Coaches in new places take on familiar faces in the Big 12.
And a common denominator is Texas Tech.
Start with West Virginia at Oklahoma State, the Dana Holgorsen Bowl. He left his job as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator, where he shaped the nation’s top offense in total yardage in 2010, for the same job at West Virginia.
In Morgantown, Holgorsen was hired as Bill Stewart’s successor but became the head coach a few months later upon Stewart’s forced resignation.
Before he coached at Oklahoma State, Holgersen served on Texas Tech’s staff, and there he worked with quarterback Sonnie Cumbie, now TCU’s offensive coordinator. The Horned Frogs play host to Tech on Saturday.
Cumbie has had a hand in bringing the high-powered offense of his Tech years to Fort Worth, where TCU is rolling. Quarterback Trevone Boykin leads the Big 12 in total offense and the Frogs are running elements of Tech’s old stuff as well as anybody in the league, including Tech.
Before coming to TCU, Cumbie spent five years as a Tech assistant, last year under head coach Kliff Kingsbury. He knows what’s coming on Saturday. But can the Red Raiders stop it?
“Both offenses are very similar conceptually,” Kingsbury said. “Everybody knows that.”
And West Virginia is a familiar cousin to both.
▪ Alabama-Birmingham at Arkansas, 11 a.m., SEC Network: The Razorbacks don’t have a chance to lose an SEC game this week, so this one shouldn’t be much of a problem, although UAB scored 34 on Mississippi State earlier this season. Arkansas’ season won’t begin to feel good until the Razorbacks break through in league play.
▪ Mississippi State at Kentucky, 2:30 p.m., CBS (Ch. 5): Before the season, if you had considered this weekend’s slate of five SEC games and projected the one to be selected in the CBS feature spot, Bulldogs-Wildcats might have been the fifth choice. But with Mississippi State ranked first and Kentucky off to a 5-2 start, this got the call, and deservedly so.
▪ Vanderbilt at Missouri, 3 p.m., SEC Network: Mizzou bids for bowl eligibility against a Vandy squad that is enduring coaching transition pains. Both teams have struggled on offense, but especially the Commodores. And they both have terrific return games with Mizzou’s Marcus Murphy wrecking Florida last week.
▪ Mississippi at LSU, 6:15 p.m., ESPN: The Rebels’ national title hopes get another test, and as good as quarterback Bo Wallace has been, Mississippi’s foundation is its formidable defense led by end Robert Nkemdiche. The Rebels have forced a turnover in 30 straight games, the second-longest streak in college football (Louisiana-Monroe, 32). LSU is 43-3 at home under coach Les Miles when playing at night.
▪ South Carolina at Auburn, 6:30 p.m., SEC Network: With cross-division games against South Carolina and Georgia, Auburn figures to have a big say in who wins the East Division. If the Gamecocks can pull off the stunner, they’re back in the race. But it won’t be easy. For starters, the Tigers have had two weeks to stew over their loss to Mississippi State, and with a schedule that includes visits to Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama, Auburn can’t afford any missteps.
▪ Alabama at Tennessee, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2: The Crimson Tide isn’t ranked first nationally, but that 59-0 whipping of Texas A&M was as convincing a victory as there’s been in college football this season. Although the offense has sputtered at times, Alabama’s defense has been consistently terrific and should have a big day in Knoxville.
Big 12 games
▪ Texas at Kansas State, 11 a.m., on ESPN: The Wildcats bid for victories over Oklahoma and Texas in the same season. Texas had been solid on defense but yielded 45 points and 524 total yards to Iowa State in last week’s victory in Austin. Longhorns quarterback Tyrone Swoops has steadily improved but, Kansas State has put together one of the Big 12’s top defense.
▪ West Virginia at Oklahoma State, 2:30 p.m., on ESPN: The Mountaineers, like TCU, struggled in their first two Big 12 years. But both are breaking through this season. West Virginia is coming off its biggest victory in league play, downing fourth-ranked Baylor last week. The defense played superbly, and West Virginia is getting a big boost from coordinator Tony Gibson, elevated from safeties coaches. Another big influence is longtime Penn State assistant Tom Bradley.
▪ Texas Tech at TCU, 2:30 p.m. on FOX (Ch. 4): With last week’s developments, the Horned Frogs are squarely in the Big 12 championship mix. Keep an eye on Horned Frogs wide receiver Josh Doctson. He had his first triple digit receiving game last week against Oklahoma State, finishing with 225 yards, one yard short of the school record.