Today, the Big 12’s two flagship programs have opportunities to show they’re bouncing back in the right direction.
For Texas, it's to show it’s not the same discombobulated mess that nearly fell to BYU at home two years ago.
For Oklahoma, it's to show its defense is no longer the open sieve it was at West Virginia late last season.
In the Big 12’s two marquee games this week, Texas will meet BYU in Provo, Utah tonight, while Oklahoma will meet the Mountaineers in Norman in a rematch of last year’s wild 50-49 shootout.
Earlier in the week, former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer made a guarantee on Twitter that the Sooners would not give up 778 yards this time to West Virginia.
That’s probably a safe bet.
After all, Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, who set a yardage record against an Oklahoma defense, are now in the NFL.
But the Stoops Brothers are hoping it will also be because their defense has improved its personnel and scheme following the late-season collapse of 2012. Despite replacing seven starters, the Sooners got off to a promising start last week, shutting out an opponent for the first time in three years.
“I think our guys were very confident when they took the field,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “That was different than before.”
Texas coach Mack Brown believes his team is very different than the one that last faced the Cougars. In the second game of 2011, the Longhorns struggled to a 17-16 win over BYU, which proved to be a harbinger for a rocky five-loss season.
"Playing in that atmosphere will be a good test for us," Texas cornerback Carrington Byndom said. "It will show us where we're at as a team.”
Like Oklahoma, the Longhorns’ began the season with a promising performance.
David Ash, who along with Case McCoy actually took over for Garrett Gilbert at quarterback after that BYU game two years ago, threw four touchdowns last week in a 56-7 rout of New Mexico State. Most impressive was how Ash and the offense responded to three early turnovers. Of course, the BYU defense offers a much tougher litmus test of where the Texas offense is.
"When we played them two years ago they were a tough physical team, and they're still that," Texas offensive lineman Mason Walters said. "It's going to be a great challenge for us knowing that we're going to have to go on some long drives against them.”
While Oklahoma and Texas will try to build on their openers, two other preseason contenders will attempt to bounce back from disappointing debuts. TCU and Kansas State will also try to straighten out quarterback controversies that grew more muddled after Week 1.
In a 37-27 loss to LSU, TCU coach Gary Patterson started Casey Pachall, but turned to Trevone Boykin in the second half. Patterson said Pachall remains his starter, even though the offense was more effective last week when Boykin was in. How TCU rotates QBs against Southeastern Louisiana today could clarify the position heading into next week’s clash at Texas Tech.
The same goes for K-State.
The Wildcats, who were stunned by North Dakota State, have indicated they’ll go with Jake Waters again as their starting quarterback against Louisiana-Lafayette. But Kansas State coach Bill Snyder indicated backup Daniel Sams would see more snaps than he did last week.
“Jake proved he is a very capable quarterback and played well during the course of the ballgame,” Snyder said. “But you have a good athlete like Daniel and you have to find places for him -- which we will.”