Big 12 Football: What We Learned About the Big 12 in Week 1

Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterSeptember 2, 2013

The opening weekend of college football is in the books—mostly, anyway. There's one more game to round out the holiday weekend, but the Big 12's work is done. 

How did the Big 12 do as a whole? Some good, some bad. 

The bad is almost always going to get more attention than the good unless there's a marquee win, which there really wasn't in Week 1—unless you count Oklahoma State's 21-3 victory over Mississippi State. That was a solid effort to be sure, but the Cowboys were favored there. 

Admittedly, I overplayed the bad for humorous purposes...

But the reality is the Big 12 still went 6-3 for the weekend despite a couple tough losses (Kansas State, Iowa State) and slow starts (Texas, West Virginia). 

So here's what we learned:

TCU is very much a Big 12 title contender.

The Horned Frogs couldn't quite catch up to LSU, losing to the Tigers Saturday night 37-27. Gary Patterson's team kept hanging around but was never able to stop LSU long enough to even so much as tie the game. A big issue was getting off the field on third down—the Tigers were 13-of-19 in that category—and a pass rush was noticeably lacking with Devonte Fields sidelined with a suspension. 

All that said, credit TCU for battling with a team that was bigger and more talented. It was an encouraging sign, and it's clear this team is well-coached. Ignore the total yards given up on defense for a minute (448 for those counting at home); TCU forced three field goals on four red-zone trips for LSU in the first half. The Tigers could have built a big lead. Instead, they were up six heading into halftime before the wear and tear of the game became too much for TCU in the second half. 

Keep that defensive effort up and the Horned Frogs will be in the middle of the Big 12 title hunt by season's end. 

There's reason to be excited about Trevor Knight. 

Trevor Knight has been getting a lot of publicity ever since it was announced last month he would be Oklahoma's starting quarterback, not Blake Bell. The redshirt freshman didn't disappoint in his college debut Saturday night against Louisiana-Monroe.

OU's offense has a different look to it with Knight taking snaps. It's still designed to spread defenses out, but with more option attack to take advantage of Knight's athleticism. And Knight has a lot of it, rushing for over 100 yards. The passing game was iffy, but Knight did have three touchdown tosses. 

The Sooners offense looks like it'll be a lot of fun to watch with Knight running and throwing, assuming he can stay healthy the entire year. His vision and running ability in the open field is a thing of beauty. 

West Virginia running back Charles Sims is the real deal. 

West Virginia nearly joined the likes of Kansas State and Iowa State by escaping a close encounter of the wrong kind. The Mountaineers needed 17 unanswered points to defeat William & Mary of the FCS 24-17. As I wrote over the weekend, there's a lot of cause for concern when it comes to the Mountaineers' season outlook, but Sims was undoubtedly a bright spot. 

The Houston transfer led all rushers in the game with 120 yards and a score. He has a lethal combination of wiggle and power that has been lacking in the WVU ground game recently, and he's clearly effective catching the ball out of the backfield. In short, he's a complete back that will get his touches for WVU. 

We're still wondering which David Ash is going to show up on any given possession. 

#DatAsh or #BadAsh? That's the question. The junior quarterback threw two first-half interceptions Saturday night against New Mexico State and then threw four touchdowns and ran for another. The Aggies were clearly outmatched from a skill-position standpoint, so those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. 

Mack Brown said on Monday's coaches teleconference that he was pleased with the way Ash was able to put his mistakes behind him and move forward with the game plan. There's definitely something to be said for that kind of maturity, and Ash has played in enough games that he should carry himself that way. Besides, it was the first game. Mistakes happen. 

That said, more consistency is going to be one of the main things we'd like to see from Ash this year. 

Kansas State's defense sorely misses Arthur Brown. 

It's well-documented that North Dakota State is a good football team. The fact that the Bison were able to upset Kansas State is certainly big but not a complete shocker—at least to the level of, say, Appalachian State over Michigan. 

What was surprising was how North Dakota State completely dominated K-State at the line of scrimmage and shoved the running game right down the Wildcats' throat. It looked similar to the way Baylor beat up on KSU last year to end their BCS-title hopes.

K-State has a lot of new faces on defense this year, and that was clear when the Bison conducted an 18-play, 80-yard drive that ate up nearly nine minutes and ended in what would be the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. 

K-State's inability to get off the field when it mattered most reflects a couple things, but none more so than the lack of leadership on that side of the ball. Linebacker Arthur Brown was arguably the best player on the entire team last year, and his absence was definitely felt on Friday. 

The law firm of Baker, Mayfield & Kingsbury is officially open

There's nothing quite like sending a true freshman walk-on out onto the field in his first college football game and watching him throw 60 times for over 400 yards. That's what Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury did last Friday when Baker Mayfield tossed four touchdown passes (to zero interceptions) in a win against SMU. 

Mayfield had a heck of a high school career at Lake Travis High School near Austin, Texas and received plenty of consideration from Rice and Washington State. So it's not like the kid can't play. Still, I'm not sure many people expected that kind of performance from Mayfield right from the start. 

In fact, Mayfield's night was so good, it earned him conference honors as Offensive Player of the Week. The last Texas Tech freshman quarterback to receive those kind of accolades in the Big 12? Well...

Who are you and what have you done with the Big 12?

Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia all relied heavily on the run game this past weekend in their respective wins. The Sooners and Cowboys both utilized their quarterbacks' running ability in a more option-based attack, while the Mountaineers leaned on their stable of running backs. 

All three of those teams have developed a reputation for airing it with strong quarterback and wide-receiver play. I mean, Dana Holgorsen ran the ball 44 times on Saturday against William & Mary. Sometimes, Holgo... 

Ben Kercheval is the Lead Writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval