Big 12 Football Week 3 in Review: Losing Games while Cashing Checks

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Einstein’s theory of relativity encompasses two interrelated theories of special relativity and general relativity. Special relativity applies to elementary particles and their interactions, describing all their physical phenomena except gravity. General relativity explains the law of gravitation and its relation to other forces of nature. It applies to the cosmological and astrophysical realm.

First, that explanation of one of Uncle Albert’s many theories is available thanks to the modern-day wonders of Google and Wikipedia.

Second, what in the name of Nick Saban does this have to do with college football (other than the fact that the Alabama coach could be considered the sport’s Einstein)?

The answer: It’s all relative. Three weeks into the season and all we can do to sort things out is to go by what we know but we don’t know what we don’t know. As a theory, that’s not exactly E=MC2.

BYU owns the biggest upset of the season thanks to its upset of sixth-ranked Wisconsin. The Cougars opened the season with a five-point victory at Arizona, lost at home to Cal by three and won by three in Madison. Arizona followed that up with a lopsided loss at Houston, which lost at Texas Tech by 21 Saturday. The Red Raiders opened the season with a 20-point neutral site loss to Ole Miss which jumped to a 7-0 lead before allowing Alabama 62 consecutive points.

Make what you will of that paragraph’s outcomes.

Another team that went on a scoring run was Texas, which used a 34-0 run to overcome a 14-3 deficit to USC in a battle of former titans now tattered.

Einstein never postulated a transitive theory, but each college football season provides several. So far, Villanova and Buffalo have defeated Temple, which beat Maryland, which beat Texas, which beat USC. For Trojans fans, that’s another negative to add to their list of grievances against coach Clay Helton, who is 3-5 in non-conference games against Power Five foes with four of those defeats by 17 or more points.

Saturday also was a bad day for divisions in two Power Five leagues. The Big Ten West and the Pac-12 South combined to go 4-9 with three of the victories over FCS teams. Overall, the Big Ten lost seven nonconference games to unranked foes. That’s never happened in the history of the Associated Press poll (debut: 1936).

Which brings us to the Big 12, which woke up Sunday morning after going 5-2 in nonconference games. A chance to go 6-2 was prevented because No. 12 West Virginia’s game at North Carolina State was called off because of Hurricane Florence. The Big 12 also had its best College Football Playoff contender (Oklahoma) open league play with an impressive road victory at Iowa State, the only team it lost to in the regular season last year.

Time to rewind and review the Big 12’s Saturday.

Cash the check, lose the game

On a day when three teams (Akron, $1.2 million; Troy, $1.15 million; North Texas, $1 million) earned seven figures in game contract cash and also earned upset road victories, TCU pocketed $5 million to trade its home-and-home deal with Ohio State for a neutral site contest (TOSU also got $5 million.)

Arguments and debates will continue as to whether playing the game at Amon Carter Stadium on campus instead of AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, would have changed the outcome. By a conservative estimate, the Buckeyes had 60 percent of the fans. Big 12 teams are 0-12 in nonconference games with ranked teams at Jerry World; hopefully TCU will put the money to good use.

Ohio State did what TCU needed to do. The Buckeyes scored two defensive touchdowns and used a short field for another score after the Frogs’ punt unit messed up a snap. TCU had a 21-13 third quarter lead that disappeared in 4:01, four Ohio State offensive snaps and one defensive TD.

In the aftermath, coach Gary Patterson was more pleased than pissed. Sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson, making just his fourth start, had flashes of brilliance that were balanced by a strip sack/touchdown and two interceptions. Ohio State defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones, who had a pick six on a Robinson shovel pass, called TCU the fastest team he has faced at the college level. It’s worth noting he played against Oklahoma the last two seasons.

“Sometimes, young players get glazed over. When bad things happen, their eyes glaze over. That never happened to Shawn,” Patterson told The Athletic. “There are things that happened today that he’s not going to make the same mistake again, I promise you. If this team can stay healthy, we’re going to be a really good football team by the end of the year.”

TCU, though, failed to win a statement game. The school bought its way onto The Big Stage and then forgot its lines. To ascend from good to great, the Frogs need to win, not cover the spread and earn the Miami Heat “good job, good effort” compliment.

Texas: Time to please, not tease

Post-game comments after Texas dominated USC:

Freshman safety Caden Sterns, who blocked a field goal that led to a special team touchdown: “We’ve got to get used to this feeling. This is who Texas is.”

Cornerback Kris Boyd: “I ain’t gonna lie: I feel like we kinda proved that we’re back.” (Oh, no; wyd?)

Coach Tom Herman: “I don’t know how it seems. But there is a bit of a release, a hump we got over.”

At least Herman won’t face the kind of grilling at his Monday news conference he endured a week ago. Following a lackluster victory over Tulsa, the first question asked why UT doesn’t play with the hair-on-fire passion Houston exhibited in his two seasons there; several questions later, he was asked why fans think he’s arrogant. Those in attendance thought Herman looked like someone longing for a spot in a witness protection program.

Whenever Texas has appeared to support opinions like Boyd’s, it has thrown it in reverse. A year ago, the Longhorns followed up an impressive victory at West Virginia with an inept effort in a home loss to Texas Tech. The bowl victory over Missouri didn’t carry over in the season opener.

