Who won week 1 in the Big 12?

Ian Boyd

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We're back! The Big 12 played multiple games this past weekend, although not against each other. In retrospect, perhaps the league wishes they'd gone conference only after all and grafted in BYU or some such team ala the ACC and Notre Dame. Instead, they invited the Sun Belt in and they walked with with a 3-0 record against what's left of the Big 12 North and poured cold water all over my theory that the Midwest teams were all going to be stronger than expected in 2020.

I'm not totally abandoning that theory based off sloppy week one performances against some sturdy G5 teams, but there were certainly some concerns evident. Particularly for my preseason no. 3 squad, the Iowa State Cyclones.

Speaking of pouring, pour one out for the SMU-TCU game we didn't get but then refill your glass as we toast to a new matchup for next Saturday. Baylor managed to dodge the great Sun Belt massacre when their game with Louisiana Tech was cancelled but, to their great credit, they replaced it with a new opener against Dana Holgorsen and the Houston Cougars next Saturday. I'm all for SMU and Houston regularly playing the other Texas schools now that both of those schools are in a good place with their level of investment and established Raid bros like Holgorsen and Sonny Dykes at the helm.

Elsewhere around the league Texas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia took the opportunity to play not-Sun Belt teams and administered some savage beatings to UTEP, Missouri State, and Eastern Kentucky. Texas Tech also found a smaller kid on the playground to bully but still came away with a black eye and very little lunch money, beating Houston Baptist 35-33. Is Texas Tech terrible on defense again?

Let's dive in.

ContrarIan says the glass is half full

It really may not have been as ugly as it appeared for Kansas State. Hear me out.

One of their chief problems was Arkansas State receiver Jonathan Adams, the 6-3, 220 pounder who absolutely mauling their cornerbacks. The Wildcats started AJ Parker (5-11, 180), Lance Robinson (5-9, 185), and then Will Jones in the slot (5-9, 183). None of them could handle Adams when the ball was in the air and he was Mossing them all in turn. They also tried the bigger Kiondre Thomas (6-0, 186), who was isolated on Adams in the red zone on his second touchdown catch, big dude was just making plays.

These things happen, there's more than enough great skill players in the world for a program like Arkansas State to find some real gems. Especially down south where the Red Wolves hunt.

The Wildcats lost both safeties to injury during the game (also their starting center and Skylar Thompson got dinged up) and at the end were playing back-ups in the backfield trying to handle Adams. That led to this decisive play at the end of the game:


This is typical quarters coverage with the safety robbing in the middle but taking the inside receiver if vertical. Well, the tight end went vertical and redshirt senior Brock Monty picked him up, leaving the hash open for the post to Adams and touchdown no. 3. You can't play those route concepts like that in today's game against teams that throw the ball like Arkansas State or they do in the Big 12. You'll face a big, skilled guy like this and get kilt.

The other big issue for Kansas State was the one everyone expected. They weren't able to impose their will in the power run game with a retooled offensive line featuring four new starters. The Wildcats even ended up rotating a lot of lineman and played at least eight I saw and probably more.

Yet there were encouraging signs. They did score 31 points and did some damage early, especially before Thompson was slowed up by injury, and it's apparent they have multiple legitimate weapons. Transfer tight end Briley Moore rocked number zero and had six catches for 54 yards and a touchdown, good sized wideouts Chabastin Taylor (6-4, 220) and Malik Knowles (6-2, 200) both made plays on throws down the field (particularly Taylor), and they seem to have found a new Darren Sproles. Round Rock Texas produced a 5-5, 170 pound water bug for them named Deuce Vaughn who had 47 rushing yards and a score and then a 24-yard catch on a swing pass.

It's going to take some time for the offensive line to really gel and figure things out, that was expected. But they can create some margin for themselves by involving better playmakers than a year ago, just need to make sure they don't keep getting torched on the back end.

As for the other noon game Sun Belt loss...how about that Iowa State defense?

