The Royal Sampler: Big 12 football predictions, gameday thoughts and links

Here’s hoping no one took my predictions to Vegas last week and dropped money on them. I only picked two of the Big 12′s games correctly. But, hey, my K-State pick of 28-23 was dead on. So maybe there’s hope for this week.

Texas Tech at TCU
This is suddenly a very intriguing game. Both teams looked like bottom-feeders two weeks ago, but turned it all around and played like world-beaters seven days ago. The Red Raiders demolished West Virginia and TCU pounded Baylor on the road. Both teams enter with lots of confidence, and strong defenses. But Texas Tech has the better offense, so I’m picking it to win by a narrow margin.

Kansas at Oklahoma
I know the Big 12 had some wild and crazy scores last weekend … but c’mon, we all know who is winning this game.

Iowa State at Oklahoma State
The Cyclones stunned the Cowboys in Ames last year, and will have a good shot at beating them on the road today. But Oklahoma State will be out to prove something after playing so poorly in a narrow win over Kansas last week. I like the Cowboys at home.

Baylor at Texas
The Bears haven’t looked the same since they lost a 70-63 shootout at West Virginia, and the Longhorns need a win in the worst way possible. After a home loss to West Virginia and a blowout loss to Oklahoma, people are questioning whether Mack Brown still has it. If he can’t rally the troops and beat Baylor at home, he might not. But I expect Texas to play well in this situation.

Kansas State at West Virginia
This is the game of the week in the Big 12 and maybe the game of the week, period. Two different teams with contrasting styles will play in a rowdy environment for conference supremacy. There has been a lot of trash talk leading up to this game, and West Virginia officials released a statement yesterday urging fans to behave at the game. That just adds to the intrigue. I think this game will come down to how well K-State’s defense plays. The Wildcats are going to score against the Mountaineers questionable defense. If they can hold West Virginia to around 30 points, I like K-State’s chances. My prediction: K-State 35, West Virginia 30.

Because this has been an extraordinarily busy week (K-State and the Big 12 had their basketball media days and it takes a full day of travel to get from Manhattan to Morgantown) I haven’t had many chances to blog. Here are some extra thoughts I have on today’s game.

– A lot of people have gone out of their way to say how important time of possession will be for the Wildcats today. But I’m not sure why. K-State held the ball for 23 minutes against Kansas and won 56-16. Before beating Iowa State, it was losing the time-of-possession stat on the season and had won all its games. It has a good defense. It hasn’t allowed more than 21 points in a game, and it is deep at linebacker. It doesn’t easily wear out. They should be fresh regardless of how long they are on the field. The important thing in today’s game is scoring touchdowns and making West Virginia’s offense work for points. West Virginia’s defense (especially against the pass) isn’t very good. The Wildcats need to take advantage of that and not settle for field goals. But West Virginia’s offense is extremely good, and capable of quick-strike scores. Defenses want the Mountaineers’ drives to last a few minutes, increasing the odds of an offensive mistake.

– I wrote about how important this game will be in the Heisman Trophy race on Friday. It’s the game of the year for Heisman voters. Geno Smith is currently the favorite, and Collin Klein is a close second. Smith has the stats. Klein is on the undefeated team. Whoever wins this game will be the front-runner Sunday morning. In the long run, this game is much more important for Klein. His best chance of winning the award is for K-State to go undefeated. Smith’s stats are so gaudy he can afford a few losses like Robert Griffin III did last year.

– Speaking of RG3, K-State defenders said facing him last year will help them against Smith. They are similar players with strong arms, fast legs and lots of hype. Arthur Brown and Jordan Voelker shut down Griffin III with the game on the line last year in Manhattan. That gives them confidence as they prepare for another elite college quarterback.

– K-State receiver Torell Miller doesn’t make many catches, but his strong blocking skills make him one of the most important players on the roster.

– Sam Mellinger’s latest column is a long one on Bill Snyder, but it’s definitely worth your time. He looks at the impact Snyder has had on both K-State and Manhattan.

– Ever wonder how much regret Colorado and Colorado State have about not recruiting Collin Klein more heavily? Well, the Denver Post shows you that they definitely do.

– Here’s another good Klein story on how he first emerged as a star quarterback in high school.

– West Virginia’s offensive coordinator talks about the challenges of facing a ball-control offense.