Who won Week 5 in the Big 12?

Ian Boyd

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What a terrible week for Texas-based Big 12 teams in the Big 12, huh?

The Baylor Bears spent the week in quarantine after a significant chunk of their team tested positive after the road trip to West Virginia. Interestingly enough, their next game with Oklahoma State has now been delayed until the Big 12 Championship with timing of the reschedule depending on it's importance to the standings. Once the Bears are through this they should be in good shape for the rest of the season, the timing of the outbreak and how it occurred is interesting and will likely get more attention in the coming weeks.

The other Texas teams (in the Big 12) all took horrible losses that cemented their seasons as being effectively ruined. Texas Tech is now 0-3 in conference play, TCU is 1-2, and Texas is 1-2. We're also a miraculous Sam Ehlinger fourth quarter and fantastic onside kick by Texas away from the Longhorns being 0-3 and Texas Tech 1-2, for whatever it's worth. I'd evaluate the value at about $20 million.

The Midwest teams that aren't Kansas continue to roll though and their old Big 8 compadre Oklahoma may have just turned their season around with the hard-fought Red River Shootout win over Sam Ehlinger.

Mea culpa

There's a few areas where I've misfired in the last few years that I'll acknowledge here.

Let's start with the preseason space force rankings. I knew two things when I made those, first that I was absolutely detailing a crucial element which would dictate big game matchups this season. Secondly, my prognostications on which space force units would be strongest would unquestionably be wrong to some degree.

I'd say my biggest miss was the wide receiver rankings. In review, my order is unlikely to prove particularly good for many of the 10 teams. The most important miss was Texas, who has been absolutely dreadful at wide receiver this season. Brennan Eagles seems to have regressed, if anything, or at the very least he has not grown beyond what he was in 2019 which is a big, fast, strong receiver that looks like Hercules until someone gets up on him and tries to throw off his route. At that point his physical gifts tend to disappear. None of the other Texas wideouts are much better on the outside, they have a number of guys with legitimate athleticism and speed who are dangerous in the slot and when schemed open but not against a good athlete outside 1-on-1.

The outside is the quintessential space force battle. The ultimate mano a mano out in space. Texas is truly terrible there.

Naturally their offensive gameplan against the Oklahoma Sooners in the biggest game of the season was to make the game come down to the play of their outside receivers on play-action against tight man coverage from the grabby OU secondary. Of course it went terribly for Texas. We'll talk more on it in a moment.

Let's talk about one other thing, the "Raid bros vs Bash bros" column. The conceit of the column was the Big 12 was seeing increasing numbers of teams embrace strategies that could turn the league away from it's wild, wild west shootout nature and bring some law and order. This would happen via teams utilizing situational run game success, physical cultures, and an emphasis on defense against Air Raid teams were vulnerable to losing situational football moments where physicality and precision is king.

The following offseason after writing that column I did the better part of my work writing "Flyover Football." Over the course of studying and thinking through the league's history with offenses it became clear to me that the Raid bro vs Bash bro conceptualization was wrong. Physicality and defense wouldn't bring order to the west, only shootouts by teams with even bigger guns.

Most all of the "bash bro" teams have already worked this out for themselves, Texas is really the sole exception. In the postgame press conference, Tom Herman uttered the following line:

“Maybe we turn into one of those teams that tries to win games 65-55,” Herman said. “That’s not what I envision, and I don’t think that’s what anybody envisions around here. We’ve got to find a way to be able to at a normal tempo sustain drives and stay ahead of the chains. We haven’t done that here in the last couple of weeks.”

Yikes. Go read some real history, Herman. The Texas Rangers didn't conquer the state and beat the bow and arrow and horse with well formed infantry, but by also saddling up and arming themselves with the colt revolver. This league won't play by your rules, you bought into a myth about your own rise.


The triumph of Klieman-ball

Kansas State as an 8.5 point underdog heading into Fort Worth struck me as fairly ridiculous, even though I knew that meant Skylar Thompson was probably out. What makes Thompson a great quarterback for the Wildcats isn't his finely developed skill but his ability to take care of the football, execute the opportunities they scheme, and be a +1 runner in key moments on third downs and the red zone. I presumed a carefully deployed freshman could match some of those attributes and I was never buying the Horned Frog offense lighting up K-State's defense.

