What a year it has been.
The usual cast of characters atop the Big 12 Conference leader board finds themselves looking up, not only to foes, but at foes not normally perched atop the league standings. Oklahoma State (3-0 overall), Iowa State and Kansas State all share the top spot in the conference standings. The Cyclones and Wildcats are both 2-1 on the season heading into an abbreviated slate of games scheduled for Saturday.
TCU, which faces Kansas State, and Texas are tied for fourth, along with Baylor and West Virginia. All four of those schools are 1-1 in conference play this season.
Oklahoma, which was picked by many to repeat as conference champions for a sixth straight year, has lost both conference games so far this season, while Texas Tech and hapless Kansas are still in search of their first Big 12 victory of the season.
Oklahoma State, Baylor, West Virginia and Kansas are all idle this week.
KANSAS STATE at TCU
When: Sat. Oct. 10 (3 p.m. CT)
Where: Fort Worth, Texas
Amon G. Carter Stadium (46,000)
Series: TCU leads series 7-6
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS (2-0 Big 12/2-1 Overall)
Big news is taking place on and off the field in the Little Apple.
After a lackluster 35-31 loss to Arkansas State in the season opener Kansas State has reeled off a pair of conference wins to share the top spot for the league lead with Oklahoma State and Iowa State.
Yes, you read that right, Oklahoma State and Iowa State.
That has been enough to earn coach Chris Klieman a contract extension to stay with the Wildcats.
The second-year coach, who led K-State to eight wins in his first season at the school in 2019, inked a new deal earlier this week that will keep him in Manhattan through the 2026 season. Klieman is 82-19 in his career heading into Saturday’s tilt against the Horned Frogs. He previously coached North Dakota State for five seasons and compiled a 69-6 record leading the Bison and won four FCS championships before taking over at Kansas State. He also coached one season at Loras College (Iowa), where his team finished 3-7 in 2005.
As impressive as Klieman’s accolades were before taking over at Kansas State for legendary coach Bill Snyder, knocking off perennial Big 12 juggernaut Oklahoma in each of his first two tries will certainly turn attention to the tiny community of Manhattan.
Kansas State opened conference play by defeating Oklahoma, in Norman, by the score of 38-35 and then extended its winning streak to two games last week with a 31-21 win at home over Texas Tech. Kansas State defeated Oklahoma 48-41 last season on the way to an 8-5 overall record in Klieman’s first year at the school.
Quarterback Skylar Thompson (6-2, 223) accounted for 240 yards of total offense last week against the Red Raiders. He completed 11 of 23 passes for 172 yards and added 68 yards on the ground on 10 carries.
Those numbers were enough to allow Thompson to become just the second QB in K-State history (Ell Roberson) to throw for more than 5,000 yard and rush for more than 1,000 yards in a career at the school. The win over Oklahoma two weeks ago saw Thompson rally the Wildcats from a 21-point deficit to become the first Wildcat QB to record three wins over AP Top 10 opponents.
Thompson, a senior, has completed 40 of 64 passes so far this season for 626 yards and four touchdowns. He has also rushed 19 times for 38 yards and three touchdowns through the first three games of the 2020 season.
Deuce Vaughn (5-5, 168, Fr.) continues to make an impact in his first collegiate season. He leads the Wildcats in both rushing and receiving. He rushed 16 times for 113 yards and one touchdown in the win over the Red Raiders. That came just one week after carrying the ball eight times for 45 yards and one TD in the upset of Oklahoma.
Vaughn has 205 yards on 37 carries (5.7 ypc) so far this season. He has also tallied three rushing TDs on the young season. A threat out of the backfield, Vaughn has caught eight passes for 234 yards and one touchdown.
Tight end Briley Moore (6-4, 250, Grad./transfer) and Chabastin Taylor (6-4, 223, Jr.) are also proving to be threats at catching the football for the Wildcats. Briley has caught 12 passes for 163 yards and a team-best two touchdowns. Taylor, meanwhile, is right behind with 159 yards on eight catches and one touchdown for the Wildcats.
