Big 12 Football Preview - Week Eight: Tier Contests Highlight mid-October Slate

Eight Big 12 teams are in action this week, with a mid-tier battle highlighting the action on Saturday afternoon.

THE NOTES

The Big 12 has three of the nation’s 14 undefeated teams, which ties for the most from any league. Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU are a combined 19-0. Is that indicative of a top-heavy league that isn't good through its middle and lower tiers? The thought here is no. While Kansas is clearly among the nation's worst teams, any of the other nine look to be at least competitive, and capable of springing upsets. Teams such as Kansas State, West Virginia, and Iowa State must get league wins to support that position, however. If they can, the Big 12 might wind up being the strongest top-to-bottom in the country.

Another sign of depth and strength? In Big 12 league games, road teams are now 8-6 this year. This week's games offer a pair of contests where road squads have a decent shot of adding to that total.

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In each of its three league games, West Virginia has seen an opponent earn one of the Big 12's player of the week awards. Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker, Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and punter Zach Sinor, and Baylor quarterback Seth Russell all took home conference honors for their play against the Mountaineers. On the plus side, WVU has gained at least 350 yards of offense in its past 27 games – the top such active streak in the NCAA.

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Similar statistics can often be the result of widely dissimilar factors, and nowhere is that more clearly illustrated than in the Big 12's field goal numbers. The bottom two kickers, in terms of volume of attempts, are Baylor's Chris Callahan and Kansas' Nick Bartolotta. The former, who is 4-5 this year, gets few attempts due to the Bear's prolific offense, which is deadly efficient at turning scoring chances into touchdowns (and often scores from long range). The latter's low numbers (3-5) are due to an entirely different factor – KU's offensive struggles. The Jayhawks have been in the red zone just 17 times this season.

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Iowa State scored more points in the first quarter against TCU last week (21) than it had in its other five games combined (16).

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Kansas State had scored in 234 consecutive contests prior to being shut out by Oklahoma last week. The 55-0 defeat ended a streak that as the 11th-longest in the NCAA. The Wildcats are the only team in the Big 12 who have been shut out this year.

THE PICKS

Iowa State (2-4 / 1-2) completes the second half of its Top Five tour with a visit to Baylor (6-0 / 3-0). The Cyclones showed a good bit of resilience and put up a nice fight against TCU last week, but simply doesn't have the offensive firepower (does anyone?) to match scores with the Bears.

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Kansas State (3-3 / 0-3) hits the road for Texas after getting smacked by Oklahoma at home. That rout was surprising, as the Wildcats are usually competitive, even when outmanned. Was it a one-game aberration, or a sign of things to come? Texas (2-4 / 1-2) is on an emotional high after ambushing Oklahoma, but does that last for two weeks? UT has a great record the week after beating OU, so the Longhorns get the pick at home, provided they keep running their QB and don't fall back into the complacency that has defined the program over the past few years.

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Oklahoma (5-1 / 2-1) hosts Texas Tech (5-2 / 2-2) in a mid-pack battle for league standing. The winner puts itself in fourth place in the conference and builds momentum, while the loser will have a new set of questions to answer about its position in the league standings. The Sooners looked dominant in their win over K-State, but the Red Raiders managed “just” 30 points in their most recent outing, a win over Kansas. If there's anything we've learned from this year's results, it's that ups and downs are the norm, not the exception, and that a bad showing one week doesn't lead to another the next. Still, OU is the selection at home, based on its stronger defense.

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Kansas (0-6 / 0-3) has to travel to Stillwater to take on an Oklahoma State team that is coming off an open date. The Cowboys (6-0 / 3-0) may not make it through the season undefeated, but the Jayhawks won't be the ones to ding their loss column first. OSU keeps pace with Baylor and TCU with its seventh win of the year.

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West Virginia (3-3 / 0-3) and TCU (7-0 / 4-0) are off this week.


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