Sure enough, the Wildcats pulled off the upset 21-14 and it wasn't even that close. Here were the key scoring moments that determined the game:

Moment 1:


Shoe's on the other foot now, Coach Patterson. I don't understand why Big 12 teams keep doing things like this, bringing a 5-man pressure against an empty formation when the three biggest threats from this opponent in that scenario are 1) quick pass to Deuce Vaughn, 2) quick pass to tight end Briley Moore, and 3) quarterback draw/scramble. K-State leveraged all three of those threats on this play and the best TCU could muster up to counter was a deep safety tasked with closing into the box and making a stop in a ton of space.

That went for 80-yards, or about 28% of Kansas State's offensive yardage on the day, and they kicked a field goal.

Moment 2 was a 53-yard field goal by Wildcat kicker Blake Lynch. How long has he been there again?

Moment 3 was another offensive sequence that I GIF'd in a brief Twitter thread.


You can scroll through them there and see how K-State managed that second touchdown drive by utilizing throws to running back and tight end and runs with the quarterback. Overall it was six plays for 91 yards, add that drive to the 80-yard run above and you have 59% of the Wildcat's offensive yardage in this game.

Moment 4 was the blocked field goal that came on the TCU possession after the second Wildcat touchdown. Of all the seasons to be great on special teams, 2020 is arguably the best, because many teams have been terribly sloppy. Kansas Stat has been fantastic on special teams which is worth a lot of points every week this season.

Moment 5 came here:


This would be a pick-6 and the final points for the Wildcats in their victory. Here's the coverage K-State is playing.

K-State poaches TCU.jpg

Contrast this with the TCU coverage I discussed last week and other Big 12 offenses have been hunting out to destroy. The Frogs think the backside safety will stay there, the free safety here will have to pick up that post by H, and then the Y receiver will be isolated against the nickel. Oklahoma picked up some key third downs last year against TCU by having CeeDee Lamb run stop routes at the nickel in TCU's favorite trips coverage. But K-State is not in "special' coverage, the nickel has help over the top so he becomes an underneath defender and then he (A.J. Parker) gets under the curl/stop route by Matthew Downing and picks it before taking it to the house.

Chris Klieman is doing a phenomenal job in Manhattan and he's adapting well to the landscape of the Big 12. This team really looks an awful lot like an updated version of the Bill Snyder squads with fresh recruiting energy.

The catastrophe of Herman-ball

Oklahoma's defense is somewhat similar to Gary Patterson's. It's calibrated to stop offenses trying to build their offenses around smashmouth spread strategies with a tight end/fullback in the box helping to lure in defenders in order to open space to throw the ball outside to one of three receivers. The Sooners bring run stunts and movement up front to wreck the run game designs, they play a coverage oriented nickel safety in order to bring disguises to their back end and keep guys in position to take away slot verticals, they play man outside and make you beat them the hard way, and then they dial up pressure on third down with a bear/46 front.

What kills them is more or less the same thing you can see crushing TCU up above. Their pattern-matching and man coverage designs prioritize covering receivers and the slot with great athletes, up front they prioritize run defense and pass-rush. So what happens if you can make their linebackers cover really athletic targets in the passing game? Things can get better, even if it's just a ruse:


Texas is in Y-iso here with the tight end flexed solo side. You might laugh at the notion of using Cade Brewer as a solo-side isolated receiver, but Texas doesn't really have anyone that could scare Oklahoma from that alignment so it might as well be a tight end or a running back to make them waste a defensive back. It's a stick-draw RPO anyways and now Brewer is in good position to block a defensive back on behalf of Ehlinger.

The Longhorns forced all those overtimes because Sam Ehlinger had 23 carries for 112 yards and four touchdowns while including sack yardage. On the Longhorns' final four possessions (last two in regulation, first two in overtime), Ehlinger had seven carries for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Most of it was on scrambles, much like his 2017 freshman game against Oklahoma. In the third overtime, Alex Grinch finally passed on the easy candy of matching up top pass-rushers on right tackle Christian Jones and started rushing fewer while spying Ehlinger and covering everyone.

