The first weekend of the Big 12’s round-robin conference schedule will feature three matchups, one that could easily be regarded as the game of the week when all is said and done.
When West Virginia travels to Kansas, and Oklahoma travels to Baylor to kickoff conference play this Saturday, I’ll be staying as far away as possible, as a fan of the Big 12 that doesn’t want to lose hope in the progress already made this year. Kansas and Baylor have proven to be a couple of dismal teams to watch this season, so I’m making sure to save my effort and attention for Oklahoma State vs. TCU.
When the Horned Frogs take the field in Oklahoma Saturday afternoon, they’ll be looking to derail one of the hottest teams in college football on the back of quarterback Kenny Hill and their punishing defensive front. The only 3-0 team in the Big 12 from outside of Oklahoma, TCU have made their way up to #16 in the AP rankings, and pulling out a win against this OK State team could send the team unranked in the preseason polls into the top 10.
That is about as far from a simple task as it gets, though. Mike Gundy and Mason Rudolph’s Cowboy team have looked like a playoff caliber team since the start of the season, utilizing arguably the highest-powered offense in the country to play keep-up with the highly touted Oklahoma Sooners. Currently coming in at #6 in the polls, their latest jump was due to their 59-21 demolition of Pitt last week. Throwing for over 100 yards to four different receivers (497 total), Rudolph had five touchdowns in the first half before he was pulled in the third quarter. Oklahoma State showed how they can expose simple man coverage and really take a team out of a game early (21-0 after the first quarter).
On the other side of things, this will definitely be a far more substantial challenge for the Cowboys. Kenny Hill (who I feel like I was watching at Texas A&M like 6 years ago) is back as one the nation’s most dynamic quarterbacks, and on pace to set the school’s record for completion percentage among other categories. The 22-year-old has enough weapons to compete both running and passing the ball, paired an experienced defense that should be holding down their side of the ball.
This Horned Frogs came into the year boasting one of the conference’s top defensive fronts, a usual focus of Gary Patterson’s teams. After dominating their first two matchups against Jackson State and Arkansas, allowing a combined seven points, Patterson’s defense showed some shakiness in the first half against SMU. Totaling 463 yards on the day, the Mustangs scored on five of their first six possessions this Saturday, leading the game 19-7 at one point in the second quarter. A pick-six, blocked kick, and turnover on downs during the third quarter showed the true strength of their defense, and took the game out of reach for SMU.
If the Horned Frogs have a first half similar to the one they had last week, this game will be all but over by halftime. OK State have proven to be more than willing to come in guns blazing from the opening kickoff, looking to put teams away early and send statements to ranking and selection committees. Fortunately, I think TCU will be as prepared as possible for the Cowboy attack, and keep them as tame as we’ve seen in the first half this Saturday. However, there’s no real stopping this team for all four quarters, and even if TCU’s defense steps up to their full potential Rudolph and company will still find a way to put up their points. A TCU win would take a career game from Kenny Hill (see: South Carolina, 2014) as well as a pretty terrible game from Mason Rudolph. I think both quarterbacks will play well, and the game will stay close for the first two quarters, but in the end Patterson’s team won’t have enough to keep up with this offensive juggernaut.
Images via: Athlon, Zimbio