbing the calling cards that Texas Tech's relied on this year. Mohamed Mustafa rushed for a season-high 118 yards and 2 touchdowns on 22 carries, and returner and backup tailback Jamel Herron scampered 21 yards to the house on one of his three carries of the day. West Virginia outscored Texas Tech 14-0 in the third quarter to take a 24-17 lead. Misery in Morgantown: Texas Tech knotted it up in the fourth, but West Virginia was able to force overtime. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, that's where the road ended. They reached the 9-yard line before a Darren Lemons incompletion brought out the field goal unit, and Chase Shapiro found Andy Romo in the endzone for the game-winning touchdown in overtime. It's the Mountaineers' second overtime loss of the season, and they've fallen to 1-5 in one-possession games this year. So Few Throws, So Many Picks: For all the reliance on the run that both teams displayed, there were more interceptions in this game than one would expect. (This would also explain their reliance on the run.) Darren Lemons's struggles weren't surprising. In three games, he's completing just 49.4% of his passes with 1 touchdown and 7 interceptions on 79 attempts. His 0.14 TD-INT ratio is the third-worst of any Big XII player in a season with as many attempts as Lemons has had this year; only TCU's Michael Hicks (0 TD, 6 INT on 81 attempts) and Jeremy Hubbard (2 TD, 15 INT on 208 attempts) fared worse. But what was surprising was the normally unflappable Chase Shapiro, who finally threw his first interception of the year courtesy of Lamont Carson. He had 113 attempts entering this game without a pick. Next up: West Virginia drops to 1-9 (0-8) and will look to avoid the sixth winless season in Big XII history against Texas next week. After that, they get a bye before Senior Night against Tulane, and this team truly deserves that opportunity to close on a high note. Texas Tech, having survived this scare, is now 7-3 (5-2) and will have its most pivotal game of the season coming up next. They take on Oklahoma State in Stillwater, and the winner of that game will control their destiny to the Big XII Championship Game. Saturday Afternoon #6 TCU 38, Kansas State 24 Wild Start: Kansas State came out firing in the first half. Rahim Murrell was throwing all over the TCU defense with two touchdown passes, Jaiden Givens added a score on the ground, and the Wildcats fought their way to a 21-17 lead at the half. That's actually the most points that TCU has given up in a first half all season, and it looked as if this game was going to turn into an aerial shootout. It's also the first time that Kansas State has led TCU at halftime in any of their five meetings. If Kansas State could simply ("simply") keep up their pace in the second half, they truly had a shot to pull an upset. Locking Horns: But yeah, "simply" was in quotes for a reason. That reason is that TCU's defense remembered who they are, and their own offense didn't slow down one bit in the second half. The edge rushing duo of Aidan and Aidan (Morrell and McAlister) each dragged down Rahim Murrell for a sack, and William Cooper snagged an overthrown Murrell pass for an interception. They gave up just 3 second-half points overall. Felix Luck, meanwhile, got back into recent form after his rough game against Oklahoma State: he finished 23 of 39 for 284 yards and 3 touchdowns, one each to Miguel Aguilera, Justice Paige, and Finn Nielsen. Combine that with a rushing touchdown apiece from Shamar Burroughs and Antonio Stout, and TCU's offense didn't have a whole lot of problems against the Wildcat defense. Stop, Drop, and Roll: Every TCU player who caught a touchdown pass also had a drop today, and that highlights an ongoing issue with TCU's offense. These were their 18th, 19th, and 20th drops of the season, which leads second-place Kansas by 5 and doubles up any other member of the conference. Part of that is explained by the fact that TCU throws more than anybody else in the conference--but not really all that much of it. Their receivers drop nearly 4.6% of all of Felix Luck's pass attempts, the third-highest rate in the Big XII and nearly a full percentage point ahead of fourth-place West Virginia. If each of those 20 drops were catches, Felix Luck's completion percentage would rise from a lackluster 59.95% to a solid 64.53%. Next up: Kansas State bows out of the race for bowl-eligibility at 3-7 (1-6), becoming the third and likely final Big XII team to do so. But they'll still have a chance to close the season strong--they have a bye before their trip to Ames, then close at home against Kansas. The Frogs, meanwhile, bounce back and improve to 9-1 (6-1) and have a bye as well. They'll close the season with a road trip to Austin before hosting Baylor during Rivalry Week. Saturday Evening Kansas 31, Texas 13 Finishing Touches: For three quarters, this was as close as it gets. Kansas led 7-6 at the half and 14-13 heading into the final frame. But in the fourth quarter, the Jayhawks separated themselves decisively and thoroughly to make the final score look a lot less close than this game actually was. Christian Graham paced the team with 244 yards on 20 of 32 passing with two touchdowns against one interception, but Rod Fulton's two touchdown runs were important as well. Playing the discipline game was also crucial: Texas was whistled for three times as many penalty yards as Kansas, 84-28. The Jayhawks also held the Longhorns to 3 of 14 on third downs while converting 5 of 10 on their own end. Those little things often pile up into making a big difference down the stretch. This was the first time that Texas has given up 17 points in any fourth quarter, and just the third time ever that Kansas has scored 17 in a fourth quarter. Butterfingers: Part of Kansas's run came because of defensive players sticking their hands in the cookie jar and prying the ball loose from Texas ballcarriers. Noah Urlacher sacked and stripped Kyler Tackett in the fourth quarter, which set up Fulton's second touchdown run and put Kansas up by two possessions at 28-13. On the next possession, Pat Rhoades stripped Simeon Wells for another turnover that set up a Kansas field goal. Kyler Tackett also threw an interception earlier in the game, which gave Kansas a 3-1 advantage in the turnover battle. Again, these things often pile up. Tristan Shout: The bright side for the Longhorns is that they were still getting pressure in the Kansas backfield, led by star defensive end Tristan Priest. He bullied true freshman right tackle Armani Bello, wrenching down Rod Fulton behind the line of scrimmage twice and sacking Christian Graham twice as well. Apart from that, his presence forced a couple more hurried throws, leading to a throwaway and a misplaced pass that was credited as a drop. Priest has been a revelation (no pun intended) out of junior college, and Texas will be lucky to have his services next year as well. Don't Let It Distract You: Don't let Kansas beating Texas this year distract you from the fact that Kansas beat Texas last year too. Next up: Texas suddenly finds itself at 5-5 (3-4), which places them squarely outside of Big XII title contention and squarely on the bowl bubble. They travel to West Virginia next week, and their eight-year bowl streak largely hinges on that game. If they don't win that, then they have to beat TCU to get to that all-important sixth win. Kansas, meanwhile, has now won five straight and sits at 7-3 (5-2). They would need a lot of help to make the conference title game, but they come into the home stretch with momentum. Senior Night against Iowa State awaits, followed by a bye before a showdown with in-state opponent Kansas State. Byes: Baylor (6-3), #18 Oklahoma State (7-2)
