Thursday, September 29, 2016

Previewing week 5 in the Big 12

There are three worthwhile games taking place this week in the Big 12 and they are probably going to clear up the Big 12 title race in a major way.

You've got Texas on the road vs Oklahoma State, Kansas State on the road vs West Virginia, and Oklahoma on the road vs TCU. The stakes in each game are actually pretty considerable.

Oklahoma State is probably not contending for the Big 12 title this year, they're just not there in terms of athleticism on defense and are a virtual lock to get burned a few times over the course of the season. That said, Mike Gundy and his staff are doing a pretty good job trying to make the most of this roster and they know how to attack a team that has a tendency to kill itself with mistakes as Texas has done this year. The Longhorn team that lost at Cal probably can't beat Oklahoma State on the road, so unless Texas fixed something from their bye week then they're going to continue their fourth consecutive season without a road win over a top-half Big 12 quarterback.

The oddsmakers have it at Oklahoma State -2.5, which is indicative of a Texas team that people don't trust on the road. Read a more in-depth preview FOR FREE HERE but I'll say this, if Texas plays a clean game on defense and is successfully aggressive throwing the deep ball then they should blow this Oklahoma State team away, but I'm not sure either of those things will happen.

West Virginia apparently hasn't beaten Kansas State in a very long time and have lost all four contests since they joined the Big 12. Collin Klein shredded their Geno Lewis team in 2012 and Jake Waters ripped them apart in 2013. In the last two games the Mountaineers lost 26-20 and 24-23, mostly because they gave up a special teams TD in each game.

The oddsmakers have it at West Virginia -3.5, which tells you that people are buying West Virginia as the darkhorse of the Big 12, unless they just believe Kansas State is bad.

The Wildcats have spent the last three weeks licking their wounds from the Stanford loss and tuning up their offense, which flickered some life at the end of the game against the Cardinal but was inept for much of the first half. This team is primarily a spread passing team that is going to rely on Ertz's mobility and a receiver corps that can put multiple athletes (particularly Dominique Heath) on the field and tear you up with yards after the catch.

They still have their typical single-wing running game but with a exceptionally young OL and lack of truly fearsome runners it's not up to the standards of say the Daniel Sams, Collin Klein, or Daniel Thomas attacks of years past. Their also kinda shaky in pass protection and Ertz can and will make mistakes, but he'll also evade a rusher now and then and hit Heath running free in your secondary.

The Mountaineers are more of a spread-running team with a really sturdy OL, a variety of good backs, and then Skyler Howard who's tough enough, quick enough, and accurate enough to be a pretty good all-around spread QB. If you put a sound, athletic defense on the field against this unit, as K-State will, I doubt they'll be lighting up the scoreboard.

If the Wildcat defense is the most dominant unit in this game I think Snyder will win this game and establish K-State as the "hey, don't look now but this squad may make some noise in the Big 12 this season" squad. If not, perhaps it'll end up being West Virginia.

Finally we have the early season showdown between the two teams most commonly picked to win the Big 12 in the preseason, TCU and Oklahoma.

The line here is OU -3.5, it seems people are having trouble letting go of Oklahoma as a top 25 team and favorite in the Big 12 as that line indicates they'd be favored -6.5 playing in Norman. Normally you'd NEVER EVER bet against Big Game Bob in a game of this magnitude with the season on the line. A loss here and Oklahoma is 1-4 going into the Red River Shootout against a Texas team that has physically whipped them in the last three rivalry games, so Oklahoma has every incentive to show up in a big way and redeem their season.

But the problem is that you'd have expected that two weeks ago at home against Ohio State as well, yet the Sooner defense frequently looked confused and lackadaisical. So are they going to be hyped for a road trip to Ft Worth two weeks later? Maybe, but I don't think cautious Mike has the trust of his charges.

TCU has had two main weaknesses this year for the Sooners to try and exploit this game. The first is that Kenny Hill has thrown early interceptions in almost every game this season and four on the year. He's tended to dominate afterwards and is averaging 8.3 yards per pass and 5 yards per carry so far but there's no better way to win on the road than to pick off the QB early and build a quick lead to take the crowd out.

Their other big weakness is something I detailed over at Football Study Hall, they haven't got the kind of cornerback play that their scheme relies on this year. Oklahoma needs to put sophomore WR A.D. Miller on the field early and throw to him often in this game because if they can't attack the Frogs on the perimeter then Gary Patterson is going to load up his defense to take away the Oklahoma run game and he can probably do it.

If Oklahoma wasn't 1-2 going into this game I'd think that TCU +3.5 at home was a really obvious play, but people are surely assuming that the Sooners are going to do everything they can off a bye week to win this game and right the ship. We'll see, my own suspicion is that this cautious Mike defense is just cooked.


  1. This is my least favorite OU team of the Stoops era. It isn't that their losing. 2005, 2009, and 2014 teams lost, but those teams were young, injured, and unlucky.

    This teams appears to be dumb, and it's so frustrating. The dumbness on defense is due to a coordinator that can't line up a defense. The dumbness on offense is due to a QB that thinks he's the best player on the field when he's the worst player in his backfield.

    For this match-up in particular, the offenses should dominate. The question is, which defensive staff is better at teaching during the season? I'd go with TCU based on the incredible growth the Frogs D had last year over a Sooner staff that has seen a regression since 2015.

    An observation that you and other Horns bloggers have made (and I've agreed) is that OU fattens out players unnecessarily and to the team's detriment. Jordan Evans is this year's example.

    For the offense, Mayfield leaves so many yards on the field trying to make the hero play rather than the easy play. He needs to go back and watch Bradford distribute the ball in the 2007 season. ARGH!!! I think a principal reason that OU didn't use more RPO vs Ohio St is that Mayfield's judgement this year has been so poor in general.

    Sooner teams have pulled out of funks like in this in the past, but never have two losses early in the season been so frustrating because basics on both sides of the ball have been forgotten.

    I am the patient fan. I tolerate losing when teams lack one-on-one talent (USC 2004), suffer injuries (2009) or bad luck or bad officiating (2005), or opponents have exceptional games (Boise 2006).

    And I'm anything but a results-based decision maker. Rather I believe the process is key.

    - If OU puts unsound alignments on the field again, regardless of wins/losses, Mike Stoops should be gone mid-season. Let Bob or Cooks or Kish coordinate a "basic" defense.

    - The book on Mayfield was out before the season: keep him in the pocket and let him get nervous. OU's offensive skill position talent is good enough that a Kendall should get a shot vs Texas if Mayfield continues to make bad decisions.

  2. OU-TCU over/under is 70. I'd take the over as I think 80 is easily possible in this game (TCU 50, OU 30).

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