Somehow Mike Stoops never figured that one out, but Alex Grinch did and took away Tom Herman's only answer for weak offense. Game over, Sooners.

What might have happened had Herman embraced tempo and 4/5 receiver sets the entire game? I think the 20-carry, 100-yard day by Ehlinger would have been consistent but some of the other numbers would have changed.

Who won week 5 in the Big 12?

I think Oklahoma might be the biggest winner. The Sooners are only 1-2 in Big 12 play now, but that was a big and important win that could set them on a good trajectory for the rest of the season. They worked out their run game, aided of course by some clueless run fits from Texas' linebackers, and were able to impose their will and set up Spencer Rattler to calm down after a benching and pull out a victory by doing what he does best. Making laser throws to simple reads set up by the talent of his target (Austin Stogner), the run game (play-action), and his play-caller (Lincoln Riley).

A 2020 Oklahoma team that can run the football and create opportunities for Rattler to throw dimes on simple reads that have been set up by play-action and Riley's schemes is still probably your favorite. They're going to have to battle to make the Big 12 championship game but who are you picking to beat them in a winner takes all playoff match?

Bedlam now looms as the biggest game of the season as it could be a play-in game with Farmageddon (Iowa State vs Kansas State) serving as the semi-final on the other side of the bracket.
 

sherf1

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You can just feel Tom looking at his roster and breaking down film. Seeing his TEs provide nothing. Seeing his X receiver got pushed out of bounds on every fade route. Seeing his RT get destroyed in pass protection. Seeing his QB excel in short timing throws but struggle on deep balls where receviers are never at the right spot.

And then just say, **** it, we're gonna do it my way and they just need to execute better.

So, so, massively underwhelming.
 

Ian Boyd

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You can just feel Tom looking at his roster and breaking down film. Seeing his TEs provide nothing. Seeing his X receiver got pushed out of bounds on every fade route. Seeing his RT get destroyed in pass protection. Seeing his QB excel in short timing throws but struggle on deep balls where receviers are never at the right spot.

And then just say, **** it, we're gonna do it my way and they just need to execute better.

So, so, massively underwhelming.
As the failures of multiple hires under Herman has demonstrated, I don't think he knows what good looks like in practice. His ability to oversee quality control from his assistants is lacking.
 
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sherf1

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As the failures of multiple hires under Herman has demonstrated, I don't think he knows what good looks like in practice. His ability to oversee quality control from his assistants is lacking.
What's nuts though is we got a lot of practice reports that sounded a lot like Saturday afternoon.

DL dominated, couldn't run the ball. Sam was frustrated, defense covered the deep ball well. Only guy who gave them trouble was Troy O.

And he just assumed that meant the offense was fine and the defense super duper good instead of the defense fine and the offense pretty sh*te.
 
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clayinva

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Herman seems to be the reverse Bear Bryant who could lose to your'n with his'n and turn around and lose to his'n with your'n. At least the next coach will have a nice locker room.

The round robin between OSU, ISU, and K-State down the stretch is going to be fascinating as the league sorts itself out and injured players return. I don't even know who has the edge at this point, and the schedule makers inadvertently got something exactly right with each having one home and one road game in those match ups.
 

rodofdisaster

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You can just feel Tom looking at his roster and breaking down film. Seeing his TEs provide nothing. Seeing his X receiver got pushed out of bounds on every fade route. Seeing his RT get destroyed in pass protection. Seeing his QB excel in short timing throws but struggle on deep balls where receviers are never at the right spot.

And then just say, **** it, we're gonna do it my way and they just need to execute better.

So, so, massively underwhelming.
Sherf...it's especially maddening that this ISN'T rocket science. It's a stubborn refusal to shape your plan around your talent and to hold guys accountable. I am pretty sure that my wife -- who knows very little about football -- can look at Brennan Eagles route running and ask why he's letting himself get pushed out of bounds. The fact that the wide receiver position can be effectively taught everywhere except at the University of Texas is upsetting. Garrett Wilson can't be blamed for choosing OSU. We've done nothing to convince potential wide receiver recruits that we will maximize their talent. The tight end and right tackle pieces are just fraudulent. You preach meritocracy yet you won't put Jones on the bench.

