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Everything posted by stormstopper

  1. Those are the only five. All teams prior to that expansion have made the playoffs at least once.
  2. What a game.
  3. Sic semper Aaronis
  4. We back. With the break coming to an end, there's no time to waste before action from the nation's most exciting conference is back in your stadiums and back on your TV sets. Whether it's a rematch of last year's title game superfight, whether it's a fistfight between two programs trying to break a spiral, whether it's a quarterback duel between a pair of gunslingers, or whether it's the debut of Oscar Strange, we've got you covered. With one Big XII game in each of the first four time slots, there's no need to miss any of the action--so without further ado, let's talk about the games. Thursday Night Oklahoma (1-5) at Baylor (3-3)* Beginning the week, we have a rematch of last year's Big XII Championship Game, a titanic matchup between the #4 and #7 teams in the country that both went on to the College Football Playoff. The tables have turned more than a bit on both squads, each of whom lost a lot off of last year's team, but we're looking at a high-quality matchup nonetheless despite the teams' records. Oklahoma seems to have found new life, springing free from the ranks of the winless with a 31-23 win in the Red River Shootout. And Baylor...well, they took two steps forward to open conference play before taking an epic step back by being the first Big XII team to lose to Kansas State since 2017. With the rest of Baylor's schedule being tough, with a light suddenly at the end of Oklahoma's tunnel, this game has become a postseason elimination game. So, what are we going to see? The Sooners had a lot of struggles early in the year stopping dual-threat quarterback-based offenses from doing basically whatever they wanted. They bottled up Texas's offense, though, holding Kyler Tackett to 203 yards, a touchdown, and an interception on 18-32 passing and holding Simeon Wells to 70 yards on 18 carries. They're going to want to dust off that same playbook against Baylor: just as Texas didn't really make any use out of Wells, Baylor doesn't make a lot of use out of Nasir Burden. They rely on Marcus Swartz and his downfield playmakers to move the ball in chunks. That's netted them three 40-point games, but a rare bad game from Swartz (such as his 17-32 for 190 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions against Kansas State) dooms the entire offense. Oklahoma's secondary hasn't demonstrated the ability to consistently hang with elite receivers, so expect Lamont Wilder and Hastin Rider to give them trouble--but maybe don't write them off just yet, because Oklahoma's success against Texas came right after some reportedly significant changes in their defensive scheme. Meanwhile, Oklahoma's offensive success is going to come down to one thing: can they run the dang ball on Baylor? Maurice White's 126.2 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry lead the Big XII, and the Sooners' 61.5% run rate is higher than any Big XII team outside of Lubbock. That's not going to change after a 31-point effort, but that also isn't something that should bother Baylor. The Bears give up just 3.9 yards per carry and 81.3 rushing yards per game, and they held Texas Tech's even more run-heavy attack to just 13 points. That's the biggest difference-maker in this game, most likely. I'd normally be worried about Oklahoma's receiver depth against Baylor's secondary, but Oklahoma doesn't use their receiver depth at all. Oklahoma needs this upset to have a shot at an incredible turnaround. I think they'll be denied. Baylor 35, Oklahoma 21 Friday Night Texas (4-3) at Texas Tech (4-3)* What a difference five weeks makes. After week 5, these were two of the hottest teams in the Big XII. Texas was 3-0, having knocked off Boise State, revenge-slain Oregon on the road, and blown out Texas A&M. Texas Tech was 4-0 and exceeding preseason expectations by a lot, coming off of hard-fought wins over Washington and Oklahoma shortly after routing Boise State and North Carolina. Then week 6 came around, and the axles broke. Defense became a struggle: Texas has given up 34.75 points per game over their last four, and Texas Tech's been marginally better at 32.0 over their last three. Offense has been inconsistent and too often it's not been enough. Texas Tech hasn't won any of their three games since week 5; Texas has dropped 3 of 4, including the Red River Shootout loss and a game they managed to drop despite only allowing one touchdown. For you Big XII historians out there, this matchup conjures up memories of 2014, when Texas ended their 3-game losing streak by extending Shaun Evans's Texas Tech's misery to a fifth straight game. And the Shaun Evans reference is apt as well, considering how often Texas Tech runs the ball and how heavily they've relied on Solomon McLaughlin. Solomon McLaughlin has put up a Big XII-high 870 yards and 13 touchdowns on more than 4.5 yards per carry, and Chase Shapiro has yet to throw his 100th pass of the season. Despite Texas's strength in the front seven, that's maybe actually a matchup advantage for the Red Raiders--because that strength on paper hasn't translated all that well to the statsheet. The Longhorns gave up 142 yards and 3 scores on the ground to West Virginia, and they gave up 180 yards and 3 scores on the ground to Oklahoma. They've given up a conference-high 14 rushing touchdowns, and they've given up 112.1 yards per game on the ground. They're getting gashed up the middle, where defensive tackle Jamal Robinson's struggled in the nose tackle role while Nehemiah Staples has had to essentially play two positions and cover for will linebacker Thomas Eason. The pass defense hasn't been better-than-average either (which is un-Texas-like), but Texas Tech can't really take advantage even if they try. I think the big question in this game, though, is what Texas's offense is going to look like. Kyler Tackett's accuracy has dropped off in stages over the course of the year. He completed around 70% of his passes for three games, dropped to 65%-ish for two more, and has been in the mid-50s for the last pair. They'll need him to be consistent on a down-to-down basis against Texas Tech, which allows a 65.4% completion percentage (the second-worst rate in the Big XII) but whose safeties hold opponents under 11.3 yards per completion (the second-best). But the other trend to watch is Simeon Wells. The true sophomore has been a bellwether for the team's success: Texas is 3-0 when he hits 100 yards and 4-0 when he gets 21 carries; they're 4-3 overall. Wells earns nearly 4.9 yards per carry in wins and just over 4.1 in losses. Yes, correlation doesn't equal causation. But given that Tackett can't carry an offense by himself, that Steven Maloney is the only real playmaker downfield for Texas, and that challenging Cameron Riley is not an efficient way to beat Texas Tech, Wells has to see usage and has to be effective. I'm not really sure what to expect out of this one, but Texas Tech's last five weeks have at least made sense. Texas's haven't. I think the Red Raiders will rebound first. Texas Tech 20, Texas 16 Saturday Morning Kansas State (5-2) at #23 West Virginia (4-2)* This one could be a blowout--or it could get real fun real quick. Taking the field in this game is the best quarterback in the Big XII, and standing on the other sideline is the Big XII's most...shall we say, free-wheeling passer. Tied for second in the conference in passing touchdowns, Mohammed Foster and Rahim Murrell both bring the fireworks. Foster leads the Big XII in most statistical categories that can be defined as positive, including the following: completion percentage, yards per attempt, yards per completion, yards per game, touchdown-interception ratio, and passer rating. Elite dual-threat quarterbacks are inherently hard to contain, but Kansas State's had a bit of practice. They hassled Marcus Swartz into his worst game of the season in their first conference win since 2017. And that's not a coincidence--they do what you need to do against scramblers. They rush the passer to the tune of 11 sacks this season, they limit downfield options and avoid allowing the home-run play (10.8 yards allowed per completion), they get good help from their linebackers, and they force opponents to beat them on the ground. Sure, that means letting a scrambler scramble, but that's a second option to guys like Swartz or Foster. So that means J.C. Weldon, Elias Langston, and Jason Dupree will do what they can to establish the pass against a Wildcat defense that really can't cover them one-on-one. And do expect West Virginia to look to Mohamed Mustafa: he averages less than 4.5 yards per carry, but Kansas State actually gives up a tick more than that per game. Kansas State is going to have a devil of a time trying to stop this offense that averages more than 35 points per game. So how will they score on this defense that's given up 17 points per game over their last four games? It's not impossible. Rahim Murrell can be a capable passer when he's on, evidenced by his seven straight games with a touchdown pass and his four multi-touchdown games. He can also throw his way into trouble, as evidenced by his seven straight games with an interception and his five multi-pick games. Good Rahim has to show up on every single pass; a single mistake can turn the game on its had. West Virginia's secondary is thin, and Kansas State has four guys who can be productive. Devon Tillman needs to be a deep threat. Damani Askew and Jhonny Palacios need to show up in the red zone. Ricky Seau needs to continue his streak of doing something at all. And Elijah Humphrey needs to keep setting the table, delivering manageable second- and third-down scenarios, and punching it in at the goal line. But West Virginia's defense has gone to another level this season. They've allowed 4 passing touchdowns, 5 interceptions, and 185 passing yards per game in their last four. They've allowed fewer than 87 rushing yards per game and just over 4.2 yards per carry for the season. Kansas State could play the best game of its season and still fall short in this one--and that's just a testament to how good West Virginia's been on all fronts. #23 West Virginia 38, Kansas State 20 Saturday Afternoon TCU (3-3) at Iowa State (1-6)* The unofficial motto in Ames this week is "Third time's the charm." With the offense falling off cliff's edge under August Blank and drawing a total blank under Peter Edge, it's now a chance for Oscar Strange to get his chance under center. Strange, a fifth-year senior out of oil country in northwestern North Dakota, has bounced between third and fourth string during his time in Ames--but without anybody providing a better option, he's now being tabbed for QB1. In order for his debut to go better than Peter Edge's did...well, first, he'll have to hope TCU's defense takes pity on him. The Frog secondary might give up an above-average number of passing yards per game (234.5), but that's only because they see more reps than average. Per-pass, they've been good: their 58.65% completion percentage allowed, their 6.76 yards allowed per attempt, and their 126.2 passer rating allowed rank 2nd, 2nd, and 4th in the conference, respectively. TCU could stand to force more turnovers, and they could stand to have a better third down shutdown rate (their 70% mark is the second-worst in the conference), but there's already enough obstacles for Strange to navigate. Second, he'll need help. Can Josiah Edmonds do better than his 3.7-YPC average against a defense that gives up 3.8 yards per carry? Can leading receiver Sincere Spikes get into the form he displayed with 163 yards in a two-game span earlier this season? Can Elliott Efi, the top receiver on the depth chart, get to 56 yards in a game for the first time all season? Will a third receiving option respond to the APB put out weeks ago? If not (I'm betting on not), this is going to be a long, long day in Ames. I'd say it would be up to the defense to make this game competitive, but that unit's been AWOL as well. The Kansas State loss was the first time it didn't give up 30 points in a game in conference play--and to its credit, the defense had them dead to rights if it weren't for Shawn Reyes's pick-six. TCU's offense has been off its game the last couple of weeks, scoring 16 in a win over Kansas and 14 in a loss to West Virginia. That's the price of a freshman-heavy unit; the upside is that they also hit 30+ points in three straight games earlier in the year. Sam Milner only averages 170.8 yards per game through the air on 59% passing, throwing 7 touchdowns to 7 interceptions with one rushing touchdown; Shamar Burroughs has added 98.8 yards per game on the ground on 4.3 yards per carry with exactly 1 touchdown in every game this season. TCU's receivers haven't really done much for the offense, though: Griffin McHanna (242 yards) and Finn Nielsen (231 yards) rank 22nd and 23rd in the conference in receiving yardage, and they've combined for one game of 61 yards or better. That's really the only area where Iowa State has a real advantage over TCU, and they'd need a best-case scenario game from Strange in order to actually do anything about it. This is gonna be TCU all the way. TCU 33, Iowa State 16 Byes: Kansas (4-3), #24 Oklahoma State (6-1)
