Revisiting likely outcomes in the B12 title race

Before this weekend’s slate I had the most likely outcomes for the Big 12 title game as:

  1. RRS rematch
  2. OU vs pump fake Purdy
  3. OU vs West Virginia

I figured Texas would beat WVU at home coming off the embarrassing road loss to OSU but also knew that ISU was likely to win out and any additional slip ups by Texas could make the Cyclones ascendant while WVU still had the road game against Texas as well as both Oklahoma schools looming on the docket.

Some of that is still true. The RRS rematch is looking pretty dire right now, not only does Texas no longer have a tiebreaker advantage at the top (they’d lose out in a head to head with WVU, obviously) they still have their road trip to Lubbock and a home date with the Cyclones remaining. Maybe worse than that, they have a defense that has collapsed under the microscope of spread iso tactics around the league. They have glaring weak spots, particularly at ILB, that the Raid bro fraternity knows how to demolish. Dana Holgorsen took Mike Gundy’s gameplan and amped it up a few notches, completely dominating the Longhorn defense.

Kliff Kingsbury is running out of bullets to shoot at those same weak spots and will presumably get a better response but the Red Raiders are still plenty dangerous and Matt Campbell’s Iowa State is playing like they might be the best team in the league.

For Will, I don’t really feel all that differently about West Virginia after seeing them pull off what was an undeniably gutty and impressive win in Austin. Grier throws a beautiful deep ball and the WVU OL executed a really good plan to exploit a broken and beat up front, but Texas never made things half as difficult for them as Iowa State did. Meanwhile, the Mountaineer defense got pushed around some and you wonder what happens when they run into the explosive Oklahoma offenses.

Oklahoma just dodged a major bullet. They probably lose that game to Texas Tech if the Red Raiders had not lost their QB Alan Bowman as well as their defensive QB Dakota Allen. After several games into the season, my comp for Kyler Murray is Michael Bishop. The K-State QB was a dominant athlete who could shred teams with his ability to hit targets down the field or to run the ball in their Wildcat run game, but he didn’t see the field all that well and was often careless with the football. I see a lot of similar traits in Murray even though he’s faster and less powerful than Bishop.

Kyler Murray Int1 Vs Tech GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

On the first INT he stared this down a little and misread the nickel and maybe his own man’s route. This looks a lot like a 4-verticals concept with Marquise Brown running an option route on the far hash and Murray expected to find him sitting on the hash when the nickel came inside (he sorta was but not at the depth that Murray was throwing to). He didn’t really read the nickel very well and held the ball a little too long before throwing to a bizarre spot.

Kyler Murray Int2 GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The second INT was much worse. I think he just got confused by Tech’s coverage and lost control for a moment, wildly overshooting the in route so badly that it just went to the deep safety. This has the marks of a player who’s pre-snap read was wrong and who panicked as a result.

Obviously he settled in and put up huge stats over the rest of the game in a 51-46 victory. Whether or not WVU or OSU can make Murray beat them by executing progressions from the pocket remains to be seen but that’s how you stop this Oklahoma offense.

So here’s the updated standings:

Oklahoma is in control of their own destiny, if they win out they’re good. If they only lose to OSU they’re good. If they lose to WVU then they need Iowa State to beat Texas. All in all, they’re in very good shape.

West Virginia is also in control of their own destiny, if they don’t lose again then they’re in. They also get Oklahoma at home, which is a big advantage especially considering the cold weather patterns that will be moving into the picture over the coming weeks. A mild disadvantage they have is that in the event of a loss, they’re rooting for Texas whereas Oklahoma is rooting for Iowa State and one of those teams is playing better than the other right now.

Iowa State’s path is pretty simple. First they need to win out, then they need West Virginia to lose a single game. That’s it, they’re in. Betting on the Mountaineers beating both Oklahoma schools and Texas beating Iowa State seems slightly worse to me than betting on Iowa State beating Texas and then WVU dropping one of those games.

Finally there’s Texas. They very much need to win out and then they need one of the following scenarios to play out:

A) For West Virginia and Texas to both win out, resulting in the Mountaineers being the top team and Texas and OU both in the two slot with the Longhorns possessing a tiebreaker edge from the RRS.

B) For both Oklahoma schools (or TCU, I guess) to beat West Virginia, giving them three losses and negating their tie-breaker edge over Texas.

C) For West Virginia and OSU (or KU, I guess) to both beat Oklahoma, making Texas and WVU the only two teams with seven wins.

D) For WVU to lose to OSU but beat OU in Morgantown, making WVU 2-0 amongst the top three teams (tiebreaker rules linked), Texas 1-1 amongst the top three teams, and OU 0-2.

