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Everything posted by stormstopper

  1. After the hectic display that was week 4, week 5 presents a simpler layout: two conference games (one per weeknight), and two non-conference games (both on Saturday afternoon). The battle of the purples kicks off the week, as undefeated Kansas State (have you talked to your kids yet?) takes on TCU. Former Big XII North foes Kansas and Iowa State follow that up on Friday. On Saturday, Oklahoma looks to cool down a red-hot Pittsburgh, while red-hot Texas Tech looks to stay undefeated at Washington. It should be yet another great week of football in the nation's most exciting conference, so let's talk about the games. Thursday Night TCU (1-2) at Kansas State (3-0)* In the closing weeks of the 2018 season, TCU rode a 13-game winning streak into a showdown with a 1-8 Kansas State. After the Frogs stormed out to a 10-0 lead, Kansas State rallied to give them a fight before falling 37-34 in Manhattan. That was the penultimate win of TCU's 15-game win streak, and a sign of things to come for TCU. Kansas State wasn't able to parlay that near-miss into any further momentum--but they can still use it as motivation in their next meeting. It's possible that this is the most important game of football Kansas State has played since the 2016 Heart of Dallas Bowl. With a school-best 3-0 start in hand in non-conference play, Kansas State has a very real path to the postseason so long as they can find a way to snap their 16-game losing streak in conference play. This is a bellwether game in both directions: if Kansas State can beat TCU, then they have a path to 6-6; if TCU can't beat Kansas State, their path gets significantly narrower. So how will this go down? Any number of ways. Both teams have parts of this matchup that they love. Kansas State should be excited to throw on a TCU secondary that's given up more than 300 yards through the air per game; TCU should be ecstatic for Shamar Burroughs to run against a Wildcat defense that's given up more than 5 yards per carry and nearly 120 yards per game on the ground. They also each have parts of this matchup that they hate. Sam Milner's 116.0 passer rating is the second-lowest in the Big XII, just as Kansas State's 106.0 passer rating allowed is the second-lowest in the conference. Kansas State is going to give Elijah Humphrey carries as usual, but that comes against a TCU defense that's given up 3.7 yards per carry and 53.0 rushing yards per game so far, the best in the conference in both categories. I think that's actually going to be what decides this game. If TCU can force Kansas State into long 2nd and 3rd downs, that puts more of the game on Rahim Murrell's shoulders, and Murrell's performances have been up-and-down at best against bad competition. TCU's held up reasonably well for having had to face Jamel Armstrong, Andre Webb, and Eric McLean; Murrell isn't consistently in that tier yet. Meanwhile, Burroughs is probably going to get the TCU offense better set up for those passing downs, taking some of the pressure off of Milner. I think TCU will win the line of scrimmage, win the run game on both sides, and use that to remain undefeated against Kansas State. TCU 28, Kansas State 17 Friday Night Kansas (1-2) at Iowa State (1-2)* Iowa State and Kansas met last year as ranked teams, with the 20th-ranked Cyclones finally snapping their oh-fer against the #5 Jayhawks in a 29-24 upset win. Since that game, though, both teams have hit rough patches. They won their bowl games, sure, but neither team finished the season ranked. And now, they meet in 2020 as 1-2 teams who need this win if a bowl game is to be in the cards. Both have had some serious issues crop up in non-conference play. Kansas has dealt with inconsistency in the passing game, as freshman quarterback Christian Graham fired off 3 interceptions in his most recent outing against Notre Dame, bringing his season total to a conference-high 6 picks. With a completion percentage of 62.1% and a passer rating of 130.4, Kansas isn't getting the positive production they need out of him. That's a problem coming against an Iowa State defense that's been lockdown this season, holding opponents to 18.3 points per game and finding success against both the pass (165.0 YPGA, 109.1 passer rating allowed) and the run (4.04 YPCA). The Cyclones can get pressure and force turnovers, and it won't matter how open Malcolm Davis and Noah Hills can get against the Iowa State secondary if Graham can't get the ball to them and the slumping offensive line can't keep Mekhi Tolbert, Jalen Pittman, and Kai Voss out of the backfield. Adding to Kansas's sense of urgency on offense is their defensive struggles: they're giving up 31.3 points per game, they're giving up a lot of yardage per pass (7.72) and per carry (5.14), they're not really getting sacks or forcing turnovers at an above-average rate, and they most recently gave up 40 points to Notre Dame. However, Iowa State's been spinning its wheels on offense. After scoring 7 points on Minnesota, they benched their starting backfield, and the duo of quarterback Peter Edge and runningback Josiah Edmonds is set to start this week. Whereas Iowa State had been going with a more power-run and option-run attack for non-conference play, they bring in a starting quarterback who's more of a pure pocket man and a runningback who's less of a between-the-tackles runner and more of a corner-turner. A drastic change like that can pay dividends, but it usually takes time to iron out all the kinks. No matter what shape Kansas's defense is in, I'm not expecting Iowa State to finish that process overnight. I'll take the Jayhawks in a close one. Kansas 20, Iowa State 17 Saturday Afternoon #11 Pittsburgh (3-0) at Oklahoma (0-3) When we last checked in on Pittsburgh, they were busy racking up 44 points in Morgantown to run past rival West Virginia. Since then, the Panthers have continued their roadward prowl, hammering Virginia Tech in Blacksburg before heading to State College to end Penn State's record-tying 20-game winning streak and improve to 3-0. There are few teams in the country as hot as Pittsburgh on the offensive end, and that's obviously a bad sign for Oklahoma. The Sooners have had their fill of hot offensive teams, having already fallen to Auburn (34.3 PPG), Iowa (29.7), and Texas Tech (34.0). They haven't done much to bring down those averages either, allowing 38.7 points per game themselves. So if they want to get in the win column and continue the momentum they picked up from the Texas Tech near-miss, they have to figure out some answers defensively. As well-publicized as Eric Pope's struggles have been, the defense is the bigger issue. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 67.6% of their passes, throwing 2 touchdowns per game without an interception, and running a 162.32 passer rating against the Sooners. Ballcarriers are averaging 5.16 yards per carry, 2.3 touchdowns per game, and 141 yards per game as well. The defense has recorded 1 sack and no turnovers. Every single one of those categories (except passing touchdowns per game) ranks last in the Big XII, and Pittsburgh's not the kind of team that breaks those kinds of slumps. Grant McConnell's averaging 290 yards per game through the air with 7 touchdowns--though he's also been turnover-prone with 4 picks so far, so that's an opportunity for Oklahoma. With Adam Coles and Samuel Ritter at wideout, McConnell has plenty of devastating weapons downfield. They're also getting solid production on the ground: Jaeden Daniel isn't putting up world-beating numbers, but adding McConnell's foot speed to the mix is yet another complicating element here. Oklahoma's defense isn't really deep enough to handle all of that, and Pittsburgh should be easily able to find a way to score. So it's up to Oklahoma to run the dang ball on this Pittsburgh defense and match them score-for-score. If you weren't aware already, sophomore tailback Maurice White is very, very good at his job. Second in the Big XII with 393 yards and first with 5.46 yards per carry, White has put the team on his back. He roared his way to 166 yards on 27 carries against Texas Tech as the Sooner offense doubled down on the run. Coincidentally, Pittsburgh has also allowed 393 yards and 4 touchdowns through 3 games this season. The Panthers really aren't built to stop the run, and that's Oklahoma's best shot. I don't think it'll be quite enough, particularly if Pitt starts creeping up safeties to go all-in on stopping the run. But I think the Sooners are capable of making this one close if things go right for them on offense. #11 Pittsburgh 40, Oklahoma 28 Texas Tech (3-0) at Washington (0-3) Closing out this week's slate of games is another undefeated-versus-winless battle, as red-hot Texas Tech heads out west to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies. The Dubs have been...well, not good, and a lot of the spotlight has fallen on true freshman quarterback Jake Davis (and perhaps unfairly so). It's not that Davis has been lighting up the world--he's at 45-74 (60.8% passing) for 573 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions--but runningback Amir Copeland (72 carries for 260 yards, 3.61 YPC, 1 TD, 1 FUM) hasn't really been much help and the defense hasn't been able to keep its opponents in check. The Huskies' defense has given up more than 5.1 yards per carry for the season, and they've given up 7 passing touchdowns to 1 interception. Losing to New Mexico at home was alarming, and they followed it up with a respectable loss to Arizona State and a blowout loss to UCLA. Texas Tech's formula on offense really isn't going to change much for this one: despite a strong Washington defensive line led by Miles Slater and Julius Mercer, the Red Raiders should be able to replicate New Mexico's and Arizona State's success with two-headed rushing attacks. Solomon McLaughlin is the Big XII's leader in rushing yards (418) and rushing touchdowns (7), and if he can get past that initial wave then Washington's going to have a hard time slowing him down. Chase Shapiro can't be ignored on the ground either; he's already scored twice with his feet in addition to his two passing touchdowns. The one thing Texas Tech has to be worried about is if Jake Davis can get hot. He had a very solid game against Arizona State, throwing for 230 yards and a pair of scores on 16-22 passing. Luke Guy, Jason Ivy, and C.J. Hickman are a capable trio of receivers, but Texas Tech's defense has only allowed 1 touchdown through the air so far. Their run defense is more worrisome (4.88 YPC allowed), but Amir Copeland probably isn't going to be able to do anything about that. This should be a routine road win for Texas Tech, and they should be able to get to 4-0. Texas Tech 31, Washington 10 Byes: Baylor (1-2), Oklahoma State (3-0), #22 Texas (3-0), West Virginia (1-2)
  2. The early returns in this week of Big XII play came in strong, with five straight wins heading into early Saturday afternoon. The remainder of the slate wasn't so hot, with Iowa State, Kansas, and Baylor all dropping non-conference contests to leave the conference at 5-3 against the rest of the country this week. But in the meantime, Oklahoma and Texas Tech opened up conference play in the nation's most exciting conference with one of the best games of the season so far: a 33-30 double-overtime barn-burner in run-first heaven. Every team was in action this week, and every team's going to have some celebrating, some soul-searching--or both. The players who made that happen: Offensive Player of the Week: Maurice White, OKLA, 27 for 166 yards, 2 TD Defensive Player of the Week: Damani Jeffries, TEX, 2 INT, 3 Tackles Special Teams Player of the Week: Andrew Trimble, TCU, 44.6-yard punting average And now, let's talk about the games. Thursday Night Texas 37, Texas A&M 17 The good news: Almost everything for Texas. Kyler Tackett was sharp as, I'm not gonna make that pun just yet. But the first-year starter finished over 70% for the third straight game, accounting for three touchdowns in the past. Steven Maloney made up for a lack of wide receiver production, soaking up half the team's receptions and receiving yards. Simeon Wells added 117 on the ground with a touchdown. On defense, Texas locked down the A&M offense, holding Nathan Singletary to 20-36 passing with two interceptions from Damani Jeffries. All told, they beat down rival Texas A&M for their first win in the series. The bad news: Not much to report. They didn't get a lot out of their actual wide receivers (Abdoul Causey, where art thou?), and they struggled on 3rd downs. But they more than made up for it in just about every other phase of the game, and an upset bid was never in the cards. The bottom line: Texas is looking better and better with each passing week, recording their first truly dominant win of the season. They showed a diverse offensive portfolio, and the duo of Kyler Tackett and Simeon Wells has been the best QB-RB tandem in the Big XII. At 3-0, they're already halfway to bowl eligibility and puts another bullet point on their résumé to make up for Oregon's slide. This is the kind of non-conference win that a team capable of winning the Big XII this year gets. TCU 30, Rice 27 The good news: TCU is on the board, breaking up a 3-game losing streak dating back to last season and earning their 4th win in the past 18 games. They kept Eric McLean reasonably in check--not shutting him down, but preventing him from putting together a truly explosive effort. They brought him down 3 times, pressured him into an interception to Matthew Dyson, and swarmed Nate Wooten the few times he carried the ball. They didn't let Rice extend drives on 3rd downs, and they took advantage of more than 100 yards' worth of Owl penalties. The bad news: Sam Milner continued his up-and-down start with another up-and-down game. On the bright side, he was in the plus column when it came to TD/INT ratio. On the other side, he finished 15-28 (53.6%) and managed just 144 yards through the air, posting a third straight passer rating in the 110-120 range (conference average is 142.1). He hasn't been helped by a lack of a clear go-to target. Every Big XII team but Texas Tech and TCU has a player with at least 200 receiving yards so far. Even Texas Tech has a 150-yard receiver. TCU's leading receiver, tight end Kana Tagata, ranks 20th in the Big XII with 121 receiving yards. This is a lineup that will have years to coalesce, but that youth is costing TCU right now. The bottom line: A win is a win, of course, but this is a big one for TCU. A loss would have made bowl eligibility a serious uphill battle from 0-3, and Rice is not a cupcake--especially not on the road. I'm being hard on Sam Milner in this article, but it's notable that TCU's still scored 30 points each of their last two times out despite Milner's struggles. The most encouraging sign for TCU is their defensive performance: three sacks and an interception. The big-play element has been missing for the Frogs as of late, and if they can restore that part of their defensive identity then they're going to be dangerous again this year. Friday Night West Virginia 27, Arkansas 16 The good news: West Virginia had a serious challenge going up against Arkansas, and they passed it with flying colors. Mohammed Foster was locked-in from the get-go and turned in a stellar performance (20-25 passing, 337 total yards, 3 total touchdown), Jason Dupree and J.C. Weldon were unanswerable, and the defense came out ready to barbecue the Flying Pig offense. They held Connor Dawson to 27-50 passing, picking him off twice and sacking him four times (including two takedowns by Hudson Adam), and seized control with a 13-3 first quarter that the Razorbacks never recovered from. If you had to draw up a perfect game for West Virginia, this was close to it. The bad news: And the only reasons it wasn't absolutely perfect were Mohammed Foster's one interception, a 3-10 effort on third down, and an inability to change field position with a 37.9 punting average. All of which come off as relatively minor concerns. The bottom line: This was a much-needed win for the Mountaineers after a rough opening slate, and a big feather in the cap for a West Virginia defense that hadn't held anybody to 16 points or fewer since quarterback-challenged Oklahoma State in 2018. Like TCU's win, this was also important for their bowl hopes and important because it demonstrated a new edge to the defense that hadn't really been evident until this weekend. Time to buy West Virginia stock? Kansas State 31, Wyoming 10 The good news: The Wildcat defense continued to eat opposing passers alive, making Jasiah Howard's day a waking nightmare. They held him to 138 yards on 15-27 (55.6%) passing, intercepting him twice. Redshirt freshman outside linebacker Shawn Reyes continued his red-hot start to the season, intercepting a pass for the second straight game and running his tackle total to 15 in three games. Defensive end Javier Tovar even managed a pick, causing the K-State sideline to erupt. The offensive balanced remained a strength, with two touchdowns apiece coming from Rahim Murrell and Elijah Humphrey. And Kansas State keeps rolling on. The bad news: After his scintillating debut, Rahim Murrell hasn't been able to follow up his performance. He finished the day with just 180 yards on 17-30 (56.7%) passing, matching his two touchdowns with two interceptions the other way--and it really isn't a good sign to struggle against Wyoming. This was a 3-3 game at halftime, and Murrell's struggles had Kansas State looking all sorts of out of sorts. Fortunately for Murrell and the Wildcats, he was able to get it together in the second half and put the ballgame well away. The bottom line: Parents, it's time to talk to your kids about an undefeated Kansas State. The Wildcats are now 3-0, have swept their non-conference schedule, and are halfway to bowl eligibility. This was