The K-State defense is currently being led by linebackers Elijah Sullivan (6-0, 210, Jr.) and Justin Hughes (6-1, 229, Sr.) along with defensive back Jahron McPherson (6-1, 200, Sr. ), who have combined for 61 total tackles through the first three games this season.
Sullivan (15 solo) and Hughes (14 solo) have both accounted for 21 total tackles on the year. Sullivan has one tackle for loss and one interception to his credit. McPherson has already picked off a pair of passes and forced one fumble to go along with his 19 (12 solo) tackles this season.
Special teams have shined this season for the Wildcats as they have blocked a punt in each of the first three games so far.
TCU HORNED FROGS (1-1 Big 12/1-1 Overall)
TCU, much like Kansas State, was usually vanquished to the role of also-rans in their respective conferences.
Texas might find that had to believe after seeing the Horned Frogs score with just over four minutes remaining in the game and then holding on to defeat the Longhorns 33-31 in Austin last weekend.
Since joining the Big 12 in 2012, TCU has now defeated Texas seven times in their nine meetings as conference foes.
Quarterback Max Duggan accounted for 250 yards of offense in the win over the Longhorns. He completed 20 of his 30 pass attempts for 231 yards and rushed 17 times for an additional 79 yards and two touchdowns in the game.
Running back Kendre Miller had a team-high 10 carries for 67 yards while Quentin Johnston and Taye Barber combined to catch 10 passes for 121 yards in the contest. Johnston had a team-best 70 yards on just three receptions and Barber hauled in seven passes for 51 yards in the game.
Duggan (6-2, 201, So.) has completed 31 of 49 passes this season for 472 yards and three touchdowns. He has thrown one interception. He has added 89 yards rushing on 28 carries (3.2 ypc) and two more scores for the Frogs.
Miller (6-0, 206) is a true freshman and had rushed 13 times for 81 yards (6.2 ypc) in the two games this season.
Barber (5-9, 185, Jr.) leads the receivers with 12 catches on the year for 133 yards.
The TCU defense is being paced by linebackers Garrett Wollow (6-2, 230, Sr.) and Dee Winters (6-1, 223, So.) and La’Kendrick Van Zandt (6-1, 195, Jr.) one of the top defensive backs in the conference.
Wollow has recorded 15 (7 solo) tackles through the first two games, including 2.5 TFLs and one sack. Winters, meanwhile, is not far behind with 13 (6 solo) tackles of his own.
Van Zandt, the Big 12 defensive co-player of the week after the win over Texas, seems to be all over the field this season. He already has 12 (6 solo) tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one interception and one fumble recovery for the Horned Frogs.
TEXAS TECH at IOWA STATE
When: Sat. Oct. 10 (2:30 p.m. CT)
Where: Ames, Iowa
Jack Trice Stadium (55,000)
Series: Texas Tech leads 11-7
IOWA STATE CYCLONES (2-0 Big 12/2-1 Overall)
Iowa State had some pundits thinking the Cyclones could challenge to a spot in the College Football Playoff by season’s end.
Such thoughts vanished quickly after ISU began the season with a stunning 31-14 loss at home against Louisiana.
But the ship seems to have been righted in American’s Heartland as the Cyclones will take a two-game winning streak into Saturday’s game against Texas Tech after a history-making triumph 37-30 triumph over Oklahoma last weekend in Ames.
The win marked the first time since 1960 the Cyclones defeated the Sooners in Ames.
Running back Breece Hall fueled the win over Oklahoma by rushing for 139 yards, including 100 yards after intermission, and scoring two touchdowns. He scored on a two-yard run in the first half and added an eight-yard run in the final period that proved to be the winning score for the Cyclones.
He was named the Big 12’s offensive player of the week for his performance.
