November 25, 2010

Week 13 preview in the Big 12

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THE SCHEDULE
THURSDAY
Texas A&M at Texas, 8 p.m.
FRIDAY
Colorado at Nebraska, 3:30 p.m.
SATURDAY
Kansas vs. Missouri in Kansas City, Mo., 12:30 p.m.
Kansas State at North Texas, 4 p.m.
Houston at Texas Tech, 8 p.m.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, 8 p.m.

The time may have come for the pay-off on T. Boone Pickens' $265-million investment.

The billionaire oilman isn't due to make millions in profit Saturday, but a victory over Oklahoma would be priceless for Pickens and other followers of Oklahoma State, which frequently has been beat down by its state rival.

OU leads the series 80-17-7.

Oklahoma State and Oklahoma square off at Boone Pickens Stadium for a chance play for the Big 12 championship and a Fiesta Bowl appearance. Oklahoma State never has won the South Division, while Oklahoma has been almost a fixture in the Big 12 championship game.

"We've been in this situation nine of the last 11 years," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "Our guys need to embrace it, and that's what we've been doing."

Oklahoma has played for the Big 12 championship seven times under Stoops and has won six.

If Oklahoma State gets its first trip to the championship game, at least a small measure of its credit would have to be extended about 350 miles eastward to Little Rock, Ark., where former Cowboys coach Les Miles leads LSU against Arkansas.

In 2001, Miles led the Cowboys to an upset of Oklahoma that knocked the Sooners out of the championship game. The next year, the Cowboys did it again, and that seemed to open eyes that Oklahoma State could join OU and Texas as powerhouses in the Big 12.

"Since Les Miles beat OU in '01, it's been a different series," said Bill Haisten, a long-time Tulsa sports writer and radio talk-show host. "Beating them in '01 and beating them again in '02 got Boone Pickens interested, and that led to the stadium renovation and a lot of things that culminated in what you see today."

What you see today in Stillwater are some of the finest athletic facilities in the nation, which were financed by Pickens' contributions. You also see a team that is 10-1, has notched at least nine wins in three consecutive seasons for the first time in school history and has the nation's No. 3 scoring offense. And you see a team that can legitimately challenge the powerful Sooners instead of hoping for miracles.

Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden has flourished under new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen and passed for 3,780 yards and 30 touchdowns. Justin Blackmon has emerged as perhaps the nation's premier receiver and leads the nation with 1,570 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. In addition, tailback Kendall Hunter leads the Big 12 with 1,461 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.

Of course, Oklahoma can match offensive weaponry with just about anybody. Sooners quarterback Landry Jones has thrown for 3,479 yards and 30 touchdowns and leads the Big 12 in passing. Wide receiver Ryan Broyles leads the nation with 106 receptions for 1,309 yards and 12 touchdowns. And tailback DeMarco Murray has rushed for 973 yards.

Oklahoma State hasn't beaten OU since 2002. In each of the past two seasons, the Cowboys were ranked 11th when they faced the Sooners. They have been whipped both times, losing 27-0 last season and 61-41 in 2008.

This season, Oklahoma State seems better equipped for a shootout. While the Sooners have been held under 30 points three times, Oklahoma State has scored at least 34 in every game except a 24-14 victory over Kansas State, when Blackmon was suspended.

"We know we're going to have to score some points because their offense can do the same," Weeden said. "We've just got to continue doing what we've done the last 11 games - be productive, get first downs. That usually turns into points for us."

And that usually has turned into victories for the Cowboys. This season, Oklahoma State beat Texas Tech in Lubbock for the first time since 1944. The Cowboys ended a 12-year losing streak to Texas. But the most important victory will be the most difficult to attain.

"It's kind of crazy that it comes down to the last one, but that's the way we want it," Weeden said. "We control our own destiny. We don't have to rely on somebody else to lose. If we win, we move on, and that's the way we're going about it."

Rarely has so much been at stake.

In 1984, a share of the old Big Eight championship was on the line when the teams played. Oklahoma won 24-14. In '07, the Cowboys could have shared the Big 12 South with a victory, but OU rolled 49-17.

"I think OU fans are typically confident, though much more cautiously optimistic than usual," Haisten said. "This is the first time the public perception is that the better team is Oklahoma State. I don't think any Oklahoma State fans are presuming this is automatic because they've had their hearts broken a million times."

That's why one big win would be worth every bit of that $265 million.