easily the most convincing of their three wins so far, and the 28-7 second half was their best half of football so far this season. They've now climbed to 6th in the Big XII power rankings and earned a vote in the Coaches' Poll. This was the easy part, but it's important to note that Kansas State hasn't always taken care of the easy part before (see: Louisiana Tech 2018). This next game against TCU may well be the program's most important game since the Sunflower Showdown in 2016. Saturday Afternoon Oklahoma State 30, Virginia Tech 27 The good news: In their first game against Power 5 competition, Oklahoma State got the dubya and became the third Big XII team to hit 3-0 in a topsy-turvy game. It's hard to point to one thing Oklahoma State did as the primary cause of victory, but they did most things well enough to get the win. Jay Dunn stayed atop the Big XII receiving leaderboard with 81 yards and a score. Ralph Hinson's three field goals were a difference-maker--particularly since Virginia Tech's Declan Havens missed one. They intercepted Ralph Westfall once and sacked him twice. Perhaps most important was the fact that they stayed on the field, converting 6 of 13 third down opportunities and wearing down the Hokie defense all the way to the end. The bad news: Chester Brenner finally looked mortal. After throwing for 5 touchdowns in back-to-back games to open the season, Brenner was limited to 62.2% passing and threw a pair of interceptions to counteract his two touchdowns. Oklahoma State had appeared to seize control of this one with a 27-17 lead after three quarters, only to let Virginia Tech right back into it in the fourth. Running the ball wasn't very effective, with Khalil Bell averaging just over 3.6 yards per carry. They gave the Hokies opportunities; Virginia Tech didn't take advantage of them. The bottom line: Three games, three wins, three offensive efforts of 30 points or more. Oklahoma State's offense may have looked imperfect for the first time this week, but it's still dropping points with all deliberate haste. The defense is looking like it's mostly recovered from the Western Kentucky near-disaster, keeping a capable Virginia Tech offense from replicating the 45-point Hilltopper outburst. A 3-0 start in non-conference play puts them in commanding position for a bowl bid, and they'll get a huge test their next time out with currently undefeated Texas Tech in week 6. #16 Minnesota 14, Iowa State 7 The good news: This was a stellar defensive effort by the Cyclones, making Minnesota fight for every yard and every point. Robbie Duffy was a non-factor in the run game, netting just 55 yards on 16 carries. Robbie Koehler made up the difference, but even his day was marred by interceptions to cornerbacks David Tolliver and Israel McKenzie. Redshirt freshman Paul Bryant mauled the Minnesota offense like a bear, racking up a team-high 8 tackles. Kai Voss also recorded a sack, which by now is par for the course for him. They held a potent Minnesota offense to just 14 points, and because of that they had a real shot to take this one. The bad news: When an offensive effort gets the starting quarterback, starting runningback, and starting kicker benched, it was a particularly bad offensive effort. August Blank averaged 4.7 yards per attempt, completing 20-36 passes for 170 yards for the Cyclones' only touchdown and a pair of interceptions. Sincere Spikes and Elliott Efi both had solid games, but nobody else had more than 20 yards receiving. The ground game managed to be even worse, with Avery Jeffries managing just 38 yards on 14 carries, keeping Iowa State in 2nd-and-long and 3rd-and-long situations all day. Special teams let Iowa State down as much as anything. They couldn't affect field position in the punting game, and Daniel Craft missed both of his field goal attempts--which would have given Iowa State a chance to win with a field goal if Craft had converted. The bottom line: This was Iowa State's lowest offensive output since scoring 6 points in week 6 of the 2017 season against Miami, and it was bad enough that coach Minnowsotan felt the need to make major changes. Peter Edge takes over for quarterback August Blank, Josiah Edmonds takes over for runningback Avery Jeffries, and Mendy D'Angelo takes over for kicker Daniel Craft (who is 5-8 for the year and 2-5 from 40+ yards). From an expectations standpoint, it's not a bad loss for the Cyclones. Minnesota is legit, and keeping it close against them is a good sign overall. But at this point, it's clear that the offense isn't working right. It's a risk to make such major changes heading into conference play, but sometimes a risk needs to be taken. Notre Dame 40, #23 Kansas 21 The good news: Very little. Rod Fulton averaged more than 5 yards per carry (but on only 16 carries), Christian Graham threw 2 touchdown passes (but had a bad game otherwise), and Aden Evans averaged more than 43 yards per punt (but Hunter Smallwood averaged even more). This just plain wasn't a good game for Kansas. The bad news: Notre Dame bet that they could disrupt Christian Graham. Kansas bet that they could disrupt the Notre Dame run game. Only one bet was cashed in. Notre Dame ran for 207 yards on the Jayhawk defense, intercepted Christian Graham three times, sacked him three times, and became the fourth team to hang a 40-spot on Kansas in regulation. Kalei Keil nabbed 133 yards and a score on 26 carries, but quarterback Owen Sorensen added 74 and a score of his own on 8 rushes. But in addition, he had an efficient day through the air, completing 15-19 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns through the air. When Notre Dame wasn't in the endzone, they were kicking four field goals. Kansas wasn't--Joel Hawley missed his only field goal attempt of the day. The Jayhawk line looked uncharacteristically bad, with right end Eric Samuels (1.5 sacks) working over left tackle Ben Goode. None of this is something that Kansas can afford to have repeat in conference play. The bottom line: This is an expectation-changing loss for Kansas, no two ways about it. It's not just that they fall to 1-2; it's more the way that the Jayhawks lost this one. They can't afford to have all their question marks--Christian Graham's youth, the defense's ability to defend things--come back with bad answers. But alarmingly, even things that were in their strengths column--namely, the offensive line--have slid into question mark territory. It's a serious wake-up call before conference play, and it turns the Iowa State matchup into a must-win game. If Kansas doesn't beat a vulnerable Iowa State, they will be staying home this winter. Texas Tech 33, Oklahoma 30 (2OT) The good news/ The bad news: This game took a lot of guts from Texas Tech, and they were able to dig deep and win this one in double overtime. Solomon McLaughlin continued his sensational start, posting another 133 yards (which is actually a season low!) and 2 touchdowns on 26 carries. Chase Shapiro had one of his better efforts of his career, going a season-best 11-16 for 109 yards and a touchdown while maintaining his interception-free streak this season. Oklahoma's thin front seven really didn't have an answer for Texas Tech's ability to get chunks of yardage on the ground. The bad news/ The good news: Maurice White is now officially the most feared man in Lubbock, as the sophomore tailback ripped through the Red Raider defense to the tune of 166 yards and 2 touchdowns on 27 carries--the most yardage any Big XII player has earned on the ground since White hit up Texas Tech for 238 last season. The most encouraging sign for Oklahoma, though, was the play of Eric Pope. He didn't have a good debut, and his second game wasn't much better. But Oklahoma made some adjustments, followed Texas Tech's lead in the rushing revolution, and Pope put up a solid statline: 9-12 for 104 yards, 1 touchdown, and 59 rushing yards on 10 carries. If they can get that out of Pope going forward, Oklahoma's got a chance to turn things around. The bottom line: The first conference game of the season was exactly as much fun as expected. Two high-caliber rushing attacks did exactly what they do best, trading punch for punch until the Red Raiders were finally able to get one stop that Oklahoma couldn't match in the second overtime period. Both teams should probably feel good about the result to a degree. Oklahoma doesn't really revel in moral victories (especially since the loss drops them to 0-3 for the first time ever), but they found an offensive formula that worked and can build on that going forward as they face a must-win against Pittsburgh. Texas Tech, meanwhile, gets up to 3-0. This is their third 3-0 start in school history, and the previous two ended with the Red Raiders in the top 8. They'll enjoy a 1-0 foothold in conference play and look to wrap up non-conference play with a road date at Washington. Saturday Evening California 23, Baylor 21 The good news: Baylor had some fine individual performances, starting with