Svi walked, but did K-State take the bigger step?

Some flash talking points after last night’s KU v. K-State game and a closing point about the Big 12. We’ll even get all the way to West Virginia, which is slightly closer to my house than the distance Svi Mykhailiuk traveled on his way to a “Svi for Three! (or Four!)” #WalkChalk win …

More “Mean Dean” and less of the “Wade Fade” – You can only have so many “breakout” games before you’re just known as a spotty performer. K-State’s Dean Wade, in the middle of his sophomore season, can see that fork on the horizon. He was good against Kansas, scoring 20 points on a decent shooting night, and it’s no coincidence that his unranked team nearly stole a roadie against a Top 5 opponent. This performance came on the heels of scoring 18 against Texas, and Wade has now hit double-figures in six of his last seven games. If he keeps this up (and never, ever repeats his 0 pts, 5 reb, 2 shots in 33 minutes outing against Maryland) , K-State could find itself in a pretty sweet fight for fourth or so in the Big 12 standings, which isn’t bad considering how tough the Conference appears to be in 2017.

Poise is nice – For all the hell (some of it deserved) Bruce Weber caught from detractors for having to tear down his roster mid-cycle, he should get a ton of credit for molding this group in little over a season. The Wildcats took their lumps last year as virtually the entire roster was new, but at 12-2, 1-1, K-State has a group that walked into Allen Fieldhouse, built a lead, blew a lead, got down big, and then forced overtime almost won anyways. Weber has guards who can shoot reasonably well, a foul-prone but energetic big man inside, and an X-factor in Wade who causes matchup problems in a hurry when he’s on. Put poise on top of that, and K-State should be in position to win more often than not.

Why the League is up overall – Nine other fanbases like to look at the Jayhawks every year and dream that KU has some exhaust port entry flaw leading to its core – just like the Death Star. Usually, that’s not reality, but after TCU and K-State both took KU to the wire and Texas Tech knocked off West Virginia in overtime, there are real signs that the Big 12 Conference could be a seven or eight-strong beautiful mess heading into March. Oklahoma isn’t good, and Texas has a long way to go, but everyone else seems surprisingly stout.

Why the League isn’t up, actually – There is a lot of assumption in that last point – all stemming from a couple games’ worth of competition that saw Texas Tech and TCU turn in back-to-back noticeable performances, along with K-State’s near-miss in Lawrence. However, that assumption leans really hard on watching TCU and K-State – two preseason picks to struggle – nearly topple KU. If KU had decimated both, would I think the Big 12 was as good as I do today? Probably not. So, I’m left wondering is it the League that’s better? Or, is it KU isn’t quite what I thought it is?

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Big 12 Football power rankings: no defense for old men

I love the Big 12 Conference. It’s in my sports fan DNA having grown up in Kansas. So, lovingly, I say this to the Big 12: Y’all terrible.

The current version of this conference is a far cry from the days of the 12th Man, Lynch Mob, Blackshirts and many other fearsome defenses that once helped form the respect the nation had for Big 12 football.

Remember when this was a thing in the Big 12? There may not be 12 great defenders total in the entire conference these days.

Remember when this was a thing in the Big 12? There may not be 12 great defenders total in the entire conference these days.

Granted, Baylor and West Virginia are putting up some decent defensive statistics in 2016, and K-State is solid enough much of the time, but really, there is no strong defense in this league anymore. And, there is no respect – based on the FOX Sports and ESPN talking heads already saying an undefeated Big 12 champion won’t make the College Football Playoff over one-loss or even two-loss teams from better conferences.

That’s incredible. And, as a Big 12 loyalist, it stinks. Anyways, the rankings …

1. Baylor Bears (6-0, 3-0) — Someone has to be at the top, and the Bears will likely be here until they play West Virginia at the end of the regular season. It’s hard to be excited for anything Baylor does, though, because everyone knows the end of good football is on the horizon.

2. West Virginia Mountaineers (6-0, 3-0) — Okay, fine. West Virginia is better than I thought a few weeks ago. I still feel like this team’s record is better than the actual team, but the schedule is set up for this team to make a big run with home games against both Oklahoma and Baylor should it first survive its roadie against OSU.