    2. Well now I have to lose just to undermine you...unless that's exactly what you want me to do.
    3. [2021] Week #13 - MNF

      In all seriousness, the Steelers have to be happy with their level of efficiency and the Jets can't be pleased with their level of discipline. Three drops to zero, 1 turnover to zero, and a -59 disadvantage in penalty yards is survivable, but not easily so. Jets didn't survive it today. If the Steelers can replicate this going forward then they're probably the division favorite--I think their defense is more than capable, but their offensive performance could also be explained by the fact that the Jets' defense just isn't up to its old standards.
    4. [2021] Week #13 - MNF

      Jet fuel can't melt Steel beams.
    5. Donnie Allen has been an absolute rock for his this year. Norris Brooksheer's passer rating when throwing to him is ~10-13 points above his season average (~10 if this was calculated before the Giants game, ~13 if afterward). Given that both Gaines and Snead have missed time and given that Honeycutt is down for the count, Allen has had to take on an even larger role and has largely succeeded.
    6. James Otero. My first star player, a Doak Walker winner and a Big XII champion, my first draft pick, and he's had a nice career for himself in the NFL. I was rooting for him when he won the Super Bowl with Miami, I was rooting for him when his career was revitalized in Tampa Bay, I was rooting for him to put up big numbers in losses when he was traded to the Lions, and now I'm rooting for the Colts to cut Aaron Shea so that they can feed Otero more. The pride of Langdon, North Dakota and the pride of Lawrence, Kansas.
    7. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/17gxom5ELNCWktU3BnHjT6qklTvmwvUo7kNQiHo4jtwY/edit?usp=sharing Up to date through the end of week 0. Darman and I will be keeping this updated throughout the season.
    8. Chicago Tribune

      MAD DOG Dwayne Maddox's punt return TD decisive in ugly Bears win Rookie Dwayne Maddox celebrates after his punt return touchdown, the only time either team crossed the goal line as the Bears won 16-12 in the cold and rain.
    9. Chicago Tribune

      LOCK AND KEY Keyshawn Thompson returns, Lions thump Bears The wraith of the Mitten State continued his dominance over Norris Brooksheer and the Bears, recording a pick and 3 tackles in the Lions' 31-20 win
    10. [2021] Week #13 - 4 PM

      If you'd put the ball in the hands of your best offensive player more, you'd get there.
    11. [2021] Week #13 - 1 PM

      Then I'm glad one of them was ours.
    12. [2021] Week #13 - 1 PM

      Dwayne Maddox now has a KRTD and a PRTD this year, which I believe makes him the first to have one of each this season. Special teams wins games.
    13. [2021] Week #13 - 1 PM

      I would like to apologize for the event that took place at Soldier Field today, masquerading as a football game.
    14. [2021] Week #13 - Saturday Evening

      Congratulations @Darman on clinching the ACC Coastal!
    15. [2021] Week #13 - Saturday Morning

      So that's where Mohamed Mustafa's been (and a surprise Jamel Herron appearance!) have been. West Virginia's had some brutal luck in close games this year. Just 1-5 in one-possession games, including two overtime losses. Their season would look a lot different if a few of those broke the other way. That said, the trinity of Solomon McLaughlin, Curtis Jones, and Austin Callahan all showed up and did their part. Especially Solomon. (RIP to Chase Shapiro's INT-free streak, though.) *** Surprisingly close games in Raleigh and Columbus. And a couple of heartbreakers for both underdogs who could have scored huge wins. Akron not only secures bowl-eligibility, but they also take over sole possession of first place in the MAC East at 4-2. They are particularly thankful for Ball State's win, as the Redhawks had head-to-head over them. Western Michigan's win eliminates Toledo from division contention, but the Broncos have not yet secured the division. Central Michigan also sits at 4-2 to WMU's 6-1, and the two play each other to close the season. (Both own head-to-head over Toledo, so the Rockets' 4-2 record wouldn't mess up the tiebreaker.) If Central Michigan beats Eastern Michigan next week, then CMU-WMU will decide the MAC West. Liberty's loss to CMU means that they and UMass are both 0-10 and therefore just one loss apiece away from the Ultimate Showdown. UMass will have a toughish one at home against UL-Monroe where they'll only come in as 28-point underdogs (Kent State scoffs at this), but if they can pull off loss #11 then Liberty should have no real trouble getting trounced by BYU in week 15. Georgia State improved to 4-6 overall and 3-3 in the Sun Belt. Both of those are tied for the best record in the Sun Belt East. Every Sun Belt West team has a better overall record and at least a 3-3 conference record. Georgia State at Appalachian State will go a long way toward determining the division; they each take a turn against Georgia Southern after that. Georgia State owns the tiebreaker over 3-3 Troy, but Troy owns the tiebreaker over App.
