- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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A full slate of Big 12 Conference games is finally here. TCU at Oklahoma highlights the weekend schedule, with Texas at Iowa State kicking things off Thursday night in Ames, Iowa.
Here’s what to watch in the Big 12 for Week 6:
Is Texas ripe for an upset? On Wednesday afternoon, the Longhorns announced that quarterback David Ash would not play against Iowa State on Thursday. Case McCoy will get the start for UT, which could be heading into the lion’s den in Ames. Knocking off a big-name team is nothing new for the Cyclones, who will be looking to add UT to the list. This could be the game to watch in the Big 12 this week.
Will Baylor continue to impress? The Bears have scored 209 points in three games. And there have been roughly 209 questions about the Bears’ legitimacy as people continue to wonder just how good BU could be this season. West Virginia provides the Bears’ first Big 12 test one week after the Mountaineers held normally high-scoring Oklahoma State to 21 points in an upset victory at home. If Baylor drops another 70-point performance, can people still question its offensive explosiveness and role as legit Big 12 contender?
Oklahoma State’s response. The Cowboys had a mistake-filled loss to WVU last weekend, so OSU will be looking to prove that was a one-game aberration, not a sign that the Cowboys aren’t a real Big 12 title contender. Quarterback J.W. Walsh will need to play well after going 4-of-13 for 54 yards and one interception in the fourth quarter of the loss in Morgantown. If he doesn’t, will the Pokes turn to Clint Chelf off the bench?
Texas Tech’s first road test. True, the Red Raiders opened the season at SMU, but they will venture out of the state of Texas for the first time this weekend when they visit Kansas. The Jayhawks have had their struggles this season, yet have already surpassed their win total from 2012, and gave the Red Raiders all they wanted in a 41-34 Tech overtime victory in Lubbock a year ago. If Texas Tech wants to prove it is a sleeper in the Big 12 title race, it will leave Lawrence, Kan., with a dominating win.
Oklahoma’s sandwich game. It’s hard to imagine the Sooners -- between meetings with Notre Dame and Texas -- overlooking TCU, but crazier things have happened. Even if they don’t, the Horned Frogs boast the talent and the defense to knock off OU in Norman. TCU leads the league in sacks and forced turnovers, so if it’s able to take Sooners quarterback Blake Bell out of his comfort zone, this game could get interesting in a hurry.
Defense at West Virginia? Gasp! It can’t be true, can it? Don’t look now, but WVU ranks among the top half of the Big 12 in forced turnovers, red-zone efficiency defense, first downs allowed, sack percentage, passing yards allowed and total yards allowed this season. The Mountaineers aren’t at the level of TCU, but they’re better than people realize, so if they want to remove all doubt that they have improved since last season, they’ll have their chance against the explosive Baylor offense on Saturday.
TCU’s chance to send a message. The Horned Frogs would put themselves right back in the Big 12 title conversation with a victory in Norman. After a rough early stretch saw people begin to brush it off as an afterthought, TCU can put the entire conference on notice and make everyone forget losses to LSU and Texas Tech.
Is Aaron Wimberly a difference-maker? After 13 combined touches from scrimmage in Iowa State’s first two games, the running back got the ball 20 total times against Tulsa last Thursday, averaging 8.4 yards per touch. Get No. 2 the ball, Cyclones. It was clear Wimberly is one of the most explosive playmakers on the squad against the Golden Hurricane, so he needs to be a huge part of ISU’s offense against the Longhorns on Thursday night.
Kansas State’s two-quarterback system continues. “We have substituted tight ends in the same way and nobody could care less,” KSU coach Bill Snyder said of using Jake Waters and Daniel Sams this week. No holes in that argument. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see if either quarterback can separate himself with a strong showing against the Cowboys on Saturday.
Can KU win a conference game? Say what you want about Charlie Weis, but he doesn’t run away from things. “As of this Saturday it will be 1,063 days since Kansas football won a game against a Big 12 opponent," the Jayhawks head coach said off the top of his weekly press conference this week. "And if we exclude Colorado, who is no longer in the Big 12, it will actually be 1,455 days. I have those numbers down." The Jayhawks believe that streak will end this season. But, unless their offense kicks things up a notch, they could be hard-pressed to end it this week.
2dBrandon Chatmon and Jake Trotter