stormstopper

[2020] Big XII Network Week 7 Preview: A Pause from Chaos?

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Welcome to week 7 in the nation's most exciting conference. By this point of the season--nearly the midpoint, with conference play in full swing--we finally have some ideas of what to expect from everyone in the conference. The bad news is that all we've learned to expect is chaos. The good news is that all we've learned to expect is chaos! That finally might not be the case this week. The most conventionally exciting game this week is the Friday night matchup between Baylor and Texas Tech, where both teams figure to be relatively evenly matched. But Oklahoma State-Iowa State, Kansas State-Texas, and West Virginia-Oklahoma all have clear favorites--which obviously means that something unexpected is going to happen that nobody could've seen coming in advance. So without further ado, let's talk about the games.

 

Friday Night
 

:ttu: Texas Tech (4-1) at :baylor: Baylor (2-2)*

 

Starting things off this week is everyone's favorite game of the year: BU-TT. These two teams have performed almost reverse to each other's expectations: Baylor came out of the gate stumbling while Texas Tech came out like a lion roaring. But each team was pulled a little bit back toward the middle last week: Baylor rang up 42 points to subdue Iowa State, while Texas Tech's own 38-spot wasn't enough to hold off Oklahoma State. What will this next game of conference play hold? In all likelihood, that answer's going to start with: "Points." Baylor's offense has been on fire, racking up 40.25 points per game--the ninth-highest mark among all FBS teams. On the other hand, their defense has been giving back 35.5 points to the opposition, also the ninth-highest among all FBS teams. Marcus Swartz has been on fire: Swartz averages 277 yards per game through the air with a 169.2 passer rating and 10 touchdowns to 3 interceptions, and he's added 56.75 yards per game on the ground with another 5 scores. Most of his passing production goes to his two go-to guys: tight end Hastin Rider (conference-best 404 yards, 5 TD) and wideout Lamont Wilder (351 and 3). Texas Tech is the Big XII's leader in points allowed per game at 17.4, but they've surrendered 30 and 41 in their two conference games against more offensively capable opponents. They've limited opponents' downfield attacks (10.84 yards/completion) thanks to safeties Jamir Pendleton and Cameron Riley, but dink-and-dunk attacks can hurt them as they've let opposing quarterbacks complete 66.2% of their passes. Baylor can work with that, even if a lot of their success has been downfield. Meanwhile, Texas Tech is going to be the biggest test the Baylor run defense has faced this season. They've only allowed 3.85 yards per carry, but opponents are running the ball fewer than 17 times per game. Texas Tech nearly doubles that, running the ball 32.4 times per game. Solomon McLaughlin isn't afraid to bruise his opponents, and his offensive line can give him room to work with. The concern they have, though, is that opponents may be catching on. McLaughlin's yardage has fallen every game: 150 to 135 to 133 to 120 to 108. That said, that simply means he leads the Big XII in yards per game by 3 yards instead of 23 yards. McLaughlin is still going to rack up yards on the ground, and Baylor's pass defense hasn't really shown that it can stop Chase Shapiro from picking up a few first downs along the way. I think this one comes down to Texas Tech being stronger on the edges and in the secondary than Baylor is up the middle. It's a somewhat better matchup for Texas Tech, in other words, and I think they get the win on the road.

 

:ttu: Texas Tech 34, :baylor: Baylor 31

 

Saturday Afternoon

 

:isu: Iowa State (1-4) at #25 :okst: Oklahoma State (4-0)*

 

Next up, the Big XII's last remaining undefeated team--and its only ranked team--takes on an Iowa State that's still looking to find its footing. As was the case for the Friday night matchup, the homestanding team has had absolutely no trouble scoring--and lots of trouble stopping their opponents from doing the same. Oklahoma State's 43 points per game is the second-highest tally in the country, but their 30.0 allowed means they've found themselves in a lot of shootouts--just ask Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, and (of all teams) Western Kentucky. They're pulling off a weird trick of giving up a lot of points without actually giving up that many yards. Their passer rating of 129.7 is well in line with the Big XII average of 133.3, they give up a reasonable 7.4 yards per pass attempt, and they allow just 3.9 yards per carry. Their 10.5 defensive yards per point average, however, is only higher than Baylor's and Oklahoma's among Big XII teams. They haven't been able to routinely establish good field position, they don't limit opponents to field goals in the red zone, and they've faced close calls because of it. But because the offense as a whole has made up for it on the other end, it hasn't actually done any damage yet. Chester Brenner's 1223 yards, 305.75 yards per game, 15 touchdowns, 37.8 pass attempts per game, and 9.93% touchdown rate all lead the Big XII. Oklahoma State needs him to throw a ton, he spreads the ball out well throughout a deep and talented receiving corps, and the defenses they've faced have not been able to stop them no matter how aware they are of what's coming. There's no reason to think that will change with Iowa State. The Cyclones' pass defense collapsed at the dawn of conference play, with Christian Graham and Marcus Swartz combining to throw for 589 yards and 5 touchdowns without an interception on 72.5% passing. Their 143.6 passer rating allowed is better than Oklahoma's and that's it. They give up nearly 4.6 yards per carry and more than 115 yards on the ground per game. The result is 41 allowed to Kansas, 42 allowed to Baylor, and a sense of dread ahead of this game. The positive side for Iowa State is that the offense showed signs of life against Baylor, putting up 20 points and getting a touchdown on the ground and through the air. The Cyclones look to be sticking with August Blank at quarterback for lack of options. He's maintained a 99.8 passer rating, and his most recent game saw him complete just 13 of 26 passes for 141 yards, a touchdown, and 2 picks. The good news for the Cyclones is that Josiah Edmonds had a better second game than a debut, racking up 81 yards on 20 carries with the one touchdown. The bad news for them is that it won't be nearly enough to hang in this game. Oklahoma State should win big here.

 

#25 :okst: Oklahoma State 45, :isu: Iowa State 14


:kstate: Kansas State (3-1) at :texas: Texas (3-1)*

 

After 3-0 starts in non-conference play, both Kansas State and Texas were in for a rude awakening in their first game of Big XII play. The Wildcats fell 38-14 to TCU two weeks ago, whereas the Longhorns suffered the worst loss in program history in a 48-17 Austin Massacre. Both teams come into this one needing to regroup, because an 0-2 conference start would be way less than ideal. And they'll both have some nice game film to break down to try and make that into a reality. Kansas State will first and foremost be looking at Mohammed Foster and the way he broke down the Longhorn defense. It's safe to say Rahim Murrell hasn't been in Foster's orbit this season--he's completed just under 60% of his passes while throwing 8 touchdowns to 8 interceptions. However, the way that Foster can reach his playmakers downfield, force defenses to prepare for the pass and the run, and make the defense pay for the wrong decision are all factors that the Wildcats want to imitate. Devon Tillman, Ricky Seau, and Damani Askew came into the season as their three main receiving targets. Tillman's led the team in yards and receptions, Askew is second in both; the duo has also accounted for seven of the team's eight receiving touchdowns. Seau has been mostly silent this year, catching just 9 passes for 97 yards. Damani Jeffries is a lockdown corner. Linebacker Jabari Fletcher and safety Jaylin Dickens can handle Askew. That leaves Devon Braxton as the most exploitable matchup--and that's no gimme, considering Braxton's raw talent. So it's critical that Seau (or even slot receiver Jhonny Palacios) can step up as a true third option. Kansas State's still going to run the dang ball and force Texas to respect the run, but the Longhorn front can handle that. Kansas State will only stand a chance if they can make something happen through the air and on the ground. Meanwhile, Texas is going to look at a few different things, but they'll mostly key in on how the Wildcats handled Sam Milner and how they've handled the run game in general. Texas struggled to get their offense going against West Virginia because Simeon Wells spent the whole game bottled up to the tune of 80 yards on 20 carries. However, the Mountaineers allow just 70 yards per game on the ground. The Wildcats give up nearly 125 per game on more than 5 yards per carry. They're built to keep the edges contained but Wells would rather go between the tackles. That's an area to exploit, and it certainly doesn't help the Wildcats' cause that they have to worry about Kyler Tackett too. Tackett has had the second-highest completion percentage in the Big XII at 69.6%, he's been careful not to turn the ball over (7 TD, 2 INT), and he's been getting 28 pass attempts per game. Kansas State's pass defense was putting up elite numbers until they ran into Sam Milner, who completed 19-25 for 240 yards and a pair of scores. That's the type of game that matches Tackett's profile, so Texas can likely count on a lot of air support. This is Texas's game to lose.

