October 20, 2011

Week 8 preview in the Big 12

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Divorces rarely go well. Even in college football - actually, especially in college football - they can get just plain nasty.

Take Texas A&M's departure from the Big 12, for example. That divorce has gotten as bitter as Tiger and Elin.

Look all the factors involved: A jilted party, big money, anger, accusations, lawyers. There's even been a damaged vehicle. The only thing missing is a broken golf club.

THE SCHEDULE
Kansas State at Kansas, noon
Oklahoma State at Missouri, noon
Texas A&M at Iowa State, 3:30 p.m.
Texas Tech at Oklahoma, 8 p.m.
The latest incident in the split occurred last Saturday, after Texas A&M's 55-28 blowout of visiting Baylor.

Just as Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III was about to respond to a softball question about a postgame exchange between he and A&M coach Mike Sherman, Baylor coach Art Briles butted in and didn't allow Griffin to answer.

Why?

A reporter from the Bryan-College Station Eagle asked the question .

For the record, Sherman lauded Griffin on the Big 12's weekly coaches' teleconference.

[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Olin Buchanan's mailbag]

"He's a special player," Sherman said. "There's no question he's an elite quarterback and will be playing quarterback for a long, long time even after he leaves Baylor. I think he's very special. I don't think there's anything on the field he can't do. His accuracy on the deep ball is uncanny. His ability to put the ball into tight windows is just phenomenal. I have the utmost respect for him. I talked to him after the game. He's the nicest kid. He's very humble and I was very impressed with him."

So why would Briles, who is usually as cooperative and cordial as any coach in the country, object to that, especially since Griffin is in the Heisman race? The more praise Griffin gets, the better, right?

The animosity extends from A&M's decision to leave the Big 12 for the SEC. When A&M originally announced its intentions Baylor threatened a lawsuit to block the move. That raised ill will between the programs, which have had a bitter relationship since an Aggie corpsman was killed at a Baylor game in 1926.

So with tensions running even higher than usual, Briles' disdain for A&M apparently extends to those that aren't even involved in the mess but happen to live in College Station.

But Briles and Baylor aren't alone.

When the Aggies traveled to Lubbock to face Texas Tech two weeks ago, their team buses were vandalized.

Upon learning of the incident, Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne posted a message on Twitter: "Someone vandalized our buses in Lubbock. Excrement inside and outside of buses plus spray-painted vulgarities on outside. Classy."

That prompted Texas Tech officials to respond that washable shoe polish, not spray paint, was used and that no feces was found in or on the buses, though fish bait was dropped on the floor of one.

Tech also released the statement, "While incidents such as the ones alleged are inappropriate and strongly condemned by Texas Tech, it is no less wrong to condemn the entirety of our university, students and supporters by posting inaccurate information on the internet for the purpose of sensationalizing the actions of one of a very few. We are disturbed by the carless use of social media to share these inaccuracies."

The most damaging aspect of the divorce, though, is that Texas announced that it could not work A&M into its non-conference schedule until at least 2018. And, frankly, there are doubts Texas will play A&M even then.

The Longhorns and Aggies have had one of the most intense rivalries in college football. Yet, after playing for more than 100 years - usually on Thanksgiving - it appears that traditional matchup is coming to an end.

An entire generation of Longhorns and Aggies fans may grow up unaware of what was once a great rivalry and may never experience that classic game. Thus, as is the case in most divorces, it's the children that suffer most.

[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Rivals.com's David Fox]

BEST MATCHUP: Oklahoma QB Landry Jones vs. Texas Tech QB Seth Doege. They obviously won't actually face each other, but they offer the potential for a high-scoring contest. Oklahoma averages 373.5 yards per game to rank fifth in the nation in pass offense. Texas Tech averages 372.3 to rank sixth. Jones is third in the nation in passing yards per game. He has passed for at least 363 yards in each of the past four games. Doege is ranked fourth in the nation and has thrown for at least 366 yards in each of the past three games.

