Another week of Big 12 football is in the books.
Clearly, the storyline for the conference is the slide Texas is beginning to take after a tough loss to Ole Miss—more on thoughts on that with this #HOTSPORTSTAKE.
But how did the rest of the conference look? There were some pleasant surprises and some disappointments. Also, I hate to say "I told you so," but I knew Baylor would torch "bye."
Anyway, let's get to it. Here's what we learned from the Big 12 in Week 3.
TCU is very much a Big 12 title contender.
I haven't made it a secret that TCU was my favorite to win the Big 12 this year, even after a season-opening loss to LSU and the loss of quarterback Casey Pachall.
But after dropping Thursday night's game to Texas Tech? [/collar pull]
Yes, the officiating in that game was another level of awful. And, yes, TCU was on the wrong end of some of those calls. But this was a poorly-executed game by the Horned Frogs, especially on offense.
Trevone Boykin looked uncomfortable against Texas Tech's defense, which should be attributed at least in part to how well the Red Raiders played on that side of the ball. It was also surprising for a guy who started eight games last year and looked good in limited action in the first two weeks.
With Gary Patterson on the sidelines and a wealth of starters returning, this looked like a team primed to make a run at a Big 12 title. It hasn't come together yet like I thought it would.
Conversely, look at you, Texas Tech! All dressed up and looking good!
The Red Raiders were picked by Big 12 media to finish near the bottom of the league this year, but this team may be the pleasant surprise of the conference.
TTU's 20-10 win over TCU on Thursday was no thing of beauty and quarterback Baker Mayfield didn't have the game he would have liked to have. But this team found a way to win and Davis Webb came off the bench for an injured Mayfield and threw a 19-yard touchdown that put the game on ice.
Without guaranteeing anything, Tech could be 7-0* heading into an October road game against Oklahoma. Things get more difficult schedule-wise from that point forward, but this team is starting to roll.
(*I'm notorious for jinxing things and oh, no, Texas Tech, I am so sorry!)
Blake Bell and Ford Childress performed well, but how much do we really know?
Two quarterbacks, Oklahoma's Blake Bell and West Virginia's Ford Childress, made their first starts of 2013 in Week 3. Both performed remarkably.
Bell, coming in for an injured Trevor Knight, threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns. Per OU athletics, Bell broke Sam Bradford's school record for most passing yards in a first career start. Tulsa's defense was, in a word, bad, but Bell did some nice things regardless. He was able to push the ball down the field and he stayed poised in the face of pass rushes.
Similarly, Childress had a solid debut with 359 yards passing and three touchdowns, despite some drops from his receivers. Whereas Tulsa's defense is forgiving, Georgia State is forgiving on every side of the ball. We'll know more about what Childress can do as the season progresses.
Overall, though, promising starts for both guys.
Iowa State has some fight in it (I like that), but not much else at the moment.
I'll give the Cyclones props for making things interesting late in a 27-21 loss to Iowa. But this has the makings of a tough season for Iowa State, which already sits at 0-2.
The offense struggled to move the ball and there's still no run game to speak of. Quarterback Sam Richardson doesn't always look comfortable, which is understandable considering the lack of weapons he has to work with outside of receiver Quenton Bundrage.
And how badly does the Cyclones defense miss linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott? ISU could not stop the Hawkeyes running game, led by Mark Weisman.
I love me some Paul Rhoads, and there should be a top-25 team somewhere on alert because that's just how this program rolls.
Iowa State fball: rarely any offense, often not pretty, but somehow you're in a fight w/them & your clothes are ripped & how did I get here?— Ben Kercheval (@BenKercheval) September 14, 2013
But this is shaping up to be Rhoads' biggest challenge yet.
Kansas' inability to close out tight games remains an unresolved issue.
I'm admittedly naive. I didn't think Kansas hiring Turner Gill had ticked off the football gods that much. However, I stand corrected.
The Jayhawks couldn't quite close the deal against Rice on Saturday by giving up 10 fourth quarter points, including a late touchdown, to lose 23-14. Despite the collapse, KU's defense actually fared well against a team that (transitive property alert!) was able to score plenty of points against Texas A&M in Week 1.
Kansas can run the ball well enough, which is a good thing if you're trying to hold on to a lead late in the game. The problem is how many times is that going to be the case for the Jayhawks this season?
On a note of a bigger scale, this ejection for targeting rule needs to be readdressed.
This goes beyond the walls of the Big 12, so indulge me for a minute (or, don't, and keep scrolling). The ejection for targeting rule has to be examined again, preferably sooner rather than later.
Let's use the Big 12 as a backdrop. On Saturday, there were two notable instances where a player was flagged and initially ejected for targeting, but further review ultimately reversed both decisions.
Oklahoma defensive back Gabe Lynn was penalized and ejected for laying a hit on a Tulsa wide receiver near the goal line. It was a good, legal hit. He led with the shoulder and did not make contact with the opponent's head/neck area.
A similar case took place Saturday night with Texas defensive back Adrian Phillips. Both Phillips and Lynn were reinstated after further review because there was no targeting on their respective plays. So why does the 15-yard penalty stand?
Player safety has been a point of concern for the NCAA and its member institutions. As controversial as the ejection for targeting rule may be, it's at least an understandable one. But refusing to reverse the 15-yard penalty after acknowledging the call on the field was wrong is asinine.
Other Week 3 Big 12 Happenings
Best offensive performance
Is there anyone else deserving of this as much as Blake Bell? Probably not, but let's at least expand our superlatives and recognize Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro as well. Amaro caught nine passes for 97 yards against TCU. He didn't have a touchdown, but this guy is an absolute stud in the passing game. He'll be nightmare fuel for opposing defensive coordinators all season.
Best defensive performance
West Virginia linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski. He had nine tackles against Georgia State yesterday and a sack. He's also the team's leading tackler through the first three games. We'll see how WVU's defense continues to evolve over the season, but he's standing out early.
LB Nick Kwiatkoski has led (or co-led) #WVU in tackles in all three games this season.— Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247) September 14, 2013
Worst display of behavior
An effigy of Sports Illustrated reporter Thayer Evans was set up in Stillwater on Saturday, when Oklahoma State was taking on Lamar. The beating on the field (a 59-3 win for the Cowboys) was bad; the beating the effigy of Evans took was equally bad. For $100, people could take a "stab" at Evans, who has taken a bulk of the criticism for the SI series on Oklahoma State this past week.
Regardless of whether the SI series has merit or not, this is deplorable behavior and there's no room for it. I'm not even going to call the people responsible for this real "fans," either, because they should not represent OSU's fan base.
And now, as a palate cleanser, best appearance by a West Texas critter
TCU vs. Texas Tech. SEEN A FOX.
Also, #RallyFox is a real thing. And we will use it here on the Big 12 blog—perhaps extensively, should the situation warrant.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.