  5. Rod Fulton:
  6. Congratulations to David and David on making a second straight Pro Bowl!
  7. With the college football season more than halfway over, it's never too early to start thinking about, dreaming about, or planning for the postseason. So with that in mind, the Chicago Tribune data labs have been hard at work developing a projection model for the remainder of the season. It's based heavily on the Adjusted Margin of Victory model, and it essentially translates the point spread into a win probability using historical data. Those win probabilities are added to each team's current win-loss record for the full schedule for the remainder of the season to project each team's end-of-season total. The win probability for every game and resulting projected standings can be found here: And with that, we'll go into a deep dive into the projected picture for every division. We'll look at the numbers and the schedules, using them to paint as complete a picture as possible of each division's championship race as well as break down which teams are in the bowl hunt. We'll highlight some teams that aren't obvious, take a look at the work teams need to do, point out areas where the numbers don't tell the whole story--and point out areas where the numbers might tell a different story than the eye test. And, of course, we'll make our best guesses for who will be the nine conference champions this season. AAC East 1. UCF (11.04-0.97, 7.07-0.93 AAC) 2. USF (10.74-1.26, 6.74-1.26 AAC) 3. Temple (8.2-3.81, 6.2-1.81 AAC) 4. East Carolina (7.31-4.69, 4.31-3.69 AAC) 5. Connecticut (4.65-7.35, 2.85-5.15 AAC) 6. Cincinnati (2.81-9.19, 1.21-6.8 AAC) The AAC East is top-heavy, but its top layer manages to make up half the division. UCF and USF are both undefeated and stand nonzero chances of remaining undefeated through the end of the season--though we expect Temple to interrupt at least one of them and challenge for the East crown. In fact, we give the Owls a 40.6% shot to knock off the Bulls and even a 32.3% chance to defeat the Knights. Either would be a minor upset, but there's a reason Temple's projected to win 6.2 conference games. East Carolina is probably not going to win the division because it'll likely take a 7-1 record (or 6-2 with a tiebreaker) and ECU's already dropped two games--but they could play spoiler against UCF (19.4%) or Temple (35.9%). Both UCF and USF have clinched bowl appearances, Temple's on the cusp at 5-2 with Cincinnati and Navy still on the schedule, and East Carolina's in strong position at 4-3 with Tulane, UMass, and Memphis all left. UConn's probably out of the bowl hunt due to facing SMU, UCF, and USF in the back half and already sitting at 2-4; Cincinnati's 1-6 but could still snag another win or two before season's end even if they won't be headed to a bowl game. AAC West 1. SMU (10.1-1.9, 6.1-1.9 AAC) 2. Houston (6.82-5.18, 3.82-4.18 AAC) 3. Tulsa (3.56-8.44, 2.9-5.1 AAC) 4. Navy (2.74-9.26, 2.37-5.63 AAC) 5. Memphis (4.33-7.67, 2.33-5.67 AAC) 6. Tulane (2.36-9.65, 2.11-5.89 AAC) SMU is probably going to win the AAC West, and not just because they're the best team in the division. They've been one of the biggest misses in the preseason projections, floating around the mid-50s after their loss to UCF instead of the upper echelon as projected. But the rest of the division's been awful, with Houston (4-3) being the only other team with a winning record. And consequently, SMU's remaining schedule is a cakewalk: the Mustangs' next 4 opponents have 7 combined wins (Memphis has 3 of them). They could sweep those and clinch the division before playing Houston in the only division game in which they might break a sweat--and even then, we give them a 74.6% chance of winning. The only way SMU could lose the division is if Houston runs the table, and the Cougars still have a road date at USF (11.4% for Houston). SMU has already clinched a bowl bid. Houston can clinch with a win over UMass (virtually assured) plus a win over either Memphis or Tulsa (favored in both). Don't rule out a Memphis bowl just yet: they're only 3-4, but if they knock out Navy and UConn in their next two games as slight underdogs then they'll just be one upset away. Our pick: UCF (87.1%) over SMU ACC Atlantic 1. Clemson (8.98-3.02, 6.25-1.75 ACC) 2. Louisville (7.82-4.19, 4.82-3.19 ACC) 3. Syracuse (5.95-6.05, 4.65-3.35 ACC) 4. Florida State (6.39-5.61, 3.92-4.08 ACC) 5. Boston College (3.73-8.28, 3.73-4.28 ACC) 6. Wake Forest (3.14-8.86, 2.14-5.86 ACC) 7. NC State (2.09-9.91, 1.09-6.91 ACC) The biggest story in ACC territory has been the rise of the Coastal and the fall of the Atlantic. With Clemson taking a stumble, Florida State and Syracuse falling off a ledge, and Boston College falling off a cliff entirely, that's left nobody to be a standard-bearer and it's left a wide-open division. Louisville got hot with a 5-game winning streak that included wins over BC and Clemson, only for FSU to get their first ACC win against the Cardinals. The Tribune numbers still like Clemson despite the Louisville loss for a couple reasons: it's arguable whether or not they're the best team in the Atlantic, but they're easily the most likely to get to a 6-2 conference record. They've got 3 in the books, they haven't played Wake Forest, NC State, or Boston College, and they've already won their cross-division games. Florida State is their most challenging game left by far (63.1% for Clemson), whereas Louisville has Virginia (10.9% for Louisville) and Syracuse has Pittsburgh (6.3% for Syracuse). Keep in mind, though, that Louisville and Syracuse play each other in a coin-flip game--one of them will be knocked out in week 12 while the other will have a shot at the division crown if they run the table (or if Clemson stumbles). As an aside, Florida State is probably out of the race already with a 1-3 conference record, though they'd be competitive in a four-way 5-3 logjam with Louisville, Clemson, and Syracuse as long as Louisville beats Syracuse. Florida State (3-4) is one of three teams in the country that is under .500 but is projected to make a bowl game--having NC State, Wake Forest, and Miami on their schedule certainly helps out with that and I'd be surprised if they didn't make it. Clemson and Louisville are near-locks to go bowling at 5-2. Syracuse (3-3) needs to win one of their next two games (moderate underdogs against Notre Dame, slight favorites against Boston College) to have a good shot; win both and they'll be a near-lock. Boston College is in too deep a hole to climb out of, and neither of the Tobacco Road schools are in the conversation. ACC Coastal 1. Virginia (11.73-0.27, 7.73-0.27 ACC) 2. Pittsburgh (10.73-1.27, 6.73-1.27 ACC) 3. Duke (9.43-2.57, 5.43-2.57 ACC) 4. Virginia Tech (5.58-6.42, 3.58-4.42 ACC) 5. North Carolina (5.15-6.85, 3.1-4.9 ACC) 6. Miami (FL) (1.71-10.29, 1.45-6.55 ACC) 7. Georgia Tech (2.39-9.61, 1.38-6.62 ACC) One of the surprises when reviewing these numbers was Virginia's projected win total nearly matching Air Force's. But at 7-0 with their best opponents already in the dust, it would be a true upset if Virginia were to lose any of the remaining games on their schedule. Their road date with Louisville is their best chance to lose (and again, only a 10.9% chance of losing), but the Cavs are a real-deal team with a tiebreaker over Pittsburgh and Duke. They don't actually need to win that game to win the division. Meanwhile, Pitt actually ranks #1 in the ACC in Adjusted Margin of Victory, so they're by definition expected to win the remainder of their games as well. They're 79.9% favorites at Duke, they're on pace to be near-locks to win at Syracuse, and the remaining three teams they play--Miami, Georgia Tech, NC State--don't have a pulse. Duke should be able to finish 3rd even if they don't beat Pitt--their last four opponents are Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina. They could see an upset in that stretch and still finish 9-3 (5-3), and that would still be an historic season for the program. Virginia, Pitt, and Duke have all clinched bowl bids. Miami and Georgia Tech will almost certainly be staying home, but Virginia Tech and North Carolina are still in limbo. The Hokies have a path to it: beat Georgia Tech, Miami, and either Duke or Boston College. But that's easier said than done considering that the BC game is a toss-up and they'd be 34.9% underdogs against the Blue Devils. North Carolina only needs two wins, but they also are about to hit the meat of their schedule: Virginia, Louisville, Vanderbilt, and Duke before they close against NC State. I'm not sure which of the two has the harder path. Our pick: Virginia (74.6%) over Clemson Big Ten East 1. Penn State (10.57-1.43, 8.57-0.43 Big Ten) 2. Michigan State (9.51-2.49, 6.51-2.49 Big Ten) 3. Michigan (9.21-2.79, 6.21-2.79 Big Ten) 4. Maryland (8.00-4.00, 5.00-4.00 Big Ten) 5. Ohio State (2.67-9.33, 2.67-6.33 Big Ten) 6. Indiana (3.29-8.71, 1.29-7.71 Big Ten) 7. Rutgers (1.75-10.25, 0.75-8.25 Big Ten) Penn State already has a leg up on the rest of the division with an unblemished 4-0 conference record. But Michigan, Michigan State, and Maryland aren't far behind right now (all 3-1) and have a legitimate shot at the division. Maryland's expected to fall behind as the season goes on, but this division is likely to come down to head-to-head and cross-division play. Michigan scored the first blow in the former, knocking Michigan State from the ranks of the undefeated. But the Wolverines' next four games are not enviable: at Maryland, Minnesota, at Penn State, at Wisconsin. Michigan State's two toughest games remaining are Maryland and Penn State at home. Penn State's already