With only four games involving Big 12 teams, this is a light week in the schedule. But what the Big 12 lacks in quantity, it may make up for it in early signpost games for conference contenders.
A week after Kansas State’s upset of Oklahoma in Norman reset the picture at the top of the conference, teams like Texas, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Baylor will have key games setting the tone for October.
Other Week 5 Previews and Predictions
Big 12 Week 5 Preview and Predictions:
Which defense will make the most important big play in Morgantown?
West Virginia’s first Big 12 opponent isn’t Texas or Oklahoma, but this matchup with Baylor in Morgantown could be one of the week’s best thanks to two top-10 pass offenses. We know West Virginia can throw the ball. Geno Smith passed for 338 yards and three touchdowns against Maryland last week. His completion percentage of 69.8 percent was great, but it was his lowest of the season by nearly 20 points. Nick Florence isn’t Robert Griffin III, but he’s topped 300 passing yards in each game this season with 11 total touchdowns. This game may come down to a defensive play or two with both teams ranking eighth or lower in the Big 12 in total defense. Which defense makes that play, though, is anyone’s guess. Baylor second in the Big 12 in takeaways (West Virginia is sixth) while West Virginia leads the league in sacks and tackles for a loss (Baylor is seventh and sixth in those categories, respectively).
Is David Ash a Big 12 title-winning quarterback?
With the Longhorns’ defense and run game, Texas doesn’t need quarterback David Ash to be Colt McCoy or Vince Young. He just can’t be the David Ash of last season. So far, Ash has been much improved from 2011, and Texas’ offense is humming along at seventh in scoring and 16th in yards per game. Ash, who threw an interception every 21.6 attempts last season, has yet to throw a pick in 72 attempts in 2012. He’s already passed for 703 yards and seven touchdowns and notched a road win. But the schedule hasn’t been overly challenging, and the road win was over Ole Miss. Ash went 22 of 40 with 139 yards and two interceptions against Oklahoma State in Austin last season.
Where has Oklahoma State’s ballhawking defense gone?
Oklahoma State isn’t sure if Wes Lunt or J.W. Walsh will play quarterback Saturday, but either way, the Cowboys will be going with a freshman. A bigger question might be on the Oklahoma State defense. A year after leading the nation in takeaways -- and being among the Big 12 leaders each season under defensive coordinator Bill Young -- the Cowboys have forced only three turnovers this season. Two of those came against a woefully overmatched Savannah State team in the opener. Oklahoma State forced three turnovers or more in nine individual games last season. No matter the quarterback, Oklahoma State might need a key play on defense to overcome Texas.
Is Texas Tech’s defense for real?
Even Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville conceded the Red Raiders’ defense is probably more in between where it was last season on defense (114th of 120) and where it is now (first in total defense and pass efficiency defense). Where on that scale this defense falls might be answered against Iowa State. The Cyclones aren’t in the mold of an up-and-down offensive team like many in the Big 12, but Iowa State is a tougher opponent than any of Texas Tech’s foes so far, Northwestern State, Texas State and New Mexico. Iowa State will present a test for the Texas Tech defense against a balanced offense on the road.
Can Iowa State’s defense limit Texas Tech’s Seth Doege?
The Cyclones rank second in the nation in pass efficiency defense through their first three games, frustrating above-average quarterbacks in the process. Both Tulsa quarterback Cody Green and Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg completed fewer than half their passes against Iowa State while throwing two interceptions apiece. Now here comes Texas Tech’s Seth Doege. The senior is 52 of 67 for 659 yards with 11 interceptions in his last two games.
How much stat-padding can Casey Pachall do against SMU?
Statistically, SMU is one of the nation’s worst defensive teams -- despite a shutout and 10 takeaways against Stephen F. Austin. Allowing 59 points to Baylor and 48 to Texas A&M will do such things. Despite TCU’s inauspicious start in the red zone (9 of 16 with only six touchdowns), Pachall leads the nation in pass efficiency. SMU should provide the Horned Frogs opportunities to build confidence after a few shaking outings in scoring range against Kansas and Virginia.
Week 5 Big 12 Predictions:
Week 5 Big 12 games
Baylor (+12.5) at West Virginia
West Virginia 42-28
West Virginia 37-31
West Virginia 41-31
West Virginia 44-34
Texas Tech at Iowa State (+2.5)
Iowa State 31-24
Iowa State 21-17
Texas Tech 31-30
Iowa State 27-23
TCU at SMU (+16)
Texas at Oklahoma State (+3)
By David Fox
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