With over half the season in the history books, it is apparent that the preseason rankings revealed last July were - as those exercises tend to be - a tad flawed.
Kansas State was picked to finish sixth while Texas Tech was picked to finish ninth. When those two teams meet in Manhattan Saturday, the standings show that the fourth-ranked Wildcats (7-0, 4-0) are in first place and the 15th-ranked Red Raiders (6-1, 3-1) are in second place.
That's correct. A showdown for first place in the Big 12 Conference will take place at 2:30 p.m. during a FOX national telecast.
Kansas State has won on the road at Oklahoma and at West Virginia - the teams predicted in the preseason rankings to finish first and second. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen
"They're one of the best teams, maybe the best team in the country," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said after his team's 55-14 loss Saturday. "Time will tell. They're just a real mature team. They're physical, disciplined, play smart and don't beat themselves. They're an all-around good football team with no weaknesses."
West Virginia has lost two Big 12 games; the other loss came at Texas Tech. The Red Raiders' only loss was to Oklahoma.
Last season, Texas Tech was 5-2 after a stunning upset at top-ranked Oklahoma but injuries and a lack of depth led to a five-game losing streak that ruined the season. Evidence of improved depth was displayed Saturday when the Red Raiders won in triple overtime at TCU despite the absence of three of their top receivers.
"I think we learned a lot from last year, staying too high on the highs, too low on the lows," said senior quarterback Seth Doege, who leads the nation with 26 touchdown passes. "We don't want to stay too high on TCU, too high on West Virginia. It's one game at a time. I think that'll help us not have a letdown again."
Three of Kansas State's four Big 12 victories have come on the road (Oklahoma, Iowa State, West Virginia). Texas Tech has won at Iowa State and at TCU. However, Red Raiders coach Tommy Tuberville knows that his team was fortunate to not play well but still leave Fort Worth with a triple overtime victory.
"We're not going to will ourselves to win this week," said Tuberville, who is 6-2 in his career against top-five teams. "We've got to go play. We've got to be prepared. We've got to be focused and every snap can make a difference whether we win it or whether we lose it, or win by a big score or lose by big score. We've got to go play more of our football game."
Saturday's game will be significant in further defining this season's championship race. It also might be the most historically significant game between the schools since Kansas State and Texas Tech met in the first game in Big 12 history in 1996.
No matter how the first season in the Big 12 turns out, TCU knows that it has found a capable quarterback.
When Casey Pachall was suspended and eventually left school, the Horned Frogs went from having an experienced quarterback to having a redshirt freshman running the offense. Trevone Boykin is 1-2 as a starter but he has won the respect of his teammates and the coaching staff.
"This is your huddle, your offense, and you take the ball and take charge," offensive lineman Eric Tausch told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, recalling the message to Boykin. "And he's done a fantastic job doing that."
Indeed, Boykin proved his leadership in last Saturday's 56-53 triple overtime loss to Texas Tech. TCU trailed by 10 points with less than four minutes to play but Boykin hit LaDarius Brown for a 60-yard touchdown pass and then moved the Frogs 56 yards (with no timeouts) to set up the game-tying field goal.
"It was awesome," said TCU coach Gary Patterson, whose team will play at Oklahoma State Saturday. "It doesn't matter if it's a parking lot or if it's the back yard. He likes to go play. He took some hits and is still ticking and going about his business."
All Hands On Deck
Kansas allowed a punt return for a touchdown and a kickoff return for a touchdown in last Saturday's 52-7 loss at Oklahoma. Special teams haven't been very special for the Jayhawks and coach Charlie Weis told special-teams coordinator Clint Bowen to improve things by any means necessary.
Thus far this season, Weis has had a policy that offensive and defensive starters would be limited to playing on just two special team units. That's no longer the case.
"I told Clint, after throwing up this past weekend, that all hands are on deck, put whoever you want out there," Weis said earlier this week. "So he knows he's got free rein to put whoever out there. He doesn't have to ask for my permission ... whoever he wants out there and he thinks give 'em the best chance because I saw enough of that."
According to ESPN Stats & Info, both Baylor and West Virginia have allowed at least 42 points in each of their last four games. It's the first time in the BCS era (since 1998) that one conference has had multiple teams with such simultaneous streaks in a single season. Overall, there have been 33 teams over that stretch that have allowed 42-or-more points in four consecutive games.
And here's another nugget provided by ESPN Stats & Info: Texas Tech coach Seth Doege has three games with six or more touchdown passes. The rest of the quarterbacks in FBS have combined for four games with six or more TD passes.
New rule changes on kickoffs this season have led to more touchbacks. Kickoffs are now from the 35-yard line and through the first six weeks of the season, there were 1,450 touchbacks recorded on kickoffs at the FBS level. Last year through six weeks, 1,397 touchbacks were registered on kickoffs.
And in another statistical note, FBS teams are scoring at an average of 29.8 points per game. That is ahead of a pace that would be the highest scoring since the NCAA started keep statistics in 1937. Total offense, passing yards and completions are also on track to be records.
Baylor defensive back Ahmad Dixon:
"We have to forget about this. We're 3-3, 0-3 in conference, so we have to forget about this record right now. First thing's first, we have to think about winning a game in conference, and that's what matters the most."
TCU coach Gary Patterson:
"The two games we've won, we've won the takeaway battle and the two games we lost, we've lost it. In this league you can't turn the ball over and think you're going to win."
Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle on quarterback J.W. Walsh, who played over 70 snaps in the win over Iowa State despite a knee injury that will sideline him for the rest of the season:
"I had no clue he was hurt in the game. He showed some signs but nothing that showed injury. You have to give him props for playing with an injury that basically ended his season. He played three quarters with it and that shows you what kind of guy he is."
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy on Walsh's toughness:
"I'm reading a book about Navy SEALs and what they go through to be a SEAL and how much pain they have to endure to continue to move forward. That's what it reminded me of," Gundy told reporters this week. "What he was able to do Saturday after he sustained the injury is pretty impressive. That's a credit to who he is and what he stands for."