 

:texas: Texas 34, :kstate: Kansas State 20


:wvu: West Virginia (2-2) at :ou: Oklahoma (0-4)*

 

The Country Roads Express makes its third stop in Norman, and if Oklahoma wants to have a season then they need to be ready to take it head-on. After losing a pair of hard-fought battles on their home turf against Pittsburgh and Penn State, the Mountaineers have looked like an entirely new team on the road. They subdued Arkansas 27-16 in Fayetteville, then laid waste to Texas in Austin. Their third straight road game brings them to Sooner territory, where Oklahoma's been swept down the plains. With just 21.75 points per game and 38.5 points allowed per game, the Sooners have struggled just to remain competitive--let alone to get out of the ranks of the winless. In all fairness, the offenses they've faced have been brutal, stacked with elite dual-threat quarterbacks and strong rushing attacks. But because life isn't all fairness, they don't get a reprieve from that because Mohammed Foster is coming to town. The name to know in the Big XII, Foster has thrown for 1200 yards, 7 touchdowns, and one interception; he's rushed for 245 more yards and 3 more scores; he leads the Big XII in passer rating (175.5), completion percentage (73.1%), yards per pass attempt (10.1), and yards per rush attempt (8.2). He's a nightmare to stop, because he has so many different ways to break down a defense--and with J.C. Weldon, Elias Langston, and Jason Dupree downfield, so much help to work with. Typically, the type of team that can stop him can disrupt up front while maintaining discipline on the back end of the defense. That's precisely where Oklahoma's struggled the most: they've recorded just 1 sack in 4 games, allowed nearly 130 rushing yards per game on more than 4.9 yards per carry, and they've yielded a conference-worst 66.4% completion percentage and 159.4 passer rating with 1 interception. West Virginia's offense is a walking nightmare scenario for Oklahoma's defense. So if the Sooners want to even make this game a close one, they're gonna need to score--and West Virginia's suddenly become hard to score on in these last couple of games. They held consecutive opponents to 17 points or fewer for the first time since 2016, they've picked off 3 passes in the last two games, and (most importantly) they have yet to allow an opponent to rush for 100 yards on them. Oklahoma's hope lies on the fact that West Virginia also hasn't had a lot of teams even try to run on them: their 66 carries faced is the fewest in the Big XII. Oklahoma runs the ball 30 times per game on average, and that amount's ticked up in their last two games. Not only do they run it a lot, but they run it well. Maurice White is dangerous, racking up 126 yards per game on 5.1 yards per carry--the best mark for a Big XII tailback by a significant margin. Quarterback Eric Pope is a legitimate threat on the ground, adding more than 40 yards per game on more than 6.2 yards per carry. West Virginia has to be active up front, plug up the gaps, and stop the Sooner rushing attack at the line of scrimmage. And that's been a huge part of why they've been successful these last two games: Hudson Adam is unblockable, and the linebackers have been swarming to the ball and making plays. West Virginia does have to worry about Ty Royal running wild against their secondary. Royal is easily the biggest mismatch Oklahoma will have in this one, but it's probably not an exploitable one given Pope's limitations as a passer. I think this one's going to go West Virginia's way, and I'm not sure it'll be close.

 

:wvu: West Virginia 41, :ou: Oklahoma 23

 

Byes: :kansas: Kansas (2-3), :tcu: TCU (3-2)

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4 hours ago, stormstopper said:

:ttu: Texas Tech 34, :baylor: Baylor 31

 

 

 

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(For real though, GG Ace)

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