|With starting QB Wes Lunt likely out, coach Mike Gundy and the Oklahoma State offense face an even taller task against Texas. (AP Images)|
There's a limited slate in the Big 12 this week, with only four games to watch. That doesn't mean there is a lack of intriguing subplots to this Saturday's schedule.
Can Oklahoma State's offense keep rolling along?
Given all the talk about the potential explosion of offense when No. 25 Baylor and No. 9 West Virginia get together on Saturday, it seems as though some have forgotten the Big 12's top offense -- at least statistically -- still resides in Stillwater.
The Cowboys are tops in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 62.3 points per outing. If not for a turnover-filled night in a loss at Arizona, that figure would likely be higher.
But Oklahoma State figures to be tested on offense this Saturday like it hasn't been all season. Texas defensive linemen Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor combine to form a pass rush that is far superior to those of OSU's first three opponents.
Backup QB J.W. Walsh is likely to play due to the knee injury starter Wes Lunt sustained in the Sept. 15 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Walsh threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns and added another 73 rushing yards and a score in that game after coming in for the injured Lunt. Can he do it again against the No. 12 Longhorns?
Which offense blinks first: Baylor's or West Virginia 's?
The current over/under on this game is 83 points, which should say just about all that needs to be said: the offenses in this game are explosive, capable of piling up points as evidenced by their respective strong starts.
The question, then, is which offense will make critical errors to kill potential scoring drives? Both of these teams secure the ball. Baylor is sixth in the country in turnover margin (+2 per game), while WVU isn't far behind in 13th (+1.67 per game).
In a game that could be a battle of strength-versus-strength, the team that doesn't make uncharacteristic mistakes is the one that will likely come out victorious. It's worth nothing Bears QB Nick Florence has thrown four interceptions this season, while the Mountaineers' Geno Smith hasn't been picked yet.
Which 3-0 team is for real: Texas Tech or Iowa State?
Not much was expected of either of these teams, but here they are: unblemished coming out of nonconference play, with the winner set to move to 4-0 and perhaps into (or at least on the cusp of) the nation's top 25.
Iowa State has faced the tougher schedule so far, winning as an underdog against both Tulsa and Iowa. Texas Tech has faced an awful schedule -- ranked 164th by computer rankings guru Jeff Sagarin, and there are only 120 FBS teams -- but has looked impressive on both sides of the ball in doing so.
It's easy to make too much of a conference opener, but the winner of this game enters the meat of its Big 12 schedule with a soaring sense of confidence and a chance to compete to finish in the middle of the pack, at the very least. The loser may get a quick reality check about what's to come in conference play and fall back to the rear of the field, where these teams were expected to finish in the first place.
Can David Ash and the Texas offense compete in a shootout?
Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the aforementioned Walsh leads Oklahoma State's offense to another strong showing. Can the Longhorns keep pace?
Yes, Ash has had a fantastic start to the season. He is third in the nation in passing efficiency (behind only fellow Big 12 quarterbacks Smith of WVU and Casey Pachall of TCU) and has thrown for 703 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception.
Ash hasn't been asked to put the offense on his back and make things happen. He has been a game manager, working the aerial attack enough to set up Texas' stable of talented running backs -- Malcolm Brown, Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron. If the 'Horns fall behind, can Ash's arm lead them back into contention?
Can TCU put an opponent away early?
Yes, TCU is 3-0 and ranked No. 15 in the latest AP poll. That doesn't change the fact that its last two wins have been unconvincing, to say the least.
It let a struggling Kansas team stick around on Sept. 15 before the Horned Frogs ultimately prevailed 20-6. Its offense was similarly uninspiring in a 27-7 win over Virginia last week.
The good news for TCU is its defense looks as good as ever. The touchdown it allowed the Cavaliers to score late was the first the Horned Frogs yielded all year, and they are No. 1 nationally in scoring defense (4.3 points per game allowed).
But given the caliber of offenses TCU will face in the Big 12, its own offense had better get on track quickly. The aforementioned Pachall and company get one last chance to do so in nonconference play, traveling to SMU on Saturday.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12 on Twitter. You can also follow C.J. (@cjmoore4) and Patrick (@patricksouthern).