With no football this weekend for either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State we thought that it would be a good idea to put the Heartland Sports staff together for a roundtable discussion. Our topics span the Big 12 but with Bedlam now just a week away we had to jump in on that hot topic a bit as well.
Q: What has been your biggest surprise in the Big 12 so far this season (good or bad)?
Craig: The defense! There’s still plenty of room to improve, but across the board the Big 12 is playing better defense this season. This past weekend, both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State came in on the top of the college football defensive line ratings. The conference has a long way to go in order to catch up to the SEC and ACC, but the future of Big 12 defenses look promising.
Mark: My biggest surprise is how anemic Oklahoma State’s offense has been with Chuba and Tylan coming back to Stillwater. They still can turn it around, and hopefully this is a well timed open week to heal up and get ready to play.
Rich: The biggest surprise has undoubtedly been the Oklahoma State offense. Headlined by the nation’s leading rusher from a year ago in Chuba Hubbard alongside Tylan Wallace as a receiver and an athletic quarterback in Spencer Sanders, expectations ran high. Posting a QB rating of 53.5, Sanders has been only a part of the issue that all stems from the offensive line. On the other side of the equation, the defense has been a pleasant surprise. As an experienced group, the suffocating defense leads the charge by giving up just over 300 yards per game in a league known for high-flying offenses.
Zack: It’s got to be Oklahoma losing their first two Big 12 games against Iowa State and Kansas State. Both the Cyclones and the Wildcats have proven themselves as solid teams, but especially now, it’s so obvious that the Sooners are the better team.
Matt: Kansas is bad! Yeah, I know that’s nothing new to the Big 12 over the last decade but year two of the Les Miles era could be close to an all-time low if not just rock bottom. KU ranks 112th nationally in passing yards per game (151.4), 109th in rushing (113 YPG), 129th in points scored (15.1 PPG), and they are the second highest points allowed team in the nation at an average of 48.4 points allowed per game. I truly expected progress with Miles at the helm.
Q: I wouldn’t worry about playing Oklahoma State right now because…
Craig: I wouldn’t worry about playing Oklahoma State right now because I’m not sure they can score enough points to keep up with an elite offense. Sure, they have an excellent defense. But, the one time they played a solid offense was against Texas and they gave up 41 points. In a slow pace game, I like the odds for OSU. However, this is the Big 12, and shootouts are bound to happen.
Mark: The Pokes offensive line is banged up and has been the teams biggest weakness this season. Along with Spencer Sanders’ inability to stretch the field, forcing throws, and fumbling are real issues for the Cowboys, I’m not sure he will be able to solve them with the amount of time provided in the pocket.
Zack: The offensive line is going through it. They’ve lost so many guys for a number of reasons, and the inexperience has been on full display for weeks now. I’m not saying it’s too late for them to start to put things together, but if I’m an opposing defensive coordinator, I’m doing everything I can get my defensive front into that backfield.
Matt: There’s one huge weakness with this Oklahoma State team. It’s the offensive line. I’m not sure their defense is as good as advertised but I know for dang sure the offensive line has gotten worse. The Pokes were supposed to have four returning starters up front but opt outs and transfers greatly decreased that number and then the injury bug hit. Patch work is the best way to describe what Josh Henson is working with but that’s being too kind at this point.
Q: I wouldn’t worry about playing Oklahoma right now because…
Craig: I wouldn’t worry about playing Oklahoma right now because I don’t think the defense is all there yet. The Sooners have put together solid defensive performances in back-to-back games, but it was against the two worst teams in the Big 12. In my opinion, OU will still go into “shutdown mode” when they get punched in the mouth. This squad hasn’t figured out how to bounce back after giving up big plays.
Mark: The Sooners defense has looked considerably better, but they have yet faced a tough test since getting Ronnie Perkins back, and the secondary are the same guys that played Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas. We’ll see how they hold up against Tylan Wallace and Co to get a better idea if they have improved like people think.
Zack: There’s not a real leader on offense. After 3 consecutive years of incredible leadership at the quarterback position, the Sooners have Spencer Rattler at the helm, and he’s just a freshman. This isn’t a dig at him, it’s just stating the fact that he has very little experience. That will come with time, but for now, I think he and the Sooners can be easily rattled, no pun intended.
Matt: I love the winning streak but let’s not kid ourselves over who it is coming against. The most physical team of the four was Texas and it took quadruple overtime to sink them. TCU, Texas, and Kansas are all going to compete for the bottom half of the bottom half in the conference so you’ll have to forgive me for my skepticism.
Q: Which team has the better Spencer at quarterback, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State? Defend your answer.
Craig: I am a little biased here, but I’ve got to go with Spencer Rattler at Oklahoma. Rattler has had his fair share of freshman mistakes, but we see Spencer Sanders making some of those same mistakes as a sophomore. Another aspect that gives Rattler the advantage is his big play capabilities. He has been responsible for 21 total touchdowns for the Sooners, while Sanders has recorded a total of 6 for the Pokes.
Mark: Rattler has the better arm talent and the higher ceiling in general. He has 18 passing TDs to Sanders’ 5 TDS and both have comparable completion percentages.
Zack: This is a tough question to answer because I don’t think either is particularly outstanding. They both are above average at this point, and because they’re so close—and because I’m a Cowboy fan—I’m taking Spencer Sanders. He has more experience, albeit not much more because of how much he’s sat due to injury, and he’s already fought through some tough times. A lot of people are on his head about turnovers, but I still like what he brings to the table.
Matt: That’s not a fair question…especially this year. Rattler has the better QBR (172.1 to 148.2) and he certainly has the advantage in arm strength. More importantly he’s been healthy all season and even showed some toughness in taking a big hit at the goal line against Kansas a week ago.
Prediction time – Tell us who will be playing in the Big 12 championship game next month?
Craig: I really think we see the Sooners getting another shot at the Cyclones in the Big 12 Championship game. Both teams would need to win out of course, and Oklahoma would need Kansas State to lose again. That being said, if Iowa State wins out they will naturally take care of Kansas State for the Sooners.
Mark: Iowa State seems like the safest pick but with match ups against Kansas State and Texas it’s very much up in the air. I think they’ll play the winner of Bedlam. I think the most likely is Iowa State vs Oklahoma. But it could also end up being Bedlam 2020 Part II.
Zack: My head hurts just looking at the standings and trying to figure out the different scenarios, so I’m going to go with the obvious selection of the current top two teams, assuming they both win out: Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State.
Matt: At this point I really think we’re on a collision course for an Iowa State and Oklahoma rematch. The Sooners have no room for error in their final three games but their Bedlam match up with Oklahoma State next week, as well as Iowa State’s hosting of Kansas State, opens the doors for a potential sixth consecutive conference title.
Now, my fear is Texas. The Longhorns have been extremely lucky and they’re looming. Turnovers led to their victory at Oklahoma State and poor coaching decisions in the Red Zone let them come home victorious from Morgantown. If Spencer Sanders throws one less pick or Neil Brown kicks two field goals rather than going for it on fourth and short then we’re probably back to talking about replacements for Tom Herman again. As it is, we’re talking about Texas being a player in the championship race once more and that always makes me nervous.
Alright, now it’s your turn. Where do you agree or disagree? Hit us up in the comments section and let us know your thoughts.