    16. This week's a bit unusual in the nation's most exciting conference, as only one game features a bowl-tier team against another bowl-tier team. Does that mean that this week's going to be uninteresting? Of course not. When you have Solomon McLaughlin (and Curtis Jones and Austin Callahan) going against Aaron Pagan, when you have Rahim Murrell going against Felix Luck, when you have Kyler Tackett and Simeon Wells going against Christian Graham, you have a lot of compelling individual matchups that will be interesting to watch no matter how the games go. And hey, if Kent State can beat Ohio then you never know when the upset bug is going to strike. So sit back, enjoy the show, and let's talk about the games. Saturday Morning Texas Tech (6-3) at West Virginia (1-8)* What happens when a defense that allows over 120 yards per game on the ground meets a runningback who averages over 150 by himself? We're about to find out pretty early in Morgantown, where the latest edition of the Solomon McLaughlin Show is about to take place. McLaughlin is coming off of one of his worst games of the year against Baylor, in which he still rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns--but averaged just under 4.3 yards per carry and lost his third fumble of the year. Point is this: even on a bad day, McLaughlin is going to get a ton of carries and a ton of yards, and West Virginia has struggled to defend the run lately. In fact, in their last three games the Mountaineers have given up 342 yards on 58 carries. That's 5.9 yards per carry. They gave up two rushing touchdowns per game in that span, though they at least stripped Kofi McCullough while he was on his way to 156 yards and 2 touchdowns on 6.2 yards per carry. It's safe to say that West Virginia can't afford to let McLaughlin produce that much. They did limit Maurice White to 111 yards on 26 carries (which was exactly McLaughlin's production against Baylor), but given that West Virginia's going to be fighting uphill on offense it's hard to see even that being enough. Darren Lemons remains the starting quarterback after a 12-26, 132-yard, 3-interception game against Texas Tech. His 65.72 passer rating was the third-worst in a single game in Mountaineer history, and the fact that Bobby Davies's 44.82 against Oklahoma State this year is the school record is part of the reason why he wasn't immediately thrown back on the bench. It doesn't help that they're not getting enough out of Mohamed Mustafa, who's averaging 72.1 yards per game on 4.0 yards per carry with 6 rushing touchdowns all year. Texas Tech's defense won't show mercy. Watching Texas Tech's Curtis Jones and West Virginia's Aaron Pagan take turns getting after it in the opposing backfield should be a treat. Watching McLaughlin try and take out his whole team's frustrations should be a treat. But no, this should not be a particularly close game. Texas Tech 35, West Virginia 10 Saturday Afternoon Kansas State (3-6) at #6 TCU (8-1)* Growing up, purple was always my favorite color. I used to draw fictional road maps, baseball fields, and basketball courts in purple composition notebooks--some of which I still have today--with everything set in a fictional city called Purpletown. This has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that it explains why the Big XII's only purple-on-purple matchup holds a special place in my heart. Another reason: a ranked Big XII team has lost at home in each of the past four weeks, and TCU is the only ranked team in this conference in action this week. And reason number three: both teams rely on mercurial quarterbacks, meaning just about anything can happen. Luck has thrown 17 touchdowns to 8 interceptions--that's the second-highest interception total in the Big XII after Bobby Davies, but it comes on a conference-high 398 throws. (That caveat also applies to his touchdown total.) Murrell's at 17 touchdowns to 7 interceptions, though he's also lost three fumbles. Looking at recent performance muddies the water. Luck had his hot streak with 1100 yards and 10 touchdowns over a three-game stretch--only for his performance against Oklahoma State to throw cold water on that with 208 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions on 22-37 passing in the Horned Frogs' first and only loss of the year to date. Murrell is coming off of the best game of his career, in which he completed 21 of 28 passes for 288 yards and 3 scores without a turnover. That followed three straight games of 57.1% passing or worse--but in which he also threw for 5 touchdowns to 1 interception. Would the school that produced Harvey Fagan have it any other way? Probably, but they don't get a vote. Here's what I'm getting at: Murrell needs to stay hot if Kansas State wants to do the unthinkable. An average game won't cut it against a TCU defense that can rush the passer without sacrificing anything in coverage. He's going to take hits, and that means he's a risk to lose fumbles or be hurried into picks. When Luck is at his worst, his defense has usually been able to bail him out by making the other quarterback's life miserable too. The Horned Frogs have given up just 6 passing touchdowns all season (against 6 interceptions); opponents complete under 58.5% of their passes and average under 160 passing yards per game. And that's the difference between these two teams. Sure, both Murrell and Luck are capable of turning in a gem or a stinker. But if Luck struggles, there's a Plan B. Kansas State doesn't have that; they give up 66.8% passing with 18 touchdowns to 8 interceptions (three were of Darren Lemons), and a 152.3 passer rating. Those numbers all rank 9th in the conference ahead of only West Virginia. That's the kind of defense Luck will look forward to as a way to get back on track. If Murrell outplays Luck, an upset wouldn't be out of the question--I just don't think TCU's defense will allow that to happen no matter which Luck shows up. Give me the purple Frogs. #6 TCU 24, Kansas State 10 Saturday Evening Kansas (6-3) at Texas (5-4)* Kansas-Texas games haven't traditionally been competitive, with Texas edging Kansas's 2-10 team in 2016 and shellacking them the following two years by a combined margin of 57-3. Last year's game looked to be headed in the same