September 9, 2010

Week 2 preview in the Big 12

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THE SCHEDULE
Georgia Tech at Kansas, noon
Idaho at Nebraska, 12:30 p.m.
Colorado at California, 3:30 p.m.
Iowa State at Iowa, 3:30 p.m.
Florida State at Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m.
Buffalo at Baylor, 7 p.m.
McNeese State at Missouri, 7 p.m.
Troy at Oklahoma State, 7 p.m.
Wyoming at Texas, 7 p.m.
Louisiana Tech at Texas A&M, 7 p.m.
Missouri State at Kansas State, 7 p.m.
Texas Tech at New Mexico, 8 p.m.

All things must come to pass - perhaps even the Big 12's reliance on the pass.

The first week of the season offered indications that conference offenses were switching back to the pre-Mike Leach days, when Big 12 teams were grounded and featured electrifying running backs.

"That's very possible and likely with the quality of backs that there are and the fact that most people are committed to running the football," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.

Having Stoops say that says a lot, as his Sooners produced two Heisman-winning quarterbacks - Sam Bradford and Jason White - during the pass-first era.

His running back, DeMarco Murray, was the star of a 31-24 season-opening win over Utah State. Murray rushed for 212 yards, yet he's third in the Big 12 in rushing. Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter had 257 yards against Washington State and Kansas State's Daniel Thomas rushed for 234 against UCLA.

The Big 12 hasn't had three running back hit two-bills in the same week since Oct. 24, 1998, when Kansas' David Winbush, Texas' Ricky Williams and Oklahoma's De'Mond Parker did it.

Furthermore, Nebraska freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez rushed for 136 yards, Texas A&M running back Christine Michael had 105 yards and Texas scored all three of its touchdowns on the ground as the Longhorns put a renewed emphasis on their running game.

That's a far cry from what has been the norm in the Big 12, which in each of the past two seasons has had at least six quarterbacks rank among the nation's top 20 in passing yardage. In '08, six Big 12 quarterbacks ranked among the country's top 12.

After one week, only Texas A&M's Jerrod Johnson and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert are listed among the nation's top 20 passers.

No doubt, a lack of proven passers is a factor. Texas, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma State have new starting quarterbacks, and Kansas State's Carson Coffman, Baylor's Robert Griffin, Oklahoma's Landry Jones, Texas Tech's Taylor Potts and Colorado's Tyler Hansen have a little more than a year or less of actual playing experience.

Still, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who remembers what is used to be like in the Big 12, said no team would depend on its running game unless its running game was dependable.

"I guess people that are running the ball feel pretty good about their offensive line and whoever it is that's carrying the football," he said. "You don't give them the opportunity to have that kind of yardage if they weren't pretty capable people."

The Big 12 definitely has an abundance of capable backs.

Thomas rushed for 1,265 yards last season. Iowa State's Alexander Robinson and Nebraska's Roy Helu exceeded 1,000 yards, too. Michael could have with a few more carries.

Murray had 1,002 yards in '08 when he was splitting carries with Chris Brown. That same season, Hunter rushed for 1,555 yards, but injuries limited him to 382 last season. He could surpass that total this week against Troy. In two previous games against the Trojans, Hunter has rushed for 294 yards and averaged 7.35 yards per carry. He came off the bench to gain 125 yards against the Trojans in '07 and rushed for 169 yards against them in '08.

He appears to have regained his '08 form, although Washington State's defense - the one he ran over and around last week - leaves much to be desired.

"Only time will tell because as we progress through the season and continue to play, we'll play people that are faster, but he looks good to me," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "He had acceleration, stayed low to the ground and made people miss in space. He looked pretty close to where he was when he was running for us a couple of years ago."

And Big 12 offenses were looking a lot like they did about 10 years ago.

Best matchup: Oklahoma defensive line vs. Florida State offensive line. Oklahoma's fierce pass rush against Florida State's offensive line shapes up as the most compelling aspect of the Sooners-Seminoles clash. DE Jeremy Beal, who had 11 sacks in '09, leads a charge that posted three sacks in the season-opening win over Utah State. Meanwhile, Florida State's line, led by All-America G Rodney Hudson, did not allow a sack against Samford last week and surrendered just 20 in 13 games last season. OU needs the pass rush to disrupt FSU QB Christian Ponder. The Sooners gave up 341 passing yards and two touchdowns against Utah State.