Marcus Swartz. The senior quarterback was the offense, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for another to account for all of Baylor's scoring. Hastin Rider and Lamont Wilder were reliable targets, though there wasn't any third player who stepped up. On defense, Julian Neville had a DPOTW-worthy game--if Damani Jeffries didn't beat him out for it. Neville picked off Leonard Norris, added a sack, and had 5 tackles as well. Darius Wilkes added the Bears' other sack, and Ned Denny was all over the place with 8 tackles. Most importantly, they were able to stop their pass defense's bleeding. After allowing 374 yards per game through the air for the first two weeks, they kept California to a more reasonable 235. The bad news: But at the same time, Leonard Norris still completed 75% of his passes, got his 235 yards on just 24 attempts, and threw a pair of scores in the second quarter that provided the backbone for Cal's offensive efforts. The defense was good enough to give Baylor a chance, but special teams ended up making the difference in this one. Jesse Cantrell missed his only field goal attempt from the game. Sam Walsh hit from 51, 43, and what would effectively be the decisive field goal from 48 yards in the fourth quarter. The bottom line: Baylor's now played three close games, and for the second straight time they've come out on the wrong end of it--which means that they're now 1-2 after a slate in which they were probably the favorite all three times out. It's a heartbreaker to lose this one, and it brings a lot of questions to the forefront for the Bear defense. This game was a test because Baylor won't face in conference play the pass-heavy attacks that UCLA and Arkansas brought to the table, and giving up 75% passing and nearly 10 yards per attempt isn't an encouraging sign at all. Their next three weeks are a bye, a trip to Iowa State, and a home date with Texas Tech, so they at the very least will not be tested against the pass for a while yet. Byes: None
  3. An NBC/WSJ poll reports that 60% of Big XII fans disapprove of this timeline's job performance.
  4. I co-sign not liking this timeline.
  5. Not sure what my writing schedule will be this week. Possibly weeknight preview before week in review. Hoping to catch up on a lot tomorrow, but we'll see. 

    1. smckenz3


      Let me know if you need help. 

  6. Welcome! Keep an eye out for Isaac829, Charlotte coach and C-USA commish, he'll handle your application.
  7. Not only is our SOS the hardest, but the gap between #1 and #2 is larger than the gap between #2 and #14. I'm so glad the back half of our season gets easier, though given our loss to New Orleans that might not be much solace.
  8. "WE LET THEM OFF THE HOOK" Bears second-half rally squandered in OT loss at Indy Chicago sacked Aaron Shea once and matched his season total with 2 interceptions, but their own miscues spoiled an upset bid
  9. Good work, Dallas.
  10. Great triple set of results for Denver. Has any team been hit with worse injury luck to key players at the wrong time as often as Oakland, though?
  11. Could've gone worse.
  12. FSU's upset losses always seem to come at home. The Mississippi State Chance, Syracuse a couple years ago, Syracuse now...
  13. The only team to beat Rahim so far is Kansas State.
  14. And 3/10 for the whole season. Basketball teams have a better 3-point field goal percentage than that.
  15. What's that saying about messing with Texas? Because I think the rest of the teams on their schedule (including me) are thinking about it right now.
  16. Rest in peace, Alexander the Great.
  17. For most of the conference, this is the final week of non-conference play, and the last chance to get right before the football gods before the games start to mean even more. For Oklahoma and Texas Tech, though, it's the conference opener and the first chance to take a step toward a championship. For every member of the nation's most exciting conference, it's a game week. This is the only bye-free week, and that means a deep, diverse slate of nine games. We have rivalries renewed, we have offensive duels, we have defensive slugfests, and we have matchup dreams. Without further ado, let's talk about the games. Thursday Night Texas A&M (0-2) at Texas (2-0) Texas has had two shots at Texas A&M over the years, both coming in College Station. They fell both times. Now, the Longhorns get a shot at the hated Aggies in Austin, and undefeated Texas has some pent-up revenge to collect on. These Aggies are dangerous, as the rest of the SEC West could tell you: they nearly rallied from a 21-0 deficit against Ole Miss (but lost 38-35), and they led Alabama for most of the game (but lost 28-26). The Aggie offense relies heavily on one man: the 5-foot-9 former Juco star Jarvis Ward has been one of the nation's best so far, racking up 20 catches for 308 yards and all 5 of his team's receiving touchdowns in just two games. Texas's secondary has looked vintage so far, holding Boise State and Oregon to 56% passing with 1 combined touchdown against 4 combined interceptions. Ward's emergence, though, makes this the biggest challenge to the Longhorn secondary yet. When Damani Jeffries is covering him, Texas feels confident. When Devon Braxton rotates over to him, things are more interesting--Braxton has all the talent in the world and picked off Jason Baum last week, but Jeffries is the steadier of the two. Texas's depth in the secondary is still thinner than they'd like, but Nathan Singletary has relied almost exclusively on Ward rather than bother going through his progressions. Cover Ward, get pressure on Singletary, force him into tough throws, and Texas A&M's offense will grind to a halt. (Note: this is easier said than done.) On offense, look for Kyler Tackett to shine. Tackett has been completing 70.9% of his passes so far, and Texas A&M's secondary has been beaten up over the first couple of weeks. Ole Miss tight end Hunter King went for 145 yards and two scores, and Alabama put two receivers over the century mark. The Aggie secondary is essentially as deep as Julian Woods, and that's an opportunity for Abdoul Causey on the outside and Steven Maloney underneath. Texas A&M's strength on their defense is their line, and that's going to give them a chance against a young Texas offensive line. And until proven otherwise, Jarvis Ward is a tactical nuke in a 5-9 body. But other than that, all signs point to Texas being the deeper, more talented, more technically skilled team, and they will have the edge at home. Texas 27, Texas A&M 17 TCU (0-2) at Rice (1-1) With one Texas-on-Texas fight taking place in the capital, we slide over to the state's largest city for the other one. TCU is still looking for their first win of the season--and more importantly, they're looking for an end to a drought that has now reached 14 losses in 17 games. They hit the road to take on Rice, a team they beat 31-27 last year in Fort Worth--but the Owls have been dangerous against power-5 competition this season so far. They took Kansas to overtime on the road before keeping North Carolina State out of the endzone in a 17-9 win. If TCU wants to get their first win of the season, key number one, two, and three comes down to three words: stop Eric McLean. The Owls have scored 5 touchdowns this season, and all 5 came on the arm of McLean. The offense has gained 711 yards, and 595 of those have come on the arm of Eric McLean. That's a problem for TCU based on early returns: Jamel Armstrong and Andre Webb threw for 309 yards apiece, 5 combined touchdowns to 1 interception, and a 64.6% combined completion rate. New starting cornerbacks Roman Blackmon and William Cooper are still settling in, and facing two powerful passing attacks hasn't helped. Unfortunately for them, this is no reprieve. Rice's threat is primarily from McLean; he makes his receivers look better and knows how to spread the ball out, but none of them are dynamic on their own. That means a disciplined approach is necessary--overloading on one receiver will just mean someone else gets open for McLean to make a play. On offense, TCU will look to find more success in the passing game than they did in their first two games. Sam Milner has completed just 57.4% of his passes so far, averaging 170 yards per game and throwing 3 touchdowns to 3 interceptions. Rice's secondary showed some nice aggression against Kansas by picking off Christian Graham twice, only to let Blake Fry leave turnover-free the following game. But even if Milner's aerial struggles continue, TCU can look to its ground game to carry the effort. Shamar Burroughs is coming off of his second career 110-yard game, and TCU won't be afraid to challenge this Rice defensive line--or even linebacker Andres Arriaga behind them. It's a combination that nearly worked against SMU, but Rice also shut down a similarly designed attack against NC State. This game would not be much of a surprise going either way. But I think this matchup is easier for TCU than