Big 12 Games to Watch- Week 9

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, October 29th, 2016

West Virginia hasn’t won a conference title since 2011 … when it
was in the Big East. Baylor won their first ever Big 12 title only
three years ago. These are not teams that are used to being the top
dogs, and yet eight weeks through the season both are undefeated and
at the top of the Big 12 conference.
The Bears travel to Austin to take on the struggling Longhorns.
Despite winning only a little over a quarter of their games against
Texas historically, the Bears are 4-2 in their last six meetings with
the Longhorns. Charlie Strong’s team, however, did walk into Waco last
season and come out with a win in the last game of the regular season,
so Baylor may be out for some revenge.
West Virginia will take their undefeated record on the road as
well as they play Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers don’t have a long
history with the Cowboys, as Saturday will only be their eighth
meeting. The teams have split their four meetings since WVU joined the
Big 12, with OK St. winning their meeting in Morgantown last year on a
J.W. Walsh TD run in OT.

Texas Tech (3-4) at TCU (4-3)
Line: Frogs -8.5
TV: 2:30, ESPN2
Texas Tech and TCU meet for the 59th time in a rivalry that
resumed on a perennial basis when the Horned Frogs joined the Big 12
in 2012. It’s been a disappointing season for both schools, which will
spend the final five games angling for a bowl berth. TCU, a trendy
preseason pick to win the league, has lost to Oklahoma, nearly been
stunned by Kansas and was pounded by West Virginia over the last three
games. The 3-4 Red Raiders are riding a three-game losing, despite
scoring at least 55 pts on five separate occasions this season.
There are absolutely no surprises with the Red Raiders at this
stage of the season. Kliff Kingsbury’s team is a one-note operation,
with quarterback Patrick Mahomes as the frontman. The junior set an
NCAA record with 819 yards of total offense a week, yet was on the
losing side of a 66-59 track meet with Oklahoma. Texas Tech can’t stop
anyone with a pulse, and likely won’t down the stretch. But they will
frustrate a very soft TCU pass defense by spreading the ball around to
receivers Keke Coutee, Jonathan Giles, Cameron Batson and Ian Sadler.
The Horned Frogs can score, too, though not with the same
proficiency as Texas Tech. TCU averages 36 points a game behind the
balanced attack plan of Kyle Hicks on the ground and Kenny Hill
through the air. Plus, fingers are crossed that top receiver KaVontae
Turpin can finally return from injury after sitting out the past
month. Defense remains the biggest disappointment in Fort Worth,
particularly after West Virginia handed the Frogs their worst defeat
as a Big 12 team. There’s individual talent up front, namely defensive
tackle Aaron Curry and ends Josh Carraway and James McFarland, but the
secondary continues to get burned over the top.
Pick: TCU 55, TCU 40

#10 W.Virginia (6-0) at Ok. State (5-2)
Line: Mountaineers -4
TV: 11:00am, FOX
West Virginia looks to continue its Cinderella start this
weekend in Stillwater. The Mountaineers, unranked and overlooked when
the season began, are an unbeaten top 10 team, with visions of a Big
12 crown and possibly more. And they’re not just winning games these
days, throttling Texas Tech and TCU by at least three touchdowns
apiece the past two weeks. Oklahoma State is still on the periphery of
league contention, winning three straight since falling to Baylor on
Sept. 24. However, the Cowboys have handled three of the Big 12’s
worst teams, Texas, Iowa State and Kansas, so West Virginia will
provide an important measuring stick of OSU’s actual potential to get
back into the race.
There are no obvious Heisman contenders, though quarterback
Skyler Howard could enter the discussion if he keeps playing the way
he did last week against TCU. And household names are scarce in
Morgantown. But the Mountaineers are playing winning football on both
sides of the football. The 34-10 suffocation of the Frogs was
quintessential 2016 West Virginia, which got 117 yards on the ground
from Rushel Shell, four touchdown passes from Howard and a terrific
effort from the defense. The ‘eers are allowing under 18 points per
game and are No. 12 nationally in pass efficiency defense.
While the Cowboys are better than Texas Tech, there are
similarities between two schools that rely so much on the passing
game. Okie State has rung up at least 38 points in all but two games
this season, fueled by the passing of Mason Rudolph to Jalen McCleskey
and especially James Washington. Mike Gundy is also mixing in newcomer
RB Justice Hill, who’s run for more than 100 yards in three of the
last four games. It’s on defense where the Cowboys are most
vulnerable. Before playing Iowa State and Kansas, this team had given
up at least 500 yards in three straight games.
Pick:West Virginia 35, Oklahoma St. 27

#8 Baylor (6-0) at Texas (3-4)
Line: Bears -3
TV: 2:30, ABC
Baylor remains one of the unsolved mysteries of college football
in 2016, the result of playing a first-half schedule largely against
overmatched competition. The Bears have used that soft slate to start
6-0 and rise all the way up to No. 8 in the latest AP Poll. But what
does anyone really know about the ultimate ceiling of Jim Grobe’s
first team in Waco? More answers will come this week in Austin against
a wounded Texas team that’s lost four of the last five as its coach,
Charlie Strong, deals with a tenuous future. The Horns fell below .500
with last week’s loss to Kansas State, and they still must play the
Big 12’s two highest rated teams.
All of the numbers look sterling, from 44 points per game to the
league’s best scoring defense. Again, what does it all mean when not a
single ranked team has been faced? The Bears’ best opponent so far has
been Oklahoma State, which they defeated at home, 35-24. Baylor also
had to scramble earlier this month against 1-6 Iowa State, rallying
behind quarterback Seth Russell and running back Shock Linwood for a
45-42 victory. The defense is the biggest unknown in Waco, flying
around the field with undersized playmakers, yet really laboring to
stop the Cyclones three weeks ago.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to read the tea leaves on
Texas, which was led by Sterlin Gilbert’s offense in the early going,
but has had problems scoring the past two weeks. D’Onta Foreman is a
constant on the ground, and quarterback Shane Buechele keeps maturing.
However, the attack is misfiring on third downs. To its credit, the
defense has been picking up more of the slack since Strong began
calling plays. Still, playing Iowa State and Kansas State isn’t the
best simulation for Baylor’s playmakers, like Linwood, running back
Terence Williams and wideout KD Cannon.
Pick: Baylor 37, Texas 28

Kansas (1-6) at #16 Oklahoma (5-2)
Line: Sooners -40
TV: 6:00, FS1
Pick: Oklahoma 52, Kansas 17

Pick: K-State (4-3) at Iowa State (1-6)
Line: Wildcats -6.5
TV: 11:00am, FSN
Pick: Kansas State 27, Iowa State 24


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