Picks, Predictions and Prognosis for Every Week 4 Big 12 Football Game
We're inching closer to full-time Big 12 conference play, but first, we'll have to get through another weekend of soft non-conference games.
But the early part of the season hasn't been a good look for the Big 12. So far, the Big 12 is 16-7 in non-conference games (0-2 against current top 25 teams). What does that mean? Well, consider this: Big 12 teams lost seven non-conference games combined between 2011 and '12.
(Hat tip on those numbers go to David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest.)
As has been the case the past couple of weeks, there is one key Big 12 game to top off the weekend. Kansas State visits a struggling Texas team that is searching for any way to get back on track after losing back-to-back games. 'Horns coach Mack Brown has preached that a conference title is still an achievable goal.
That starts with beating the Wildcats Saturday night.
Let's get to the picks.
(All rankings reflect the latest Associated Press poll.)
Louisiana Tech at Kansas
Saturday, Sept. 21 at noon ET
Kansas returns to the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium on Saturday to take on Louisiana Tech, a team under its first year with head coach Skip Holtz.
The Jayhawks are coming off a loss against Rice but had a lead heading into the fourth quarter. Like other close games in the past, Kansas couldn't execute and hold on. Charlie Weis said during Monday's Big 12 teleconference that the offense had six dropped passes. One of them was a would-be touchdown.
But while the passing game continues to, shall we say, "evolve", the defense was praise-worthy and Louisiana Tech is among the best offensive teams in the country.
Yeah, these ain't your Sonny Dykes' Bulldogs, and the Jayhawks' running game continues to get the job done in this one.
Score prediction: Kansas 27, Louisiana Tech 23
West Virginia vs. Maryland
Saturday, Sept. 21 at 3:30 p.m. ET in Baltimore
The Mountaineers have finally found a quarterback in Ford Childress. Probably.
The redshirt freshman had a solid debut in Week 3 against Georgia State, but it will be interesting to see how he performs against a defense that actually gave WVU some problems last year. However, both of Maryland's starting cornerbacks, Jeremiah Johnson and Dexter McDougle, are out with injuries.
This is a West Virginia offense that's still trying to find its identity. (That's still weird to type about a Dana Holgorsen team.) Holgo threw some younger guys into the starting lineup against the Panthers, and while there were some strides taken, this is an offense that tends to go long periods of time without scoring.
That chemistry will come with time. It's just a matter of when.
But perhaps the biggest challenge will be how the Mountaineers secondary handles Terps wide receiver Stefon Diggs. The sophomore has already caught 16 passes for 387 yards and three scores. He had a big day against the 'Eers a year ago too.
The WVU defense seems improved, but the first three games may not be the best samples either. Keith Patterson's group deserves some credit for how it played against Oklahoma in Week 2, but that wasn't the Sooners' best game either.
Maryland should be a much better measuring stick overall.
Score prediction: Maryland 28, West Virginia 24
Louisiana-Monroe at No. 20 Baylor
Saturday, Sept. 21 at 4:00 p.m. ET
The general public has watched Baylor score 139 points in its last two games. Now, a bloodthirsty crowd wants more.
Sorry, Louisiana-Monroe, the sacrifice must be completed.
In all seriousness, the Warhawks gave the Bears a scare last year in a 47-42 shootout. As we noted on the blog Tuesday, containing ULM quarterback Kolton Browning is priority numero uno for the Bears defense.
The longer Browning is able to extend the play with his feet, the more dangerous he is.
It would be surprising if ULM is able to stop or otherwise slow Baylor's offense. There are simply too many weapons capable of scoring at any point. Running back Lache Seastrunk is working hard on that Heisman résumé with an unreal 9.3 yards per carry.
The Warhawks get some scores, but the Bears take care of business.
Score prediction: Baylor 56, ULM 24
Texas State at No. 25 Texas Tech
Saturday, Sept. 21 at 7:00 p.m. ET
Texas Tech won ugly against TCU last Thursday. Hosting Texas State in Week 4 should be easier.
Red Raiders quarterback Baker Mayfield suffered a deep thigh bruise against the Frogs, according to coach Kliff Kingsbury, but he will be available to start. Mayfield had a rough night against TCU with three picks, but he has a chance to rebound against the Bobcats.
With how well the defense is playing, Texas Tech shouldn't have any trouble here. QB David Webb will likely get a chance to see more playing time too if this game is all but officially over by halftime.
An appearance by the #RallyFox is unclear, however. His status is day-to-day.
Score prediction: Texas Tech 48, Texas State 17
Kansas State at Texas
Saturday, Sept. 21 at 8:00 p.m. ET
Despite a two-game slide, Texas is a seven-point favorite against Kansas State on Saturday, according to VegasInsider.com. Pretty amazing for a team that so few people have confidence in at this point—not to mention Kansas State hasn't lost to Texas since 2003.
The Wildcats' dominance over the 'Horns has been bizarre. K-State has been outgained in total yards by Texas in the past three meetings, but the key stat is they're +9 in turnover margin in that span.
In 2011, the 'Horns defense actually held former K-State quarterback Collin Klein to four yards on 26 carries. In 2010, the Wildcats had fewer pass attempts (four) than ex-UT quarterback Garrett Gilbert had interceptions (five).
Back to the upcoming game: Texas' run defense is practically non-existent and Bill Snyder hasn't made it a secret that backup quarterback Daniel Sams, a polished runner, will see playing time.
“I think anybody right now will try to run the ball against us,” Texas coach Mack Brown said Monday during the Big 12 coaches teleconference.
The question—as it was last week against Ole Miss—is whether the 'Horns can stop it. The other area to consider is UT's injury report. Quarterback David Ash and receiver Mike Davis are questionable with a head/shoulder and an ankle injury respectively, and receiver Daje Johnson is out again with an ankle injury.
Offensive linemen Mason Walters (knee) and Josh Cochran (shoulder) are also questionable. Brutal timing.
Score prediction: Kansas State 34, Texas 24
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes and information obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.