Player on the spot: Iowa State OT Kelechi Osemele. Osemele, a 6-foot-5, 330-pound junior, played well enough last season to garner second-team All-Big 12 recognition. He can really distinguish himself this week, though, going against Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn, who could be the best individual defensive player in the nation. Last season, Clayborn had 11.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. It's up to Osemele to keep him from wreaking havoc.

Numbers game: The magic number for Baylor appears to be 30. In the past 10 seasons, Baylor is 23-2 when scoring at least 30 points. The Bears are just 10-71 in that span when failing to reach 30. The Bears have posted 12 consecutive victories when reaching 30 points, including last week's 34-3 victory over Sam Houston. This week, Baylor faces Buffalo; the teams last met in 2007 and Baylor won 34-21.

What they're saying:

"Mark is quite a bit younger. He was kind of the little brother we were always bringing along with us. We all wanted to see the other guys do better than us. I think most brothers are that way. Mike and I and our other brother, Ronnie, are closer in age. We had our share of scuffles. Mark was too young to fight with. He wasn't in those brawls with us." - Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, on facing his younger brother, Mark, Florida State's defensive coordinator

"I was concerned with changing conferences, that we may not be ready for the level of competition if we decided to leave." - Texas A&M athletic director Bill Bryne, to "Aggie Hour" host Dave South on his apprehension about possibly joining the SEC

"It will be kind of difficult playing against your son in a game that you desperately want to win, and being his senior year he wants to go out on top. At the same time, I'm a Buffalo through thick and then. I want the best for our program; he wants the best for his program. On that day, there won't be any love lost there." - Colorado running backs coach Darian Hagan, to the Boulder Daily Camera, on facing his son, California CB Darian Hagan Jr., on Saturday

Etc.: Oklahoma is looking to extend its 31-game home winning streak, the longest such streak nationally. ... Texas A&M ran 99 offensive plays in its opening victory over Stephen F. Austin, the most of any team in the nation last week. It was the second-most in A&M history; the Aggies ran 103 offensive snaps in a 74-10 victory over TCU in 1986. ... A&M junior WR Jeff Fuller, who had two touchdown receptions in last week's win, is closing in on a 42-year old school record. Fuller needs one more touchdown catch to equal the school career record of 19 set by Bob Long from 1966-68. ...Colorado WR Scotty McKnight has broken the school career record for receptions, surpassing the 167 catches of Michael Westbrook. McKnight has 175 career catches. He also has extended his school record of consecutive games with a reception to 38. ... Redshirt freshman Parker Orms, Colorado's nickel back, suffered an apparent torn ACL while covering a punt in the Buffaloes' win over Colorado State and likely will miss the rest of the season. ... Iowa State is seeking to end a dubious streak of 14 consecutive quarters without a touchdown against state rival Iowa. The Cyclones scored a touchdown on a run by Bret Meyer in the second quarter in 2006. Since then, Iowa State has scored just 26 points, with no TDs, against the Hawkeyes. ... Iowa State sophomore LB A.J. Klein had 15 tackles against Northern Illinois last week in his first career start, while fellow sophomore LB Jake Knott had nine tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble. ... Kansas coach Turner Gill announced that Jordan Webb will start at quarterback over Kale Pick Saturday against Georgia Tech. Pick started in last week's loss to North Dakota State, but was replaced by Webb late in the game. ... Missouri WR T.J. Moe made his first career start a memorable one. He had 13 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown against Illinois. ... Kansas State OT Ethan Douglas is slow by a knee injury that likely will force him out of this weekend's game against Missouri State. His status is uncertain for the game against Iowa State on Sept. 18. ... Although Taylor Martinez played well and got most of the playing time in the season-opener, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said the competition for the Huskers' quarterback job between Martinez, Cody Green and Zac Lee remains close. ... Nebraska is seeking the 500th victory on its home field on Saturday. ... Oklahoma DE Frank Alexander missed the opener because of a sprained ankle, but will play against Florida State. RB Mossis Madu also will be back after serving a one-game suspension. ... Oklahoma State DT Shane Jarka won't play this week against Troy because of a knee injury. Cowboys DT Chris Donaldson also suffered a knee injury, but he could be available this week. ... Tre' Newton has been named Texas' starting TB in place of Cody Johnson. Johnson sprained an ankle early in last week's win over Rice. ... The Longhorns spent two hours trying to relocate to another hotel the night before their game last Saturday. A fire broke out and caused a power outage at their original hotel in Houston. ... Texas Tech expects injured WR Alex Torres and OL Mickey Okafor to be available against New Mexico.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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