Before the season started, there were really three teams in the Big 12 that many had competing for the conference title. It was Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia, with not very many people giving the other teams much of a shot.
With a month of games in the books, that list has been narrowed down to two for most, with West Virginia and Texas looking clearly like the better teams the conference has to offer. And with both squads playing against each other this weekend, you would think that the winner would be considered a lock to walk away with the Big 12 title.
However, that is not the case.
Not Sold on the Texas Offense Just Yet
I know the sophomore running back tandem of Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown, with the addition of freshman Johnathan Gray, is one of the best in the country. There is a reason that the Texas running game is averaging 228 yards on the ground, which will likely continue with those talented runners in the backfield.
However, is quarterback David Ash the real deal?
There was a quarterback controversy before the season started, and many folks in Austin weren't sure if it made much of a difference. Both Ash and Case McCoy were terrible last year, as they both made bad decisions with the football and couldn't hit water if they fell out of a boat.
But through the first few games, Ash is somehow completing 78 percent of his passes, has thrown 10 touchdowns and created eight plays of over 25 yards or more.
Although the stats tell a different story as well. Out of 22 red zone trips, Ash has only thrown the ball 11 times, and his 27.3 pass attempts a game is good for seventh among Big 12 quarterbacks. Now maybe that could be because the running game has been so strong, but in the Big 12, the quarterback has to be capable of taking over a football game and leading his team to victory.
Can Ash play like a Geno Smith and destroy teams with his arm if the running game isn't working? He hasn't had to do so yet, but he will have to answer that question eventually.
West Virginia and the Lack of Defense
The Big 12 has four offenses that are ranked in the Top 10, but a solid defensive team could make all of the difference in who ends up earning a trip to a BCS bowl. West Virginia has a horrible defensive unit once again that is allowing 474 yards a game, and even Texas, a team that was supposed to be great on defense, has allowed seven plays of over 40 yards.
We know there are other great offensive teams such as Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU and even Baylor. But with the lack of defensive play from nearly every team in the Big 12 makes me believe that the conference will come down to the wire.
Every team in this conference can score, but which team can make the crucial stops on defense will be the key. After all, you can't possibly expect West Virginia to continue to pick up 60 percent of its third down attempts and produce 600 yards of total offense all season.
Texas Tech and the Rest of the Pack
We would be foolish to count Oklahoma out of the Big 12 race, but can we please add Texas Tech to the mix as well?
The Red Raiders are moving the ball just as well as the Mountaineers and Longhorns, as senior quarterback Seth Doege is completing over 70 percent of his passes. But while the offense is averaging over 40 points per game, the defense has been the best in the country through the first four games.
I know defense is hard to comprehend in this conference, but this Texas Tech team gets after it. There have only been three red-zone trips allowed all season; only four plays of over 20 yards and the Red Raiders are allowing just 167 yards a game. You can say that this unit hasn’t played anybody yet, but this is an exciting group that deserves some credit regardless.
There are currently five teams from this conference in the AP Poll, with a few other teams that have the potential to jump into the rankings. While the win this weekend between West Virginia and Texas will prove a lot, this conference is way too deep and the season is still early to guarantee it will produce the Big 12 title.
Haven't We Learned Anything Yet?
While we are on the topic of locks, have we not learned anything this college football season?
We have seen Arkansas fall off the face of the earth and set its program back 100 years. Oregon State looks like one of the better teams in the Pac-12 early on. USC has been shaky, as well as the LSU Tigers. The Big Ten doesn't have one team that looks like it is capable of getting out of its way. The Auburn Tigers are 1-3 to begin the season and can't move the football if it was on wheels.
Although it doesn't seem like it, we are still young in the college football season, especially with conference play just getting underway. You never know what surprises are in store next, and that is why I am not going to say that it is a lock that the Big 12 title winner will be the winner of this Big 12 matchup.
Note: All stats come from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.
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