Kansas State opened conference play with a road win at Oklahoma. Last Saturday, the Wildcats romped to a 55-14 win at West Virginia.
Now that the 'Cats have cleared their two biggest hurdles, can they run the table, giving them a shot at playing in the national title game?
“Our intent is to brand the message it's day by day,” said K-State coach Bill Snyder. “However they're thought of externally is not a major factor for us. The important thing is how well we prepare today. I know everybody talks this way, but it really is game by game.”
Only one team currently ranked in the AP poll — No. 15 Texas Tech — remains on K-State's schedule. The Red Raiders visit Manhattan, Kan., on Saturday.
But in the ultracompetitive Big 12, the Wildcats must still play Oklahoma State and Texas at home and TCU and Baylor on the road.
“They're one of the best teams, maybe the best team in the country,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “Time will tell. “They're just a real mature team. They're physical, disciplined, play smart and don't beat themselves. They're an all-around good football team with no weaknesses.”
RED RAIDERS A BIG SURPRISE
Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said during fall camp that the Red Raiders were much better than their ninth-place projection in the preseason Big 12 poll. Why was he so confident?
“We have more depth on both sides of the ball and a senior quarterback, a kid who can play,” Tuberville said. “He's pretty special. For instance last week, we didn't play very well defensively. TCU took it to us, but he throws seven touchdown passes.”
Seth Doege has thrown for 2,209 yards and 28 touchdowns.
The other factor is Tech's defense. The Red Raiders, who had one of the worst defenses in the country last season, ranks seventh nationally in total defense and 21st in scoring defense (21.6).
“This time last year, we were all beat up,” Tuberville said. “We're still a long ways away. We need to recruit a few more linemen and defensive backs for this league. We're just a more solid defense because we have more depth, more speed and more talent.”
MOUNTAINEERS MUST REGROUP
Back-to-back losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State by a combined 104-28 score was a wake-up call for West Virginia, which is in its inaugural Big 12 season.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” said Holgorsen, a former offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State. “Our depth is coming from a bunch of young kids, a bunch of freshmen. I was pretty familiar with the Big 12 and knew what we were getting ourselves into. But I think it's going to take a whole season for everyone around here to kind of understand it.”
A couple of weeks ago, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith was labeled the leading Heisman contender. After a win in Austin, the Mountaineers were viewed as a Big 12 title contender.
Now West Virginia enters a bye week with a lot of questions.
“We've got to get their confidence back,” Holgorsen said. “The only way you can do that is talk to them and work on specific things in practice. We play in a good league. I think everybody understands that. We have to get back to work. There are no secret or magical words to get those guys back on track.”
BAYLOR DEFENSE LAST IN THE NATION
The year after Robert Griffin III won the Heisman, Baylor isn't a lock to secure six wins to become bowl eligible. But the offense has been fine. It's the defense that's been the issue. The Bears are ranked 120th, last in the country, in both total defense (553.2) and scoring defense (44.0).
Coach Art Briles endorsed defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, saying better days are ahead.
“We're certainly depleted a little bit depth-wise,” Briles said. “That's a concern. We have to get off the field on third downs. That's the most critical factor for us. It's been a thorn for us.”
Baylor also is last in the country, by a large margin, in third down defense (64 percent).
MACK BROWN TALKS “REBUILDING”
When Texas coach Mack Brown was asked about Charlie Weiss trying to rebuild Kansas' program, his initial response was intriguing before he said the Jayhawks are improved under Weiss.
“I'm kind of doing it, too,” Brown said. “We started over two years ago. I looked at it, and we're playing 34 freshmen over the last two years, 18 last year and 16 this year, which are two of the most in the country. It is difficult.”