What to watch in the Big 12: Week 4

It’s a light week in the Big 12 with Kansas State’s trip to Austin, Texas, as the highlight matchup in the conference this weekend. West Virginia has an intriguing nonconference battle with Maryland while several conference squads have a bye week.

Here is what to watch in the Big 12 this week.

Texas looking to get back on track against Kansas State. Longhorns coach Mack Brown is trying to ignore the distractions while begging the UT fans to come out on Saturday and support his downtrodden squad. It’s tough to imagine the Longhorns getting off to a worse start, but their destiny remains in their hands. If they win on Saturday, they’ll be on the road to getting things back on track. If they lose to the Wildcats, all hope could be lost.

Is K-State back on track? The Wildcats suffered one of the biggest upsets of the season when the defending Big 12 champions fell to North Dakota State in Week 1. KSU responded with 20-plus-point wins over Louisiana-Lafayette and Massachusetts in the past two weeks, but the Wildcats still have to prove they can be Big 12 contenders. A strong showing -- and a win -- in Austin could provide a lot of momentum heading into the heart of Big 12 play.

Is Childress the real deal? The West Virginia quarterback was impressive in his first start, getting the Mountaineers’ offense clicking for the first time in 2013. Ford Childress was 25-of-41 for 359 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, but WVU coach Dana Holgorsen was more impressed with Childress’ cool demeanor and ability to manage the offense and interact with his teammates. Will the redshirt freshman perform even better against Maryland?

Can Baylor’s Petty continue his offensive efficiency? The Bears’ quarterback tops the nation with a total QBR of 98.3. Bryce Petty has eight incompletions in two games with zero interceptions and 11 completions of 20 yards or more. It’s been an incredible starting debut for the junior quarterback. Louisiana-Monroe is the next defense set to challenge Petty and the Bears’ offense.

Texas Tech must not suffer a letdown. The Red Raiders are off to a 3-0 start, including a Big 12 conference win over TCU last Thursday. When Texas State arrives in Lubbock, Texas, the Red Raiders will have to avoid any kind of letdown. If we’ve learned anything from the first three weeks, it’s that teams must be ready to play against lesser opponents or they’re likely to struggle or even lose to a team they paid to come to their home stadium.

Can Kansas surpass its 2012 win total after three games? The Jayhawks are 1-1 heading into their game against Louisiana Tech after finishing the 2012 season at 1-11. Last season they won their first game and didn’t win another. Can they change that trend when they host Louisiana Tech on Saturday?

Can Texas stop the run? The Longhorns might have answered this question already. And it’s a resounding no. Yet they’ll get another chance against the Wildcats. KSU is going to run the football with running back John Hubert and quarterback Daniel Sams, who might be the most dynamic running quarterback in the conference.

The Big 12 has been very average in nonconference play. WVU can help turn that around with a win over Maryland. True enough it’s not a major strike for the league in terms of national perception, but a loss would be yet another nonconference dent in the Big 12’s armor. The more wins over BCS conference opponents the better for the Big 12.

Is there a quarterback controversy in Lubbock? Baker Mayfield was outstanding in the Red Raiders’ first two wins but struggled against TCU. Davis Webb stepped in to lead TTU to a victory over the Horned Frogs. Although Mayfield remains the starter, Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury probably won’t hesitate to turn to Webb if Mayfield struggles again.

Will Baylor continue to look like the Big 12’s most impressive team? The Bears have been dominant and relentless in their first two wins over Wofford and Buffalo, but face their toughest test of the season in ULM. It’s an opportunity to compare scores as well since the Warhawks opened the season with a 34-0 loss at Oklahoma.