One certain Saturday in Dallas has a way of completely altering the landscape of the Big 12. And maybe more. So it goes again, after Oklahoma beat Texas 28–20 in the 105th edition of the Red River Rivalry.
The Sooners left the Cotton Bowl soaring in spirit, believing that last season’s five-loss debacle is behind them in their quest to rejoin the nation’s elite.
Meanwhile, the bad news — and results — keep coming for Texas. Taking shots from UCLA in an ugly home loss is one thing. But losing to dreaded Oklahoma, and losing their grip on the Big 12 South, and losing their place in the Top 25 for the first time in 10 years? That hurts.
And not only that — the Longhorns will have to stew on it all for a while, with an open week on deck.
“I wish we didn’t have the bye week,” said Texas linebacker Keenan Robinson. “I want to get out there right now.”
The Sooners breeze into their bye week, sitting 5–0 and facing a remaining schedule that doesn’t feature another Top 25 team until the season-ending Bedlam showdown with Oklahoma State.
Their win in the Cotton Bowl wasn’t flawless, with some unnecessarily tense moments late. Still, these wins are to be coveted, no matter how they’re claimed.
“That’s what you want,” said OU coach Bob Stoops. “To be criticized for winning. We’re back to Oklahoma football.”
Oklahoma State 38, Texas A&M 35
Oklahoma 28, Texas 20
Colorado 29, Georgia 27
Baylor 55, Kansas 7
Iowa State 52, Texas Tech 38
Pegged for a rebuilding year, Oklahoma State is making this look like more of a transition year. And a smooth transition at that.
The Cowboys, improving to 4–0, won a wild one in Stillwater, outlasting Texas A&M in a matchup made out as a measuring stick for both teams. In the end, the Pokes measured up against a team predicted by some to challenge in the Big 12 South.
“It’s big,” said OSU linebacker James Thomas, who had a 63-yard fumble return for a touchdown. “It gives us confidence and it was a great emotional win for us as well.”
Each team blew 14-point leads, before OSU cashed in a fifth takeaway of Aggies quarterback Jerrod Johnson to set up the game-winning field goal. Dan Bailey booted a 40-yard field goal as time expired to deliver the win.
Role reversal seemed to be the theme in Ames. Usually conservative Iowa State scored 52 points — the most ever by the Cyclones in a Big 12 game — getting a career-high four touchdown passes from Austen Arnaud to win a shootout over Texas Tech.
“I think it was just one of those nights,” Arnaud said. “We felt like we could take some shots downfield and we did and made the most of those opportunities. In the past, we haven’t.
“Pitch and catch is basically what it ended up being.”
While the Red Raiders might be used to wild-scoring affairs, this was all new for the Cyclones, who hadn’t scored so much in a conference game in 38 years.
Still, winning wasn’t easy. After bolting to a 24–0 lead, Tech rallied to tie it on the way to a fourth quarter that featured a combined 42 points. The Cyclones led 45–38 with 2:05 remaining, when Jeremy Reeves returned an onside kick attempt 42 yards for a clinching touchdown.
The talk around Waco — probably too much talk — has been about what Baylor must do to get back in a bowl game, ending an absence that extends prior to the creation of the Big 12. Well, talk is picking up after the Bears’ rout of Kansas.
In what was billed as a must-win, Baylor won big behind quarterback Robert Griffin III, who did it all in a record-setting day for the Bears. Baylor finished with school records for total yards (678), points in a Big 12 game (55) and largest margin of victory (48) in a conference outing. Griffin III’s 94-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon is a school record for the longest play.
“It was fun for the players, our fans, Baylor University and it was a much-needed victory,” said Bears coach Art Briles.
Buffs Hanging Tough
Don’t write Dan Hawkins’ farewell speech just yet. The Buffaloes are showing signs of life.
Colorado extended Georgia’s struggles, holding on for a 29–27 win that came with a large contingent from the 1990 national title team looking on.
The Buffs may not be ready to create any current title talk, not yet, but at least the talk isn’t the doom and gloom that has followed the program under Hawkins’ watch.
