Just past the halfway point of the season, and the Big 12 still has eight schools either ranked or receiving votes. Five schools are in the BCS standings. Five quarterbacks are on the Davey O’Brien semifinalists list. Eight teams are listed in the NCAA’s top 25 for toughest schedule based on cumulative opposition. Yeah, this conference stinks.
1. Kansas State — This team is a Ron Prince dream. It is a strong, fast, tough and disciplined group, one that appears to have its collective head on straight as it churns through the middle part of the year. (On that note, what do you think this team’s record would be this season if Prince was coaching it?) Texas Tech comes calling on Saturday… didn’t have this game pegged as a conference decider until a few weeks ago, but that’s what it has become.
“They are becoming more disciplined. We are not where we need to be by any stretch. We are certainly more and more sound, and I think that comes with a variety of different things, how players respond to what you are trying to do.” — K-State head coach Bill Snyder on his defense.
2. Oklahoma — Off the national radar for the most part since losing to K-State, the Sooners quietly have positioned themselves for a late season run at the top of the polls. OU hammered Texas in Dallas, has already beaten Texas Tech handily and will jump back into the bright lights with a home game against Notre Dame on Saturday. If K-State slips up, Bob Stoops has his team in a perfect spot to roar back up the BCS board.
“We know that they’re gonna be physical; we know our run game is a huge part of our offense; and we know we have to execute in that area to be successful against them.” — Oklahoma fullback Trey Millard.
3. Texas Tech — K-State’s run this year has been something to watch, but the Red Raiders may be earning Tommy Tuberville coach of the year nods. It’s pretty fantastic considering I wondered if he would even still be employed at Tech by this time. The question, of course, is whether the defense can continue to shine. I have my doubts, especially against the efficient and high-powered K-State attack.
“I look forward to the challenge. I have heard their returners are very good and they’ve had lots of success. We’re looking to kick the ball in lots of directions and keep them on their toes.” — Texas Tech kicker Kramer Fyfe
4. West Virginia — It obviously doesn’t have one, but what if WVU did have a decent defense? Would that have made up for Geno Smith’s fiery crash over the past two weeks? He has completed 57.5 percent of his passes (50-of-87), but teams are now eliminating long-play potential. The result is a lowly 4.8 yards per attempt mark in Smith’s past two games. If Dana Holgorsen can’t figure out how to free up his talented receivers, the once seemingly unstoppable offense will have trouble regaining that form. Consider this fun fact also: The Mountaineers have given up 104 points the past two weeks. That’s nine fewer than K-State has allowed all season.
”There are only a certain number of coverages or plays that we can run. If you try to make up for our deficiencies with more plays, it’s going to confuse them.” — West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen.
5. TCU — The Horned Frogs might not wind up with a terribly good record by the end of the year, but the foundation for next season is being laid. Trevone Boykin has made people forget Casey Pachall, and the young defense continues to gel. So, while there may be some gut wrenchers like last week’s 3OT loss to Tech, Gary Patterson’s crew is still pretty fun to watch, and a pain in the keister for opponents.
“It was awesome. It doesn’t matter if it’s a parking lot or if it’s the back yard. He likes to go play. He took some hits and is still ticking and going about his business.” — TCU head coach Gary Patterson on Boykin.
6. Oklahoma State — Mike Gundy became the winningest coach in OSU history with his team’s win against Iowa State. Gundy’s 63rd victory, which moved him past Pat Jones, didn’t come without a steep price, however, as freshman QB J.W. Walsh is now likely done for the year. That means Wes Lunt is back in, and he’ll try to guide the Cowboys to a win against TCU before the team starts a rough stretch of four-straight weeks against Top 25 competition.
“The guy has a very high tolerance of pain. I’m reading a book about Navy SEALs and what they go through to be a SEAL and how much pain they have to endure to continue to move forward. That’s what it reminded me of.” — OSU head coach Mike Gundy on Walsh, who played nearly the entire game and threw for 415 yards on what has been reported as a fractured knee.
7. Texas — Short and sweet here. Mack Brown is now blaming the Longhorn Network for his terrible team. Uh, well, we’re gonna miss that guy. Anyways, while Texas can’t stop anybody, the rushing game continues to impress. The Longhorns put up 251 rushing yards against Baylor’s even worse defense — the third time Texas has had at least 250 yards on the ground in a game this year.
“But when Brown complains that he has to commit too much time to his duties with the Longhorn Network, it smacks of blatant hypocrisy. Texas is overexposed because, well, Texas sought the extra exposure. Go figure.” - Kirk Bohls of the Austin American Statesman.
8. Iowa State — The Cyclones just keep plugging along and need two more wins to get themselves bowl eligible. For that to happen, Paul Rhoads probably wants to get a dub-ya against Baylor and then in a few weeks against Kansas. The other opponents: No. 8 Oklahoma, No. 23 Texas and No. 19 West Virginia. And, that’s all while Rhoads continues to beat his head against a wall over his quarterbacks’ inconsistent play.
“I am just going to go mute guys.” - Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads
9. Baylor — They went down, down, down, down, and the flames went higher. Yeah, Nick Florence is passing and the offense is scoring and stuff, but with no defense, it hasn’t mattered as the Bears have dropped their first three Big 12 games. There’s a possibility BU wins this week and next (against KU) to get to five wins, but finding a sixth win won’t be easy as the schedule wraps up with three home games against current No. 3 K-State, No. 14 Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. And, before that stretch comes No. 8 OU. And it burns, burns, burns…
“Not good.” — Baylor head coach Art Briles, when asked to describe his defense’s current level of play.
10. Kansas — Charlie Weis is up to his neck in quarterback talk lately. The weird part is half of that is being spent talking about Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn. On his own team, the Dayne Crist renovation project is already over, it appears, as Michael Cummings has proven to be a capable playmaker; not that it means a conference win is coming any time soon for KU, which is 3-29 in Big 12 games since beating K-State on Nov. 1, 2008.
“My job is to make sure I get our football team in an upward spiral, not a downward spiral. If the status quo doesn’t show any improvement, then you have to find some way to make improvements, and this is one of the ways.” — KU head coach Charlie Weis.