won two cross-division games and shouldn't have a problem with Nebraska, but they also don't face any of their division challengers until after week 12--and then they face all three in a row to close the season. If Michigan stumbles in their next four games (particularly against Penn State), then we could have a showdown for the division between Penn State and Michigan State in East Lansing during week 16--and Penn State is projected to be heavily favored at 89.3%. The bowl picture is simple: the top four teams have all clinched bowl spots, and the bottom three will not make it. Ohio State is on pace for their worst season ever, by far. They're 1-5 right now without having played Illinois, Michigan State, or Michigan. This will likely be their first-ever season in which they've been ineligible entirely for a bowl. Big Ten West 1. Purdue (10.92-1.08, 7.92-1.08 Big Ten) 2. Illinois (10.12-1.88, 7.12-1.88 Big Ten) 3. Iowa (7.26-4.74, 5.26-3.74 Big Ten) 4. Wisconsin (6.68-5.32, 4.68-4.32 Big Ten) 5. Minnesota (7.27-4.73, 4.27-4.73 Big Ten) 6. Nebraska (3.97-8.03, 2.23-6.77 Big Ten) 7. Northwestern (0.64-11.36, 0.53-8.48 Big Ten) The West is the deeper division in the Big Ten, with five teams over .500 and two projected 10-win teams. Purdue has been scoring like there's no tomorrow and Illinois's been defending like crazy--and their loss to Iowa looks less weird given how close Iowa played Penn State. The Illini are the only team currently within a game of the Boilermakers, and it's likely that the division will be decided between the two in West Lafayette in week 11. If Purdue wins that one (they have a 60.6% chance to do so), they would be two games up on the whole division with three games to play--and one of those is against Indiana. They would have to lose to both Minnesota and Iowa, and then lose the tiebreaker. If Illinois wins it, then they close with Ohio State, Indiana, Rutgers, and Northwestern--4 teams that have combined for 4 wins--and they could easily finish 8-1 with the tiebreaker over Purdue. Iowa or Minnesota would need to run the table and get lucky to even have a shot. Purdue and Illinois have clinched bowl bids. Minnesota is on the cusp at 5-2 and should be able to close it out against Northwestern--which is fortunate, because their final four games (Michigan, Purdue, Iowa, Wisconsin) are no gimmes. Iowa and Wisconsin are each sitting at 4-3. Both should reach a fifth win in week 10 (Iowa at Nebraska, Wisconsin at Indiana), and Iowa ought to be able to secure it in week 11 against Ohio State. They also play each other in week 13, so one of them will almost assuredly be in the postseason. Wisconsin also has Maryland week 11, Michigan week 15, and Minnesota week 16--none of which are gimmes, but none of which are unwinnable. Lastly, don't rule out 2-5 Nebraska! They have a huge uphill battle. They have to beat either Iowa or Penn State--if they lose both, they're mathematically eliminated. But after that, Ohio State, Miami, and Northwestern lurk. All of those are winnable. Don't bet on it without getting some nice odds, but don't rule it out either. Our pick: Penn State (75.1%) over Purdue Big XII Conference 1. West Virginia (8.81-3.19, 7.81-1.19 Big XII) 2. Kansas (7.18-4.82, 6.18-2.82 Big XII) 3. Oklahoma State (9.15-2.85, 6.15-2.85 Big XII) 4. TCU (6.65-5.35, 5.65-3.35 Big XII) 5. Baylor (6.07-5.93, 5.07-3.93 Big XII) 6. Texas Tech (7.12-4.88, 4.12-4.88 Big XII) 7. Texas (6.23-5.77, 3.23-5.77 Big XII) 8. Oklahoma (3.22-8.78, 3.22-5.78 Big XII) 9. Kansas State (5.61-6.39, 2.61-6.39 Big XII) 10. Iowa State (1.95-10.05, 0.95-8.05 Big XII) The Big XII is a logjam right now, and it's projected to remain a logjam by season's end: four teams are projected to win between 5.0 and 6.2 games in conference play to earn the right to play West Virginia in the conference title game. The Mountaineers are runaway conference favorites but not invulnerable ones--they're favored in every remaining individual game, but they're not favored to win all of them as a whole. That's okay, though: they'd have to hit a serious slump to do worse than the 7-2 record that would probably be good enough to get into the Big XII Championship Game. Whether any of the next four can hit 7-2 is the big question--otherwise, it'll likely come down to a tiebreaker at 6-3. The second highest-rated team by AMoV is already virtually eliminated from title contention--#29 Texas Tech is 1-3 and still hasn't played TCU or West Virginia. #33 Oklahoma State is next but loses the tiebreaker to #34 Kansas, who loses the tiebreaker to #43 TCU. And #46 Baylor is in the mix in theory, but their loss to Kansas State could keep them a game back and a game out. Meanwhile, the Big XII could get as many as 8 teams into bowl games--but 6 of them have a margin of error of 1.2 games or fewer. Oklahoma State's clinched a bowl bid at 6-1. West Virginia's 4-2 but should be able to make it without a problem. Kansas, Texas, and Texas Tech are all 4-3 and have a good shot--Texas's lower projection is because they only have one of the Kansas State-Iowa State-Oklahoma trio remaining whereas the other two have two apiece. Baylor's 3-3 and on a razor's edge at this point. They don't have an easy path to 6 wins, but they don't have an impossible one either. (If they don't beat Oklahoma on Thursday, it does become impossible.) TCU is also 3-3, but they should be able to sweep Iowa State and Oklahoma and find one more win somewhere. Kansas State is the weird one on this list: they're not projected for a bowl game despite already being 5-2. They just haven't been able to move the Adjusted Margin of Victory needle at all, mainly because they've beaten bad teams close (which the stat is literally designed to punish). When they beat Baylor, they were 20-point underdogs. As of now, they're 32.3% underdogs against Oklahoma and 6%-12% underdogs in each game on the rest of their schedule. But being at 5.6 projected wins means that it's still reasonable to expect the Wildcats will pull one more upset this season--and one is all they need. Our pick: West Virginia (67.7%) over Kansas C-USA East 1. Western Kentucky (7.09-4.91, 7.09-0.91 C-USA) 2. Florida Atlantic (5.59-6.41, 5.59-2.41 C-USA) 3. Old Dominion (4.65-7.35, 4.65-3.35 C-USA) 4. Charlotte (3.19-8.81, 3.19-4.81 C-USA) 5. Marshall (3.14-8.86, 3.14-4.86 C-USA) 6. Middle Tennessee (3.08-8.92, 3.08-4.92 C-USA) 7. Florida International (1.47-10.53, 1.47-6.53 C-USA) With Marshall in freefall, the East was set to become a free-for-all. So far, Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic have risen out of the chaos, racing off to twin 3-0 starts in conference play. The numbers tend to favor Western Kentucky, who played Oklahoma State and East Carolina close and collected their three wins by an average of 12.3 points per win--though it doesn't have a way to account for FAU seeming to get hot over these last few weeks. They don't play each other until week 15 in Bowling Green, where the Hilltoppers are a 77.4% favorite. The division has a wide middle class, though, which means that either team (or both teams) could easily be tripped up once or twice before that game comes to pass. The Hilltoppers already have a win over Old Dominion, who is now Florida Atlantic's next-biggest remaining stumbling block in week 14. If the WKU-FAU game were played today, I'd take the Hilltoppers. But if we hit week 15 and that game's still a showdown for the division, it'll mean that the gap probably narrowed and Florida Atlantic would have a real shot at the crown. As for the bowl picture, the division winner will probably be a bowl team. Whoever finishes second might or might not join them--though I'd bet yes for now. Outside of that, the rest of the division will probably be staying home. C-USA West 1. Rice (7.53-4.47, 6.03-1.97 C-USA) 2. Southern Miss (6.68-5.32, 5.68-2.32 C-USA) 3. North Texas (6.28-5.72, 5.03-2.97 C-USA) 4. UTSA (5.77-6.23, 4.77-3.23 C-USA) 5. UTEP (3.59-8.41, 3.59-4.41 C-USA) 6. Louisiana Tech (1.76-10.24, 1.76-6.24 C-USA) 7. UAB (0.93-11.07, 0.93-7.08 C-USA) Rice's loss to Florida Atlantic, their first-ever C-USA loss, opened up the division. The Owls of Houston are no longer invulnerable, and they're not even technically in first place right now--that honor belongs to 2-0 UTSA. But UTSA, while not a nonfactor, is probably a longshot unless they knock off Southern Miss this week. The most likely contenders are Rice, Southern Miss, and North Texas. The Mean Green knocked off Southern Miss on the road a few weeks back, and they get Rice at home. However, they also cost themselves a real opportunity to take control of the division with their week 9 loss to FAU. Either way, the division will probably be decided between weeks 13 and 16, and it's going to hinge on Rice's performance. The Owls begin that stretch by hosting Southern Miss (57.4% Rice), follow it up with a road trip to North Texas (75.5% Rice), and close the season hosting UTSA (also 75.5% Rice). Until proven otherwise, this is Rice's division--the gap just isn't as wide as it used to be. The West could have as many as four bowl teams, but nobody's a shoo-in based on their record. Their top four projected teams are all either 4-3 or 3-4 right now, and any number of things could go wrong between now and end-of-season. I'd be surprised if 4-3 Rice and 4-3 North Texas didn't make it to a bowl. Southern Miss should be able to get there even if they lose to UTSA and Rice--but that's their whole margin of error. I think UTSA's a coin flip to get there from 3-3. Nobody else in the division has more than 1 win, so that's it. Our pick: Rice (60.6%) over Western Kentucky MAC East 1. Ohio (7.91-4.09, 6.41-1.59 