the two it had prior, and they'll use that experience to put it all together and get their first win of the season. TCU 31, Rice 23 Friday Night West Virginia (0-2) at Arkansas (1-1) West Virginia's non-conference schedule has been a doozy. But with no relief in sight and the prospect of an 0-3 start staring them in the face, the Mountaineers have no choice but to go on the road and beat Arkansas if they want to win this game. The Razorbacks were last seen throwing the ball all over Baylor in week 2, upsetting the then-#22 Bears 48-44 in double-overtime behind 340 yards and 4 touchdowns from redshirt sophomore Connor Dawson. Slowing down the Flying Pig offense is going to be paramount for West Virginia, who has struggled against the loaded multiple-threat pass offenses of Pittsburgh and Penn State to the tune of 310.5 passing yards allowed per game and a passer rating allowed in the 155.2 range. Arkansas brings exactly that to the table: they've been pass-heavy for years, Dawson's continued the tradition, and he has guys like Tyron Chambers, Noel Lujan, and tight end Dillon Scott to throw to. The good news, though, is that these hogs can be barbecued. Illinois isn't normally the state you'd call on for good ol' pork meat, but the Illini defense got pressure on the Arkansas backfield, held Dawson to 23-45 passing, recorded a pick-six from Damien Norman, and held Arkansas to 6 points in a blowout win. Not even Illinois could stop Tyron Chambers (10 for 120 yards), so let's stipulate that Arkansas's star will get his. If, however, the Mountaineers can limit Noel Lujan and Dillon Scott while keeping Chambers from busting too many big gains, that'll give their offense a chance. Arkansas's defense isn't built to deal with West Virginia's offense. It's secondary-focused and ill-equipped to deal with a dual-threat quarterback. Marcus Swartz threw for 289 yards and rushed for another 63, for example. Robert Bleeker's good in coverage and is certainly being looked at by all sorts of NFL scouts, but he's one guy. If he's assigned to J.C. Weldon, someone still has to cover Elias Langston and Jason Dupree. Someone still has to stay in the box to deal with Mohamed Mustafa or even Mohammed Foster in scramble mode. West Virginia's offense can hit the same weak spots Baylor hit, except that West Virginia can hit them harder. I think that will make up for any matchup issues that the Razorback offense will present, and West Virginia will come out of this one with their first win of the season. West Virginia 37, Arkansas 27 Wyoming (0-2) at Kansas State (2-0) Last year in Manhattan, Troy Tanner and the Wyoming Cowboys gave Kansas State a scare. Tanner rushed for 139 yards and 3 touchdowns, keeping Wyoming in the game until Julien Daly stripped him for the game-winning score in a 38-31 K-State win. Playing host to Wyoming for the second straight year, Kansas State hopes to leave a whole lot less doubt his time around--even without the graduated Daly. Wyoming has struggled in all three phases of the game this year, outscored 107-13 in two games this year. New starting quarterback Jasiah Howard is 23-47 for 218 yards, 1 touchdown, and 5 interceptions so far. Troy Tanner has been okay, rushing 47 times for 195 yards--just over 4.1 yards per carry--but he has yet to reach the endzone through two games. That's a potential area of concern for Kansas State: their run defense is giving up almost as many yards per carry (5.26) as their pass defense allowed per attempt (5.30). But barring another performance similar to what Tanner put on last year, Wyoming's offense doesn't look to have much in the tank. The Wyoming defense hasn't been able to stop a parked car either, giving up 385 passing yards and 4.5 touchdowns per game. Neither Florida State nor Temple bothered to run the ball much. Kansas State won't give Wyoming that kind of predictability: they'll let Elijah Humphrey test the Wyoming front and let Rahim Murrell throw all over the Cowboy secondary. If Wyoming gets into scoring position, don't expect them to close--converting punter Gavin Roy to kicker hasn't worked at all, as he's 2/7 on field goal attempts with a long of 28 yards. Factor in the resignation of their coach (we miss you already, GK) and Kansas State really shouldn't have a problem with this one. Kansas State 38, Wyoming 14 Saturday Afternoon Virginia Tech (1-1) at Oklahoma State (2-0) Chester Brenner has been hot, red-hot to kick off his senior season. Leading the Big XII with 665 yards and 10 touchdowns while maintaining a conference-best completion percentage of 71.2% and a conference-best passer rating of 190.2, there's hardly anything more that Oklahoma State could ask from their signal-caller--other than to keep it up. Now, the Cowboy offense takes on their first P5 opponent of the season, and they'll need Brenner to stay hot. Virginia Tech's done a pretty good job of limiting the pass so far this season, holding Giovanni Shaw of Eastern Michigan to 180 yards but letting Grant McConnell get away with a solid, 291-yard, 2-touchdown game. The Hokies have a young but talented cornerback pair in Lucas Freeman and Trevor McKinney, but the man who makes the secondary tick is strong safety Jonathan Norman. Oklahoma State has a lot of depth at receiver, and Virginia Tech lacks it at basically any non-safety position on defense, so expect the Cowboys to try and turn up the heat while staying fresh themselves. The Hokies might be able to get a bit of pressure from the defensive line, but don't expect a whole bunch of it. It's going to be mostly on the secondary to hold their assignments as long as possible. The defense is going to be the sticking point for Oklahoma State. They gave up 45 points in their opener against Western Kentucky, but then they followed it up by holding Marshall to 10. They've been successful against the run (3.49 YPCA) but have drawn mixed reviews against the pass. The 58.7% completion percentage allowed and the 4-6 TD-INT ratio count as good news; the 12.19 yards allowed per completion qualifies as bad news. Virginia Tech is relatively balanced, but the run game is more threatening. Ralph Westfall really hasn't looked good so far, and none of his receivers are really able to help him out. Maurice Ervin, though, is a possible threat. The converted fullback is averaging more than 4.5 yards per carry and has found paydirt three times already. Oklahoma State's defensive line isn't the best at jamming holes at the line of scrimmage, but the linebackers can still fly around the field to chase down the ballcarrier. This was a blowout loss for Oklahoma State in 2018 and a close win in 2019. I'm expecting the trendline to continue toward a comfortable win in 2020 for the Cowboys. Oklahoma State 34, Virginia Tech 20 Iowa State (1-1) at #16 Minnesota (2-0) The last time Iowa State squared off against Robbie and Robbie, the Golden Gophers robbed the Cyclones of a victory with a second-half rally and a late field goal to stave off Iowa State's upset bid by an 18-17 margin. A lot has changed in such a short time. Clifford Wilcox, Arturo Pacheco, and Tom Oldham are out the door for Iowa State, as is former Minnesota coach bingo415--replaced by lucas95. Now, Iowa State heads up to the Twin Cities for revenge, and they'll have to deal with a Minnesota squad that's been clicking so far this year. Combining a solid offense with a smothering defense, Minnesota blew out Miami (FL) 49-13 before smothering Maryland in a 20-9 victory. This matchup should be a defensive one. The Cyclone offense is still learning on the job: August Blank averages the fewest yards per pass attempt (5.79) in the Big XII, while Avery Jeffries averages the fewest per carry (3.94). That's not good news against a Minnesota front seven that can get pressure off the edges from the line alone while dropping its linebackers into shallow coverage, making it more difficult to rely on the run game or the short passing game. The Gophers are thinner in the secondary, where they've actually had to convert a free safety to cornerback and a linebacker to strong safety, but they still have Shane Brinkley on lockdown duty. Neither of their first opponents have been able to crack that code yet. Neither Miami nor Maryland managed a passing touchdown; all they got was 3 interceptions, including a pick-six by Giovanni Hilliard. Iowa State will need to avoid turnovers and figure out some way to move the ball down the field. Minnesota's offense isn't necessarily star-studded, but it's been effective. Quarterback Robbie Koehler's averaging more than 295 yards per game and has thrown 6 touchdown passes without an interception this season. Runningback Robbie Duffy can be hit-or-miss, but any defense has to account for him. Receiver Jamir Blackburn is the biggest name on the field, though he's trailed in receiving to true freshman tight end Salvatore Marlow both times out. David Tolliver ought to be able to match up well against Blackburn, and the rest of Iowa State's secondary's about as deep