The streak is over after five straight winning weeks. Last week was our first loser, finishing up 2-3.
Last week: 2-3
#4 Baylor @ West Virginia (8)
Many people have backed off Baylor after last week’s 21-point comeback win against TCU. Yes, TCU looked like the better team for three quarters. But, once again, that’s TCU not getting enough credit. I believe the Horned Frogs are a top ten team in the country. Now, Baylor has to take that emotion and bring it on the road to play in Morgantown against WVU; notoriously a tough road game for any Big 12 team. If Baylor can torch TCU, the best defense in the Conference, for 61 points, they may hang a hundo on the Mountaineers. WVU has struggled more against the run than the pass. Another sign of bad news for the Mountaineers, since the Bears are averaging 250 yards per game on the ground, led by Shock Linwood who is over 100/game. Also, WVU’s defensive line depth isn’t great. Nose guard Christian Brown (violation of team rules), and Dontrill Hyman (knee), missed last week against Texas Tech. Both players are expected to return this week, but if they don’t pressure Bryce Petty (like TCU did), it will be a long afternoon for the Mountaineers.
Art Briles has the full attention of his team after nearly seeing their National Title hopes go out the window last week. It’s a chance for Briles and company to make a statement on the road, and I think they’ll do it successfully.
The Pick: Baylor -8
#14 Kansas State @ #11 Oklahoma
Last week was deflating for the Sooners. The offense never really got going against Texas, and they were bailed out by an opportunistic defense and special teams. The Sooners looked far removed from a Playoff contender, and the Sugar Bowl suddenly felt like a lifetime ago … especially Trevor Knight’s breakout performance. The Sooner offense has become predictable. Sterling Shepard has caught 47% of all OU passes (an FBS high), and they are afraid to use Trevor Knight in the run game (fragility/lack of solid back up). While the OU run game is it’s strong suit, Texas just loaded the box last week, forcing Knight to beat them, and he didn’t. The Wildcats come in with the 4th ranked run defense in the nation.
The Sooner defense struggled last week against a QB that can run (Swoopes 50 yards and a TD), now go up against Jake Waters, who leads Big 12 QB’s in rushing. The Wildcats are coming off a bye week, and despite not being talked about, are very much in the thick of the College Football Playoff. The only true advantage for the Sooners is home field, having won 14 of their last 15 home games. That one loss? To K-State in September of 2012. I was in the stands for that game, and the Wildcats showed no fear playing in Norman. I expect that trend to continue… at least with a cover.
The Pick: Kansas State +7
Texas Tech vs. Kansas
There’s no way around it: Kansas is a different team under interim coach Clint Bowen. They’ve shown more fight in the past two weeks, than they ever did under Chuck Weis (I like the sound better than ‘Charlie’). Tech’s greatest strength is their passing game, top ten in the country, and third best in the Big 12. But, QB Davis Webb is nursing a re-sprained ankle, and the Kansas pass defense (4th in the Big 12) has been their strong suit. If they can force a banged up Davis into some mistakes, the Jayhawks will be right in this game. That’s entirely possible, since KU has forced 12 TO’s this season (third in Big 12).
Kansas needs to control the clock to stay in this game. Michael Cummings was listed as the starting QB this week, so he’s in control of this team, after beating out Montell Cozart. But, Cummings will need help from RB’s Corey Avery and De’Andre Mann, to build drives and keep Tech’s offense off the field. Special teams advantage favors the Jayhawks, who have Trevor Pardula, the best punter in the Conference, and one of the best return men in Nick Harwell. Special teams, turnovers, and penalties give me enough reason to be wary laying nearly two TD’s on a Tech team that has lost eight straight Conference games.
The Pick: Kansas +13
#15 Oklahoma State vs. #12 TCU
The Cowboys are the most overrated team in the conference. Their best game was their opener, a loss to Florida State. Yes, they’re 3-0 in Big 12 play, but it was the easiest stretch of their schedule. Now, they play the big boys, and TCU is no walkover. If anything, blowing the 21 point lead last week, gives me more confidence in TCU this week. Gary Patterson will have his team slighted, rejuvenated, and hungry, knowing they still are in the Playoff hunt. I didn’t like what I saw from the Cowboys against Kansas last week. Teams are beginning to figure out Daxx Garman. Opponents must stop the deep ball, and no one does that better than TCU. The Horned Frogs have more interceptions (9), than pass TD’s allowed (8).
The TCU front seven will likely cause nightmares for Garman and his shaky offensive line (Big 12 leading 16 sacks allowed), help take away his most comfortable throw, the deep ball. There is concern for TCU with QB Trevone Boykin dealing with a left wrist injury. But, TCU’s offense is versatile enough, with RBs B.J. Catalon and Aaron Green, to work around it (plus it’s his non-throwing hand). Another tidbit that could help in this game: TCU co-offensive coordinator Doug Meachem spent eight years on Mike Gundy’s staff (2005-12). Oklahoma State gets a nasty taste of the top tier teams in the Big 12.
The Pick: TCU -10
Iowa State @ Texas
The young Texas offense continues to improve, QB Tyrone Swoopes had a breakout game for the last week against Oklahoma, throwing for 334 yards, two TDs, and 50 rushing yards. Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray go up against a run defense that’s allowed 5 yards/carry, and allows nearly 8 yards/carry to the right side. While Texas’ run stats aren’t that good, that isn’t a knock on the talent of Brown or Gray, more so an issue with an offensive line that is young, and still gelling, but looked much improved last week.
The Texas defense is one of the best in the Conference, holding Baylor and Oklahoma to season lows on offense, an average of 278 yards per game. But, the weakness of the Texas defense is the run, allowing 183 yards/game. The problem is, Iowa State has been horrible at running the ball all season long. ISU’s three backs have averaged 3 yards/carry. Sam Richardson will have to try and beat the Longhorns through the air… a scary proposition against the third best pass defense in the country. This is a good chance to buy low on the Longhorns, and it could end up being a statement game for Charlie Strong’s first season.
The Pick: Texas -12