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[2023] Big XII Network Week 3 Saturday Afternoon Preview

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Saturday Afternoon


:troy: Troy (0-2) at :baylor: Baylor (2-0) (-27)


For the second time in three years and the third time in five years, Baylor will look to complete a sweep of their non-conference schedule on Saturday. After road wins over Houston and Boise State, Troy should be a step back in difficulty. The Trojans are functioning under an interim head coach, and they haven't been particularly competitive in either game they've played this season. They lost 45-6 to Ole Miss, and their 31-21 score against USF is deceptive given that they were down 14-0 at the end of the first quarter and never truly got back into the game. Quarterback Jose Lynn is 28-of-53 (52.8%) for 321 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, and 65 rushing yards on 15 carries in his two games so far. Runningback David West has put up 178 yards and 3 touchdowns on 39 carries. That makes West the more reliable option, especially running behind junior guard Matthew Jones. But for Troy to take advantage of their best players, they'd have to get the passing game going. Jones is nigh-impenetrable in pass protection, which is why he could be an early-round draft pick this year or next. Wide receiver Lawrence Strange (10 receptions for 128 yards, 1 TD) is their best skill player overall. Baylor has more than enough in the secondary to keep him under lock and key, especially since they'll be able to get pressure off the edge into the backfield. Zachary McHale's been a star so far; will he feast against this offensive line? Will Garrett Powers make his first statsheet since late 2021? Or how about Alexander Talbert, who made three statsheets all of last season but is at two so far this year? Additionally, the offense is largely going to be a choose-your-own-adventure book: Troy's defense isn't particularly good at anything and didn't really stop Ole Miss or USF from doing what they wanted on the ground or through the air. This is going to be a game where how Baylor wins is less important than how much they win by. And I'm expecting them to win by a lot.


:baylor: Baylor 52, :troy: Troy 10


:ou: #1/#4 Oklahoma (2-0) at :kansas: Kansas (0-1) (+20)*


No matter who is at home or on the road, no matter who is up and who is down, this game has almost never failed to produce an instant classic. Six out of their nine meetings have been decided by one possession, including Kansas's last-second win over Oklahoma in 2015 and Oklahoma's overtime comeback win in 2019. The better team has usually won the game (with 2015 being the most glaring exception), but the underdog almost always gives the favorite everything they can handle. There would have been no "almost" caveat until the ink from last year's game was committed to paper, as Oklahoma took a 21-0 lead in Norman and never looked back in a 52-28 rout. With blowout wins over Tulsa and Virginia Tech in hand for Oklahoma and a season-opening home loss to Boise State in hand for Kansas, there's little reason to think this game will be any different than last year's. Oklahoma has been a well-oiled machine on both sides of the ball so far. Nick Brohm had some week 1 hiccups against Tulsa before throwing for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns against Virginia Tech. It's also not coincidence that he had much better chemistry with Lucas Dykes in the week 2 matchup. They've now connected 11 times for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns this season. Limiting that connection has to be priority #1 for the Jayhawks. That will require Javier Blount (who is 3 inches shorter and 62 pounds lighter than his matchup) and freshman safeties Shaq Stewart and David Finley to play their roles perfectly, all without losing track of other capable receivers like Aiden Caldwell or Chase Reardon--and without letting runningback Jaiden Douglas run all over them. Kansas will need a strong pass rush to make that work. Deon Evans is expected to play through a wrist injury, and if Naiquon Crosby can replicate anything close to his stellar debut (5 tackles, 2 for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble) then Kansas will at least have a chance to create havoc. Defensive end Jamari Callahan, defensive tackle Abdoul Mayo, and inside linebacker Evander Lawton give them even more chances to make plays up front. But if they can't penetrate a good Oklahoma offensive line or sack an elusive Brohm, or if they get misdirected by a draw play or play-action, the back end of that defense is vulnerable. It's more vulnerable than the back of Oklahoma's defense, which is just as young as Kansas at the safety level but elite at the cornerback position. They have Elijah Williams, after all, who already has a pick-six and two pass breakups this season. He also only has two tackles, because the ball so rarely reaches his receiver. I'm not even sure he's the best part of their defense, scarily enough. The front has been ferocious: four players already have at least a sack, they've forced 2 fumbles and recovered one for a touchdown, and they've allowed just 24 points so far. (For comparison, they have scored 28 points in the second quarter alone.) Christian Graham is going to be under pressure all day, and with Williams likely seeing a lot of time across from Cameron Bowers he'll need to rely largely on complementary receivers--all of whom will also be up against good defensive backs, all of whom know Kansas will be throwing a lot. Kansas's one route to a win is for Graham to have a similar performance to last year (318 yards and 4 touchdowns, albeit with 2 interceptions) while Oklahoma's offense struggles to get off the ground. Oklahoma's route to a win is every other possible circumstance in the book. The Sooners have never beaten Kansas twice in a row. But there's a first time for everything, and this will be it.


