This was a great weekend of football for Big 12 fans. Once again all 10 teams were in action with the Top 6 teams all still contending for the conference championship facing each other. At this point in the season there are 5 teams ranked 15 or higher in the polls (Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State) and 3 that are getting regular discussion about being a playoff team (Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU). There are also 3 teams that still control their own destiny in the league (Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State) and 3 more teams that have a solid path to a championship (Oklahoma, TCU, West Virginia). At 2-4 at this point in the season, Texas, Texas Tech, Iowa State, and Kansas are out of the race, but particularly the first 3 in that list have been improving and could be dangerous later in the season.
So what does all of this mean to Baylor fans? First of all it is going to be an exciting second half of the season starting with this weekend starting to separate the true contenders from the second tier of the Big 12.
Kansas Sate 31 @ Oklahoma (-8) 30
Kansas State was a trendy upset pick coming into this game and things got pretty chippy from the start. There was a targeting/ejection on Oklahoma's Aaron Ripkowski and a barely legal hit on Trevor Knight that sent him out of the game and into the locker room for treatment. Knight did return later but it was a scary moment for Sooner faithful. Even in a hostile environment it was evident that the Snydercats came to play and were not backing down from anything.
Oklahoma opened up the scoring on a short Samaje Perine run that was set up earlier in the drive by a 42-yard sweep by Alex Ross. Kansas State answered with a beautiful read option run/pass from from Jake Waters to Glenn Gronkowski. Gronk caught the ball 10 yards over the middle from his tight end position and rambled another 50 yards to the end zone. Two series later after an outstanding punt that stranded the Sooners at their own 1 yard line Trevor Knight, standing in his end zone, through an ill advised swing pass into the flat that was picked off virtually on the goal line by Danzel McDaniel for a pick six putting the Cats up 14-7.
Knight had a short memory though, and on the next series rebounded with a long touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard to draw the teams even at 14. Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett took over when Kansas State got the ball back and marched down the field on 5 complete passes, the last of which being a 9-yard touchdown strike over the middle.
After a late field goal by the sooners, the Cats took a 21-17 lead into the break. Like the score, the stats in the first half were almost identical with the main difference being the interception for a touchdown thrown by Knight.
In the second half K-State came out and mounted a solid opening drive that resulted in a field goal. Oklahoma answered on their next possession and tied the game with a steady dose of Samaje Perine on the ground. On the third possession of the half K-State went back up 31-24 on a Jake Waters 4 yard run. The score stayed at that mark until late into the 4th quarter with Oklahoma hammering away on the ground and starting to open up a significant statistical advantage. Unfortunately for the land thieves, that advantage never made its way onto the scoreboard. With 11 minutes to play in the game OU scored the apparent leveler on a 9-yard pass from Knight to Durron Neal. The ensuing PAT was blocked by K State and the Cats held on to the slimmest of margins. At 31-30 with plenty of time to play, the Sooners got a stop and drove the ball to the K State 1 yard-line. It seemed that the Snyder magic had run out and that Oklahoma was finally going to snatch victory away from the Cats, but after repeated attempts they could not get the ball over the line. No problem for the Sooners though, a field goal would put them ahead with minimal time on the clock. Attempting a 19-yard field goal from the 2-yard line and the middle of the field, the ball sailed wide left and the 1-point advantage was preserved.
After a clock killing series by the Snydercats, that is where it finished. OU goes down in Norman and the first upset of the day was pulled off by Kansas State.
Kansas 21 @ Texas Tech (-14) 34
Texas Tech sprinted to a 17-point lead early and although the Jayhawks made it interesting late, the Red Raiders held on for a much-needed victory. The Raiders had lost 8 straight in conference dating to last season and they were able to break that trend at the Jayhawks' expense.
Davis Webb threw for 288 yards 3 TDs and an interception. He also had a fumble in the second half. Both turnovers resulted in Kansas touchdowns. Michael Cummings got the start for the Jayhawks and had a reasonable outing at 235 yards to 2 TDs and 1 interception. Statistically the main difference in the game was the Red Raider ground attack, which ran for 219 yards on the ground which was near the season best and well above season average. Another major improvement notched by Tech was their penalty count. At 4 penalties for 22 yards it was a season low and reversed an alarming trend
Tech has the talent to be a factor in the Big 12 but their sloppy play, lack of run defense, and penalties have held them back. This game was a major step in the right direction. Cut out the 14 points off turnovers and it would have been a dominant win. The other side of the coin is that the performance came against Kansas. They are improving but are still a fair distance from challenging the rest of the league. There was quite a bit of basketball coverage on this week and the Big 12 media days featured a number of Kansas players, something that should make the fans in Lawrence happy.
Oklahoma State 9 @ TCU (-9) 42
TCU bounced back from their heart-breaking loss in Waco with a dominant performance against Oklahoma State. Despite Trevone Boykin wearing a flexible cast on his non-throwing wrist he looked sharp in this outing, posting a career high 410 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception. BJ Catalon also had a great day with 102 yards on the ground and 2 TDs. Josh Doctson had a monster 225 yards receiving and 2 TDs. Most of his yards were after the catch as he turned multiple short to middle receptions into long touchdowns.
