Hard as it is to believe, we're already at the halfway point of the 2014 college football season. 6 teams are still in contention for Big 12 supremacy but a lot of questions will get answered this weekend. Of the four matchups not involving your Baylor Bears, two involve a pair of teams ranked in the top 15 of this week's AP poll. We should know quite a bit more when we look at the standings on Sunday morning. Without further adieu, here are this week's picks:
#14 Kansas State @ #11 Oklahoma
Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (Norman, OK)
11:00 AM CT, ESPN
Line: Oklahoma (-7)
Which Oklahoma do we see this week? The one that looked like a dynamic running team with a ferocious defensive front against West Virginia or the one that looked perticularly vulnerable on both sides on the ball last week against Texas? We'll find out early Saturday as the Sooners host Kansas State in Norman. The Wildcats are a few uncharacteristic mistakes against Auburn away from joining Baylor in the top 5 in the polls. This should be a great matchup between two coaches who prefer to win with defense first. K-State has been excellent against the run thus far in 2014 and they will most assuredly look to make OU QB Trevor Knight beat them with his arm. Knight has been fairly inconsistent for most of the season, with more interceptions than touchdowns in Big 12 play. Knight will look to his main target WR Sterling Shepard, but the Sooners will need others to step up in the passing game and maintain a clean pocket for Knight to navigate. On the other side, the emergence of WR Curry Sexton has helped to open up the passing game for Kansas State, giving QB Jake Waters two great options along with preseason All-American Tyler Lockett. Oklahoma has the league's best DB in Zach Sanchez but they'll need a solid performance from Julian Wilson on the other side of the formation. This will be the Sooners' first home game since September 13 so the crowd should be pretty fired up but I don't like the way they've executed the last couple of weeks and those are the type of teams that K-State feasts upon. Snyder got the job done in Norman 2 years ago and they get it done this time as well. Should be noted that if you're looking to be a chaplain of a college football team, OU might have an opening.
Prediction: Kansas State 27 Oklahoma 24
Kansas @ Texas Tech
Jones AT&T Stadium (Lubbock, TX)
2:30 PM CT, FSN
Line: Texas Tech (-13)
The pillow fight of the conference happens in Lubbock this weekend as Kansas and Texas Tech each look for their first Big 12 win of the season. Both teams put together solid performances last week but were unable to secure victories against Oklahoma State and West Virginia respectively. The Jayhawks have been an improved offensive team since interim HC Clint Bowen took over for Charlie Weis and inserted Michael Cummings as the starting QB. KU actually outgained Oklahoma State by over 100 yards last week, proving that they are capable of winning a conference game if the chips fall in their favor. As for the Red Raiders, this game presents an opportunity to get back on the winning track. Tech led WVU 34-20 midway through the 4th quarter last week but allowed the Mountaineers to score 17 unanswered points in the final six minutes to squeak out a win. There were a couple of promising signs for Kliff Kingsbury last week with the emergence of a running game with RB DeAndre Washington and only committing one turnover. Tech still needs to limit the penalty yards in order to become a more consistent team against the top half of the Big 12. With this game being in Lubbock, I expect the Red Raiders to come out and try to make a statement that they're not nearly as bad as they've looked in the first half of 2014. QB Davis Webb has a big day, takes care of the football, and Coach Bro gets his first Big 12 win of the season.
Prediction: Texas Tech 41 Kansas 16
#15 Oklahoma State @ #12 TCU
Amon G. Carter Stadium (Fort Worth, TX)
3:00 PM CT, FS1
Line: TCU (-10)
TCU looks to bounce back from its crushing loss in Waco last week (#SicEm) against an Oklahoma State team that we're still trying to figure out. Even in defeat, the Frogs proved that they are going to be a part of the Big 12 title discussion as long as they can maintain their health. QB Trevone Boykin has an injury to the wrist on his non-throwing hand but it is not expected to impact his play on Saturday. The big key for TCU will be their emotional status after a pair of thrilling contests that went right down to the final play with Oklahoma and Baylor. Oklahoma State's defense will need to be ready for a fight in order to slow down the up-tempo attack that TCU possesses. Look for Boykin to involve WRs Kolby Listenbee, Deonte Gray and Josh Doctson in the passing game to soften up a strong Cowboy front and set up the run. When Oklahoma State has the ball...well neither the Cowboy offense nor the Horned Frog defense had a desireable week last week. OSU only gained a measly 275 yards of total offense against Kansas last week while Baylor amassed 782 against TCU's defense, the most ever allowed by Gary Patterson since he became head coach in Fort Worth in 2000. I expect the Pokes to try and exploit the Frogs over the top with QB Daxx Garman but I'm just not sure what else Oklahoma State can rely on offensively besides the long bomb. I look for this game to be a shootout in the first half but TCU pulls away late at home behind another big day from Boykin.
BTW if you still want to relive Baylor's win over TCU, I made you a present:
Prediction: TCU 47 Oklahoma State 35
Iowa State @ Texas
Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium (Austin, TX)
7:00 PM CT, LHN
Line: Texas (-12)
The final Big 12 game of the weekend takes place on Longhorn Network so nobody will see it. A brief synopsis of what you'll miss: Texas' defense manhandles Iowa State and Tyrone Swoopes actually isn't that terrible. Longhorns win convincingly.
Prediction: Texas 27 Iowa State 9