3. Oklahoma Sooners (5-2, 4-0) — The Sooners once were the class of the league for all the right reasons. They set the standard both in conference and nationally. Now, they’re as much of the league’s defensive problem as anyone. Winning a high-scoring game against Texas Tech isn’t unacceptable, but having to score 66 points in order to do so is.

4. Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-2, 3-1) — The Cowboys toyed with KU until the second half when the offense kicked into gear and scored on six of seven drives (not including running out the clock at the end). This team is a great dark horse pick, especially if it can knock off West Virginia this weekend in Stillwater.

5. TCU Horned Frogs (4-3, 2-2) — There really isn’t that much exciting about the Horned Frogs at this point. Both the offensive and defensive units rank in the middle of the majority of Big 12 statistical categories, and those numbers don’t lie. There’s no thrill factor with a team that’s kinda good at most things and not really good at any of them.

6. Kansas State Wildcats (4-3, 2-2) — K-State beat Texas in Manhattan. Again. The defense looked as if it has regained its footing after getting gashed by Texas Tech and Oklahoma, but the passing offense is still the worst in the conference any way you want to examine the body. If you’re a quarterback who can throw first and also run pretty well, send your tape to Manhattan. There is a group of wide receivers who would love to recruit you.

7. Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-4, 1-3) — Points. Offense. Records. Who cares? The head coach is 22-23 in the middle of his fourth year and showing no real momentum. As for standards: the coach in Austin has the same record in 2016 as the coach in Lubbock. One is for sure about to get canned. The other is just Dude Bro’ing along.

8. Texas Longhorns (3-4, 1-3) — Charlie Strong won’t be remembered for long after he’s gone… well, maybe he will, actually. He was the one who came in and decided the country club mentality set by Mack Brown and company needed adjustment. The result as Strong Year 3 winds down: the Longhorns are probably going to finish under .500 for the third straight year. That’s something the Longhorns program hasn’t done since four straight losing years from 1935-38 (9-26 over that stretch).

9. Iowa State Cyclones (1-6, 0-4) — This is the part of the year where teams with little success really start to wear down. It’ll be something to pay attention to: How does this Cyclones bunch finish up the back half of 2016? It’s especially interesting to watch since ISU gets four of its final five games in Ames. That may be enough to keep the players motivated and maybe even snag a win or two.

10. Kansas Jayhawks (1-6, 0-4) — David Beaty flipped the quarterback coin again last week as he played Montell Cozart instead of Ryan Willis, who had become a turnover machine the past few games. Cozart wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t great either, throwing two picks in the game and being mostly ineffective in the second half against OSU, even as Ke’aun Kinner turned in 145 rushing yards. Frankly, Beaty just doesn’t have a great option at QB, but such is the life of the worst teams in FBS football.

Big 12 Football power rankings: Bottoms up!

llbrewspage

If we have to celebrate bad football and the worst teams getting better, let’s go bottoms up with a great beer out of Weston Brewing Co. I love this beer!

This season is one long, painful reminder that with no teams in the Top 10 and only three ranked overall, there really isn’t anything great about Big 12 football in 2016. But, the bottom teams have shown signs of life the past few weeks, so there’s that.

Seriously, that’s what we are down to celebrating … in October.

1. Baylor Bears (5-0, 2-0) — Full disclosure, I hate putting Baylor here, but it feels dirty keeping the No. 11-ranked team anywhere besides on top when nobody else is playing that well. I also thought the off-the-field stuff would affect the Bears before now and result in a couple of losses. It hasn’t, however, so good for them.

2. Oklahoma Sooners (3-2, 2-0) — OU threw another log on the Charlie Strong fire, and Dede Westbrook set a school record with 232 receiving yards. After shattering their national aspirations, it looks like the Sooners are finally settling in … four weeks too late.

3. TCU Horned Frogs (4-2, 2-1) — The Frogs were lucky to beat Kansas. It took three missed field goals in the fourth quarter to do it, but Gary Patterson’s guys got the win. That’s the nicest thing I can say about that performance.