The game was over early with TCU going on a torrid scoring pace midway through the 1st quarter and never looking back. On Oklahoma State's second series of the game, Daxx Garman was picked off at midfield by Kevin White. BJ Catalon raced into the end zone two plays later from 34 yards out. The Pokes were then held to a three and out and punted the ball away to the Frogs pinning them on their own 23. On the first play on the ensuing drive, Boykin hooked up with Doctson on a play action post route for a 77-yard touchdown. OSU then drove the ball to the TCU 13 in 5 plays, the longest of which being a 57-yard strike from Garman to Brandon Sheperd. The series resulted in an OSU field goal to push the score to 14-3.
After the kickoff and a 1-yard pass into the flat by TCU, Boykin again found Doctson, this time on a middle out that went for 84 yards. Doctson made a leaping circus catch on the play then ran away from the tangled defenders untouched. So on 4 plays from scrimmage TCU scored 21 points and gained 196 yards. 120 or so of those yards were gained by Doctson after the catch. The Pokes looked shell shocked and although they kicked 2 more field goals in the 2nd quarter they were never in this game.
The TCU defense bounced back in a big way after last week's season low performance. The defense held Daxx Garman to only 10 completions, none of which came in the 2nd half. They also held the OSU offense to 51 yards after the break all of which came on the ground from a combination of Tyreek Hill and Desmond Roland. OSU did not score a touchdown and managed only 258 yards against 676 by TCU. All and all this was an absolutely dominating performance by the Frogs.
Even in defeat last week the Frogs played well and are certainly an elite team in the Big 12 and they proved it on Saturday with a beat down in Fort Worth. OSU finally ran out of patsies and with West Virginia, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma all still on the schedule, it could get ugly for the Pokes in the second half of the season.
Iowa State 45 @ Texas (-12) 48
In a wild one in Austin, Nick Rose kicked a game winner on the last play of the game to give the Horns a victory that snapped their two-game losing streak. This game also proved definitively that the college football gods have something against Paul Rhoads and the Cyclones, playing a game of give and take with the Iowans that ended in heartbreak.
Tyrone Swoopes continues to play better football and looks like a completely different quarterback that when he took over the reins from David Ash earlier in the season. He threw for 321 yards and was also the Horn's leading rusher with 95 yards and a touchdown. Sam Richardson also had a solid day for the Cyclones throwing for 345 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also had a touchdown on the ground, but did throw 2 interceptions.
The game was a back and forth affair with Iowa State and Texas matching scores in the second half. Tied at 38, Texas went up by 7 on a Malcolm Brown 4-yard run up the middle with 1:19 left which seemed to be the game winner. Sam Richardson had other ideas though and put together a beautiful drive resulting in an 11-yard TD pass to EJ Bibbs to knot the score at 45. With only 28 ticks on the clock, it was Swoopes turn to run the 2-minute drill. After a 39-yard strike to Jaxon Shipley and another 29-yarder to John Harris that got the Horns to the 4-yard line, it was a short kick to victory for Texas and another painful loss for the Cyclones.
Sunday Morning Quarterback
Baylor's hopes of landing a college football playoff spot took a major blow in Morgantown this weekend. I don't think that it was because of the loss per se, because Morgantown is a tough place to play and the Mountaineers are flat good. The main reason in my mind is because the Bears played a sloppy game and did not look like a top-4 team. Take nothing away from the Mountaineers, they played well, but it was easily Baylor's poorest showing of the season. After an emotional come from behind, top-10 victory last week, the Bears came out flat - bottom line.
Another poor showing on the field came from the referees. I am not going to say that the result of the game would have been different, but the game certainly was significantly changed as a result of 32 total penalties and 353 yards assessed against both teams. I did find that in 1977 Grambling and Texas Southern amassed a total of 421 yards of penalties in their game, which is currently the NCAA record. No idea what happened in that game, but the average per penalty was 13 yards so there must have been a lot of personal fouls. The 215 yards by Baylor is by far a single game Big 12 team record and although I could not verify it, I assume that the 353 yards is also a Big 12 single game combined record. To be honest, in all of the years that I have been watching college football, I have never seen a game with so many flags. The announcers were talking about it for a while but then stopped, presumably after a Big 12 official paid them a visit during a commercial break. Reviews that turned out to be unreviewable, penalties assessed at the end of the half to be carried over to the next half but then weren't and pass interference calls that just seemed to come out of nowhere were just some of the head scratchers. Let me be clear, this is not an excuse for a poor Baylor showing and many of these flags were legitimate but this had to be the worst officiated game of the season and maybe since the dawn of time.
So where does week 8 leave the Bears? Baylor still has a great team but had a poor game on the road. This reminded me of Stillwater last year, but actually not as bad. Baylor was never in that game and in this one they were just beaten in the fourth quarter. Baylor no longer controls its own destiny in the conference race, but neither does TCU or Oklahoma. Some cards will still have to fall in place for a league championship and potentially a berth in the playoff, but the season is not ruined by any stretch of the imagination. Of particular worry though is that Desmine Hilliard and Troy Baker were both lost for the season this week and with 40% of our starting offensive line out that could be an issue for the late season stretch. Our thoughts go out to both of those young men. They were sorely missed in this game with Bryce Petty getting harassed throughout and sacked multiple times. Luckily the Bears have an open week to sort things out and hopefully come out against Kansas with a plan.
Baylor needs to focus on playing its best football for the rest of the season and let the remaining cards fall where they will.
Stay focused and get back to winning, Go Bears, 6-1...