In the penultimate weekend of the Big 12 regular season, there were two big games that were for all the marbles and a couple of others that were meaningful to bowl placement. Texas still had a chance to get eligible and the Mountaineers and Red Raiders were playing for post-season position. Paul Rhoads got fired this week, but he is not the first coach in the Big 12 to let a game slip away by not kneeling the ball… With the glut of open coaching positions this season, it will be interesting to see who the decision makers in Ames find to take over for Rhoads. I do think that Iowa State is a better team than 3-9, but unfortunately 3-9 they are. Thanks for the memories Coach and good luck in your upcoming endeavors.
On to the game summaries -
Texas Tech 48 @ Texas (-1) 45
The Longhorns came into this rainy Thanksgiving game needing two wins to get bowl eligible with two games left on their schedule. Tech came into this game with a bowl game already booked but was looking to build their resume for better positioning. Regardless of the motivation, these two teams came in hungry (despite being Thanksgiving night), left their defenses at home, and bombed, bombed, bombed their way to an exciting finish.
After a slow first quarter (tryptophan?) the fireworks started in the second with a 65-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes to Jakeem Grant. That was not really the exciting part though, that happens all the time. What made this catch spectacular was that Mahomes threw an awful ball straight into the hands of Horn DB Holton Hill. I mean this ball was right to him, 5-6 yards away from any Tech defender. Devin Lauderdale broke off of his route though to make the tackle as the closest Tech receiver and popped Hill just as he was landing with the ball. Ball pops out, goes backwards about 5 yards and falls right into the hands of a sprinting Jakeem Grant. Grant was off the races, all the way to the end zone. Reminded me immediately of the Kendall Wright downfield catch against OU that bounced off Tevin Reese and went 87 yards for a touchdown in 2011.
The score at that point was 7-3 in favor of Tech. It was an amazing play but there were many more to come.
Later in the quarter with Tech up 10-3, the Longhorns found themselves backed up to their 9 yard-line and wanting just to get some breathing room. Enter true freshman Chris Warren. For those that have never heard of him, there is a reason for that. He was buried deep in the Longhorn roster but was called up due to injuries to D’Onta Foreman and Johnathan Gray. From the 9-yard line he took a handoff up the middle and started breaking tackles. At least 37 Red Raider defenders got a hand on him and he ran through them all. I think the official tackle break count was 7, and it looked ridiculous. It was a college football Bad News Bears play. If you haven’t seen it you need to. The only Tech defenders not to attempt a tackle were Larry, Curly and Moe. The game was knotted at 10 at that point, with defenses starting to evaporate into a dense fog.
From then on it was back and forth with Tech scoring 14 points unanswered on runs by Mahomes and DeAndre Washington. Warren struck back for the Horns with TD runs of 23 yards and 21 yards to make it 27-24. This kid was seriously on fire. I don't know if he is just that good or the Tech run defense is just that bad/pitiful but he was hammering away. I suspect it is a combination of the two.
Washington ran one in from 16 yards for tech to make it 34-24 but then Tyrone Swoopes ran two TDs in on successive drives, one from 46 yards out, to give Texas its first lead of the night, 34-38. Tyrone played most of the game at QB for Texas after Jerrod Heard left the game early with a head injury.
Juston Stockton ran in a TD for Tech on the next drive to give Tech the lead again at 41-38. Tech padded its lead late on a fake kneel/Gus Malzahn woody play to really seal the game. At the 40 yard line the Tech offense all huddled down in a bunch behind the line with Jakeem Grant kneeling directly behind the right guard. The ball was snapped and several players came out of the scrum looking like they had the ball, the one that did though was Grant and he was sprinting around the left side past a confused Longhorn defense. He juked a couple of defensive backs, but that was all it took to get in. Tech 48, Texas 38 with 2 minutes to play.
The Horns still had life though. On the ensuing kickoff Daje Johnson ran it back 42 yards and got 15 more on a facemask. Two plays later Chris Warren took it in for a TD to pull within 3 but the onside kick recovery was not successful and the Red Raiders left Austin with a big win.
The wet conditions favored the run and both teams took advantage. Warren finished with 276 yards on the ground for UT and Washington finished with 173 for Tech. Tech scored 5 of their 6 TDs on the ground while Texas scored all 6 of theirs that way. Mahomes was able to pass for 372 yards for Tech, even in a run-heavy environment.
Texas Tech finishes the regular season at a solid 7-5 looking at a mid-tier bowl, Texas’ next game will be Angry Bear Bowl next week in Waco.
Iowa State 6 @ West Virginia (-14) 30
In a week where the Cyclones saw their coach fired, they had the difficult task to travel to Milan Puskar to take on the surging Mountaineers. The result was predictable, a stomp down of the Cyclones by the ‘Eers.
The scoring got started in the first quarter with Skyler Howard tossing a nice pass to Shelton Gibson who turned it into a weaving, bobbing, tackle breaking touchdown of 60 yards. The teams traded two field goals each in the second quarter and that would be end of the points for Iowa State. It was the first time that Iowa State’s offense failed to put up a touchdown all season. The West Virginia defense was in lockdown mode for the whole game and really played lights out.
The game was still in question coming out of halftime though at 13-6, but the Mountaineers scored 17 straight to put things out of reach. It was cold and rainy and expected to be a low scoring game and the Mountaineers had control throughout. Iowa State’s Joel Lanning aided the Mountaineer cause by throwing two picks, the Cyclones also had a fumble for 3 turnovers overall.
With Kansas State on the board next week looking for their all-important 6th win, the Mountaineers will have a challenge on their hands in the Little Apple. A win would move West Virginia to a solid 8-4 record on the year.
Kansas State (-20) 45 @ Kansas 14
Like the Horns, Kansas State came into this game needing to win to stay alive for a bowl berth. Unlike the Horns who were playing a solid Texas Tech team, the Cats were up against Kansas, still looking for their first win of the season.
Things started badly for the Jayhawks as they typically do unfortunately. A fumbled deep snap deep in their own territory resulted in Kansas State taking over at the 12 yard-line of Kansas. One play later Winston Dimel was in for a TD. On the next two series, the teams traded TDs. Kansas on a beautiful pass from Ryan Willis to Tre’ Parmalee and Kansas State on another run by Dimel. At 14-7 it was close and the Jayhawks had to think that they were still in it. That thought was fleeting though.
On the next Jayhawk series, another punt was blocked deep in Kansas territory and the Cats fell on it in the end zone. 21-7 Cats. Glen Gronkowski made it 28-7 on an 8-yard run at the end of the first quarter.
The Jayhawks would not score again until garbage time, after Kansas State added 17 points to the total. Final 45-14.
Statistically the two teams were not that far apart, it was the special teams plays that made the biggest difference in this one. Once the Jayhawks got down they just couldn't come back.
There has been a lot of speculation as to the timing of Bill Snyder’s retirement with many people saying that this year might be the one. If it is, Snyder would dearly like to win next week against West Virginia to get the elusive 6th win and a bowl game. The game is at home for the Snydercats and anything can happen. The ‘Eers have been playing extremely well as of late though, this will be a tough ask for Kansas State.
Oklahoma (-7) 58 @ Oklahoma State 23
I would have never predicted this in a million years. I really thought that Oklahoma was going to win this game simply because OSU has a limited ability run the ball or stop opponents from running the ball. And the initial forecast favored a ground war when everyone thought that it would be a freezing, rainy mess like the Baylor/TCU game in Ft. Worth the night before.
As the weather cleared though, it seemed like the chances evened back up. JW Walsh had the start QB for the Pokes in front of a still hobbled Mason Rudolph, but he has been splitting duty all season so it wasn't as big of a stretch as it might seem at first. The game was in Stillwater in front of a hostile crowd and it was for all of the Big 12 marbles. Everyone had a lot riding on it. So at kickoff, I was thinking the line was about right at OU -7. How wrong I was. OU grabbed a paddle from the stands and gave their rivals a pants down spanking with it.
The first quarter was a fairly even matchup and looked to end at 10-7 in favor of the Sooners. That is where the land thieves broke things wide open. Samaje Perine broke off a 68-yard TD run right at the end of the 1st quarter to extend the lead. Not to be outdone, Joe Mixon scampered for a 66 yarder on the next series. That OSU run defense was really starting to matter at this point.