:ou: #1/#4 Oklahoma 38, :kansas: Kansas 20


:kstate: Kansas State (0-1) at :ttu: Texas Tech (2-0) (-18)*


For just the second time ever, Kansas State will make the 600-mile trip to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech. The two teams have met five times in total prior to this, four of which have been in Manhattan, and all of which have been Texas Tech wins by anywhere from 5 to 16 points. Texas Tech has never trailed at the half or entering the fourth quarter. But after an inspired rally that fell just short against California, Kansas State hopes to change all of that, and even as 18-point underdogs they have a case for it. Not to say that they're pinning all their hopes on linebacker Brendan Scherer to go hunting for Red Raider runningback Hayden Dyer, but that's perhaps the biggest strength-on-strength matchup they have in their arsenal. Scherer had 6 tackles (1 for loss) and 1 pass defended against Cal, coming off of a season where he had 57 tackles (9 for loss) and a pass defended. He's good at getting upfield and making a play through the chaos, but that hasn't translated into a good run defense overall. Zachary McFadden ran for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns against Kansas State in their opener. Solomon McLaughlin did the same when these two teams met last year. If Scherer doesn't make the play, who else will? Dyer is off to the best start of any Big XII runningback so far: he is second in the conference in yards (271), first in yards per carry among qualified backs (6.0), and tied with Miles Street and Amral Brown for first in touchdowns (4). With freshman Grayson Gillette completing 63.8% of his passes for 437 yards, 3 touchdowns, and an interception so far, this offense is more balanced than usual. It was a world-beating offense against Nebraska, and it was a good offense in the second quarter (and only the second quarter) against Marshall. Their receiving corps is pretty deep: Graham Beck, Atoshi Kanisawa, and maybe sometimes even Tyson Moss are all capable of making plays in space. Kansas State's secondary might be able to hang with them, but not to a degree where they can get gashed by the run and still be able to keep the score down. Which is still not to say that they're pinning all their hopes on Scherer, but wouldn't they love to get a great game out of him? On the other side of the coin, Texas Tech's defense has given up just 10 points per game so far this season. The opposing offenses they've faced, however? Not exactly world-beaters. Nebraska has scored fewer points in 3 games than Oklahoma scored in their opener. Marshall at least won the other game they played. Kansas State made it clear in their opener that Shane Kruse was going to get his chance to air it out, letting him throw for 306 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a pick-six on 25-of-45 passing. Their receivers against Texas Tech's secondary should be an interesting matchup, but the key will be finding some way to keep Curtis Jones and Zac Huntley out of the backfield after Jamal Dorsey (5 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 sack) was able to pressure the backfield with ease. Jones and Huntley already have 6.5 sacks and 5 rushing tackles for loss between them. If Kruse doesn't have time to throw, if Gabriel Vinson doesn't have holes to run through, then Kansas State is going to have a tough time putting up points. Texas Tech is better in both trenches, and I expect them to win this game. But I do expect Kansas State to keep it close.


:ttu: Texas Tech 23, :kstate: Kansas State 13

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