Contributor, Big 12 College Football
For those of you who watched Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma State, you were treated to a quintessential Big 12 showdown. Mason Rudolph managed to score a 16-yard rushing touchdown with under 2 minutes to go to potentially save the Pokes’ season. It was a heartbreaker for Tech, who had a chance to really make a statement by protecting their undefeated record going into the stretch of conference football. OSU’s defense kept a high flying Red Raiders offense in check, allowing them just 384 yards of total offense. This was such an important win for OSU as it was just what they needed following a loss at the hands of TCU last weekend. Here’s the thing though, TCU is a legitimate contender for a playoff spot this year and it may not be the worst loss to endure for OSU. TCU has been one of the more efficient teams in the country and have shown they can win on the road in a hostile environment. If you had to use your one loss card, TCU early in the season isn’t the worst option. Elsewhere around the league, Texas grinded out a much needed win against Iowa State 17-7. I must say I am impressed by the back to back strong performances by this Longhorns’ defense against and underrated ISU offense and USC.
It was relatively quiet in the Big 12 this week which provides a nice opportunity to take the temperature of the conference landscape. Opposed to other sports, the college football season is relatively short and one could argue that we never get a truly accurate sample size with the 12-game season. Often win/loss records are deceiving at this point of the year and don’t give us the whole picture of each team’s identity. Let’s take a quick look at the strength of schedule of Big 12 teams this year so far as well as their efficiency stats to get a better idea of who has been challenged so far and who’s been coasting by against easier opponents. According to Football Outsiders, these are the strength of schedules to date for each team in the Big 12 as well as their S&P + efficiency rankings up against their AP Poll ranking:
|School & AP Poll Rankings||Strength of Schedule (PSOS) RANKING as of 9/30/17||S&P + Efficiency Ranking|
|#15 Oklahoma State (4-1)||19th||13th|
|#3 Oklahoma (4-0)||26th||3rd|
|#29 Texas Tech (3-1)||45th||53rd|
|#8 TCU (4-0)||53rd||14th|
|#23 West Virginia (3-1)||103rd||41st|
|Iowa State (2-2)||116th||45th|
|#32 Kansas State (3-1)||124th||24th|
These types of stats are helpful in providing context for each team beyond simply their record. For example, West Virginia is 3-1 through four games, however they have the 103rd hardest schedule in the nation and haven’t necessarily been tested outside of their one loss against Virginia Tech. They’ve beat up on easy opponents and are ranked 22nd in the AP Poll, but their schedule gets much tougher as the season moves forward. I’m skeptical that the Mountaineers will be as successful against tougher opponents. On the flip side of that argument, a team such as TCU has also experienced a fairly easy schedule outside of Oklahoma State which may contribute to their 4-0 start. Again though, this is all about putting everything into context and TCU currently is 14th in the country in S&P + overall efficiency in addition to that huge road win against Oklahoma State. You could make the argument that you can only play the teams that are on your schedule, but TCU has also been more efficient compared to West Virginia and provides a better resume once putting everything together.
I will say I was surprised to see that Baylor currently has faced the 18th hardest schedule in the nation. Their FBS opponent’s average S&P + ranking without preseason predictions is just over 25, showing that their schedule has been tougher than we may have thought before the season. Baylor has been dreadful this year and I’m not making any excuses for them, but it is possible that one contributing factor could be the quality of their opponents. Of course, this is all just a part of the overall story but it helps give us a unique perspective of where each team is at this point in the season.
Games to keep an eye on this weekend:
22 West Virginia vs. 8 TCU: 3:30 PM FS1, Fort Worth, TX
Iowa State vs. 3 Oklahoma: 12:00 PM FOX, Norman, OK
Kansas State vs. Texas: 7:00 PM FS1, Austin, TX
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