PLAYER ON THE SPOT: Missouri RB Henry Josey. Even against superior opponents Oklahoma and Arizona State, Missouri has had a chance to win when Josey has been productive. He has rushed for more than 100 yards and has scored in each of the Tigers' past two wins. He'll need another strong performance for Missouri to have a shot at pulling off an upset of Oklahoma State. The Cowboys' defense has been vulnerable to the run, which hints that Josey could have productive outing. He'll need one for the Tigers to keep up with Oklahoma State's high-scoring offense.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Iowa State's quarterback. Steele Jantz got off to a good start this season, but in the wake of a three-game losing streak, freshman Jared Barnett may get his first starting assignment when the Cyclones face Texas A&M. Barnett played in last week's loss to Missouri and led a touchdown drive. Jantz has been slowed by a foot injury sustained in a win over Connecticut on Sept. 16. Whoever starts has a chance to have a big game because the Aggies' pass defense is the worst in the nation.

NUMBERS GAME: Kansas will be facing its seventh consecutive undefeated team when it plays Kansas State. Each opponent was unbeaten at kickoff when facing the Jayhawks. Thus far, Kansas opponents, including Kansas State, are a combined 35-9. The breakdown: McNeese State is 3-3, Northern Illinois is 4-3, Georgia Tech is 6-1, Texas Tech is 4-2, Oklahoma State is 6-0, Oklahoma is 6-0 and K-State is 6-0.

[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Tom Dienhart's headline watch]

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

"We're going to practice and see by the end of the week who we think has the best chance to lead our football team to victory." - Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads, on possibly changing starting quarterbacks.

"You wouldn't think it's a league that's disintegrating before your eyes." - Missouri WR T.J. Moe, on the Big 12 having the third- and fourth-place teams in the first BCS standings

"I cannot describe it. It is lovely. I could play behind them for the rest of my life." - Oklahoma State RB Jeremy Smith, on the Cowboys' offensive line

POLL WATCH: No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 Oklahoma State head a list of five Big 12 teams in the BCS standings. Unbeaten Kansas State is No. 11, Texas A&M is No. 17 and Texas is No. 24, although the Longhorns have fallen out of the media polls after back-to-back losses. Oklahoma State faces a test with a road trip to Missouri, but none of the conference's other ranked teams figure to be challenged this week.

ETC.: Baylor QB Robert Griffin III set a single-game school record with 430 passing yards in last week's loss to Texas A&M. It was the 44th record he has set in his Baylor career. ... Iowa State RB Shontrelle Johnson (neck) is expected to miss the rest of his season. The Cyclones' leading rusher before being injured against Texas, Johnson already had missed two games. ... Kansas State is 6-0 for the fifth time under coach Bill Snyder and for the first time since 2000. ... Missouri RB Henry Josey leads the Big 12 with a rushing average of 119.6 yards per game. He's also averaging 9.7 yards per carry. ... Texas true freshman David Ash has been named Texas' starting quarterback. ... Texas A&M senior WR Jeff Fuller now has the school record for receiving yards. The best receiver in school history, Fuller has set school career receiving records with 195 catches, 2,615 yards and 30 touchdowns. ... Oklahoma State backup RB Jeremy Smith has rushed for a touchdown in 10 consecutive games. That's the second-longest streak in school history, trailing only Barry Sanders, who scored in 15 consecutive games. ... Oklahoma LB Corey Nelson was credited with three sacks in last week's victory over Kansas, but only after a fan alerted OU's sports information department. Nelson originally was credited with two sacks, but a fan pointed out that he had three. A review of the game tape showed the fan was correct. ... Texas Tech has injury problems. Leading rusher Eric Stephens is out for the year, and KR Ben McRoy (hip, headaches), WR Darrin Moore (ankle, knee) and CB Derrick Mayes (hamstring) are doubtful for this week's game. ... Missouri DT Terrell Resonno (sprained knee) won't play against Oklahoma State. Sheldon Richardson will start in his place. ... With 517 rushing yards, true freshman RB Malcolm Brown is on pace to become Texas' first 1,000-yard rusher since Jamal Charles in 2007. ... Oklahoma has 13 sacks in the past two games. ... Texas A&M has a seven-game winning streak against teams from Texas. ... Texas' Fozzy Whittaker is the first player in school history to return kickoffs for touchdowns in consecutive games. ... Oklahoma State sophomore Justin Gilbert has tied the school record for career kickoff returns for touchdowns with four. ... Nine Texas Tech players have caught touchdown passes. ... Missouri TE Michael Egnew has had 14 catches in the past two games. He had just eight catches in the previous four games.

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Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com, and you can follow him on Twitter.



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