Monday, September 22

Big 12: Impressions

Four weeks into the season and we've got one more weekend of nonconference games here in the Big 12, before the conference matchups begin. This weekend we've got Colorado travelling to Florida State, Nebraska hosting Virginia Tech, and Texas playing their makeup game with Arkansas. Oklahoma also hosts TCU. In the not-quite byes category, Kansas State faces LA-Lafayette, Oklahoma State hosts Troy, and Texas A&M hosts Army in what should be a close, evenly-matched game. Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas Tech all have the week off.

Here are my impressions, in roughly ranked order:

1. Oklahoma
It's really looking like 2004 all over again. Sam Bradford is torching every secondary he faces, a new RB is dominating the ground game, defense is meh but good enough. All I ask of this team is that they either a) actually show up in January or b) don't take our BCS slot. Please?

2. Missouri
The offense hasn't missed a beat despite losing half of their backs and receivers from last season. In fact, the ground game actually looks better with Derrick Washington pounding on smaller defenders as teams bring in additional defensive backs to try to cover all these receivers. The difference between them and the Sooners is that Missouri's defense still hasn't kicked the habit of playing when they think it's necessary.


3. Texas
Someone must have told Texas that they're supposed to finish 5th in the conference this year, because they're playing like they're really pissed off. No there hasn't been a credible opponent yet, but three dominating performances earns them a spot near the bottom of the top ten compared to what we've seen elsewhere. I'm looking forward to watching them play road games at Colorado, Texas Tech, and Kansas, but in reality Oklahoma and Missouri still look like they're on a different level, talent-wise.

4. Kansas
Kansas proved more to me in their loss to South Florida than any team below them did in their victories against mediocre-at-best opposition. Hey, props for going out and playing a big road game. Next time don't blow a 17 point lead.

5. Texas Tech
All Texas Tech has done through four games is to phone it in against four cupcakes. Harrell is averaging nowhere near the 500 ypg he'll need if he hopes to top 6k for the season (yes, this is apparently their goal for him) and in their opening two games there were clear problems. To what extent those have been fixed, we'll know.... um, yeah... are we waiting for the Kansas game to finally see that? Maybe Nebraska? So... tune in this November to see TTU play some legitimate opposition!


6. Colorado
The offense looks better, but what we've really seen is the defense shut down a physical Colorado State running game, return the winning interception against Eastern Washington in a trap game, and shut down West Virginia when they actually went back to running White and Devine over and over - as opposed to calling seemingly 50% designed passes as was the case agaisnt ECU. Frankly I think this team is being disrespected in the polls - I'm all over that Vandy bandwagon, but CU has faced (mildly) tougher opposition. So it's with some irony that a trip to Tallahassee may allow the Buffs to become ranked, as apparently the pollsters believe that beating the 'Noles is enough of an accomplishment to vault Wake Forest to #16.

7. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys have one of the most well-rounded offenses in the conference, which basically means that they throw less than 70% of the time. (then again, when completing just under 80% of your passes for just under 10 ypa qualifies as a subpar performance for Chase Daniel, can you really blame Missouri?) Yeah, when I say "well rounded" I mean they run for over 300 ypg and trail only Navy in that statistic. But with Zac Robinson and Dez Bryant, this is by no means a "power iso three straight times... 11 yards woohoo!" style of attack. The 'Boys have a score to settle with a Troy team who beat them last season... they'll probably be unranked even if they win it, then face A&M which could bring them to 5-0 just in time to get slaughtered by Missouri.

8. Nebraska
Nebraska is 3-0 against extremely subpar opposition, and they haven't looked particularly great doing it. They're +121 ypg on the ground this season, which offsets the fact that Joe Ganz has been on/off through three games. Bo Pelini has been determined to take away the opposition's running game, and we'll see that put to the test when the Hokies... heh, um when the uh... Virginia Tech triple option... hahahahahaha! Oh, sorry... I just can't help it. The Huskers benefit from Virginia Tech's oh-so-impressive consecutive 20-17 wins against ACC opposition, because now that VT is 3-1 it's a battle of two teams on the outskirts of the official rankings! Yay ACC! Anyway, we'll see if Nebraska's offense can outscore Virginia Tech's defense here.


9. Baylor
Watching the game at UConn, I realized that this is going to be the first season I openly cheer for Baylor. The Bears have found their future in freshman QB Robert "Cream" Griffin III, and with a name like that they can't go wrong. As the Bears' defense was gashed by whatever UConn is calling an offense these days, Cream was singlehandedly keeping this team in the game on the road. Scrambles for first downs, finding the open man, flagrantly chucking it deep - oh yes. Unfortunately, this isn't the Cream Creamers, it's the Baylor Bears, and that's why they'll still end up with 4, 5 wins tops. Kinda sucks when your QB avoids the rush, scrambles around and throws 30 yards from a dead run right into the receiver's chest on 3rd and 20, only to have the putz drop it.

10. Kansas State
Things looked so promising for KSU but the defense underperformed in their only real test... to whatever extent you consider Louisville a real test. Josh Freeman can't win everything by himself and the running game is no support.


11. Texas A&M
It's been a truly comical season for the Aggies so far, one that will only get better once conference play begins. Let's just start with the stat that they are being outgained by 94 ypg despite having played Arkansas State, New Mexico, and Miami. Too bad they missed out on facing Missouri and Kansas from the North because I'd pay money to see Chase Daniel spraying piping hot passes all over this secondary.

12. Iowa State
I'll put it this way: I had the opportunity to rank A&M 12th, and didn't. That tells you how horrible Iowa State is.

To me, the conference falls into five groups. At the top, Oklahoma and Missouri are both capable of winning the national title. (They may need a favorable matchup - ie, not USC as neither matches up well with the Trojans - to actually do so, but regardless they look like top 5 teams. Oklahoma might match up well with Georgia, Missouri might win a shootout with Florida.) Should they meet in the conference championship, and should the bowl selection committees not be complete retards this time around, the loser will likely get an at-large and a very winnable game. Below them are Texas, Kansas, and Texas Tech - three teams with elite quarterbacks but at least one major issue keeping them from being BCS teams. For Texas and TTU that's defense, for Kansas that is the ground game. Next we have three teams who could be in the top 25 but have issues with overall talent. Colorado, Nebraska, and Oklahoma State all are strong at the QB and RB positions. Colorado has the best defense of the three, OSU has the best receiving corps. Baylor and Kansas State are bad but with their QBs they can still be dangerous. Texas A&M and Iowa State are train wrecks.