KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Oklahoma and Baylor have been the heavy favorites to win the Big 12 since the end of last season, and after two wins apiece to begin league play, nothing has changed in that respect.
That doesn’t mean West Virginia or Kansas State plan to go quietly.
The Mountaineers had last week off after their narrow win over the Wildcats, while coach Bill Snyder’s group is coming off a tough win over Texas Tech . Now, a pair of programs with designs on winning the league race hit the road for what could be a pivotal weekend.
West Virginia visits the Red Raiders. The Wildcats head to Oklahoma.
“It’s nice to have a bye week, and there are no more bye weeks. We have eight straight weeks now,” Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Our team is in a good place, they’re healthy, their spirits are good. We spent all last week, 50 percent on developmental stuff and 50 percent on Texas Tech.”
If they want a blueprint for slowing down the Red Raiders, they might want to reference Kansas State’s performance on Saturday night. The Wildcats held Pat Mahomes and Co. to less than 50 points for the first time all season, and to just a field goal most of the second half in a 44-38 victory.
Not that the Mountaineers (4-0, 1-0) don’t know how to handle Texas Tech themselves. They’ve held the Red Raiders (3-2, 1-1) in check in winning the last two games in the series.
“We’re pretty familiar with Texas Tech,” Holgorsen said. “They play so fast and they score so many points that it’s challenging, but we’re pretty familiar with them.”
Likewise, the Wildcats (3-2, 1-1) are intimately familiar with the Sooners (3-2, 2-0). Snyder was one of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops’ mentors years ago, and the teams have regularly played games that have been crucial to deciding the Big 12 race.
Oklahoma annihilated Kansas State last year, but the Wildcats have won two straight in Norman.
Ask why they’ve had such road success, Snyder replied: “Beats the tar out of me.”
“They’re a good football team and always have been. Better than good,” he said. “When we have been fortunate to win, I think we’ve played well. It’s year by year, you know? I don’t think where we played had too much to do with it. We just played well while we’re there.”
As much as Snyder would rather no relive last year’s 55-0 loss to the Sooners, he acknowledged the need to revisit the way things went down with his team.
“Last year has nothing to do with this year. We’re two completely different teams,” Stoops added. “We haven’t played close to what we can play and we need to make sure we’re playing our best.”
In other news from Monday’s teleconference with Big 12 coaches:
— Baylor (5-0, 2-0) tries to remain perfect against lowly Kansas, but the Bears are also cognizant of the fact that the Jayhawks were three missed field goals away from beating TCU last weekend.
“They had a great, great opportunity to beat TCU and they have to feel good about that,” Baylor coach Jim Grobe said. “Even though they’re not satisfied with getting the ‘W,’ when you’re building a team, you have to look at the progress you’re making.”
The Jayhawks have lost 14 consecutive games in Big 12 play.
— Speaking of near-misses, Iowa State (1-5, 0-3) has blown late leads in back-to-back losses to the Bears and Oklahoma State. But conference coaches are certainly aware of the progress Cyclones coach Matt Campbell is making in rebuilding his program.
“They’re doing a good job,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. “He’s a bright young coach.”
— Texas coach Charlie Strong was asked about the pressure mounting on him after a 45-40 loss to the Sooners, and whether his increasingly hot seat is starting to get to his players.
“It’s nothing for them to worry about,” he replied. “They shouldn’t concern themselves with it.”
Indeed, they should probably be worried about Iowa State, which beat Texas 24-0 last year.