One month into the season and for most it has been four-five games into a 12 game schedule. With conference play just beginning for most, there’s still a ton to be determined as we head towards the coming months but with the smaller sample size that CFB offers in contrast to the NFL, it’s not too early to take a look at a few things. Whether it was non-conference games, early league games or individual performances, we can begin the process of taking a look at the landscape of college football one month into the season.
Perhaps the most up in the air conference of the BCS leagues coming into 2012, the Big 12 has spent the first month fulfilling that title as it’s still anyone’s guess who the best team in this league is with every team looking vulnerable and every team looking potent. Whether it was the wild finish in Stillwater, shootout in Morgantown or a Texas Tech team with college football’s number one defense, everything has been one wild wide through September and if the last month was a sign of what’s to come, we should be in for a dandy the rest of the year in the Big 12.
Lets rewind the last month in the Big 12.
What We Learned:
Landry Jones Still Hasn’t Adjusted to Life Without Ryan Broyles
While the Sooners have a number of issues contributing to this development including injuries to multiple offensive linemen that were expected to protect him, Landry Jones hasn’t done much to back up the talks he was primed to be a Heisman contender in the first month. Despite the respectable offensive numbers of the team on a national level, the Sooners have looked less than stellar in a couple of close games with UTEP and Kansas St., the latter of which resulted in a loss. Jones looked average at best in the loss to Kansas St. and really seems to only have a rhythm down with Kenny Stills at this point. The run game has given the Sooners a boost as was expected with a couple backs coming back from injury but for the Sooners to get back to the frontline of Big 12 contenders, they’ll need better play out of Jones and the passing game over the next couple months.
West Virginia Will Fit Right In With Their New Conference
Most figured in time the Mountaineers would gracefully slide into the Big 12 will little problem. After all with a prolific passing attack led by perhaps the nation’s best QB and a defense that is very generous they seemed to have mastered the Big 12 mentality. However I don’t think anyone expected them to make such a grand debut in their new league, looking as if they had been there for a decade. In a 70-63 victory over Baylor on Saturday Geno Smith accounted for 656 yards passing and 8 TDs as the Mountaineers rolled up…(*gulp*)…807 yards of total offense while “holding” Baylor to 700. The two teams traded TDs throughout the game setting back defensive struggles 100 years. The Mountaineers know their passing game is relatively unmatched in the Big 12 with Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey providing one of the best 1-2 punches in the country. We all know West Virginia will put up points in bunches and as a result be in just about any game, but it’s rare a team goes an entire season without needing to count on its defense to make a big play or two to preserve a big win. The question West Virginia fans have to be asking right now is “Can we do that?”
The Big 12 Looks Like The Deepest Conference In America
I don’t have to defend my opinion of the SEC on this website. I’ve shown enough over the last two and a half years that I love the brand of the football they play and consider them the elite conference in college football. With that said, the Big 12 appears to have one weak link in Kansas and then a bunch of teams that will be competing throughout the year. As of now the record of the conference through their non-conference schedule and first league games is 31-8. Every team except Kansas has a winning record and even Texas Tech and Iowa St. figure to be below the rest on the totem pole, they’ve both started relatively strong, though the Red Raiders are still possibly a question mark given their weak OOC schedule. Even as of now you have three-four teams in Kansas St., West Virginia, Texas and possibly TCU who appear like firm top 15-20 teams and you Oklahoma can probably be thrown in there as well. Even the offensive talent on middle of the pack teams such as Oklahoma State and Baylor has to put fear into some of the upper-echelon teams. The SEC may have the cream of the crop with four top ten teams, but 1-10, it’s hard to argue against the Big 12 looking like the best league in America right now.
