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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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