Although Darrell Royal never coached in the Big 12, league play begins on a somber note on the passing of the legendary Texas coach Tuesday. His name graces the stadium at Texas, where he won 167 games and three national titles. But his career began at another now-Big 12 school when he played quarterback and defensive back for Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma.
Texas will open this week’s game against Iowa State in the wishbone formation, an offense Royal helped popularize staring in the late 60s. The formation established a tradition of innovation on offense that continues today for the schools of the former Southwest and Big 8 conferences into the Big 12.
Other Week 11 Previews and Predictions
Big 12’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 11:
Will Collin Klein play against TCU? If not, who will step up?
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has been coy about discussion injuries throughout his career, but on the possibility of his Heisman-contending quarterback playing at TCU this week, Snyder said, “I certainly hope that’s the case, and I would expect that to be the case.” Klein left last week’s game with a potential head injury and was shielded from media interviews this week. If he can’t play, the job falls to backup Daniel Sams, who is 6 of 8 passing this year but has rushed for 235 yards and three touchdowns. Even if Klein is hurt or at less than full strength, Kansas State has plenty of other ways to defeat a TCU team down to its own backup quarterback. The Wildcats still have John Hubert (760 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns) and the league’s best return game. Kansas State, which leads the nation with a plus-21 turnover margin, has an edge of 111-0 on points off turnovers this season.
Did Patterson’s gamble boost TCU at just the right time?
TCU coach Gary Patterson gambled against West Virginia, going for a reverse pass in overtime and then going for the win with a two-point conversion instead of a game-tying extra point. The Horned Frogs had the momentum and kept it to defeat the Mountaineers 39-38 in double overtime. TCU will need all the momentum it can get: Now bowl eligible, TCU finishes its first Big 12 season with the three highest ranked teams in the league -- BCS No. 2 Kansas State, No. 17 Texas in Austin and No. 12 Oklahoma. The Horned Frogs will lean on their rush defense, which leads the Big 12 by allowing only 96.6 yards per game. TCU has allowed Big 12 opponents to average just 3.1 yards per carry. This week’s opponent, Kansas State, averages a Big 12-best 5.1 yards per carry in conference games
Regardless of the quarterback situation, can Oklahoma solve its turnover margin woes?
Oklahoma State won the Big 12 last season not only on the might of its offense (which helped), but also its dominance of the turnover battle. The Cowboys were plus-21 in that category last season by leading the country in takeaways. Only a year later, the Cowboys are minus-nine in turnover margin with a Big 12-low nine takeaways. Throwing four interceptions and losing a fumble last week against Kansas State didn’t help, either. Now, Oklahoma State goes into this week’s game against West Virginia with uncertainty at quarterback. Freshman Wes Lunt started last week against K-State but was relieved by junior Clint Chelf when the rookie was injured. Both practiced this week. After remarkable stability at the position for several years under Mike Gundy, the coach has had to deal with uncertainty at QB on almost a weekly basis. If Chelf starts, he’ll be the third starting quarterback this season for the Cowboys.
How can West Virginia turn its woes on offense?
The West Virginia offense has been a shadow of its former self for a month, could things start turning around this week or was the early season success more a product of facing ineffective defenses for Baylor and Texas? Dana Holgorsen hopes the answer is the former. Among reasons for hope: West Virginia receivers dropped nine passes against TCU, and running back Shawne Alston returned after missing five games with a deep thigh bruise. West Virginia might not put up the numbers it did early in the season, but the Mountaineers have reason to be optimistic.
Has Texas taken the first step to a nine- or 10-win season?
Only weeks ago, Mack Brown’s future at Texas was subject of debate. After three consecutive wins, the Longhorns’ season is looking up. Granted, one of those wins featured an abysmal defensive performance (Baylor) and another featured an abysmal offensive (Kansas). But last week’s win at Texas Tech was as complete a game Texas has had since September. The Longhorns were turnover-free and balanced on offense, and the defense held Tech to 4 of 14 on third down (but 2 of 3 on fourth). Facing Iowa State without star linebacker Jake Knott this week and then TCU on Nov. 22 -- both at home -- gives Texas a realistic shot at nine wins. A 10th win during the regular season would be elusive with a season finale at Kansas State.
Did Oklahoma find an answer in its run game in Brennan Clay?
Oklahoma had its second-best ground performance in Big 12 play against Iowa State last week, running for 188 yards and 4.7 yards per run. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the performance of junior Brennan Clay, who rushed for a career-high 157 yards against the Cyclones. Primary running back Damien Williams was hurt, and Dominique Whaley was largely kept on the sideline against Iowa State, opening the door for Clay’s breakout game. Wherever the Oklahoma run game goes this week, there’s a high chance of success at home against a struggling Baylor defense.
Can the Texas Tech defense rebound against James Sims?
One of the best stories of the early part of the season was the improved play of the Texas Tech defense under Art Kaufman. The Red Raiders remain far ahead of where they were last season, but they need a bounce-back game after consecutive losses to Kansas State and Texas. In their last home game of the season, Texas Tech will face Kansas, which is struggling to put points on the scoreboard. Despite the Jayhawks’ struggles, Kansas has one of the league’s best runners in James Sims, who leads the Big 12 in rushing in conference games with 657 yards.
Week 11 Big 12 Predictions:
Week 11 Big 12 Games
Iowa State at Texas
Kansas at Texas Tech
Texas Tech 35-7
Texas Tech 34-14
Texas Tech 45-17
Texas Tech 47-10
West Virginia at Oklahoma St.
West Virginia 28-21
Okla. St. 34-31
West Virginia 38-34
Okla. St. 48-40
Baylor at Oklahoma
Kansas State at TCU
by David Fox
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