In a handful of ways, last week turned the Big 12 race on its head.
West Virginia’s defensive shortcomings finally burned the Mountaineers in their first loss of the season. That it happened in the first place wasn’t as much of a surprise as Texas Tech being the one to deliver the resounding upset. The 49-14 win further proved Texas Tech’s defensive turnaround is no fluke as the Red Raiders are the only Big 12 ranked in the top 10 nationally in both total offense and total defense.
West Virginia’s loss left Kansas State, who escaped a trap game scenario against Iowa State, as the only undefeated team in conference play, a perfect record that will be tested this week at West Virginia.
And then there was the Red River Rivalry. After a 63-21 beatdown to Oklahoma, Texas looks no better than second-tier in the league, if that. And the Sooners looked more like the team picked to win the Big 12 in the preseason. They’ll be rooting for West Virginia on Saturday.
Other Week 8 Previews and Predictions
Big 12’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 8:
Is Kansas State-West Virginia a Heisman eliminator?
A week ago, West Virginia’s Geno Smith was just about everyone’s Heisman frontrunner. His performance against Texas Tech (29 of 55, 275 yards, one touchdown) may have cut into his lead a bit with Kansas State’s Collin Klein among those who could benefit. For those following the Heisman race as closely as the Big 12 championship race, this will be a critical game where Smith can either boost his case or Klein can further close the gap with the remainder of the field.
How does West Virginia’s no-show defense handle Kansas State’s smash mouth offense?
West Virginia’s struggles on defense are well-established as the Mountaineers have allowed 593 yards per game against three Big 12 opponents. Kansas State’s grinding, physical style brings a different challenge than Baylor or Texas Tech or even Texas. The Wildcats are the rare Big 12 team that still uses a huddle and tries to shorten the game with the run. Moreover, Kansas State doesn’t make a whole lot of mistakes: The Wildcats are averaging a Big 12-low three penalties a game and have turned the ball over only four times all season. West Virginia is built for the Big 12, but Kansas State is not the typical Big 12 team.
Can Kansas State continue to stifle big plays?
Only Texas Tech has allowed fewer plays of 20 yards or more (eight) than Kansas State’s 16 -- and we saw how Texas Tech handled the West Virginia offense. Only one of those 20-yards or more plays, a 30-yard pass last week from Iowa State, resulted in a touchdown. West Virginia may have to tweak its receivers against Kansas State with Stedman Bailey hobbled since the second half against Texas Tech and at least one freshman entering the starting lineup (Coach Dana Holgorsen burned the redshirt for Travares Coleman, and considered playing another true freshman). With the way West Virginia started the season, it’s tough to imagine the Mountaineers struggling two weeks in a row on offense, but Kansas State may be able to give West Virginia fits.
How hot can it get for Mack Brown?
Losing 63-21 to Oklahoma is bad enough, but the scene down in Austin could get even worse this week if Texas loses for the third consecutive time to Baylor, a team that has never defeated the Longhorns three times in a row. On paper, this matchup does not bode well for Texas, despite Baylor’s 0-2 Big 12 record. Baylor is averaging 7.4 yards per play -- better than both Oklahoma and West Virginia -- and leads the nation in pass efficiency. Making matters worse for Texas, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, one of the few players performing at a high level for the Longhorns defense, is out for the remainder of the season. The questions are now extending to the offensive side of the ball as well, as quarterback David Ash is trying to recover from a wrist injury.
How does Seth Doege fare in Round Three against a good defense?
Seth Doege passed for career-highs with 499 yards and six touchdowns against West Virginia. Doege’s a good quarterback, but it may be too much to expect that much out of him each week, especially when he faces another above-average defense. Already this season, Doege threw five total interceptions against Iowa State and Oklahoma. Now the senior will line up against the TCU defense, which has intercepted a pass in every game this season for a total of 14 picks in 2012.
Is Trevone Boykin ready to face the Texas Tech defense?
With a full week to prepare as TCU’s starting quarterback, Boykin rebounded from his three-interception performance against Iowa State with a win over Baylor. The redshirt freshman was 22 of 30 for 261 yards with four touchdowns to go with 56 rushing yards and a score against the Bears. That’s an encouraging sign for a TCU team that just lost its second-year starting quarterback. Then again, Boykin’s performance was against Baylor's struggling defense. This week's opponent, Texas Tech, ranks seventh in the nation in pass efficiency defense and just made Geno Smith look pedestrian a week ago. That’s a tall order for a freshman in his third career start.
Does Oklahoma State have real concerns on offense?
Oklahoma State leads the nation in total offense, but the Cowboys didn’t look that team against Kansas last week. The 20 points Oklahoma State scored were the fewest since the 21-7 Cotton Bowl loss to Ole Miss at the end of the 2010 season. Against the Jayhawks, Joseph Randle averaged only 2.8 yards per carry, and quarterback J.W. Walsh was 18 of 29 for 255 yards. Granted, the conditions last week were not great as both teams played in a driving rain. A bounce-back game against Iowa State, who defeated the Cowboys 34-31 last season, will be worth watching this week. Freshman quarterback Wes Lunt, who began the season as a starter, would have been available in an emergency against Kansas, but Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has been tight-lipped about his availability this week.
What does a two-quarterback plan mean for Kansas’ future?
The youth movement is already under way in Kansas with Charlie Weis spending more time on underclassmen than seniors in practice recently. Now, he’s starting to look at redshirt freshman Michael Cummings at quarterback. Weis said earlier this week Cummings will play this week along with Dayne Crist, the transfer who also signed with Weis at Notre Dame. Odds are, the move won’t make too much difference against Oklahoma, but it could be a glimpse into the future for the Jayhawks.
Week 8 Big 12 Predictions
Week 8 Big 12 Games
Iowa St. at Oklahoma St. (-14)
Okla. St. 35-21
Okla. St. 34-24
Okla St. 38-24
Okla. St. 31-27
Texas Tech (-2) at TCU
Texas Tech 28-27
Kansas at Oklahoma (-35)
Kansas St. at West Virginia (-2.5)
Kansas State 35-28
West Virginia 31-30
West Virginia 38-34
West Virginia 34-30
Baylor at Texas (-11)
by David Fox
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