Road teams making hay in conference play
By KEVIN LONNQUIST
Big 12 Insider
It began innocently nearly two months ago when TCU struggled but pulled out a 20-6 victory at Kansas. One week later, eyebrows pointed north as Kansas State traveled to Norman, OK. and shocked Oklahoma, 24-19.
Now, it’s not even breaking news when Big 12 teams win on the road. It’s becoming the norm. Going into this weekend’s slate, the road record is 16-11
Look at what happened last week. Oklahoma wins at Iowa State, Texas wins at Texas Tech and TCU successfully converts a 2-point attempt at West Virginia and wins in double overtime. Only Kansas State and Baylor held serve.
“It’s a little mindboggling,’’ Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. “There’s such strength in the league. But we’ve won two of our conference games on the road. Really, I think it’s the frame of mind your players are in and how they travel and how they handle the pressure.’’
When you have a conference rated No. 2 among all conferences behind the SEC, Tuberville’s point is validated. Teams just can’t go out in front of the home folks and expect they’re going to win.
Of the 16 wins, it’s pretty well distributed. Texas has three (at Oklahoma State, Kansas and Tech), TCU has three (at Kansas, Baylor and West Virginia), Kansas State has three (at Iowa State, West Virginia and Oklahoma), Tech has two (at Iowa State and TCU), Oklahoma has two (at Iowa State and Texas Tech), Oklahoma State has one (Kansas), Iowa State has one (at TCU) and West Virginia has one (at Texas). Baylor and Kansas are the only teams without a conference road win.
Go a little deeper and TCU is the real head scratcher. The Horned Frogs are 3-1 on the road and 0-2 at home in league play.
“The amount of the no-huddle and doing things with hand signals probably takes the crowd and minimizes it,’’ Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. “That could be why teams are winning. It’s happened to us three times here at Jack Trice Stadium.’’
Several of the Big 12 coaches, though, including TCU’s Gary Patterson and Texas’ Mack Brown, said they like to take their teams on the road because they believe their kids will react very well to the conditions. Brown’s teams have won 38 of their last 45 conference road games.
“It gets you pumped up,’’ Patterson said. “You expect every game to be a sellout.’’
B1G 12 WEEKEND
A look at the upcoming weekend action involving the Big 12 along with their TV listings. All times are Central. All rankings are BCS.
11:00 a.m. Saturday, Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock (FSN)
What to Watch: The Red Raiders need to bounce back from the disappointing home loss to Texas last week. They should against a Kansas team, which has allowed 52, 56 and 41 points on the road in Big 12 games. Tech’s running game has really slowed down in the second half of the season. It’s now eighth in the Big 12 in yards per game at 144.9.
11:00 a.m. Saturday, Darrell K. Royal-Memorial Stadium, Austin (LHN)
What to Watch: With the passing of the legendary Darrell Royal, there will be heavy hearts in Austin. But the Longhorns can’t let that be an excuse. David Ash recovered from a benching at Kansas to lead his team to a win at Texas Tech. Iowa State is expected to stick with Steele Jantz at quarterback. The Cyclones are one win away from gaining bowl eligibility.
2:30 p.m. Saturday, Owen Field, Norman, OK. (FSN)
What to Watch: The Bears snapped a four-game losing streak with their win against Kansas, but now they have a greater challenge in Norman. The Sooners have lost twice at home this season – Kansas State and Notre Dame – but are explosive enough to where they should outmatch a much-maligned Baylor defense.
2:30 p.m. Saturday, Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK (ABC)
What to Watch: The Cowboys are hoping quarterback Wes Lunt (apparent concussion-like symptoms) will be ready to go. Running back Joseph Randle has been a great asset to the offense. He leads the conference in rushing at 116.8 yards per game. The Mountaineers are on a three-game losing streak and quarterback Geno Smith has thrown three interceptions in his last two games.
6:00 p.m. Saturday, Amon Carter Stadium, Fort Worth (FOX)
What to Watch: Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein will play, according to coach Bill Snyder. He suffered what appeared to be a concussion against Oklahoma State. TCU coach Gary Patterson said he should have better depth with OL Blaise Foltz (ankle), RB Matthew Tucker (high ankle sprain) and WR Brandon Carter (ankle) all closer to 100 percent than those three have been at any point of the season.
BIG 12 POWER RANKINGS
Each week, RattleandHumSports unveils its weekly power rankings. Agree or disagree, these make for great water cooler talk.
1. Kansas State – Pssst… Collin Klein leads the Big 12 in passing efficiency
2. Oklahoma – Sooners seeking revenge after the 2011 upset loss to Baylor
3. Texas – Have the Longhorns found their defense?
4. Texas Tech – Defense has recorded only 12 sacks
5. Oklahoma State – The QB shuffling has become a weekly episode
6. TCU – Horned Frogs can derail Kansas State’s national championship hopes
7. West Virginia – On the brink of a total collapse
8. Iowa State – Cyclones are 5-of-9 on fourth down this year
9. Baylor – Defense played well last week
10. Kansas – Big 12 opponents averaging 20.3 points in Lawrence, 49.7 away from Lawrence
NEWS & TRENDS
The Kansas State Syndrome
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and his staff may have more to concern themselves with than just West Virginia coming to Stillwater.
