Each week Pete will provide his picks for all games involving Big 12 teams. The lines come from select Sportsbooks as of Friday morning… I’m not to be confused with a Vegas professional, but that’s doesn’t mean I can’t pretend to play one on Saturdays in the fall.
#8 Baylor @ Buffalo
Typically, any football team playing their third game in 13 days would be a scary team to bet on. But, with Bryce Petty expected to start (back), and a Buffalo defense that gave up 47 points to Army last week, I don’t see much trouble for Baylor. It is “blackout night” at Buffalo and the game is on ESPN, but word is there are hundreds, if not thousands of unsold tickets (a loss to Army doesn’t help the marketing department).
The Bears crushed the Bulls 70-6 last season; and the Bulls lost their two best players from that team, first round draft pick, linebacker Khalil Mack, and wide receiver Alex Nuetz. Freshman wide out KD Cannon will carry the load for the Bears offense that is will be missing Antwan Goodley, Levi Norwood and Clay Fuller to injuries. Art Briles’ Bears prefer the soft schedule to open the season, and he always makes sure his team steamrolls their opponents. There won’t be any letdown from this Baylor squad.
The pick: Baylor -34
West Virginia @ Maryland
When these two teams hooked up last season, Maryland steamrolled their way to a 37-0 win. The Terrapins return 16 starters from last year’s squad. But, the Mountaineers are an completely different teams than the injury-riddled group that got smoked at M&T Bank Stadium last season. Maryland ran up the score on a team with a freshman quarterback who had a torn pectoral muscle.
This season, it’s a different West Virginia team. The Mountaineers impressed the entire country with a 10 point loss to #2 Alabama in week 1. Quarterback Clint Trickett has led a rejuvenated offense, surrounded by former five-star running back Russel Shell, and receivers Kevin White and Mario Alford. Meantime, a switch to a 3-3-5 defensive scheme under new DC Tony Gibson has worked out well, as WVU had decent penetration against Alabama, but couldn’t get to QB Blake Sims, but capitalized on that against Towson. Ultimately, WVU comes in with all the confidence in the world, while Maryland has looked shaky at times in two wins against James Madison and South Florida. And don’t forget the revenge factor from last season.
The pick: West Virginia +3.5
Kansas @ Duke
Too bad this isn’t a hoops game. Oh well…
Kansas is going on 5 years since their last road victory. And it isn’t coming this week. The Jayhawks looked awfully shaky in a 6 point win against Southeast Missouri last week. Despite a back seven that has experience, it didn’t show in the Jayhawk opener when SE Missouri racked up nearly 300 passing yards. Duke QB Anthony Boone is likely salivating to get a look at the Jayhawk defense first hand.
The Blue Devil offensive line must hold their own against the scheming of KU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, who will load the box and trust his secondary in one-on-one. The Jayhawks aren’t as bad as the first couple years under Charlie Weis, but there is still a lot that needs to be improved. Duke is a confident team coming off an appearance in the ACC title game. While Kansas lost the 4th quarter 21-0 last week, after holding a 28 point lead. Things are improving in Lawrence, but it’s at a snail’s pace.
The Pick: Duke -14
Texas Tech vs. Arkansas
Old Southwest Conference rivals hook up on Saturday, yet neither in a powerhouse position.
Texas Tech comes in at an unimpressive 2-0, with wins over Central Arkansas and UTEP by a combined 11 points. Arkansas lost by 24 points to #6 Auburn, and then rolled Nicholls State. It’s a classic matchup of high-flying fast-paced offense, run by Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury, against the guy who wants rule changes to slow them down, Arkansas’ Bret Bielema.
Tech’s run defense was bad last year (100th in the nation), and is off to another horrible start this season, ranked 107th while playing two teams outside the power-5 conferences. Arkansas has racked up 648 yards on the ground in their two games this season. The health of Tech nose tackle Rika Levi is important. He is expected to play after leaving week one with a knee injury. At 6’2’’, 345 lbs, he is the only player with the size to create any kind of double team on the defensive line.
Yes, Arkansas’ pass defense leaves plenty to be desired, but Tech QB Davis Webb hasn’t looked sharp in the first two weeks. If Arkansas can ground and pound against a light front 7 in Lubbock, the Red Raiders won’t come near their 80-85 plays per game. Tech hasn’t forced a turnover all season, opponents are 10 for 10 in the red zone, and have just six tackles for loss all season. No thanks.
