Who won Week 6 in the Big 12?

Ian Boyd

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Not a lot of Big 12 football last weekend. We got Kansas at West Virginia, which I only tuned into periodically while doing some fall cleaning. In Michigan you have periods of fall cleaning, particularly for your garage, so you can make space and organization to hunker down in during the winter and keep your cars out of the snow. Anyways, I watched some of the KU-WVU game on my phone and took in numerous snaps of Leddie Brown (West Virginia running back) running folks over and Miles Kendrick (default Kansas quarterback) making some strange decisions.

I still think the Jayhawks have a shot at avoiding the Big 12 cellar this season, the roster is simply better than it’s been in the past and Texas Tech is a mess, but they are next to useless with Kendrick at the helm.

West Virginia had a nice game and while they are merely a respectable 2-1 with wins over some of the league’s weaker teams, there’s a number of interesting facets to their squad this season and moving into the future. I maintain Neal Brown is one of the more underrated coaches in the league, wherever he is in your own rankings make some room for him. Perhaps just bump Tom Herman down from where you have him, or Les Miles and Matt Wells.

The current shape of the Mountaineers

Leddie Brown had 18 carries for 195 yards at 10.8 ypc and a touchdown then also added five catches for 36 yards and another touchdown (mesh LINK). That’s a pretty dominant performance for a running back, especially a guy like Brown who brings change of direction and power (5-11, 212) moreso than home run explosiveness. Even his 87-yard touchdown run was a result of KU loading the box against 12 personnel on third-and-one and not his capacity for running by people. He was “by” everyone after hitting the hole.

Take the long touchdown run out and you have a workmanlike 17 carries for 111 yards at 6.5 ypc, which is a better picture of what he offered in his game and what he generally brings to the table. What’s interesting about his game is what it reveals about the current shape of the West Virginia offense. Namely, they are a pretty physical and consistently sound rushing attack. It’s hard to pick up regular chain-moving gains with a back like this unless you’re blocking people up front.

Now, let me introduce you to the starting Mountaineer offensive line and ancillary for this contest:

West Virginia 2020 OL.jpg

Pretty young left side, including a true freshman in Zach Frazier at left guard who was playing West Virginia high school ball last season. Obviously Kansas is a winless football team, but it’s a good sign when your line allows a big, chain-moving back to pick up gains like Brown did against league competition. Then they have their enforcer from Chicago (O’Laughlin) who was doing good work as well blocking ends on tight/split zone.

They won’t be a Big 12 championship team until they’re really punishing opponents down the field in the passing game but there’s a lot coming together for this squad. Their base defensive call of bracketing the boundary and playing more man coverage to the field is a fantastic approach I’ve praised in the past and Tony Fields II has upgraded their play at inside linebacker.

Who lost Week 6 in the Big 12?

No one else even played, right? Wrong. Tom Herman played a game in the media against Athletic Director Chris Del Conte and he lost it in spectacular fashion.

It’s been a bad season for Herman. Heading into the Red River Shootout there was one set of expectations on how Texas might maximize a down year from Oklahoma, both in general terms and specific, and then there was what actually happened. Despite having to bench their own quarterback for a spell, Oklahoma controlled Texas down the stretch before mismanaging the clock late and allowing Sam Ehlinger to force overtime (and then two more) with two-minute offense.

After that display by the senior quarterback, who accounted for 399 of Texas’ 428 yards and all six touchdowns, came “the photo.” A shot of a solitary Sam Ehlinger standing alone without teammates for the singing of “the eyes of Texas” with the fans. It would later come out the rest of the team was largely oblivious to this and Ehlinger had remained on the field in part to do some interviews. But the photo was iconic and put an image to something everyone had seen and felt about Texas football under Tom Herman. Namely, that there was no attempt by the head coach to stand for the school’s traditions and reputation in addition to there being a failure to uphold the expectations for the program.

Also it gave a visceral image to the notion Sam Ehlinger is the only guy around who can stand up under the “eyes of Texas” without wilting.

Sensing from within his shell that the political climate around Texas was going to start pounding him like a hammer, Herman demurred around the eyes of Texas and a Herman-friendly outlet reported Chris Del Conte hadn’t been clear on the expectations for the team. CDC then quickly released a statement saying he had been clear and he expected the players to be on the field at the end of games for the singing of the song as a nod of respect to the fans, then he held a meeting with Herman and the players where he made those expectations clear.