Best matchup: Nebraska rush offense vs. Colorado rush defense. Colorado is ranked second in the Big 12 in run defense, allowing 128.9 yards per game. The Buffs have been even tougher of late. Two weeks ago, they held Iowa State to minus-6 yards rushing. Last week, the Buffs limited Kansas State to 101 and star RB Daniel Thomas to 58. Nebraska leads the Big 12 in rushing. QB Taylor Martinez likely will be slowed by a sore ankle, but RB Roy Helu has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and Rex Burkhead for more than 700. If Colorado can contain Nebraska's running game, the Buffaloes have a chance to pull off an upset and get the sixth victory required for bowl eligibility.

Player on the spot: Texas QB Garrett Gilbert. He has occupied this spot quite often this season, and he's here again. The Longhorns need to post an upset over rival Texas A&M to become bowl-eligible. Any chance - no matter how slight - the Longhorns have is highly dependent on Gilbert's ability to avoid mistakes. Gilbert has thrown five touchdown passes and three interceptions in Texas' five wins. But in their seven losses, it's four touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. If Gilbert can take care of the football, the Longhorns have a chance. If not, the Aggies should win easily.

Numbers game: The Big 12 South typically dominates the North in interdivisional play, and that was again the case this season. Interdivisional regular-season play was completed last week with Texas A&M defeating Nebraska and Oklahoma State beating Kansas. That left the South with a 12-6 record against the North this season; it was the third consecutive season and the eighth time in the past nine that the South had a winning record against the North.

What they're saying

"We've got [a chance]. We're in a great position and we're happy to be here. It's a tough position, but it's a rival game and anything happens. That's the reality of it." - Colorado WR Toney Clemons, noting that Colorado will be bowl-eligible if it can upset Nebraska

"It's OK to disagree with a call. It's the way you disagree with a call. I believe that, at times during that game, I got too animated. And I regret that, and I'm sorry about that. If I embarrassed anybody for what I did, I'm sorry." - Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, on his reactions to officials during the game against Texas A&M. The Huskers were penalized 16 times, A&M twice

"Dude, if I had sat on the first deck, I would have met that Pelini with four knuckles. It would have been worth a night in jail to break his jaw. Then he might shut up." - Former NFL player and TexAgs.com co-owner Hunter Goodwin, to the San Antonio Express-News, in response to Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini allegedly trying to wrestle a camera away from a TexAgs.com camera man after last Saturday's game

Etc.: For the first time since 1995 and only the sixth time in school history Baylor averaged more than 40,000 fans per game this season. The Bears completed the regular season 7-5 and will make their first bowl appearance since 1994. ... Colorado has won two in a row, but the Buffs have not won three consecutive conference games since 2005. ... Texas A&M's five-game conference winning streak is its longest since 1998. ... Texas Tech is bowl eligible for the 18th consecutive season. ... Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez (ankle, toe) is questionable for Friday's game against Colorado. Cody Green is expected to start if Martinez is unable to play. ... Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said he was optimistic that LB Austin Box (ankle) and RB Reggie Finch (head) would be available to play Saturday. ... Iowa State RB Alexander Robinson completed his career with 4,114 all-purpose yards, which is the third-highest total in school history. He also finished with 3,309 rushing yards, which is the fourth-highest total. Sophomore LB Jake Knott finished the year with 130 tackles. ... Questions surround Kansas State's quarterback situation. Last week, Collin Klein started against Colorado but was shaken up on a sack. He was replaced by Carson Coffman, who passed for 270 yards. ... Missouri still has hope of reaching the Big 12 championship game. The Tigers must defeat Kansas and need Colorado to upset Nebraska. ... Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon has a sprained ankle and has worn a protective boot in practice. ... Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis said rumors that he was contemplating retirement were wrong. ... Nebraska K Alex Henery has 379 career points and needs nine more to match the team record held by Kris Brown. ... Texas needs a victory over Texas A&M to become bowl eligible. The Longhorns have not missed a bowl game since the 1997 season. ... Baylor RB Jay Finley has rushed for 1,155 yards, No. 2 on the Bears' single-season list. ... Colorado junior RB Rodney Stewart is coming off a career-high 195-yard rushing output. ... Kansas' D.J. Beshears has 868 kickoff-return yards and needs just 21 more to break the single-season school record set by Marcus Herford in 2007. Beshears already has more returns (33) than Herford (31). ... Missouri is seeking its third 10-win season in four years. ... Oklahoma RB Demarco Murray is now second all-time in the Big 12 with 6,377 all-purpose yards. ... CB Curtis Brown may resume punt-return duties for Texas. He was replaced because of fumbles, but is thought to give Texas its best chance to score on returns. ... Kansas DE Jake Laptad has 20 career sacks and needs one more to take over second place on Kansas' all-time list. The school record is 24.

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



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