Big 12 football weekend – Week 5

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, September 30th, 2017

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GAME OF THE WEEK

Oklahoma St (2-0) at Texas Tech (2-0)
Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock
Line: Cowboys -9.5 / 81
TV: 7:00, FOX

These two don’t mess around.
Oklahoma State pulled off a thrilling 45-44 win last year, and
won a 70-53 firefight in 2015.
How insanely fun have the OSU-Texas Tech games been? The 2014
game – 45-35 Cowboys. They also win the 2013 firefight 52-34 as part
of an eight-game winning streak.
How hard has it been for Texas Tech to slow down the Cowboy
machine? Oklahoma State has averaged over 56 points a game in the
last six meetings. This time around, the Cowboys have to fire up the
attack again after the 44-31 loss to TCU, because all is hardly lost.
There’s still plenty of time and lots of chances to get the
groove back. Win out, and OSU is in the Big 12 Championship. Win that,
be 12-1, get into the College Football Playoff.
But for Texas Tech, this is the biggest moment of the Kliff Kingsbury era.
Coach Handsome has a defense now, and he has two really, really
nice wins over Arizona State and Houston to build off of. However,
with three of the next four games on the road – including dates at
West Virginia and Oklahoma – breaking the losing streak to the Cowboys
is a must.
Yeah, the Cowboys lost to TCU, but the offense is still a
killer, especially on third downs.
This is a high-octane, explosive team that can strike from
anywhere and put up massive numbers, but it can also simply keep the
chains moving, too. OSU is connecting on 55% of its third down
chances, with the efficient passing attack and total offense to more
than keep up the pace.
Even in the loss, Mason Rudolph threw for 398 yards and two
scores, Justice Hill ran for 102 yards and a score, and receivers
James Washington and Marcell Ateman went wild.
But …
This isn’t your normal Texas Tech team.
Oh sure, Nic Shimonek and the passing game are going off – WR Keke
Coutee was tremendous against Houston, catching 11 passes for 161
yards and a score – but there’s even more of a running game and
there’s a lot more defense than normal.
The Red Raiders managed 200 rushing yards against the Cougars,
and the defense camped down when needed in the tough fight. They
proved they could get through a 27-24 battle.
The defense has been great at taking the ball away – coming up
with nine takeaways – and the team is currently second in the nation
in turnover margin. Considering Oklahoma State is coming off a four
giveaway game, Texas Tech wins this if it’s +3 in turnover margin.
Ohhhhhhhh, wow, will this be a blast.
Both teams will fire away at will, with Rudolph and company doing just
enough to overcome a 400-yard day from Shimonek in a back-and-forth
battle that will come down to the team that has the ball last.
Demand well over 1,000 yards of total offense, a whole lot of big
plays, and a game that makes you want to keep watching Big 12
football.
Pick: Texas Tech 48 Oklahoma State 42

Texas (1-2) at Iowa State (2-1)
Line: Texas -6 / 64
TV: Thurs. 9/28 7:00, ESPN
It was one of the big positives of the last season of the Charlie
Strong era. The other wins over decent teams were dogfights, but
handling Iowa State 27-6 was considered a big step.
Obviously, it all didn’t work out for the former regime.
But Iowa State is playing better now, battling hard in a
heartbreaking loss to Iowa, but blowing away Northern Iowa and Akron
helped show that this is a different team. This isn’t the Iowa State
that got shoved around last year.
And now Texas has a must-win moment. It’s on the road, and it’s
an improved Cyclone team, but it’s not okay for Texas to lose to Iowa
State – ever.
Battling hard against USC was cute, and the loss to Maryland could
sort of be excused, but if the Longhorns lose this and start 1-3 with
the lone win coming against San Jose State, with Kansas State,
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State ahead, it’ll be time to panic.
Iowa State is generating a pass rush, but the secondary is
getting burnt, allowing ten touchdown passes and getting hit for 885
yards in the three games.
For all the faults, and all the issues the Longhorns have had,
they’re owning third downs. The defense is 15th in the nation at third
down stops, and the offense is doing its part converting 47% of the
time.
Third downs are a problem for the Cyclones. They’re 115th in third
down defensive stops, and they’re just okay at moving the chains.
Iowa State can put up big points.
That Iowa defense that gave Penn State fits was hit for 41 points
by the Cyclone offense that scored 42 against Northern Iowa and 41
against Akron, and is showing enough balance to keep up the pace once
this gets rolling.
QB Jacob Park has been stellar so far. He ripped up the Iowa
defense for 347 yards and four scores, and completed 75% of his throws
in the other two wins doing a great job with all the solid Cyclone
receiving talent.
Helping the cause is an O line that’s allowed just one sack so
far. Texas will try to bring the pressure, but the Iowa State line
will win its share of battles.
It was the common refrain throughout last week – weird things
happen in Iowa at night. The Hawkeyes almost pulled off the upset over
Penn State, and the bizarre will keep on going.
Iowa State really and truly is good enough to win this straight
up. It has the offensive balance, the defensive aggressiveness, and
the veterans in place to pull it off. Throw in the Thursday night
atmosphere and the charged up environment, and it’s going to be a
breakthrough day for the Matt Campbell era.
Pick: Iowa State 41, Texas 38

Baylor (0-4) at Kansas State (2-1)
Line: Wildcats -17 / 59
TV: 2:30, ESPN2
Baylor is playing better. It might be a full-on rebuild season for
the program under new head coach Matt Rhule, and the potential is
there to only get uglier with Oklahoma State and West Virginia up
next, but is there something to get excited about after pushing
Oklahoma in the 49-41 loss?
Kansas State has had two weeks off after giving Vanderbilt an
overinflated sense of self-confidence in a 14-7 loss, and now there
can’t be any messing around with a trip to Texas up next with TCU and
Oklahoma to follow.
The offense has to get going again, the defense has to clamp down
on a Bear attack that appears to have found something, and now it’s
time to get the team looking like it might be good enough to battle
for the Big 12 title.
Zach Smith appears to be the answer.
Anu Solomon was given the shot early on, but he wasn’t getting the job
done. Smith was thrown in against Duke and struggled, throwing three
picks in an awful 12-of-34 day. But against Oklahoma, it all worked,
throwing for 463 yards and four TDs without an interception, showing
off a great command for the offense as the Bears kept pace throughout.
The Baylor defensive front might get into the backfield, but it’s
getting destroyed by everyone’s ground game.
Helped by a 99-yard touchdown dash, OU rolled for 342 yards and
four scores, and UTSA and Duke also ran for over 200 yards against a
line that’s getting blown off the ball with way too much ease.
And yes, while Zach Smith might be throwing well, and he could be
coming off a big day against Oklahoma, he also throws a whole lot of
interceptions.
He gave up those three to Duke the week before, and last year, he
threw seven in his final four games including three in the loss to
Kansas State.
Kansas State is going to run wild.
With the time off to gear it up, the Wildcats will get Jesse Ertz
and all the parts working from the start, controlling the clock and
third downs all game long.
K-State will be K-State. Baylor will go back to being pre-OU Baylor.
Pick: Kansas State 45, Baylor 17

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