Tuesday is the final day of the week during the college football season in which it is acceptable to look back on the previous week’s action and draw conclusions. When the clock hits midnight and Wednesday is officially here, it is your responsibility as a fan to start the countdown to Saturday and start getting prepared for what comes next.
But for the time being, we are going to finish up relishing, or loathing, what happened on the most recent Saturday of action, and that is just what we will do on Tuesday Takes.
Each week, I will give you three definitive facts (otherwise known as my opinions) that I’ve formed over the last couple of days. So without further ado, here we go.
The Big 12 Race Just Got Interesting
There are several important observations that can be taken from a wild Week 8 of Big 12 football. The first of which is what’s happening at quarterback in Austin. During the second half of Texas’ 31-24 win over Houston, quarterback Quinn Ewers went down on his throwing shoulder and suffered a Grade 2 AC joint sprain, which will likely cost him several weeks. The Longhorns play host to BYU this weekend, and it appears that Maalik Murphy is set to make his first career start. While I expect that to be a game that Texas handles without much trouble, I am very concerned about what follows.
That’s because my second observation is that two teams have officially become contenders for the conference crown as November nears: Kansas State and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats play host to Houston this weekend before heading to Austin to take on the Longhorns. With how K-State has looked over the last two weeks, I would venture to say that game is going to be an absolute brawl. Add to that a quarterback that will be making only his second start, and things could get interesting. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State is coming off a 48-34 win over West Virginia in Morgantown, marking three straight victories for the Pokes, all of which came against teams that were favored over the Cowboys. Mike Gundy and the boys play host to Cincinnati on Saturday, and after that, the final scheduled Bedlam game awaits.
Speaking of Bedlam, my last observation concerning the Big 12 race is Oklahoma’s nailbiter against UCF this past weekend. The Sooners were favored by 17 points coming into the game but needed to stop a two-point conversion try and recover an onside kick attempt in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter to hang on, 31-29. So, is it time to panic in Norman? Maybe not yet, but there are some concerns. The Sooners’ special teams have floundered in recent weeks as their place kicker, Zach Schmit, has suddenly forgotten how to make field goal attempts. The defense gave up a few explosive plays in an otherwise dominant performance, but the offense continues to be inconsistent due to the lack of a running game. Gavin Sawchuk seemed to find a stride late in the game with 59 yards and a score in the fourth, so that is promising, but if OU doesn’t find a way to run the football and improve its place-kicking, they could find themselves losing a game at some point over the next several weeks.
Separation Saturday is Coming Up
Week 9 offers some interesting matchups that will certainly have an impact on the Big 12 race, but Week 10 might be the most important weekend of the season for the Big 12 with how things have worked out to this point.
That’s because Week 10 pits nearly every team against another that is right in its area of the Big 12 standings, which means we will see some massive separation at every level of the hierarchy. Starting on Thursday, TCU (Currently 2-3 in Big 12) will head to Texas Tech (2-3) in a game that could determine which team can get to bowl eligibility.
On Saturday, UCF (0-4) travels to Cincinnati (0-4) in a game that could potentially give one of the teams their first-ever Big 12 win (not to mention that this game became a rivalry in the AAC). Baylor (2-2) and Houston (1-3) are both 3-4 overall and are underdogs in Week 9, so this game could also be important for bowl eligibility purposes.
Then, in the biggest games of the week, we have three matchups between the current top-six teams in the Big 12 standings. Iowa State (3-1) will host Kansas (2-2), which will almost assuredly lock one of them out of the Big 12 Championship game. Kansas State (3-1) will head to Austin to take on Texas (3-1) in what could prove to be a play-in game of sorts with how good K-State has looked recently. Finally, Oklahoma State (3-1) will host Oklahoma (4-0) in the final Bedlam game scheduled after playing every year for over a century, and it could be a monster matchup if both teams are able to win this weekend.
It’s not often that a schedule works out that well, but Week 10 is going to provide all the drama you could ever want in a weekend of football, and I’m here for it.
Michigan is in Big Trouble
The Michigan Wolverines have turned their program around under Jim Harbaugh in recent years. After a 2-4 season in 2020, Harbaugh was nearly out of a job, but since then he’s gone 25-3, beaten Ohio State in back-to-back seasons, and landed his team in the College Football Playoff both years.
There was a bit of turmoil this past offseason that originally landed Harbaugh with a self-imposed three-game suspension to begin the 2023 season. Now, the Wolverines have put that behind them and have worked themselves to 8-0 and No. 2 in the country coming into Week 9.
But, an inspired NCAA is going to get its pound of flesh, and not it appears the Wolverines could be in some major trouble. Reports surfaced recently that a UM staffer (identified as Connor Stalions) had been practicing in illegal sign-stealing while scouting teams in person during the same season that the Wolverines were set to play them.
Then, it got even worse, as a smoking gun report from ESPN claims that Stalions purchased tickets, in his own name, to over 30 Big Ten football games over the past three seasons across 11 different schools. The worst part is, not a single one of those games involved Michigan. In fact, Stalions reportedly bought a ticket on each sideline at the Ohio State-Penn State game this past weekend, but those seats were not used after his name emerged publicly in an ESPN story.
While Stalions has been suspended without pay, there’s no way that a staffer uses his own money to pay for travel and tickets to opponents’ football games without being told to do so and reimbursed by someone further up the ladder.
The wheels of justice are notoriously slow-moving, which means the Wolverines likely won’t have the hammer dropped on them before the end of the year. However, if the NCAA has the evidence to prove that Michigan has been using Stalions to gain a competitive advantage over the past few seasons, there’s going to be major backlash from the remaining Big Ten schools.
It could take a while to play out, but if things in Ann Arbor are as bad as they look at surface level, the Wolverines could be seeing some serious punishments handed down once the dust settles on this probe.