E) For OSU to beat Oklahoma, and then OU beat WVU, which would make the top three teams all 7-2 and then push the tiebreaker rules down to point differential, where Texas would have needed to make up considerable ground by winning their remaining games (@TT, ISU, KU) by big margins while OU and WVU took big hits to their point differentials.

Obviously all of that is plausible but not exceptionally likely. Lots of intrigue remaining this season!


  1. Joey

    I think OU will struggle at WVU this year. The tech game brought a lot of Riley inexperience to light.

    Tough loss for UT. I’m shocked at the development of Ehlinger tho. Never thought he would be this kind of player. Perfect for Herman’s system.

    Hypothetical for you- let’s say your roster consisted of this years All Big 12 team. You are playing Bama in the national championship. Who do you pick as your head coach (from big 12) and what’s your game plan to beat them?

    • ianaboyd

      OU often struggles at WVU, but they don’t lose, haha.

      I’m not at all shocked by Ehlinger’s development, I loved his skill set out of high school and had him 2nd team All-B12 in the preseason. The responses to his freshman struggles were ridiculous, the kid had to carry an offense with no OL, no go-to WRs, and no run game. Their best play was “Ehlinger doesn’t see anyone open and scrambles.”

      That’s quite the hypothetical. I can’t give it that answer it deserves right now, can you remember to remind me later in the year?

  2. Will

    Gosh, really? I sure do (feel differently about WVU). WVU hasn’t run the ball that well all year, the outside zone stuff was barely used pre-Baylor and is now the bread-and-butter of the run game. I know UT was shorthanded on defense but this team was struggling to run on Kansas a few weeks ago. Looked like a much more well rounded offense the last two weeks.

    As for the defense, I don’t think they are the most physical defense and I don’t think they are a great defense. And you are absolutely right that at times, they got pushed around, particularly in the late third/early 4th quarter. But they also got some critical stops on 3rd and short and held UT to 4.3 ypc. And they figured out some of that QB run game you thought would kill ’em.

    I don’t square either of those outcomes with your takes on WVU last week. I’m not saying you were totally wrong, the run game came out of almost no where and the defense had some bad looks against the run, but this isn’t a soft team. I know it ain’t gonna happen but I’d love to see Iowa State again with the new offensive playbook. I think it would be a much closer game.

    I have to cop to wildly underestimating UT’s passing game. Good lord, y’all were unstoppable through the air. Those two giants and Duvernay (sp?) are terrifying. I did love the play where lil Jovanni Stewart rode on of those giants out of bounds at the line of scrimmage but otherwise, that was an unstoppable matchup.

    As for OU, yeah, WVU is probably not going to stop one of the most prolific offenses of all time. But they might be able to outscore it! I think you’ll see a lot of zero blitzes as you have pushed for this year against Murray and otherwise just an effort to break serve or steal a possession at the half. IDK, it’s been 10 years since WVU beat OU, 5 years since the game has been close. I can’t actually imagine WVU beating them. But they’ve certainly got the horses to go score for score with them at home. We’ll see, I just hope WVU doesn’t stumble in Stillwater looking ahead.

    Also agree that Iowa State has a really good chance to get into the championship game. Such is life. But I’ll be rooting like hell for UT when they play you guys. If WVU loses 2 games in the regular season but gets boxed out of the championship game, it greatly increases their chance at a Big 6 bowl and I won’t complain about that.

    Anyway, good game. Y’all got a hell of a player at QB. Two more years of him is gonna suck.

    • ianaboyd

      The OZ game was great for WVU against Texas. Some of that was Texas’ personnel and also the struggles they’re having to stop that concept. Teams are figuring out how to use that play on the Longhorns and Texas needs to fix that this week or risk allowing the Red Raiders a really good shot at their chin. No doubt WV played it well though and I was legitimately impressed at how well they played at OL without Cajuste, who’s their best player.

      I think the ‘Neer D gives you a shot in shootouts, especially against teams that aren’t physical and multi-pronged in the run game. That matchup with the OU run game will be interesting, they have a lot of screen and pound to their attack with big guys screening you but then big Trey Sermon running people over. It’s a potent combo and tough on the smaller defenders in this league. I haven’t seen a team yet that found it easy to stop Sermon at first contact. We’re on the same page here, you gotta create some negatives with the blitz and then beat em in a shootout.

      I’ve tried to tell people about Sam Ehlinger for years and years. WVU did a good job on the QB stretch play but he still ran it 10-61 and a score if you take out the sack yardage (a single sack). His execution of the RPO game, especially throwing to Duvernay, makes this offense exceptionally hard to match up against.

