By Shehan Jeyarajah
No. 19 Oklahoma State (5-1, 2-1) at Iowa State (1-5, 0-3)
Oklahoma State comes into this game with more questions than answers after a 24-10 win over TCU last Saturday. Senior quarterback Clint Chelf was named the starter over sophomore J.W Walsh for the last game, but Walsh still received 18 pass attempts compared to Chelf’s 25. The two quarterbacks combined for 293 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions on a 44.2 percent completion percentage. The running game has been virtually nonexistent and ranks 95 in the country. Walsh is the leading rusher on the team. This is not the efficient Oklahoma State offense expected from a Mike Gundy coached team. The saving grace has been the defense, which ranks top 30 in total defense and top 15 in scoring defense.
Iowa State is increasingly hungry for a win after getting destroyed by Baylor 71-7 last Saturday in Waco. Before the game last week, Iowa State had not lost a game by more than eight points, including losing its first two conference games by a combined eight points. Sophomore quarterback Sam Richardson retained his starting job for another week, but has led only the 73rd passing offense in the country. After the debacle against Baylor, the Cyclones fell to 117 in total defense and 109 in scoring defense.
In last year’s matchup in Stillwater, Oklahoma State dropped 625 yards and beat Iowa State 31-10. Iowa State is certainly a different team at home than on the road, so they may keep things closer than expected. However the Cyclones’ bottom ranked defense will give Oklahoma State too many opportunities for Iowa State to have a chance.
No. 10 Texas Tech (7-0, 4-0) at No. 15 Oklahoma (6-1, 3-1)
Texas Tech is one of two undefeated teams in the Big 12 along with Baylor after beating West Virginia in Morgantown 37-27 last Saturday. Besides Baylor, Tech has the most high-powered offense in the conference. The Red Raiders currently rank sixth overall in total offense with 548.1 yards per game and 15 in scoring offense with 41.1 points per game. Freshman quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb have combined for the second rated passing offense in the country with 416.4 passing yards per game. Junior tight end Jace Amaro leads all tight ends with 742 yards receiving, more than 200 yards better than the next player. The defense has been a pleasant surprise for the Red Raiders as they rank 16th in scoring defense and 30th in total defense.
The Red Raiders face their first real test of the season by traveling on the road to Norman to face Oklahoma. The Sooners have been plagued by inconsistent quarterback play from both junior Blake Bell and freshman Travis Knight. Knight and Bell combine for only 194.1 yards of passing per game, good for 97th in college football. Out of seven games so far, an OU quarterback has only posted 200 yards in two games. The rushing attack is top 20 behind the two-headed monster of seniors Damien Williams and Brennan Clay. The two backs combine for 227.9 yards per game. The defense for OU has been as strong as ever. Oklahoma ranks ninth in the nation and first in the Big 12 in total defense as well as ninth in scoring defense. They allow 17.1 points per game and 293.4 yards per game on defense.
In this matchup last season, current Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell ran for two touchdowns while former OU quarterback Landry Jones threw for two touchdowns in a 41-20 win. Tech put up only 360 yards of total offense in the game. With Kliff Kingsbury now the coach at Tech, there is no question that there will be a much better offensive effort put forth by the Red Raiders. The running storyline all day will be whether Oklahoma can score enough points on offense to not waste a strong effort by its defense.
West Virginia (3-4, 1-3) at Kansas State (2-4, 0-3)
West Virginia has played three straight games against ranked teams: No. 11 Oklahoma State, No. 17 Baylor and No. 16 Texas Tech. After beating WVU, the latter two moved into the top 10 as well. In its game last Saturday against Tech, WVU finished with 437 yards in a balanced attack, but the defense gave up 573 points to the strong Red Raiders offense. The Mountaineers have an offense that ranks 77th in total offense and 91st in scoring offense. The West Virginia defense started off the season strong, but has fallen sharply in total defense after allowing big performances from Baylor and Texas Tech. The Mountaineers rank 103rd in total defense. Where would they be the last two performances? Top 25 in total defense.
Kansas State is a team also hungry for a win after the bye week. When we last saw the Wildcats, they were going toe-to-toe with the No. 15 Baylor Bears in Manhattan. KSU would go on to lose the game 35-25, but that perhaps makes them even hungrier for a win. The Wildcats play a two-quarterback rotation with junior Jake Waters and sophomore Daniel Sams. Sams has been the best rusher on the Wildcats, while Waters has been the primary passer. Kansas State ranks 75th in total offense and 53rd in total defense, but have struggled to separate themselves from the pack in either category.
These two teams are both in similar situations. Both teams are desperate for a conference win at this point after playing almost every team close but coming out on the short end of the stick. Kansas State has arguably the best home crowd advantage in the Big 12, and that very well may be the difference in this game.
Texas (4-2, 3-0) at Texas Christian (3-4, 1-3)
After losing two of their three non-conference games and firing their defensive coordinator, Texas comes into this match on a three-game winning streak. The Longhorns are one of three teams undefeated in Big 12 conference play, along with Baylor and Texas Tech. The Longhorns demolished No. 12 Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry 36-20 on Oct. 12. Preseason starting quarterback David Ash is expected to miss his fourth game of the season with a concussion, but senior Case McCoy has stepped in for 190 or more yards in all of his three starts. Sophomore running back Johnathan Gray has run for 89 or more yards in five straight games for Texas. The Horns are 90th in total defense, despite making the defensive coordinator change from Manny Diaz to Greg Robinson. However the Longhorns have improved from 308.7 yards rushing allowed to 148.7 yards rushing allowed per game. Overall, the Longhorns still rank 114th in rushing defense.
Last week, TCU found itself unable to score in a 24-10 loss to No. 21 Oklahoma State in Stillwater. The Horned Frogs have managed to maintain one of the best defenses in the country. TCU ranks 19th in the country in total defense and 17th in rushing defense. On the other hand, TCU’s offense has been horrendous. The Horned Frogs are 109 in total offense with a paltry 330.3 yards per game. The rushing defense is bad, averaging only 139.1 yards per game, but the biggest weakness on the field is at quarterback. The Horned Frogs are 100 in passing yards per game with only 191.1 yards per game. Sophomore quarterback Trevone Boykin has thrown for seven interceptions and only five touchdowns. He has as many games with multiple interceptions as he does games with a passing touchdown.
In last year’s game, TCU managed to pull off a 20-13 win over Texas behind a dominant performance from its defense. This TCU team is hungry for a win, but they may not have the talent to pull it off. Texas still has extreme structural problems in the defense, but it’s incredibly doubtful that TCU’s putrid offense can take advantage of the holes.