4. Oklahoma State Cowboys (4-2, 2-1) — The Cowboys are off this week, so they  can sit back and watch whatever dumpster fire is sure to happen around the Big 12. They can also bask in the fact that they have scored at least 20 points in 22 consecutive games — third in the nation behind Oregon and TCU.

5. West Virginia Mountaineers (4-0, 1-0) — There are only 11 FBS schools undefeated at this point, and the Mountaineers might be the most unimpressive among them. Oh, and their starting kicker, Josh Lambert, left the team this week, so there’s that.

6. Kansas State Wildcats (3-2, 1-1) — K-State’s offense looked pretty darn good last time out and did its part along with the defense and special teams units. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the performance came against Texas Tech, who outlawed defense somewhere about 15 years ago. Way more impressive, the ‘Cats defense held Tech to just 10 points in the second half — including a junk touchdown at the end following a bogus penalty. With the win, KSU became the third Big 12 team to reach 100 league wins since it began in 1996.

7. Texas Longhorns (2-3, 0-2) — Is Charlie gone yet? No? Okay. We’ll check in again next week for a new edition of “How long ’til he gone?”

8. Iowa State Cyclones (1-5, 0-3) — The Cyclones have scored more than 30 points per game in their last three games. All things considered, this team may be bad still, but at least it’s becoming the exciting kind of bad — which seems to work just fine in, say, Lubbock.

9. Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-2, 1-1) — Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Offense scores a bunch — Kliff is happy. Defense gives up more and team loses — Kliff daydreams of his next touchdown. Awful.

10. Kansas Jayhawks (1-4, 0-2) — At some point, this team is going to win a conference game, and I’ll even go as far as saying it could win two this year. KU has a couple of speedy playmakers on offense and special teams that could make a key play, swing momentum and outlast an opponent. TCU lucked out. Someone else won’t be as lucky.

Big 12 Football power rankings: Burnt Up

 

Oh, how the not so mighty have fallen. Bevo is headed to the slaughter house, and Bob Stoops magicked his way to a win that kept his own seat cool for the time being. Past that, the Big 12 last weekend was a T.S. Elliot special … “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” but another weekend of bad but somewhat exciting football. 

1. Nobody. Seriously, not one team in the Big 12 deserves to top these rankings. The most talented team in the conference is .500. There are several bouts of identity crises occurring (TCU, Baylor, K-State), and … no. Nobody deserves to be No. 1 because we don’t believe in entitlement around here.

2. Oklahoma Sooners (2-2, 1-0) — How the Sooners managed to overcome a horrendous start against TCU – down 21-7 after the first quarter – only to nearly lose anyways in a shootout is the stuff that makes coaches go bald. This team is so talented it can’t help but wind up winning 9 or 10 games per season, but it is doing so while shaving years from its fans’ lives. #becausewecan

3. TCU Horned Frogs (3-2, 1-1) — If there was any doubt that TCU’s defense is stout in memory only, last Saturday sealed the deal. After getting its early lead, the Frogs were run over by the Sooners in the second and third quarters to the tune of 42-3. Even worse, of OU’s six touchdowns in that stretch, only one drive was shorter than 53 yards, and only one took longer than 2:48. Overall, TCU is giving up 31.4 ppg, the second worst mark under Gary Patterson, trailing only his 2004 squad (33.9). #forgettingwhoyouare

4. Baylor Bears (5-0, 2-0) — If the Bears were a souped up hot rod the past couple of years, they are about to pay the price for redlining the engine past morality and good judgment. Off the field, things keep going south for a program that, by a growing number of increasingly damaging accounts, did everything it could to trade morals for victories. All of it makes this year’s wins feel really hollow, and moving ahead … the future looks bleak as Baylor is dead last in Big 12 recruiting currently with only two … TWO … commitments. #wheelsfallingoff

5. Oklahoma State Cowboys (3-2, 1-1) — Thrashing Texas did a lot for Mike Gundy’s group in terms of getting some national run. We know this team can score points (41.2 ppg), and the defense seems to be serviceable. The Longhorns found out how dangerous ol’ Pistol Pete is in Stillwater this year. If he figures out how to be consistent on the road, look out. #comingtogether?