Later in the 2nd quarter with the score at 28-10, the Sooner defense made a pick six. After a blocked PAT the score stood at 34-10 with most of the 2nd quarter still to play. Walsh did connect with James Washington for a 72-yard bomb for a TD. Actually pass was badly underthrown, but Washington came back for it, made the catch and then made 2 defenders miss.
34-17 was a close as it would get from there on. The Sooner ground game took over and dominated the rest of the quarter and and the second half. At the break the score was 44-20 and the rout was on.
OU gashed the OSU defense for 344 yards on the ground with Mixon going for 136 and Perine going for 131. Bayer Mayfield had 77, mostly on scrambles. In fact, I would guess that he ran a total distance of about 200 to get those 77 forward yards. He was scrambling all over the place and making defenders miss left and right. He had an outstanding game without question on the ground and also threw 2 TD passes.
All in all, it was a dominant victory for the Sooners and certainly sent a message to the playoff committee.
Sunday Morning Quarterback
The Bears endured tough conditions in Ft. Worth this week. They were in a hostile environment ("F*** Baylor" was the starting chant from the crowd), rain was coming down in sheets, it was cold, the third string quarterback was getting his first start, and there were a number of injuries to deal with. To be fair, the Frogs played in the same quagmire and certainly had their share of injuries, but Boykin was back and although he seemed to be less than 100% he was still darn good at times. The Bear defense looked amazing but the offense gave up 5 turnovers. Credit to the Frogs, they toughed it out and got the win. After two close games going Baylor’s way the last two years, maybe the Frogs were due. It was a tough loss, but life goes on. Now the Bears need to take care of business and beat Texas next week.
In terms of bowl positioning, things are starting to shake out at this point. The dominant win by OU over OSU should salt away the Sooner’s spot in the College Football Playoff. The committee would be nuts not to take a red-hot OU team that has beaten 3 top-10 teams in the last month, two on the road, and scoring 58 points against one of them. I obviously am no Sooner fan, but I cannot deny how well they have played in the past 3 games. They are in. If not, then they need to blow up the whole system because that will be a travesty of Biblical proportions.
With an OU win, Baylor in the Sugar bowl was the best case scenario anyway. The first thing that Baylor needs to do is win at home against Texas next week, but if that happens, the Bears are in the Sugar bowl even with the loss against TCU. "Not so fast" you say, isn’t there a 3-way tie for second place in the Big 12 under those circumstances? Keep reading…
Given that the Sugar Bowl is a contract bowl between the Big 12 and the SEC, the conferences can decide how they put teams into it. The simple case is that the champions from the two conferences go in. That is unless either of those teams are selected to participate in the CFP by being placed in the top 4 of the playoff committee’s ranking. It gets a bit more interesting in that situation. The SEC selects its team for the Sugar Bowl based on the team with the next highest ranking in the CFP poll. Coming into this week the SEC would have Alabama in the playoff and they would send Florida to the Sugar as the next highest ranked team. After a Florida loss yesterday, it will likely be Ole Miss after rankings come out on Tuesday.
For the Big 12, they use their tiebreaking rules to determine the conference representative. Assuming OU is in the playoff and given that we have a 3-way tie for second, the first tie breaker is point differential amongst the games played by the teams that are tied. Given the big loss that TCU had to OSU, that puts TCU out after that round. The next tiebreaker is head to head, and Baylor wins over OSU given the victory in Stillwater. With a win over Texas next week, Baylor would go to the Sugar Bowl under league tie-breaking rules. With a Baylor loss to Texas, OSU would go given their head to head against TCU. The next set of bowls can choose anyone they want from the conference but choose serially. The first to pick after the Sugar is the Alamo Bowl followed by the Russell Athletic Bowl and presumably they will pick TCU and OSU, probably in that order, especially given that it looks like Trevone Boykin will be healthy by that time.
So the Bears have a lot riding on next week. They would drop all the way from the Sugar Bowl to the Russell Athletic with a loss. Hopefully the loss in Ft. Worth will have the Bears angry and motivated against a desperate Longhorn squad. At least the weather should be nice in Waco.
Go Bears, 9-2…