direction as Texas went up 17-0 after the first quarter and 34-14 at halftime in Lawrence. What followed was the single largest halftime deficit overcome in Big XII history, as Kansas outscored Texas 28-6 in the second half to steal a win. (Coincidentally, TCU would rally from a 28-9 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter against Oklahoma State mere hours later, which is itself a conference record). Largely the same team with largely the same record, Texas will look to restore order and achieve bowl-eligibility. To do so, Texas will need to go back to the well that nourished their 40-point effort against Kansas--that well is named Simeon. (You had to know that was coming.) Simeon Wells put up 147 yards on the ground against Kansas, and the Jayhawks have not defended the run particularly well this year. They give up nearly 5.1 yards per carry, they've given up 12 rushing touchdowns, and did I mention that Simeon Wells is averaging 129.8 yards per game on nearly 5.6 yards per carry? They have Kyler Tackett's arm to keep defenses honest: Tackett's 160.3 passer rating is the second-highest in the Big XII, and he's been coolly efficient with a 67.0% completion percentage, 14 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. Of course, he just so happens to be going up against Christian Graham, the only Big XII passer ranking ahead of him in completion percentage (69.9%) or passer rating (161.6). For his part, Graham has thrown 18 touchdown passes and 7 picks. Texas's pass defense has improved over the past few games, but its overall numbers aren't where they need to be. They allow a 143.0 passer rating, which is in turn due to giving up a 64.3% completion percentage with 10 touchdowns allowed to just 4 interceptions. The defense is talented and should on paper be more in the range of TCU or Texas Tech; instead, we're still waiting on cornerbacks Damani Jeffries or Devon Braxton to record an interception for the first time this season. That's important for Kansas, whose run game has been hobbled by poor offensive line play and injuries to Rod Fulton and Armani Bello; this offense has essentially gone as Graham goes all season, and a good game from Fulton would just be a bonus. Ultimately, I don't think that'll be enough for Kansas to win it. Texas's pass defense is trending in the right direction, and it's hard to see Kansas stopping both Wells and Tackett simultaneously on the road. Kansas's 4-game win streak comes to an end in Austin. Texas 27, Kansas 24 Byes: Baylor (6-3), #18 Oklahoma State (7-2)
    17. Thursday Night Iowa State (2-7) at Oklahoma (5-4) This season, there are three games that are almost solely going to be about who can just run the dang ball. Iowa State lost the first one of those, failing to get off the ground (sorry) in q 21-3 loss to Texas Tech. The third will arrive soon, when the Red Raiders take on Oklahoma. But right now? Now, we get to see Oklahoma try and stop Kofi McCullough. And we get to see Iowa State try and stop Maurice White. These two star tailbacks are 3rd and 4th, respectively, among all Big XII rushers (Simeon Wells has overtaken them). Their offenses both revolve around the run. Yes, this is still true for Oklahoma, even as they've moved toward more offensive balance. Their continued reliance on the run is not for lack of trying to pass; it's lack of success. Since the switch Eric Pope is 45-69, which is a solid 65.2%. The problem is he's averaged just 183 yards per game while throwing 3 touchdown passes and 4 interceptions. With White to take the heat off of him and a bevy of elite receivers, Pope has to step up. He just has to. Oklahoma is 99th in the country in scoring offense. Their defense, however, has been a saving grace; they rank 35th there. Importantly, they pulverize the run. They give up just 3.8 yards per carry, and Texas Tech is the only Big XII team to give up fewer than Oklahoma's 67.4 rushing yards allowed per game. Kofi, my friend, you're going to be running into a headwind. That said, Iowa State's rushing success has depended heavily on the offensive line's ability to create holes for him; the redshirt freshman hasn't developed a lot of backfield elusiveness yet. The Sooners have a really young defensive line but they don't lack for talent in the front seven. Do-it-all junior Jeremy Green (41 tackles, 2 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 INT, 2 PD, 1 FF) stands out. So does tear-em-up defensive tackle David Kaiser (30 tackles, 4 TFL, 8.0 sacks, 1 FF). Their vulnerability doesn't really lie there; it's more that the defense has had to be nearly perfect to keep the offense in the game. Given that Iowa State has exactly one offensive threat and given that Oklahoma has been very, very good at defending that type of threat, I don't expect the Sooners to have a problem here. But if Pope and White don't take care of the ball, if the defensive front has an off day or McCullough has an on day, or heck, if Louis Dwyer can't shake the yips, Oklahoma is not invulnerable. But if they don't win this one, I'd be surprised. Oklahoma 17, Iowa State 10
    18. Change my View

      Defenses SMU has faced have allowed 25.4 points per game (excluding games against SMU, of course), the 82nd toughest mark in the country. Defenses Temple has faced have allowed 24.5 points per game (excluding games against Temple, of course), the 64th toughest mark in the country.
