The Big 12 needs to pick up some signature moments, but it’s running out of chances to do so.
The league is 2-4 against teams from the other five BCS automatic-qualifying conferences, with those wins coming against Mississippi State and SMU. That doesn’t include Texas’ loss to BYU, nor the league’s two losses to FCS teams in the first week of the season.
The first full Saturday of Big 12 play is a week away, and the fifth week of the season will feature more action that will impact the league’s perception.
The most important game will be Oklahoma’s trip to Notre Dame, a key game to prove if one of the Big 12’s frontrunners can go toe-to-toe with a nationally ranked team. A road conference game for Oklahoma State to West Virginia shouldn’t be taken lightly, but if the Cowboys — the preseason league favorite — struggle to put the Mountaineers away a week after they were shut out by Maryland.
Week 5 Previews and Predictions: ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
Big 12 Week 5 Game Power Rankings
All games Eastern, all games on Saturday unless noted.
1. Oklahoma at Notre Dame (3:30, NBC)
A rematch of a 30-13 Notre Dame win in Norman last season, this will be a key game for national perception. The Sooners are one of three teams well-positioned to make a run at the Big 12 title along with Oklahoma State and Baylor, but none are ranked in the AP top 10 (OU is ranked 14th). This will be Oklahoma’s first game against a ranked team and potentially the Sooners’ only one until at least Oct. 26 against Texas Tech. New Oklahoma starting quarterback Blake Bell flourished against Tulsa two weeks ago, but this will be his first extended action on the road.
2. Oklahoma State at West Virginia (noon, ESPN)
This matchup between Mike Gundy and Dana Holgorsen couldn’t be much more different from the last time Holgorsen was on the Oklahoma State staff in 2010. That season, Oklahoma State is a little more balanced than in 2010, taking advantage of quarterback J.W. Walsh’s running ability. West Virginia, though, may have the worst offense of any team Dana Holgorsen has coached at the FBS level. Quarterback Ford Childress struggled in a shutout to Maryland last week, completing only 11 of 22 passes with two interceptions.
3. SMU at TCU (noon, Fox Sports 1)
The Horned Frogs return from an off week after an uninspiring offensive performance against Texas Tech. A return to Fort Worth against SMU would be a good opportunity for running backs B.J. Catalon and Waymon James to continue to show they can establish the run. TCU topped 200 yards against Texas Tech but finished 3 of 16 on third downs. Against the pass-oriented SMU offense, cornerback Jason Verrett could have another chance to shine. Verrett held Texas Tech’s Eric Ward to without a catch, but the Mustangs’ receiver group has been much more balanced.
4. Iowa State at Tulsa (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Iowa State will face Tulsa for the second time in four games going back to the Golden Hurricane’s 31-17 win in the Liberty Bowl. With narrow losses to Northern Iowa and Iowa, the Cyclones look like they’re going to have trouble picking up wins this season as the conference schedule begins next week against Texas. This will be a key game for momentum.
Big 12 Week 5 Pivotal Players
Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
The Sooners’ center will reunite with Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III, who got the better of Ikard last season. Ikard may be one of the Big 12’s best linemen, but the OU veteran called Nix one of the best in the country in controlling the line of scrimmage. The Sooners rushed for only 15 yards on 23 carries in last season’s game.
Oklahoma’s defensive line
Michigan State proved what defensive line pressure could do to the Notre Dame passing game. Against the Spartans, Notre Dame set season lows in passing yards (142), yards per passing attempt (4.2) and completion percentage (41.2). The Sooners have faced three spread teams so far this season, utilizing a three-man front. OU may try more four-man looks in this game, but either way, this could put Mike Stoops’ improved defense to the test.
West Virginia’s ball carriers
The Mountaineers have lost eight fumbles this season. Only Idaho has lost more this season. There’s no easy answer for West Virginia as seven different players have accounted for the eight lost fumbles. Moreover, West Virginia has thrown four interceptions. With eight takeaways, the Mountaineers have a minus-four turnover margin. Running back Dreamius Smith is the only regular skill position player without a fumble lost this season.
Trevone Boykin, TCU
The Horned Frogs need to have a balanced offense to thrive in the Big 12, but SMU is a team that can be defeated in the passing game. The Mustangs have allowed six touchdown passes to one interception and 7.8 yards per pass this season, but two of those games were against Texas Tech and Texas A&M. TCU is the only team in the Big 12 without a play from 40 yards this season. If Boykin and the Frogs can’t break a big play against SMU, then which opponent could they do it to?
Tom Farniok, Iowa State
The veteran is one of the best centers in the Big 12. The hope is that he’ll jumpstart a running game that has averaged 3.3 yards per carry with no touchdowns. Tulsa’s run defense isn’t much better, allowing 605 yards in three games against Bowling Green, Colorado State and Oklahoma.
Off: Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Texas, Texas Tech
Big 12 Week 5 Predictions
Iowa St. (+2.5) at Tulsa
OK State (-19) at West Va.
SMU (+19.5) at TCU
Okla. (-3.5) at Notre Dame