“There’s a saying that the pride and tradition of the Buffaloes won’t be entrusted to the weak,” Colorado linebacker Jon Major told reporters after the game.
Don’t look now, but the Buffs are 3–1 and own a reasonable home schedule for conference play.
Player of the Week
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor.Known affectionately as RG3, the Bears sophomore set a school record with 444 total yards in Baylor’s rout of Kansas. He also threw for a career-best 380 yards and tied career highs with three touchdown passes, 26 completions and 36 pass attempts. He was also the team’s leading rusher with 64 yards on eight carries, including a touchdown.
Game of the Week: Nebraska at Kansas State.Don’t crown the Huskers in the North just yet, not until they’ve navigated successfully through Manhattan. This is throwback stuff, going back to the days of the Big Eight, only with the Wildcats much improved. Nebraska runs the option again, and the ’Cats pound Daniel Thomas in their own ground game, while passes are flying throughout the rest of the Big 12. The winner takes a major step forward in the North.
On the Spot:Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech.Since arriving in Lubbock, Tuberville has talked tough, even taking some jabs at Mike Leach’s regime. Well, it’s time for Tuberville’s team to get tough, at 0–2 in the league and heading into a scary matchup with Baylor’s RG3 in the Cotton Bowl.
In the Spotlight: Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska.The Husker freshman has been dynamic for the most part, but looked like a rookie his last time out against South Dakota State. Don’t think K-State coach Bill Snyder won’t have a plan that forces Martinez to hit some throws — not to mention the fact that the Wildcats have the best athletes the freshman has faced so far.
Dan Hawkins, Colorado.OK, so Georgia isn’t Georgia, not the same Georgia, anyway. Still, the Bulldogs had A.J. Green back. And they’re still stocked with top talent. And for a change during Hawkins’ reign, the Buffs showed some talent, too. And played big in a big game. Looking ahead, CU could win as many as eight games and find itself in a solid bowl game. And keeping Hawkins, who for now has removed himself from the hot seat.
Longhorn playmakers. For all the premium-picked talent making up all those touted recruiting classes, Texas sure lacks guys who can make a play on offense. At running back and wide receiver and tight end and even quarterback, the Horns just don’t scare anyone the way they should.
By the Numbers
2100-yard rushers for Iowa State against Texas Tech, with Alexander Robinson (103) and Shontrelle Johnson (104) both cracking the century mark.
The Aggies and Cowboys consider themselves contenders in the Big 12 South. And with Texas and Oklahoma less than impressive so far, why not?
The winner, in a Thursday night special, furthers its case.
A shootout is expected, with both teams riding explosive offenses to 3–0 starts.
Behind the trio of quarterback Brandon Weeden, running back Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Justin Blackmon, the Cowboys dominate the NCAA offensive rankings. They’re off to the fastest scoring start in school history, with 171 points through three games.
Still, this will be the OSU offense’s first significant test — at least on the surface. A&M, a mess on defense a year ago, hired coordinator Tim DeRuyter from Air Force, where he built strong units that featured an aggressive, attacking style.
DeRuyter is also familiar with Cowboys offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, with the two matching wits three times in the past two seasons, when Holgorsen was setting records at Houston. DeRuyter left a calling card in last December’s Armed Forces Bowl, shackling Holgorsen’s Houston offense in a 47–20 win.
Can he do it again?
The Aggies offense revolves around quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who can be erratic, but fuels everything they do. Johnson has quality complements in wideout Jeff Fuller and running backs Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael.
OSU’s defense, under the guidance of underrated coordinator Bill Young, is young, but athletic and physical.
Kansas at Baylor
Saturday, 11 a.m.
While far from the spotlight of the Big 12’s biggest games of the week — OU-Texas and Oklahoma State-Texas A&M — this stands as a huge clash for the Jayhawks and Bears.
Both figured to be also-rans in the conference, but the winner at least emerges with hopes of a winning season and bowl bid. The loser looks up at the rest of the Big 12 — perhaps literally the entire rest of the Big 12.
Baylor’s been trying to climb the league’s ladder to respectability since the conference was formed. The Bears’ first shot at making a statement this season brought a beatdown by TCU.
