BIG 12 REPORT

A weekly spotlight of must watch Big 12 teams and players heading into Week 2

Lincoln Riley and OU looked dominant. Harry How/Getty Images

The Big 12 did not disappoint in week 1, as six of its nine teams who hit the field were victorious. Not to mention, four of those victories concluded with the Big 12 representative scoring over 50 points. The title of most impressive team from Week 1 would have to go to the University of Oklahoma, as they dominated Florida Atlantic 63-14. For the second straight season, the University of Texas lost to a non-descript Maryland team, starting of Year 2 of the Tom Herman era with an unfortunate setback. Now that Week 1 has come and gone, lets take a look at what is in store for Week 2.

Must watch games Week 2

Oklahoma vs. UCLA: The first must watch game of this coming weekend of college football is Oklahoma vs UCLA. As I mentioned earlier, Oklahoma played a nearly perfect game on their way to lighting up the scoreboard and making an early statement to the nation and all their sceptics. First year starting quarterback Kyler Murray lived up to expectations and flashed his next level, playmaking ability, which had been sidelined for the last two seasons. Also, running back Rodney Anderson picked up right where he left off in 2017 with an unbelievably efficient performance of 100 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 5 carries. UCLA on the other hand fell short in a tough loss to a talented Cincinnati team, but I would expect that outcome to only raise their intensity as they head into what is all or nothing game for the Bruins if they want to hold onto any hope of a championship run. This matchup will be another good test for a talented Oklahoma team that will most likely be fighting all season to prove themselves worthy of comparison to powerhouse teams and title contenders like Alabama, Clemson, and Georgia.

Iowa State vs. Iowa: The second game I recommend keeping an eye on will be Iowa State vs. Iowa. The Cyclones will have a tough test in front of them this coming week, not only because of Hawkeye team they will be lining up against, but also because their first game of the season was canceled due to inclement weather not even halfway into the first quarter. While the University of Iowa will have the advantage of entering into this Week 2 showdown with a solid victory over Northern Illinois under their belt, the Iowa State players will be experiencing their first significant amount of game action, which could be a very big difference maker. With that said, Iowa State is known to be a team that plays up to its competition and does not shy away from a challenge, which was evident in 2017 when they upset three top 25 ranked opponents. Also, you can always count on both teams bringing their best to the field during an in-state rivalry game such as this one.

Tulsa at Texas: The Longhorns should bounce back from their opening loss with a get-right game against Tulsa. The next four games are USC, TCU, Kansas State and Oklahoma, so this is an important game for Texas to work out their Game 1 issues on both sides of the ball.

Big 12 players to watch Week 2

Iowa State RB David Montgomery: My No.1 Big 12 player to watch going into week 2, is Iowa State standout running back David Montgomery. The talented back ran for almost 900 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2017 while only playing in nine games for the Cyclones. Montgomery will play a key role this coming week when his team will have to face the always stout Iowa hawkeyes defense. If Montgomery is able to consistently move the down markers and draw the defenses focus, it will go a long way in helping his team get a big win against their in-state rivals.

TCU QB Shawn Robinson: Another exciting player to have your eye on in week 2 is TCU's dual threat quarterback. Robinson lit up the stat sheet last week with 5 total touchdowns, 3 of which came through the air and 2 on the ground. Robinson will have a chance to have another eye opening performance in Week 2, as TCU will face off against an SMU defense that gave up 46 points to the University of North Texas and quarterback Mason Fine. Robinson looks to be a star on the rise in 2018, and could begin to draw national attention if he continues his hot start.

Oklahoma WR Marquise Brown

My final spotlight player heading into Week 2 is Oklahoma deep threat receiver Marquise Brown. While a lot of attention has been given to  Murray and Anderson, Brown reminded everyone of his scary playmaking ability after averaging 22 yards per-reception in Week 1. Brown is an obvious favorite target for Murray and will look to take the top off of the UCLA defense next week. While the defense will be forced to respect the dangerous Oklahoma running attack, Brown could make easy work of whoever has the unfortunate responsibility of trying to contain the dangerous playmaker.

