Overview: Missouri hasn't won a conference championship since 1969. It has been one year longer for Kansas. Yet with five games left on the Big 12 schedule, the Jayhawks (7-0, 3-0) top the North standings and the Tigers (6-1, 3-1) are just a game behind. Usually those teams only play for pride, but much more figures to be at stake when they meet in Kansas City on Nov. 24. But there are a lot of games between now and then, and both teams figure to be scoreboard-watching in the coming weeks. Neither, it would seem, has an advantage, though. Kansas' five remaining opponents have a combined 22-17 record. Missouri's upcoming foes are a combined 22-16. Of course, they can't look too far ahead. Kansas State isn't far back, either. The Big 12 South race is even closer. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are tied for first, with Texas and Texas Tech a game back.
Best matchup: Texas A&M run offense vs. Kansas run defense. Behind QB Stephen McGee and RBs Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson, Texas A&M leads the Big 12 in rushing offense with an average of 260.1 yards per game. The Aggies, who have scored 25 touchdowns on the ground, face a Kansas defense that is second in the Big 12 against the run. The Jayhawks have held each of their past three opponents to fewer than 70 rushing yards. Of note: Kansas is the only Big 12 team that never has beaten Texas A&M in league play.
The pressure is on: Nebraska coach Bill Callahan. Let's be realistic: Callahan probably will be fired at season's end. But interim Athletic Director Tom Osborne has suggested he'll keep an open mind and look for signs of progress before making any personnel decisions. Of course, he said that before the Huskers were steamrolled 36-14 by Texas A&M last week in Lincoln. This week, the Huskers face Texas, which has exceeded 30 points in five games.
Who's hot: That would be Missouri's defense in general and SS Pig Brown in particular. The Tigers have held three of their past four opponents to 17 or fewer points and have forced eight turnovers in that stretch. They also held Texas Tech, which had been averaging 50 points, to just 10. Brown, meanwhile, was named Big 12 defensive player of the week for the second time after posting 14 tackles and an interception against Texas Tech. … Oklahoma State TB Dantrell Savage has exceeded 100 yards in five consecutive games and is averaging 138 yards in that span. … Kansas State WR Jordy Nelson has exceeded 100 receiving yards in four of his past five games, and had 93 in the other. He caught 12 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns in last week's loss to Oklahoma State. … Oklahoma LB Curtis Lofton has had 35 tackles in the past three games. He also has a touchdown.
Who's not: Baylor's rush offense has managed a mere 171 yards in the past four games combined and the Bears have fallen to 11th in the Big 12 in rushing. Only Texas Tech has fewer rushing yards, but Baylor doesn't have the passing game to compensate like Tech. In addition, Baylor has committed 15 turnovers in those four games.
Keep your eye on: Kansas sophomore QB Todd Reesing. Not only is Reesing having a strong year with 1,805 passing yards and 17 touchdowns, but this week he has all kinds of factors working in his favor. The North-leading Jayhawks are facing a Texas A&M defense that ranks 10th in the Big 12 against the pass. The Aggies, who are having injury issues in the secondary, have allowed more than 250 yards passing in four of their past five games. Furthermore, Reesing has the additional motivation of returning to play in his home state for the first time (he's from Austin).
Numbers game: Texas Tech WR Danny Amendola has caught a pass in 37 consecutive games, which ties him for third nationally. He needs 150 receiving yards to reach 2,000 for his career. … Missouri has won 13 of its past 14 home games. … Colorado LB Jordon Dizon continues to lead the nation in tackles. He has racked up 68 solo tackles and 33 assisted stops through eight games. … Oklahoma DT DeMarcus Granger has eight tackles for losses this season, with 3.5 coming in the past three games. … In the last three contests, Baylor sophomore WR David Gettis - who also returns kicks - has averaged 169.7 all-purpose yards. … Texas A&M's Lane rushed for four touchdowns last week against Nebraska, marking the third time in his career he rushed for four scores. … Kansas State sophomore QB Josh Freeman passed for a career-high 404 yards last week against Oklahoma State.
BIG 12 STANDINGS
Freshman to watch: Texas redshirt freshman TB Vondrell McGee is expected to get more opportunities to carry the football. Longhorns coaches, unhappy that starter Jamaal Charles is running tentatively and has had fumble problems, have indicated McGee will get more touches. Last week against Baylor, McGee had a career-high 10 carries for 50 yards, plus an 18-yard run. This week, the Longhorns face a Nebraska defense that has allowed 676 rushing yards in the past two games.
They said it: "Right now we're playing in the 'Red Raider Bowl' in Lubbock and we're excited about it." — Colorado coach Dan Hawkins when asked about a possible bowl berth.
"What happens with players, (it's) just like Judge Lance Ito gets in the middle of a big trial and decides it's more important for him to be a movie star than it is to be a judge. He had problems doing his (job) from one snap to the next. So if it can happen to good old Judge Ito, I'm sure it can happen to 18-22-year-olds." — Texas Tech coach Mike Leach on his team buckling under pressure last week in a 41-10 loss to Missouri
Bowl implications: Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas State each need two more victories to become bowl-eligible, and the Buffs and Wildcats look to have easier routes to six wins than the Huskers. Colorado-Texas Tech could become important in bowl positioning, with the loser likely falling a bit down the "attractiveness" chart
Etc.: Colorado redshirt freshman QB Cody Hawkins has thrown a touchdown pass in eight consecutive games, one shy of the school record set by Koy Detmer in 1996. But Hawkins is approaching another, less enviable mark. He has thrown 14 interceptions, two short of John Hessler's school record of 16 set in 1997. … Texas Tech played only five seniors last week against Missouri. … Baylor has lost eight consecutive Big 12 games since its 36-35 come-from-behind victory over Kansas on Oct. 22, 2006. … Iowa State QB Bret Meyer moved into second place in Big 12 career passing yards with 8,912. Cyclones WR Todd Blythe needs two catches to set an Iowa State career record. He now has 162. … Texas sophomore QB Colt McCoy reached 2,000 passing yards for the second consecutive season, becoming only the fourth Longhorn to accomplish that feat in back-to-back seasons. … Missouri RB Jimmy Jackson recorded his first multi-touchdown game with three while subbing for injured Tony Temple last week against Texas Tech. Also, Missouri true freshman CB Carl Gettis got his first interception a week ago.