Now Herman is having to backtrack some of his comments about player expectations during the singing of “the eyes of Texas” while also figuring out how to win as many games as possible in what’s probably a vain attempt to save his job. If Texas players aren’t on the field for the eyes of Texas after Baylor, it’ll be ugly, especially if they find a way to lose. Not a good week for Herman, he lost bigger than Kansas did, that’s for certain.

Who won Week 6 in the Big 12?

I don’t think we can really award the victory to the Mountaineers. Sure, West Virginia fairly easily avoided what would have been disastrous home loss to Kansas and they remain (mathematically at least) in the Big 12 title hunt.

I think it’s time Big 12 defenses got their due and I suspect SEC defenses are starting to agree. Check this play out from Alabama vs Georgia on primetime Saturday night:


First of all, credit where it’s due, that’s a nasty play design by Steve Sarkisian and Alabama. They’re in a nub trips formation, which is going to get a limited number of responses from the Tide, and the trip receivers are into the boundary which even further reduces the number of likely attention from Bama. Even Nick Saban probably doesn’t spend a ton of time going over the call when facing such a formation.

Then they motion the X receiver (Devonta Smith) across the formation, so now the Bulldogs have to check into whatever the check is from the nub trips into the boundary. It clearly confuses their defensive backs and even confused me the first time I saw it.

Here’s how it played out:

Bama nub trips into B motion mills.jpg

I tried to illustrate the false steps and confusion between the boundary cornerback and nickel on who had who between the H and Z receivers. Their missteps on the switch vertical was a big problem for two reasons:
  1. The Z receiver is Jaylen Waddle. He’s fast.
  2. The coverage call is quarters and the strong safety is playing a vertical by the no. 2 receiver. So if the no. 1 receiver gets a step on the corner, there’s no help coming if no. 2 is also going deep.
The dig opens up and there’s no one backside to help pick it up since the backside is playing cover 2 over the tight end. The strong safety closes to deny the dig and Mac Jones launches to Jaylen Waddle who’s breaking inside on a post after blowing by a confused cornerback. Touchdown.

I don’t think I’ve seen this particular version of dig-post (or “mills”) in the Big 12 but there are a lot of variations on it, slot fades, and other lethal vertical routes. When teams go to great lengths to scheme up ways to 1-on-1 matchups for burners like Jaylen Waddle on go routes and posts, it’s just no fun for a defense. If those shots are attached to run/pass balance and conflicts, tempo, motion, spread spacing, everything can snowball into a terrible day.

Kirby Smart has been one of the more effective defensive coaches in the nation and Alabama rang his bell hard on Saturday. The week before, up-tempo Ole Miss blew up Alabama’s defense.

When teams go to lengths to gameplan matchups for their best players and hit you with those combinations at tempo, with motion, and/or with wonky formations then it’s easy for normally sound defenses to get caught and burned. Guess what, SEC? That’s every week in the Big 12.

 

pokeincognito

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In a way I'd say OSU kinda lost this week. As a fan, I would have preferred to return Sanders to action against a weak Baylor offense instead of a really solid Iowa State team.

And apparently Gundy is now saying both Illingworth and Spencer Sanders may play going forward. Maybe BS on Gundy's part but I could see it. Illingworth gives the offense a dimension that wasn't (and probably isn't) there with Sanders, and vice versa.

Then again, OSU/Gundy's track record in season openers and bowl games (extra prep time) might be a good thing here with two games off. So glad big 12 football is back on this weekend.
 

Ian Boyd

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In a way I'd say OSU kinda lost this week. As a fan, I would have preferred to return Sanders to action against a weak Baylor offense instead of a really solid Iowa State team.

And apparently Gundy is now saying both Illingworth and Spencer Sanders may play going forward. Maybe BS on Gundy's part but I could see it. Illingworth gives the offense a dimension that wasn't (and probably isn't) there with Sanders, and vice versa.

Then again, OSU/Gundy's track record in season openers and bowl games (extra prep time) might be a good thing here with two games off. So glad big 12 football is back on this weekend.
I bet Gundy is just trying to keep Iowa State guessing.
 
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patentjt

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Not that it will probably happen, but humor me @Ian Boyd, if Texas wins out, do u see Texas making it to the Big12 title game with 2 losses?
 

josephcook

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OSU may have won a little bit in getting clarity for Spencer/Shane. Can't wait to see how Gundy handles it.