MAC) 2. Miami (OH) (8.62-3.38, 4.88-3.12 MAC) 3. Buffalo (8.47-3.53, 4.47-3.53 MAC) 4. Akron (7.47-4.53, 4.11-3.89 MAC) 5. Kent State (5.02-6.98, 3.7-4.3 MAC) 6. Bowling Green (3.86-8.14, 1.9-6.1 MAC) With Miami and Akron's respective hot starts and Buffalo's hype drawing attention nationally, it's the Ohio Bobcats that project to win the MAC East after week 9. Why? Because they've been the one to knock off Buffalo (on the road) and Miami (at home), and the rest of the division's beaten up on itself. The Bobcats are 3-0 in conference play, and Akron (6-1, 3-1) is the only other team that hasn't already picked up two conference losses. Don't expect Ohio's undefeated run to last any longer since they play Toledo (22.6% for Ohio), but they'll almost certainly run their conference record to 6-1 against Kent State, Eastern Michigan, and Central Michigan before their season finale against Akron (60.6% for the Bobcats). Meanwhile, Akron still has Buffalo, Western Michigan, and Toledo left--their schedule accounts for their fourth-place projection. Miami can climb back in if they beat Buffalo (50-50) and proceed to run the table; Buffalo can do the same if they beat Miami (still 50-50) and Akron (61.9% for Buffalo). Either of them would have to make up what's effectively a three-loss deficit, though, since Ohio owns head-to-head with both. So it's safe to say that Ohio's in the driver's seat for now. As many as five MAC East teams could make a bowl game. Akron's already clinched one. The Miami-Buffalo winner will clinch one this week, and the loser will probably do so in a few weeks. Ohio will do it against a directional Michigan--unless they do it earlier by knocking off Arizona State (numbers say that's a 50-50 game, so keep an eye on that). Kent State doesn't have an easy path. They need to beat Northern Illinois and Central Michigan for sure. They also need to find a third win against Ohio, Ole Miss, or Miami (OH). Don't rule it out. But don't bet on it. MAC West 1. Western Michigan (10.15-1.85, 7.2-0.8 MAC) 2. Toledo (10.12-1.88, 7.12-0.88 MAC) 3. Ball State (3.04-8.96, 2.69-5.31 MAC) 4. Northern Illinois (3.33-8.67, 2.33-5.67 MAC) 5. Central Michigan (1.79-10.21, 1.79-6.21 MAC) 6. Eastern Michigan (1.67-10.33, 1.4-6.6 MAC) This division is simple: Unless Toledo manages to lose to both Ohio and Akron, then the winner of Western Michigan's week 13 visit to Toledo will be the division winner. These two teams are first and second in the MAC power rankings. They are far and away the best teams in the division. Heck, each team alone has more wins than the bottom four teams in the division combined. Western Michigan is ranked 1st in these projections because they see fewer opportunities for an upset outside of the Toledo game, but we give Toledo a 51.2% chance of winning this game--so we're actually picking the Rockets to win the division. The bowl picture is even simpler than the division picture: Toledo and Western Michigan will go bowling, and everyone else in the division will stay home. Our pick: Toledo (77.4%) over Ohio MWC Mountain 1. Air Force (11.85-0.15, 7.85-0.15 MWC) 2. Boise State (7.81-4.2, 5.81-2.2 MWC) 3. Utah State (5.32-6.68, 4.05-3.95 MWC) 4. Colorado State (7.02-4.98, 3.48-4.52 MWC) 5. New Mexico (4.55-7.45, 2.55-5.45 MWC) 6. Wyoming (0.23-11.77, 0.23-7.77 MWC) The only thing that could stop Air Force from wrapping up the division in the next couple of weeks is the fact that Nevada's their only conference game before week 15. They're 5-0 in conference play, which is as many conference wins as the entire rest of their division combined. Boise State's the only other team with 1 loss or fewer, and that 1 loss was to Air Force. The Falcons are massive favorites in every game but the Nevada game--and against the Wolf Pack, they're mere 14-point favorites, which translates to a 92.4% chance of winning. It would be very surprising if Air Force didn't finish 12-0, and we estimate a better than 92% probability that they run the table. Air Force is also the only team in the Mountain Division to clinch bowl eligibility, but as many as four other teams have a nonzero shot at it. Boise State and Colorado State are both 4-3 and both have Wyoming and Utah State still on the schedule. Boise also draws San Diego State while Colorado State gets New Mexico--these games are not guarantees, but they're an extra should-get opportunity if they get upset. Utah State and New Mexico have uphill battles. The Aggies are 3-4 and still have both San Jose State and Wyoming on the schedule. But even if they get those two wins, finding a 6th would take a big upset--they're much like Kansas State in that regard, but with a narrower path. New Mexico's 2-5 right now, but none of their remaining opponents are unbeatable except maybe Colorado State. Again, worth keeping an eye on but not worth betting on. MWC West 1. Hawaii (10.91-1.09, 7.38-0.62 MWC) 2. Nevada (7.15-4.85, 6.15-1.85 MWC) 3. Fresno State (6.56-5.44, 4.56-3.44 MWC) 4. San Diego State (5.53-6.47, 2.53-5.47 MWC) 5. San Jose State (3.86-8.14, 2.52-5.48 MWC) 6. UNLV (1.89-10.11, 0.89-7.11 MWC) The Rainbow Warriors! Hawaii's been partying like it's early 2015 with their 6-0 start, but the next three weeks will determine whether or not they're able to make it to the finish line whole this time. They shouldn't have a problem with UNLV. But after that, they hit the road to play Nevada, then play host to Fresno State. Hawaii, Nevada, and Fresno are the three remaining West teams undefeated in MWC play, and unsurprisingly they're the three big threats to win the division. This model sees Hawaii-Nevada as a pure toss-up, which is more of a problem for Nevada than for Hawaii. Why? Because Nevada's remaining schedule includes Air Force and road trips to Fresno State and Boise State. Hawaii gets Fresno at home and shouldn't be challenged by Wyoming or San Jose State. If Nevada can beat Hawaii, the Rainbow Warriors can still backdoor their way into the division title. If Hawaii wins, Nevada is probably out. As for Fresno State, an upset over Hawaii would go a long way for them--but as of now, Hawaii checks in as a 98.1% favorite in that game. Hawaii has clinched a bowl game, and Fresno State's low ceiling is mitigated by a high floor. They should be able to beat UNLV and either San Jose State or New Mexico to get to 6 (and frankly, they should get to 7). Nevada could earn a bowl game with a near-guarantee over UNLV and a tougher win over Boise, Fresno, or Hawaii. San Jose State's at 3-4 now, but they would have to win each of their next three games because they're not beating Hawaii or Fresno. San Diego State's on the edge. They can beat San Jose State and UNLV for sure, and they'll need to find a win over Boise State, New Mexico, or Air For--excuse me, over Boise State or New Mexico. Which means we'll know in the next two weeks if San Diego State can make a bowl. Our pick: Air Force (83.5%) over Hawaii Pac-12 North 1. Oregon (7.11-4.89, 7.11-1.89 Pac-12) 2. Stanford (7.81-4.19, 6.81-2.19 Pac-12) 3. Washington State (9.23-2.77, 6.73-2.27 Pac-12) 4. California (6.01-5.99, 3.01-5.99 Pac-12) 5. Washington (2.96-9.04, 2.96-6.04 Pac-12) 6. Oregon State (1.49-10.51, 0.24-8.76 Pac-12) The Pac-12 North race has to rank among the most compelling races of the remainder of the season. Oregon, left for dead after an 0-3 start in non-conference play, has won their last three in a row with an important win over Washington State. Stanford, one of the surprises of the season, is also undefeated in conference play and a 53.4% favorite to beat Oregon in week 10. And Wazzu, defending Pac-12 champion, sits back a game in the loss column with road games at USC (18.4% for Wazzu) and Stanford (60.6%) still on the calendar. The three teams are all projected within 0.4 wins of each other, and all are expected to pick up another loss or two along the way. That means lots of unpredictability! Why is Oregon favored to win the division if they're an underdog against 4-0 Stanford and also rated third in the division by AMoV? Two reasons: first, they're undefeated with a win over Washington State in the bank, whereas Stanford still has to play both contenders and Washington State just plain isn't undefeated. Second, Oregon dodges USC this season whereas Washington State and Stanford play them both on the road. Cross-division fights against UCLA (51.2% for Oregon) and Arizona State (60.6%) are potential tripping points for the Ducks--they're very mild favorites in both games, and could be underdogs on gameday. Stanford and Washington State aren't expected to face much resistance outside of each other and USC. Oregon has the highest ceiling but the lowest floor, and if they navigate this tightrope then the division can be theirs even without a win over Stanford. But if they stumble, then the Washington State-Stanford matchup in week 15 will decide the division--and as of now, that's just a bit better than a coin flip in Wazzu's favor. The bowl picture is essentially the same as the division picture, except with Cal in the mix as well. The Golden Bears need two wins, and Washington and Colorado are their best opportunities. They're favorites in both of those games, but those are not guarantees. We give them about a 75% chance of beating Washington and a 60% chance to beat Colorado--but if they drop one of those games, they still have a better-than-40% shot to beat UCLA and a 20% chance at upsetting Arizona. It's pretty much a coin flip whether they'll get in or not. Washington State has clinched a bowl game, and Stanford should clinch it with a win over one of the two Oregon schools. The Ducks are 3-3, so nothing's assured for them. If they lost to