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stormstopper

[2023] Big XII Network Week 2 Preview: Marathon Week, Part I

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There won't be another week like this all season in the Big XII, with eight different games to keep track of over the weekend, across the country, and across hours and hours of what will be a splendid Saturday of non-conference play. The nation's most exciting conference will require multiple screens to keep track of--but it'll be worth it, so grab your snacks in advance and enjoy the marathon. Let's talk about (the first four of) the games!

 

Friday Night

 

:cal: California (0-0) at :kstate: Kansas State (0-0) (+11.5)

 

Kansas State and California open up their respective seasons on Friday night, each with something to prove. Kansas State's struggles have been well-documented here, but the Golden Bears are themselves coming off of consecutive losing seasons. There's good reason to expect more from both teams this year. For Kansas State, much of that comes down to Shane Kruse, who was widely expected to earn the starting quarterback on day 1 on his redshirt freshman season and accomplished exactly that. For California, the expectation is that a very talented offense won't underperform to the same degree as last season, where they ranked 120th in scoring offense despite having three future NFL linemen and three future NFL receivers. Calvin Levesque is the only receiver they lose, and between Spencer Sharpe and Marcus Hightower they have speed to burn. Sharpe put up decent numbers last season with 712 yards and 6 touchdowns and 13.2 yards per catch; Hightower struggled to 429 yards, 4 touchdowns, 4 drops, and just 11.3 yards per catch. Incumbent quarterback Nick Ellison just couldn't find his guys. He completed 57.5% of his passes for 2201 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. If they want to throw the ball nearly 60% of the time like they did last year despite Zachary McFadden averaging 5.1 yards per carry, then all that passing-game talent has to go to work. Kansas State's secondary is still a work in progress, but Sammy Schuler is dangerous, Ahmad Winston is always good for a pick or two a year, and linebackers like Brendan Scherer and Shawn Reyes have some ballhawking in them. And maybe freshman Mario Hamilton finds a way to make an impact--but he's also the only significant addition to a defense that ranked #124 in points allowed per game last year. The talent advantage belongs to California when they have the ball, and that's still mostly true when Kansas State has the ball (with one caveat). Cal's defense retains a lot of talent even without Blaine Lewis-Thompson: they return leading tackler D'Andre Phillips (37 tackles, 3 TFL, 1.0 sack) at mike linebacker, leading sacker Jamal Dorsey (31 tackles, 5 TFL, 8.5 sacks) at defensive end, and two of their three players with multiple interceptions (linebacker Mahamadou Holloway and cornerback Shaq Kimbrough, with 2 each). Defensive tackle Adam Gibson is capable of disruption as well. The caveat: they start a pair of freshman safeties, and that's something Kansas State can attack for all its worth. Jermaine Jordan will be testing the top level of the defense early and often, and if Shane Kruse can find him then there's a lot of potential explosivity there. But can the offensive line protect Kruse from a strong front seven long enough to deliver those throws? Can Gabriel Vinson prove enough of a threat on the ground to take the pressure off of the passing game? It wouldn't be unheard of, but it would be surprising. California might or might not be better than last year, but they're just as talented and I think that will be enough for them in Manhattan.

 

:cal: California 35, :kstate: Kansas State 21

 

Saturday Afternoon

 

:tulsa: Tulsa (0-1) at :okst: #6/#8 Oklahoma State (1-0) (-18)

 

Last time we saw Tulsa, they were taking one in the teeth from Oklahoma. Facing the third member of the Sooner State trio (a state nickname I'm sure neither of these teams appreciates me using), the Golden Hurricane will have no less uphill of a battle. Oklahoma State spent week 1 shellacking Arizona on the road behind a semi-balanced and fully operational offensive attack that they should be able to repeat in their home opener. Tulsa couldn't get much pressure on Oklahoma outside of defensive end Lardarius Rucker. Jordan Sparks (not that Jordin Sparks) and the linebacker corps were on their heels most of the time, and Amral Brown is an even bigger challenge for that defensive front. On the other hand, it's not the most favorable matchup for Oklahoma State because Brown's power-run style will bring him face-to-face with defensive tackle Kilohana Lealofioa'ana. Their offensive line isn't their strong suit, so there's going to be plays where Lealofioa'ana gets him in the backfield or forces him into traffic. However, you can definitely expect Ian Baldwin to come out firing. Tulsa's safeties are legit, but he can get the ball to Samuel Barfield and Jeremy Bridges in space below the safety level and let them work. Barfield was extraordinarily effective against Arizona, hauling in 7 catches for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns, so look for him to make himself available. In general one expects Oklahoma State's offense to hum like the well-oiled machine it is, but I'm interested in what their defense does. Tulsa had massive turnover problems against Oklahoma, with Charles Palmer coughing it up three times--two of which went for defensive touchdowns. A few hours later, Amari Bradford had a pick-six for Oklahoma State against Arizona and Cael Bruce had a strip-sack that nearly forced another turnover. Tulsa's blocking was ghastly; they gave up 5 sacks and ran for 22 yards on 13 carries. Can Oklahoma State take full advantage? Bruce and Amir Pryor both have to be licking their lips. Jurrell Jordan didn't make the statsheet in his debut, but he's just waiting to make his introduction. And Sebastian Byrd and Prince Pruitt both saw Elijah Williams's dominant performance and probably want to one-up him. Oklahoma State's defense can make a statement here. I'm not saying they want to beat Tulsa by more than Oklahoma did--but I'm not saying they don't want to do just that either.

