It was an extremely light week in Big 12 action despite two contenders (Kansas State and Oklahoma) playing critical nationally televised games last weekend.
Things return to normal somewhat in Week 5 as this league gets back into full scale play with three conference tilts, a North Texas rivalry and… UTEP.
Week 5 Previews and Predictions:
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Big 12 Week 5 Game Power Rankings
1. Texas Tech at Oklahoma St
Thurs., 7:30 p.m., ESPN
The Red Raiders haven’t won in Stillwater since 2001, have lost five straight to the Cowboys overall and will need to show marked improvement coming off an ugly 21-point loss to Arkansas at home if they want to win their Big 12 opener. Kliff Kingsbury is also replacing his defensive coordinator after Matt Wallerstedt stepped down during the off week. Former alum Mike Smith is now in charge of the defense — one that has to stop Mike Gundy’s improving Air Raid. But while Daxx Garman has been a solid fit in replacing J.W. Walsh, it’s Glenn Spencer’s defense that has the Pokes ahead of the perceived rebuilding schedule in Stillwater. Ok-State has been excellent in the red zone on defense and held UTSA to just 206 yards and 3.2 yards per play the last time out. Davis Webb and company cannot make the mistakes that have plagued this team — Tech is last in the Big 12 in turnover margin (-4) and penalties (10.0/game) — or Oklahoma State will run away with its first league victory.
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2. Baylor at Iowa St
8 p.m., FOX
The Cyclones may not be considered a Big 12 title contender but they are easily the toughest competition Baylor has faced all season. Iowa State is 2-0 under Paul Rhoads against Baylor at home while holding the Bears to just 31 total points in the two victories. That said, the Bears have run through the Big 12 since losing in Ames in 2012 and will be getting top playmaker Antwan Goodley back on the field this weekend. Bryce Petty may never return to full strength this season, so protecting the quarterback will be key for Art Briles. This was a 64-point win for Baylor in Waco last season and, while this is the Bears’ toughest test to date, it’s hard to see ISU closing the gap enough to compete for four quarters.
3. Texas at Kansas
4 p.m., FS1
Charlie Strong is in desperate need of some good news and a quality performance on the road in his Big 12 opener would be just that. Even if it is against Kansas. Fans in Austin know that Texas cannot take a trip to Lawrence lightly, as the Jayhawks nearly upset the Horns in 2012. Tyrone Swoopes showed a lot of promise in losses to BYU and UCLA, but this will be his first true road start of his career. If he is as efficient (70.6 percent) throwing the ball as he was against the Bruins, the Longhorns should be able to move the chains consistently. Kansas’ offense, led by quarterback Montell Cozart and tailback Corey Avery, needs to show up against quality competition. Against SEMO and Central Michigan, Kansas posted 826 yards of offense and 5.8 yards per play. Against the only Big 5 team it’s played (Duke), it accounted for just 297 yards and 3.9 yards per play. Look for Texas’ defensive line to control the tempo and get off the field on third downs.
4. UTEP at Kansas St
Bill Snyder’s bunch desperately needs to get back onto the field after self-inflicted wounds cost Kansas State a shot at a major upset over Auburn. The defense was excellent, in particular, against the Tigers' rushing attack. The Cats will need to bring the same type of intensity to the trenches again this week, as UTEP averages 315 yards rushing per game on 6.1 yards per carry. If K-State can regroup (easier said than done after the letdown last Thursday), then the home team should roll big. Jake Waters and the offense likely had a sobering week of practice and should be able to move the ball effectively against UTEP.
5. TCU at SMU
Noon, CBS Sports
The Battle for the Iron Skillet won’t be nearly as heated as its name would indicate. SMU is in rough shape under interim head coach Tom Mason after allowing 9.8 yards per play in the 52-point loss to Texas A&M last weekend. Gary Patterson’s squad, meanwhile, has had two weeks to prepare for its crosstown rival after rolling through both Samford and Minnesota in the first two weeks. Trevone Boykin looks like he’s settled in as the starting quarterback and should direct a similar attack to the one the Aggies just used to crush the Mustangs. It’s going to be a long year for the Pony Express.
Off: Oklahoma, West Virginia
Big 12 Predictions:
T. Tech (+14) at Okla. St
Baylor (-21) at Iowa St
Texas (-14) at Kansas
UTEP (+26) at Kansas St
TCU (-31.5) at SMU