Stanford, UCLA, and Arizona State, they'd be one upset away from ineligibility--and given that they lost to North Carolina, an upset cannot be ruled out. But they could also wrap it up in their next four games with three wins over Stanford, Washington, UCLA, and Utah. Pac-12 South 1. USC (10.46-1.54, 8.46-0.54 Pac-12) 2. Arizona (8.04-3.96, 5.56-3.44 Pac-12) 3. UCLA (5.57-6.43, 4.57-4.43 Pac-12) 4. Arizona State (6.27-5.73, 4.23-4.77 Pac-12) 5. Colorado (6-6.01, 3.53-5.47 Pac-12) 6. Utah (1.09-10.91, 0.79-8.21 Pac-12) USC's quietly been humming along after their stunning loss to Notre Dame, and the result is that they're the projected runaway favorite in the Pac-12 South. Even with Washington State and Stanford still on the calendar, even with Cal on the road, UCLA on the road, and Arizona on the road, USC's projected to take the division by nearly 3 full games. They rank 3rd in the country in Adjusted Margin of Victory: they've had a below-average slate of opponents, but they've also hammered them by an average score of 40.2-14.3 and haven't won a game by fewer than 10 points. This team will be tested in the back half of their schedule, but they also have such a large cushion that they can afford to lose a game, maybe two, possibly three, and still win the division. They're already up two games in the loss column, nobody else in the division is particularly inspiring, and they'd have to have a huge downturn in order for any of that to change. And that would be so unlike USC to have a random midseason slump like that, wouldn't it? The bowl picture is more interesting. Nobody's locked in yet, though poor Utah's guaranteed to stay home. USC and Arizona are surefire at 5-2 with Utah still on the docket. Arizona State's at 4-3 with opportunities against Bowling Green, Colorado, and Ohio on the road--and they're surprisingly small favorites against all three with a 50-57% chance of winning each game. With Oregon and Arizona following after that, they probably need to win two of those three. Colorado's 3-3, and they range from mild favorites to mild underdogs in every single one of their remaining games. They're about a touchdown per game away from going 9-3, and a touchdown per game away from going 3-9. Fittingly, they settle almost exactly in the middle at 5.995-6.005. UCLA's sitting at 3-4, and they should be able to even up their record against Utah in week 11. With Oregon, Colorado, USC, and California coming up, they'll need to win two of those final four. Oregon is a hair under a toss-up at 48.8%, Colorado (65.1%) and California (57.4%) lean mildly for UCLA, and USC (5.0%) is probably a loss. Our pick: USC (91.4%) over Oregon SEC East 1. Vanderbilt (9.66-2.34, 5.84-2.16 SEC) 2. Georgia (9.17-2.83, 5.19-2.81 SEC) 3. Tennessee (8.03-3.97, 5.03-2.97 SEC) 4. Florida (8.21-3.79, 4.67-3.33 SEC) 5. Missouri (5.31-6.69, 3.31-4.69 SEC) 6. South Carolina (5.51-6.49, 2.6-5.4 SEC) 7. Kentucky (1.94-10.06, 0.94-7.06 SEC) One running theme so far is that teams with wins in the bank have a leg up on their competition (for good reason), and that remains true in a deep SEC East. With four teams with 1 loss in conference play, the only 4-1 team is the projected division leader. So far, we've seen very few games by the top four against each other--Georgia beat Vanderbilt who beat Florida, and that's it. Only Florida's had a date with fifth-projected Missouri so far (a Gator win); the Tigers will take on the other three in consecutive games from weeks 12-15. It's way too early to rule Missouri out given that they're only a game back in the loss column. They're going to need to start turning close losses into actual wins sooner rather than later if they want to make a run at the division, but I would bet on them spoiling at least one team's bid considering that they have a 32.3-38.1% chance to win each of those three big games. (South Carolina has a similar projected record to Missouri, but I don't think they have anywhere near the same ceiling.) The cross-division matchups are also going to play a huge role: Florida still has Texas A&M and LSU, Georgia still has Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt still has Alabama; at the same time, Missouri only has Arkansas left and Tennessee has already played both cross-division games. This division's going to play out very slowly, with week 10 being the only remaining week that doesn't feature an important head-to-head or cross-division matchup. Strap on in for the ride. The only real mystery in terms of bowl contention is whether Missouri or South Carolina will make it. Vanderbilt and Florida already have 6 wins, and Tennessee and Georgia have 5 wins plus Kentucky on the schedule. Georgia also has Georgia Tech, so if they go on a skid they still have a backstop; Tennessee doesn't have that luxury if the bottom falls out. But back to the Tigers and Gamecocks. The pair of 3-4 teams square off in week 11, a game in which Missouri is a 61.9% favorite. Missouri has more to lose than South Carolina does, because their remaining schedule's much harder. In fact, even with that win the Tigers would still need to beat Arkansas (65.1% Missouri) and score a mild upset over a top-three projected East team to go bowling. South Carolina will have Arkansas (51.2% SCar), Akron (64.1% SCar), and Kentucky (70.3% SCar) all in a row after the Missouri game, so they could plausibly win up to 7 games before they have to go to Clemson. South Carolina has the higher floor, even if Missouri has the higher ceiling. But it's very plausible that both teams could go bowling. SEC West 1. Auburn (11.01-0.99, 7.01-0.99 SEC) 2. Mississippi State (9.17-2.83, 6.17-1.83 SEC) 3. LSU (9.8-2.2, 5.8-2.2 SEC) 4. Alabama (7.82-4.18, 4.32-3.68 SEC) 5. Ole Miss (5.99-6.01, 2.31-5.69 SEC) 6. Arkansas (4.07-7.93, 2.07-5.93 SEC) 7. Texas A&M (2.65-9.35, 0.75-7.25 SEC) Last but not least, the ultracompetitive SEC West. Like its eastern counterpart, the West is a division that's going to be decided in stages over the final few weeks of the season. Alabama's win over LSU is keeping the Crimson Tide in the division race, though their subsequent losses to Tennessee and Mississippi State put them back two games in the loss column with road games against Vanderbilt (36.9%) and Auburn (17.4%) remaining on the schedule. The numbers just don't like Alabama, which ranks 31st in Adjusted Margin of Victory in a division where the top three teams are all in the top 10. And the numbers do like Auburn, but not so much as to make them more than a modest favorite. The Tigers will be favored to win out, but they're given a 64.1% chance to beat Mississippi State and just a 54.3% chance to knock off LSU. They can probably survive one loss, and they would even prefer for that loss to come to LSU because of the Bayou Bengals' loss to Bama. But if Auburn does stumble, then LSU and Mississippi State's matchup in Starkville in week 15 (54.3% LSU) could be decisive. Auburn has two significant advantages in its pocket: a 4-0 conference record in the bank (Mississippi State is 2-0, LSU is 4-1, Alabama is 3-2), and a cleared-out cross-division schedule. Mississippi State still has to go to Georgia (57.4% MSU), Alabama still has to go to Vanderbilt (63.1% Vanderbilt), and LSU still has to host Florida (79.9% LSU). I would expect Auburn to get out of this division, because they're scary good and still undefeated. But the SEC West has already bucked expectations plenty this year, and it would be even more surprising if the division suddenly stopped doing that. Auburn and LSU are already bowl-eligible, and 5-win Mississippi State and Alabama should both be able to wrap it up in their next game. Arkansas has a nonzero shot at a bowl game, but they're likely to fall to 2-6 after the Mississippi State game and would need to run the table against South Carolina (48.8% chance), Texas A&M (52.5%), Ole Miss (57.4%), and Missouri (34.9%) at that point. Texas A&M will be knocked out this week by Auburn, which leaves Ole Miss as the only remaining bowl drama in the division. The 4-3 Rebels will essentially have three opportunities: at Kentucky (57.4%), at Kent State (67.7%), or Arkansas at home (42.6%). Kentucky's a bellwether game--if they win it, they're probably good enough to beat Kent State. If they lose it, they're probably not good enough to beat Arkansas even if they do beat Kent State. Given that their projection is 5.99-6.01, the numbers think they're a definite maybe. Our pick: Auburn (73.8%) over Vanderbilt CFBHC Independents 1. Army (8.18-3.82) 2. Notre Dame (7.34-4.66) 2. BYU (6.64-5.36) 4. Georgia State (5.11-6.89) 5. UMass (0.01-12) As many as four of the five independent teams have a shot to go bowling. UMass isn't one of them: they range from a 24-point underdog to a 50.5-point underdog in their remaining games, so they're probably not going to win a game at all. Poor UMass. Notre Dame ought to join the ranks of the bowl-eligible, with a 4-3 record and status as favorites against Syracuse, Texas A&M, and Northwestern. Heck, they're even coin-flip bets against Washington State and Alabama. Georgia State is 3-4 and is a heavy favorite against both Eastern Michigan (73.8%) and UMass (>99.9%), but they're also heavy underdogs against Western Michigan (5%) and Auburn (<0.1%). Their bowl hopes rest almost entirely on a 32.3% shot at upsetting BYU in week 11. BYU would love to collect that win, follow it up with two wins over some combination of Utah State (73.0%), Cincinnati (65.1%), Oregon State (75.1%), or regular Utah (70.3%)--games in which they're significant but not overwhelming favorites. And to close out on a positive note, Army has already clinched a bowl bid, the first in program history.