6. West Virginia Mountaineers (4-0, 1-0) — WVU looked as dead as the possum in a Mountaineer’s stew before it came from behind to beat K-State 17-16 at home. Credit goes to a gutty comeback against a good defense, but that won’t happen against teams that have any offense at all. Undefeated? Yes. Impressed by it? Not really. #donoteatpossumstew

7. Kansas State Wildcats (2-2, 0-1) — Since 1990, the Wildcats are 178-7 when leading at the half. Loss No. 7 was purely awful against West Virginia, where a 16-3 lead bled out and died in a 17-16 loss. The Big 12’s worst offense (109th of 125 nationally) again looked indecisive and mostly inept to such a level that blame goes all around, while one of the best defenses in the nation again goes unrewarded. But hey, Winston Dimel was held scoreless, so you know someone is probably unhappy and finally spurred to actually fix things … right Dana Dimel? #figureitout

8. Texas Longhorns (2-2, 0-1) — Egad, Charlie. Notre Dame seems so long ago. Rumors of your demise have been rampant, and all you have to do is get a win this weekend … wait, what? … you play Oklahoma? Aw man, if you thought the seat was hot this week, let’s see what the temperature is like after a third-straight loss. #overcookedsteak

9. Iowa State Cyclones (1-4, 0-2) — So. Damn. Close. So close to knocking off Baylor (and being everybody’s friend in the Big 12 this week). Maybe this team can stay focused on the positives that come with what was an unexpected and pretty remarkable effort until the end. And, though it won’t last, I don’t think, Cyclones fans can also sidle up to the fact that they are tied with Oklahoma State with the current No. 2 recruiting class in the Big 12, according to Rivals.com. #reddawn

10. Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-1, 1-0) — Here’s the thing with Texas Tech: It’s not even that much fun anymore to watch the Red Raiders play. They score points in bunches, but there’s no intrigue because you know they can’t stop anybody either (KU doesn’t count). It’s like playing EA Sports NCAA Football back in the day and finally getting too bored to care when your team racked up 60 points every simulation. This team will win a handful of games, but this iteration will maybe finish a game above .500 just because it gets every tough opponent at home in 2016. #dudebrohatesdefense

11. Kansas Jayhawks (1-3, 0-1) — The Jayhawks want to believe they are getting better, and maybe they are on a minuscule level. However, improving a play or two here or there isn’t nearly enough, and getting torched by a team’s backup QB wipes out all good vibes. Three ranked opponents await Kansas in the next five games before facing Iowa State. #noendinsight

Big 12 Football power rankings – Power? What power?

All the sads, Big 12.

There have been seasons where the Big 12 unfairly took heat for not being a true contender on the national stage. 2016 is not one of those seasons.thumb-440352_960_720

After a second-consecutive weekend of getting put in its place, it is clear the Big 12 doesn’t belong in the College Football Playoff discussion. (Unless … we maybe pretend some other teams like Houston are part of the Big 12, kind of a “just the tip” deal, you know, with all that Big 12 expansion stuff happening.)

Yep, three weeks in and that’s where we are already. That’s nice.

*Houston* (3-0) — The Cougars have swag. They have support from J.J. Watt. They *appear* to have a good track on getting a Big 12 invite if and when that step is finally reached. That said, is it too late for the Big 12 to claim Houston as its own? 

1. Texas (2-1) — The Longhorns will need an immediate recovery to bounce back after losing to a Cal team it shouldn’t have. Tough performance, and with Notre Dame getting manhandled for most of its game with Michigan State, it looks like Texas may be just as Big 12 average as the rest.

2. Oklahoma (1-2) — Keeping Oklahoma at the No. 2 spot in these rankings – despite getting dominated at home by Ohio State – is a full indictment on the non-strength of the Big 12. More than a few times, Baker Mayfield looked like he was pressing, and after going 1-2 in the non-con, it’s too late for Bob Stoops to press the panic button. This season’s big potential is gone.

3. Baylor (3-0) — Remember that one time when programs would build excellent seasons by eating cupcakes? Baylor has found a way to screw that up like Baylor normally finds ways to Baylor things up. After slow-cooking Rice, the Bears have three wins, some questions after multiple slow starts against inferior opponents, and zero prestige — a championship-killing calling card of recent years.