ISU’s offense is guided by talented quarterback Brock Purdy (6-1, 212, Jr.) who has completed 46 of his 82 pass attempts this season for 610 yards and a pair of touchdowns. One of the top passers in the conference, Purdy has been picked off just once this season.
Hall (6-1, 215) is just a sophomore and has amassed 396 yards on 66 carries (6.0 ypc) so far in 2020. He ranks first in the conference third nationally in carries and yards. Hall is the first Cyclone to go over 100 yards in each of the first three games of a season since Ennis Haywood turned the trick in 2000.
Purdy has three talented pass catchers this season. Wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson (6-3, 207, Jr.) is currently leading the team with 11 catches for 152 yards and one touchdown, while Landon Akers (6-0, 191, Sr.), another wide receiver, has caught just three passes, but has proven to be a deep threat as he has accounted for 95 yards through the air.
Always reliable Charlie Kolar (6-6, 257) is one of the best tight ends in the nation and has nine catches for 93 yards this season.
If the name Mike Rose (6-4, 245, Jr.) seems familiar it ought to be. He seems to be the leader each year on defense for Iowa State. The linebacker currently sits atop the team charts in tackles with 27 (14 solo). He has already been credited with 2.5 tackles for loss and one interception.
Jake Hummel (6-1, 228, Sr.), another linebacker, has 21 (12 solo) tackles of his own, while Lawrence White (6-0, 197, Sr.) is leading the secondary with 20 total (15 solo) tackles.
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (0-2 Big 12/1-2 Overall)
The Red Raiders have done all they could to make games interesting this season.
Tech opened the season with a 35-33 nail-biting win over FCS Houston Baptist and then racked up plenty of numbers before falling to rival Texas 63-56 in overtime two weeks ago. A 31-21 loss to Kansas State has the Lubbock faithful hoping for a better outcome as the Red Raiders tangle with the No. 24 Cyclones.
Iowa State has won each of the last four games in the series between the two schools.
This marks the second time in series history Iowa State has been ranked when playing TTU. The only other time came in 2002 when No. 11 ISU, led by Seneca Wallace, defeated the Red Raiders 31-17 in a game played in Ames.
Xavier White ran for 113 yards on 12 carries in the last to Kansas State last week. It was the third straight game this season TTU has had a runner eclipse the 100-yard plateau. SaRodorick Thompson reached 100 yards in each of the first two games this season for the Red Raiders.
Quarterback Alan Bowman (6-3, 215, So.) handles to TTU offense. He enters Saturday’s game having completed 73 of 111 passes for 789 yards and seven touchdowns (four interceptions) through the first three games of the season.
Thompson (6-0, 210, So.) is the team’s rushing leader having rushed 50 times for 268 yards and four TDs this season.
KeSean Carter (5-11, 190, Sr.) and Erik Ezukanma (6-3, 220, So.) are Bowman’s favorite targets when going to the air, which Tech has long done with great frequency. Carter has 21 catches for 215 yards and four touchdowns this season while Ezukanma had added 16 receptions for 234 yards and a pair of scores. T.J. Vasher (6-6, 215, Sr.) has added 14 catches for 163 yards and two touchdowns of his own for the Red Raiders.
Carter, Ezukanma and Vasher are all wide receivers.
The Tech defense is being led by linebackers Krison Merriweather (6-0, 240, Jr.) and Riko Jeffers (6-2, 235, Sr.). Merriweather already has 27 (17 solo) tackles to his credit, including 2.5 tackles for loss, while Jeffers is now far behind with 20 (9 solo) tackles and a pair of TFLs.
Thomas Leggett (6-0, 200, Sr.) also has 20 total tackles, 16 of those unassisted, from his secondary position.
OKLAHOMA vs. TEXAS
When: Sat. Oct. 10 (11 a.m. CT)
Where: Dallas, Texas
Cotton Bowl (92,100)
Series: Texas leads 62-48-5
There was once a time that whenever Oklahoma and Texas squared off more than bragging rights were on the line.