  8. This is phenomenal.
  9. HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL Bears finish season with sweep in Minnesota, earn fifth pick in next year's draft Kevin Harris stops Eugene Jackson on third down to keep the Viking rally at bay
  10. Seven points combined separated all the winners from all the losers in this week of football in the nation's most exciting conference. Kansas State pulled out a 1-point squeaker over Iowa State, Kansas provided more than half the week's margin of victory alone with a 4-point win in Lubbock, and Oklahoma State only mustered one touchdown but simply kicked Texas to death in a 2-point down-to-the-wire home win. This is the kind of week where the losing teams know that one got away from them, and even the winning teams know that they got away with one. Win or lose, you lick your wounds and move on to the next one--but not before learning all you can by reviewing what happened. So with that in mind, let's talk about the games. Thursday Night Kansas State 21, Iowa State 20 Kansas State takeaways: One. More. Kansas State rallied in the fourth quarter to get by Iowa State and edge within one game of their second-ever bowl appearance. Rahim Murrell had his best game in weeks, completing 20 of his 30 passes for 210 yards. He found Damani Askew (7 for 89 yards) and Ricky Seau (5 for 69) over and over again to chip away at the Cyclone defense, found Jhonny Palacios for a touchdown, and only threw one pick for the first time since the opener. Elijah Humphrey had one of his typical statlines: 20 carries for 93 yards and a touchdown. But what stole the show was the K-State front seven. Defensive tackle Franklin Briones and outside linebacker Brian Kowalski each sacked August Blank, and freshman outside linebacker Shawn Reyes's pick-six proved decisive. Kansas State's now won back-to-back conference games, they've put together their second 5-win season, and there are still winnable games left on the schedule. Iowa State takeaways: This was a game where Iowa State needed to establish a foothold of some kind, and it didn't happen. They had a lead entering the fourth quarter, benefited from a missed Kansas State field goal, and had four opportunities in the red zone to Kansas State's two. They needed just one more thing to go their way, and it didn't. They did more things right this week: they had their fewest giveaways (1) of the season, got August Blank's second-highest passer rating of the year, got some playmaking from Elliott Efi (4 for 45, 1 TD) and David Tolliver (1 INT), limited Kansas State on third downs, and won the special teams battle. They gave themselves more opportunities (which they haven't been able to say very often), but couldn't convert on them. Kansas State scored touchdowns on both red-zone drives and had a pick-six. Iowa State settled for field goals from the K-State 7 and 18. They lost by 1 point. It's only going to get harder from here. The bottom line: The difference between 5 wins and 6 wins is so small, yet so important. How will Kansas State make that small step and that giant leap? They have to find a single win against West Virginia, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, or Kansas--they face them in that order. West Virginia's a tough sell--that's a team that's crushing everyone it faces. Oklahoma is having the mother of all down years and might actually be their best opportunity, but the Sooner defense is showing signs of life and Oklahoma's never lost in this series. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech have one-dimensional offenses--they're very good at those dimensions, though. Oklahoma State's tougher matchup on paper, but Kansas State's pass defense is ahead of its run defense. And Kansas, of course, has had issues with consistency--and the only time Kansas State went bowling, it was clinched with a win over their in-state foes. Saturday Afternoon Kansas 28, Texas Tech 24 Kansas takeaways: Kansas built up a lead in the first half, withstood Texas Tech's charge in the second, and held on to get their first win over the Red Raiders since the 2014 season. With Rod Fulton cooling off after his explosion against Oklahoma State, Christian Graham picked up the slack with an efficient 15-21 performance for 190 yards and 2 first-half touchdowns. And even with his engine in low gear, Fulton added a touchdown of his own. Fullback Nick Tubbs even got in on the action, scoring his first career touchdown to pace Kansas to a 28-14 halftime lead. They didn't score after halftime, but they were able to keep Texas Tech at bay. Bradley Spurlock had a pick, Jamari Callahan had a sack, Aden Evans's foot averaged 46.3 yards of field position per punt, and the Jayhawks held Texas Tech to 3-16 on third downs. The result: back-to-back wins, a 4-3 record, and a much-needed boost at the dawn of the second half of the season. Texas Tech takeaways: A slow start out of the gate on defense ended up being the deciding factor in this one. The Red Raiders just couldn't get the Jayhawk offense off the field in the first half, and they found themselves in a deep halftime hole. This isn't a team that's built to climb out of those kinds of deficits: the very nature of their offense means that the clock's working against them. Mind you, that offense is what kept them in the game. Solomon McLaughlin put up 110 yards and 2 scores on 26 rushes, and Chase Shapiro added another touchdown run to make up for his worst passing day of the season (7-13 for 70 yards, 1 INT). The defense found its life in the second half, but they couldn't make the big play they needed to in order to flip the field and give the offense an advantage. In a close game, sometimes that's the difference. The bottom line: After three losses in four games to get themselves into a spot of trouble, the Jayhawks have rallied for back-to-back hard-fought wins to move to 4-3 and strengthen their odds for a postseason bid. There was very little in common between these past two games--their run game and impact plays on defense won the previous one, whereas a more controlled passing attack and a hot first half got them this one. That's both a strength and a weakness for Kansas. They have a number of different ways to win games, but it's no guarantee which lights are going to be on each night. If they can find the right lights twice more, they'll go bowling. Texas Tech is on the other end of the spectrum: if they run the ball well and keep their opponents off the scoreboard, they'll win. If they don't, they'll lose. They didn't defend well against Oklahoma State, didn't run well against Baylor, did both about half-way against Kansas--and that's taken them from 4-0 to 4-3. The double-overtime win over Oklahoma is the difference between a remaining sense of optimism and a burgeoning sense of panic. Texas Tech is probably still a bowl team, though--they have similarly struggling Texas at home, Iowa State and Kansas State later, and they shouldn't be counted out against either TCU or West Virginia. Both Kansas and Texas Tech ought to be able to find wins #5 and #6. Whether either will contend for the conference crown? That's another question entirely. Oklahoma State 19, Texas 17 Oklahoma State takeaways: If you told me coming into this game that Chester Brenner would be held to 205 yards without a touchdown and with an interception, that Jay Dunn would total just 24 receiving yards all day, and that Oklahoma State was held to 3-14 on third downs against Texas, I would've asked how much the Cowboys lost by. It's a huge credit to them that they were able to find a way to win this one. Brenner actually had most of a great game--he had the second-highest completion percentage of his career at 77.27%--but Oklahoma State struggled mightily to close drives. They had five red-zone opportunities, and four of them resulted in field goals. And again, they found a way to win it. Khalil Bell put up 95 yards on 24 carries and scored the team's only touchdown. From there, it was a matter of the defense keeping it in reach, the offense getting in position to score, and Ralph Hinson pushing them over the top. Texas was not a good matchup for Oklahoma State, and--for a third time--they found a way to win. After the blip against Kansas, they're right back on track. Texas takeaways: And meanwhile, things are totally off track for Texas. Right as the defense had its revival after three consecutive no-shows, the offense sputtered. Kyler Tackett was held to 16-29 passing for 206 yards, a score, and a pick while Simeon Wells added 89 yards and a score on 20 carries--no real explosiveness on the offensive end against a defense that hasn't really been shy on that front for much of this season. Abdoul Causey was a no-show, as the team's top wide receiver on the depth chart slipped to third on the team in receiving yardage. Steven Maloney was the only true offensive playmaker, picking up 84 yards and a score on 6 catches. The defense, though, deserves its credit. They sacked Chester Brenner twice and picked him off once, even if they couldn't do much in the way of breaking up or contesting the other 21 passes he threw. They held Khalil Bell under 4 yards per carry even though they had to have come in ready for the pass. They stood strong in the red zone, they held Oklahoma State to 19 points--and somehow, it just wasn't enough. The bottom line: Oklahoma State becomes the first Big XII team to secure its place in the postseason, and they're right back to controlling their own destiny in the race to the Big XII Championship Game. The fact that they won with defense is an important step: they'd been able to put up 30 points or more against everybody else they'd faced, so it was critical to see how they would respond when faced with a game where things just wouldn't quite click on the offensive end. More likely than not, they'll get back into their rhythm against Baylor after a week off. Texas can only wish they could say the same. They've been off-rhythm ever since getting bushwhacked by West Virginia at home, and they're now down to 4-3. Like Texas Tech, they should still be a bowl team--they get Iowa State at home, and they can find a win somewhere in the Texas Tech/Baylor/TCU/Kansas quartet. But if they were hoping for something more out of this season, they're pretty much on their last legs to go get it. Byes: Baylor (3-3), Oklahoma (1-5), TCU (3-3), #23 West Virginia (4-2)
  11. Even if it costs us 1-4 spots of draft position, I'm definitely glad that we've been playing better football to close the season.
  12. Before the season started, the Chicago Tribune released its preseason projections for the 2020 college football season. We checked in on how those projections were doing after week 5 with the first overperformance report, and now we're checking in again. To recap, the number you're seeing is each team's scoring margin minus the scoring margin they'd expect to have if the preseason ratings were perfectly accurate. A team can score highly for a whole host of reasons: the team was better than expected, the coaching got better, their opponents were systematically worse than expected, or the numbers we used just plain underrated them. Likewise, a team can score poorly for the inverse of those same reasons. The number in parentheses is the amount of points a team has outperformed its expectations. The number afterward is the jump a team's made in the overperformance rankings since the last report. 1. Air Force (+19.63), +0 2. UCF (+19.01), +2 3. Virginia (+15.26), +2 4. West Virginia (+14.48), +54 5. Miami (OH) (+14.42), -3 6. Iowa (+12.86), +30 7. USC (+11.9), +9 8. Pittsburgh (+11.86), +0 9. Georgia (+10.99), +15 10. USF (+10.67), +4 11. Stanford (+10.52), -8 12. Texas Tech (+9.74), -5 13. Oregon State (+9.73), -3 14. Michigan State (+9), +18 15. Auburn (+8.95), +0 16. Army (+8.73), +15 17. Temple (+8.71), +0 18. BYU (+8.55), +56 19. Tennessee (+8.41), +10 20. LSU (+8.26), +7 21. Houston (+7.98), -8 22. Notre Dame (+7.96), +3 23. Colorado State (+7.82), -17 24. Buffalo (+7.55), -1 25. Florida (+7.33), +26 26. Syracuse (+6.83), +11 27. Duke (+5.61), -18 28. Boise State (+5.56), +0 29. Ole Miss (+5.28), -8 30. Akron (+5.17), -8 31. Western Kentucky (+4.81), +18 32. Hawaii (+4.75), -20 33. Wake Forest (+4.52), +17 34. Kansas State (+4.5), +37 35. Oklahoma State (+4.43), -2 36. Southern Miss (+4.22), +12 37. Vanderbilt (+3.78), -26 38. Florida Atlantic (+3.71), +48 39. Louisville (+3.62), +24 40. Kent State (+3.57), +2 41. Western Michigan (+3.34), +2 42. Tulsa (+2.96), +10 43. UCLA (+2.74), -9 44. Middle Tennessee (+2.48), +38 45. Kentucky (+2.33), -5 46. Wisconsin (+2.31), -7 47. Illinois (+2.19), -27 48. Ohio (+2.16), +33 49. UTEP (+2.08), +8 50. Arkansas (+2.02), +11 51. Minnesota (+1.74), -33 52. Washington State (+1.65), -26 53. Kansas (+1.18), +0 54. Florida State (+1.08), -24 55. Alabama (+0.98), -14 56. TCU (+0.96), -18 57. East Carolina (+0.57), +36 58. Purdue (+0.55), -39 59. Indiana (+0.47), +6 60. Cincinnati (+0.41), -16 61. Missouri (+0.26), -26 62. North Carolina (+0.13), +18 63. Arizona State (-0.08), +10 64. Fresno State (-0.18), +3 65. Mississippi State (-0.65), +12 66. Georgia State (-0.66), +2 67. Texas A&M (-0.84), +20 68. Penn State (-0.87), -14 69. UNLV (-1.1), -23 70. New Mexico (-1.61), -8 71. UTSA (-1.71), -7 72. Ohio State (-2.2), -2 73. South Carolina (-2.35), -26 74. Oregon (-2.37), +22 75. Arizona (-2.48), -16 76. Maryland (-2.54), -20 77. Toledo (-3.03), +1 78. Florida International (-3.19), -3 79. Nebraska (-3.2), -19 80. Utah State (-3.26), +21 81. Nevada (-3.3), +33 82. NC State (-3.56), +2 83. Navy (-3.96), +5 84. Rice (-3.97), -18 85. San Jose State (-4.25), +17 86. Charlotte (-4.33), -14 87. Old Dominion (-4.34), -4 88. Baylor (-4.86), +11 89. Boston College (-4.99), +8 90. Memphis (-5.01), -14 91. Washington (-5.12), +3 92. Connecticut (-5.15), -23 93. Texas (-5.19), -48 94. Michigan (-5.29), -2 95. California (-5.4), -16 96. Virginia Tech (-5.52), -6 97. Rutgers (-6.58), +14 98. UAB (-6.63), -13 99. North Texas (-7.03), -10 100. Bowling Green (-7.13), +0 101. Miami (FL) (-7.2), +14 102. Central Michigan (-7.37), +1 103. Georgia Tech (-7.79), -48 104. Northern Illinois (-8.2), -13 105. Ball State (-9.83), +2 106. Clemson (-10.63), -8 107. Northwestern (-10.65), -3 108. Colorado (-12.54), +0 109. Tulane (-12.62), +9 110. San Diego State (-13.28), -15 111. Iowa State (-14.31), -6 112. Oklahoma (-14.43), -2 113. Eastern Michigan (-14.49), +6 114. Marshall (-15.06), +2 115. Utah (-15.11), -6 116. Louisiana Tech (-16.22), -4 117. UMass (-17.97), +0 118. SMU (-18.87), -12 119. Wyoming (-20.65), -6
