Coming into this weekend the most intriguing matchup in the Big 12 was Oklahoma State against Texas in Stillwater. OSU started the season on a torrid pace, racking up 5 wins and a #14 ranking, with their only loss being a close one to defending national champion Florida State. The Pokes have been struggling ever since to find the all-important 6th victory and have tumbled out of the polls with a string of losses. Texas, also sitting on 5 wins, was exactly the opposite. They started the season in pathetic fashion and looked no more like a bowl team than a pack of squirrels. How things have changed though. Texas has improved week after week and is starting to harness their stable of blue-chip athletes They are turning opportunities into wins. With both teams facing tough challenges down the stretch, this game was the best chance for both to get bowl eligible.
Oklahoma and TCU both came into the weekend as big favorites over Tech and Kansas respectively. Both teams were on the road in Lubbock and Lawrence but no one expected it to matter. Oklahoma was still smarting from their home drubbing at the hands of Baylor in Norman last week and TCU was looking to solidify their position in the CFP rankings with a style-point win over an overmatched Kansas team.
TCU (-28.5) 34 @ Kansas 30
After seeing their ranking take a big jump into the top 10 after laying an 82 point humiliation on Tech, TCU came into the game looking to score some style-points with a win against an improving, but still hopelessly overmatched Kansas team. As a newly anointed top-4 CFP poll team, TCU had no choice but to hammer Kansas without mercy in order to maintain their status as one of the nation's elite teams. Temperatures in the low 20's in Lawrence were the only potential cause for TCU not to hang a C-note on the scoreboard.
Client Bowen and his surprisingly strong Jayhawks had means other than the weather at their disposal though. After snapping their Big 12 losing streak last week against Iowa State, Kansas had upset on their mind and they were serious about it. TCU was dazed and confused for much of this game and the result was still in question until an interception by TCU with just over 3 minutes to play finally settled it.
TCU opened the scoring on the first drive of the game on a Trevone Boykin pass-heavy series that finished with a 27 yard strike to Ty Sianina. The rout was on, but not for long. Kansas came right back and scored on their next two drives with Michael Cummings connecting multiple times to an always-open Jimmay Mundine. After a blocked PAT the lead stood at 13-7 in favor of Kansas. There were hollow looks of disbelief on the TCU sideline and frankly Kansas was out-playing the Frogs.
Two series later, Kansas had a chance to put their boot on the throat of TCU with a pick-six that brought an eruption of cheers from all of the 46 fans in attendance. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks they accomplished the feat with 12 men on the field and the call was reversed. TCU kicked a field goal near the end of the half and at the break the game was still a 13-10 Jayhawk lead.
To open the 2nd half Cummings connected with Mundine on a 67-yard reception to set up another touchdown, this one a run from the 1-yard line by Cummings. TCU answered though with another pass heavy series to cut the lead to 20-17.
One the next play from scrimmage, Nigel King made the play of the season with a tipped-ball, sideline dancing catch that covered 78 yards and put Kansas back up to 10. If you haven't seen the footage, it is worth looking up. With all due respect to the fine stable of Baylor receivers, this was really the catch and run of the season for the Big 12.
On the ensuing kickoff, TCU's Ranthony Texada fumbled the return - recovered by Kansas. Mid-way through the 3rd quarter the Jayhawks were up by 10, had the ball and TCU was shell-shocked. The Kansas elation was fleeting though. TCU scored on their next series on a 24-yard run by Aaron Green and then Cameron Echols-Luper took a punt return to the house on the next Kansas stalled drive. In a span of 2 minutes, the Frogs erased a 10-point deficit and went up by 4 at 31-27. The teams traded field goals late but it was pretty clear in the 4th quarter than TCU had woken up and was putting together enough offensive pressure to stay in front. Kansas never game up but did commit some penalties and made some late mistakes that doomed their upset bid.
The game was in question until a late interception by Chris Hackett finally allowed the Frogs to take the victory formation and escape Lawrence with the hard fought 4-point win. Statistically the game was extremely close. TCU had 463 yards overall and Kansas had 418. Boykin threw for 330 yards and Cummings threw for 332. The only significant difference other than the score was the turnovers. TCU coughed up 2 fumbles and an interception and Kansas only gave up one interception.
Oklahoma (-14) 42 @ Texas Tech 30
In a battle of the backups, Oklahoma came from behind to steal one away from Tech in Lubbock. Patrick Mahomes got the start at QB for the Red Raiders and Cody Thomas was the signal caller for the Sooners, both filling in for injured starters. Tech took an early 7-point lead on a Mahomes pass to Jakeen Grant, but the Sooners answered two series later with a Samaje Perine dive for a touchdown. The Red Raiders took a 14-7 lead into halftime on highlight reel, 59-yard Mahomes pass to Ian Sadler. Despite throwing 3 picks in the first half the Sooners still managed to only be down by 7 points. Tech was unable to convert any of the takeaways into points.
The Sooners only had 68 yards on the ground in the first half against one of the statistically worst run defenses in the league. They were able to turn that around in the second half though with Samaje Perine ripping off TD runs of 64, 2, and 11 yards. The freshman finished with 213 yards, his 2nd 200+ yard effort of the year. Cody Thomas also went over 100 yards.
Tech had plenty of big plays as well. Early in the third quarter Mahomes connected for 75 yards with Devin Lauderdale to extend the score to 21 - 7. That is when OU started their dominant running juggernaut and outscored Tech 35-3 through the 3rd and most of the 4th quarters. Tech scored late to make the final tally closer, but it was a dominant second half by the Sooners in the 42-30 comeback win.
Texas (-1.5) 28 @ Oklahoma State 7
Texas is going bowling with a solid win over a reeling OSU team. The OSU offense continued to struggle and made a strong case for being the worst offense in the league after going scoreless for over 3 quarters. They had 36 yards total offense in the first half and looked absolutely hopeless throughout. They were able to put together a 61-yard touchdown drive in the 4th quarter to end the scoring drought but finished with a scant 192 yards of offense and 2 turnovers on the night.
Texas on the other hand, marched out to an authoritative 19-0 first half lead on big runs by Johnathan Gray and solid quarterback play by Tyrone Swoopes. Swoopes went 24-33 for 305 yards and 2 TDs in one of his best performances of the season. Texas was in solid control of this game throughout and continued on their path to improvement. Texas looked strong but not completely dominant, but as poorly as the Cowboys were playing, especially on the offensive side of the ball, the game was never in doubt. Oklahoma State, after starting the season at 5-1 has looked hapless in losing 4 straight.
Texas has started peaking at exactly the right time of the season. With a respectable offense, one of the leagues best defenses and a new-found swagger, the Horns will represent a formidable challenge in their season finale against TCU in Austin on Thanksgiving night.
Sunday Morning Quarterback
The results in the Big 12 this weekend were fairly unsurprising, but the way that the results were achieved were certainly unexpected. Who thought that TCU would be in a dogfight with Kansas and that Tech would be up on Oklahoma 21-7 in the 3rd quarter.
TCU especially showed some vulnerability, but a win is a win. With Alabama knocking off Mississippi State and TCU looking downright tepid against the Jayhawks, it will be interesting to see where the CFP poll shakes out. Texas looks quietly dangerous at this point though and if TCU plays like they played in Lawrence, won't escape Austin without a loss.
Baylor of course needs to take care of business against Oklahoma State next week to make sure that the momentum stays favorable in Waco for the late season run. There is nothing that will help more in the college football landscape than 3 straight wins by the Bears.
Go Bears, 8-1...