Welcome to Week 5 in the Big 12! We're one week away from the first full week of conference play but this week's limited slate has a few notable matchups starting with tonight's showcase game in Stillwater. Let's get to the picks.
Texas Tech @ #24 Oklahoma State
Boone Pickens Stadium (Stillwater, OK)
6:30 PM CT (Thu.), ESPN
Line: Oklahoma State (-14)
For the second consecutive week, the Big 12 will be featured in a Thursday night ESPN game as Texas Tech and Oklahoma State engage in a shootout in Stillwater. I mean, they both do the whole guns up thing so "shootout" seems appropriate. Both teams come into this conference opener at 2-1 but with much different outlooks. It's been a tumultuous last 2 weeks in the Tech program since they were manhandled by Arkansas in Lubbock. DC Matt Wallerstadt resigned following the game for "personal reasons" and LB coach Mike Smith was promoted to interim DC. It remains to be seen what impact that Smith will have on a defense that has given up 294.7 rushing yards and 36.7 points per game, both last in the Big 12. To make life more difficult on the Red Raiders, they are traveling to Boone Pickens Stadium where they have not won since 2001. It will be key for the Tech offense to be more consistent than they have shown so far this season, and QB Davis Webb absolutely must take care of the ball for Tech to have a chance. On the other side, Oklahoma State has been untested in 2 games since the season opening tilt with Florida State and should be primed to take the field Thursday night in front of the home crowd. This will be QB Daxx Garman's first notable game as the starter and I would expect Mike Gundy to lean on RBs Tyreke Hill and Desmond Roland against a Tech defensive front that has been consistently pushed around. With an opportunity to make a national TV statement, the Cowboys get out to a big 1st half lead and cruise in for a relatively easy win. At least Tech's new uniforms don't say "Never Quit" this time.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 45 Texas Tech 24
UTEP @ #25 Kansas State
Bill Snyder Family Stadium (Manhattan, KS)
11:00 AM CT, FSN
Line: Kansas State (-27)
SNYDERCATS NOOOOOOOO. Kansas State let their Thursday night opportunity last week slip through the cracks as they were unable to execute in the red zone and eventually fell 20-14 at home to Auburn. This week, they look to rebound against a UTEP team that's better than you might think. The K-State defense looked very strong against Auburn's rushing game which bodes well against UTEP RB Aaron Jones who is 4th in FBS in rushing yards. For the record, no relation to the former Baylor kicker of the same name. If the Wildcats are able to slow down Jones, the Miner offense doesn't have much punch in the passing game. When K-State has the football, expect Bill Snyder to try and establish the run after a subpar rushing effort against Auburn. This will allow the Wildcats to get back to a balanced attack and should open things up for QB Jake Waters. Although Tyler Lockett gets most of the headlines, keep an eye on fellow WR Curry Sexton who came up big on several key 3rd downs last week. Kansas State is clearly the better team in this game and they impose their will early in the 2nd half to pull away.
Prediction: Kansas State 37 UTEP 13
TCU @ SMU
Gerald J. Ford Stadium (Dallas, TX)
11:00 AM CT, CBS SN
Line: TCU (-32)
TCU and SMU meet for the 94th time on Saturday in Dallas in the annual Battle for the Iron Skillet. No really, they play for a cooking pan. See the picture below. Recently, this has been a series dominated by TCU and this year appears to be no different. The Horned Frogs come in with a 2-0 record and an offense that may actually be of Big 12 quality. QB Trevone Boykin appears to be a good dual-threat fit in new OC Sonny Cumbie's up-tempo offense and the Frogs look to have some depth at WR this year. If the offensive trend continues along with Gary Patterson's typically stingy defense, the Frogs could be in for a big bounceback season. This game shouldn't tell us much other than the fact that the 2 teams are miles apart. SMU ranks dead last in FBS in both points scored (4.0) AND points allowed (48.7). My sources are telling me that could be a problem for the Ponies. The schedule has not done SMU any favors but they have shown absolutely no signs of life on either side of the ball and that will likely continue in this game. TCU shows up ready to make a statement and never lets off the gas. I predict a shutout.
Prediction: TCU 43 SMU 0
Texas @ Kansas
Memorial Stadium (Lawrence, KS)
3:00 PM CT, FS1
Line: Texas (-13)
A team with a winning record (Kansas) hosts a team with a losing record (Texas) in Lawrence on Saturday afternoon. Now that obviously doesn't tell the whole story but its been a wild ride for the Longhorns so far in 2014. Kansas comes in off of a 24-10 win over Central Michigan, just the Jayhawks' 4th win over an FBS opponent since 2011. The KU offense is still a work in progress behind QB Montell Cozart. It will be big for Charlie Weis to call some easy throws early in the game for Cozart to settle in against a solid Texas secondary. The Jayhawks also have to get the ball in the hands of WR Tony Pierson. Pierson is by far Kansas' most dangerous weapon but has gotten only 15 touches in 3 games. Expect Texas to be aggressive up front, forcing Kansas to prove that they can make plays over the top. For the Longhorn offense, this will be the first road game for QB Tyrone Swoopes and that inexperienced offensive line. Texas will obviously rely heavily on their running game with RBs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown to take pressure off of Swoopes. When they are forced to throw it, Swoopes will look for both John Harris and 11th year senior Jaxon Shipley. It does seem like a Shipley has been there forever right? This could be an interesting game because both teams have been incredibly inconsistent this season. Texas could win by 6 touchdowns or it could lose altogether. The last time the Longhorns played in Lawrence, it took a Case McCoy TD pass with 12 seconds left to pull out the win. I don't think those dramatics will be needed in this game, but I don't think Texas runs away from Kansas either.
Prediction: Texas 21 Kansas 10