 

:okst: #6/#8 Oklahoma State 42, :tulsa: Tulsa 17


:isu: Iowa State (1-0) at :iowa: Iowa (1-0) (E)

 

The battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy has been tightly contested its first two years of play, and the third so far isn't shaping up to be an exception to that rule. Iowa took the premier in Iowa City 16-13, and Iowa State got revenge in Ames with a 24-20 win last year. Round 3 has a little bit extra at stake as well for both sides: whoever wins will match last season's win total and start 2-0. Both teams have a third winnable non-conference game (Iowa State plays BYU whose offense struggled against Buffalo, Iowa plays Georgia State who has not had Evan Grant for a little while now). What's interesting is that Iowa's offense is in some ways right where Iowa State's was last year or the year before: young but with plenty of backfield talent. Redshirt freshman Ryan Corbin III, who took the job from senior incumbent Otto Kirkland, was effective in his debut against Western Kentucky. He finished with 267 yards and 2 touchdowns on 19-of-34 passing and added a 17-yard touchdown run. He'll need to show that he can get the ball to speedster DeMaurice Slone on a regular basis; he relied pretty heavily on tight end Alec Rowell and Iowa State's got a lot of different options to cover him (Paul Bryant, Ian Johnson, Mark Barbour or Laurent Daniel, you name it). Runningback Kedaveon Vaughn was wildly inconsistent last year as a true freshman, which shouldn't be surprising; he had 7 games over 100 yards on the ground and 4 games with 51 rushing yards or fewer. He was squarely in between both poles against Western Kentucky, with 84 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Iowa has a pretty solid offensive line bookended by James Stark and Mike Brown; their best lineman is left guard Coop Logan. Iowa State isn't a team that gets a lot of pressure, so that backfield's going to have room to operate. The coverage needs to be on point, unless Iowa's young backfield plays young. Even if so, though, I'm pretty confident in Iowa State's offense to rack up yards and points against an Iowa defense that is simply not suited to handling speed on the outside. Yes, Jacob Colbert is a very good defensive tackle. Yes, Elias French is a good, rangy linebacker in coverage. But I don't trust their defensive ends and outside linebackers to consistently be able to set the edge and keep Kofi McCullough contained, nor do I think the corners are up to snuff when it comes to keeping the Cyclone receivers under lock and key. Now that Vaughn Sheppard is doing things like completing 20-of-30 passes with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions, that matters. Iowa State makes up for their cornerback issues with their safeties; so does Iowa. But I think Iowa's safeties are going to be stretched thin in a way that Iowa State's safeties aren't, because there are at least some parts of the Cyclone defense that should be able to keep the play in front of them. Look for McCullough to feast, and look for Sheppard to complement him. This could be a shootout, but I've got Iowa State winning on the road.

 

:isu: Iowa State 38, :iowa: Iowa 28


:texas: Texas (0-0) at :utsa: UTSA (0-1) (-8)

 

