This past weekend, four Big 12 teams had a weekend off before really diving headfirst into the conference round robin.
With a pretty deep group of teams still pushing their way towards the top of the table, this week of matchups should prove to be another stretch of the wild ride that has been Big 12 football this season. Two of these four contests this Saturday should be among the most entertaining you’ll see all week, with two sets of evenly matched teams battling it out to keep their footing among the conference’s elite.
- TCU vs. West Virginia (3:30, FS1)
While the eighth ranked Horned Frogs are favored pretty heavily in this matchup (-12.5), this game absolutely has the potential to be a late-game, shootout thriller between two of the nation’s most exciting quarterbacks. Kenny Hill and Will Grier have had outstanding years statistically thus far, both receiving ample opportunities to throw the ball and make plays in their high-powered offenses.
Both teams are coming off a bye, which probably benefits West Virginia a bit more than it does TCU. For TCU, getting some time to rest following their marquee “upset” win against Oklahoma State was definitely much needed, but it’s a pretty long gap to carry over momentum from such a big victory.
The Mountaineers went into their bye following a 56-34 victory over Kansas, which left many questioning the defensive side of Holgorsen’s team, especially when it came to stopping the run (allowing a 291 yard and 2 TD game from sophomore RB Khalil Herbert). If the defensive line is anywhere near as porous as they proved to be last Saturday, this game will be over within the half, as TCU will look to go after them early and leave them with no chance at a comeback. Hopefully this bye week allowed Holgorsen and his defense to get on the same page as a unit, work out the kinks, and move past some injuries.
Justin Crawford, one of the conferences top backs, is going to be tested against a very formidable TCU front line, making it crucial that Grier and his offense keep a balanced attack and try to catch the Horned Frogs on their toes as much as possible. If they keep it close and limit mistakes throughout the first few quarters, I’m pretty confident in them to make a strong push for the win in the fourth. With two offenses I’m quite confident in leading a game-winning drive down the field, I’m giving the late edge to TCU because of their stopping power on defense.
Gut Prediction: TCU 38 – WVU 31
2. Texas vs Kansas State (7:00, FS1)
Last week, the Longhorns solidified themselves as a legitimate defensive team in their 17-7 victory against an Iowa State team known for putting points on the board. Coach Herman shouted praises for his defense after his first Big 12 victory, and made it clear that he would be relying on them more heavily throughout the season.
This defensive confidence could lead to a pretty big win against a Kansas State team yet to really show their true potential this season. Leading the team in passing as well as rushing yards, the Wildcats rely heavily on dual-threat quarterback Jesse Ertz to keep their offense afloat, who Baylor coach Matt Rhule described as a “power runner”. Ample mistakes on the offensive side have lead to some pretty shaky passing numbers for Ertz, but he has still proven himself as trusted playmaker who can lead a decent attack.
The Wildcats only put seven points on the board during their one real defensive challenge (14-7 loss to Vanderbilt), and taking on a daunting Texas defensive line will be an even bigger struggle for Bill Snyder’s team, who have had trouble relying on their wide receivers so far this season. As good as Ertz is on the ground, revolving the offense around him this heavily could mean trouble for Kansas State this week, taking on a defense ranked 17th nationally in stopping the run.
While this could be the game Kansas State breaks out and puts themselves up with the Big 12’s elite, I don’t see them doing it against a big, physical defense looking to continue their path of disruption.
Gut Prediction: Texas 24, Kansas State 14
Images via: Topeka Capital-Journal, Rant Sports