The conference season got under way for four teams last weekend, and the six remaining Big 12 schools get into the full swing of things on Saturday, headlined by two games in which the teams on both sidelines come in unbeaten and a third contest featuring another undefeated team, Texas Tech, and once-beaten Kansas.
Our spotlight game of the week - Kansas State hosting Baylor - was previewed in this space on Wednesday. The weekend slate also includes Texas (3-0) at Iowa State (3-0) and Texas Tech taking on Kansas at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence.
Missouri's loss last Saturday to Oklahoma dropped the number of unbeaten teams in the Big 12 to seven, which remains the most of any conference. The Tigers are on a bye week before returning to action a week from Saturday against Kansas State. Oklahoma State also is off this weekend after returning home with a huge road win involving two top-ten teams at Texas A&M.
The Saturday schedule includes two nonconference contests with No.1-ranked Oklahoma (in the USA Today weekly coaches' poll; No. 2 in the AP media poll) entertaining Ball State and SEC-bound Texas A&M going against current SEC member Arkansas at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. The Big 12 is 26-2 against teams outside of the conference this season, the best record in the country, and is 6-2 vs. nonconference foes on their home field.
Regardless of how the two non-conference games go this weekend, the Big 12 will post its best regular-season nonconference winning percentage in league history, as well as its best record in the month of September.
This is marks the first year that every Big 12 team will finish the non-conference portion of the regular season with a winning record. If only we could say as much at the end of October.
Here are my Big 12 football picks for this week:
Baylor 34 @ Kansas State 27
Texas 34 @ Iowa State 24
Texas is coming off of its best win in the last season and a half, a 29-point payback victory at UCLA, and Iowa State has surprised all of us with three thrilling come-from-behind wins, including victories over archrival Iowa and on the road at defending Big East champion Connecticut. Both teams are unbeaten through three games. The Cyclones beat Texas a year ago in Austin, but this is not the same Longhorn team that stumbled through last season. The Longhorns aren't the powerhouse of old, but they pack plenty of punch, are playing better defense and they still possess the most raw talent on the planet. Iowa State's stats in its first three games don't jump out at you, but coach Paul Rhoads' team has managed to do just what it needed to pull out the "W." The Cyclones have kept the games close, which has put them in a position to win. Iowa State doesn't make it two in a row over the Horns, though, as Texas gets the job done in Ames.
TEXAS TECH 41 @ Kansas 28
Neither of these two teams plays much defense, or so the scores from their three previous games would indicate. The Kansas defense gave up over 700 total yards for the game and 42 points in the second half in an embarrassing loss two weeks ago at Georgia Tech. The Jayhawks are allowing opponents an average of 44 points a game on 550 yards of total offense. Texas Tech has nothing to brag about either on defense. The Red Raiders also are struggling in making defensive stops, giving up 410 yards a game against teams that aren't really that good. The difference in this game will be on offense. Texas Tech's offense has been more consistent and more productive than Kansas has been on offense. Quarterback Seth Doege has seamlessly stepped right in for the Red Raiders, as every new quarterback tends to do at Texas Tech, and has their air attack firing on all cylinders. Two weeks ago against New Mexico, the junior signal caller completed an unheard of 40 of 44 passes. Kansas sophomore quarterback Jordan Webb has performed well to this point, and he has a lot of young talent around him, but the Jayhawks lack experience and consistency, which will lead to their downfall against the Red Raiders and others as the schedule plays out.
ARKANSAS 38 vs. Texas A&M 34 (Dallas)
Consider this a preview and an early welcome to what Texas A&M can expect to encounter week in and week out throughout the football season in its new conference home, the SEC. This will be the 68th meeting between these two longtime rivals from the former Southwest Conference. Beginning next season, the Razorbacks and Aggies will be conference rivals once again when Texas A&M becomes the newest member of the SEC. The Aggies, ranked 13th in the current USA Today college poll, are coming off a disheartening home loss to Oklahoma State last weekend that dealt a serious blow to their chances of claiming a Big 12 championship in A&M's final season in the conference. Saturday's game at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas is likely to be a good old fashioned shootout at the OK Corral, and the Hogs will likely come out on top in a tight game.
Ball State 13 @ OKLAHOMA 44
If Oklahoma had a letdown against Missouri (after defeating then No. 5 Florida State on the road the week before), it's hard to imagine what we might see in this nonconference encounter at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, where 38 consecutive road teams have gone to die before. Anyone who thinks this will be an easy walkover game for the Sooners is misguided. OU should prevail in the end, but don't expect Ball State to roll over and play dead. The Cardinals are 3-1 and are coming off a 48-21 win over Army. Oklahoma is the highest ranked team that Ball State has ever played. To the man, the Sooners were not pleased with their performance last weekend, especially defensively, against Missouri. This doesn't bode well for the Cardinals, but it shouldn't be a cakewalk for OU, either. Key fact: Ball State offense is 17 for 17 in the red zone this season. The Cardinals will score, but so will the Sooners, and often, and that will be the difference in the game as OU rings up its 39th consecutive win at home.
Last Week's Picks: 4-1
For the Season: 26-4