While KU doesn’t present as stiff a test, the Bears still must prove they’re capable of making a statement, which here, as decided favorites, means a solid win. As always, quarterback Robert Griffin is the key figure for Baylor.
Kansas has been wildly inconsistent, shockingly falling at home to North Dakota State, but also upsetting Georgia Tech, on its way to a 2–2 start. The Jayhawks haven’t been afraid to tweak things, first switching quarterbacks to freshman Jordan Webb and now finding touches for dynamic playmaker D.J. Beshears, who returned a kickoff for a touchdown and also got snaps at running back and receiver a week ago, totaling three TDs.
Oklahoma vs. Texas, Cotton Bowl
Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Texas’ stunning home loss to UCLA swiped some of the shine from this latest meeting in a storied rivalry, the 105th edition. Still, the balance of power in the Big 12 South likely remains at stake.
Neither team has lived up to preseason billing. The Sooners, while 4–0, have had tight fights with Utah State, Air Force and Cincinnati, struggling to crank up their ground game and revealing leaks on defense.
Texas has no running game to speak of, and the transition from Colt McCoy to Garrett Gilbert at quarterback has been anything but smooth. At least it arrives with a stout defense that seems to match up well against OU’s offensive strengths.
So what gives in the Cotton Bowl? Who knows?
The Sooners seem to possess more star power, with quarterback Landry Jones, running back DeMarco Murray and wideout Ryan Broyles capable of dominating, along with defensive end Jeremy Beal and linebacker Travis Lewis.
Yet this contentious series is known for its magical moments and its breakout and breakthrough performers. And Texas is looking for someone to fit that bill.
The series has a long history of running in streaks. Most recently, OU won five straight from 2000-2004, before the Longhorns swayed momentum to win four of the last five, including the last two.
Saturday’s winner claims the Golden Hat and more, including the favorite’s role in the Big 12 south.
Texas Tech at Iowa State
Saturday, 6 p.m.
As successful as Tech was during the Mike Leach era, the Red Raiders were a different beast away from home. Much less beastly.
Now, with a week off to digest their home loss to Texas, the Raiders begin a four-of-five stretch of games outside Lubbock.
Maybe things will be different under Tommy Tuberville. And maybe what’s most different, an improved defense, can be an equalizer for Tech’s past troubles on the road. This trip to Iowa State, where Tuberville meets up old pal Paul Rhoads — his defensive coordinator at Auburn — will provide an indicator.
As promised, Tech remains a pass-happy offense, which is out of character for Tuberville. But Tech’s defense has been more along the lines of the rugged crews Tuberville is known for, which will be vital going into Ames, where the Cyclones will be looking to control the ball and the clock with tailback Alexander Robinson.
Both teams carry some quarterback concerns. For the Raiders, Taylor Potts is coming off a rough outing against Texas and always has Steven Sheffield looking over his shoulder. For the Cyclones, Austen Arnaud has his own shoulder to worry about, having injured his non-throwing shoulder in last week’s win over Northern Iowa. He is expected to start against Tech, although Jerome Tiller may also play.
Georgia at Colorado
Saturday, 6 p.m.
This once looked like an unfortunate bit of scheduling for the Buffaloes in a make-or-break year for coach Dan Hawkins. Now, Hawkins seat may actually be cooler than that of Georgia’s Mark Richt.
The Bulldogs — and Richt — are reeling, having lost three straight with their only win coming in Week 1 over Louisiana-Lafayette.
That’s not to say the Dawgs aren’t dangerous. They are, with enough talent to turn things around and make a charge through October and November. And they’ll have stud receiver A.J. Green for the first time this year, after Green missed the first four games under NCAA suspension.
Yet this game, which once looked like a doomsday deal for the Buffs, suddenly looks winnable. Colorado has had two weeks to prepare, riding the momentum of a romp past Hawaii into an open weekend.
Still, the Buffs must find some consistency and balance on offense, where the running game has mostly sputtered. A better ground game will take some heat off CU quarterback Tyler Hansen behind an offensive line facing the most athletic and physical defensive line to date.