The Pick: Arkansas +1
Iowa State @ Iowa
Neither team has been all that impressive over the first two weeks. Yes, Iowa is 2-0 (against Northern Iowa and Ball State), while Iowa State is 0-2 (vs. North Dakota State and Kansas State). But, it’s the Cyclones who have made bigger strides in the early season. Despite being winless, ISU is a young team that should come in with confidence after their near upset of a top-25 opponent. New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino made significant improvements last week, and his style of jet sweeps, and plays that attack the edges, will help neutralize Iowa’s strength: their defensive line, led by last week’s Big 10 player of the week, Drew Ott.
The ISU defense will have to stack the box to try and stop the Iowa run game, and force Jake Rudock to beat you with his arm. Also, Iowa’s offensive line hasn’t been impressive, and loses it’s anchor, tackle Brandon Scherff, to a knee injury. Combine all this with ISU coach Paul Rhoads’ ability to get his team emotionally juiced up for these rivalry games, and the Hawkeyes look more than capable of covering the double digit spread.
The Pick: Iowa State +11.5
TCU vs Minnesota
TCU comes in with the stronger units on both sides of the ball. The new offense, behind offensive coordinators Doug Meachem and Sonny Cumbie, totaled 33 first downs and 555 yards in a week one win against Samford. QB Trevone Boykin actually looked smooth and comfortable (a first), throwing the ball in the up-tempo offense. Minnesota struggled against Middle Tennessee, as 12 of 22 completions went past the 10-yard mark. Additionally, running back is TCU’s strongest position behind B.J. Catalon and Aaron Green.
For Minnesota, their quarterback Mitch Leidner has been inconsistent against mediocre competition, and could be hampered by an MCL sprain suffered last week. Running back David Cobb, averaging 6.8 YPC, will shoulder the load, but he won’t be able to do it all by himself. TCU’s defensive line is anchored by Chucky Hunter, a preseason All-Big 12 pick, and all the starting linebackers return for the Horned Frogs. With the Gophers likely to have to rely too much on the run game, this one could get ugly … fast.
The Pick: TCU -16
Oklahoma State vs. UTSA
With J.W. Walsh expected to miss 6-8 weeks after surgery on his lower leg/foot this week, in steps quarterback Daxx Garman. He stepped in last week and finished 16/26 for 244 yards, but that was against Missouri State. While OSU is a young team, UTSA leads the nation with 37 seniors, and return 21 starters. They play well away from the Alamo City, 9-4 in their last 13 road games dating back to 2012.
But, last season, the Cowboys were up 42-7 on UTSA on the road, before the Roadrunners made the final look respectable at 56-35. Despite plenty of youth for the Cowboys, superior talent will prevail. Garman has prepared all week for his start at QB, the Cowboys are home, while UTSA plays their third game in 16 days against their best opponent to date.
The Pick: Oklahoma State -13.5
#4 Oklahoma vs. Tennessee
The Vols offensive line is brand new, and their challenge is stopping one of the best front seven’s in college football. Tennessee was only able to run the ball for 3.3 yards per carry against Utah State and Arkansas State. On the outside, the Vols are missing one of their top receivers, Von Pearson, to an ankle injury, and tight end Ethan Wolf is questionable. Tennessee also brings in one of the youngest teams in the country (they have played 22 freshman so far this season, most in the FBS), to the annual stripe game in Norman, where odd numbered sections where white, and even numbers wear crimson.
This becomes another chance for Bob Stoops to silence an SEC opponent. Granted, not quite the stature of Alabama, but that’s OK. Stoops and the Sooners have been battling the SEC with their play and words for nearly a year and a half, and there’s no reason to expect it to slow down on Saturday.
The Pick: Oklahoma -20.5
Texas vs. #12 UCLA
It doesn’t get any uglier for the Longhorns than the second half last week in a 41-7 blowout by BYU. Now Texas takes their game on the road, albeit right up the road to Jerry’s World to face the UCLA Bruins, who have looked shaky in two wins over Virginia and Memphis. But, Texas has to slow down UCLA QB Brett Hundley, who is a more complete version of BYU’s quarterback Taysom Hill.
There have still be multiple stories this week describing a continued disconnect between Coach Charlie Strong’s staff and his players. Expectations, intensity, character, and heart have all been questioned by the staff. Texas is likely to be missing Jaxon Shipley and Daje Johnson, which puts more pressure on Josh Harris and Marcus Johnson. UCLA Coach Jim Mora will prove why he turned down the Texas job in the offseason.
The Pick: UCLA -7