Well I wasn't sure it would happen, but it turns out that the world did, in fact, continue to turn even after OU fell to Houston early on Saturday. That means that other football games were played. Let's take a break from our sadness to look at what else happened in the Big 12 this weekend.
Friday, September 2
(23) Baylor hosted Northwestern State (W 55-7)
Baylor kicked off Big 12 play against Northwestern State, which you would think would guarantee an easy win unless you saw Michigan State struggle against Furman or Tennessee really struggle against Appalachian State earlier. Fortunately for the Bears, and the reputation of the Big 12, this game would feature no such drama. Seth Russell returned from his season-ending injury from a year ago to go 14/20 for 163 yards and four quick touchdowns, while a committee of Bears rushed for 275 total yards at a clip of 6.4 yards per rush. Baylor was up 48-0 by the end of the first half, cruising past the Northwestern State Demons. We still don't know if Baylor will be able to conquer their own demons (get it?) this season, but this was the start they were looking for.
Kansas State played at (8) Stanford (L 26-13)
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, their opening game involved a trip to Stanford to play Christian McCaffery. Kansas State trailed 17-0 early, declining to score their first points of the game until a field goal with one second till halftime. It was all over from there, even after a respectable effort in the second half. Looking at the stat sheet, the game actually looks pretty close. Kansas State gained more total yards than Stanford and had more time of possession. Ultimately, some breakdowns on drives by Kansas State kept them from putting points on the board. The refs are also getting some attention in this one, and while they may have missed some calls, the next time I don't see a losing team complain about officiating will be the first time I don't see a losing team complain about officiating.
Really, anytime anyone plays Stanford, McCaffrey is the main story. The biggest problem with the refs is they stopped this awesome play from counting.
Saturday, September 3
(3) Oklahoma played (15) Houston in NRG (L 23-33)
Let's move on...
West Virginia hosted Missouri (W 26-11)
In another blow to the SEC's ego (and there were several this weekend), the Mountaineers took down a Tigers team that left its offense at home. West Virginia never trailed in this one despite quarterback Skyler Howard being slowed by a rib injury and running back Rushel Shell missing most of the game with leg problems. Fortunately for the Mountaineers, they held Missouri to a 45% completion percentage in its first game with Josh Heupel as offensive coordinator. West Virginia's offense had its own problems, stalling four times in the red zone, but the four field goals it kicked from there would have been enough on their own to best Missouri's 11 points.
(21) Oklahoma State hosted Southeastern Louisiana (W 61-7)
In their season opener, Oklahoma State jumped on top of the Lions quickly, leading 28-0 at the end of the first quarter, beginning with a fumbled punt return that the Cowboys recovered in the end zone. After settling down and winning the second quarter 7-3, the Lions set off to really begin their comeback in the second half. Unfortunately for Southeastern Louisiana, they fumbled on their opening drive, and Oklahoma State took advantage by returning it all of about 20 yards for a touchdown. From there, their confidence appeared broken, and they were unable to find any points in the second half while Oklahoma State tallied 23 more to escape with the W.
Kansas hosted Rhode Island (W 55-6)
Kansas had all off-season to stew over a win-less season in 2015, and they took advantage of what was surely their best chance at a win this season. The new, more aggressive Jayhawks even went for 2 on their second touchdown of the first quarter. The failed conversion didn't stop them from rolling over the Rams, as Kansas scored two touchdowns in each quarter and held Rhode Island scoreless but for a lone touchdown in the second quarter. After toppling an FCS team that went 1-10 a year ago, Kansas apparently felt it would be appropriate to rush the field. You do you, Kansas.
Texas Tech hosted Stephen F. Austin (69-17)
Patrick Mahomes, II picked up where he left off after a breakout season a year ago, throwing for 483 yards and four touchdowns, while also rushing for 57 yards and two more scores to open strong against an outmatched Lumberjacks squad. 18 (!) different Red Raiders hauled in receptions as Texas Tech got a chance to explore their offense before they face off against Arizona State next week. While their much-maligned defense held SFA to only 17 points, it's tough to tell yet whether we'll see any long-term improvement from the Red Raiders on this side of the ball, but it's a good start.
