The Big 12 is looking to expand its offensive galaxy of stars, the marquee guys who can market the league to the rest of the country.
That’s why it was such a blow when Oklahoma tailback Rodney Anderson tore a knee ligament on the final play of the first quarter in Saturday’s blowout win over UCLA. The senior and team captain is out for the rest of his OU career. The injury is even sadder considering that Anderson had to miss much of 2015-16 because of neck and leg injuries.
Anderson’s fame was fleeting, but he packed in some fabulous football in seven games last season. That’s when Lincoln Riley dispensed with a tailback rotation and gave him the ball. Anderson rushed for 1,079 yards after he secured the top spot at mid-season. That included 151 yards against TCU and 201 against Georgia.
Riley told reporters that Anderson still will have an impact on the team as one of its leaders. But what do you tell someone who has lost such big chunks of his career to broken bones and torn ligaments?
“I told him I don’t think this injury’s going to have any impact on his career in football, other than it’s just going to delay it a few months,” Riley said. “This guy’s so mentally tough, he’s so physically gifted … he’ll probably come back better. I would be shocked if he doesn’t, whoever he’s playing for.”
Trey Sermon inherits the starting job when Oklahoma travels to Iowa State this week to open conference play.
Maybe it’ll be Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray who will give the Big 12 a dose of football glamour. He ranked fourth in Tuesday’s Heisman poll conducted by ESPN.com.
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier still is the best bet. He topped the poll and seems to be a broad, early favorite.
But the threat of Hurricane Florence has proven to be the best defense for Grier. The 14th-ranked Mountaineers were set to play North Carolina State this Saturday. But the game was postponed because the massive Category 4 storm is on track to hit the Carolina coast. Hurricane conditions are forecast to hit the Raleigh-Durham area, where the game was set to be played, Thursday night and Friday.
It’s still unclear whether the game will be rescheduled.
Grier’s nine touchdown passes in two games ranks second in the country behind Hawaii’s Cole McDonald, who has 13. Receiver Gary Jennings has caught four of the touchdowns.
It’s way too early to tell who might be the newest Big 12 stars. But there are some emerging receivers, namely Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace, who leads the league with 14 catches, followed by Texas’ Lil’Jordan Humphrey, who has 13.
Could Texas Tech get back its QB?
McLane Carter missed Texas Tech’s 77-0 walloping of Lamar last Saturday in Lubbock. But he hasn’t been ruled out of this week’s game against Houston. Coach Kliff Kingsbury said Carter is day to day as he recovers from the high ankle sprain he suffered against Mississippi.
Freshman Alex Bowman filled in for Carter, helping lead the Red Raiders to their most points in 13 years.
Bowman was the fourth freshman quarterback who has started a game in Kingsbury’s six seasons as coach. The other three — Baker Mayfield, Davis Webb and Patrick Mahomes — are in the NFL.
“What he’s done really well the last two games is not have negative plays, no sacks, and hasn’t turned the football over,” Kingsbury said this week when talking about Bowman. “That’s what we’re looking for. Be efficient, make quick decisions, and eliminate negative plays.”
The most stunning part of Tech’s win was how they scored the touchdowns. Seven came via the run.
The school record is 12, which was set in 1925 and tied in 1932. But it’s certainly the most in the modern era of Tech football.
But whoever starts at quarterback or tailback for Tech against Houston will have to contend with lineman Ed Oliver, who probably is the best defender in football.
BIG 12 FOOTBALL POWER POLL
1. (Previous: 1) Oklahoma (2-0)
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley has humbled Lane Kiffin and Chip Kelly in consecutive weeks. He’s done so by riding the arm and legs of former Texas A&M quarterback Kyler Murray, who was apparently ruined as an Aggie by Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin is now ruining another dual-threat quarterback at Arizona. The Sooners are the clear favorite in the Big 12. Next up: At Iowa State (0-1), Sat.
2. (2) West Virginia (2-0)
The Fighting Holgorsens are off to a 2-0 start with a semi bye week win over Youngstown State a week after starting the year with a victory against a dysfunctional Tennessee squad. Still, a win over the SEC carries weight with voters who don’t watch actual football and quarterback Will Grier is the top Heisman candidate in the conference. The Mountaineers’ game at North Carolina State has been postponed. Next up: Vs. Kansas State (2-0), 9/22
3. (3) TCU (2-0)
It wasn’t pretty, but TCU covered against SMU after a pedestrian first half. Gary Patterson won’t mind unless that first-half performance bleeds into this week against Ohio State. The Horned Frogs will be double-digit underdogs at home against the Urban Meyer-less Buckeyes with the world watching. A win not only propels TCU towards the playoff race, it would also help the cause of whichever team eventually wins the Big 12. We’re all TCU fans Saturday night. Next up: Vs. Ohio State (2-0), Sat.
4. (4) Oklahoma State (2-0)
It’s impossible to know too much about Oklahoma State despite a 2-0 record against a high school schedule. (The Cowboys beat South Alabama in Week 2 and Missouri State in Week 1.) The schedule improves this week with a home game against Boise State. The Big 12 looks like a three-team race through two weeks, but a win over everyone’s favorite non-Power Five school would put Mike Gundy’s program back in the discussion. Next up: Vs. Boise State (2-0), Sat.
5. (7) Texas (1-1)
Texas isn’t ranked fifth because the Longhorns did anything impressive. They didn’t. The ranking speaks to the lack of depth in the Big 12. The Longhorns squeaked past Tulsa in Week 2 and started the season with another loss to Maryland. Tom Herman appears to think the ship is moving in the right direction, though, and he’s smarter than all of us combined. Next up: Vs. USC (1-1), Sat.
6. (8) Baylor (2-0)
The Bears are improving in the second year under Matt Rhule because there was nowhere for Baylor to go but forward after Art Briles ruined the program to boost his ego and win a few extra games. Baylor lost to UTSA in 2017. It rebounded in year two under Rhule to knock off the Roadrunners. In a weak Big 12, that means something. Next up: Vs. Duke (2-0), Sat.
7. (6) Iowa State (0-1)
For those of you who fell asleep during the Defense Bowl known as the Iowa/Iowa State game last weekend, just know that the Cyclones didn’t win. Iowa State managed just three points against its in-state rival in a game built for the Big Ten faithful. It was the first game of the season for Matt Campbell and Iowa State after weather canceled the opener. The Cyclones looked very much like a team that was out of rhythm. Next up: Vs. Oklahoma (2-0), Sat.
8. (9) Texas Tech (1-1)
Texas Tech beat Lamar 77-0. Maybe that made Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders feel better about their Week 1 loss to Ole Miss. Houston rolls through Lubbock this weekend after drumming Sumlin and Arizona. A win over Texas Tech means UH likely adds a win against another soon-to-be former coach in the Big 12. Next up: Vs. Houston (2-0), Sat.
9. (5) Kansas State (1-1)
The only good news for Kansas State over the weekend was that the Mississippi State loss ended early enough for Bill Snyder to make a trip to Luby’s without missing his bedtime; it was an abysmal performance for Kansas State. The offense looked anemic and the defense looked tired. Next up: Vs. UTSA (0-2), Sat.
10. (10) Kansas (1-1)
Kansas beat Central Michigan to avoid a possible winless season, but like chalk work, the Jayhawks remain in the basement of the Big 12 standings. Next up: Vs. Rutgers (1-1), Sat.