Monday, September 12, 2016

Monday morning check-up

This last weekend was a very interesting one for the Big 12, which many are now perceiving to be WIDE open. I'm not as convinced, personally, but certainly the league is looking very interesting.

Let's take a look at how I saw the weekend going down and then what we learned from what actually happened.

Ian pick: OSU covers +20.5 over Central Michigan. Totally wrong

Looking back, I don't know why I picked OSU to cover 20.5 points. My main interest from the game was of course whether the Cowboys would be able to run the ball at all on what I figured would probably be a fairly stout Chippewa front. They could not and hardly even tried.

However, they didn't throw the ball that well either, nor did they stop Central Michigan. Obviously the Chippewas got lucky getting that final play as the (poor) rule should have allowed Oklahoma State to run out the clock. No sympathy from this Texas fan though, I doubt K-State fans have much sympathy in their hearts either.

Clearly Oklahoma State is a worse team without JW Walsh, Emmanuel Ogbah, Jimmy Bean, and Kevin Peterson, as I expected. They haven't loaded up with as many athletes in recent classes and no longer have the kind of talent they did back when they were competing for the Big 12 title in the early years of this decade.

Ian pick: Baylor beats SMU but doesn't cover 31.5 point spread. Wrong

It really looked like I'd be vindicated here but young Ben Hicks and the Mustang offense just couldn't capitalize on a clearly rusty Seth Russell and Bear offense.

However, it was clear that Baylor was struggling to control the line of scrimmage, especially on offense, which bodes poorly for them in Big 12. Their defense is actually looking pretty solid. Ira Lewis is a pretty athletic nose and Taylor Young is an excellent DE/OLB hybrid on the edge. I'm curious to see how their 3-techniques will hold up to stouter run games and the secondary isn't amazing but this could be a pretty good unit.

I've currently got Baylor higher than OSU in my power rankings.

Ian pick: TCU wins, fails to cover 7.5 point spread. Wrong

Wrong again, although I was pretty close. Kenny Trill showed a continued propensity for early game (and late game) mental errors that definitely cost TCU this football game. He also had like 500 yards of offense and did extensive damage in the QB run game, particularly on the goal line.

Lotta question marks out there now about the TCU defense, but they held up reasonably well in this game playing an Arkansas-specific package that most of the Big 12 won't see. Incidentally, their decision to play Travin Howard at SS and Denzel Johnson at WS was one I predicted on Twitter.

The big question mark is whether Ranthony Texada, who was expected to be a lockdown guy, can handle bigger receivers. SD St's Chris Wieneke and most everyone at Arkansas gave him some real problems. On the other hand, how many big receivers are there like that in the Big 12?

If TCU has a problem this year it'll be poor judgment from Kenny Hill or their corners getting abused on the sidelines by big, athletic receivers. I doubt those concerns are made to matter consistently in Big 12 games. TCU is still my frontrunner.

Ian pick: Texas covers 29.5 vs UTEP. Vindicated

I'll have more on this over at Inside Texas. What was interesting is that Texas achieved this result playing back-ups at TE and four out of five OL positions. The rest of the Big 12 is probably starting to get pretty anxious about this Longhorn team.

Ian pick: Iowa beats Iowa St, but fails to cover +15. Totally wrong

I didn't watch this game but the box score seems to indicate that the Hawkeyes beat the crap out of the Cyclones. Allen Lazard had a nice day, everyone else seemed to get smoked.

Ian pick: Tech beats State and the 2.5 point spread. Wrong

This looked pretty good when I fell asleep but evidently Arizona State kept pouring on the points throughout the game. Gotta note that the Devils ran the ball 53 times for 301 yards. So that Tech defense...still not there.

If this is another soft, porous Tech defense then it's going to be hard to see this team being better than the 2015 squad. They can play with anyone because they score so much, but their own defense has to get at least a few stops or turnovers.

I wonder if a better approach on defense for them than Gibbs shifting, disguising defense would be a simpler, execution-based approach like what Kansas State uses. It's too early to say, the problem might be more cultural. Kingsbury has to figure out how to support his defensive coaches or his offensive brilliance will continue to be wasted.

Current Big 12 Power Rankings

I'm aiming to not overreact to early results and stick with my preseason guesswork as much as I can since I think those judgments were probably better than the kinds of judgments you make after a few initial games.

1. TCU Horned Frogs
Offense is as good as I told everyone it would be, defense is probably much better than it looks. Arkansas is a tough draw for a Big 12 team.

2. Oklahoma Sooners
Losing to Houston isn't a capital offense in my book. I think they may be about to start the year 1-2 though.

3. Texas Longhorns
They could definitely creep up this list.

4. Baylor Bears
Pending injuries that force them to a thin bench.

5. Kansas State Wildcats
That spread passing attack is going to come together over the next few weeks and the defense looks good.

6. Oklahoma State Cowboys
They still have a nice passing attack and a defense that probably won't be terrible. They could slip in coming weeks though.

7. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Still not totally counting out the possibility that the Raiders will have a top 60 defense by the time Big 12 play rolls around.

8. West Virginia Mountaineers
Still not totally buying this defense, though it looks solid, nor Skyler Howard. They may end up as high as fourth in a few weeks though in a few possible futures I can foresee.

9. Iowa State Cyclones
They may have to fight to hold onto this spot this year.

10. Kansas Jayhawks
Still a dreadful team but now no longer totally incompetent.

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