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Can Dana Holgorsen lead West Virginia to a Big 12 title?
The SEC is college football's top conference but the Big 12 isn't far behind. The Big 12 could have nine bowl teams this season and the battle to win the conference will be one of the tightest races in the nation. Kansas State fired the first shot in the title picture, winning at Oklahoma on Sept. 22. With Oklahoma taking on Texas Tech and West Virginia visiting Texas this Saturday, the Big 12 will have some separation after Week 6.
West Virginia, Kansas State or Texas: Which Team is the Best in the Big 12?
David Fox (@DavidFox615):
We need to see more out of every team. Can West Virginia put together a competent defense to make sure Geno Smith doesn’t have to throw eight touchdowns each week? Will Texas’ defense return to last season’s form (and is David Ash for real)? Can Kansas State be this dominant over the course of a full season? When the season ends, I think Texas is going to be standing above the fray. Ash does look like the real deal. Consider the Oklahoma State game: The defense struggled, the run game didn’t do much until the fourth quarter, and Ash still led the way to a win. The Longhorns’ defense and run game should rebound, perhaps as early as this week. If Texas is the most balanced and complete team in the Big 12, they’ll win the league.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
I think Texas is the best all-around football team in the league but since I think West Virginia will go into Austin and win this weekend, I guess I have to go with the Mountaineers. This offense is operating in the stratosphere of college football and Texas' defense has struggled this season to live up to the preseason hype. Kansas State has also played extremely well against the Longhorns of late and could easily knock Burnt Orange nation out of the running as well So Kansas State's visit to Morgantown could decide the league crown and I'll take the Mountaineers to win that one as well. The most likely scenario? A 1-1 round robin for all three teams with one or two random upsets deciding the Big 12 championship.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven):
The battle to win the Big 12 is going to be one of the most competitive races in college football over the final two months of the season. West Virginia, Texas and Kansas State appear to be the frontrunners, but Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech can’t be counted out. However, between the trio mentioned in the question, I like Texas. The Longhorns are capable of playing better defense than they have through the first four games, but the offense has come to life under quarterback David Ash. The sophomore ranks second nationally in passing efficiency, and his emergence will open up rushing lanes for a talented trio of running backs. West Virginia’s offense is one of the best in the nation, but the defense has a lot of question marks, which will cost them a game or two at some point this year. Kansas State is always seems to overachieve under Bill Snyder and hosts Texas in the season finale. Expect a close race, but I think the Longhorns find barely edge the Mountaineers and Wildcats for the top spot.
Geno Smith is far and away the runaway choice for the Heisman Trophy right now as he has the West Virginia offense firing on all cylinders. The Mountaineers enjoyed a triumphant and impressive Big 12 debut, beating Baylor 70-63 and piling up more than 800 yards of offense. However, they still have eight conference games to play, and it's the second number, not the first, in that score that concerns me. Offense is nice and fun to watch, especially when it puts up the video game-esque totals that Smith and Mountaineers are right now, but I don't put much stock into a team's title aspirations when it is ranked near the bottom of the nation in defense. West Virginia is currently 106th out of 120 FBS schools in total defense, giving up 474 yards and 32.5 points (94th) per game. That's just not going to get it done over the long haul in my opinion, in the Big 12 or really any other conference for that matter. Not when you have some teams that are capable of doing a similar amount of damage on offense. And that is what you have in the Big 12 as Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas Tech are ranked among the top 10 nationally, along with West Virginia. Even Texas (23rd) and Kansas State (48th) are among the top 50, and both of these teams' respective defenses have performed considerably better to this point. The Wildcats are currently 45th in total defense, while the Longhorns are 63rd nationally. The Wildcats have already made a statement with its win over Oklahoma in Norman two weeks ago and will get their shot at West Virginia in Morgantown on Oct. 20. However, it's the Longhorns, who welcome the Mountaineers this Saturday to Austin, that I am picking as the conference's top team. Texas has a talented and athletic defense that's capable of slowing down West Virginia provided they execute their schemes and make the Mountaineers have to drive down the field rather than rely on the big plays. The Longhorns also have an offense that's been better than expected thanks to the emergence of quarterback David Ash. This will allow Texas to stay with West Virginia close throughout before wearing down the defense and frustrating the offense and sealing the win in the fourth quarter.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman):
This is a tough call, but I would go with the Texas Longhorns at the current time. All three teams have been very productive on offense, but the Horns defense should be the difference in league play. During September, Kansas State’s defense played well while quarterback Collin Klein continued making plays on the ground. However I see the lack of a Wildcats passing game and some deficiencies in pass defense catching up with K-State in a couple of upcoming games. The Mountaineers aerial attack is fun to watch, and Hesiman frontrunner Geno Smith’s 656 yards and eight touchdowns against Baylor topped all of the highlight shows. But I see the porous WVU defense and a limited running game becoming a major liability against a club like Texas this week. The Longhorns have finally found a quarterback in David Ash, and the power running tandem of Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron will be able to keep Smith and company off the field. The Horns defense will give up some yardage, but the UT secondary and pass rush is worlds better than the Baylor defense. With the most talented and balanced squad, I’ll take Texas in the Big 12.
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