October 4, 2007

Now or never for Oklahoma, Texas

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Buchanan's Big 12 picks
Week 6 Games:
Colorado 31, Baylor 13
Texas Tech 38, Iowa State 24
Kansas State 34, Kansas 31
Missouri 31, Nebraska 27
Oklahoma 38, Texas 24
Oklahoma State 27, Texas A&M 21

Overview: As is typically the case this time of year, a team from Oklahoma travels to Texas for an important game that will establish the winner as the leader in the Big 12 South. But this season, that game isn't in Dallas. Oklahoma State's road trip to Texas A&M upstages the annual Cotton Bowl bloodletting between Texas and Oklahoma. Oklahoma State and A&M are 1-0 in the Big 12 South race; OU and Texas are coming off conference-opening losses. The Red River Rivalry typically is the Big 12's marquee match of the season, but it may be the fourth-most interesting game this week. While Oklahoma State-A&M will determine the leader in the Big 12 South, Nebraska-Missouri matches the North Division preseason favorites and surprising Kansas and Kansas State vie to determine which is a legitimate contender in the North. Of course, the Texas-OU (or OU-Texas, depending on which side of the Red River one resides) game still is crucial. The loser likely can forget about the conference championship.

Best matchup: Nebraska at Missouri. The maintenance crew at Faurot Field should install new bulbs in the scoreboard or risk having the lights blown out when Missouri plays host to Nebraska on Saturday. The game matches two of the nation's most productive passing offenses, and it also features two mediocre, at best, pass defenses. Missouri ranks 104th in pass defense. Nebraska ranks 58th and two weeks ago allowed 422 passing yards to Ball State. Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel averages 327.7 passing yards and has thrown 13 touchdown passes. Nebraska's Sam Keller averages 299.4 yards and has thrown nine touchdowns. Both figure to boost their stats significantly.

The pressure is on: Oklahoma and Texas. Normally, the Red River Rivalry determines whether Texas or Oklahoma takes the lead in the Big 12 South. This season, it will determine which will virtually be out of the race. Both are coming off upset losses a week ago, so the loser will be two games back in the South Division standings. No Big 12 South team has lost its first two conference games and won the division.

Who's hot: Kansas State WR Jordy Nelson has caught 27 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns in the past two games. Nelson set school records with 15 catches for 209 yards in a victory over I-A Missouri State and followed that up with 12 catches for 116 yards in last week's 41-21 win over Texas. If that wasn't impressive enough, he also added an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Ruud family of Nebraska had a good weekend. Huskers LB Bo Ruud has returned interceptions for touchdowns in each of the past two weeks and also posted 14 tackles last week against Iowa State. Meanwhile, his older brother, Barrett, a former Husker, leads the NFL with 40 tackles for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Who's not: Texas QB Colt McCoy threw seven interceptions in 13 games last season. He has already thrown nine this season, including four in last week's loss to Kansas State. Last season, McCoy was eighth in the nation in passing efficiency. He is 62nd this season.

Keep your eye on: The last team that frequently threw to its tight end had success against Texas A&M. Oklahoma State is surely aware that Fresno State's Bear Pasco caught seven passes, including three for touchdowns, against the Aggies. Expect the Cowboys to utilize TE Brandon Pettigrew, who already has more catches this season (14) than he had all of last season (13). Oklahoma State WRs Adarius Bowman and Dez Bryant should draw a lot of attention from A&M's struggling pass defense, so Pettigrew figures to break open often.

Numbers game: Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell has 24 touchdown passes and two interceptions. Missouri has beaten Nebraska 41-24 in each of the past two games played in Columbia. Missouri's Martin Rucker leads the nation's tight ends with 29 catches for 330 yards. The Nebraska defense was on the field a school-record 102 plays in last week's win over Iowa State. The previous record was 94 plays. Oklahoma only had 19 snaps in the second half of its loss to Colorado last week. The home team has won the past five games in the Kansas-Kansas State series. This year's game is at K-State. Colorado has kept its past three opponents under a 50 percent completion rate.

Kansas State1-03-1
Iowa State0-11-4
Texas A&M1-04-1
Oklahoma State1-03-2
Texas Tech0-14-1
Freshman to watch: Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree leads the nation in receptions with 60, receiving yardage with 920 and touchdowns with 14 (a school record). He figures to boost those totals against Iowa State, which has allowed seven touchdown passes - including three last week against Nebraska.

Injury update: Texas Tech G Brandon Carter (knee) is week-to-week. Baylor LB Antonio Jones and WR Mikail Baker (broken collarbone) are questionable, and OT Thad Boatner (knee) is out. Colorado LB R.J. Brown (concussion) is questionable, and TB Brian Lockridge (concussion) is probable. Iowa State TB J.J. Bass (shoulder) is questionable. Kansas State LB Chris Patterson (undisclosed injury) and SS Marcus Watts (shoulder) are questionable, and LB Antwon Moore (knee) is out. Nebraska NT Ty Steinkuhler (knee) is questionable. Oklahoma LB Ryan Reynolds (shoulder) is probable. Oklahoma State CB Martel Van Zant (turf toe) and LB Chris Collins (turf toe) are probable. Texas OT Adam Ulatoski (ankle), DEs Eddie Jones (shoulder) and Brian Orakpo (knee) and LB Sergio Kindle (knee) are questionable, and QB Colt McCoy (concussion) is probable. Texas Tech CB Brent Nickerson (undisclosed injury) and WR Todd Walker (pelvis) are questionable, and LB Julius Howard (knee) is out.

They said it: "All I know is I'm focused on one game this weekend. Football fans in Kansas look forward to this matchup, especially when both teams are playing well. I've got my hands full coaching a football team, and that's why they play the games."
Kansas coach Mark Mangino explaining that he ignores the recent upsets in the Big 12

"Our whole team has gotten a lot better. Our confidence is so high. We're thinking they've got to play us, not that we've got to play them. So they better be ready."
Missouri tailback Tony Temple on the Tigers' confidence for Saturday's game against Nebraska

"I have no intention of resigning this position. I love this job. I love these players. I love this university and my desire is to remain here and elevate this program to the highest level. We have a great nucleus already in place to accomplish these goals. I am confident we can get the job done."
Embattled Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione

"We've beaten Texas before and not won the Big 12 championship, and I don't hear anybody congratulating us at the end of the year. That might go at some schools where everybody said, 'At least you did that, you're showing improvement,' or whatever, but that doesn't happen here. Winning a championship is what matters."
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, taking a not-too-subtle jab at Texas A&M

Etc.: Kansas is looking for history to repeat itself. The Jayhawks are coming off a bye week and are facing Kansas State, which beat Texas last week. In the same scenario last season, Kansas defeated Kansas State. But Kansas never has beaten a ranked Kansas State team, and K-State is No. 24 this week. Kansas State QB Josh Freeman did not throw an interception in either of the Wildcats' past two games, marking the first time in his career he's avoided an interception in consecutive games. Ten Texas Tech players have recorded a sack this season and 20 have recorded or assisted on a tackle for loss. Missouri freshman CB Carl Gettis will get the first start of his career on Saturday. In addition, WR Danario Alexander - who has been out since the season-opener against Illinois - is expected to play.

MORE WEEK 6 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

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


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