THE BIG 12 REPORT

Two new Big 12 Teams crack the Top 25 but for how long? Find out what Big 12 matchups could alter the college football landscape this weekend

Dana Holgorsen and West Virginia have a big matchup this week. Tom Pennington/Getty Images

After the first week of conference play the Big 12 now has four teams ranked in nation's Top 25, but the slate of games did not necessarily live up to the hype. The two prime matchups of Texas vs. TCU and Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma State ended up being extremely lopsided affairs. Texas went on to defeat TCU 31-16 and Texas Tech came out on top in a 41-17 victory over Oklahoma State. With this said the Big 12 is still an extremely competitive conference and has the potential to produce nail biting games each week.

Must watch games Week 5

West Virginia (12) vs. Texas Tech (25)

Believe it or not, we have another potential offensive shootout in the Big 12 this coming weekend. The 12th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers will take on the 25th ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders. Both teams have put up big time offensive numbers so far this season and continue to light up the scoreboard with prolific passing attacks. Texas Tech quarterback Alan Bowman has burst onto the college football scene and now sits second in the nation in yards passing with 1,557, while his counterpart Will Grier holds the 12th most yards passing with 1,117. With that said Grier has thrown for four more touchdowns than Bowman and has the second highest passer rating in the nation just behind Alabama phenom Tua Tagovailoa. Grier will look to distinguish himself from the pack this week and prove that he should in fact be one of the Heisman front runners early in this college football season.

Iowa State vs. TCU

While Iowa State secured their first victory of the season last weekend against an undermatched Akron team, TCU dug themselves a deeper hole. The Cyclones will be facing off against a TCU team that has now lost two straight games along with a ton of early season momentum and excitement. Though the 2018 season has not gone as expected for either of these teams with both of them already suffering two losses, they are still teams with a tremendous amount of talent and have shown the potential to play at an extremely high level. Expect each of these respected teams to place a lot of significance on this weekend’s game with the hope of getting their seasons back on track.

Texas (18) vs. Kansas State

For a second straight time this season a Top 25 ranked team has left Darrell K Royal Stadium with shattered hopes and spirits. This revitalized Longhorn program has proven just how dangerous they are with back to back dominant victories over USC and TCU. Needless to say, UT will not be taken lightly anymore, but they have no time to slow down now. This coming weekend Texas will face off against an always difficult Kansas State team. This game is a serious opportunity for the Longhorns to establish their recent high level of play as the new norm and continue to build their momentum before they line up against No. 6 Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. Texas seems to have found its rhythm on both sides of the football and should expect to continue to get better each week.

Players to watch Week 5

Iowa State QB Zeb Noland

The first player that I am putting on my watch list this week is Iowa State quarterback Zeb Noland. The sophomore quarterback was thrust into action after starting quarterback Kyle Kempt suffered a knee injury in Week 1 and has not looked back since. Noland has thrown for just under 600 yards and three touchdowns in his first two starts with his best performance coming in a 37-27 loss to No. 6 ranked Oklahoma. While Kempt’s return remains, uncertain Noland should get at least one more chance to raise some eyebrows for what is in store for the near future of this program. The young quarterback will certainly be challenged this coming weekend when he faces a talented TCU defense that will be extremely motivated in week 5 after two disappointing performances. Has Iowa State found its quarterback of the future?

West Virginia WR Marcus Simms

One player that deserves some recognition for his high level of play this season and who has the potential to explode this coming weekend is junior wide receiver Marcus Simms. Simms has easily surpassed 100 yards receiving in the Mountaineers last two games and is proving to be a reliable target for quarterback Will Grier. Simms' ceiling for success will continue to rise with a favorable matchup vs. an inconsistent Texas Tech defense. As if Simms' athletic ability isn’t enough for opposing defenses to worry about, he also has the luxury of catching passes from a potential Heisman quarterback each week. Look for Simms to continue his trend of 100 yard receiving performances this coming weekend vs. the Red Raiders.

Texas Defense

To wrap up this week’s list of players to watch is the UT defense. This stout defense has dominated the football field in the Longhorns last two games and will have opposing offenses scrambling for the rest of the season. This young Texas defense has allowed just 10 total touchdowns through four games this season and has forced six interceptions. The Longhorns defense is quickly appearing to be the driving force of energy and momentum for a team that is hard to stop once they get the ball rolling. Texas has a favorable matchup vs. Kansas State this weekend, but if this dangerous defense shows up with full force, things could quickly get out of hand for the Wildcats.


 

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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