Big 12 Football Preview - Week Five - League Action Moves Into High Gear
The out of conference schedule is done. From here on out, it's an all-league schedule for the Big 12, as the league schools begin staking their claims for national rankings, bowl bids and conference positioning. The picks get tougher, just like the competition, as even schools in the lower half of the standings have legitimate chances to smite their higher-ranked brethren.
It's a full five-game slate, with all ten Big 12 schools in action this week as October commences. At least two unbeaten teams will fall from the group of six that enter Saturday without a loss.
The Big 12 has the nation's highest scoring offense (Baylor – 65 points per game) and stingiest defense (West Virginia – 7.2 points per game allowed). The Bears have a good chance of maintaining that figure with this week's match-up against Texas Tech, but WVU's total figures to rise as it faces off against another potent offense in Oklahoma.
If Texas continues to slide, Oklahoma might have an outside chance of breaking the Longhorns' stranglehold atop the Big 12 home attendance chart. UT has been well under capacity this year in 100,000-seat Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium, and is currently averaging 88,366 fans per game. OU's figures won't change much all year – the Sooners have sold out every game and will have an attendance average in the mid 85,000s at season's end. So, it will take a Longhorn stampede away from the gates in their remaining home contests against Kansas State, Kansas and Texas Tech to put Oklahoma on top. That could well happen if UT can't score a win in the next two weeks against TCU or Oklahoma. Of course, attandance figures are about as reliable as the "facts" spewed by Baghdad Bob.
Six Big 12 QBs are averaging at least 305 passing yards per game.
With all of the wide receivers piling up yardage and scores, it's odd to find a running back holding the longest reception in the Big 12 this year, but that's the case with Oklahoma's Joe Mixon, who went 72 yards with a pass against Akron. Odds are that number won't stand up for the rest of the season. There's probalby a 90-yarder out there somewhere.
West Virginia (3-0) travels to Oklahoma (3-0) in another battle of unbeatens. Both teams are playing at a high level, but the home field and what looks like a potential edge of the Sooner running game against the Mountaineer run defense give the call to OU.
It's already time for the battle of the cellar? Either Iowa State (1-2) or Kansas Jayhawks (0-3) gets the head-to-head advantage after this game. Neither inspires confidence, but the Cylcones do look like the better team at this point, and get the nod in the race for ninth place.
There may not be enough lights on the scoreboard to display all of the expected points in the Baylor (3-0) – Texas Tech (3-1, 0-1) game. Three stops for either defense might be a winning performance. Tech must overcome the letdown of its fluky loss to TCU, and that challenge, not to mention an offense that is as good or better than its own, will be too much to overcome in this neutral site game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Another early separation game takes place in Stillwater, Okla., where Kansas State (3-0) visits Oklahoma State (4-0, 1-0). The Wildcats are overcoming the loss of key players with their usual blend of Bill Snyder fundamentals and coaching acumen, but that won't be enough to defeat a Cowboy squad that is brimming with confidence.
TCU's defensive injury list could cover the south 40, but the Frogs (4-0, 1-0) have managed to weather them so far with offensive explosions and a lucky finish. Texas (1-3, 0-1) doesn't have the record it probably deserves, owing to two ugly special teams gaffes that cost it chances to at least go to overtime the past two weeks. Will the improved Longhorn QB play offset those disappointments and be enough to spring an upset in Fort Worth? Against logic, we are going to say yes.