The Big 12 Report

Oklahoma back in action with new life after Big 12 leader West Virginia falls in Week 7

Kyler Murray and the Sooners try to bounce back. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

After a big weekend of upsets and nail biters throughout college football, the Big 12 lost its only undefeated team in West Virginia when the Mountaineers fell to Iowa State 30-14. Now that West Virginia has been knocked off its pedestal, things are looking very interesting in terms of the Big 12 standings as there are now three very talented one loss teams. Both (9) Oklahoma and (13) West Virginia sit at 5-1, while (7) Texas takes over the top spot at 6-1. With an action-packed Week 7 in the books, only four Big 12 teams will be in action in Week 8. Check out which teams will face off this coming weekend and which players could have significant impacts. 

Must watch games Week 8

(11) Oklahoma vs. TCU 

After having to sit on their heartbreaking loss to Texas in Week 6, the Sooners will be extremely excited to get back on the gridiron in Week 8 against a struggling TCU team. After starting 2-0, the Horned Frogs seem to have completely lost their identity and confidence as a team. Even though quarterback Shawn Robinson has been fighting through injuries the past couple weeks, TCU has yet to score more than 17 points in its last three games, which is a big contrast to their first three games of the season in which they averaged 41 points per game. There is no doubt that this is an issue of serious concern going into their Week 8 showdown with an Oklahoma team that has one of the most explosive and dynamic offensive attacks in the nation. Not to mention that since the Sooners now have one loss, they have no room for any more mistakes this season and will have extra motivation to win out the rest of their games if they want any chance of keeping their college football playoff hopes alive. Look for OU and Heisman hopeful quarterback Kyler Murray to come out firing on Saturday and jump on TCU early. 

Kansas vs. Texas Tech 

While three one loss teams sit atop the Big 12 standings, Texas Tech is fighting hard to stay with the pack and in the Big 12 conversations. The Red Raiders hold the fourth spot with a 4-2 record, despite having a quarterback carousel so far this season. After starting quarterback McLane Carter went down early in the first game of the season, Tech struck gold with Freshman Alan Bowman who broke all-time Big 12 passing records on his way to leading the Red Raiders to three straight victories. Unfortunately, Bowman was sidelined in Week 6 due to a collapsed lung, which thrust third string QB Jeff Duffy onto the field and into the starting role vs. TCU in Week 7. Somehow Texas Tech has able to handle and overcome each of these roadblocks and stay relevant amongst the Big 12’s top teams. While Tech is definitely the more intriguing team compared to Kansas, the Jayhawks should not be totally overlooked. Kansas is off to one of their best starts in recent years and despite only having won two games this season, have yet to look overmatched or uncompetitive in any of their games this year. 

 Players to watch Week 8 

Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray: After an emotional loss in Week 6 where his best efforts and an abundance of jaw dropping plays were not enough to carry his team past the Longhorns, Kyler Murray is expected to return with a renewed sense of urgency and motivation. The Sooners loss to Texas not only marked the end of their chances of a perfect season, but also the end of Murray’s unprecedented undefeated streak as a starting quarterback dating back to high school. With a record of 42-0 as a starting QB in high school and 6-0 as a starter to begin his collegiate career, Murray was overcome with emotions after coming up just three points short to UT. This can only be bad news for the Sooners Week 8 opponent TCU, as Murray and the rest of his team will only be more motivated to re-establish their dominance and keep their national championship dream alive. 

TCU DE’s Ben Banogu & L.J. Collier: One bright spot in this season for the struggling Horned Frogs is the play of defensive end’s Ben Banogu and L.J. Collier. Coming off their best game of the season vs. Texas Tech where the Banogu and Collier both tallied two sacks a piece, the duo is finally hitting their stride and living up to pre-season expectations as two of the best pass rushers in the Big 12. The two defensive difference makers will need to have a big impact this coming weekend if the Horned Frogs hope to have any chance against the Sooners. Coach Patterson will have to rely heavily on Banogu and Collier to disrupt quarterback Kyler Murray and set the tone for the TCU defense. It is also worthy to note that both Banogu and Collier are Seniors with NFL aspirations, and will be strongly motivated to pad their stats and build their individual draft stock whether their team is winning games or not. 

Kansas RB Pooka Williams Jr.: One thing stands out when examining the Jayhawks two victories this season, and that’s the performance of Freshman RB Pooka Williams. Williams has surpassed 100 yards rushing twice so far in 2018 and in both of those games Kansas was able to come out on top. Since those two-early season wins, Williams has yet to secure another 100-yard performance and I am hard pressed to believe that his team’s inability to get another win has no correlation to that. With a daunting task ahead of them in the 4-2 Red Raiders, Williams might just be the key to Kansas getting an upset victory. 

 

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Kyle Tucker had a big day at the plate on Sunday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of the series, with one team or the other putting on a solid offensive performance in each, the Astros tried to win their fourth series in their last five by taking the rubber game on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Thanks in part to a big day from Kyle Tucker, who played a significant role in the early offense they used to power to the win, they would accomplish their mission.

Final Score: Astros 7, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 18-16, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Nate Pearson (0-1)

Kyle Tucker helps lead the offense to seven unanswered runs

Houston did not go easy on Nate Pearson in his 2021 debut. After a scoreless first, the Astros loaded the bases on two walks and a single, then brought the first run of the day home on an RBI walk by Michael Brantley. Another walk opened the door in the bottom of the third, and Kyle Tucker capitalized with an RBI triple to make it 2-0, followed by an RBI single by Robel Garcia to make it a three-run lead, ending Pearson's day one out into the bottom of the third.

Things didn't get easier for Toronto's pitching in the next inning, as Jose Altuve would lead off the bottom of the fourth with a solo homer. A single and a walk then set up another big hit for Kyle Tucker, a three-run dinger to make it seven unanswered runs and giving Tucker four RBI on the day.

Blue Jays pound Greinke in the fifth

After four shutout innings to start his day on the mound, working around a few hits along the way, Zack Greinke tried to cash in on his team's offense to get another win on his record. He wouldn't be able to get it done, though, as Toronto would get after him in the top of the fifth. They would score four times amongst five batters that came to the plate, with a solo homer by Rowdy Tellez, a two-RBI double by Bo Bichette, and an RBI single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

That made it a 7-4 game, and with Greinke still not having recorded an out in the frame, Dusty Baker would lift him at 88 pitches in favor of Bryan Abreu, who would get a pop out and a double play to end the inning and keep the lead at three runs. Greinke's final line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 88 P.

Houston takes the series

No more runs would come on either side the rest of the way, with Kent Emanuel working around a single for a scoreless sixth, Ryne Stanek getting a 1-2-3 seventh, and Andre Scrubb doing the same in the eighth to set up Ryan Pressly for the save. Pressly would get the job done, sending the Blue Jays down in order, including two strikeouts to wrap up the win and giving Houston the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will stay at home to continue this homestand, welcoming in the Angels for three games starting Monday at 7:10 PM Central. The opener will feature a pitching matchup of Alex Cobb (1-2, 5.48 ERA) for Los Angeles and Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.28 ERA) for Houston.

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