The Big 12 Report

One of the most historic rivalries in college football history will have all eyes on the Big 12 in Week 6

One of the most historic rivalries in college football history will have all eyes on the Big 12 in Week 6
Sam Ehlinger will need to have a big game. Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

The chips fell into place in week 5, as the top teams in the Big 12 were able come out on top in each of their matchups.The two lead dogs and only remaining undefeated teams in the Big 12, (7) Oklahoma and (9) West Virginia are now both considered among the Top 10 programs in the Nation. Texas (19) and Oklahoma State (25) also remain in the championship hunt, each with only one loss. Big 12 action will be a little light in Week 6 with TCU and Texas Tech both enjoying their bye week. With that said, all eyes will be on one classic Big 12 matchup, Oklahoma vs. Texas in the Red River Showdown.

Must watch games Week 6

(19) Texas vs. (7) Oklahoma

Once again, the Red River Showdown looks like it could turn out to be another instant classic. Both the Longhorns and Sooners are legitimate competitors in college football this season and will both undoubtedly put on a show this coming Saturday at the Cotton Bowl. This historic rivalry with have a new chapter written with two new stars at the helm of each team. Texas QB Sam Ehlinger and OU QB Kyler Murray will go head to head for the very first time, and fight to etch their name in the story books. The big questions of the day will be can the Longhorns defense can slow down the high-powered Sooners offense? And can Ehlinger be the difference maker Texas will need to bring down a college football Goliath? Since 2010 the Sooners have won 6 of the last 8 showdowns, but the last three games have been decided by 7 points or less. There is no telling who will take home bragging rights in 2018.

Iowa State vs. (25) Oklahoma State

Another Week 6 matchup in the Big 12 worthy of attention is Iowa State vs. No. 25 Oklahoma State. While the Cowboys held on to a spot in the Top 25 with a win over Kansas, Iowa State fell to TCU in a 17-14 nail biter. Iowa State now sits at a disappointing 1-3 but could possibly be one of the best 1-3 teams in the nation and have the potential to turn their season around at any point. Do not count the Cyclones out of their matchup vs. the Cowboys.

Players to watch week 6

Texas RB’s Keaontay Ingram & Tre Watson:

While there is no question that the Longhorns defense is talented, they are sure to have they hands full against one of the most dynamic and elusive playmakers in the country, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray. Alongside Murray, the Sooners have an abundance of athletes that create matchup problems for any defense. With that said, I believe that UT’s best defense vs. the Sooners will be a good offense. What I mean by that is, the best way for the Longhorns to defend against Murray and the high powered OU offense is to control the clock and limit their time on the field. What this will require is strong performances by young running backs Keaontay Ingram and Tre Watson. Ingram and Watson have split time in the backfield all season and have both shown their ability to make big time plays at any moment. Look for this duo to have a major impact on whether or not the Longhorns can knock down their arch rivals.

Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray has lived up to every bit of the hype so far this season and set the field on fire in week 5 with 432 yards passing and 6 touchdowns vs. Baylor. Through 5 games Murray has racked up nearly 1,500 yards passing with 21 total touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. There could be an argument made that Murray has yet to play a worthy opponent or on a big-time stage, both of which he will experience in full force on Saturday. Murray has a prime opportunity vs. Oklahoma’s biggest rival to solidify himself not only as one of the elite quarterbacks in the nation, but also as an unquestionable Heisman candidate.

Oklahoma State WR Tylan Wallace

Oklahoma State wide receiver Tylan Wallace has quietly been having one of the top receiving seasons in college football. Wallace currently has the seventh most receiving yards this season and will be looking to move up in the rankings with a Week 6 matchup vs. the 1-3 Iowa State Cyclones. With the help of four 100 yard receiving performances already this season, Wallace has collected 546 total yards and 3 touchdowns. Expect head coach Mike Gundy to look to get his reliable playmaker involved early and often.

 

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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