So much of the early portion of the schedule has to do with league’s jockeying for position. The Big Ten is down. The Pac-12 scored a key win. And no league seems to scream that it’s in charge.
Maybe the Big 12 should take that spot.
No non-conference win stands out from Week 3, but the Big 12 quietly picked up some key victories — Oklahoma over Tennessee, West Virginia over Maryland, TCU over Minnesota and Iowa State over Iowa.
If Texas finished the job against a weakened UCLA, maybe the Big 12 would be thumping its chest. Either way, the league has a chance to do so Thursday when Kansas State faces Auburn.
Before that, here’s what we learned out of the Big 12 in Week 3.
Key Takeaways from the Big 12 in Week 3
Oklahoma’s defense is championship-ready
Even if Tennessee has its flaws up front on offense, Oklahoma turned in an impressive performance against the Volunteers. The Sooners were relentless in the front seven, sacking Vols quarterback Justin Worley five times and intercepting him twice. Eight Oklahoma players recorded at least one tackle for a loss, and other than one 43-yard run after the game had been decided, the Sooners overwhelmed Tennessee up front. The Sooners haven’t faced a Playoff contender this season, but Oklahoma has a defense that looks ready to contend for a Big 12 title.
Listen to the Week 3 recap podcast:
Texas missed an opportunity for a name win
The game started with a blunder when a Texas captain elected to defend after UCLA won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, meaning UCLA started both halves on offense. That was only the start of Texas whiffing at an opportunity. UCLA star quarterback Brett Hundley left the game in the first quarter with an elbow injury, leaving the Bruins with untested backup Jerry Neuheisel. Texas is also down to a backup QB but one who has two games under his belt. The Longhorns led at half and led with with 5:45 to go. Texas didn’t have a turnover but a defensive breakdown gave Neuheisel the 33-yard game-winning TD. Texas could have used an extra offensive possession in a 20-17 loss.
West Virginia has turned a corner
The Mountaineers hinted at in a 33-23 loss to Alabama in Week 1. A 40-37 win at Maryland proved that West Virginia is a different team in 2014. A healthy Clint Trickett with a year in the system is only a piece of the transformation — a piece that completed 37-of-49 passes fro 511 yards with four touchdowns. After struggling in his first season from junior college, Kevin White has become an all-conference type receiver with 13 catches for 216 yards and a touchdown. Mario Alford added 11 catches for 131 yards and two scores. But most important, West Virginia learned to take a punch. The Mountaineers lost three games last season in which the led in the fourth quarter. This year’s team allowed Maryland to tie in the fourth but held for a game winning field goal in the final four seconds.
Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham Have transformed the TCU offense
Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson looked toward Texas Tech and Houston to add a spark to the TCU offense that had been lacking since Justin Fuente took a head coaching job at Memphis. Cumbie (from Texas Tech) and Meacham (from Houston) are making an impact. Nowhere is that more evident than with Trevone Boykin, who was moved to receiver at the end of last year and faced a challenge from Texas A&M quarterback Matt Joeckel before the season. Boykin completed 27-of-46 for 258 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 30-7 win over Minnesota. He also rushed for 92 yards on 12 carries. If TCU can put him numbers like that in Big 12 play the Horned Frogs will be poised for a turnaround year.
Coach Cool can’t stop the run
Bret Bielema has had few easy answers as coach at Arkansas. A game against Texas Tech, though, presented an easy gameplan. Run the ball because Texas Tech can’t stop it. Arkansas rushed for 438 yards and attempted only 12 passes in a 49-28 win. It was the most rushing yards allowed by Texas Tech since 2011 but part of an alarming trend. Opponents have rushed for 293.7 yards and four touchdowns per game in the last nine contests. Tech’s defense can’t get off the field, and the offense hasn’t helped. Texas Tech has been on the wrong side of the turnover margin for 11 consecutive games for a total of minus-18 since Oct. 12.
Big 12 Week 4 Power Rankings
W, Tennessee 34-10
at West Virginia
W, Buffalo 63-21
W, UTSA 43-13
W, Maryland 40-37
W, Minnesota 30-7
L, UCLA 20-17
W, Iowa 20-17
L, Arkansas 49-28
L, Duke 41-3