  13. Fixed an error that involved Clemson, Notre Dame, and Charlotte, which moves them all around fairly significantly.
  14. Congrats Javier!
  15. BABY Q SAVES THE DAY Honeycutt scores both Chicago touchdowns as Bears snap half-season skid Quincy Honeycutt dodges a would-be tackler in the first half against Washington on Sunday.
  16. Baby Q doing work in the snow, Chicago back in the win column! ...Now here's hoping all the 3- and 4-win teams win so that this doesn't cost us too much.
  17. Duke!
  18. Welcome to another edition of Five By Five, the Chicago Tribune's most requested feature where we spotlight five programs from around the country. Every week, up to five randomly selected coaches will have the opportunity to answer five questions about their team and their players. This week, our panel consists of serwendel from Vanderbilt, Weeze56m from East Carolina, thatfunk from Arkansas, 2014 Home Depot National Coach of the Year SlinkyJr from Michigan State, and HAFFnHAFF from Kansas State. Each coach will begin by answering the same four questions along with a fifth question unique to their program. Q1: We're exactly halfway through the season now. Did the first half go about the way you expected it to? serwendel, Vanderbilt: Honestly, the first half of the season went a bit better than I had expected it to. I figured that we'd drop one or two games against Oregon, Kansas, and Georgia. The fact that we were one quarter away from beating Georgia makes me really proud of this team. The second half is the real challenge though, we've got plenty of tough teams on the schedule, especially the last two against Alabama and Tennessee. Weeze56m, East Carolina: You know, we were really hoping to get that win against Houston, and to go into our mid-season bye with a 3-0 conference record. Especially with two huge games coming up for us, that would have just put us in a much better situation. But we've learned from our mistakes, and we sit 4-2 on the season. We are still in place to make it to a bowl, and we aren't out of the conference Championship race. Thats all that matters right now. thatfunk, Arkansas: I would have to say Yes. This is a good roster, but it's not one that's built at the moment to compete with the top tier teams in our conference. We've played three teams that are currently ranked in the top ten, including two in our division. Thankfully we have stepped up recruiting-wise this season, with a current ranking of 8th, and believe we have found some players around whom we can build a foundation of success. SlinkyJr, Michigan State: It may be a bit surprising to hear, but yeah this first half actually did go the way I thought it would. This isn't my most talented team ever but it's far from my worst. When I looked at my players, and what happened last year, and the scheme that had been run, I knew this team had underperformed both on offense and defense. I will say I don't think I've faced my toughest challenges yet, but I think this team could continue to surprise some people as the season goes on. HAFFnHAFF, Kansas State: To be honest I had no idea what to expect from this team. My goal coming into the season was to sweep my non-conference schedule and try to find a way to win 3 conference games to become bowl eligible. But I had no idea if that was realistic. The spring game shook my confidence when Rahim Murrell looked so bad in my offense from last season. So I had to tweak a lot of things and so far it has turned out really well for me. Q2: What player has been your biggest surprise of the season? serwendel, Vanderbilt: I honestly did not think that Damian Dailey would become this good this quickly. In the past, our linebackers sort of eased into their roles, but Dailey really has put his game on the same level as our other linebackers. That's incredible at this point in his career. Weeze56m, East Carolina: Its hard to pick just one. Both OLB Arthur Rossi and DE Isiah Townsend have played really good football for us. Neither started last season, and both are making cases that they should have. But if I had to pick one, I suppose I would say Townsend. He is leading our teams in sacks and is on pace to set a single season record for ECU in Sacks. I'm extremely proud of him and can't wait to see how much better he is next season when he has a strong partner pulling some of his blockers. thatfunk, Arkansas: I think Noel Lujan might fit the bill. Between Tyron Chambers and Dillon Scott, Noel was the forgotten man in our receiving group. The double teams Chambers constantly sees has allowed Noel an opportunity to shine and he has taken full advantage. SlinkyJr, Michigan State: Henry Oswald, he's not lighting the world on fire, but he's a walk on that has stepped into the WR3 role and done exactly what I've asked of him. It's good to see because next year is going to be quite the experiment with the wr group and he just might end up being the top guy. HAFFnHAFF, Kansas State: I think almost everyone would expect me to say Rahim. But hands down my biggest surprise player has been OLB Shawn Reyes. Shawn was the prize recruit from my first recruiting class and redshirted last season. Now he is starting as a 3.0/3.5 redshirt freshman and has had a great year! He is 2nd on the team in tackles (25), leads the team in INTs (3), and has a defensive TD that sealed the game against Iowa State last week. Q3: Other than your team, who do you think is gonna carry the banner for your conference this season? serwendel, Vanderbilt: Right now it looks like Auburn is going to be leading the way for the SEC. Jumanji's been running a great team there with some really talented players and great coaching. They do still have to play LSU, but it looks to me like Auburn is the team to beat in the SEC west. Weeze56m, East Carolina: As of right now, I think the conference is still wide open. Most believe, especially after their stellar game against SMU, that UCF will come away with the trophy at the end of the year. While I can see that, they still have to play USF, which had a bad game recently, but has been explosive the last few years. Of course you also can't ignore Temple or Houston who can easily sneak their way in should some of the top dogs stumble a little. thatfunk, Arkansas: Our conference has some incredibly strong teams at the top. LSU and Alabama were two I thought might end up with one loss between the two of them. Alabama has slipped up recently and LSU has lost one but they are still formidable opponents. Obviously Auburn is at the top right now, and for good reason. I'll be cheering for them the rest of the way and hopefully they can bring another national championship to the SEC. SlinkyJr, Michigan State: Purdue, I just think inspiral has built that team really well. Matt Jones is one heck of a QB, his defense is solid, and they don't make many mistakes. It's awesome to see how he's taken that team and where they were when he started and where they are now. One of the best, if not the best team builds in the game. HAFFnHAFF, Kansas State: West Virginia. I'm a little bias because I used to work with smckenz in NFL and currently work with him in NHL. But I was on the West Virginia bandwagon before the season started. When the Big XII media picked them to go 6-6 we had a good laugh about that. People outside the Big XII look at them now and just see 2 losses (which is reflected in their placement in the polls.) But people inside the conference know the circumstances of those 2 losses and have seen them destroy everyone in sight since. It is a travesty they are rated so low nationally. Q4: Do you have any walk ons who've managed to earn themselves a role on the field, including on special teams? serwendel, Vanderbilt: Unfortunately, our walkons haven't made a significant impact yet. The state of Tennessee gets pretty picked over during recruiting season, and to be honest most people willing to walk on to our program would rather spend that time studying. Our academic requirements are pretty strict and that weeds out people looking to only play football in college. Weeze56m, East Carolina: No walk ons, but true Freshman Leon Burris has shown amazing athleticism and real explosiveness at the wide receiver position. While he doesn't have the same level of production as the two seniors, there has already been a couple games when he has matched their level of play. As he grows, as he develops, we should see even better from him. We are all very excited to see him grow. thatfunk, Arkansas: Not that I'm aware of. SlinkyJr, Michigan State: My offense has 3 of them. Henry Oswald who I mentioned is playing WR3, Finn Chase is my starting TE and Carter Mobley is starting at Right Guard as a redshirt freshman. All three have played a pretty big part in my offense and I have been very happy with their ability to step into the role and perform. HAFFnHAFF, Kansas State: FB Kai Weber comes to mind. He came to KSU and walked on before I was here, when the smash-mouth offense was alive and well led by Dylan Stewart. And why not? Every FB's dream is to play in an offense like that. But halfway through Stewart's Sr. year, which was my first year as coach, we moved to a more balanced offense. But Weber has played his way onto the field on special teams. He is a good blocker but he really comes alive on kick and punt coverage. He just loves to put his head down and light people up. Q5 to serwendel: You have a star-studded defense that's been living up to its potential as one of the best in the country. How did that unit come together, and who's been the most critical player in taking this defense to another level? serwendel, Vanderbilt: Since the recruitment of David Pennington, we've made it a point to try to bring in new great defensive players every season. It now looks like we've gained the rewards from those classes now. We have a good defensive line backed by some monster linebackers. Our CBs are experienced, proven playmakers, and our safeties are just as good as our linebackers, just less hyped. The most critical player to our defense is our star cornerback Jordan Tucker. A lot of teams feel like our corners are week, which makes Tucker even more valuable. He got off to a great start this season and I hope that he continues to move forward every game. Q5 to Weeze56m: The Pirates have one of their toughest games--and certainly the most important games--of the season to date. What is it like to prepare for a team like USF, and what would a win mean for your program? Weeze56m, East Carolina: Its tough. Real tough. They are an explosive offense that got better on defense this season. They had an off game last week, which only means that defense is gonna wanna come out hungry and ready to go. ECU does have a history of beating ranked opponents. We did it last season, and we hope to do it twice this season. But a win for us would mean a real shot at going back to the Championship game for the 2nd time in 3 years. That would be an amazing thing for our program, and we are trying to build a national contender here at ECU. Q5 to thatfunk: Arkansas has had a traditionally strong passing attack behind guys like RJ Stanford and Sean Sitton. How does Connor Dawson fit in that role? thatfunk, Arkansas: Well Connor is a true pocket passer and we are trying to find an offense that works to his strengths. Connor and I are both new this year, and he had a late start to learning the offense so we are still working on gelling with each other. Once that happens I don't see why Connor couldn't be as prolific as those two guys you mentioned. Q5 to SlinkyJr: You're in the process of engineering yet another huge turnaround for the Michigan State program after coming out of retirement. How much does that mean to you? SlinkyJr, Michigan State: This has been one of the most satisfying seasons since I've been here for the reason you mentioned. When I left MSU, it was because I no longer enjoyed what i was doing. I didn't have the connection to my players like I did with Bobby Viger, Michael Duckworth, Brandon Sauter, Keyshawn Thompson, etc etc. I wasn't putting in the effort I used to, and I was just going through the motions. But this team feels like that old team. My love for guys like KD and Thurston, Joel Snow, and my whole secondary has brought back the joy. It hurt to see where MSU was trending, and I was a big part of that, probably bigger than the coach that took over after me. When I came back, I still wasn't confident I would be able to get that trend going back up, so to have some success this season has shown me that maybe I can do this. I just have to figure out how to not be total ass at recruiting. Q5 to HAFFnHAFF: With Thursday's win over Iowa State, you're 5-2 and on the precipice of bowling. You've got West Virginia, the two Oklahomas, Texas Tech, and Kansas left on the schedule. The last win is always the hardest--what's it going to take to get over the top? HAFFnHAFF, Kansas State: It is going to take both units playing well in the same game. We started the season with the offense playing well and the defense really struggling. Then there were signs of life in the Wyoming game where both units played well. Then we played TCU and both units played poorly. Against Texas our offense was lights out but our defense couldn't stop anyone. That game is going to haunt me if we end up missing a bowl. We were so close to getting that win in Austin. But that is just one of those games where whoever had the ball last was going to win and Texas had the ball last. Looking at our last 2 games, the defense has been great! They really had a fire lit under them after being embarrassed by Texas. But in both of those games our offense has really struggled. If we can put together some games where both units play well I think we will claim win #6.
