Most of the Big 12 won in week 3 with the conference scoring a 6-2 record against their non-conference slate. Iowa State suffered a weird and disastrous defeat against rival Iowa, who incidentally has zero turnovers over the last four seasons while going 4-0 on Matt Campbell. For all that he’s done in Ames, Campbell has yet to shake off the “little brother” dimension to that rivalry game. Iowa is 45-22 overall in that rivalry.
Texas and Oklahoma won big and easily over totally outmatched, more academically oriented schools Rice and UCLA, Gary Patterson made good against the billboard material offered by Purdue, West Virginia bounced back with a nice win over NC State, and Kansas State made a big statement win on the road.
Contrar-Ian says the glass is half full
Unquestionably the Cyclones were big losers. They have yet to put together a strong offensive showing in two tries and came up short once again in this rivalry. The big, tragic moment came when a Cyclone blocker ran into his own return man while he was trying to secure the punt, resulting in a fumble that allowed the Hawkeyes to kneel out the clock.
There were other problems in that game, including two different lightning delays that helped suck some of the energy out of an initially raucous gameday atmosphere and which also spoiled some of the Cyclones early momentum and the surprise of their bye week gameplan.
Ultimately the problem in this game though can be described as a problem of styles and advantages. Iowa State’s strategy under Campbell is oriented around discipline, careful play, and this year in particular in ball control on offense. The Cyclones have a variety of schemes and players that can help them control the football on offense while their inverted Tampa 2 defense forces opponents to drive the length of the field to score. They can turn games into a contest of who’s going to be grittier, more disciplined, and more efficient in a grueling slog. Most Big 12 teams don’t handle that very well and depend on hitting you in space and scoring on explosive plays.
But Iowa is all about that life and with a senior, third-year starter in Nate Stanley they were up to the challenge. You can see the discipline and field awareness from the Hawkeyes in plays like fourth-and-13 at the end of the game when Brock Purdy threw a different deep route than his receiver ran and instead of easily picking off the pass near his own end zone, Iowa’s safety very intentionally batted it to the ground.
Iowa State is still in fine shape for Big 12 play, they can continue to get better on offense and have demonstrated competence in distributing the ball to a few different skill players. The Big 12 slate won’t have many teams as eager to jump into the mud and fight with them as their cross-state rivals. They don’t have much momentum right now though and are certainly outside of a top 25 ranking or garnering the attention that they were getting in the preseason. Perhaps that’s a good thing.
Boston College was another big loser in week 3 owing to their surrender of 48 points and the outcome when going up against Les Miles’ Kansas Jayhawks. Miles seemed almost as surprised as everyone else and wanted to party with his team like they’d just won the National Championship.
The key to their victory was a diverse collection of formations and tactics all oriented around running the ball with Pooka Williams and Khalil Herbert. They ran spread RPO sets, I-formation toss sweeps, and zone-read schemes and everything seemed to give the Golden Eagles fits. Herbert and Williams combined for 308 rushing yards and a pair of scores on 33 carries while QB Carter Stanley slipped in a few big runs of his own.
Kansas did look fairly difficult to defend, it’s hard to tackle Herbert or Williams if they can get into space created by effective RPO passing or blocking. I have to wonder though at the quality and focus of the Boston College DL and LBs who couldn’t stop up a Jayhawk offensive front that was held to seven points by Coastal Carolina.
Contrar-Ian says the glass is half empty
Kansas State was a big winner in week 3. While Sgt. Garrett Shrader’s “neckbeard helicopter” play grabbed most of the headlines it was still notable that the Wildcats beat a 7.5 point spread and Mississippi State Bulldogs with a 31-24 road victory. It was hard to ignore how effectively the Wildcats were playing even facing inferior competition in weeks one and two and sure enough, they translated it against an SEC opponent as well.
What was most promising about the victory was how the Wildcats were able to hold their own at the point of attack against a big and physical SEC front on both sides of the ball. The game was truly won though with special teams and the Bulldog QB situation. Tommy Stevens was clearly hampered by some kind of injury, quite possibly to his throwing shoulder, and he airmailed a few key passes that resulted in interceptions for the Wildcat defense.
Shrader wasn’t ready for the moment, although he sure did give it a heck of a fight, and the Bulldogs made too many mistakes to allow star RB Kylin Hill to dominate the game. Kansas State proved they belong on a stage with good teams and they’ll take some momentum and confidence from this win into the Big 12 schedule, the Bulldogs clearly weren’t ready to give them their best shot though.
TCU also had a nice win over Purdue in which they ran over the Boilermakers in the run game with both Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua breaking 100 yards. Max Duggan was only 7-18 though with a sole TD pass coming when he was given about one hour by the Purdue pass-rush to realize Al’Dontre Davis had been allowed to slip wide open into the end zone. Delton played some as well but completed as many passes to the TCU WRs as he did to the Purdue defense (one for each).
Who won week 3?
The biggest winners might have been Texas and Oklahoma, who both ran roughshod over weak competition and look safely beyond most of the Big 12 right now. Both teams have some serious question marks on defense but this league is mostly about who has the most overpowered and consistent offense and the Longhorns and Sooners look ahead of the pack in this respect.
Which teams are going to be able to resist OU’s offense if Jalen Hurts is getting 12-15 carries a game and then setting up vicious play-action shots to their talented WR corps off the option run game? Who’s matching up with Texas’ pro-spread sets and figuring out how to keep Sam Ehlinger from finding his receivers in big moments? Either team could be vulnerable in a shootout, Texas has already lost such a game this season, but both teams are likely unafraid of any of the defenses across the Big 12.
Chapter 9 of “Flyover Football” details how the Big 12 evolved into a conference in which champions were determined by which squad had the most consistently overpowering offense. Defenses can’t stop the best Big 12 offenses so if you always have the bigger stick in a shootout, you’re in the best possible shape.