Texas Tech @ #6 Oklahoma
Saturday, September 28th 11:00 AM CT, FOX
#6 Oklahoma (3-0) is off to a red-hot start to the season, cruising to victories over Houston, South Dakota, and UCLA. Now after a bye week they host Texas Tech (2-1) to open Big 12 play. Tech looked impressive in their first two games against Montana State and UTEP before crashing back down to earth with a 28-14 loss to Arizona. The Red Raiders also enter this game off a bye week. Both teams are trending in opposite directions, with many losing optimism in Tech while Oklahoma is a favorite to make the playoff once again. Even though I do think the Red Raiders will keep this game closer than the 27 point spread at the time of writing this article, Jalen Hurts and Oklahoma ought to be too much for Tech in Norman.
Kansas @ TCU
Saturday, September 28th 11:00 AM CT, FS1
Kansas (2-2) is an oddly difficult team to pick this season. They barely beat Indiana State, lost to Coastal Carolina, demolished Boston College on the road, then lost a 5 point game to West Virginia. At the very least, Les Miles has revived some fight in the Jayhawks. Meanwhile, TCU (2-1) suffered a devastating defeat to AAC foe SMU. The Horned Frogs defense, usually a daunting challenge, let the Mustangs score 41 points. Offensively TCU did alright, but there still seems to be issues finding a quarterback that can really guide the TCU offense. This is a revenge spot for the Horned Frogs, who lost in Lawrence last year. TCU is a heavy favorite, with a 16.5 point spread at the time of writing. That seems like way too large of a spread. Kansas has actually looked better on the road this year (granted, with a sample size of one) and I can’t imagine TCU’s home crowd, after a loss to SMU, will be anymore daunting than Boston College’s was. Carter Stanley has looked more and more comfortable for the Jayhawks in the quarterback spot. Interestingly enough, I think Kansas has a better idea of what they want to do at QB than TCU. While I don’t think that necessarily gives Kansas the win, the Horned Frogs will be sweating it late into this game.
Iowa State @ Baylor
Saturday, September 28th 2:30 PM CT, ESPN
For two teams that have hardly any geographic connection and little in the way of noted historic rivalry, this matchup has turned into a bitter feud between the teams and fanbases. Obviously, much of the impetus for these rough feelings came from the massive brawl that broke out in last year’s game. Both teams and fanbases felt they got the raw end of that deal. A year later, Baylor (3-0) hosts Iowa State (2-1) in the Big 12 opener for both teams. And while there will be plenty of conference play to go after this game, this could be a pivotal battle for each team’s respective trajectory and potential Big 12 championship game hopes.
Baylor looked great in their first two games, before having an absolute clunker against Rice last week. But there’s something to be said for winning those games that you don’t play as well as you should (I know a purple team in the section above that would have much preferred an ugly win as opposed to an embarrassing loss). Iowa State is no stranger to ugly wins either, having to go to triple overtime to defeat FCS foe Northern Iowa in their home opener. So both teams have had a game where they looked bad, at least one game where they looked great, and Iowa State has had an actual test against Iowa (which they lost). What does all that tell us for this game?
First, Iowa State has looked bad against quarterbacks that can scramble. UNI’s quarterback was able to scramble all over them. Iowa’s quarterback Nate Stanley, not necessarily known for his running ability, picked up some key conversions with his feet. Quarterback Caleb Evans was UL Monroe’s top rusher against the Cyclones, picking up 93 yards. All that to say there is a clear weakness in the Cyclones’ vaunted defense, and Charlie Brewer is likely the best scrambling quarterback the Cyclones have yet to play.
Second, Iowa State has their own talented quarterback, Brock Purdy, that will absolutely test Baylor’s new defensive look. While many are doom and gloom after last week’s game against Rice, I do think a high point was certainly Baylor’s defense. Time and time again they got put in bad spots in the second half. And yet, with the offense doing basically nothing, the defense won the game for Baylor. Now Rice is certainly nowhere near Iowa State in offensive potency, but I do think Baylor has potentially its best defense in Matt Rhule’s tenure this year.
Third, Iowa State has yet to find a proven rushing threat to replace David Montgomery. After three games, their top rusher, Kene Nwangwu, has only 106 total yards. Their second leading rusher is quarterback Brock Purdy. Iowa State’s offense seems to be much more one dimensional this season, leaning much more on its passing attack. As long as Baylor can QB contain and play decently in the secondary (which they have certainly done so far this year), I think Iowa State’s offense starts to look more like the did in their 29-26 3OT game against UNI, rather than their 72-20 win over ULM last week. On the flip side, Baylor has a much more balanced offensive attack. Three of Baylor’s running backs have over 100 yards rushing compared to Iowa State’s one. Charlie Brewer, a great runner in his own right, ranks 6th on the team in rushing behind four other running backs and Gerry Bohanon. Part of that is credited to Baylor having an underrated stable of great running backs. But it also has to do with Baylor protecting their quarterback through “easy” games. I suspect Brewer will have the green light to run much more this weekend.
Which brings me to my final point: difficulty of games played so far. Iowa State has faced off against another good Power 5 team in Iowa already. Baylor’s toughest foe was probably winless Rice? But that goes both ways. One school of thought would say Iowa State has had to play a tough game already, and are accordingly more physically prepared to play against strong competition. The other way of looking at it is this: Baylor has almost certainly limited its play-calling both offensively and defensively. Iowa State will have tape from last year to look at, sure. But nothing extremely useful from this year as Baylor will certainly start adding some wrinkles moving into conference play. That could be especially relevant with the new three man front Baylor has implemented on defense. I suspect defensive coordinator Phil Snow will have some new wrinkles to throw at the Cyclones. Meanwhile, you have to imagine Iowa State threw the kitchen sink at Iowa in terms of play-calling. Baylor should have plenty of tape to look at in preparation for the Cyclones. So this category could go either way, but I don’t believe it’s as much of a negative as many might think.
All that to say: my thoughts haven’t changed drastically through these first four weeks from my preseason preview of this matchup. Both teams are solid, but both teams have weaknesses to exploit. And both teams will likely play emotionally. But there’s something about losing the year prior that makes for a stronger emotional effort in the week leading up to a game than winning. If Baylor can funnel those emotions positively (i.e., no stupid fights this year), they get this one done at home in a close, physical, revenge victory.
#24 Kansas State @ Oklahoma State
Saturday, September 28th 6:00 PM CT, ESPN+
#24 Kansas State (3-0) is off to a great start to the season, demolishing Nicholls and Bowling Green, before picking up a big road win over SEC foe Mississippi State. The Wildcats seem to be in just as good, if not better shape than they were under Bill Snyder with new coach Chris Klieman. Now the Wildcats open conference play against Oklahoma State (3-1). The Cowboys looked strong in their first three, before dropping a close on in Austin to Texas. Really, the key to beating Oklahoma State seems to be keeping running back Chuba Hubbard reasonably in check. Realistically, Hubbard is going to put up yards on you no matter what you do. But as long as you don’t let him bust out for huge runs, you’ll give yourself opportunities against the much weaker OSU passing attack. Kansas State has the ability to do that, as they bring in the 9th best defense in the country. However, much of that has to do with their #2 ranked passing defense. Regardless, I think KState is battle tested enough to score a close win in Stillwater.
35-31 Kansas State