The after-effects of the Cowboys playing Kansas State could have impacted their preparation. Kansas State plays such a physical brand of football that it would seem it takes a little longer than usual for a team to get that game out of its system.
Following a game with the Wildcats, Big 12 teams are 1-4 in their next game. Iowa State lost to Oklahoma State, West Virginia fell to TCU, Kansas lost to Oklahoma State, Texas Tech lost to Texas. Oklahoma only escaped. It had a bye following its loss to the Wildcats and then played at Texas Tech.
Win or lose, TCU will get a similar break following Saturday’s game against the Wildcats. The Horned Frogs will have 12 days to prepare to play at Texas.
“I’m very impressed,’’ TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “They try to make you say, ‘no mas.’ It’s like a three-and-a-half-hour mental grind with them. Their offensive line is the best offensive line in the Big 12.’’
Most college coaches like to go through practices with light or nearly no work in pads. It keeps their players fresher. Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is not completely in that mindset. His teams will grind in a week. However, there are some limitations.
“We go full speed with the exception of going to the ground,’’ Snyder said. “We want to avoid injuries. But it allows you to become more of a physical team.’’
In August, we unveiled our inaugural Big 12 bowl projections. Now, some time has passed where the picture is much more clear. The conference has tie-ins with eight separate bowls and there is the possibility that there could be two teams in the BCS if Kansas State plays for the BCS championship. Should that happen, the conference is going to have a difficult time filling its slots.
Half of conference membership – Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, TCU and Texas Tech – is already bowl eligible.
Iowa State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia are each at five wins and should meet the minimum six before the regular season concludes on Dec. 1. At four wins, Baylor has a really difficult chore to reach six. The Bears still have Oklahoma, Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State remaining. Kansas is ineligible.
Should that play out, the conference likely won’t have a team eligible to play in the Heart of Texas Bowl.
Of course, this is subject to change:
BCS Title Game – Kansas State. The Wildcats are still in really good position here. There’s always the possibility that Oregon could jump them because the Ducks still have to play Oregon State and the PAC 12 Championship game.
BCS Fiesta – Oklahoma. Should the Sooners finish at 10-2, it’s going to be hard to keep them out of the mix. The Fiesta is where the Big 12 representative lands. The Sooners could be an at-large team somewhere else is Kansas State gets knocked out of the national title game and ends up in the Fiesta Bowl.
Cotton – Texas. Like Oklahoma, if Texas finishes at 10-2, maybe even 9-3, that’s probably good enough for the Longhorns to play at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. This game also features an SEC team. This is begging for Texas and Texas A&M, isn’t it?
Alamo – Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are familiar with this bowl and the fan base has travelled well to San Antonio. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them play here.
Holiday – TCU. Well, the Horned Frogs played in San Diego last year in the Poinsettia Bowl. So they know Southern California pretty well. They would get a PAC 12 team. UCLA?
Buffalo Wild Wings (formerly Insight) – Oklahoma State. Given the problems this team has had, it would be a nice way for the Cowboys to end the season.
New Era Pinstripe – West Virginia. This would mark quite a drop for the Mountaineers, who had BCS title hopes as late as late September. Geographically speaking this makes sense so the fan base has an easier chance to travel.
Meineke Car Care – Iowa State. Give Paul Rhoads credit for getting his program back to the postseason because few gave the Cyclones a chance to be playing in December. ISU fans would like to travel to Dallas and get out of the frigid cold.
Seems like old times
The now-defunct rivalry between Oklahoma and Nebraska has some life to it.
The Omaha World-Tribune reported earlier this week that retiring Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne said the two schools agreed to a series, although formal contracts haven’t been signed.
The paper also said the home-and-home series would run in 2021 and 2022. The first game would be in Norman. The return game is in Lincoln. They last met in the final Big 12 championship game Dec. 10 when the Sooners won, 23-20. But when the Big 12 added the four Texas schools in 1996, it created two divisions and disrupted the series.
Oklahoma leads the all-time matchup, 45-38-3.
A Great Way to Honor a Legend
To honor the memory of Darrell Royal, the Longhorns football team will line up in the wishbone for its first play Saturday against Iowa State. It will be a fitting tribute to the late coaching legend since the offensive formation, which brought such good fortune to so many high-profile programs, started in Austin more than four decades ago. – Austin American-Statesman
BY THE NUMBER
Career victories by Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. That ties him with the legendary Bud Wilkinson in wins in Norman. Barry Switzer is the all-time leader with 157.