as the rest of Minnesota's receiving corps. The defensive front should be able to manage anything short or on the ground just like Minnesota's can. The Cyclone defense is its better half, and I think it ought to be able to hold its own against Minnesota's offense. But holding its own won't be enough, because I don't think Iowa State's offense has the firepower to overcome Minnesota's defense consistently enough. #16 Minnesota 24, Iowa State 13 #23 Kansas (1-1) vs. Notre Dame (1-1) (Soldier Field, Chicago, IL) Is Notre Dame back? And is Kansas still here? Those are the two most prominent questions that will be answered by this Shamrock Series game to conclude the home-away-neutral series between the Jayhawks and the Irish. Notre Dame is coming off of their biggest win in a while--perhaps their biggest win since the 2016 title game, in fact. Behind 160 rushing yards from Kalei Keil and an off day from Luke Trickett, Notre Dame shocked the world and stunned then-#2 USC in South Bend. This is their first game since then, and the way Kansas lost to Vanderbilt has to have them feeling nervous about this one. Vanderbilt was able to run the ball successfully against the Jayhawks and thrive on offense despite an off day from their quarterback--which is exactly Notre Dame's modus operandi. Owen Sorenson has been okay at best, starting the year 33-56 (58.9%) for 401 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions so far. Keil has been the biggest offensive threat, collecting 278 yards and a pair of scores on his 48 carries. Notre Dame's offensive line has been able to get him room to run, and fullback Jeremy Crawley can't be underestimated in that regard either. Kansas will need to find some way to get pressure in the backfield--or, at the very least, keep Keil and the scrambling Sorenson contained before they can do any damage. On offense, Kansas still hasn't quite hit their stride. Christian Graham's put up good numbers in most categories--68.4% passing, a 150.3 passer rating, 235 yards per game--but he's also thrown 3 interceptions against 4 touchdowns, and turnovers are a serious problem. Notre Dame has a tough secondary, and it's laden with experience between cornerback Antonio Early, safety-turned-cornerback Richard Madison, free safety Aidan Grey, and strong safety Jamir Foy. Nicholas Garland cracked that nut, but Trickett couldn't. A critical element will be Kansas's run game. Can Rod Fulton find room to work against Notre Dame's front seven? Neither Stanford nor USC ran the ball a ton against Notre Dame, whereas Fulton's carried the ball 20.5 times per game and averaged 94 yards on the ground. A successful Fulton will mean a successful Kansas offense; a bad game on the ground will put more pressure on the freshman Graham and leave the Jayhaw offense dysfunctional. I'm tentatively betting on Kansas chipping away at Notre Dame's defense and coming up with just enough to slow down Kalei Keil and the Notre Dame offense--but I'm also betting on a close game. #23 Kansas 26, Notre Dame 20 Oklahoma (0-2) at Texas Tech (2-0)* The final game of the daylight hours doubles as the first conference game of the season of the Big XII--and quite possibly the last stand for Oklahoma's young season. Oklahoma stands at 0-2 for the first time ever, having suffered losses to Auburn and Iowa, and their schedule doesn't get a whole lot kinder the rest of the way. They head down to Lubbock for the fourth time, and they're looking to come away with their fourth straight victory in the city. What makes this game feel within Oklahoma's grasp comes down to two words: Maurice White. As a freshman, White singlehandedly razed the Red Raider defense, putting up 238 yards and 4 touchdowns in Oklahoma's 49-7 win to reach 8-0. As a sophomore, White has become the most important player on the entire team thanks to the departure of Graham Burnett. He's been one of the two best runningbacks in the Big XII so far, rushing for 227 yards in 2 games on just over 5 yards per carry. Of course, the other of the two top runningbacks so far will be on the other sideline: true freshman Solomon McLaughlin is leading every rushing category across the board--56 carries, 285 yards, 5.08 yards per carry, and 5 touchdowns through 2 games. Texas Tech has committed to a run-first, run-second, pass-maybe offense, and Oklahoma may well be considering following suit. It's worked for the Red Raiders, as they can keep feeding McLaughlin, shorten the game, and limit what Chase Shapiro (27 pass attempts in 2 games) has to do. Oklahoma's tried to get true freshman quarterback Eric Pope involved in the offense, but there's been a lot of growing pains there as he's maintained a sub-110 passer rating. So this game is going to come down to who can run the ball more effectively, and who can stop the run more effectively. Texas Tech's been better at creating space with the offensive line. Texas Tech's been able to shut down the rushing attacks of North Carolina and Boise State. They haven't faced anyone of the caliber of Maurice White, though, wheras Oklahoma's had to face Sean Meade of Auburn. If they'd been able to limit Meade, that would be of more comfort for Sooner fans; instead, he and Marcus Black combined for 157 yards on 27 carries. I think Texas Tech's defensive numbers are due to regress somewhat, but Oklahoma's inexperienced and transfer-laden defensive front isn't in any kind of shape to stop McLaughlin or contain Shapiro. I think the Red Raiders are going to move to 3-0 with their first-ever win over Oklahoma. Texas Tech 30, Oklahoma 17 Saturday Evening Baylor (1-1) at California (2-0) The ninth and final game of this marathon slate is an important one for Baylor--but for everyone else, it's a matchup treat going both ways. After an overtime win over UCLA and a double-overtime loss to Arkansas, Baylor is looking to find its footing on defense--particularly against the pass. Steven Gore and Connor Dawson combined to throw for 748 yards and 9 touchdowns against the Bears, netting a 142.55 combined passer rating. That's less than ideal defense, and it's something that has to change before conference play starts. Their last opportunity to do so comes against Cal, a team that knows how to throw the ball but isn't quite as pass-happy as it used to be. With redshirt freshman Zachary McFadden now in the fold, the Golden Bears haven't been afraid to use him. He's rushed 47 times for 216 yards (a respectable 4.6 yards per carry) and 2 touchdowns. But the bread and butter of that offense is still the connection between junior quarterback Leonard Norris and senior receiver Hakeem Black. That hookup has been responsible for 196 yards and 2 scores on 11 connections, and Kristian Lipscomb has proved to be a valuable second target with 124 yards and 2 scores (both against UAB) of his own. That brings us to the first matchup dream: Hakeem Black against Kyle Cunningham. The junior corner out of Jefferson County in southeast Texas has been a phenom, and he's essentially been Baylor's only line of defense against these passing onslaughts. He kept Darius Waters in check, but #2 receivers have still feasted on the Baylor secondary. The once-unheralded Kristian Lipscomb is dangerous, so Baylor has to figure out how to neutralize him. On offense, though, Baylor hasn't hungered for points. Marcus Swartz has been wheeling and dealing. He's second in the Big XII with 599 yards, tied for second with 5 touchdown passes, first with 9.8 yards per attempt, and second again with a passer rating of 173.5. He's also added 101 yards and 3 scores on the ground on just 16 carries, and Nasir Burden's scored 4 touchdowns on the ground despite just 4.1 yards per carry. Swartz's favorite target has been Lamont Wilder, whose 225 yards receiving rank 2nd in the Big XII behind Jay Dunn's 235. Wilder's a great route-runner, and he'll need to pull out every trick he has up his sleeve to shake California star Blaine Lewis-Thompson. The true sophomore Lewis-Thompson has already made a name for himself, and he started off this season with a 2-pick game against Oregon State. With Zachary Waller, Ethan Mayes, and Patrick Causey as backup, Lewis-Thompson isn't on an island either. But Baylor's less likely to challenge Cal deep as they are to exploit the quick passing game and try to work the interior of the field. Cal's done well against the pass, but Oregon State's Lloyd Samuels provided proof-of-concept to the idea that Cal can be beaten on the ground. That's more likely to come in the form of Marcus Swartz using his legs than Nasir Burden tearing the defense apart, but I think that's just the edge Baylor needs in this one. I'm certainly worried about the California passing threat, but I think Baylor's offense can punch right back and take this win in Berkeley. Baylor 31, California 24 Byes: None
  18. Probably not going to have time to do Five by Five this week. Next week is a coin toss. But the Chicago Tribune's most popular feature will definitely return as soon as possible.