  19. San Jose State's third win this season is a program record and matches their win total from the past three years combined.
  20. Train wrecks always lead the news.
  21. After the drama and sheer madness that was week 8 in the nation's most exciting conference, perhaps it's fitting that we get a breather episode next. ...Just kidding! It's only a three-game slate in the Big XII this week, but it's a slate that could go in either direction for any game and could rank anywhere from DEFCON 4 to DEFCON 1 for the losing team. Iowa State and Kansas State kick things off as the Wildcats look to capitalize on their historic victory last week. Kansas hits the road to take on Texas Tech to try to capitalize on their weird victory last week. And Texas journeys up to Stillwater as they and Oklahoma State each look to avoid a second straight loss. It should be another fun one in America's heartland, so without further ado let's talk about the games. Thursday Night Iowa State (1-5) at Kansas State (4-2)* Kansas State is coming off of a crucial upset win over Baylor, snapping their conference losing streak in style. In order for that to become more than a footnote, they need two more wins down the stretch--and they're not going to get a better opportunity for win #5 than Farmageddon at home. Kansas State draws an Iowa State team that's encountered difficulty on both sides of the ball in conference play, being outscored 113-27 in that stretch. This may or may not be a trap game, depending on how the Wildcats approach it. First of all, how will Rahim Murrell approach this game? The self-confident junior starter has had a wild ride of a season, throwing for at least one touchdown and at least one interception all six times out--an incredible total of 12 of each in six games. His last three games have been two stinkers (one of which was a winning effort) sandwiched around a 3-touchdown, 2-pick performance in a 48-41 loss to Texas. Given that Iowa State hasn't defended the pass very well this year (their 141.1 passer rating allowed is the second-worst in the conference, and their 64.0% completion percentage is third-worst), this is an opportunity for Murrell to play the cleanest game since his debut. At the same time, one of Iowa State's defensive strengths is their ability to pick off passes (8), so watch out for David Tolliver and Israel McKenzie roving around. Kansas State will keep pressing a balanced attack that'll keep Iowa State on their toes every play. Iowa State has to do the same thing when they have the ball--because they don't have anybody who's really been an imposing threat alone. With 6 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, a 53.5% completion rate, and a 97.3 passer rating, August Blank has been...well, a blank. Josiah Edmonds contributes about 3.8 yards per carry and has scored 1 touchdown in his 3 games. The offensive line's been disappointing, rating worse than all but Kansas State's. The Wildcats struggle to defend the run, but they've been lockdown against the pass. They lead the Big XII in yards allowed per attempt (6.61) and per completion (11.01), they've allowed 10 touchdowns to 8 interceptions, and their 124.9 passer rating allowed is second to Oklahoma State. The defense doesn't really have to do anything special other than keep it up, and they'll be able to survive even if Murrell goes Full Harvey Fagan. So with all that said, for the first time since Farmageddon in week 15 of the 2017 season, the Big XII Network is predicting a Kansas State conference win. Kansas State 24, Iowa State 14 Saturday Afternoon Kansas (3-3) at Texas Tech (4-2)* Offensively speaking, this game is a tale of two freshmen. Riding into town from Lawrence is redshirt freshman quarterback Christian Graham, who's been slumping as of late. Graham's coming off of one of the worst games of his young career, in which he completed just 16-32 passes and threw 1 touchdown to 3 interceptions against 21st-ranked Oklahoma State--in a win. Before that, he completed 13-25 for a career-low 140 yards in a loss to TCU. It's safe to say that Kansas can't expect Rod Fulton to tear up every defense for 160 yards and 3 touchdowns and certainly can't expect to score 16 points on defense every game, so they need to get more out of Graham. Texas Tech's secondary doesn't give up a ton through the air. They hold opponents to 11.07 yards per completion thanks to their safety duo of Jamir Pendleton and (especially) Cameron Riley, even if they give up a 64.6% completion rate. They've allowed a conference-best 6 touchdown passes while picking off 4 passes. That secondary is a tough nut to crack, so expect Kansas to try and circumvent it. They'll make Fulton a major part of the offense, try to win the battle in the trenches against a strong Tech defensive line, and pick away at the middle of the defense as much as possible. Texas Tech, meanwhile, is gonna try to run it up the gut. The other freshman in this tale is a true frosh, and Solomon McLaughlin is the conference's leader in both rushing yards (760) and rushing touchdowns (11). He's maybe cooled down a touch after a red-hot start (because who doesn't after they've rushed for nearly 140 yards per game for the first three games of the season?), but he's still never dipped under 108 yards in a game. While Kansas will need something out of all parts of their offense to win this game, Texas Tech won't really be concerned with how well Chase Shapiro throws it as long as it's nothing out of the ordinary. The junior's only thrown the ball 79 times in 6 games, completing 62.0% of his passes with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. He's rushed for almost as many touchdowns (3) as he's thrown. Oh, and did I mention that the only team to run the ball 30+ times against Kansas put up 207 yards and dropped a 40-spot on them? This isn't a great matchup for them. Even though they're riding high off of the Oklahoma State win and Texas Tech's dropped their last two games in conference play (including one against Oklahoma State), I think the Red Raiders are going to get their bounceback here. The true freshman beats the redshirt. Texas Tech 17, Kansas 13 Texas (4-2) at Oklahoma State (5-1)* Wrapping up the short proceedings this week is the battle of the burnt orange. Texas and Oklahoma State share three things: a color (close enough), a preseason pick to the Big XII Championship Game, and an untimely week 8 setback that leaves both in a position where they need this game. Oklahoma State hit their first bump in the road in Lawrence, falling into a four-way tie for second place in the conference behind West Virginia. Texas has dropped two of their past three (and survived a shootout against Kansas State in between), which means they're in a four-way tie for sixth. It's early yet, but a third conference loss for the Longhorns in four games would likely be ruinous. The quarreling sides have the same issue, one that's easy to diagnose and extraordinarily difficult to treat: they're just plain not playing defense. Oklahoma State's giving up 29.0 points per game; Texas is giving up 29.17. It's been worse in conference play: they've each allowed two 38-point efforts, and they've combined for one opponent held under 30 points. Ordinarily, I'd say that this practically guarantees a shootout, except I said that last week for Kansas State-Baylor which ended 20-17. So I'll just talk about what each defense has to do to stay in this one. For Texas, the answer comes in two parts: they have to defend the pass, and they have to pick off Chester Brenner. I consider those separate issues because Texas does one well (8 interceptions this season) and one closer to average (61.0% completion percentage allowed, 7.1 YPAA). Brenner has been the ideal example of a volume quarterback in nearly every way: he gets more than 300 yards per game, completes an unusually high percentage of his passes (67.2%), and he throws for a lot of touchdowns--but he's now thrown 4 consecutive multi-interception games. Texas can take advantage of that--or they can get burned by the fact that Oklahoma State's receiver depth outclasses Texas's secondary depth by a lot. Knowing Oklahoma State, we could see both of those things happen in the same game. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, needs to eat up Simeon Wells. Their pass defense has held its ground this year, leading the Big XII with a 116.97 passer rating allowed along with a conference-best 13 interceptions. (Nobody else has 10 yet.) Kyler Tackett isn't a win-the-game-by-himself type yet. He needs Wells as his partner-in-crime in the backfield. The sophomore tailback averages 109 yards per game in wins and 75 yards per game in losses whereas Tackett's production remains relatively unchanged. The Cowboy run defense is still licking its wounds from Rod Fulton, but Trevor Orlando and company won't stay down for long. I think the Cowboys will get back on the saddle and stick Texas with an 0-2 record against the Oklahoma schools. #25 Oklahoma State 38, Texas 31 Byes: Baylor (3-3), Oklahoma (1-5), TCU (3-3), #23 West Virginia (4-2)
  22. Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building
  23. Utah State has now set a program record with their 3rd win of the season. One more win and they will match their four previous seasons combined. Utah, LA Tech, UAB, and UMass are the first teams to reach 7 losses and bowl ineligibility in the 2020 season.
  24. I have no rational explanation for why Shawn Reyes is becoming one of my favorite Kansas State players, but there it is. What a play.