Who won week 2 in the Big 12?

Ian Boyd

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The first week of Big 12 action was largely considered a big flop for the league. The old Big 12 North going 0-3 against the Sun Belt was a stain on the conference's national standing and in a week with fewer big games, it got a good deal more attention than normal.

Week 2 was arguably worse.

First we were robbed of the surprise gift of Houston vs Baylor by ridiculous contact tracing quarantine rules. Baylor was unable to dress seven offensive linemen because they'd been in contact with someone that had a positive test. How many of them also tested positive? Unclear, but at least one is reported to have tested negative for COVID infection five different times. These contact tracing rules need to be loosened up.

The loss of this game was a major negative for fans, for the Houston Cougars who are still waiting to play a season opener, and also for the Baylor Bears who are waiting to do likewise.

It's a common expression in college football to note the greatest improvement for a team takes place between weeks one and two. Well, Baylor and TCU are now set to enter the Big 12 conference season without the opportunity to make that leap, which is going to work against them. The Frogs have to open with Iowa State, who's had two weeks to recoup and correct issues that manifested against ULL. Baylor will now open against Kansas, unless these restrictions strike them down again, which isn't the shoo in everyone is suggesting. You don't want to open your season against a conference opponent when you

A) haven't played a game yet.
B) Your opponent has.
C) Your ability to practice has been heavily curtailed leading up to the game.

The one Big 12 game we did get was the high noon Tulsa showdown between the Golden Hurricane and Oklahoma State. The Cowboys had a disastrous performance, losing their quarterback and right guard to injury during the game and barely eking out a 16-7 victory. The goal for Oklahoma State was going to be to overwhelm teams with the athleticism of Spencer Sanders, Chuba Hubbard, and Tylan Wallace while they worked out all of the turnover and youth along the offensive line. Instead the latter sunk them, leading to Sanders taking early hits and his first replacement Ethan Bullock taking four sacks (Sanders took two) before being mercifully pulled for freshman Shane Illingworth.

So the Big 12 lost one big, fun game and then had most everyone's favorite non-Oklahoma/Texas Big 12 contender lay a massive egg. Here's hoping week 3 proves to be much better.

ContrarIan says the glass is half full

The interesting development to watch in the Oklahoma State game was the configuration of their offensive line over the course of the game. It was obvious from the beginning the 'Pokes would likely score plenty of points should they simply manage to avoid negative plays. The essential caveat to the "space force" perspective of analyzing football matchups is the need for a team to reach a certain baseline with the non-space force units.

If you can't limit penetration and pressure across the offensive line, it won't matter how superior your receivers are on the perimeter. If your quarterback can't figure out where the ball should go and where the space force matchups exist for the offense, then it doesn't matter if you have Randy Moss or Rob Gronkowski out there to throw to.

On the offensive line the most important thing in pass protection, and also in run blocking although to a lesser extent, is avoiding having weak spots across the line. Early in this game Oklahoma State had major issues where their weighted left side of Teven Jenkins and Josh Sills would win the edge but they'd be thwarted by failures on the right side of the line. Here was the initial starting lineup for Oklahoma State:

Left tackle: 73 Teven Jenkins: 6-6, 321. RS senior. 3*** from KS. 30 career starts
Left guard: 72 Josh Sills: 6-6, 338. RS junior. 3*** from OH/WVU transfer. 22 career starts
Center: 50 Ry Schneider: 6-3, 327. RS junior. Walk-on from OK. 6 career starts
Right guard: 67 Cole Birmingham: 6-8, 308. RS freshman. 3-star from HOU. 0 career starts
Right tackle: 77 Hunter Anthony: 6-6, 328. RS sophomore. 3-star from OK. 4 career starts


Now's a good time to remind that all three of the players Oklahoma State lost late in the offseason would have started over names you see on this list. Including left tackle Dylan Galloway, guard/tackle Bryce Bray, and guard Jacob Farrell. The first two on that list would have been starters, probably at LT and RG respectively, and then Farrell would have been the first off the bench to play inside.

Another reminder, Oklahoma State had that terrible offensive line recruiting season in 2017 in which they signed only one offensive lineman, JUCO Arlington Hambright who was not good and has already completed his eligibility. Mike Gundy fired Geno Adkins after that debacle and hired Josh Henson, who immediately sought to restock the cupboard. He had some success doing so, but the prized signees of the first class he signed that are only now third year players included Bray, Farrell, and then Hunter Anthony and Hunter Woodard who both played in this game but didn't finish.