The tenth and final Big XII team to debut will be Texas, hitting the road to San Antonio to rematch with the UTSA Roadrunners. Last year's game was a four-hour brush with death, as UTSA took a lead into the fourth quarter in Austin before the Longhorns were able to rally and win in double-overtime thanks to 167 yards and 2 touchdowns from Simeon Wells. The bad news for Texas: Simeon Wells isn't walking through that door. Of course, neither will Lucas Beckwith--the UTSA game was the second and final start he made in a Texas uniform. Texas recruited over him, and ex-TCU signal-caller Sam Milner won the job for this season as Beckwith transferred to Harvard. Outside of "Will Texas win this game?" the most important question the Longhorns can answer on Saturday will be "Is Sam Milner better than he was as a freshman?" He has to be if Texas wants to continue its bowl streak. He was a 54.7% passer as a freshman with 16 touchdowns to 15 interceptions, he rushed for 2 touchdowns but fumbled 6 times (2 lost), and he only had two games with a passer rating above 120. He got his feet under him at Panola College and had a killer spring game, but this will be his first time facing FBS opposition in a while. There's more good news for him: he'll be facing a defense that couldn't stop the similarly styled J.T. Youngblood from going for 275 yards through the air and 60 on the ground with 2 total touchdowns in a 37-21 Hawaii win. Texas's wide receivers have been a problem for a few years now (so much so that Da'Quan Crockett is taking a remedial redshirt as a junior), but adding true freshmen Natrone Benjamin and Shaq Dixon ought to be value added. It's certainly speed added, which will be an advantage against a younger set of UTSA safeties. But that brings us to the the third-biggest question: Can Shaun Lyles be a #1 wide receiver? He had 728 yards and 5 touchdowns last year to lead all Texas receivers. That's not a bad season by any means, but it's a problem if you don't have anybody doing better than that. I'm not too worried about whether Lyles or Francesco Sewell will be a good bailout option this time around. UTSA's defensive line was incredibly productive last season, with 24 combined sacks from returning starters Larry Carroll, Eli Lalana, and Bruce Gerber; however, I have faith in Texas's offensive line to keep them at bay. I'm way more worried about how the receivers match up against corners Dillon Bradley and Joshua Finney, and how Sewell matches up with linebackers Paul Quick and Mike Huntley. That takes a lot of pressure off of safeties Darius Maddox Jr. and Captain Parker, who are talented but inexperienced. And above all, I'm worried about Texas's defense. Jamal Robinson's moving from defensive tackle to defensive end, Ted Stanford's moving from weak inside linebacker to outside linebacker, there's a lot of unproven guys across the depth chart, and UTSA is a team that isn't afraid to get physical. Jermon Bailey last year had 117 yards on just 3 catches, and that's before Texas lost cornerback Devon Braxton and strong safety Jaylin Dickens. Can Justice Gay and Logan Gallegos fill their shoes? Can they stop Bailey from burning them deep and stop Tyler Hansen from bruising them short and over the middle? They kept runningback Samuel Laws in check last year; can they do it again without Tristan Priest? Can Jamal Robinson and Zion Gaines pressure a good, mobile quarterback like Justin Radford and force him into bad decisions? I don't know. There's a lot of question marks and a lot of things that have to go right, and unless Milner is sizzling from the start then this isn't as good of a team as the one that nearly lost to UTSA at home last year. I'm taking the Roadrunners.

 

:utsa: UTSA 24, :texas: Texas 20

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I’ll bet a $5 site donation against @Kremit that the Oklahoma margin of victory was greater than the Oklahoma State margin of victory is. 

 

You game?

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4 hours ago, HAFFnHAFF said:

I’ll bet a $5 site donation against @Kremit that the Oklahoma margin of victory was greater than the Oklahoma State margin of victory is. 

 

You game?

I’ll take that all day. 

 

The site appreciates your donation.  

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4 hours ago, HAFFnHAFF said:

I’ll bet a $5 site donation against @Kremit that the Oklahoma margin of victory was greater than the Oklahoma State margin of victory is. 

 

You game?

 

can we get this as a prop bet?

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7 hours ago, joedchi said:

 

can we get this as a prop bet?

 

Isnt this how the mortgage market died about a decade ago? 

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13 hours ago, stormstopper said:

Can Justice Gay and Logan Gallegos fill their shoes? Can they stop Bailey from burning them deep and stop Tyler Hansen from bruising them short and over the middle? They kept runningback Samuel Laws in check last year; can they do it again without Tristan Priest? Can Jamal Robinson and Zion Gaines pressure a good, mobile quarterback like Justin Radford and force him into bad decisions? I don't know. There's a lot of question marks and a lot of things that have to go right, and unless Milner is sizzling from the start then this isn't as good of a team as the one that nearly lost to UTSA at home last year. I'm taking the Roadrunners.

 

:utsa: UTSA 24, :texas: Texas 20

 

I don’t like this but I respect your take

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On 8/16/2019 at 10:53 PM, Kremit said:

I’ll take that all day. 

 

The site appreciates your donation.  

 

:ninja:

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