    19. Welcome to another edition of the Chicago Tribune's By the Numbers, a statistically minded look at the contenders and pretenders of the 2021 NFL season. We're through 12 weeks of the season, and every team has 11 games in the books. Some teams are fading, some are surging, and most are right on track heading into the all-important final five. As usual, we'll take a look at the numbers to try and get a sense of where everybody's going to be where the dust settles--and also note where everyone's win projection has moved since last time. Quick note: Strength of played schedule excludes games involving the team in question. Strength of remaining schedule does not--that is, if you've already played 1 of 2 games against a division opponent, that game will be counted in strength of remaining schedule. This is just due to the fact that the former adjustment is easier to put in a spreadsheet than the latter. No blurbs this time due to time constraints, but all the numbers remain. AFC East 1. Miami Dolphins (10-1) Scoring stats: 29.64 PF/game (5th), 15.64 PA/game (1st), +14.00 PD/game (1st) Strength of played schedule: 55-55 (0.500, 13th) Strength of remaining schedule: 21-34 (.382, 30th) Projected record: 13.8-2.2 (Δ -0.2 from midseason) Projected finish: 1st in AFC East, #1 seed in AFC playoffs 2. New York Jets (8-3) Scoring stats: 30.18 PF/game (2nd), 24.82 PA/game (18th), +5.36 PD/game (8th) Strength of played schedule: 48-62 (0.436, 29th) Strength of remaining schedule: 31-24 (.564, 7th) Projected record: 10.6-5.4 (Δ +0.2 from midseason) Projected finish: 2nd in AFC East, #5 seed in AFC playoffs 3. New England Patriots (5-6) Scoring stats: 26.45 PF/game (11th), 25.27 PA/game (20th), +1.18 PD/game (13th) Strength of played schedule: 58-52 (0.527, 9th) Strength of remaining schedule: 25-30 (.455, 22nd) Projected record: 7.6-8.4 (Δ -0.4 from midseason) Projected finish: 3rd in AFC East, miss playoffs, #14 overall pick plus Miami's projected #32 overall pick; Baltimore's projected #13 overall pick unlikely to convey 4. Buffalo Bills (3-8) Scoring stats: 18.09 PF/game (30th), 26.64 PA/game (26th), -8.55 PD/game (29th) Strength of played schedule: 52-58 (0.473, 22nd) Strength of remaining schedule: 30-25 (.545, 8th) Projected record: 4.9-11.1 (Δ -1.4 from midseason) Projected finish: 4th in AFC East, miss playoffs, #5 overall pick, plus Arizona's projected #8 overall pick, plus Houston's projected #12 overall pick AFC North T-1. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6) Scoring stats: 21.09 PF/game (25th), 20.45 PA/game (6th), +0.64 PD/game Strength of played schedule: 52-58 (0.473, 22nd) Strength of remaining schedule: 24-31 (.436, 23rd) Projected record: 7.7-8.3 (Δ +0.7 from midseason) Projected finish: 1st in AFC North, #4 seed in AFC playoffs T-1. Baltimore Ravens (5-6) Scoring stats: 24.09 PF/game (16th), 24.55 PA/game (17th), -0.45 PD/game (18th) Strength of played schedule: 55-55 (0.500, 13th) Strength of remaining schedule: 22-33 (.400, 27th) Projected record: 7.5-8.5 (Δ +/- 0.0 from midseason) Projected finish: 2nd in AFC North, miss playoffs, #13 overall pick 3. Cleveland Browns (4-7) Scoring stats: 22.27 PF/game (21st), 22.45 PA/game (12th), -0.18 PD/game (16th) Strength of played schedule: 58-52 (0.527, 9th) Strength of remaining schedule: 21-34 (.382, 30th) Projected record: 6.7-9.3 (Δ +1.5 from midseason) Projected finish: 3rd in AFC North, miss playoffs, #11 overall pick 4. Cincinnati Bengals (2-9) Scoring stats: 22.64 PF/game (20th), 32.09 PA/game (31st), -9.45 PD/game (30th) Strength of played schedule: 49-61 (0.445, 27th) Strength of remaining schedule: 29-26 (.527, 13th) Projected record: 3.6-12.4 (Δ -1.1 from midseason) Projected finish: 4th in AFC North, miss playoffs, #3 overall pick AFC South 1. Tennessee Titans (8-3) Scoring stats: 29.73 PF/game (4th), 23.45 PA/game (13th), +6.27 PD/game (7th) Strength of played schedule: 53-57 (0.482, 18th) Strength of remaining schedule: 23-32 (.418, 25th) Projected record: 11.2-4.8 (Δ +1.6 from midseason) Projected finish: 1st in AFC South, #2 seed in AFC playoffs T-2. Houston Texans (5-6) Scoring stats: 27.82 PF/game (8th), 30.55 PA/game (30th), -2.73 PD/game (23rd) Strength of played schedule: 51-59 (0.464, 25th) Strength of remaining schedule: 32-23 (.582, 5th) Projected record: 6.9-9.1 (Δ +0.6 from midseason) Projected finish: 3rd in AFC South, miss playoffs, #12 overall pick conveyed to Buffalo T-2. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-6) Scoring stats: 29.82 PF/game (3rd), 25.82 PA/game (22nd), +4.0 PD/game (9th) Strength of played schedule: 60-50 (0.545, 6th) Strength of remaining schedule: 27-28 (.491, 18th) Projected record: 7.9-8.1 (Δ -2.1 from midseason) Projected finish: 2nd in AFC South, miss playoffs, #15 overall pick 4. Indianapolis Colts (3-8) Scoring stats: 25.18 PF/game (12th), 28.18 PA/game (27th), -3.00 PD/game (24th) Strength of played schedule: 61-49 (0.555, 4th) Strength of remaining schedule: 30-25 (.545, 8th) Projected record: 5.3-10.7 (Δ -0.8 from midseason) Projected finish: 4th in AFC South, miss playoffs, #7 overall pick conveyed to Los Angeles Chargers AFC West T-1. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) Scoring stats: 21.82 PF/game (23rd), 22.00 PA/game (10th), -0.18 PD/game (16th) Strength of played schedule: 53-57 (0.482, 18th) Strength of remaining schedule: 23-32 (.418, 25th) Projected record: 9.6-6.4 (Δ -1.0 from midseason) Projected finish: 2nd in AFC West, #6 seed in AFC playoffs T-1. Las Vegas Raiders (7-4) Scoring stats: 32.09 PF/game (1st), 20.82 PA/game (7th), +11.27 PD/game (3rd) Strength of played schedule: 55-55 (0.500, 13th) Strength of remaining schedule: 27-28 (.491, 18th) Projected record: 10.5-5.5 (Δ -0.9 from midseason) Projected finish: 1st in AFC West, #3 seed in AFC playoffs 3. Denver Broncos (6-5) Scoring stats: 20.18 PF/game (26th), 21.00 PA/game (8th), -0.82 PD/game (19th) Strength of played schedule: 53-57 (0.482, 18th) Strength of remaining schedule: 28-27 (.509, 15th) Projected record: 8.4-7.6 (Δ +0.5 from midseason) Projected finish: 3rd in AFC West, miss playoffs, #17 overall pick 4. Los Angeles Chargers (1-10) Scoring stats: 18.27 PF/game (29th), 33.73 PA/game (32nd), -15.45 PD/game (31st) Strength of played schedule: 44-66 (0.400, 32nd) Strength of remaining schedule: 34-21 (.618, 3rd) Projected record: 2.1-13.9 (Δ +0.9 from midseason) Projected finish: 4th in AFC West, miss playoffs, #2 overall pick plus Indianapolis's projected #7 overall pick Projected AFC Playoffs #3 Las Vegas Raiders (-7) over #6 Kansas City Chiefs #5 New York Jets over #4 Pittsburgh Steelers (+1) #1 Miami Dolphins (-6.5) over #5 New York Jets #3 Las Vegas Raiders over #2 Tennessee Titans (+2) #1 Miami Dolphins (-3) over #3 Las Vegas Raiders ************************************************************************************************************************************ NFC East 1. Philadelphia Eagles (8-3) Scoring stats: 27.27 PF/game (9th), 19.45 PA/game (5th), +7.82 PD/game (5th) Strength of played schedule: 58-52 (0.527, 9th) Strength of remaining schedule: 22-33 (.400, 27th) Projected