Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, November 18, 2011 at 9:58 AM
Normally, we wouldn't devote much space in the NOTEBOOK to a game matching Oklahoma State and Iowa State. But, since this is a FRIDAY NIGHT meeting on ESPN2...and since we're overdue to get caught up on goings-on in the Big 12...hello Ames!
We've already crunched some numbers for you in recent weeks in the Big East, SEC, ACC, and Pac 12. That leaves just two of the major conferences left for dissection. We'll take of the Big 12 here today, then the Big 10 Saturday morning...on an ideal day for coverage with games like Nebraska-Michigan, Penn State-Ohio State, and Wisconsin-Illinois on the schedule. Just be sure you're with us EARLY on Saturday because there are some early starts in the mix there and you'll want to take care of business with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK bright and early on Golden Game day anyway.
Before talking more about tonight's Oklahoma State/Iowa State game...and the fact that Oklahoma State is just eight quarters away from playing for the national championship...let's run the Big 12 standings heading into this weekend...
BIG 12 STANDINGS
Oklahoma State 7-0
Kansas State 5-2
Texas A&M 3-4
Iowa State 2-4
Texas Tech 2-5
Oklahoma's home loss to Texas Tech is going to go down as one of the football mysteries of the century. It gets more inexplicable with each passing week as Texas Tech continues to get annihilated every time they take the field. It's going to be tough for Oklahoma to climb back to the top two in the BCS with that loss on their card. Even if the Sooners beat Okie State...they'll be 11-1 along with Alabama. Who had the better loss?
We're very impressed with Kansas State this year, even if they're using a fairly limited offensive schematic to get the job done. Bill Snyder knows how to exploit an edge when he's got one...and the defense has held its own in an up-tempo high scoring conference.
Once you get below the top three, it's hard to know for sure what you've got. Texas can't compete with top notch teams, but obliterates lesser lights. Texas A&M would be a superpower if games only lasted two-and-a-half quarters. Missouri just beat those two teams, yet has fallen four times in league play. It's conceivable that the Big 12 will be pointspread favorites in every single bowl game they play because the talent goes so deep. Oklahoma State won't be favored over LSU of course. But, if the cowboys fall to the Sooners...it's not a longshot at all that each spot in the bowl invitation process will go to a team that's more highly regarded than their opponent.
That doesn't mean the Big 12 will win them all. But, if early bowl results are going in favor of the conference, it would make sense to bet the trend.
Few games are really important right now because it's assumed Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will play for the title in a few weeks when they face each other in the regular season finale (there's no official championship game at the moment because the conference only has 10 teams). Here's a quick look at the matchups that matter most in the big picture.
Oklahoma State at Iowa State (Friday)
Kansas State at Texas
Oklahoma at Baylor
Elsewhere, Missouri is a big favorite over Texas Tech, as is Texas A&M over Kansas. Should the favorites win those games, both will become bowl eligible along with all the teams currently in front of them.
We've compiled the national stat rankings for the teams set to face off in those three priority meetings, along with the strength of schedule rankings from Jeff Sagarin's computer analysis over at USA Today. We'll do this for you tomorrow too in the best Big 10 games. Let's crunch some numbers!
Oklahoma State: 3rd on offense, 101st on defense, vs. the 5th ranked schedule
Iowa State: 59th on offense, 90th on defense, vs. the 13th ranked schedule
Oklahoma State's defense is better than that ranking in terms of its true effectiveness. That gets hidden because the offense plays fast break football. You'll recall that Texas didn't do much against the unit, and Texas Tech only managed six points at home last week. If you slow Oklahoma State's games down, and give them an average schedule instead of a tough one...then this defense would impress you more than it does now by a significant degree.
Iowa State has respectable numbers given their strength of schedule...and this program has a history of catching big name teams napping at this site. Nebraska sure is happy they won't be going back any time soon. Oklahoma isn't in love with the place either. There's certainly a chance that the Cyclones will catch Oklahoma State flat footed here. You can't make a statistical case for Iowa State to be competitive...but you couldn't do that either for Texas Tech against Oklahoma...or even for Iowa State in their past upsets on this field.
The key in our view will be turnovers. When Oklahoma State loses focus, they start giving the ball away. One reason they've been so great this year is that they've maintained their focus. This is the ultimate sandwich spot though...coming off a blowout win on TV...with the biggest game in their program's history sitting next on the schedule. Maybe we see a replay of Okie-State/Texas Tech...but maybe, things will get VERY interesting.
Kansas State: 85th on offense, 82nd on defense, vs. the 8th ranked schedule
Texas: 44th on offense, 14th on defense, vs. the 11th ranked schedule
If you've been watching these teams on TV this year...then Kansas State will strike you as being better than those numbers, while Texas will strike you as being worse. The Wildcats find ways to hang with tough opposition even without great depth in talent. The Longhorns play better than those stats vs. bad teams, but look more like the 40th or 50th best team when they have to play somebody like OU or Oklahoma State. Also, the biggest offensive and special teams threat on Texas was lost for the season last week at Missouri. So, it's very likely going forward that Texas won't play to those rankings.
The key here will be fatigue. Kansas State is coming off a 60-minute battle with Oklahoma State, followed by a multi-overtime war with Texas A&M. The weather is a bit warmer and more humid than you normally see in mid-November in Texas this weekend...so a wear-down from the visitor is very possible. Can Texas find the weaponry to get on the scoreboard?
Oklahoma: 4th on offense, 47th on defense, vs. the 6th ranked schedule
Baylor: 2nd on offense, 111th on defense, vs. the 9th ranked schedule
We might as well say here that we think Sagarin has overshot the mark with his strength of schedule stuff. He did this a few years ago with the Pac 10 in our view. If a computer thinks a conference is great, then everyone in that conference will appear to play brutal schedules. It's far from certain that the Big 12 really is THAT good....so we'll use some caution when evaluating bowl matchups down the road.
The rankings suggest that Baylor is just a shade below Oklahoma State. Since Okie State beat them by 35 points, that's not likely to be true. Baylor is going to have big trouble here stopping the Sooners. Unless Oklahoma pulls another mental no-show, they're likely to win another classic Big 12 garbage time shootout.
The Big 12 has been well represented in recent BCS championship games. Texas lost to Alabama. Oklahoma lost to Florida. If Oklahoma State can take down Iowa State and OU, then it will be the Cowboys representing the league for the crystal trophy once again. It would be very hard to see one of the one-loss teams surpassing undefeated Okie State in the calculation process given strength of schedule and the quality win that finishing off with Oklahoma would represent. Oklahoma State is eight quarters away from a shot at history...which is a tribute to the investments... T. Boone Pickens...and possibly all sorts of fun things that inspire investigations once a surprise team reaches the big game! Hey, that's college football. Ask the lawyers from Auburn and Oregon about that.
We're back with you Saturday to talk about the Big Ten. Don't forget that it's GOLDEN GAME SATURDAY in our TOTAL NOVEMBER TAKEDOWN program. The October GOLDEN GAME was a winner on Bowling Green plus the points at Toledo. Our November superplay is now just hours away.
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You'll be hearing a lot of talk about championships in the coming days and weeks. Don't forget that proven CHAMPION OF SPORTS HANDICAPPING is JIM HURLEY!