Big 12 mailbag: Evaluating conference perception, TCU’s playoff chances

Welcome to our Week 7 edition of the Big 12 mailbag, where we take your questions involving everything Big 12, or otherwise. Email your questions to shehan.jeyarajah@coxinc.com or Tweet @ShehanJeyarajah to see your question featured next week. 

Let’s start with one thing – if TCU goes undefeated, the Horned Frogs are making the playoff. Period. No questions about it. However, it could hurt TCU if it loses even one game.

Oklahoma losing to Iowa State hurts the Sooners’ status as a true playoff contender. A program like TCU – one that’s not a traditional power – needs at least a couple of marquee wins to overcome negative perception of non-blue-bloods. Oklahoma moving from No. 3 to borderline New Years Six team will affect perception of the league.

If TCU beats Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Texas – and one of these programs twice – it can survive a mulligan. However, before the loss, the Big 12 was a favorite to make the playoff. Now, it moves to the periphery.

If Jacob Park was behind center and Iowa State outschemed Oklahoma from beginning to end, this might be a different story. Unfortunately, national pundits see this as a Sooners collapse.

Oklahoma was its regular self in the first half, scoring 24 points and accumulating 303 yards of offense. It appeared like another blowout in the making. However, Iowa State outscored Oklahoma 25-7 in the second half. The Sooners’ top-ranked offense mustered just 210 yards against the Cyclones. The offense stalled and the secondary was exposed against a walk-on quarterback.

Iowa State should absolutely use this game as a turning point for the program. It’s a far more legitimate and impressive version of Kansas beating Texas. Matt Campbell is a heck of a football coach, and this should buy him real estate at Iowa State. The Cyclones improving is good for the conference. However, it will take a few years for that to register nationally.

John Cobb via Twitter: Do you think TCU is a lock for Big 12 champion? If not, who do you see challenging them?

Oklahoma has won 10 of the 20 championships in Big 12 history. Until the Sooners pick up multiple losses, there’s no way to count them out. Even if TCU finishes with the best record in conference, don’t count Oklahoma out in a Big 12 championship game scenario.

TCU hasn’t been particularly tested at this point. Plenty of that has to do with great game plans from Gary Patterson, but opponents have not exposed weaknesses. The Horned Frogs are comfortable beating teams from ahead, but Kenny Hill historically has issues throwing downfield. That could be problematic if a team jumps on TCU.

Granted, maybe there isn’t a team that can compete with that defense and running game. However, TCU is flawed. Until we know for sure that TCU fixed the flaws, it’s smarter to take the field.

Let’s call it pleasantly surprised. After starting 4-1 against a pretty tough schedule and coming so close to beating No. 14 Oklahoma State, Texas Tech deserved to be an AP Top 25 team. LSU being ranked ahead of the Red Raiders was a joke, especially considering teams the Tigers beat have a combined 8-15 record.

The road doesn’t get any easier. Texas Tech plays West Virginia in Morgantown next week. The Mountaineers should probably still be ranked too. Later, there are games against No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 6 TCU.

More likely than not, Texas Tech won’t finish ranked. However, there’s a fairly reasonable path to eight wins. That has to feel good, regardless of what happens next. Kliff Kingsbury deserves to have this ranking added to his resume, even if it’s just for a week.

Bhargavi Karumuri via email: Which will be Baylor’s first win of the year? 

The obvious answer is Kansas on Nov. 4. That feels like a cop-out. Instead, we’ll look at the other options for wins.

Baylor makes explosive plays, but struggles against the run and allows explosive plays at the second level. The Bears also struggle against teams that dominate defending the run. That could change with a healthy stable of running backs, but it’s too early to tell at this point.

The first game that springs to mind is Nov. 11 against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are defending at a high level right now, but rely more on turnovers than just solid defense. Texas Tech runs the ball much better this year, but it tests cornerbacks more than safeties with short passes. These two teams always play competitive games at AT&T Stadium, too.

Texas is also a game to circle, just because it’s hard not to expect a complete team effort at McLane Stadium. The Longhorns don’t run the ball consistently, and quarterback Sam Ehlinger is mistake-prone. Texas’ defense is super-legit, so Baylor will have to find ways to put up points. Regardless, it could be a high-energy game.

Weston Mighell also asked whether Baylor can beat Iowa State. Despite the Cyclones’ performance last weekend, I think Iowa State is still an average team. Kyle Kempt played the game of his life against the Sooners. I don’t think he’ll replicate it. Linebacker Joel Lanning and running back David Montgomery will make it difficult, but Baylor should take care of business at home.

There are only seven games left. Five are against teams which appeared in the AP Top 25 poll at some point this year. Absolutely nothing is guaranteed.

Have questions for the next edition? Email us: shehan.jeyarajah@coxinc.com or tweet your questions to @ShehanJeyarajah on Twitter. 

The post Big 12 mailbag: Evaluating conference perception, TCU’s playoff chances appeared first on Diehards.

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