record: 11.4-4.6 (Δ -1.1 from midseason) Projected finish: 1st in NFC East, #3 seed in NFC playoffs 2. Dallas Cowboys (7-4) Scoring stats: 24.55 PF/game (14th), 16.64 PA/game (2nd), +7.91 PD/game (4th) Strength of played schedule: 71-39 (0.645, 1st) Strength of remaining schedule: 22-33 (.400, 27th) Projected record: 10.7-5.3 (Δ +0.2 from midseason) Projected finish: 2nd in NFC East, #5 seed in NFC playoffs 3. Washington Football Club (6-5) Scoring stats: 23.91 PF/game (19th), 23.55 PA/game (15th), +0.36 PD/game (15th) Strength of played schedule: 53-57 (0.482, 18th) Strength of remaining schedule: 30-25 (.545, 8th) Projected record: 8.3-7.7 (Δ +0.4 from midseason) Projected finish: 3rd in NFC East, miss playoffs, #16 overall pick 4. New York Giants (1-10) Scoring stats: 13.82 PF/game (32nd), 29.91 PA/game (29th), -16.09 PD/game (32nd) Strength of played schedule: 55-55 (0.500, 13th) Strength of remaining schedule: 34-21 (.618, 3rd) Projected record: 1.9-14.1 (Δ -0.3 from midseason) Projected finish: #4 in NFC East, miss playoffs, #1 overall pick NFC North 1. Green Bay Packers (10-1) Scoring stats: 24.00 PF/game (18th), 16.73 PA/game (3rd), +7.27 PD/game (6th) Strength of played schedule: 47-63 (0.427, 30th) Strength of remaining schedule: 29-26 (.527, 13th) Projected record: 13.0-3.0 (Δ -0.3 from midseason) Projected finish: 1st in NFC North, #1 seed in NFC playoffs 2. Chicago Bears (6-5) Scoring stats: 22.09 PF/game (22nd), 24.36 PA/game (16th), -2.27 PD/game (21st) Strength of played schedule: 46-64 (0.418, 31st) Strength of remaining schedule: 28-27 (.509, 15th) Projected record: 8.5-7.5 (Δ -0.9 from midseason) Projected finish: 2nd in NFC North, miss playoffs, #18 overall pick T-3. Detroit Lions (4-7) Scoring stats: 19.73 PF/game (27th), 22.00 PA/game (10th), -2.27 PD/game (21st) Strength of played schedule: 57-53 (0.518, 12th) Strength of remaining schedule: 26-29 (.473, 21st) Projected record: 6.7-9.3 (Δ +0.3 from midseason) Projected finish: 3rd in NFC North, miss playoffs, #10 overall pick T-3. Minnesota Vikings (4-7) Scoring stats: 21.18 PF/game (24th), 26.36 PA/game (24th), -5.18 PD/game (26th) Strength of played schedule: 60-50 (0.545, 6th) Strength of remaining schedule: 20-35 (.364, 32nd) Projected record: 6.1-9.9 (Δ +0.9 from midseason) Projected finish: 4th in NFC North, miss playoffs, #9 overall pick NFC South T-1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4) Scoring stats: 28.00 PF/game (7th), 25.27 PA/game (20th), +2.73 PD/game (10th) Strength of played schedule: 61-49 (0.555, 4th) Strength of remaining schedule: 27-28 (.491, 18th) Projected record: 9.67-6.33 (Δ +0.6 from midseason) Projected finish: 2nd in NFC South, #6 seed in NFC playoffs T-1. Atlanta Falcons (7-4) Scoring stats: 24.45 PF/game (15th), 21.91 PA/game (9th), +2.55 PD/game (11th) Strength of played schedule: 51-59 (0.464, 25th) Strength of remaining schedule: 35-20 (.636, 2nd) Projected record: 9.2-6.8 (Δ +2.6 from midseason) Projected finish: 3rd in NFC South, miss playoffs, #20 overall pick T-1. Carolina Panthers (7-4) Scoring stats: 27.27 PF/game (9th), 24.91 PA/game (19th), +2.36 PD/game (12th) Strength of played schedule: 66-44 (0.600, 2nd) Strength of remaining schedule: 32-23 (.582, 5th) Projected record: 9.72-6.28 (Δ +0.4 from midseason) Projected finish: 1st in NFC South, #4 seed in NFC playoffs 4. New Orleans Saints (6-5) Scoring stats: 24.91 PF/game (13th), 26.55 PA/game (25th), -1.64 PD/game (20th) Strength of played schedule: 64-46 (0.582, 3rd) Strength of remaining schedule: 24-31 (.436, 23rd) Projected record: 8.7-7.3 (Δ -0.4 from midseason) Projected finish: 4th in NFC South, miss playoffs, #19 overall pick NFC West 1. Los Angeles Rams (9-2) Scoring stats: 29.64 PF/game (5th), 17.36 PA/game (4th), +12.27 PD/game (2nd) Strength of played schedule: 54-56 (0.491, 17th) Strength of remaining schedule: 28-27 (.509, 15th) Projected record: 12.5-3.5 (Δ +1.7 from midseason) Projected finish: #1 in NFC West, #2 seed in NFC playoffs 2. Arizona Cardinals (4-7) Scoring stats: 18.55 PF/game (28th), 26.18 PA/game (23rd), -7.64 PD/game (28th) Strength of played schedule: 49-61 (0.445, 27th) Strength of remaining schedule: 36-19 (.655, 1st) Projected record: 5.6-10.4 (Δ -0.5 from midseason) Projected finish: 2nd in NFC west, miss playoffs, #8 overall pick conveyed to Buffalo, offset by the addition of Seattle's projected #4 overall pick T-3. San Francisco 49ers (3-8) Scoring stats: 24.09 PF/game (16th), 28.36 PA/game (28th), -4.27 PD/game (25th) Strength of played schedule: 59-51 (0.536, 8th) Strength of remaining schedule: 30-25 (.545, 8th) Projected record: 5.1-10.9 (Δ -0.1 from midseason) Projected finish: 3rd in NFC West, miss playoffs, #6 overall pick T-3. Seattle Seahawks (3-8) Scoring stats: 17.64 PF/game (31st), 23.45 PA/game (13th), -5.82 PD/game (27th) Strength of played schedule: 52-58 (0.473, 22nd) Strength of remaining schedule: 30-25 (.545, 8th) Projected record: 4.8-11.2 (Δ -1.6 from midseason) Projected finish: 4th in NFC West, miss playoffs, #4 overall pick conveyed to Arizona Projected NFC Playoffs #3 Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5) over #6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers #5 Dallas Cowboys over #4 Carolina Panthers (+2.5) #2 Los Angeles Rams (-3) over #3 Philadelphia Eagles #5 Dallas Cowboys over #1 Green Bay Packers (+2) #2 Los Angeles Rams (-1.5) over #5 Dallas Cowboys ************************************************************************************************************************************ Projected Super Bowl Miami Dolphins (-2) over Los Angeles Rams That does it for this edition of By the Numbers. Until next time, whenever that time may be!
    20. Change my View

      Kansas City and Dallas are the bottom two teams in passing yards. Both are on track to make the playoffs, with KC tied for the division lead. I would categorize Philadelphia as run focused (though not to the same extreme), and they lead a tough NFC East. Philly and Dallas are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. And I don't know how strictly you're defining post expansion, but Dallas won theirs in 2018.
    21. All-Time starting 5

      Magic, MJ, Bird, LeBron, Russell, coached by Mike Krzyzewski. Scottie Pippen as the sixth man.