Plenty of times a chance to play for a national championship went the way of the victor in the heated border rivalry between the Sooners and Longhorns.
But remember, 2020 is not a normal year.
Oklahoma has lost both of its conference games so far this season and Texas, which needed overtime to knock off Texas Tech 63-56 earlier this season, lost to TCU last week at home in Austin.
OKLAHOMA SOONERS (0-2 Big 12/1-2 Overall)
Oklahoma’s bid for a sixth consecutive Big 12 championship is in dire jeopardy as the Sooners prepare for its annual clash against Texas.
Some of OU’s struggles this season can be blamed on the youth of the Sooners. A redshirt freshman is under center while both of the leading rushers are either a sophomore or freshman.
Spencer Rattler (6-1, 205, RS, Fr.) has shown flashes of brilliance already this season and give an indication as to why he was one of the top recruits coming out of high school in 2019. He has started all three games for Oklahoma this season and has completed 69 of 94 passes for 977 yards and 10 touchdowns already.
On the flip side, he has shown some impatience in the pocket as his four interceptions can attest.
Seth McGowan (5-11, 211, Fr.) is the leading rusher for the Sooners this season. He has carried the ball 34 times for 181 yards (5.3 ypc) and scored twice. Teammate Austin Stogner (6-6, 262, So.) has added 11 carries for 174 yards from his halfback position.
The OU receiving crops is being paced by veteran Charleston Rambo (6-1, 175, RS, Jr.) and his 13 receptions for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Marvin Mims (5-11, 177, Fr.), meanwhile, is becoming one of Rattler’s favorite targets. He has 11 catches for 144 yards and three touchdowns through the first three games of the season.
Linebacker Brian Asamoah (6-1, 230, RS, So.) and defensive back Delarrin Turner-Yell (5-10, 195, Jr.) lead the way on defense for the Sooners. Asamoah has 18 (7 solo) tackles, including seven TFLs, while Turner-Yell has chipped in with 15 (9 solo) tackles already this season.
Safety Woodi Washington (5-11, 192, RS, Fr.) and DaShaun White (6-0, 227, Jr.), a linebacker, both have recorded 12 total tackles for Oklahoma.
TEXAS LONGHORNS (1-1 Big 12/2-1 Overall)
Texas suffered a free fall in this week’s Associated Press poll after its loss to TCU.
The Longhorns, who were ranked ninth the previous week, fell all the way to 22nd in this week’s poll. A loss to Oklahoma will certainly knock them out of the rankings and make it nearly impossible for them to recover enough to be considered for the playoffs.
Quarterback Sam Ehlinger (6-3, 225, Sr.) is one of the top players in the nation at his position and has been virtually the lone constant on offense for the Longhorns this season.
He has completed 69 of 109 passes for 924 yards and a whopping 14 touchdowns already against just two interceptions. Ehlinger has added 130 yards rushing on 27 carries (4.8 ypc) and one more score. His rushing total ranks him third on the team in that department.
The running game is built around two players in the form of Keantay Ingram (6-0, 222, Jr.) and Roschon Johnson (6-2, 227, So.) who have combined for more than 300 yards through the first three contests this season. Ingram leads the way with 173 yards on 32 carries (5.4 ypc) while Johnson has chipped in with 145 yards on 29 carries (5.0 ypc) and two touchdowns.
Wide receivers Joshua Moore (6-1, 169, RS, So.) leads the team in receiving with 200 yards on 31 receptions and four touchdowns while teammate Brenden Schooler (6-2, 196, Sr.) has caught 10 passes for 123 yards and has scored twice for the Longhorns.
Joseph Ossai (6-4, 217, Jr.), a linebacker, leads Texas on defense with 22 (6 solo) tackles. He has five tackles for loss to his credit. Caden Sterns (6-1, 207, Sr.) is second on the team with 20 (8 solo) tackles and has intercepted on pass.
Six other Longhorns have already reached at least 10 total tackles through the first three games.
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.