Week 1 in the Big 12 was an interesting one but it more or less confirmed most of my suspicions about the league and how it was going to shake out. Let's take a tour around the league and I'll talk about what I saw or have observed:
Let's start with my league favorite, Baylor.
The story in their contest with SMU was much more about how vastly improved the Mustang offense was after a year of Chad Morris coaching than it was about anything Baylor did. The Bear defense definitely looked vulnerable, but the Mustangs were aggressive early in attacking the replacements for Shawn Oakman and Orion Stewart, who both sat out for "team rules violations."
Russell had more or less exactly the kind of game you'd have expected. He misfired some, only connecting on 50% of his passes, but he averaged 12 yards per attempt and threw five touchdowns. It's not that hard to throw lob passes downfield to KD Cannon and Corey Coleman, he's only going to get better as the season goes on.
Russell also proved he can add something to the run game, and the Bear run game easily mauled the Mustangs all night. This game basically just confirmed much of what we all suspected.
Gary Patterson's TCU team showed many of the strengths and flaws you would have expected and a few that were more surprising.
The Frog run game looks very strong, but they can't afford to give Boykin 18 carries every week and Frog fans should be at least mildly concerned that they felt they needed to do that in order to beat the Gophers. Their passing game really struggled and Boykin only threw for 5.85 yards per pass attempt. I know he missed some open throws down the field but that is definitely concerning.
TCU needs their offense to play at a top 10 level to win the Big 12 and go to the playoffs.
Their defense was very solid but Minnesota could definitely push them around some. This was only to be expected given that TCU replaced their nose tackle, every linebacker, and 2/3 of the safety corps and then had to train up the replacements to be able to play Big 12 offenses AND Minnesota's power run scheme. Given those considerations, they did pretty well. Curious to see if playing a 255 pound nose tackle works against teams like Baylor in season though.
Oklahoma State is on schedule to be a dark horse contender for the league crown. Rudolph was sharp, the OL was competent in blocking zone slice and power down the field for Chris Carson, and the defense looked about as solid as expected. Freshman DT Darrion Daniels is going to be a player and Texas may rue failing to sign him.
We'll learn much more about this team when they play the Longhorns in Austin, if they can run the ball in that game then look out Big 12.
Oklahoma was not impressive against Akron, which is not surprising if you think that the Stoops era is failing.
I wrote in this space that Perine would not be a 1st team All-B12 RB in 2015 because of the scheme shift and departure of all his best blockers. Sure enough, he ran the ball 11 times for only 33 yards as the OU OL struggled to block the Zip front.
Here they are trying to block counter against the Zips...
Probably this OL will get better as the season goes along...but they suck currently so I don't know how much of a difference that will make.
Actually, they looked much better in pass protection and the Sooners are clearly built to win games in 2015 by chucking the ball around to a very good WR corps. Mayfield looked sharp vs Akron and his arm strength looks good, but he's still turnover prone and they'll get ripped by someone that can play cover 2 and get after him without getting gashed by the run. I think there will be a fair few teams that can do that.
Big question is the D and whether they are back on form. Hard to tell until they play Butch Jones' Volunteers but I was amused to see them playing a lot of cover 6 with Sanchez as the force corner. Good luck doing that against the Vols, Mike.
Kansas State lost Jesse Ertz almost immediately and had to roll with Joe Hubener...I think Delton takes over there before the season is over if he can get ready in time. The Wildcats need to have a running game to reach bowl eligibility and Delton is much more explosive than Hubes. Their D looks predictably solid.
That's all I got for this week, folks.