    22. Is your jaw off the floor yet? This was a particularly incredible game in the nation's most exciting conference, and I'm still not sure I believe what I just saw. Rahim Murrell had arguably the best game a Kansas State quarterback has ever had, and his game gets last billing because of what happened elsewhere over the weekend. Kansas-Oklahoma went down to the wire, because that game's never not a good one. Baylor continued taking names, this time stunning Texas Tech in Lubbock. And third-ranked TCU? Undefeated no more, slain by a resurgent and extra-dangerous Oklahoma State. Let's talk about the games. Friday Night Kansas State 35, West Virginia 3 The Greatest: The most obvious takeaway is that Rahim Murrell had the best game of his career, surpassing his electric debut against Florida Atlantic by going 21-28 for 288 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. But to be frank, Murrell had the best single-game performance that any Kansas State quarterback has ever had. His 196.8 passer rating was the third-highest in school history, behind a pair of Marshall Newman efforts in 2016 and 2017. His 288 yards were the fourth-highest total by a Wildcat. It was just the sixth time a Wildcat had thrown for 3 touchdowns in a game. But what's most important is that it was the most complete performance. Harvey Fagan's legendary 503-yard, 6-touchdown performance against SMU was marred by 4 interceptions. Marshall Newman's two best games featured fewer than 20 passes each; Fagan attempted 28. The only other game in Kansas State history that featured 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions was Julius Minnow's effort against TCU in 2018; Minnow completed just 60% of his passes to Murrell's 75%. Record Rout: Not only did Murrell have the best day a Kansas State quarterback has ever had, but Kansas State as a team broke a nearly 6-year-old school record for margin of victory with their 32-point win. They took a 14-0 lead into the half, but really turned up the jets after the break. Jaiden Givens had a solid effort, going for 92 yards and a pair of scores on 18 carries. Three different players intercepted newly inserted West Virginia signal-caller Darren Lemons, and Javier Tovar (1.5 sacks, 2 other TFL, 3 other tackles) led a 4-sack effort that kept the Mountaineer offense off-balance all game. Tulane Remains: This season's quickly going from bad to worse for West Virginia, and their two best chances to avoid an oh-fer in conference play (a year after running the table, ironically enough) have come and gone. There's two pieces of good news. First of all, they don't have to leave Morgantown again. That'll be small comfort with Texas Tech and Texas coming into town as heavy favorites; however, they'll have a chance to close the season on a high note against 1-8 Tulane. Next up: As noted, West Virginia goes back home next. They're going to face Solomon McLaughlin and Texas Tech. It probably won't be pretty. Kansas State, meanwhile, goes on the road to TCU. That probably won't be pretty either, but the Wildcats are coming in with a bit of momentum and they would put themselves in the bowl conversation with a win. So maybe don't count them out, right? Saturday Afternoon Kansas 16, Oklahoma 13 D Stands Tall: A year after the highest-scoring War for the North in the history of the matchup, the Kansas and Oklahoma defenses came to play. Both teams allowed one touchdown and forced two turnovers. Both teams were held under 40% on third down. And there were just 29 combined points, down from an average of 51.4 per game. Oklahoma's Jaiden Witherspoon and Elijah Williams each picked off the normally steady Christian Graham (and batted down another pass apiece, to boot). David Kaiser was unblockable, racking up a sack and a pair of tackles for loss as the Sooners held Rod Fulton to 64 yards on 17 carries. They held Kansas to 16 points, but it just wasn't enough as the Jayhawk defense was just as fierce. Bradley Spurlock picked off Eric Pope, Albert Duke stripped Maurice White, and the Jayhawks held the Sooners to 266 yards and 13 points on the day. The Drill of Victory, the Agony of the Feet: We've said it time and time again, and we'll say it once more: kicking matters. Normally, both of these kickers are on their game. Joel Hawley was 3-for-3, hitting a 44-yarder in the first half and a pair of short-range kicks in the fourth quarter to keep Kansas ahead. And Louis Dwyer's an excellent kicker as well--but these have not been the best couple of weeks for him. He missed an extra point last week (and a 56-yarder, but that's forgivable). This time, he had the chance to tie the game at 16 with just over two minutes to play with a 44-yard attempt. The snap was good, the hold was good, and the kick...was off the upright. Oklahoma would not see the ball again. Instant Classic, As Scheduled: The Kansas-Oklahoma rivalry has consistently been among the Big XII's most exciting and most important, and this game was no exception. Kansas improved to 6-2 in the series, but this could just as easily be 6-2 Oklahoma given how close most of these games have been. This is the third KU-OU game to be decided by three points, and it's the sixth to be decided by one possession. In fact, this is the fourth consecutive game in the series to be decided by a possession--one game played in the teens, one in the 20s, one in the 30s, and one in the 40s. You never quite know what you're going to get, other than an instant classic. Next up: With the loss, Oklahoma drops to 5-4 (3-3), and things start to get a little bit dicier for them--but only a little. They should beat Iowa State. They really should. And if they do, they'll be bowl-eligible. If they don't, then beating Texas Tech or Oklahoma State will be harder. But they really should beat Iowa State. Kansas, for their part, is now 6-3 (4-2). They're probably not in the conference title game picture without a lot of help. But they'll travel to Texas to try and keep their 4-game winning streak alive, and they'll close with sub-.500 Iowa State and Kansas State. Jayhawk fans should be optimistic about the rest of their season. Saturday Evening Baylor 31, #22 Texas Tech 20 Olm-steady: Baylor scored 31 points on a tough Texas Tech defense, and it's hard to understate the role that redshirt freshman quarterback Caleb Olmsted's ability to stand and deliver under pressure played in this game. Olmsted completed 21 of his 35 attempts for 256 yards and a pair of scores. That's despite taking another 3 sacks and several more quarterback hurries. He's been one of the most pressured quarterbacks in the conference, he's thrown a lot of passes into coverage (12 have now been batted down this season)--but he still avoids actually turning it over, and he's good for a few absolutely beautiful throws per game. Even with two touchdowns from Miles Street (on 66 yards), this was Olmsted's show. Dropping the Ball: When you're carrying the ball 26.8 times per game, eventually you're gonna take a few licks. And when you take a few licks, eventually one of those is going to jar the ball loose. That was the case on a crucial possession in the 3rd quarter, when Ezekiel Sewell was able to jar the ball loose from the normally steady Solomon McLaughlin. Andrew Newton fell on it for the Baylor takeaway, and that would lead to a Street