Big 12 teams to tweak things during early byes
By LUKE MEREDITH
DES MOINES, Iowa -- The season is three weeks old, and yet there seems to be as many questions marks in the Big 12 now as there were in August.
It's probably a good thing that nearly half the league has the weekend off.
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Iowa State started bye weeks on Monday -- and each is doing its best to take advantage of its early-season break.
The 14th-ranked Sooners (3-0) will use it to re-evaluate their quarterback situation.
Oklahoma went with Blake Bell at quarterback last week after Trevor Knight was sidelined with a bruised knee. All Bell did was earn Big 12 offensive player of the week honors in a 51-20 rout of Tulsa.
Bell, who was surprisingly beaten out by Knight in fall camp, was 27 of 37 passing for 413 yards and four touchdowns in his first career start.
"The competition was very close. He did keep a positive attitude and kept working weekly. He was set to play, kept working hard and he knew if he had his opportunity he was going to be prepared for it," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.
The Sooners now have an extra week to allow Knight to get healthy. Stoops said Monday that Knight's status for the game at Notre Dame on Sept. 28 won't be clarified until later this week.
But it also appears that Bell will be given every opportunity to wrestle the job away from Knight regardless of health.
"Blake's the guy right now, but we'll see how things go," Stoops said. "That's just something that we'll see as time goes. But right now, there isn't an issue."
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy would rather have one bye week in the middle of the season rather than one this week and another in October.
Still, the Cowboys (3-0) head into their first break on a roll after pounding Lamar 59-3. Gundy noted improvements in tackling, special teams coverage and overall fundamentals against the FCS Cardinals.
Oklahoma State, ranked No. 11 in the nation, has two weeks to prepare for their Big 12 opener at West Virginia (2-1) on Sept. 28.
The Mountaineers don't have it nearly so easy. They face regional rival Maryland in Baltimore on Saturday.
"I think we're about where we would expect to be. We obviously have a plan for our football team," Gundy said. "It's obviously a long-term plan. It's to try to make us the best team we can in the end of November and December, and I feel like were close to being on track."
For TCU, the bye will give it additional time to bounce back from a 1-2 start.
The Horned Frogs were 4 of 16 on third-down conversions and picked up 13 penalties for 115 yards in a 20-10 loss to Texas Tech -- which helped the Red Raiders snag the final spot in this week's Top 25.
TCU is allowing nearly 25 points a game, is ninth in the Big 12 with 190.7 yards passing per game and has just two TD passes this season.
The Horned Frogs host SMU on Sept. 28.
"I think it's a combination of a lot of things. Obviously the coaches always get blamed. But we've had 2-3 days of talking about things we need to do. We need to tweak some things, change some things around. But we got to get some guys in position where we have people open that will catch the ball. The other night we could have run the ball a little bit more effectively," TCU coach Gary Patterson said.
Iowa State bizarre early season schedule includes a pair of byes following by back-to-back Thursday night games.
The Cyclones can only hope their second bye in September will help them turn things around.
Iowa State (0-2) remains the Big 12's only winless team after losing to Iowa 27-21. The Cyclones needed a pair of touchdowns in the final five minutes to make the score seem more respectable.
Iowa State's offensive line has struggled to open consistent holes for its backs, and quarterback Sam Richardson's ability to run the ball was limited by an ankle injury. The Cyclones ran for 59 yards against the Hawkeyes, and Richardson was often under intense pressure from Iowa's front four.
Iowa State plays at Tulsa next Thursday in a rematch of last season's Liberty Bowl.
"We need to sustain and finish blocks," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. "We need to provide our quarterback longer pass protection."