Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sunday morning check-up

I'm feeling pretty good about where I had things pegged after an offseason of rumination about the Big 12 and college football national landscapes. If you check out my previews of the big opening match-ups, you'll find that they were quite instructive in detailing how those contests were likely to play out.

K-State was a stiff test for McCaffrey and the Cardinal offense. Auburn made their game with Clemson competitive with defense despite a wretched offense. Bama put away USC once they had a QB out there that could bring back leverage with deep bombs or QB runs. It didn't really matter who Georgia played at QB because UNC couldn't stop Nick Chubb. The Wisconsin run game proved better than last year's numbers would have indicated and it allowed them to grind out a win against a mistake-prone QB in Brandon Harris that belongs in a spread, not a pro-style offense. A&M's DEs carried the day for them against Josh Rosen and Trevor Knight added enough on the ground to get the Aggies' offense going. Houston and the 3rd Ward factor (either their defense or Greg Ward) were much more up for the task of taking on overrated Oklahoma than people guessed.

Let's talk about the Big 12 and those picks.

Ian Pick: Baylor big over Northwestern St. Vindicated.

My guess was that Baylor would be just fine early on against the sacrificial lambs they brought in for Grobe. There was a lotta "football is going now, we can get those distractions behind us!" sentiments from Baylor but I don't think that's true. That offseason scandal, and the behavioral problems that won't quite go away, are going to dog the program for some time.

However, it'll be interesting to see what Baylor does in terms of replacing Briles for next season. That's when they can really start to turn the corner.

Ian Pick: Oklahoma wins but Houston beats the spread. Close.

The spread in this game was absurd, going as high as OU -12.5 before the game. As I shouted all offseason, the 2015 Sooners were NOT as strong as they looked. Their resume was bolstered by having played lots of headless Big 12 teams rolling with 2nd string quarterbacks. What's more, they've long demonstrated a particular vulnerability to running QBs.

The cover 3/1 schemes that Mike Stoops relies on can be vulnerable to getting out-leveraged either by QB runs OR by QB scrambles when in man coverage. Quarters coverage is more balanced and tougher to abuse in that fashion, even if it can be attacked in other ways. I knew that Oklahoma had shown a lot of weaknesses against QB run teams the previous year and while they seemed to shore some of that up in this game, they couldn't handle Ward's improvisations and eventually wore down.

Before I look deeper, my initial impression is that if Houston was a problem for the Sooners then the Buckeyes will over power them.

Ian's pick: Stanford beats K-State, but fails to cover +16.5. Vindicated

This pick almost went south because K-State STRUGGLED to get any kind of offense going against the Cardinal. The run game lacks a dominant feature and the young O-line predictably struggled to block the Stanford fronts or pick up their nasty blitzes.

What we did see from that game though was some nice shiftiness from Jesse Ertz as well as the ability to throw with some touch on deeper routes. We also saw a very quick WR corps who had multiple guys that could thrive with Stanford's attention fixed mostly on Byron Pringle. I bet Pringle comes around as well, he was very close to blowing that game open as it was and got totally mauled a few times without drawing a flag.

I think Ertz is going to grow into another Jake Waters and then K-State's ceiling will be determined by whether they can get the run game going and how healthy the defense stays over the course of the year. The ceiling is definitely higher than what you might think, I think this team can win 8-9 games.

Missouri beats the -9.5 spread AND West Virginia. Completely wrong.

I figured West Virginia may have a slow start, Missouri would be better on offense and still good on defense. All of that may have been true but the Mountaineers really teed off with their run game and beat the still crappy on offense Tigers down.

Might have to take a closer look at this one to see if I need to re-evaluate my low expectations for the Holgo-warriors.

Pokes roll over SE Louisiana. Vindicated

I said the main thing to watch here was how well OSU was able to run the ball. Looks like they did fairly well but that'll be something to continue to monitor. They have a rematch with Central Michigan next week that I think will tell us more, the Chippewas have access to some sturdy midwestern D-linemen that know how to get low and fight you in the trenches. You can't blow them away in the run game unless you have real speed or real skill in the trenches.

Celebration in Lawrence! Yep.

I can't believe they started Montell Cozart though, I'll be curious to see how that goes.

About that TCU game...

My preseason take on TCU was that they were going to make a leap on defense, still be surprisingly good (to everyone else) on offense, and win the Big 12 conference. Well, after some early mistakes against the Jackrabbit blitz packages Kenny Trill ended up feasting on Coney before the night was over.

Their passing game was up to its normal's a really nasty scheme with a lot of midfield curl/flat stuff that is hard to stop if the timing is right and you can't confuse the QB or muck up his reads. Hill seems like he knows exactly what he's doing and he played with a sort of non-chalance about the early mistakes and the tipped ball that became a crucial Frog touchdown when it happened to flutter into the hands of Taj Williams. I think that's a good sign, although it probably drove Patterson nuts.

The obvious question is the TCU defense and whether it's actually as good as I expected it to be after getting ripped by an FCS team.'s concerning, but I don't bet against Patterson molding a good defense. I thought Texas had an opportunity to blow the Frogs' doors off last year and then Gary taught Travin Howard how to play linebacker, blew up Texas' scheme with corner blitzes, and managed to get Ridwan Issahaku up to speed on how to play weak safety and just buried the Longhorns.

So I'm saying don't assume that the weaknesses TCU showed on defense are going to maintain in Big 12 play. Also, the Jackrabbits were pretty dang good.

Texas vs Notre Dame should be interesting, I'll break that one down after it goes down over at

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