OU Football: Takeaways From K-State’s Games With Big 4 of the Big 12


When you look at the Big 12 standings entering the final few weeks of the OU football regular season, the one thing that jumps out is the wide disparity between the top teams in the conference and the rest of the league.

Entering Week 10 of the 2015 season, the top four teams in the Big 12 have a combined record of 31-1 overall and 19-1 in the conference. Oklahoma is the only one of the four that has a loss. The other three – Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State – are undefeated. The remaining six teams in the league own a collective record of 17-31 (6-24 in the Big 12).

That is a bit unusual and is the way it is because there have been no games yet this season between any of the Big 4 at the top of the standings. That all begins to change this weekend when the first of the dominoes will fall as undefeated and 12th-ranked Oklahoma State hosts No. 5 TCU.

It is not at all uncommon for there to be big games between ranked opponents in the month of November, but the way the Big 12 schedule is set up this season, the only time the teams at the top of the league play each other in 2015 is over a 22-day period this month.

Oct 17, 2015; Manhattan, KS, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon (25) runs the ball from Kansas State Wildcats linebacker Will Davis (35) and defensive back Nate Jackson (24) on his way to a touchdown in a 55-0 win at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The three-week tournament to determine this season’s Big 12 champion and a potential spot in college football’s Final Four Playoff kicks off in Stillwater on Saturday. Next weekend, all eyes will be on Oklahoma at Baylor. On Nov. 21 the scene shifts to Norman, where the Sooners will play host to TCU, while Baylor heads over to Stillwater for a showdown with the Cowboys of OSU.

The grand finale will take place on Thanksgiving weekend, when Baylor plays at TCU on Friday in what many experts have believed all along will be the de facto conference championship game, and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State meet for Bedlam.

It’s no telling now what things will look like in the Big 12 race three weeks from now, but it is certain to be much different  than the logjam we have at the top two-thirds the way through the season.

Kansas State is one of the conference teams that has now completed the herculean gauntlet of playing the two Oklahoma schools, TCU and Baylor, and three of those games took place at Kansas State. Only Oklahoma State among the Big 12’s Big 4 had the advantage of a home game against Bill Snyder’s K-State squad, and even then it took a game-winning, 37-yard field goal with under a minute left in the game for the Cowboys to escape defeat.

At the beginning of the season, knowing that OU, TCU and Baylor all had to go to Kansas State, there was a fairly strong view among the Kansas City-area media that Bill Snyder would find a way to play spoiler and steal at least one of those three games. After all, Bill Snyder is always good for one or two upsets a year, regardless of what kind of team – good or bad – Kansas State puts on the field.

At one point early in the current season, it appeared that if one of the aforementioned teams was going to come out a loser at K-State, the Sooners perhaps were the most vulnerable.

The same day that heavily favored Oklahoma fell victim to Texas in their annual rivalry game in the Cotton Bowl, TCU had to rebound from an 18-point deficit at K-State before pulling out a seven-point victory with a very late touchdown. Those two somewhat surprising outcomes made it seem even more feasible that the Sooners could run into big trouble when they traveled to Manhattan, Kan., the following weekend.

Oct 24, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Samaje Perine (32) stiffarms Texas Tech Red Raiders defensive back Jah

As things turned out, the Sooners’ surprise no-show against Texas may have set up the worst possible scenario for Kansas State. Oklahoma not only stormed into Manhattan on the heels of five straight road wins against Bill Snyder there but extremely angry over the way they played in losing to the Longhorns and hungry to show what they were really made of. And show it they did, scoring within the first minute of the game and rolling up a 35-0 advantage by halftime.

The Sooners’ 55-0 beatdown of the Wildcats in front of a sellout K-State homecoming crowd served notice that Oklahoma was far from the pushover they appeared to be in falling a week earlier to the fired-up Longhorns. Against Kansas State, OU had both its running game and its Air Raid attack going, outgaining the home team by over 400 yards, converting 9 of 15 third-down plays and stifling the Wildcats’ struggling offense with a defensive blanket that allowed barely over 100 yards for the entire game.

And Oklahoma hasn’t taken its foot off the gas pedal yet, winning big in its two subsequent outings, back home against Texas Tech and then back to the Sunflower State last Saturday to deliver a first-round KO over Kansas.

So, with Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State lining up for the Sooners beginning next weekend, what can we draw from a comparative analysis of how Kansas State played those same four teams? Maybe not anything. Comparisons performed by looking at common opponents, after all, certainly do not constitute a scientifically significant sample, but they do offer up some interesting points and patterns worthy of discussion.

For example, all four of the top teams in the Big 12 had little problem moving the ball against an outmanned and injury-riddled K-State defense. Even Baylor, which scored a season-low 31 points in a win over the Wildcats on Thursday, was able to roll up over 500 yards of offense and execute big plays when it really needed to, despite not putting up the same big numbers on the scoreboard that it typically does.

In losing by a combined 16 points in its losses to Oklahoma State, TCU and Baylor this season, three teams with a collective record of 24-0 so far in 2015, Kansas State was able to generate 351, 385 and 430 yards, respectively, of total offense. Against the Sooners, however, that number was down to 110 total, and only 65 of that on the ground, which was the rout the Wildcats took early and often against Baylor, gouging the Bears for 268 rushing yards.

The trend that stands out the most in the Kansas State comparisons is how much better the Oklahoma defense was than the three other teams.

To further illustrate this point, Texas Tech is another team that has already completed this year’s schedule against the conference’s top four schools. The Red Raiders averaged over 600 yards of offense and 46 points in losing to Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State.  Tech also lost to the Sooners, 62-27, but the Red Raiders’ offensive output was 200 yards less than what they averaged going up against the other three teams.

The Sooners are vastly improved defensively this season, and that will be an important factor to their advantage when they go toe to toe with the Big 12’s best teams over the final three weeks of the season. OU leads the Big 12 in eight different defensive categories, and the Sooners rank in the top 25 nationally in those same defensive areas.

How the Oklahoma defense will stand up against two of the country’s most explosive offensive teams in Baylor and TCU remains to be seen. But if OU is able to make some stops, eliminate big plays and make the top-10-ranked Bears and Horned Frogs sustain long drives to reach the end zone, things could get really interesting, especially given the absence of both teams to play much defense, relying instead on the ability of their offenses to wear down opposing defenses and outscore their opponents.

Oklahoma State is better defensively than wither Baylor or TCU, but the Cowboys are not quite as loaded on the offensive end. But then this probably makes little difference, because when OU and OSU meet in what they call Bedlam, all bets are off and records and stat lines count for very little.

One more fun fact to rev up the engines of anticipation for denizens of the Sooner Nation: Oklahoma’s all-time football winning percentage against Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State combined is on the north side of 80 percent.