Louisiana quarterback Levi Lewis completed 13 of 21 pass attempts for 154 yards at 7.3 ypa with one touchdown and zero interceptions. He did nearly all of that damage on a 78-yard touchdown pass, without which his numbers drop to 12-20 for 76 yards at 3.8 ypa with zero touchdowns. The touchdown pass obviously counts against the Cyclones, but I think you take the point. The vaunted Ragin Cajun run game fed their backs 30 carries which yielded 120 yards at four ypc with one rushing touchdown. 50 of those yards and the touchdown came on the final drive during which Iowa State basically threw in the towel on the game.

ULL scored three touchdowns on single play scores, the 78-yard bomb mentioned above and then a punt AND kickoff return. The Cyclone defense wasn't the issue Saturday. Indeed, JaQuan Bailey looked even better coming back from injury than I thought he might and Will McDonald proved able to play standard down snaps at defensive end in their scheme and not just as a third down role player. McDonald had two sacks on the day and may prove to be one of the best edge-rushers in the league in 2020.

Should the Cyclones figure out their offensive issues from Saturday, their defense looks like it could potentially be their best yet of the Matt Campbell era.

ContrarIan says the glass is half empty

For Iowa State the glass appears mostly empty. Their offense was dreadful and there was a lot of Twitter-dunking on Brock "pump fake" Purdy, particularly by Longhorn fans were greatly annoyed by repeated offseason claims by much of the league's fanbase and commentariat that PFPurdy was the superior signal-caller over Sam Ehlinger.

When PFPurdy finished the day with 4.1 ypa and an interception while Sam Ehlinger had 400 yards passing and five touchdowns before the half that provided a lot of firewood for some raging fires of internet scorn.

The problem wasn't really PFPurdy though. He wasn't ultra sharp, but the bigger problem was Iowa State spectacularly failing the big test I've been laying out as crucial to their 2020 season. The 2019 Cyclones were a solid ball control passing team by utilizing star tight end Charlie Kolar and skilled slot Deshaunte Jones on crossing patterns. They were set to return Kolar and replace Jones with Tarique Milton and tread water (or better) with that facet of their offense while also adding home-run hitting outside to punish teams for loading up the middle of the field. The 2019 Longhorns of all teams really demonstrated Iowa State's potential issues by playing a lot of man coverage and daring Iowa State to beat them with their outside receivers facing 1-on-1s, Louisiana picked up on it and built on their success.

Iowa State didn't have Kolar for this game, he was walking around on the sideline and presumably will be back for TCU but they missed him badly. Here's a few key snapshots of things not going well with Xavier Hutchinson.


Here they got the 1-on-1 with the safety sucked in by the deep crossing actions but PFPurdy just misses Hutch and they miss a chance at a touchdown.


On this big fourth-and-five they run shallow cross against press-man. The RJ's have the shallow well covered but the dig is open. Later in the game they'd look for Chase Allen on some crossers and curls and he'd fail to properly post up defenders and bring the ball in. On this play they went to Hutchinson on the comeback, but you don't really want to run a comeback like this against press-man. Needs to be a fade, even if a back shoulder fade, otherwise the corner is just sitting on anything underneath no matter how good your timing is.

It got worse outside for Hutch...


PFPurdy is throwing on time with trust Hutch will be in a particular spot on the out/comeback and he isn't there because he took an inside release against press-man. You can't break inside if you want to get back outside.

You'd better believe TCU will play them with man coverage outside and make them prove they put the next two weeks to good use improving their pass game connection between PFPurdy and Hutchinson/Shaw. That's the Frogs preferred MO anyways. But all that said, some of these mistakes are just a matter of missed execution or failed timing. On rewatch I'm not sure if we should assume Hutchinson can't get open or PFPurdy can't throw him better balls. Something to monitor, but don't give up all hope, Cyclone fans.

Chase Allen I have much less faith in unless he's running open against zone or on a POP pass but they'll get Kolar back. Should be an interesting season in Ames.

Who won week 1 in the Big 12?

Baylor and TCU won in part by avoiding the Sun Belt massacre and SMU, respectively. The Horned Frogs will now open their season against Iowa State in another two weeks...which is probably a pyrrhic victory. Baylor draws Houston now, as we mentioned before, which should be entertaining if nothing else.