What We Confirmed:
Just Stop Doubting Bill Snyder
Me: 5th. Matt Hinton of CBS Sports: 6th. Athlon Sports: 6th. Big 12 Media: 6th. In fact David Ubben of ESPN’s Big 12 blog appears to be the only person on a major website/Big 12 affiliate that didn’t botch the Kansas St. pick (I’m sure I missed others) as he had them in the top 3. Whether it was belief that Kansas St. caught a lot of breaks a year ago or that the losses on their offensive line would prove too much, Kansas St. through September looks every bit the contender they were a year ago in the Big 12. In fact in some people’s opinions they already went on the road and beat the Big 12 favorite in their opener. Bill Snyder continues to spin a web of brilliance all over the CFB world and people like me keep getting stuck in it. Collin Klein continues to dazzle with his ability to make plays with his feet. They’ve even tightened up a defense that was problematic a year ago though the secondary still isn’t a strong suit. It seemed crazy 6 weeks ago but we’re looking at a 6-0 Kansas St. going to Morgantown in a couple weeks barring a massive upset to Kansas or Iowa St. Should they hold par, there’s a strong possibility Kansas St. could deliver a knockout blow to their two biggest challengers in the Big 12 in 2012, doing so in each opponent’s home. Now we’re jumping ahead a bit and perhaps in the Kansas St. way we should just take it one at a time. However, there’s really no other way to say it…Bill Snyder, I’m sorry again. What was I thinking?
Texas’ Defense May Still Be Overhyped
One of the big selling points for me on Texas this year and why I was so high on them bouncing back with a 10-win season is because of a defense that was supposed to be elite. While the numbers overall were impressive a year ago, when push came to shove against the top teams in the league, they didn’t put up impressive performances. Thus, despite three non-conference wins where Texas looked the part, Oklahoma State was a test that I was intrigued by where we’d get our first real look at them vs a formidable offense. Frankly they didn’t do much to silence those questions defensively as the game turned into a good ole fashion Big 12 shootout. Now the one positive to take away from the game was the Texas offense that looked much better, though the Cowboys defense could have been a major contributor to that. David Ash looked matured and the ground game found some new potential studs. Still, Texas was supposed to be one of the few defenses that could be counted on to produce in 2012. Again, these are September recaps and nothing we’ve seen in the first five weeks is guaranteed to hold the rest of the year (well…except Clemson’s garbage defense), but the same problems we saw from Texas in 2011 appear to be surfacing again. For the sake of my 10-win Texas prediciton, here’s to hoping they get that fixed.
What We Still Want to Know:
Will The Big 12 Knock Itself Out of National Championship Contention?
The one problem with having a league so deep and so wide open is you run the risk of having teams knock each other off. Now after only one month it’s too early to say we’ll definitely or definitely not have unbeaten teams at year’s end. As of now there’s 23 unbeatens left but we’re guaranteed to have no more than 10 (my math may be off but I think that’s right) at year’s end. For the Big 12, if nobody runs the table in the league, will they even have a shot at national championship berth? Last year we saw a 1-loss Big 12 champ get passed over for a second SEC team. While the likelihood of that happening is a long shot again, you can never say for certain a Big 12 team would be the highest 1-loss team. Then you have unbeatens? Florida State for all intents and purposes looks well equipped to run the table. The biggest bullet to dodge may be Florida in the regular season finale. For now things look great with five unbeaten Big 12 teams but given the round robin format of the league, only one could finish unbeaten. With the week to week grind the league offers, one has to wonder if the depth that makes them probably the nation’s top conference right now will bite them when it comes down to competing for a national title.
How Long Will This Geno Smith Run Go For?
Those people who pride themselves on their Heisman projections are in complete agreement that not only is Geno Smith the Heisman frontrunner right now but that it’s not close. Through four games Smith has completed 83.5% of his passes for 1728 yards and 20 TDs. Oh he hasn’t thrown an interception yet either. We know West Virginia doesn’t do much in the way of running the football so in a league like the Big 12 the next logical question becomes how far can he take this? 5000 yards seems like a legitimate possibility. 50 TDs? Probably not but 40-45 seems like a lock barring an injury. A couple years ago we saw Cam Newton run away with the Heisman trophy in a contest that was pretty much over in late October. Could Geno Smith duplicate them level of domination on the national stage this year? Based on what we’ve seen in September, it’s going to take some brilliant defensive schemes to slow down this juggernaut offense.
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