4. TCU (2-1, 1-0) — The Frogs opened Big 12 play with a business-minded performance against Iowa State. It won’t wow anybody, but it’s a tough, efficient, unsung showing that never gets enough appreciation — kinda like Gary Patterson’s khakis on a hot day.

5. Kansas State (1-1) — Had the competition been a little better, the Wildcats would have jumped a spot or maybe even two in these rankings. Penalties aside, this was the most dominant effort from K-State in some time. If quarterback play continues to improve game-to-game, the skill positions are flush with talent, the defense is good to great, and special teams are again some of the best in the nation. It’s enough to legitimately put K-State up against anyone in the Big 12.

6. West Virginia (2-0) — The Mountaineers were off this past weekend, giving them some extra time to prepare for a BYU squad that has a stingy defense but isn’t nearly at the level it was overall two years ago when it smoked Texas.

*North Dakota State (3-0) – The Bison stampeded No. 13 Iowa to the tune of 239 rushing yards while only giving up 34 yards on the ground and 231 offensive yards overall. Yes, the game came down to a field goal in the final seconds, but that’s still some heavy domination that half of the Big 12 would love to be able to dish out but flat can’t.

7. Oklahoma State (2-1) — The Cowboys used a six-shooter’s worth of big plays, plus some, to out-gun Pitt. James Washington put up freak numbers with nine catches totaling 296 yards and 2 TD. He had a 91-yard grab, Jhajuan Seales had an 86-yarder, and the Pokes pulled out the win in the end.

8. Texas Tech (2-1) — If you poked your head into the defensive coaching staff’s office, would it be empty? Or, would it be filled with additional offensive coaches? Tech continues to be allergic to defense, and I continue to be amazed by it.

9. Iowa State (0-3, 0-1) — Wins will be few this year for the Cyclones, so it’s important to celebrate little steps of progress — like, for example, ISU won the fourth quarter, 10-3, against TCU’s backups. Little things, guys. Little things.

10. Kansas (1-2) — It was one play, but it was beautiful. A 3rd-and-1, 66-yd breakaway by freshman running back Khalil Herbert provided the lone bright spot in a six-turnover day. The game left head coach David Beaty trying to accept the blame, saying he had to do a better job in getting his guys ready to play. I watched the turnovers. NO coach can make up for quarterbacks handing the ball to the other team.

Big 12 Football power rankings – A WTF weekend

It feels too early in the year to have to have this talk, Big 12, but seriously, what in the ever-loving hell was that collective performance on Saturday?big_12_conference_logo-svg

Central Michigan (Mid-American), Ohio (Mid-American), Arkansas (SEC), Arizona State (Pac-12), and Iowa (Big 10) all proved better than their Big 12 opponents, and Youngstown State (Missouri Valley) was on the verge of doing the same. Overall the Big 12 went a putrid 4-5 in non-conference contests.

Aside from the top Big 12 teams, it was a deplorable showing, but it won’t stop us from ranking the conference this week and trying to say nice things — even if we feel as dirty as Elisabeth Schu in Leaving Las Vegas.

1. Texas (2-0) — Shane Buechele completed 71.7 percent of his passes through two games, and the Longhorns showed no letdown a week after knocking off Notre Dame. UTEP was shorthanded, but it wouldn’t have mattered even with a Miners full deck.

2. Oklahoma (1-1) — So begins the long, 11-step road to recovery. OU led Louisiana Monroe 42-0 at halftime and coasted the rest of the way. One win down, 10 more to go for a group that wants to believe it belongs in the College Football Playoff.

3. Baylor (2-0) — The final score didn’t look all that out of whack, but if you paid attention, the Bears struggled pretty hard with SMU’s defense. BU quarterback Seth Russell said SMU provided some looks that the Bears hadn’t seen before. Gotta believe Big 12 defensive coordinators are scrambling to secure that film, even more than normal.

4. TCU (1-1) — The Horned Frogs have given up 82 points in two games. They were getting shut out at halftime against Arkansas before mounting a big, but short, fourth-quarter comeback. Two weeks does not a season make, but things feel a little too unsettled for comfort right now in Fort Worth.