West Virgina won by smashing an inferior team despite some (apparently meaningless) suspensions to multiple starters. That game looked exactly like you'd want it to as a Mountaineer fan. Jarrett Doege was very sharp and if you want to call it "throwing on air" that's fine but then the same caveat applies to Spencer Rattler and Sam Ehlinger. Some of the throws Doege made were legitimately very good. The outside zone run game was really humming as well, though perhaps we can chalk it up mostly to competition.

The biggest winners of week 1 were Texas and Oklahoma. Again, call it bad competition if you like but great teams smash bad competition and that's what the Sooners and Longhorns did. Neither of their pass games looked rusty, Rattler's throws rarely touched the ground and Ehlinger flung it around like he intends to break Colt McCoy's records despite the shortened season.

Texas started their season throwing a slant RPO to Josh Moore for a 78 yard touchdown while the Sooners landed a post route on their second drive to Marvin Mims for a 58-yarder. Things looked much as expected for Oklahoma, lots of power play-action schemes and "tha Rattla" looking sharp throwing the ball down the field. It was way too predictable an all-star interior line, Lincoln Riley, Rattler, and these receivers would all be combined into a potent power run/play-action offense. The defense was harder to gauge due to missing starters and the apparent freedom they felt to park their safeties within eight yards. Nik Bonitto did look good in the pass-rush though, as Sooner observers were projecting.

Beyond the RPO to Moore, Texas was mixing in the sorts of formational matchup tricks and concepts you typically see from a Big 12 team, which should alarm the rest of the league coming from Texas. Their defense interestingly didn't play much of the anticipated press-quarters that helped Chris Ash and Tom Herman win a title together in Columbus. Instead they were rolling into single-high coverages most snaps. More to come on Texas’ defense later in the week.

The easiest week 1 overreaction would be this is going to be Texas and Oklahoma's league in 2020 and it wouldn't really be shocking if it bore out. That said, we're going to see Baylor and Oklahoma State against AAC teams next week and don't completely bury K-State or Iowa State just yet. They will both very likely fail to make the Big 12 championship game but that doesn't mean either couldn't go 6-3 or so and hand Ls to other contenders.
 

Ian Boyd

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It also seemed like generally, across the board, OL's were not gelling yet. Even OU's OL was having trouble from time to time w/their bi-directional foe.
Yes. Iowa State looked better before they lost Downing. West Virginia didn't seem to have any problems.

Texas is working out some kinks in their run game, which has evolved under Yurcich btw.
 

bHero

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Yes. Iowa State looked better before they lost Downing. West Virginia didn't seem to have any problems.

Texas is working out some kinks in their run game, which has evolved under Yurcich btw.
Didn't see a ton of split zone like I was hoping for, but definitely digging the orbit motion and misdirection.
 

bHero

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You missed it, was definitely there.
Excellent. I saw it, but it sounds like not as often as you did. I was getting a bit a of a LA Rams feels from some of the concepts. Like the Kai Money TD, some of the screens of motion... very exciting for the season...and I know the Rams didn't originate this stuff, just making a pro-spread comp.
 

sherf1

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WV could be good, happy we have them at DKR.
Every year in the Big 12 there's a surprise good team it seems (Baylor last year an obvious example, to an extent us in 2018, etc). WVU seems a reasonable bet.

Seems Tech is in free fall, TCU has too many QB questions, K State obviously has some issues and Kansas gonna Kansas.

If Iowa State continues to struggle, that leaves the 5 of OU, OSU, Texas, Baylor and potentially WVU separating from the pack, although not really sure how much Baylor has until we see a healthy Brewer, and how Aranda approaches defense in the Big 12.
 

sherf1

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They sucked, but I think ULL is really, really good. They have some dudes.
It was a weird one, and yeah probably not reasonable to draw too many conclusions from a game in which they gave up multiple 65+ yard TDs while otherwise playing good defense.

That said its not a great sign for them on offense when the biggest question was can they become more explosive at outside WR....that was a swing and a miss on day one.
 
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Hope. I needed this.

