Texas Tech's darkhorse legitimacy took a big hit when they allowed Arizona State RB Kalen Ballage to score seven touchdowns on 13 carries. That offense is everything we expected but until they play defense at a top 60 level it's not going to matter.
Oklahoma State looks like a team that had to replace their only functioning rushing attack (JW Walsh) and the three best athletes on their defense. Baylor looks pretty frisky but also vulnerable along the lines. If they can't run the ball forcefully then their system loses a lot of potency.
Kansas State is WAY under the radar after getting beat by Stanford in Palo Alto and then sitting out in week two. I don't think they can get their stuff together in time to really contend in 2016 but they'll be interesting to watch.
Then there's Texas, who is plugging along in an impressive fashion and looks like they're at about the level of the 2015, Stidham-led Baylor offense, or perhaps just a bit off that pace. Things are getting interesting in Austin, which is nice for someone that covers the team and has been watching mediocre football every Saturday for five years.
Here's what week three is confronting the league with:
Baylor -30 at Rice
The Bears' actually look reasonably good on defense this season. Moving Orion Stewart to cover safety to make room for Davion Hall has been nice and will probably pay big dividends later in the year as Hall grows increasingly comfortable. Moving Taylor Young to full time Jack linebacker has also paid off in a big way.
For their part, the Rice Owls are replacing the dude that played QB for them a year ago with a guy who's thrown 1 TD to 3 INTs and is averaging 5.63 yards per attempt. I think Seth Russell is going to have a chance to continue to shake off more rust in this game.
Pick: Baylor covers.
Kansas + 19.5 at Memphis
I don't know much about how Memphis is coming along but I know that they have parts left over by Justin Fuente, which are pieces safely beyond what Beaty has been able to assemble in Lawrence to this point.
Pick: Memphis covers.
Iowa State +24 at TCU
Watch for TCU to get back on track in a big way with a huge, blowout win over the struggling Cyclones. Something to watch will be how well the Frogs cover big Allen Lazard after struggling with big receivers against both the Jackrabbits and the Razorbacks.
Pick: TCU covers.
Florida Atlantic +22.5 at Kansas State
I guess Florida Atlantic is pretty bad this year. The interesting thing to watch for in this game is how well the Wildcats get their passing game going. They have a ways to go after missing Pringle all night against the Cardinal while surrendering eight sacks but there's definitely potential.
I think they might miss the cover while using this game as a glorified scrimmage to work out their timing and protections.
Pick: K-State wins, doesn't cover.
Pittsburgh +6.5 at Oklahoma State
Wow, this line is total rubbish. The Panthers just unveiled a fun, RPO-based pro-style attack against the Nittany Lions and blew their defense out of the water. Now they bring that and a very physical defense, albeit one that is vulnerable to the spread passing game, into Stillwater to play a team that struggled to get going against Central Michigan.
As much as it gives me pause to pick Pittsburgh against a team that is all about the passing game, I think the Panthers are going to knock the Cowboys around on Saturday.
Pick: Pittsburgh beats OSU and the spread.
Louisiana Tech +10.5 at Texas Tech
I'm going to assume that Tech can be counted on to drop 50 points against the likes of La Tech, so even if the Bulldogs can score I doubt they hang tight with Mahomes for four quarters.
Pick: Tech covers.
Ohio State -2.5 at Oklahoma
Here's our marquee game. It looks like Vegas took a lot of notes during that Houston game and knocked the Sooners down a bit off their preseason hype wagon. Evidently if this game was in Columbus the line would be Ohio State -8.5, which sounds about right.
The Buckeyes are definitely the more talented team, the advantage the Sooners were supposed to have was a more established identity. However, in week one the Sooners looked like they thought their identity was centered around Mayfield and the passing game rather than their loaded backfield and you have to wonder how they'll fare running the ball against the Buckeyes after what the Cougar fronts did to them.
Additionally, the Sooners defense got picked on badly and looked unaggressive. I'm starting to become suspicious that games where they play aggressive were largely crafted by Bob while games where the Sooner defense looks to be more risk-averse were Mike gameplans. Just a wild, speculative theory. If it's true, this would probably be more of a Bob gameplan given the game's importance in the Sooner season and the fact that it's taking place in Norman.
So if my wild theory is accurate, that should give Sooner fans some hope of a smart, aggressive plan for stopping the Buckeye offense. In particular, they need to keep Curtis Samuel bottled up. The Sooners need this one bad, they DO NOT want to be 1-2 facing an opening Big 12 slate of @TCU and then into the Red River Shootout with the surging Longhorns.
In an instance like this, you usually like to bet on Big Game Bob. But it's Urban Meyer on the other sideline and J.T. Barrett in a warm weather game...
Pick: Ohio State covers.
Texas -8 at California
Last year a similarly woeful Cal defense partnered with a potent offense led by Jared Goff came within a missed PAT of going to overtime with a horrible Texas team. This Longhorn team is literally twice as good as the one they faced last year, if not better, while the Bears are subbing in Davis Webb and a few new faces for Goff and co.
I like Webb and this will be an interesting test of how far along the young Texas LBs and S's are coming along, but this probably shouldn't be that close.
Pick: Texas covers.