As the failures of multiple hires under Herman has demonstrated, I don't think he knows what good looks like in practice. His ability to oversee quality control from his assistants is lacking.
Funny how position coaches have become ineffective under him. I refuse to believe that Coleman can't coach wide receivers effectively and yet, here we are. My guess is that Herman has a massive mountain of confirmation bias when he watches practice -- he sees what he wants to see.
 

mattwson

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You'd take OU in a rematch with KSU? It sounds like they haven't changed anything about their defense that allowed KSU and ISU to move the ball so effectively. Are you pinning your confidence in OU solely on the improvement of their offense?
 

Ian Boyd

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K-State won the battle (Week 5) but may have lost the war (2020 Big 12 title hopes).

Not great, although Will Howard is fine.
You'd take OU in a rematch with KSU? It sounds like they haven't changed anything about their defense that allowed KSU and ISU to move the ball so effectively. Are you pinning your confidence in OU solely on the improvement of their offense?
Read above. And I think OU will get stronger down the stretch because they're fairly young, are deeper than most, and they might add Ronnie Perkins back. Unless Rattler and Mims hit a wall (possible), they'll be better at the end of the year than now.

OU, ISU, OSU, and then K-State are probably your favorites in that order.
 
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Ian Boyd

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Have no clue but gonna guess Urban because irony
I mean, essentially yes.

Probably the first big breakthrough with it was when it propelled the Eagles past New England in the Super Bowl, came from Chip Kelly. Ryan Day brought it to Ohio State and Urban loved it so much it became a main thrust of their offense and he put Day in charge of the whole unit.
 

clayinva

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OU, ISU, OSU, and then K-State are probably your favorites in that order.
It is sort of interesting because OU has dug themselves a pretty decent hole with losses to two of the three on the list. Unless the wheels come off of everyone else, they'll have to be perfect the rest of the year, and I don't see perfection in that team. In particular I don't see much room for improvement on defense, and they are going to give up a lot of points. That's going to put a lot of stress on a young offense. I would say with the Thompson news that ISU and OSU are in the driver's seat.
 
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sherf1

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It is sort of interesting because OU has dug themselves a pretty decent hole with losses to two of the three on the list. Unless the wheels come off of everyone else, they'll have to be perfect the rest of the year, and I don't see perfection in that team. In particular I don't see much room for improvement on defense, and they are going to give up a lot of points. That's going to put a lot of stress on a young offense. I would say with the Thompson news that ISU and OSU are in the driver's seat.
Yeah ISU is basically 3 games ahead of OU with the tiebreaker.

OSU OU should be fun assuming Herman hasn't sucked all the joy of college football out of me by then.

Would say ISU is the favorite for me but they also have a bit of a self destructive streak every now and again.
 
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Ian Boyd

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You'd take OU in a rematch with KSU? It sounds like they haven't changed anything about their defense that allowed KSU and ISU to move the ball so effectively. Are you pinning your confidence in OU solely on the improvement of their offense?
Yes. That's generally all they need.
 

clayinva

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Whistling past the graveyard in Lubbock.
Clearly it's the QB who led them to 50+ points vs UT who is the problem and not the defense that was basically what the entire spread offense movement of the last decade and a half was designed to exploit.
 

system poster

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Wells said as much when he was asked who would be starting at quarterback. Basically that Bowman had been fine, Colombi has been a little better, but the bigger problem was the defense.

My take is that the coaches (and the fanbase) are putting way too much on a couple of drives in garbage time late against ISU. He can move a little better than Bowman, but even still, I have a hard time imagining how a guy who wasn't good enough to win the starting job at Utah State is going to give us a big boost.
 

Ian Boyd

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Wells said as much when he was asked who would be starting at quarterback. Basically that Bowman had been fine, Colombi has been a little better, but the bigger problem was the defense.

My take is that the coaches (and the fanbase) are putting way too much on a couple of drives in garbage time late against ISU. He can move a little better than Bowman, but even still, I have a hard time imagining how a guy who wasn't good enough to win the starting job at Utah State is going to give us a big boost.
I imagine the worst of it is that Wells will surely get another year or two even though it's already clear he's in over his head.