Big 12 Dominates Opening Weekend
With one notable exception (and, of course, the very un-notable Colorado game), the Big 12 handled opening weekend with aplomb. The teams that were supposed to win, did, by huge margins. There were a few upsets as well. I loved what I saw from the Big 12 this weekend and expect the conference to continue to be among the top two in the country in terms of top-to-bottom competition
Just to get the exceptions out of the way up front, yes – Oklahoma lost to BYU and fell 10 spots in the new poll from 3 to 13. (As a side note – two voters changed their #1 vote from Florida to Alabama. What, Florida’s 62-3 drubbing of Charleston Southern wasn’t convincing enough? And Alabama’s sloppy win over Virginia Tech was that much more impressive than Texas’s dominance of Louisiana Monroe and USC’s dominance of San Jose State? This is why I hate early season polls).
Anyway, I fully expect Oklahoma to recover. They don’t need Sam Bradford to beat Idaho and Tulsa in the coming weeks, and he could be back by the time they play Miami. That’s the optimistic projection. Then there was Colorado’s loss to in-state rival Colorado State. While they always struggle in that game regardless of the respective talent of the two teams, my preseason dark-horse pick to win the Big 12 North is off to a very inauspicious start.
Now, to the victors…
The team that may have impressed and surprised me most this weekend was Missouri. The team that lost more players to the draft this year than any other Big 12 team catapulted itself into the top 25 with a completely lopsided victory at a neutral site against Illinois and constantly overrated Juice Williams. The Tigers overcame the loss of Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman and Jeremy Maclin, pasting the Illini 37-9. Homestate high school hero Blaine Gabbert played every bit like the star he’s expected to be, throwing 25-for-33 for 319 yards and three TDs and rushing three times for one more TD. Missouri was expected to have the greatest dropoff of any team in the country. Pundits may have to rethink that projection.
What seemed to impress the pollsters even more, however, was Oklahoma State’s 24-10 victory over rebuilding Georgia. While it’s a great confidence-building win for the Cowboys, I don’t think that winning at home against a team that just lost their starting QB and starting running back warrants a four-spot jump to #5. That aside, I like that they were able to overcome an early deficit with 17 unanswered points and that they were able to make the jump to keep two Big 12 teams in the top 5. They have an easy road ahead with Houston, Rice and Grambling State, all at home (how are they opening with four straight home games?) before going on the road to Texas A&M. They don’t have their next real challenge until Oct. 10 when Missouri comes to Stillwater. By the by, eight of OSU’s 12 games this season are at home, including all of their toughies (Georgia, Missouri and Texas), save their season closer at Oklahoma. No wonder people were expecting big things from them this season.
Speaking of growing expectations, Baylor and everyone’s favorite someday-Heisman Robert Griffin gained some credibility with a 24-21 road win over Wake Forest. Things got exciting at the end thanks to a late touchdown by Wake, but the Bears held on. They’ll need all the early wins they can get before they start what has to be the most grueling stretch in the Big 12 this season. Check out their scheduled starting Oct. 10 – at Oklahoma, at Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, at Missouri, and then Texas, before closing up at Texas A&M and then back home for Texas Tech. And this week is their off week, which means they get no breaks in between those games. Yikes.
Outside of those big three games, everyone else in the Big 12 won completely unremarkable games. Nebraska crushed Florida Atlantic, Texas A&M clobbered New Mexico, Texas dominated Louisiana Monroe, Kansas embarrassed Northern Colorado, Texas Tech creamed North Dakota, and Kansas State pulled out a too-close win against Massachusetts. Spelled that right the first time. Don’t act like you’re not impressed.
The first week is hardly indicative of how the season will go, but I still like the start the Big 12 has. If they keep this up and avoid any ridiculous in-conference upsets, they’ll be well in line to nab two BCS berths, including one in the championship, and hopefully improve on their 4-3 bowl game record from last season.