It's October and we're finally starting to learn more about what teams' identities will be this year. This week I've included a review of how the latest developments for our key opponents relate to our strengths and weaknesses (mostly weaknesses)
Oklahoma State (2-2) - October 13
Last Week: Oklahoma State came close to a big win Saturday night, losing narrowly to Texas at home, 41-36.
Notes: OSU looks to be another pretty standard Mike Gundy team. Great offense and a defense that will at least give them a shot in any game. True freshman quarterback Wes Lunt missed Saturday's game after suffering an injury in OSU's last contest, but the offense was hardly affected. The Cowboys racked up 576 yards on a decent defense and nearly pulled out a victory. The defense allowed 440 yards, and through a combination of Texas' style of play and OSU's fast-paced offense allowed the Longhorns to win the Time of Possession battle, almost 37 minutes to just 23. That's a recipe for a tired defense, which isn't OSU's strength to begin with.
This Week: Okie State gets a second bye in just three weeks to rest up for a trip to Lawrence.
What I'm Watching: In a conference full of great offenses, OSU sits at the top, averaging a whopping 659 yards per game. It's a dual-threat attack, too, as they're averaging 300 of those yards on the ground with Joseph Randle, brother of former-Jayhawk John Randle. OSU's defense is nothing special, so our matchup with them will entirely come down to slowing down the OSU attack. Our only shot at staying in this one involves a) finding some offense, and b) some timely turnovers, similar to the TCU game.
Baylor (3-1) - November 3
Last Week: In a well-publicized shootout, Baylor lost 70-63 to West Virginia in a battle that set several offensive records.
Notes: I think all our early thoughts on Baylor have been confirmed at this point. The offense is still a thrill-a-minute, but the defense may have actually _regressed_ from last year's struggles. The WV looked similar in terms of defense to some of KU's embarrassments last year, and I'm not sure the Bears and Jayhawks don't have pretty comparable defenses this year. You've probably heard the stats from Saturday, but in case you haven't, Geno Smith passed for 656 yards and eight TDs, while WR tandem Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey combined for 518 and 7 of those.
This Week: Baylor rests from their track meet with a bye week.
What I'm Watching: If Crist's accuracy can improve at all as the season goes on, the offense could have a big day against Baylor. We know the running game can click, and this may be one of only a couple of Big 12 teams that could make our receivers look respectable. I don't have high hopes for our ability to limit this team's offensive output, but if we see any improvement in our offense over the next few weeks, especially in our passing game, we may be able to hope for a close game if the Bears aren't careful with the ball, which is what kept us in our game with them last year.
Texas Tech (4-0) - November 10
Last Week: Tech got a solid road win in Ames, beating ISU 24-13
Notes: I've been touting the Red Raiders as my surprise team in these updates for the past few weeks, and they didn't make me look bad in their first conference test of the year. A road win over Iowa State isn't the most impressive Big 12 victory possible, but ISU plays good football and doesn't make it easy for anyone. Texas Tech continued their streak of playing shutdown defense, holding the Cyclones to just 189 total yards, and Tech is now the top defense in the country in terms of yards allowed. No one expects them to stay that high, but needless to say, this defense, which was a huge weakness last year, has made significant improvement and could make them a daunting opponent for conference teams with weaker defenses.
This Week: Oklahoma rolls into town in their first game since losing at home to Kansas State. The Sooners will likely be anxious to get back on track, especially headed into the Red River Rivalry the next week, and we should see just how improved this Texas Tech team is.
What I'm Watching: Defense. A lot of Big 12 teams aren't playing it anymore, and if Tech can continue to limit opposing offenses, they'll be in great shape. By the time they play Kansas we'll have plenty of data to determine whether the early results on their D are misleading, but at this point you'd have to assume we'll have to bring a much improved offensive effort to keep up with a Red Raider passing attack that will likely move the ball on Kansas with relative ease.
Iowa State (3-1) - November 17
Last Week: Lost to Texas Tech in Ames, 24-13
Notes: Iowa State's defense looked solid, holding Tech to under 500 yards for the first time this year at just 395. Their offense continues to struggle, however, putting up just 179 yards and turning it over 4 times. Jantz lost his job as starting QB last year, and you'd have to wonder how long his leash is at this point, given the stagnant offense and relative success of backup Josh Barnett when he took over last year as a freshman.
This Week: Iowa State has to travel to TCU, which in my mind is a battle for the role of 8th best team in the Big 12.
What I'm Watching: Iowa State had yet another rough game in terms of turnovers, and are now -7 over their last three games. Kansas has been very strong in terms of forcing TOs this year, though there's always room for debate as to how much luck is involved in that statistic. Regardless, if they continue to get their takeaways and ISU doesn't stop coughing it up, the game in November will far and away be our best shot at a second victory this season.