  19. Looks like things are starting to get back on track in the nation's most exciting conference. No more unexpectedly close wins against G5 teams, no more unusual defensive lapses, and some competitive showings against ranked competition--even if the Big XII couldn't pull out wins in either game involving a ranked team. Oklahoma's struggles continued, and so did Chester Brenner's hot start for Oklahoma State. Iowa State bounced back from a close loss with a strong win, and Kansas bounced back from an overtime win with a 10-point loss. Kansas State and Texas each moved to 2-0 while West Virginia fell (albeit understandably) to 0-2. On net, it's not anything close to what week 2 was, and that's at least a positive. Offensive Player of the Week: Chester Brenner, OKST, 28 of 35 for 295 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT Defensive Player of the Week: Axel Lozano, TEX, 1 INT, 5 Tackles Special Teams Player of the Week: Felipe Munoz, WVU, 4/4 FG (19, 45, 42, 47), 1/1 XP Now let's talk about the games. Thursday Night Iowa 34, Oklahoma 20 The good news: Oklahoma's offense, operating in fits and starts over their first two games, finally seemed to find its gear in a 14-point fourth quarter. Much of that came on the back of Maurice White, who finished the day with 127 yards and a score on 24 carries. It's the third-highest single-game rushing total of the redshirt sophomore's young career, and they'll need him at his best next week when they face Texas Tech--whom he tore to shreds last season. Elsewhere on offense, Eric Pope showed a bit of game-over-game improvement, jumping from 50% passing and 170 yards in his debut to nearly 63% passing and 220 in game 2. The bad news: Two turnovers put Oklahoma in a hole, but the big problem was that Mikeal Black got whatever he wanted. The breakout scrambler completed 20-29 passes for 260 yards and a pair of scores, adding 38 yards and a touchdown on the ground. They kept Nathaniel Donaldson in check (20 for 85 yards, 1 TD), and freshman linebacker Theo Ricci was flying all over the field making tackle after tackle. But they were at a disadvantage on both lines of scrimmage, giving up a pair of sacks while collecting none of their own and failing to get pressure on Black. The bottom line: Oklahoma's 0-2 for the first time ever, and neither game's been particularly close. High-level scramblers have been a particular thorn in their side, able to hit all of their defensive weaknesses at once. With Grant McConnell, Mohammed Foster, Kyler Tackett, and Marcus Swartz coming up in the next five games, that's worrisome. The Sooners have a lot to figure out on both sides of the ball, and they have to do it fast. The good news is that they'll get Texas Tech next, and Maurice White alone will give them a chance there. They have no choice but to take it. Iowa State 26, New Mexico 10 The good news: The Cyclone offense got out to a hot start against New Mexico, with a touchdown pass from August Blank and a touchdown run from Avery Jeffries to pace them out to a 14-0 lead. Sincere Spikes shined with 5 catches for 85 yards, including that same Blank first-quarter touchdown throw. From there, the defense took full control of the ballgame. They harried Jacob McLain into an awful game, picking him off 3 times and limiting him to 140 yards on 56% passing. Laurent Daniel showed out in his second game as the starting strong safety, recording one of those picks to go with 5 tackles. Special teams was important as well, as Daniel Craft knocked down all four of his field goal attempts to keep this game out of reach. The bad news: Not really much to speak of here. Wesley Bearden rushed for 109 yards on 23 carries against the Cyclone front, but they walled him off effectively from the endzone and forced the Lobos to rely on an unsteady kicking game. They only sacked McLain once, but they were in his face and at the end of enough of his passes that it didn't really matter. Full marks. The bottom line: This is a good, strong bounceback win for the Cyclones after the Husker heartbreaker. They had more talent than New Mexico, and they were able to press their advantages in a way that an extraordinarily balanced New Mexico simply can't. A big road win will give them a solid boost of momentum going forward--and they'll need it, considering that the third and final leg of their road trip is the hardest: a date with Minnesota. Friday Night Oklahoma State 52, Marshall 10 The good news: With two games in the books so far, four Big XII quarterbacks have had 5 or more touchdown passes: Marcus Swartz, Rahim Murrell, week 1 Chester Brenner, and week 3 Chester Brenner. The most hated man in Norman is looking like an early Heisman candidate after putting up jaw-dropping numbers yet again. 28-35 for 295 yards and 5 touchdowns without an interception are something out of a video game, and Brenner is now the proud owner of the Oklahoma State single-game passer rating record (min. 10 pass attempts) with the 197.9 he put up on Friday. As of now, he leads the Big XII in completions, attempts, yards, touchdowns, and passer rating. But that's not all! Khalil Bell had a solid two-touchdown game, and the defense made Brandon Adler look completely addled in picking him off 4 times. This was as close to flawless as it gets. The bad news: They only scored 10 points in the fourth quarter instead of 14, preventing a 14-14-14-14 scoreline. The bottom line: After the Western Kentucky scare, Oklahoma State didn't waste any time at all making a statement, running up a 28-7 lead by the half and keeping their foot on the gas all the way through the game. Their offense and defense played at about as high a level as you can reasonably expect, and their newfound aggression on the defensive side is a welcome relief after giving up 45 points to Western Kentucky. That brings them to 2-0 in the easiest portion of their schedule, and this game will give them something to work from going forward as they take on Virginia Tech, followed by the entirety of their conference schedule. Kansas State 34, Central Michigan 28 The good news: Down 21-13 at the half and struggling on both sides of the ball, Kansas State managed to turn things around in the second half and outlast Central Michigan for their 2nd win of the season. Elijah Humphrey was fantastic, accumulating 110 yards and two touchdowns on his 24 carries and essentially becoming the most reliable part of the offense as Rahim Murrell was up-and-down. But Murrell himself did have some highlights, including touchdown passes to Devon Tillman and Damani Askew. On defense, they were able to hold Matt Rowland under 4.6 yards per attempt, keep everything in front of them, and make the Chips work for every yard they got--and as a bonus, freshman linebacker Shawn Reyes got his first career interception. The bad news: Rahim Murrell didn't have an awful game, but he also didn't have a game befitting The Greatest. He was limited to 200 yards, he tossed a pair of picks, and A'Shawn Ellison returned one of his interceptions for a Central Michigan score to put the Wildcats in a hole early on. Those two turnovers gave Central Michigan points that they didn't have to earn on offense, and that's a drag on morale as much as it's a drag on the scoreboard. Essentially, that's the reason why this was close. The bottom line: Central Michigan is the team that broke Oregon State's losing streak, and they're also a team that matched up well enough with Kansas State to be