Big 12 2016 Football Previews - Week Four

Four Big 12 teams have open dates this weekend to get the schedule back into alignment, leaving just five games involving league teams this week. There’s a couple of interesting ones, and three duds.The good news is that next week, league play begins in earnest.

THE NOTES

It's become a popular meme. Schools facing Big 12 foes are said to be conducting “auditions” for league membership. While that's an easy headline for shallow analysis, it's not in any way correct.

Does it hurt Houston's candidacy that it defeated Oklahoma and has been highly ranked for the past year? No. But it would be extremely naïve to suppose that the results of one game will be a determining factor in the Big 12 expansion race. Success on the field is a factor, but it's just one of many.

Don't buy that? Then look no further than the Big 10, which added Rutgers and Maryland to its roster despite very poor results over the past few seasons. We all know that TV markets, audience reach, etc., play big roles, so to suggest that one game is an “audition” is specious at best. But, it's an easy headline to write, so it continues to be prevalent.

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Oklahoma's Joe Mixon was singled out in the Big 12's weekly release for recording his first career kick return for a score. Apparently the author was one of the eight officials who failed to notice that Mixon dropped the ball short of the goal line.

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Oklahoma State faces Baylor and Texas this week and next, and that should give the Cowboys some confidence. OSU is 26-7 against Lone Star State teams in their last 33 meetings.

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Obviously, Oklahoma fans are disappointed in their results to date. Elimination from the national championship race for a team with designs on returning to the College Football Playoff is a downer. But that's no reason to give up on the season, and that's not a Pollyanna attitude. The forecast here is that OU's players won't quit, and neither should their supporters.

 

THE PICKS

TCU gets to continue its recovery with a win over cross-Metroplex foe SMU. The Mustangs just don't have the horsepower to compete with the Frogs, and given the rivalry status of this game, it's very unlikely that Gary Patterson's team will come into it with a lack of focus. Look for another scoring onslaught from the rebuilt TCU offense. SMU may put up a determined effort, but TCU is the clear pick.

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Iowa State hosts San Jose State with a chance to salvage a bit of Big 12 pride. The Spartans are very shaky on defense, but the Cyclones have so many offensive line problems that they might not be able to fully take advantage of that. Still, ISU has an excellent running back in Mike Warren and an excellent receiver in Allen Lazard, and that should be enough. The 'Clones pick up their first win of the season and give new head coach Matt Campbell a bit of success to build upon.

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Kansas State enjoys another party in the Little Apple, as it will dust Missouri State with the same alacrity that it showed against Florida Atlantic. The Wildcats' scoring output might not be as high, as the Bears won't be quite as generous as the Owls, but K-State figures to end any suspense with its usual efficient play.  

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West Virginia travels to Landover, Md., for the second time in five years for a non-conference game. The visit to the home of the NFL's Washington franchise is designed to keep ties with the Mountaineers' solid constituency in the Washington, D.C. metro area, but WVU didn't give itself an easy task, as it will meet BYU. The Cougars are off to a 1-2 start, but have the defensive chops to win this game if WVU isn't playing well. Coming off an open date, the thinking is the Mountaineers will be eager to play, and will get the win.

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Baylor and Oklahoma State meet in one of the first of many expected shootouts involving league teams. Neither squad has shown consistent defensive ability, although the Bears have allowed just ten points per game, mostly due to the low level of its competition to date. Both, though, have demonstrated quick-strike, high-volume scoring, as each has totaled 133 points through three games. Last one with the ball wins? Maybe, but the key may lie on defense and turnovers. Getting an extra couple of chances on offense will be critical. That, and the home field for the Bears, makes them the pick.


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