Last week: 4-1
I’m feeling the pressure! Spreads based on Friday afternoon lines. Let’s get to it…
West Virginia @ Texas Tech
The one Big 12 team the Red Raiders have had their way against in the past couple years is the Mountaineers. Tech is 2-0, with a 49-14 blasting of WVU in Lubbock back in 2012, and then a 37-27 win last season in Morgantown. But, both teams are trending in opposite directions. The Mountaineers appear rejuvenated under healthy QB Clint Trickett (avg 380 yards passing/game) and stud wide outs Kevin White and Mario Alford. Tech has lost 3 straight, last week was the worst to date, a 45-13 thrashing by K-State. The Tech defense, which has been horrible, gets a boost with the return of LB Chris Payne. But, look for Trickett to pick on young Tech CB’s Tevin Madison and Justin Nelson. The Red Raiders will have to give help in the secondary, which will then open up the run game for RB Rushel Shell to blast a brutal run defense.
Want a crazy stat? Texas Tech has lost the turnover battle in 13 straight games. Unbelievable. QB Davis Webb is suffering a sophomore slump, and of 13 TO’s lost this season by Tech, 12 are interceptions. WVU has struggled in the pass rush, but they return CB Daryl Worley, following a two game suspension. Webb will need to account for him. I believe the spread is only as low as it is, because of the long trip the Mountaineers have to take from Morgantown to Lubbock (1,400 miles), the beating WVU took two years ago in Lubbock, and the home crowd advantage at Jones Stadium. The wild card in Lubbock is always the West Texas winds which can hurt any passing game. But, the forecast looks to be in the 60’s with NE winds around 10mph. That won’t bother Trickett and company one bit.
The pick: WVU -5.5
Texas vs. #11 Oklahoma
The Longhorns are in a rebuilding year. I know, many Texas fans don’t want to admit that. But, it’s true. And, if Charlie Strong is going to have a chance to turn things around in Austin, this “house cleaning” had to take place. The Longhorns put up a decent fight against Baylor until late in the game last week. But, once again, an inept offense left the defense worn-down and tired, and eventually exposed, in the second half. QB Tyrone Swoopes has potential. But, he is definitely a work in progress, and an incredibly young offensive line isn’t helping the cause. The Texas offense ranks 97th nationally in rushing (not the fault of RBs Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray), 104th in passing, and 117th in scoring. Even coming off a loss to TCU, the Sooners bring their best defense to the Red River Rivalry that they’ve had in the past 5 years.
To credit Texas, they have a top-3 defense in the Big 12, behind TCU and Oklahoma. But, as mentioned, the offense has had too many 3-and-outs to give the defense proper rest. This has led to games getting away from the Longhorns in the second half. Granted, the Oklahoma offense is flawed. TCU exposed it last week by focusing on stopping the run, and making Trevor Knight beat them through the air. I think the Longhorns can keep this close for the first half, but will be worn down over the final 30 minutes. DC Mike Stoops can’t wait to attack a young offensive line and a vanilla offense run by Tyrone Swoopes. The Sooner secondary is their weakness on defense, but Swoopes won’t be able to take advantage.
The Pick: Oklahoma -14
#9 TCU @ #6 Baylor
Who would’ve thought that the Red River Rivalry would ever take a back seat to a TCU/Baylor game? Well with both teams in the top-10, it has. Throw in the rapidly brewing rivalry between the teams, and more specifically, coaches Gary Patterson and Art Briles, and this one easily wins most anticipated game of the weekend. The Bears are 21-1 in Waco since 2011. But that “1” was TCU in 2012. TCU lost to Baylor 50-48 in 2011, beat Baylor 49-21 in ’12, and lost last season 41-38. Now, the Horned Frogs bring, possibly, their best team under Gary Patterson into Waco. The defense is strong and experienced, while new OC’s Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham turned the offense around (42 ppg, compared to 25 last year) into a Big-12 force.
If anyone has mastered stopping the spread, it’s Gary Patterson. He has solved it with his 4-2-5 base defense, relying heavily on his safety play to make the right decisions at the snap of the ball. TCU is 7th in the nation in total defense, rank 2nd in tackles for loss/game, and 12th in sacks/game. The TCU front four is good enough to pressure Bryce Petty, without giving up anything on the back end. Charlie Strong and Texas nearly shut down Petty last week (7/22, 111 yards), and even Iowa State had some success. Gary Patterson can and should continue to successfully play the underdog card heading into Saturday. His teams seem to thrive on it.
The Pick: TCU +8
Iowa State vs. Toledo
Toledo is no pushover in this game. The Rockets are 4-2, and 3-0 in the MAC. Their two losses are to Missouri and Cincinnati. Meantime, Iowa State is 1-4, but has played three ranked teams (K-State, Baylor, OK State), and a powerhouse FCS in North Dakota State (they could beat several power 5 conference schools). I’m not arguing Iowa State isn’t struggling as a team and a program, but they’ve played the toughest part of their schedule already. Toledo is by far their easy game to date. Iowa State played Oklahoma State tight in the first half, and barring a few favorable calls for the Cowboys, the game could’ve had a different vibe in the second half.
I’m not sure Iowa State needs this advantage, but it’s a nice one to have: ISU’s running backs coach Louis Ayena was formerly on the Toledo staff, and recruited four running backs the Cyclones could see on Saturday. Iowa State’s running game hasn’t lived up to expectations with Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy. But, that may not matter, as QB Sam Richardson could break out against a Toledo pass defense that is one of the worst in the nation. It’s homecoming weekend for the Cyclones, and they need this win to have any chance at a bowl game… or a relevant rest of the season.
The Pick: Iowa State -3
#16 Oklahoma State @ Kansas
Clint Bowen will coach his second game as the head man with the Jayhawks. After being down 26-0 at half to the Mountaineers last week, the Jayhawks did something they rarely did under Charlie Weis: put up a fight. They won the second half 14-7 as part of a 33-14 loss in Morgantown. But, the job interview continues for Bowen, who is currently labeled with the interim tag. Kansas still doesn’t know who their quarterback is (Montell Cozart or Michael Cummings), or frankly, if they even have a competent quarterback on the roster. The Cowboys defense has struggled at times in the secondary, but that shouldn’t be a concern this week. Also, OSU ranks 10th nationally in red zone defense, allowing seven TD’s in 18 trips.
QB Daxx Garman continues to progress for the Cowboys, with a deep ball that is as good as anyone’s. The Kansas secondary, led by JaCorey Shepard and Dexter McDonald, has been the strong point of the unit. But, if Desmond Roland can get the run game going, and sustain drives, it will be a long afternoon for Kansas. After the Cowboys slow start against Iowa State last week, Mike Gundy will make certain his team is amped up at kick off tomorrow. The Jayhawks rank dead last in the Big 12 in passing offense, and continue to have penalty problems (another 11 last week). OSU has already played Texas Tech and Iowa State, so this is the last of the “easy” games on their schedule. It’s important to go into TCU next week with a feel good win, and plenty of confidence.
The Pick: Oklahoma State -21