Beating the Trojans doesn’t come with an asterisk … yet. Texas dominated a team which appeared mediocre and must disprove that description the rest of the way. USC might struggle for bowl eligibility. Or it might play in the Pac-12 championship game representing the weak-ass South Division. Either way, Fight On is more Might Be.

With nonconference play finished, Texas opens Big 12 play in Austin Saturday against TCU. Based on 25 percent of the season, the Frogs appear to have the best chance of unseating Oklahoma. UT can prove it’s “back” by beating TCU.

Cowboys ride Broncos

Well, they do, don’t they?

Boise State brought a No. 17 ranking to Stillwater and hoped to solidify itself as the top Group of Five team. It left after a 44-21 thrashing that solidified Oklahoma State as an under-the-radar team in Big 12 football. The Cowboys, despite losing the potent pass-catch combo of Mason Rudolph and James Washington plus some play makers on defense, have retooled. Coach Mullet (Mike Gundy) continues to assemble winning teams.

Oklahoma State is at home against Texas Tech Saturday to open Big 12 play. After that, it’s Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas and Baylor. College football’s predictable unpredictability says never jump to conclusions, but the Cowboys could be 9-0 before finishing against Oklahoma, West Virginia and TCU.

Rudolph’s replacement, Taylor “Corn Dog” Cornelius, made his third career start and completed 15 of 26 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown. He also provided the offense with an unexpected wrinkle, with 16 rushing attempts. Running back Justice Hill had 123 yards on 15 carries. The defense sacked Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien (39-of-56 for 380 yards) seven times and Oklahoma State blocked two punts, one resulting in a return for a TD.

“I think we have a good team,” Gundy said. “We have enough skill, we just need to function and execute.”

Safety first (if at all)

The two prime-time games each had questionable instant replay applications. That is not unusual. How video rules are used and the decisions of booth refs is more inconsistent than the actual calls made on the field.

Midway through the second quarter in Austin, a Texas goal-line stand kept USC from extending a 14-13 lead. On second-and-six from his own seven, Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger tried to make a super hero play and retreated from pressure into his endzone. His scrambled to avoid a safety and the officials incorrectly ruled in his favor.

The instant replay clearly (to anyone with eyes) told a different story. FOX analyst Joel Klatt was certain that Ehlinger’s knee was down before the ball cleared the goal line. Instead of kicking to USC trailing 16-13, Texas eventually punted, forced a three-and-out and then kicked a field goal to end the half with … a 16-13 lead.

In Arlington, the first of Ohio State’s two defensive touchdowns should have been a safety. Nick Bosa’s strip sack put the ball in the endzone with the Buckeyes scrambling for possession. Replays showed that one of the defenders made contact with the ball while his foot was on the end line. By rule, that’s a safety. However, there was no replay review.

Quick slants

  • The battle to reside in the Big 12 basement could be resolved Saturday in Lawrence when Baylor plays at Kansas. The Bears (2-1) were manhandled by Duke – yes, Duke – 40-27 in a game more lopsided than the score indicates. The Jayhawks are a stunning 2-1 following their 55-14 dismantling of Rutgers. Kansas, which lost in overtime to FCS Nicholls to start the season, has won consecutive games for the first time since 2011. KU has finished last in the Big 12 in six of the last seven seasons.

  • Texas Tech had its seventh annual Celebrate Cotton game (cotton is a major crop in West Texas). NCAA rules state home teams wear dark jerseys with visitors wearing white, unless the schools come to an agreement to waive the rule. Texas Tech wanted to wear all-white; Houston, its opponent Saturday, refused. Wearing red jerseys, the Red Raiders romped, pulling away in the second half for a satisfying 63-49 victory.

  • It’s the second consecutive season Texas Tech has defeated Houston and the 2-1 start helps cool the heat on coach Kliff Kingsbury. No matter his coaching record, Kingsbury figures to always have a job coaching quarterbacks. Freshman Alan Bowman – raise your hand if you didn’t know who he was – threw for a Big 12 freshman record 605 yards and five touchdowns. He’s the sixth Red Raiders QB with 600 or more passing yards in a game. Three of his touchdowns went to Antoine Wesley, a 6-5 junior, who set a school single-game record with 261 yards receiving.

  • Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops continues to be the punching bag for Sooners fans. They can’t forget how Georgia gashed OU in last year’s CFP semifinal. Your Veteran Scribe has watched most of Oklahoma’s first three games and believes this year’s unit is improved. The naysayers disagree. Sophomore Zeb Noland, Iowa State’s backup quarterback, helped the Cyclones gain 447 yards. In the last two seasons, against the Sooners’ defense, Cyclones backup QBs (Kyle Kempt last season) are 43-of-70 for 703 yards and five touchdowns.

  • Through three games, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray has 1,032 yards in total offense and has accounted for 10 touchdowns. Last season through three games, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Baker Mayfield had 1,033 yards in total offense and had accounted for 10 touchdowns. Murray also is OU’s top ground gainer, averaging 5.8 yards per carry and 56.3 yards per game. He exhibited the three C’s of QB play – cool, calm, collected – when Iowa State twice pulled within a touchdown in the second half. Each time, Murray directed the offense on drives that produced field goals.