Friday, October 2, 2015

Scouting the week 5 match-ups in the Big 12

This is going to be the biggest weekend to date in the 2015 season with huge national games like Ole Miss at Florida and Alabama at Georgia as well as a number of important games in the Big 12.

Naturally I'll be missing much of it due to a commitment to serve with a group called "lifebuilders" in Detroit. You can read about their mission here but the goal is to rally people in Detroit to reclaim neighborhoods, build up strong communities, and then slowly take over the city. I'm actually not sure how my own church will be serving them this weekend but in the past it's included work such as demoing old houses in the neighborhood so they can be updated and made home-ready for Detroiters looking to join the "reclaim Regent's Park" initiative.

My DVR will have to do some heavy lifting for me back home.

Here's what week 5 in the Big 12 looks like and what I'm anticipating from the different match-ups:

Kansas +17 at Iowa State

You know my rule here, I don't concern myself with Kansas until they win a football game. I don't expect to learn much about Iowa State from this game either because A) I'm not watching this and B) Kansas is terrible. North Dakota State vs Iowa State would tell us a great deal more, I imagine Kansas would struggle to finish over .500 if they just played good FCS schools.

Pick: The only result that could possibly interest me here is if Kansas wins.

West Virginia +7 at Oklahoma

Oklahoma's run game got on track against Tulsa running lots of outside zone but I'm not sure if that will translate against West Virginia or not. OU will need it to, as otherwise they're counting on Baker Mayfield navigating max zone, 6-7 man blitzes, and the best DBs in the conference in order for OU to manage a win.

I don't expect that to go particularly well for Oklahoma and am actually more interested in how the Sooners approach the Mountaineer offense personnel-wise (2-4-5? 3-3-5? 3-4?) and how their secondary holds up against Shelton Gibson and Jovon Durante.

Pick: West Virginia covers with a narrow win and sends Oklahoma fans into a panic heading into the Red River Shootout.

Texas -15 at TCU

I've covered this one extensively over at Inside Texas.

I'll take the opportunity to give a few notes on TCU's 2015 team though, I'd sum up the problems on TCU's defense as "Gary Patterson has finally run out of safeties."

It took a long time to reach this point, as TCU recruits tons and tons of DB-sized athletes and then spins down half of them while also deploying at least three on the field at all times in their base 4-2-5 defense. In the midst of the devastating injuries to the TCU roster after losing two starting safeties from the very good 2014 defense, Patterson has finally run out.

He spun down Travin Howard and Montrel Wilson to linebacker after losing his replacement for the departed seniors, freshman Mike Freeze, but is now in a position where only 2/3 of his three-safety tandem is actually very good.

Denzel Johnson is a capable strong safety who's a step down from Sam Carter but could potentially rival him with time and Derrick Kindred returns at free safety but Michael Downing is a major downgrade at weak safety from injured starter Kenny Iloka and a massive downgrade from last year's starter Chris Hackett.

With so much youth and lack of tackling ability in the middle of the field the entire TCU defensive structure could collapse, to say nothing of how they are now without starting corner Ranthony Texada. TCU fans are going to need to drastically adjust their expectations for this season as 10 wins would be a major accomplishment.

Pick: I'm foolishly going with another road dog. Texas finally wins a close game and Baylor fan finds ways to gloat over fallen Frog without extending any credit to the equally hated Longhorns.

Baylor -17 vs Texas Tech

TCU fans can't be happy that the team they just barely escaped is getting 17 points in a neutral site contest with the Bears. Personally I also think it's ridiculous given the play of the Red Raiders thus far this season and the fact that Baylor is largely untested in 2015.

The Tech D is undoubtedly improved with David Gibbs in charge but their run defense is still seriously lacking and TCU's 2nd to last TD drive almost entirely consisted of Meacham calling outside zone to the boundary over and over again then watching Tech's DL surrender creases and the Tech LBs fail to fill them:

Baylor isn't an outside zone team but there are similar concerns for Tech's run D in this one. If their LBs and safeties can't fill quickly, aggressively, and accurately then Baylor will indeed run them over and cover the spread.

Even in that event, it'll still be interesting to see what Russell makes of Gibbs' shifting varieties of cover 3 and a legitimately decent Raider pass defense. I guarantee that B12 DCs are going to be watching eagerly to see the outcome of that match-up.

Pick: Baylor should win this one and should probably win comfortably but they often struggle both to handle Kingsbury's offense and to perform up to their standards away from Waco. I'll take Tech to cover but lose by two scores.

Kansas State +7.5 at Oklahoma State

This will be Kansas State's first game against a good opponent and Oklahoma State's first game against a good opponent without the assistance of the officiating crew. There are so many questions in this one...

What's up with Mason Rudolph's hand? He had a strange fumble against Texas and several throws that veered off course and it was later shared that he'd experienced some numbness in his hand.

Well, is he okay? Kansas State has the tools to bring a pretty good pass-rush against the Cowboys' OL, which is still very much a work in progress, and have been bringing Elijah Lee on the blitz as was forecast in this space.

Texas totally dominated the 'Poke run game thanks to a brilliant performance from 3-tech DT Hassan Ridgeway, and while K-State doesn't have a DL that NFL scouts are considering for the 1st round they do have two very good ones in Travis Britz and Will Geary. The DE rotation of Bryant-Willis-Wood has also been good so far and the Wildcats have been showing greater variety in coverage thanks to their trust of corner Morgan Burns and the coverage abilities of safety Nate Jackson.

If Rudolph isn't ready to have a huge day then OSU isn't going to score much in this game.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats "kitchen sink" offense hasn't done anything to put the fear of God into anyone, least of all Glenn Spencer. They can run the ball some but this team is going to lack explosiveness until they are able to incorporate RB Dalvin Warmack, WR Dominique Heath, and QB Alex Delton more heavily into the game plan.

This will probably be a low scoring slugfest.

Pick: If I pick every road dog I'll get at least one, right? Oklahoma State should win a narrow game but I'm suspicious of Rudolph's hand and suspect that the Cowboys offense will be more turnover-prone than K-State's plodding machine.

When one team doesn't have a decisive talent advantage but is more prone to turnovers you can't pick them to win, K-State takes it something like 23-17.

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