With trip to title game in reach, Cowboys must remain focussed
By Mitch Light
There were plenty of teams that posted more significant wins, but you can make a strong case that no team was as impressive as Oklahoma State last weekend. Six days after climbing to No. 3 in the BCS standings, the Cowboys dismantled a solid Baylor team with stunning ease. The Pokes led 21–0 after one quarter, 35–0 at the half and 49–3 through three quarters en route to a 59–24 victory.
Mike Gundy’s team proved — for at least one week — that it will be able to handle the pressures that come along with a lofty ranking in the BCS standings. When you are ranked No. 3 in the nation — and the top two teams are about to play each other — it becomes pretty clear to everyone in the program that your team has a direct path to the national title game. That’s obviously a good position to be in, but it can be very dangerous, as well — especially for a program that is not used to playing with a bull’s-eye on its back.
Just ask South Florida, which was No. 2 in the initial BCS rankings released in 2007 and proceeded to lose its next three games. Or Boston College, who replaced South Florida as the No. 2 team that season but went on to lose consecutive games to Florida State and Maryland to begin the month of November. There are many other programs that have made guest appearances in the top 5 of the BCS standings only to fade away and end the season playing in a mid-level bowl game.
Gundy’s task is to keep his team focused each week. His players know the deal: Oklahoma visits Stillwater on Dec. 3 in what has the potential to be the biggest game in school history. Gundy, however, is well aware that Dec. 3 is only important if his team takes care of business in the weeks that precede Bedlam.
That is what makes Saturday’s performance against Baylor so impressive. The Pokes were able to deal with the distractions that come with the No. 3 ranking and play perhaps their best game of the season against a team that has spent much of the season ranked in the top 25.
“We’re not going to play under pressure,” Gundy said before the Baylor game. “We’re not going to coach under pressure. We want the players to enjoy the experience they’re going through.”
Around the Big 12
• Texas Tech was held to single digits at home (seven points) last week for the first time since October 2000 in a 56–3 loss to Nebraska.
• Missouri tailback Henry Josey is the first player in the league to 1,000 yards. He has 1,017 yards on only 119 attempts for a league-best 8.6-yard average. In the fourth quarter, Josey’s average is 11.8 yards per carry.
• Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles has 18 receptions of 20 yards or more, the most in the Big 12 by five. Baylor’s Kendall Wright is next with 13.
• Kansas is 1–18 in its last 19 Big 12 games. The Jayhawks were 15–6 in the 21 previous league games.
• Baylor is the only team in the nation averaging over 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing.
• When his team is losing by 1-7 points, Robert Griffin III has completed 30-of-42 passes for 487 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
• Kansas State dropped 31 spots (from 29 to 60) in total defense in the national rankings after the Oklahoma game.
• Texas A&M has only converted one fourth down this season, tied with five other teams for fewest in the nation.
With nine weeks in the book, it's time to take a look at how teams project to the postseason. There's going to be a lot of changes over the next couple of weeks, especially as teams battle just to get to six wins.
The greatest sport in the world is under assault from many different sides.
The greatest sport in the world is under assault from many different sides. Conference realignment talk has replaced conversation about who’s number one. Cheating coaches are ruining their schools’ reputations and jeopardizing future success. And players are succumbing to temptation out of anger because they feel exploited.
There’s been some debate in the Athlon Sports offices — and on our web site — about the strength of the Big 12 as compared to the SEC. Most assume that the SEC, with its five straight national titles, is the nation’s premier conference.
There’s no debate, especially after Oklahoma’s loss on Saturday, that the SEC is stronger at the top with Alabama and LSU. But you can argue, which I did, that the Big 12 is better in the middle and has more overall depth than the SEC.
There is, however, one point that is not negotiable: The Big 12 is far more offensive-minded than the SEC. A look at the national stats is quite telling: The Big 12 is home to five of the top seven teams in the country in total offense — Baylor (No. 2), Oklahoma State (No. 3), Oklahoma (No. 4), Texas Tech (No. 5) and Texas A&M (No. 7). And Missouri, at No. 12, is not far behind.
Compare that with the SEC, which has only two of the top 40 teams in total offense, No. 22 Arkansas and No. 23 Alabama.
This begs the following question: Are the Big 12 teams really good on offense, or do they simply feast on bad defenses? It’s a question that is probably impossible to answer, but I embarked on a stats-driven study that, to no surprise, was inconclusive.
The 10 teams in the Big 12 have played a total of nine teams from other BCS leagues in non-conference action. I compared the point total scored by the Big 12 teams vs. those non-conference foes with the point totals those teams allowed vs. other BCS teams on their schedule to date. For example, Oklahoma State scored 37 points vs. Arizona, but Arizona has given up an average of 38 points to the other five BCS conference teams it has faced.
Of the nine teams, Big 12 schools scored higher than the average of the other opponents five times (A&M vs. Arkansas, Kansas State vs. Miami, Iowa State vs. Iowa, Missouri vs. Arizona State and Texas vs. UCLA) and lower than the average four times (Oklahoma State vs. Arizona, Oklahoma vs. Florida State, Iowa State vs. UConn and Kansas vs. Georgia Tech).
The sample size is too small to draw any conclusions, but I would have expected a higher number of the Big 12 schools — more than five — to have outscored the average of their opponents’ other BCS conference opponents.
I hope this all made sense.
Around the Big 12
• Iowa State is having a ton of trouble on the defensive end in recent weeks. The Cyclones have given up an average of 566.7 yards in the last three games after allowing a respectable 369.2 in their first three games vs. FBS opponents (Iowa, UConn and Texas).
• The losing team has scored at least 34 points in each of Texas Tech’s last five games.
• Collin Klein, the starter in each of Kansas State’s seven games (and seven wins), has yet to hit the 1,000-yard passing mark this season. With the exception of Texas, which has played three quarterbacks, every other team in the league has a quarterback who has thrown for at least 1,300 yards.
• Oklahoma State has forced 20 more turnovers (24 to 4) than Kansas.
• Of the top six players in the league in rushing attempts, two come from Kansas State (Collin Klein, 151, and John Hubert, 122) and two come from Texas A&M (Cyrus Gray, 134, and Christine Michael, 111).
• Kansas has allowed its opponents to enter the Red Zone 42 times in seven game, the most in the nation. The Jayhawks have allowed 32 touchdowns and seven field goals.
• Five Big 12 teams are averaging 40 points or more in league games — Oklahoma State (45.8 ppg), Oklahoma (44.5), Texas A&M (40.5), Kansas State (40.0) and Texas Tech (40.0).