Iowa State hosted University of Northern Iowa (L 25-20)
Mike Warren, Iowa State's running back who hoped to firmly establish himself as one of the best in the conference this season, struggled against the Panthers, gaining only 30 yards on 12 carries. On the other side of the ball, Northern Iowa managed to pile up 232 yards on the ground in a game that saw the Panthers take a lead with under three minutes left in the game. Iowa State had every chance to save face, getting the ball two more times down by five, but they would turn the ball over both times (a fumble the first time, an interception the second) and allow Northern Iowa to run out the clock in an upset to start the season. While the Cyclones may be able to improve their offensive line from here, it's tough to come away with any real optimism as they have to face an Iowa squad next week that should be much better on both sides of the ball than the Panthers.
(13) TCU hosted South Dakota State (W 59-41)
While TCU won in the end, it's worth noting that they were tied with the Jackrabbits at halftime, and the game was much closer than the final score indicates. It took a pass tipped right into the hands of Taj Williams with a little under nine minutes left in the game to finally put TCU up by more than one touchdown. Kenny Hill looked good at times, throwing for 439 yards and two touchdowns, but was shaky at other times, including 2 interceptions on consecutive passes in the first quarter that helped keep the Jackrabbits in the game. Hill also rushed for three touchdowns, though, showing why he could be a seriously difficult opponent for Big 12 teams this season. While some of TCU's struggles could be chalked up to early season jitters, their defense has some questions to answer after allowing South Dakota State to score 41 points.
Sunday, September 4
Texas hosted (10) Notre Dame (W 50-47)
Considering the opponent, Texas' 2OT upset of Notre Dame was clearly the highlight of the weekend for the Big 12. Texas was up to some of their old tricks from a year ago, with quarterback Tyrone Swoopes rushing for three touchdowns. Unlike last year, though, the Longhorns may have found a way to have success in the air as well. Shane Buechele, who became the first true freshman to start the season at quarterback for Texas in over 70 years, threw for two touchdowns and 280 yards against a Notre Dame defense that is nothing to sneeze at. He made some freshman mistakes (most notably a second quarter interception that took Notre Dame to the Texas' six-yard-line setting up an easy touchdown), but overall looked like he might give the Longhorns some diversity on offense this year. Given the talent the team has overall, a strong air attack in Austin is a dangerous threat to the rest of the Big 12. Texas will need to work on a defense that was gashed at times by the Fighting Irish, but against good competition, the Longhorns looked tough. Time will tell if this is the beginning of something great or an anomaly, but things are looking up for Charlie Strong & Co.
POWER RANKINGS after Week 1
It’s probably meaningless at this point, but no one’s stopping us from doing some way-too-early power rankings, so here we go:
- Oklahoma State (1-0, 0-0 in conference): The Cowboys move up after OU lost to a good Houston team. It’s pretty tough to judge at this point, but Oklahoma State was the most complete team this weekend.
- Texas (1-0, 0-0 in conference): I know, I know. But Texas played the some of the best competition this weekend, and they went home with a win. Frankly, we don’t really know anything at this point, and it’s possible that Texas actually looked like the best team in the Big 12. When you figure out how to compare a 2OT win against a good team and a 61-7 win against a bad one, let me know.
- Oklahoma (0-1, 0-0 in conference): Of all week one opponents, Houston should be the second-highest ranked heading into next week. After a loss that saw every break go the other way, the Sooners have plenty to prove moving forward. The good news is they have every opportunity to do that, and if they beat Ohio State in a few weeks they’ll be jumping up these rankings.
- TCU (1-0, 0-0 in conference): TCU looks to be just fine with Kenny Hill at the helm. However, they should have played much better than they did this weekend, and their defense has me puzzled.
- Baylor (1-0, 0-0 in conference): Baylor looked the part of a ranked team, dominating their opening game. Seth Russell looked good, but I’m still not sold on Baylor being better than any of the teams I have listed above them. Of course, time will tell.
- Texas Tech (1-0, 0-0 in conference): With Mahomes back, the offense will be great. The defense needs to face a real test before they prove they can slow down the good teams in this conference.
- Kansas State (0-1, 0-0 in conference): Kansas State had a touch match-up early, and they played...fine. They didn’t turn any heads, but they kept the game within reach most of the time. If they can get their offense going a bit, they should be able to bounce back.
- West Virginia (1-0, 0-0 in conference): West Virginia shut down Missouri, but I’m not sure that’s an enormous feat. They still have a lot to prove.
- Iowa State (0-1, 0-0 in conference): The Cyclones needed that loss like they needed a hole in the head, with a new coach trying to change their culture. The only thing they have going for them right now is that Kansas hasn’t won a conference game in what feels like a decade.
- Kansas (1-0, 0-0 in conference): It’s great that they picked up a win, but it’s going to take more than beating a bad FCS team to get them out of the basement here.