Cole Birmingham looked decent early only to be injured and removed from the game, leaving the Cowboys to pair the Hunters, Anthony and Woodard, on the right side. The Hunters quickly became the hunted.

Realizing that "run left, run left, okay Ethan make a throw here!" wasn't going to generate much offense, offensive line coach Charlie Dickey (Henson bailed for a big paycheck from Texas A&M) settled on a different lineup for the second half.

Left tackle: 61 Jake Springfield: 6-5, 310. RS freshman. Walk-on from DFW. 0 career starts
Left guard: 72 Josh Sills: 6-6, 338. RS junior. 3*** from OH/WVU transfer. 22 career starts
Center: 50 Ry Schneider: 6-3, 327. RS junior. Walk-on from OK. 6 career starts
Right guard: 70 Hunter Woodard: 6-5, 295. RS sophomore. 3*** from IL. 0 career starts
Right tackle: 73 Teven Jenkins: 6-6, 321. RS senior. 3*** from KS. 30 career starts


This is close to what I thought Oklahoma State might do before the Bray news dropped. If you have a big, imposing right side to run behind with Teven Jenkins you could always play the best pass protection option at left tackle and trust Josh Sills to help him out while sliding protection in that direction. I didn't think it'd be a walk on who ended up in that role and had never heard of Jake Springfield until late in the offseason when his name kept coming up as part of the Cowboys' plans.

Springfield is listed at 6-5, 310, as you can see above. As a senior at Flower Mound he was listed at 6-4, 260. Two years later I doubt he's taller and I don't think he's THAT much heavier either. He's actually fairly light on his feet and was in high school as well, he just doesn't have much weight or power to absorb a pass-rush or drive a defender. His arms aren't terribly thick and I suspect his frame simply doesn't pack on a ton of muscle that easily, which is probably why he was a walk-on in the first place.

All that said, it was a win for the Cowboys to manage to work out a lineup and keep Illingworth clean enough to complete the two throws to Tylan Wallace which secured a victory. Survive and advance. This is why playing a game before the conference season is so valuable, now the Cowboys have a clear idea of what is and isn't working for their line and how to best shore up this unit and and supplement it for the rest of the season.

Can they win the Big 12 with Springfield-Sills-Schneider-Woodard-Jenkins? No. But they might be able to hang in there until they get better, or at the very least not have a losing season that completely squanders their skill talent. It'll be interesting to see if they think Springfield can be trusted on the right side with Woodard or Birmingham so they could at least get back to running left behind Jenkins and Sills. I think they may also consider starting the other prize member of the 2018 reload class, center Tyrese Williams. Schneider probably can't be benched as early as they'd like because of all the inexperience across the line, but the sooner they upgrade the talent there the better.

ContrarIan says the glass is half empty

The bigger win for Oklahoma State was clearly on defense, where they shut down Tulsa's offense and "NFL prospect" quarterback Zach Smith.

The Cowboys mixed their normal sky quarters schemes with a good deal of cover 3, the latter of which didn't leave Phil Montgomery's poorly adapted Art Briles scheme many good answers. The Golden Hurricane did catch them a few times though, including on their touchdown drive before the half:



Oklahoma State's cornerbacks were pretty strong in this game, staying over the top of receivers most of the time, and their safeties are all quite good playing between the hash marks and picking up receivers. However, the combo of Tre Sterling, Tanner McAlister, and Kolby Harvell-Peel are all guys that are more limited either in the deep middle or trying to carry slots vertically outside of the hash marks. The safety help over the middle won't be manned by the best athletes and none of these guys are going to thrive carrying a deep threat AWAY from the safety to the sideline without help.

But defense isn't a massive concern for Oklahoma State right now, the biggest concern is offense and this one early hiccup on the schedule. Initially it appeared that Oklahoma State hit the jackpot by avoiding Iowa State, Oklahoma, and Texas until later in the season after they'd have time to patch up their offensive line. That's still true, but now there has to be concern over their conference opener next week against West Virginia.

If I could rank order the concerns for this game....

1) How is Spencer Sanders "lower body injury" going to be after a single week of treatment? If he can move around at all he's the better bet over Illingworth (or Bullock, obviously) because he presumably has greater institutional knowledge of the offense and a strong arm who can hit throws outside of the hash marks they badly need in order to move the point of attack away from their offensive line and into space. Can he set his feet and throw the ball? How sensitive is the injury (ankle?) to being aggravated if he ends up scrambling around a lot? Because he will...

2) The West Virginia pass-rush. We talked about it last week. VanDarius Cowan is looking very strong coming off the edge and the Stills bros are going to be a nightmare for an interior offensive line of Sills-Schneider-Woodard.

