TCU, West Virginia and Iowa St show Big 12's depth
TCU, West Virginia and Iowa State weren't expected to do much in the Big 12 this season.
Last weekend's performances might change that perception.
The Horned Frogs, Mountaineers and Cyclones each beat a power conference team on Saturday - and West Virginia and Iowa State did it on the road. The teams picked 7th, 8th and 9th in the preseason poll had three of the Big 12's four marquee wins, showing that the league might be deeper than originally thought.
''I think this is going to be a really strong conference this year and really for a number of years because there's so many young players. And obviously we've competed well outside of conference,'' Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said Monday.
Six Big 12 teams are off this week. The lone power five non-conference game is a Big 12-SEC tilt between No. 20 Kansas State and No. 5 Auburn on Thursday. No. 4 Oklahoma, which trounced Tennessee 34-10, plays at West Virginia while Kansas faces Central Michigan on Saturday.
TCU (2-0) has struggled since joining the Big 12, winning just 6 of its first 18 league games. The Horned Frogs might change their fortunes if they play defense like they did against Minnesota on Saturday.
TCU held the run-oriented Gophers to just 99 yards rushing on 39 tries and picked off Mitch Leidner three times in a 30-7 win. Quarterback Trevone Boykin continued his promising start, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 92 yards on just 12 attempts.
''I thought he handled himself well. I thought he stepped up in the pocket better than he ever has,'' TCU coach Gary Patterson said of Boykin.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen's job status has been a major topic of discussion ever since the Mountaineers went 4-8 in 2013, but he may have the program going in the right direction again.
After a surprisingly close loss to No. 3 Alabama and a 54-0 win over Towson, West Virginia beat Maryland 40-37. Clint Trickett set career highs with 511 yards passing and four touchdowns as the Mountaineers racked up a staggering 694 yards against a team that beat them 37-0 a year ago.
Oklahoma's visit to Morgantown this weekend suddenly seems a bit more daunting than it did during the summer.
''The leadership ability of him is just off the charts right now. He just understands what's going on. He's a smart kid that understands the game of football,'' Holgorsen said about Trickett, who is completing 75 percent of his passes.
Iowa State looked as bad as any high-major team in the country in a 20-point home loss to FCS champion North Dakota State in its opener. The Cyclones (1-2) have made enormous strides since then.
Iowa State led by as many as 15 points before falling to No. 20 Kansas State 32-28 in the only league game so far. The Cyclones continued their turnaround in Iowa City, rallying to beat the rival Hawkeyes 20-17 on Cole Netten's 42-yard field goal with two seconds left. Iowa State now has a ton of confidence and an extra week to prepare for Baylor's visit on Sept. 27.
''We've learned that we have tremendous upside with this team. There's a lot of growth. A lot of potential, and we're tapping into it,'' Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said.
It wasn't all good news for the Big 12. Kansas (1-1) go drubbed 41-3 at Duke. Texas Tech's 16-game non-conference home winning streak was erased in a 49-28 loss to Arkansas.
Texas (1-2) looked a lot better this weekend than it did in a blowout loss to BYU on Sept. 6, but still lost to 12th-ranked UCLA, 20-17.
But outside of the woeful Jayhawks, it looks as though any team in the Big 12 is capable of taking a league game from anyone else.
''I think that, top to bottom, this league is going to be very challenging for all of us,'' Gundy said.
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