As we gear up for Week Nine of the college football season (where is this season going?!), the contenders and the pretenders will begin to separate themselves. There may not be that must-watch marquee Big 12 game on Saturday, but there is plenty of intrigue around the four games that will be played. So here are the top five storylines I’m watching in the Big 12 Conference heading into Week Nine.
1. True Freshman Quarterback Battle
Brock Purdy vs. Alan Bowman. It’s a match up of the future in the Big 12 Conference. No one expected these guys to be playing as true freshmen, but here they are, under center and leading their respective teams to impressive seasons. This could be, and hopefully will be, the first of four games between these two quarterbacks. Purdy has the dual-threat ability at Iowa State the other two quarterbacks on the roster don’t possess, while Bowman is not nearly as mobile, but has the brains and arm to beautifully navigate Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. Also, the winner of this game will be considered the most likely darkhorse to crash the Big 12 Championship Game (outside of OU, UT, WVU).
2. Michael Collins Takes Over TCU Offense
Shawn Robinson is out for the rest of the season and Penn transfer Michael Collins takes over at quarterback for the Horned Frogs. He looked pretty good in relief last week against Oklahoma, and now his first career start in the Big 12 comes in Lawrence, KS against the Jayhawks. Collins has better mobility than I expected and a really quick release. If he can take care of the ball better than Robinson, he’s already a worthy upgrade.
3. Kansas State Progress
This team is admittedly getting better and they’ve covered the spread in three-straight games. But are they actually any good? Playing OU in Norman is as tough as it gets in the Big 12. The Wildcats have had a ton of issues stopping the run this season and now they have to go on the road and play the most explosive running attack in the conference. Also, how is Skylar Thompson’s improvement at quarterback after a bye week? I still don’t think this team is very talented, but if Bill Snyder can get his guys to rapidly improve by the week, considering where it was in September, well that’s a success.
4. Oklahoma Sooners Defense
Meantime, Game 2 for interim DC Ruffin McNeil is Saturday. OU gave up 24 points to TCU in the first half last week, but then allowed just a field goal in the second half. As McNeil continues as the defensive coordinator, what other adjustments will he make? Will his players understand and be comfortable with those adjustments? It’s possible we could see new wrinkles from this unit every week from here on out as McNeil continues to tweak the playbook to better suit his players’ needs.
5. Texas’ Focus
Is this the one that Texas overlooks? The Longhorns are coming off a bye week and Sam Ehlinger is back healthy, so they shouldn’t, but you never know. Texas is at Oklahoma State on Saturday, which is Homecoming Weekend in Stillwater. The Longhorns are the only undefeated team in Big 12 play and they have a huge match up against West Virginia next weekend, but they can’t overlook Mike Gundy. Tom Herman’s teams are notorious for getting up and winning big games as an underdog, but out of no where shocking you with a let down performance. Vegas might think that’s the case here, because Texas opened up as only a 2-point favorite. I’m not buying it, but then again, maybe I’m the sucker.
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