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Three of the four games this weekend are Big XII showdowns that will start to separate the packs in what is otherwise an open league.
We enter the last weekend of September with three meaningful Big XII games on the docket and each team is looking to set the tone for their 2012 campaign.
Baylor vs West Virginia will be a test on whether or not the Mountaineers can join the Big XII Elite and if the Bears have truly achieved a new standard of winning after the arrival and departure of RGIII.
TCU's game against SMU is purely a revenge game and an opportunity to gain more confidence before opening their Big XII home slate against Iowa State on October 6th.
Texas Tech and Iowa State are both trying to make statements that they belong in the discussion in the top half of the Big XII while Texas tries to dethrone the defending conference champions and Oklahoma State looks to set the tone for the rest of their season with a tough start to their title defense.
For the second week in a row we will have no EA Sports NCAA Football 13 simulations. Please keep your weeping to yourselves.
Last Week: 3-2
Baylor vs West Virginia - 11:00 AM CDT - FX
Experts expect a shootout in this one and it's hard to blame them. Both teams rank below 50th in scoring defense without really playing anyone of significant note. Despite the claim that Geno Smith had a sub-par game against Maryland he still went 30 of 43 for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns. Wait, sub-par? Really? No wonder the press thinks Steele Jantz sucks. When a 158.8 quarterback rating is sub-par it's pretty easy to look awful in comparison.
With the exception of the SMU game (and I blame this squarely on Garrett Gilbert) Baylor has been living by the skin of their teeth from week to week. Nick Florence is a more than capable quarterback but RGIII he is not and his rushing attack has failed to gain him the type of balance that will be needed to succeed in the Big XII this year. West Virginia brought over Joe DeForest from Oklahoma State this year to help coordinate their defense and DeForest was in Stillwater last year when the Cowboys shut down RGIII and thumped the Bears 59-24. West Virginia's defense isn't as athletic and deep as last year's Oklahoma State squad, so the game will be closer by virtue of that, but I think Baylor's lack of balance finally catches up to them.
West Virginia 45, Baylor 31
SMU vs TCU - 6:00 PM CDT - FSN
With other appetizing games on the schedule in the Big XII it's fairly hard to get up for a late September Big XII vs C-USA match up. Especially one that involves Garrett Gilbert. Gilbert is only completing 52.8% of his passes this season and has thrown more interceptions (4) than touchdowns (3). Worse yet those touchdowns have come against Baylor and Stephen F. Austin, hardly world beaters. Gilbert will be tasked with leading the charge against a TCU defense better than anyone expected.
TCU meanwhile needs to figure out their turnover woes before Big XII play gets into full swing for them and will need to do it while trying to achieve balance on the ground. TCU managed 133 yards on the ground against Virginia last week but 51 of those came on 3 carries by backup quarterback Trevone Boykin. Running back Matthew Tucker, filling in for the injured Waymon James, only managed 52 yards on 15 attempts. SMU's defense isn't good enough to take advantage of TCU's one dimensionality but this could be a problem for TCU in October and November.
TCU 35, SMU 14
Texas Tech vs Iowa State - 6:00 PM CDT - FCS
Click here to see my preview from yesterday.
Texas vs Oklahoma State - 6:30 PM - FOX
The Big XII game of the week is in Stillwater, and unfortunately the same time as Iowa State's game, and features the defending Big XII champion squaring off against a Texas team that could be flying under the radar as a potential Big XII contender this year.
The big story here is whether or not Wes Lunt plays for Oklahoma State or if J.W. Walsh will be the man behind center. Lunt is a true pocket passer and Walsh is capable of making plays with his feet. What people are not talking about is how Oklahoma State was gashed on the ground against Arizona and lost the time of possession battle by nearly five minutes. The Cowboys have had time to correct these issues over the last two weeks but with the rushing attack of the Longhorns in town it will be interesting to see who wins the battle on the line of scrimmage.
I don't take away a lot from Texas' rout of Ole Miss two weeks ago except for the fact that Texas has a ton of team speed and if their offense can continue to get the ball in the hands of Marquise Goodwin then it spells a long night for a lot of opposing defenses. I certainly think Texas' defense is more talented here and if Walsh or Lunt can't carry the team through the air it will be tough sledding. Oklahoma State is going to make David Ash beat them with his arm and they're going to need to be sure tacklers with the run and screen game being the likely choice for offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin.
In the end I think this Longhorn defense is going to be special this year and is going to create more issues for Walsh or Lunt than Oklahoma State does for Ash.
Texas 31, Oklahoma State 24