a threat. However you evaluate that, Kansas State got the win. With that, they're now 2-0 for the first time in school history. They'll be favored to make it 3-0 when they take on Wyoming, which would match last year's win total--though the Cowboys did make things uncomfortably close against the Wildcats when they met last year. Kansas State's bowl hopes rely on getting those first three wins in non-conference play, and they're already two-thirds of the way to that first objective. They're right on track. Saturday Afternoon Texas 27, Oregon 24 (2OT) The good news: Lots of good news for this one, starting with the final scoreline. It takes a lot to turn a 20-point home loss one year into a road win of any margin the next year, but that's exactly what Texas did. Kyler Tackett was sharp, completing more than 70% of his passes for the second straight week--and this time, he was taking more shots downfield and putting his receivers in position to gain yards after the catch. Simeon Wells had a better game than his debut, and the Longhorn offense went over 400 yards for the day between the two of them. They won the turnover battle 2-0, which is crucial in an overtime game. They limited Jason Baum in particular. And they won the special teams battle: Will Ladd didn't attempt anything longer than 25 yards, but he hit both of his attempts--the same could not be said for Jaden Ross, whose 29-yard shank in the second overtime ended the game. The bad news: Next time out, they'll look to improve on their run defense. They didn't get burned on the ground per se, but Trevon Yeldon's 115 yards and 2 touchdowns on 24 carries was the crux of Oregon's offensive success. They'll also hope to keep pressure out of the backfield a little bit better--Tackett was sacked twice and had to throw on the run on a couple of occasions. But these qualify as nitpicks. The bottom line: This is the kind of non-conference win that eventual conference winners are able to bring home. Oregon was ranked in the preseason, and all they'd done to jeopardize that position before this game is lose to a tough-looking Vanderbilt. The Longhorns move up to 2-0, and this was the toughest game on their non-conference slate. They'll get a different kind of test in their third time out, facing hated rival Texas A&M and star receiver Jarvis Ward. A convincing win would re-assert their status as favorites to win the Big XII Conference. Saturday Evening #1 Penn State 28, West Virginia 19 The good news: West Virginia led the #1 team in the country 10-0 after one quarter, 13-7 at the half, and 16-14 after three quarters before the Nittany Lions' fourth-quarter onslaught slew them. The key offensive players were at it again for the Mountaineers, with Mohammed Foster accounting for 339 total yards while Mohamed Mustafa came a hair short of cracking the century mark. Tight end Jason Dupree led the team in receiving with 92 yards and a score on 7 catches, and J.C. Weldon added 83 as well. The defense even picked off Tanner Bowman once, which was enough to win the turnover battle. It's a lot to ask to beat the #1 team in the country, and West Virginia isn't wholly at fault for not doing so--nor is it a criticism to say they lost a winnable game, since it took a lot to make the game winnable in the first place. The bad news: On the other hand, the loss did come from predictable (and therefore replicable) circumstances: West Virginia's defense couldn't contain Morgan "General" Patton or Tyler White, and that made life easy for Tanner Bowman. The senior star threw for 321 yards and 3 touchdowns, and those two receivers accounted for about two-thirds of that total. They didn't win either line of scrimmage, giving up 3 sacks and generating very little pressure on the Penn State backfield. They also struggled to close drives with touchdowns. West Virginia had 5 scoring drives to Penn State's 4, but only one Mountaineer drive actually ended in a touchdown. Felipe Munoz kicked from 19 (!) yards in the first quarter, and added field goals from 45, 42, and 47. The offense is too good to rely on field goals. The bottom line: Nineteen points against an historically great defense is not a bad effort, nor is holding a loaded offense to 28 points. A consistently tough non-conference schedule means that West Virginia has probably racked up as many so-called quality losses as anyone over the past few years--but as losses go, this wasn't a bad one. With two games against teams ranked in the post-week 3 coaches' poll already in the books, West Virginia will finally get to the easiest game of their non-conference slate: a road date against the high-flying Razorback offense that outshot Baylor. ...Well, no one's going to accuse West Virginia of playing cupcakes, that's for sure. #14 Vanderbilt 30, #17 Kansas 20 The good news: On some notes, the offense actually managed to look sharper against Vanderbilt than it did against Rice. Christian Graham completed more than 70% of his passes for 230 yards and threw 2 touchdowns to 1 interception--numbers that he'll still want to improve on, though. Rod Fulton had his first 100-yard rushing game, closing with 108 on 20 carries. With Malcolm Davis limited by Jordan Tucker, other receivers stepped up as Chris Burgos and Noah Hills each recorded a touchdown catch in the first quarter. The pass defense was strong, holding Justin Malloy to 14-28 passing and picking him off twice. They also got their first and second sacks of the season--including one from true freshman Jamari Callahan. The bad news: Last year's #2 scoring offense was held to 20 points, including just six points in the final 45 minutes of the ballgame. The Vanderbilt defense bullied the Jayhawk line, made Graham hear footsteps constantly, and was especially effective on third down. And Kansas didn't have much answer for Vanderbilt's run game, as Kareem McGee finished the ballgame with 115 yards and two scores on his 23 carries--an even 5 yards per carry. Combine that with Khalil Dennis's interception, a missed field goal from Joel Hawley for the second straight game, and a timely fourth-down conversion to extend a fourth-quarter drive that ended in a McGee touchdown, and Vanderbilt did all the little things right while Kansas didn't. The bottom line: A road loss to a ranked team isn't always concerning in itself, but how a team loses certainly can be. In this case, Kansas has had a few issues crop up that need to be addressed in short order. They can't give up another game on the ground like McGee had, or their next game against Notre Dame won't be pretty (and nor will their matchups against Texas Tech, Texas, or Oklahoma). They need to find some consistency on offense, either from Rod Fulton or Christian Graham. And they will need to get their third-down conversion rate up in particular. They converted on just 3 of 12 third downs on Saturday, putting them under 27% through 2 games so far this year. If that number stays that low, Kansas isn't going to score a whole lot of points this year at all. Byes: Baylor (1-1), TCU (0-2), Texas Tech (2-0)
  20. Don't worry, I can take care of those last two for you.
  21. THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN the endzone six times, as New Orleans downs Chicago in Superdome shootout Jeremy Miller celebrates after forcing and recovering a Quincy Honeycutt fumble
  22. Welp
  23. The Dolphins and the Chiefs have the same record through 10 weeks. If you had that bet after week 4 or 5, come claim your prize.