Since Snyder 2.0 began, the roster has faced the problem of backups being high school talent. Obviously every school faces this, but Saturday showed how different it is at KSU. Two safeties go down (plus another safety opted out) and our only option is a converted walk-on QB who probably runs a 4.8+. Klieman will need another couple of years before somewhat solving that problem.
 

Ian Boyd

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Hope. I needed this.

Since Snyder 2.0 began, the roster has faced the problem of backups being high school talent. Obviously every school faces this, but Saturday showed how different it is at KSU. Two safeties go down (plus another safety opted out) and our only option is a converted walk-on QB who probably runs a 4.8+. Klieman will need another couple of years before somewhat solving that problem.
Yeah, although the problem here wasn't lack of speed, just experience. I'm pretty sure that Monty just botched his assignment. The other safety was there to rob the tight end, he needed to stay on Adams.
 

stilesbbq

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My worry from this weekend is that Iowa State and OU clearly have the fronts to trouble UT's OL woes.

As long Sam stays clean, Texas should be able to put 40 easily
 

sherf1

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My worry from this weekend is that Iowa State and OU clearly have the fronts to trouble UT's OL woes.

As long Sam stays clean, Texas should be able to put 40 easily
The really big issue for us last year IMO was blitz pickup. Not so much physically executing a block (although obviously that is sometimes the case too), but knowing who to block so you dont get free runners. That's more schematic than anything so is a potentially quick fix.

With Cosmi as a foundation on the left side, as long as he's holding up there's really no excuse to not be able to provide help elsewhere as needed.

Things like tempo and heavy use of RPOs will also help. In general feeling a lot more confident about the ceiling of the offense after seeing what Yurch is bringing to the table Week 1, and I think the O Line will benefit heavily from that.
 
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Yeah, although the problem here wasn't lack of speed, just experience. I'm pretty sure that Monty just botched his assignment. The other safety was there to rob the tight end, he needed to stay on Adams.
Oh, it's such a painful replay to watch. Their QB botched the snap on 1st down. This was the easiest play in the world to either pick off or disrupt. It would have been 3rd & 15 or a turnover if he plays it properly.
 
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Ian Boyd

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My worry from this weekend is that Iowa State and OU clearly have the fronts to trouble UT's OL woes.

As long Sam stays clean, Texas should be able to put 40 easily
I dunno about the Oklahoma front. They were missing a lot of guys and utilizing aggressive schemes against a completely overmatched opponent. They might be good but I didn't see anything Saturday to convince me that they'll be a huge problem.

Big thing with Oklahoma is that it's a losing bet to try ball control against Grinch, he's too aggressive. You need to live with boom or bust on offense because the booms will reward you more than the busts hurt you.
 

cord32

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If I'm Kst i'm also concerned this was an Ark St team down 8 starters supposedly for Covid...
 
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jacoblangston1

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Iowa State: I think they’ll still be good. They historically start slow. I think they’ll run the back half of their schedule. The Louisiana game felt a little like a fluke to me. I watched the game, and it felt like it was headed to an ugly 17-14 win for Iowa State. The 2 special team scores were massive. I think Iowa states defense will be very good and their offense will steadily improve. I’m think 4th in the big 12 finish for this team.

KState: glass half full here too. Obviously the game could have gone either way. Injuries were poor luck and this is another team typically stronger in the latter part of the season. I think they’ll be a tough out for Texas in the last game of the year. They’ll still finish middle of the pack in the Big 12 IMO.

Kansas: awful.

Texas Tech: This was the most alarming result to me. It makes me think they’ll be worse than expected. Houston Baptist putting up those numbers has to be concerning if you’re a red raider fan. We will know a bunch more after they’re game be Texas. A blow out loss and red flags will be flying everywhere. I think they keep it somewhat respectable, in the neighborhood of 40-27
 

btown1110

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Iowa State: I think they’ll still be good. They historically start slow. I think they’ll run the back half of their schedule. The Louisiana game felt a little like a fluke to me. I watched the game, and it felt like it was headed to an ugly 17-14 win for Iowa State. The 2 special team scores were massive. I think Iowa states defense will be very good and their offense will steadily improve. I’m think 4th in the big 12 finish for this team.