  3. Don

    For scenario E), the point-differential tiebreaker is only the point differential in games between the three tied teams, not the entire conference schedule. In this scenario, UT’s +2 point differential means they’re guaranteed a spot in the championship game. If OU beats WV, then WV advances over OU only if OU’s win is by 1 point (in which case WV’s +0 differential would beat OU’s -2); a 2-point OU win results in a -1 differential for OU and WV, but OU would advance by virtue of the head-to-head win; an OU win over WV by 3 or more results in OU winning the point-differential with WV, so OU would advance and WV would be out.

    If it comes to this scenario, WV’s decision to go for 2 at the end of the Texas game could doom them. They won by 1, but the decision prevented them from the opportunity for a 3, 6, or 7-point win in overtime. It means in this three-team tiebreaker (the result of an OU win over WV), that they advance only if they lose the game by 1; an OU win by 2 or more means OU advances. If WV had won in overtime by 3, 6, or 7 in overtime vs Texas, they’d have more leeway in how big a loss they could afford vs OU.

    • ianaboyd

      Gotcha, I didn’t fully grok the tiebreaker rules.

      I don’t think WV made a mistake to go for 2 though, their chances of winning that game in OT were highly suspect. Their D was worn down and they weren’t stopping Texas. Obviously Texas wasn’t stopping WVU either but in that stadium you’d rather just get the win and move on from there.

  4. jobhr

    Oklahoma’s overall immaturity almost costing them a game. The defense was unable to recognize screens. The offense had so many mental lapses. This was one of the most boring, frustrating football games I’ve every watched because I knew OU’d win eventually, but I wanted them to be better doing it. You’re right about Riley’s play calling. OU ran the ball 44 times, but they should’ve run it sixty.

    M. Brown is obviously hurt and that limits OU’s vertical passing game. Versus this OU offense, I expect teams will continue to toggle between blitzing with six or playing zone with eight for the rest of the year. OU hasn’t thrown many screens this year. They may be coming. What Big12 defense holds this offense under fifty?

    The defense, despite the numbers, is playing better overall. As reader here know, better isn’t good, but OU doesn’t really need good. OU defenders being rotated more frequently. They are rallying to the ball better. There aren’t glaring coverage busts. Generally, when the secondary got beat, they were in position.

    As the Sooners anticipated trek to a 12 – 1 season continues, they get progressively better versions of similar teams (Tech < Ok St < WV). S&P+ like OU by 16 over the Pokes, and two scores seems about right. That's about margin for recent Bedlam games. OU-WV is listed as OU -9. It's going to be a one possession game so I'd take WV plus the points. More than that, I'd take the over.

    • ianaboyd

      Kingsbury is notorious for running tricky screens that teams struggle to pick up. Riley does it well but Kingsbury is like the industry standard on that stuff. I think Tech wins that game if Bowman finishes the game but there is always a feeling of “man, OU might be about to score 3x in a row” in Sooner games.

      If Brown isn’t a go in upcoming games that’s a big deal. I’ve tried to note on several occasions that Murray isn’t as consistent as Mayfield, he doesn’t know how to orchestrate drives to the same extent, but the offense is more explosive overall because Brown (and Murray himself) can produce a massive gain or score at any moment. You start to take away that explosiveness and then the lack of precise execution becomes more apparent.

      Definitely teams should bring the heavy blitzes mixed with max coverage against the Sooners. If you disguise things well I don’t think Murray picks it up that well. You have to keep him in the pocket though and can’t let him break contain though or he will hurt you worse than you’ve ever been hurt in your life, haha. His quickness and arm strength/accuracy are so elite that it basically puts him in the top echelons regardless of how well he’s reading the defense on a given day.

      OU D is definitely doing better, McNeil has made the right changes to give them a chance. The margins against OSU and WVU seem crazy to me but obviously those are pretty normal for OU against both teams.

  5. System Poster

    Now that Texas Tech is for all practical purposes eliminated from the Big 12 title game, the scenario I want to see most is back to back WVU-OU games and for WVU to knock OU out of the CFP by winning the title. That would be the most hilarious outcome, I think.

    From a football perspective, the most interesting matchup would be an OU-ISU rematch with Purdy. And aside from being a good football game, perhaps Campbell making the game (or even winning it) would expedite him leaving the conference, which would be great for all the non-ISU teams.

    • ianaboyd

      LOL to all of that.

      I hate the idea of Campbell going to Ohio State because I don’t want Ohio State to have someone that good and I enjoy having Campbell in the Big 12. It’d be fascinating to see what he could do over the next few years with all these young OL and pump fake Purdy.

      Right now I’d have ISU in the top 3 for the B12 in 2019 in a preseason ranking. I’m sure everyone would talk themselves into OSU or TCU over them but man…that team is playing good football and they might have a lot of their team back. Something like Texas, OU, ISU with a chance for OU or Texas to flip or drop pending some thought and investigation into how their rosters shake out with offseason work and NFL departures.

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