Week 4 in the Big 12 is an extremely light set as just 4 teams are in action but there are a couple of tasty morsels to get you through Baylor's bye week. This week's preview is coming at you early this week due to the big game tonight in Manhattan. Let's dive right into the picks.
#5 Auburn @ #20 Kansas State
Bill Snyder Family Stadium (Manhattan, KS)
6:30 PM CT (Thu.), ESPN
Line: Auburn (-7.5)
This game is probably the preeminent non-conference game in the Big 12 this season as defending SEC champion Auburn travels to the purple plains of Manhattan to meet up with Kansas State in the notoriously dangerous Thursday night national TV game. Bill Snyder has never been one to schedule marquee opponents out of conference but this game was actually scheduled by former K-State coach Ron Prince nearly 10 years ago. It's a delectable contrast in styles which should make for an entertaining game. The big key in this one will be how well DE Ryan Mueller and K-State's defensive front can hold up against the fast-break rushing attack orchestrated by QB Nick Marshall, RB Cameron Artis-Payne, and a powerful offensive line. The Tigers have rushed for over 200 yards in each of their last 13 games under Gus Malzahn so it won't be an easy task for the Cats. It will be crucial for KSU to make tackles in space to limit Auburn's big plays and keep the home crowd engaged. Offensively, expect the Wildcats to institute a game plan similar to what Snyder tries to set up against Baylor: ball control. This puts a lot of pressure on QB Jake Waters to be effective in both the passing and running game. The Auburn defense is not impenetrable and K-State would benefit to get a few big plays of their own out of All-American WR Tyler Lockett. Although Auburn is clearly the more talented team, I think this turns into one of those weird Thursday night games that goes right down to the wire. In the end, I think Auburn makes one more big play than K-State although I hope I'm wrong. Roll Snyd, indeed.
Prediction: Auburn 35 Kansas State 34
Central Michigan @ Kansas
Memorial Stadium (Lawrence, KS)
2:30 PM CT, FSN
Line: Kansas (-3.5)
If this weekend's Big 12 slate is a 3 game party, then this is clearly the turd in the punchbowl. Both teams are coming off of 37+ point defeats last week. Kansas looked strong in it's first quarter of the season against Southeast Missouri State but in it's last 7 quarters has been outscored 69-13. Offensively, the Jayhawks have had a toxic combination of turnovers and inconsistent QB play. A bigger concern for Charlie Weis may be the play of his defense, which allowed 331 yards rushing to Duke a week ago. Kansas will be helped out by the fact that Central Michigan leading rusher Thomas Rawls will not play due to a legal issue (seriously footballers, enough of these already). This will be a low scoring affair that will come down to which team can take care of the ball. And frankly, I don't trust Kansas to do that so I'll take the #MACtion all the way to the bank.
Prediction: Central Michigan 21 Kansas 16
#4 Oklahoma @ West Virginia
Milan Puskar Stadium (Morgantown, WV)
6:30 PM CT, FOX
Line: Oklahoma (-7.5)
Auburn/K-State may be the highest profile game of the weekend involving a Big 12 team but the game with the most conference title significance happens on Saturday night. Oklahoma has looked like a College Football Playoff team through its first 3 games but will likely see it's biggest test to date when they make the trek to Morgantown to meet up with a rejuvenated and hungry West Virginia. The big story coming into this game for the Sooners is that they will be without leading rusher Keith Ford who suffered a leg injury in last week's win over Tennessee. This will only put more pressure on QB Trevor Knight to continue to make plays in the passing game. On the other side, WVU will have to replace leading DB Daryl Worley who was suspended indefinitely this week by Dana Holgersen. An already below-average Mountaineer defense will have to be sharp in all aspects to slow down the OU attack. Fortunately for West Virginia, their offense has proven that it can put up points in bunches. QB Clint Trickett has had a breakout season so far, including 511 yards and 4 TDs in last week's thrilling win at Maryland. A key matchup to watch on the outside will be West Virginia WR Kevin White against Oklahoma DB Zack Sanchez. White leads all receivers not named K.D. Cannon with 460 yards receiving and has been the clear go-to guy for Trickett through the first 3 games. Sanchez is arguably the best lockdown corner in the Big 12 so whoever wins that matchup could decide the outcome of this game. The Sooners will certainly be tested in Morgantown against a WVU team that has already given Alabama fits earlier this season. I just think that Oklahoma's defense will make more stops than West Virginia's and I like the Sooners to get a late score to put the game on ice.
Prediction: Oklahoma 38 West Virginia 28