 

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The Astros have 12 games left in the regular season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

A five-year anniversary Astros-Dodgers World Series matchup would be a doozy on several levels. It’s the most likely matchup, but that doesn’t make it probable much less inevitable. Still, my goodness are they towering over their respective leagues as the regular season is into its final two weeks. With an 8-4 finish over their remaining games the Astros equal the franchise record 107 regular wins amassed in 2019. If the Astros don’t lose again and total an awesome 111 victories, they still probably don’t catch the Dodgers for homefield advantage should they meet in the Series. The Astros are heading to their seventh postseason in the last eight years, the Dodgers to their 10th in a row. That is insane sustained excellence for both. However, each has won only one World Series during these runs. Eight different franchises have won the last eight World Series. From 1982 through 1990 nine different franchises won the World Series.

And then, there were twelve

With the Astros down to a dozen games left as they arrived in Baltimore, a dozen Astros thoughts:

Justin Verlander's start in the series opener vs. the Orioles is his antepenultimate (hoity-toity word for third from last) regular season start. Verlander needs the win in all of them to finish 20-3.

Jose Urquidy starts Friday. In his three remaining starts Urquidy must show better than he has in his last couple or there would be no good reason to go with him over Cristian Javier as the Astros fourth starter in the postseason.

Framber Valdez goes Saturday trying to add on to his single season Major League record of 25 consecutive quality starts. It’s not an official statistic, and “quality” is a stretch when three earned runs allowed in six innings qualifies, but it is remarkable that Framber has had zero bad outings 25 straight times out. The evidence can’t be clearer than NO OTHER PITCHER IN THE HISTORY OF THE GAME has done it. In 18 of the 25 Valdez has yielded no more than two earned runs. Verlander has been magnificent all season. His longest “quality start” streak is 10. Verlander has made 25 starts, meeting the “quality” definition in 20 of them.

Decisive game five of their American League Division Series matchup, the Astros lead 3-2 after seven innings with the opposition top of the order due up in the eighth. Since the robot managerial handbook dictates Ryan Pressly be saved for the ninth, which Astro reliever do you most trust in the eighth?

Yordan Alvarez is batting .302 with 37 home runs and 94 runs batted in. The only Astros ever to hit .300 with 40 homers and 100 RBI in a season are Jeff Bagwell (twice), Lance Berkman, and Richard Hidalgo. As frame of reference, Albert Pujols did .300/40/100 six times.

Yordan is obviously the better hitter but Kyle Tucker is the better all-around player. The Astros signed Alvarez for six years 115 million buying out three years of potential free agency. Tucker is on the same service time schedule as Alvarez was, not free agent eligible until after the 2025 season.

Free agent-to-be Aledmys Diaz looms large in the Astros’ postseason lineup. He largely stunk through July 4th but has been firecracker hot since, giving better production per game played than a healthy Michael Brantley would have given. Doubting me? Don’t. From July 5 forward Diaz has a higher slugging percentage than Yordan.

Yuli Gurriel’s defense at first base remains excellent, but if he looked any more washed up at the plate than he has most of this season he might wake up in front of the Galveston Seawall.

It’s just 41 games but other than an early power surge following his acquisition, Trey Mancini has not impressed. Gurriel needs to be replaced, but Mancini hasn’t made much of a case that he’s the man for the job next year.

Jose Altuve’s spirits seemed fine in the dugout Wednesday night after he was removed from the game an inning after taking a pitch off of his left elbow. The elbow needs to be fine. Like Yordan, an injured or ineffective Altuve renders the Astros’ lineup no better than mediocre.

Chas McCormick is fine as part of a platoon in center field. James Click should be in the market for a left-handed hitting CF complement for next season, or a right-handed hitter who handles right-handed pitching adequately. If Click is back as General Manager. What gives there, Jim Crane?

The Astros have played one game all season with Minute Maid Park’s roof open. That should change on the final home stand. It likely won’t, but it should. Most evenings are comfortable now once the sun is down, and it’s not like the air conditioning has to be turned off as the roof opens. The optimal ballpark experience has the roof open. And…if the Astros make it back to the World Series and MLB then dictates the roof be open if rain is not a factor, it is sensible to get a few games under their belts with roof open conditions.

Finessing the game

Whatever one thinks of the LIV golf tour, it absolutely is hurting interest in the PGA Tour. Too many big name players grabbing LIV megabucks is crushing the marketability of PGA tournament fields. Like the upcoming Houston Open November 10-13 for instance. Want a “free” ticket to any remaining Astros home game this year? Just buy a golf ticket through this Sunday.

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