KState: glass half full here too. Obviously the game could have gone either way. Injuries were poor luck and this is another team typically stronger in the latter part of the season. I think they’ll be a tough out for Texas in the last game of the year. They’ll still finish middle of the pack in the Big 12 IMO.

Kansas: awful.

Texas Tech: This was the most alarming result to me. It makes me think they’ll be worse than expected. Houston Baptist putting up those numbers has to be concerning if you’re a red raider fan. We will know a bunch more after they’re game be Texas. A blow out loss and red flags will be flying everywhere. I think they keep it somewhat respectable, in the neighborhood of 40-27
Think this is right but I think KU will get a little better as the year goes on, might still be winless though.

On Tech, first game caveat applies I guess since HBU opened a week earlier vs. UNT but UNT ran for like 7 ypc and passed for 10.6 ypa with lots of long runs and passes throughout the game. Tech mustered 4.5 ypc and 8.3 ypa with their longest rush only being 15 yards. HBU is not particularly well equipped to handle a Big 12 offense yet they were still playing the pass and Tech couldn't run the ball particularly well. Probably won't be any easier vs. Texas. Maybe I'm extrapolating too much but the Tech offense didn't look as explosive as it has in the past and that could be a big problem for them if they don't improve the efficiency of the passing game.
 

jacoblangston1

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Think this is right but I think KU will get a little better as the year goes on, might still be winless though.

On Tech, first game caveat applies I guess since HBU opened a week earlier vs. UNT but UNT ran for like 7 ypc and passed for 10.6 ypa with lots of long runs and passes throughout the game. Tech mustered 4.5 ypc and 8.3 ypa with their longest rush only being 15 yards. HBU is not particularly well equipped to handle a Big 12 offense yet they were still playing the pass and Tech couldn't run the ball particularly well. Probably won't be any easier vs. Texas. Maybe I'm extrapolating too much but the Tech offense didn't look as explosive as it has in the past and that could be a big problem for them if they don't improve the efficiency of the passing game.
Could be true, and if so Tech is in for a really rough season. Lack of explosiveness on offense plus a bad defense would lead to a 2-8 type year. But like I said I think we learn A LOT about Tech and Texas in 10 days. I hope Texas wins by 20+

Kansas is bad. But they’d probably beat UTEP by 30. So yeah they’ll give some teams some fits but probably finish 0-10 to 2-8
 

Scipio Tex

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Good stuff.

Some quick thoughts:

OU-Missouri State

Spencer Rattler made some opponent agnostic throws that were very impressive. He's legit. I saw that OU had 4 sacks and 11 tfl allowed. Any game context for that?

Missouri State went 1-10 last year. Pretty sure they're the worst opponent any Big 12 team faced by a decent margin.

KSU-Arkansas State

Arkansas State was down nine starters due to COVID. Happened late in the week.

Their WR Adams played with a slight MCL tear. LOL. He's awesome. I'd kill to have him on our team.

Deuce is fun, but the rest of the KSU RBs stink and Vaughn can't carry the running load.

I predicted KSU was going to have to throw it more this year and that's how it's going to go.

ISU-Louisiana

Thought the Cajun secondary physically dominated the Cyclone receivers. No Kolar, but if you can't win outside 1 on 1, it's going to be tough.

ISU allowing two return game TDs doesn't look great for team speed or prep.

Agree that ISU's D looked good.
 

Ian Boyd

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I saw that OU had 4 sacks and 11 tfl allowed. Any game context for that?
I didn’t see much of it, coverage sack or two on tha Rattla.

The meaningful ones seemed to be some combination of Rattler holding the ball too long (good sign for the RRS) or their tackles making errors. They had last years starters switched, no Anton Harrison cause covid or some such.
Thought the Cajun secondary physically dominated the Cyclone receivers. No Kolar, but if you can't win outside 1 on 1, it's going to be tough.
On rewatch it was less clear to me that it was physical domination. I wonder if maybe they just got caught unprepared for good man coverage. They also had Hutch open for big plays and missed for reasons that looked like timing problems.

But this was my big question for them going in, so it’s definitely a major concern.