If I'm the WVU DC I'm keeping Dante and Cowan together and hunting Woodard on standard downs and Springfield on passing downs.

3) Matching up on West Virginia's inside receivers down the field. Neal Brown already loves vertical routes from the slot and he'll be hunting Tanner McAlister and Kolby Harvell-Peel on slot fades, flag routes, wheels, and whatever else he can come up with early and often in this game. The gameplan is obvious, attack Oklahoma State early and try to goad them into speeding up and trying to match you in the passing game. Then blitz and stunt at their weakest members on the offensive line.

If Oklahoma State can work out a way to win against West Virginia, consider the season saved and the Cowboys in good shape to work out a way to piece together a winning O-line by late October when they have to start playing the heavyweights. If they drop this one though, it's going to be hard to avoid dropping too many games over the course of the season to be competitive in the standings come November.

Who won week 2 in the Big 12?

You could argue West Virginia here. They had a nice start to the season and now have a chance to steal what once looked like a tough one on the road in Stillwater. We'll have to wait and see what they make of the Cowboys after the post week 1 regroup though before we get too excited about the Mountaineers.

The biggest winner is still Oklahoma and Texas. The Red River is parting for the Shootout to be largely a probing and exploratory matchup with the real battle coming in Jerry World on December 12th (or 19th).

Here's the big challenge everyone in the Big 12 is having. It's a passing oriented league, even if RPOs and play-action are a major component, and everything hinges on a cohesive offensive line and good rhythm and timing between the quarterback and the receivers. These are all things that come with time and concentrated reps in the offseason.

The Big 12 has lacked those reps due to the lockdowns, cancellation of spring practices, and then COVID cases and contact tracing quarantines in fall camp. It's hard to turn a group of underclassmen into a unit that can reliably pick up blitzes without reps with everyone on the field together. It takes time to make sure that even simpler exercises like the quarterback throwing to a spot on the field for the receiver (much less mastering dropback progressions) are nailed down with typical Big 12 precision.

Without the ability to fend off strong pass-rushers and land haymakers in the passing game, much of the league is vulnerable to a good G5 team and a veritable sitting duck for Oklahoma or Texas. It'll get better for everyone as they work out kinks over the course of the season, watch for Iowa State and Kansas State to be more crisp in the passing game this coming week, but it's all lining up for Texas and Oklahoma to be able to really lean on opponents this season.
 

travisroeder

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I honestly think the Big12 should adjust its COVID policy. Losing 10+ players a week because they trace to someone who tested positive is a bit overkill. If someone tests negative they should be able to play on Saturday.

I would need to look into it further, but I think I agree. My understanding is that the CDC contract tracing guidelines are important for the general public to follow because the general public isn't being tested 3x per week. But for guys who are being tested as frequently as CFB players are, and who have multiple negative tests within their tracing period, it would seem prudent to revise this policy.
 

btown1110

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I thought Rodarious Williams looked like a decent G5 corner honestly. If Smith could process faster than Internet Explorer (h/t @stilesbbq), his guys were pretty regularly getting separation downfield and Williams was often a step behind his guy. When he was able to play zone and keep stuff in front, he looked good but man, not so much.

Seems like there's real potential for OSU to be able to handle offenses that aren't super explosive or have mediocre QBs, but get torched by much of the league. Had Shamari Brooks not tore his ACL earlier in the week, I think Tulsa would've pulled it off even though they're probably a 4 win team.
 
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Ian Boyd

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I thought Rodarious Williams looked like a decent G5 corner honestly. If Smith could process faster than Internet Explorer (h/t @stilesbbq), his guys were pretty regularly getting separation downfield and Williams was often a step behind his guy. When he was able to play zone and keep stuff in front, he looked good but man, not so much.

Seems like there's real potential for OSU to be able to handle offenses that aren't super explosive or have mediocre QBs, but get torched by much of the leage.
Yup.
 
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travisroeder

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Baylor AD all but confirms that they were below the 7 OL threshold. Says they had discretion for whether to play even though below the threshold, but chose not to.
 

Ian Boyd

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Baylor AD all but confirms that they were below the 7 OL threshold. Says they had discretion for whether to play even though below the threshold, but chose not to.
Not trying to take a beating against Houston, haha.

The rule is ridiculous and not designed for people who are almost bubbled and are tested regularly.
 

Justin Wells

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Baylor AD all but confirms that they were below the 7 OL threshold. Says they had discretion for whether to play even though below the threshold, but chose not to.
Then the mayor of Waco confirmed it today.

2020.