Week 5 of the Big 12 football season was the first full week of conference-only play in the league, and it lived up to the hype, with exciting games from Fort Worth to Morgantown and in between. Texas won at TCU for the first time in eight years, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma are both 5-0, while Texas Tech went to Morgantown and pulled off a bit of a surprise. Iowa State steamrolled Kansas, but to many that was expected (although even the margin to a diehard Iowa State fan might be higher than expected).
So while there’s so much to recap after Saturday’s action, here are my top five takeaways from Week 5 in the Big 12 Conference.
1. Bijan for Heisman?
I’m not saying it’s time to start the campaign just yet, but Robinson had another game where he rushed for over 100 yards (try 200+ in this one) as the Longhorns rolled to a 32-27 win over TCU. QB Casey Thompson was off on Saturday, so the offense was all Bijan, and he lived up to the hype, and then some. Through five games, Robinson has 652 rushing yards, which is good for 6.2 yards per carry. He also has seven rushing touchdowns on the season, with two more coming on Saturday against the Horned Frogs.
IF Robinson and the Longhorns pull off an upset against the Sooners on Saturday, with a lot of damage on the ground, then that could be one of those “Heisman moments” that launches Bijan Robinson into the conversation for the 2021 Heisman Trophy.
2. Skylar Thompson the Gamechanger
Kansas State isn’t close to being in their game on Saturday against Oklahoma without Thompson, who started just a few weeks after suffering a non-contact knee injury against Southern Illinois. Considering many of his thought his K-State career was over, it was awesome to see him back on the field. And for Wildcats fans, it was even more valuable to see him on the field, given the current state of their back up quarterbacks in Will Howard and Jaren Lewis. If Kansas State is going to find itself bowl eligible this season, Thompson has to stay healthy the rest of the season. There is just too much of a drop off in the QB room to think otherwise.
So even though the Wildcats are sitting at 0-2 in conference play, they’ve got reason to believe that they can compete, and possibly win, every conference game from here on out. And Skylar Thompson, along with the defense, is the reason why.
3. Oklahoma State is a Contender
Contender for what, you ask? After beating Baylor on Saturday, definitely the Big 12 Conference, but what about more? Yes, I’m serious. Why the heck not? College football is completely drunk this season, with several more Top 25 teams losing this weekend, including three in the Top 10 in Oregon, Arkansas and Florida all going down. Cincinnati beat Notre Dame, and if they run the table, we could be looking at our first Group of 5 (and future Big 12!) team in the College Football Playoff.
With the way Jim Knowles’ defense is playing right now, is there a team in the Big 12 they can’t hold to less than three touchdowns? Oklahoma has not looked efficient offensively, while Iowa State appears to still be finding its footing. You’d like to see more from the Cowboys offense, but give me this defense, with Jaylen Warren at running back, and improving offensive line and Spencer Sanders making minimal mistakes at quarterback and you’ve got a heckuva team. It’s not the Mike Gundy team we would’ve expected to compete for a Big 12 title, but to Gundy’s credit, he’s making this thing work, and it’s a lot of fun to watch.
4. Don’t Give Up on Neal Brown
West Virginia fans are pissed. I get it. It’s Year 3 under Neal Brown as the head coach and the team is 2-3 overall and 0-2 in conference play. But given the fact that they’ve lost these two conference games by a field goal each, we need to temper the criticism and put it into perspective. The defense is playing great for a second-straight season. The offense remains problematic, but half of the Big 12, at least, is not feeling great about what they’re doing offensively.
I’m still looking at the big picture with the program, what Neal Brown took over, and just how close this team might be to going from a 6-7 win team to an 8-10 win team. I don’t think they’re far off. So while I completely get the frustration, moving on for the sake of moving on is not a move I would even be entertaining right now in Morgantown.
Jarret Doege has not developed into the quarterback we expected after his solid play to end the 2019 season. If WVU can figure out the answer at that position, it changes the landscape for the football program moving forward.
5. Feed the Backs
I spent time in last week’s podcast talking about how the Big 12 quarterback situation is as unimpressive as it’s been in a long time. And we highly recommend heading to iTunes, searching for the Heartland College Sports podcast, and subscribing. Plus, I’m still giving away free HCS koozies for those who leave a rating a review and send me a screenshot of your rating and review to [email protected]
Now back to the topic at hand, look at the stable of running backs in this league: Texas’ Bijan Robinson, TCU’s Zach Evans, Oklahoma State’s Jaylen Warren, Kansas State’s Deuce Vaughn, Iowa State’ Breece Hall, West Virginia’s Leddie Brown and Oklahoma’s Kennedy Brooks. That’s an impressive list of running backs. What other league can say 70% of the league has a stable of RB1’s with that caliber?
For the national media goobers, who continue to think that the Big 12 is a no-defense, pass-happy league, they should put down the SEC pom-poms for a couple of hours on Saturday, turn on a Big 12 game sometime and see what is actually happening in the Big 12. They likely won’t recognize it, or will think they were put in a time machine and shot back to the mid 2000’s.
This is going to be a fun next two months in the Big 12, and the running backs are the biggest reason why.