Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer 778d

Week 5 in the Big 12: What to watch for

Here are five storylines to keep an eye on during Week 5 in the Big 12:

Sooners need to rally

Oklahoma’s playoff dreams are probably dead, and for that reason this season might be labeled a disappointment no matter how the Sooners fare in Big 12 play. But they’ve had two weeks to get over the Ohio State loss. They have to get back to playing like the dominant squad that rolled through the Big 12 in 2015. A road game at No. 21 TCU presents a perfect opportunity to make a loud declaration that OU is still a major contender for the Big 12 title. It’s a backs-against-the-wall kind of week for Bob Stoops’ players versus another Top 25 foe who can run it up on the Sooners if they aren’t careful.

Will Texas' defense get back on track?

Texas coach Charlie Strong had a much-needed bye week to reflect on the 50-43 loss at Cal and make changes on defense. He trusts defensive coordinator Vance Bedford will get this talented unit turned around. We’ll probably see some surprises when Texas hits the road to face Oklahoma State on Saturday with new looks and more freshmen on the field. The Longhorns’ defensive backs have to go out and prove they’re a lot better than they looked against Cal.

Or will James Washington go off?

The last thing a struggling secondary needs is a game against Oklahoma State receiver James Washington. Baylor’s staff did a nice job of keeping Washington well-covered after he blew up for 296 receiving yards and two TDs on nine catches in a win over Pitt. Mason Rudolph loves to throw deep to him and shouldn’t be afraid to do so this week, especially if Texas is going to start relying on younger guys such as freshman Brandon Jones and sophomore DeShon Elliott at safety.

Statement game for West Virginia

The October schedule this team is about to start definitely isn’t easy. After Kansas State comes to Morgantown this weekend, the Mountaineers hit the road to face Texas Tech, come home to face TCU and then go play at Oklahoma State. No sense in looking ahead, though, when K-State should give them a hard fight. To stay undefeated, West Virginia needs a big game from its offense and must avoid late-game miscues like the botched snap that could’ve cost them the BYU game.

Is Kansas State’s D for real?

The performance against Stanford said yes. The numbers since then say yes. You don’t have to be convinced by the 11 points per game the Wildcats are allowing, since they didn’t actually play the second half last week against Missouri State due to bad weather. But they are holding foes under 3.8 yards per play and 2.6 per carry, the best rates in the Big 12. They’ll earn even more respect if they can stymie Skyler Howard and West Virginia’s many playmakers.

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