touchdown run on the other end to put the Bears up 24-10 in Lubbock. To be fair to the superstar sophomore, McLaughlin had a fantastic day otherwise. He put up another 111 yards on 26 carries, scoring both of his team's touchdowns in the process. But the fumble is his third of the season: Texas Tech is 0-3 now when he fumbles, and 6-0 when he doesn't. Home Field Disadvantage: Oklahoma State lost to Kansas. Texas lost to Texas Tech. Oklahoma lost to Baylor. Texas Tech also lost to Baylor. This marks the fourth consecutive week that a ranked Big XII team has lost at home to an unranked opponent, and all four times it's been a different team. Related: there's not a ton of separation in the nation's most exciting conference. Anyone is capable of beating anyone, anywhere, and you have to be on your guard at all times. Until now, the only semblance of predictability was TCU's unbeaten run. ...We'll talk about that next. Up next: Texas Tech drops to 6-3 (4-2), but they still control their destiny in the race for the Big XII title game. This was their final home game of the season, but they should be able to knock off West Virginia on the road. That will lead them to a pivotal week 14 matchup in Stillwater. The winner of that game will be a favorite to make it to the championship, though Oklahoma will have the opportunity to play spoiler to both teams in the final two weeks. At 6-3 (4-3), Baylor's been wading through the thick of their schedule. They get a well-earned bye in week 13 before hitting the road to take on a tough Arizona. They then get Oklahoma State at home and TCU on the road to close out the regular season. Not easy, but play like this and who knows? Oklahoma State 20, #3 TCU 16 Out of Luck: The biggest test of the season for Oklahoma State's pass defense was a resounding success, as the Cowboys did nothing less than pour dry ice on Felix Luck's hot streak. They held Luck to 208 yards, the lowest total he's recorded all season. They held him to 59.5% passing. They held him to 5.6 yards per attempt. They gave up one touchdown through the air (or at all), and both Sebastian Byrd and Khalil Goodson recorded an interception. By passer rating (104.8), it's the third-worst game Luck's had all season--better only than his efforts against Tennessee and LSU. Other times, that was enough to ride the crest of the defense's wave. But... Keep Moving Forward: Oklahoma State didn't have a lot of negative plays, and they didn't have a lot of zero plays. It should be noted that this is highly unusual against a talented and aggressive TCU defense. Normally, they put pressure on you; Oklahoma State kept the pocket clean for Ian Baldwin. Normally, they jump routes and cover all over the field; Ian Baldwin completed 19 of 25 passes with only 1 touchdown but "only" 1 interception. Normally, the deep ball is just plain not an option against the Horned Frogs' safeties; Baldwin averaged an even 10 yards per attempt. Normally, they stop runningbacks in their tracks; Barack Holmes's 40-yard touchdown run was part of a 22-carry, 124-yard effort that kept the TCU defense off-balance and on its toes the whole game. Put simply, Oklahoma State's offense checked off every box it needed in order to give the team a shot. Hearts of Iron, Legs of Mortals: Both kickers in this game were asked to pull off truly Herculean feats. TCU's William Finn was trotted out five times. He nailed attempts from 43, 44, and 25 to account for all of TCU's second-half points. He was also asked to try from 57 at the end of the first half and 53 later on, and neither attempt proved to be within his capability--his career-long is an even 50 yards, and he's 2-7 from that range and beyond after Saturday. Ralph Hinson's day was surprisingly similar. He hit a pair of field goals, one from 38 and one from 36. He was also asked to attempt one from 55, and it wasn't particularly close either. He's never hit one longer than 45 and is now 0-3 from 50-plus. It wouldn't be hard to blame either coach for punting in opposing territory on 4th-and-long at this point. Sixty Free Yards: Sometimes the little things can make a big difference. Maybe a few extra yards here and there puts you in slightly better field position, which turns a couple of kicks from just outside of William Finn's range into an easily executable pair of chip shots. Finding little edges can matter, and Oklahoma State's discipline gave them that little edge. They committed just 3 penalties for 15 yards; TCU was penalized 9 times for 75 yards. It's not always obvious how long an advantage gained by those few yards persists, but it only just has to last long enough. New World Order: Oklahoma State's win rocked the Big XII picture, and all of a sudden the Cowboys are in the pole position as we begin the home stretch of the 2021 regular season. They're tied with TCU at 5-1 in the conference. Kansas and Texas Tech are a game back in the loss column, followed by the trio of Oklahoma, Baylor, and Texas. So if the season ended right now, we would have a rematch of this game for the conference championship. If one were to bet on the participants in the conference title game, it would be hard to pick against these two--whereas last week, Texas Tech would have been a dark horse candidate. That said, things have been changing on a week-to-week basis. Both teams will have their work cut out for them as they look to maintain their edge. Next up: TCU drops to 8-1 (5-1) and will welcome Kansas State with a mind set on taking out their frustration from this game on the nearest available target. They'll have a bye before closing with Texas on the road and Baylor at home. Oklahoma State is going to rise into the nation's top 25, and they'll get a bye week before they have to defend that. When they get past that, they'll have a potentially decisive game against Texas Tech followed by another pair of challenging games at Baylor and at home against Oklahoma. Neither of these teams will have it easy. The nation's most exciting conference wouldn't have it any other way. Byes: Iowa State (2-7), Texas (5-4)
    23. Who was your worst player to ever start?

      I really think you gotta go with Blank for that one. It's certainly possible (though not easy) for a DE to make at least a bit of an impact without making a statsheet. Blank was truly, truly bad, to the point where his season was barely better than what Vaughn Sheppard's doing as a 1.0/4.5. I don't know how well wins above replacement would fit in football, but if we had that stat I'd bet Blank's would be negative. As for my own answer, Paul Gibbs. There were a few times when he looked like he was going to be useful, especially as a 5.0/5.0. It was all a lie. He was terrible. He never demonstrated speed as a speed back. He lost 3 fumbles in 25 games back when fumbles were a lot rarer than they are now. He had nine 100-yard rushing games with a run-first team. He was our starting RB for the only two times we lost to Kansas State, for a loss to Oklahoma, and for a 2-10 season. I thought it might have been my coaching (and that's certainly still a factor), then he came out as a 77 as a 5.0/5.0 and has regressed every year since then. As Michael Scott once said (presumably about Paul Gibbs), "I hate so much about the things that you choose to be."
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