The Big 12 title race is going to be a track meet, so it seems. A week after two games involving West Virginia, Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State combined for 210 total points, the league’s best offense (West Virginia) faces what most thought would be the league’s best defense (Texas).
The Longhorns will try to score a victory for defense this week, but that’s going to be a tall order against Geno Smith in his first Big 12 road game.
That’s the key game in the Big 12, but not the only one with importance in the league race. Oklahoma will try to avenge last season’s loss to Texas Tech with a rematch in Lubbock, a place where the Sooners have not won in their last three trips.
Other Week 6 Previews and Predictions
Big 12’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 6:
Will West Virginia’s Geno Smith maintain perfection on the road?
The sheer numbers of Geno Smith’s season are well established: His 20 touchdowns to 28 incomplete passes, his 208.4 pass efficiency rating (16.6 points higher than Russell Wilson’s record set last season), and his 432 passing yards per game (the last to top 430 yards per game in a season was Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell in 2007). But here’s a question that has yet to be answered: Can he do it on the road? In the road trip to Austin, Smith will face the most intimidating crowd he’s seen since visiting LSU in Sept. 2010. Smith completed 66.3 percent of his passes in road games last season, and five of his seven interceptions were in opposing stadiums. That said, West Virginia went 4-1 on the road last season.
What happened to that great Texas defense?
Entering the season, Texas was the mirror image of most Big 12 teams -- a team featuring a dominant defense and a questionable offense. That’s not been the case four games into the season. Athlon ranked Texas’ secondary, led by Carrington Byndom, Quandre Diggs and Kenny Vacarro, as the top unit in the nation. Yet this same group allowed freshman second-string quarterback J.W. Walsh to pass for 301 yards and two touchdowns last week. Only 13 teams in the country -- including West Virginia -- are allowing more yards per pass attempt than Texas (8.3). Despite the prolific passing numbers, the Mountaineers are committed to the run, which could be a problem for the Longhorns. Texas ranks 86th nationally in run defense. The Longhorns were sixth in that category a year ago.
Can Oklahoma force a turnover?
So far, Mike Stoops’ return has yet to transform the Oklahoma defense in one critical category: The Sooners are one of two teams in the country to force only one turnover. The other is Buffalo (1-3). Moreover, the lone Oklahoma takeaway came against Florida A&M in the second week of the season. This is a veteran defense, so the lack of turnovers has been a surprise. That needs to change against a Texas Tech team that amassed 572 yards against the Sooners in Norman last season and has scored three consecutive wins over Oklahoma in Lubbock.
Texas Tech’s defense answered the call against Iowa State. What about the Sooners?
The hire of former North Carolina assistant Art Kaufman to lead the Texas Tech defense has turned out to be one of the best hires of the offseason. Against Iowa State, Texas Tech proved its defense had some substance to it by limiting the Cyclones to 189 total yards and intercepting Iowa State quarterback Steel Jantz three times. The Red Raiders have cut down on missed tackles and missed assignments, but Oklahoma presents the toughest test for the Texas Tech defense so far. Sooners quarterback Landry Jones, a preseason Heisman contender who has since faded from view, is seeking his breakout game of the season. Throw out the game against Florida A&M, and Jones would have the lowest pass efficiency rating of his career. Does Texas Tech have the defense to prevent Jones and Co. from returning to form?
What will TCU do with Casey Pachall?
UPDATED: TCU's offense already had been sputtering in the red zone even with Casey Pachall. Now Gary Patterson has a major dilemma ahead of him after Pachall was arrested Thursday under suspicion of driving while intoxicated, according to the NBC affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth. Hours after news of the arrest broke, Patterson suspended Pachall indefinitely. Pachall's backups are redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin and true freshman Tyler Matthews.
Steele Jantz remains Iowa State’s starting quarterback but for how long?
Jantz beat out Jared Barnett in a close quarterback competition during the preseason, but he’s struggled with turnovers all season. Jantz has thrown an interception in each game this season, culminating with three picks (plus a fumble) in the loss to Texas Tech last week. Coach Paul Rhoads reaffirmed Jantz will remain the starter, but Rhoads has replaced a struggling Jantz with Barnett in the past. After Iowa State benched Jantz last season, Barnett led the Cyclones to a win over Oklahoma State, but Barnett eventually lost the job back to Jantz during the bowl game.
Charlie Weis is trying to reignite the Kansas-Kansas State rivalry. Will it make a difference?
Ever since Weis was hired at Kansas, he’s played up the Kansas-Kansas State rivalry, especially now that Missouri is gone to the SEC. Weis noted Kansas State put more emphasis on the in-state rivalry, a tone he’d like to match in Lawrence. Kansas will be at a talent disadvantage in Weis’ first matchup with K-State. He’ll find out if a little dose of emotion will even the odds a bit in Manhattan.
Week 6 Big 12 Predictions
Week 6 Big 12 Games
Kansas at Kansas State (-24)
Kansas State 35-10
Kansas State 42-20
Kansas State 38-13
Kansas State 30-7
Iowa State at TCU (-11)
Iowa State 14-10
Oklahoma (-5) at Texas Tech
West Virginia at Texas (-7)
West Virginia 35-30
by David Fox
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