5. Kansas State (0-1) — Everybody else in the Big 12 played games this weekend. Bill Snyder Family Stadium played host to a concert. People showing up to Bill Snyder Family Stadium in September for something other than football? Some things aren’t wrong, but it doesn’t mean they feel right.

6. West Virginia (2-0) — Slow start, but the Mountaineers were much stronger in the second half against a game Youngstown St. In any other week, WVU probably doesn’t move up a spot in the rankings based on that performance, and that takes us to the next team on the list …

7. Oklahoma State (1-1) — Did OSU get screwed? Yes. Should they never have been in that position to begin with? Taking on an inferior opponent in Stillwater? Yes. Bad form, Mike Gundy’s guys. Real bad.

8. Texas Tech (1-1) — It’s flat amazing how predictable Texas Tech has become in terms of fun offense and zero regard for defense. And, like so many years before, that combination will mean another season of the “L” standing for Loss in Lubbock.

9. Iowa State (0-2) — Matt Campbell already has indecision at quarterback — just two games in. That’s not the hard part, Coach Campbell; it’s the constant heartburn and eventual apathy in Ames that become the real doozies.

10. Kansas (1-1) — On a positive note, the Jayhawks defense was better. The only thing about that is the improvement came after Ohio racked up the majority of its 329 rushing yards in the first half. On offense, dreadful was the word. KU had 26 rushing yards on 15 carries, to go along with 0-11 combined on third  (0-9) and fourth (0-2) downs.

Big 12 Football power rankings – Looking Strong

It’s time to do one of my favorite things and start making weekly sense (as much as possible, anyways) of the Big 12 Conference’s football programs. If you’ve never followed my rankings, I try my best to leverage week-to-week performance in tandem with overall expectation. Rankings that purely go week-to-week drive me nuts, and polls that attempt to shrug off a poor performance do the same.

So, away we go …

1. Texas (1-0) — The only reason the Longhorns top thiCharlie Strongs week’s ranks? Oklahoma lost. Past that, Texas beat a ranked, established Notre Dame in exciting, believable fashion. Charlie Strong has been building talent for the past couple of years after purging attitudes. It appears Burnt Orange Nation may finally have something legitimate to cheer for past October. Scary.

2. Oklahoma (0-1) — Well … at least OU fans didn’t have to wait until midseason for their Sooners to inexplicably faceplant. Nope, this year, those fans can now pray the worst is over and Bob Stoops can motivate his guys to win the next 11, which is doable provided OU can emerge from its usual mental quagmire.

3. TCU (1-0) — It was only South Dakota St., but Hill looked ready to lead the Horned Frogs to something great this season. Does it stick?

4. Baylor (1-0) — We really won’t get a good feel for the Bears until late September, but it’s hard to imagine the potentially program-wrecking off-season won’t have some immediate effects.

5. Kansas State (0-1) — The Wildcats played like a Top 20 team against Stanford — especially on defense. Keep up that kind of effort, and K-State could make some noise in the top half of the Big 12 before things are said and done.

6. Oklahoma State (1-0) — OSU is another program we won’t really know until conference play opens. Until then, enjoy the sweet, fattening diet of cupcakes.

7. West Virginia (1-0) — I know WVU received votes this week, but I can’t help it … beating a sinking Missouri program by 15 in Morgantown just ins’t very inspiring compared to other first-week performances. It leaves something to prove for me. Guess we’ll see.

8. Texas Tech (1-0) — Safe to say, if this was basketball, Tech wouldn’t have scored 69 against Stephen F. Austin. But, it was all guns up all the time last Saturday against an inferior opponent. Congrats, or something.

9. Iowa State (0-1) — 13 freshmen took the field for the Cyclones, including six true frosh. It’s going to be a long season (again) in Ames for the new staff, but maybe it leads to something good down the road.

10. Kansas (1-0)I watched this one in person. Rhode Island was so terrible that many KU fans got bored and left early — missing the team’s first win in almost two years. It was like watching a nerdy kid smack an armless mannequin in the faceless face with a pillow and celebrating it as a win. But hey, at least KU’s head coach cried.