November 1, 2007

Not really a down year in the Big 12

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

Buchanan's Big 12 picks
This week's games:
Texas Tech 41, Baylor 13
Missouri 27, Colorado 21
Kansas State 28, Iowa State 20
Kansas 31, Nebraska 14
Oklahoma 31, Texas A&M 10
Oklahoma State 34, Texas 28

Overview: It's supposed to be a "down year" in the Big 12, but a bunch of its teams keep showing up high in the national rankings. This week, four league teams No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 8 Kansas, No. 9 Missouri and No. 15 Texas are among the top 15 in the BCS standings. No other conference has more than two ranked that high. Whether that's proof of the league's overall strength or just a mirage that's bound to fade is subject for debate. But if they keep winning, at least one team could get into the national-championship discussion and two appear bound for BCS bowls. Not bad for a "down year." Of course, that would be dependent on those top teams avoiding an upset. Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri figure to face difficult opponents this week. Kansas would appear to have an easy win this week against struggling Nebraska. Imagine Nebraska being considered an easy win for Kansas. Perhaps that's why this is considered a down year in the Big 12.

Best matchup: Missouri pass offense vs. Colorado pass defense. Behind QB Chase Daniel, Missouri averages 326.1 passing yards to rank fifth in the nation. He has thrown for more than 200 yards in every game this season. Colorado's pass defense, on the other hand, ranks 65th nationally but has been better than that of late. After a slow start, the Buffaloes have allowed just two opponents to throw for more than 200 yards. Colorado has allowed just six touchdown passes in the past six games. They gave up three touchdown passes to Texas Tech's Graham Harrell last week, but compensated with four interceptions three by CB Terrence Wheatley. The Buffaloes also held Oklahoma's Sam Bradford to just 112 passing yards.

The pressure is on: Nebraska QB Joe Ganz. Ganz, a junior who has attempted 17 passes in his college career, gets his first start Saturday. To make matters worse, he'll face No. 8 Kansas, which needs to keep posting impressive victories to get into the national-championship discussion. Kansas ranks 18th in the nation in pass defense and has 18 interceptions this season.

Who's hot: Kansas' defense has allowed 14 or fewer points in seven of its eight games and ranks second only to Ohio State in scoring defense. The Jayhawks also have forced nine turnovers in their last three games (six interceptions, three fumbles). Kansas State WR Jordy Nelson has notched at least 100 yards receiving in five on his past six games after catching eight passes for 105 yards against Baylor last week. Texas junior TB Jamaal Charles is coming off a career-best 290-yard rushing performance in last week's 28-25 victory over Nebraska, which included 216 yards and three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Colorado senior CB Terrence Wheatley had three interceptions last week against Texas Tech. He also had 82 return yards to increase his career total to 1,242 - second in school history. Wheatley has 14 career interceptions, which is tied for third-most in school history. Kansas LB James Holt followed up a 14-tackle performance against Colorado two weeks ago with 10 stops last week against Texas A&M.

Who's not: Here we go again. Last week, Nebraska's defense played its best game in October and still gave up 545 yards (much of it in the fourth quarter) in a 28-25 loss to Texas. The last team that did not manage more than 400 yards in offense against the Huskers was Wake Forest, which played its backup quarterback, in the second game of the season. Nebraska is last in the Big 12 in total defense. Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell has thrown eight interceptions in the past two games.

Keep your eye on: Oklahoma State senior TB Dantrell Savage. He has posted five consecutive 100-yard games and probably will make it six in a row against Texas, which isn't as good against the run as its No. 14 national ranking suggests. The Longhorns have faced five opponents that rank 77th or worse in rushing offense. Against solid rushing teams, they allowed Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray 128 yards and UCF's Kevin Smith 149. Last week, Nebraska's Marlon Lucky rushed for 111 against the Longhorns. Last season, Savage had 6 yards on four carries against the Longhorns.

Numbers game: Big 12 North teams, which have been dominated by the South in recent years, are 8-8 in interdivisional play this season. The remaining games match Kansas against Oklahoma State and Texas A&M against Missouri. Kansas ranks fifth in the nation in scoring offense and second in scoring defense. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel is 7-14 in November. Mizzou TB Jimmy Jackson has scored five touchdowns in the past three weeks, which is two more than he managed in the first 30 games of his career. Baylor QB Blake Szymanski has 17 touchdown passes this season, two shy of the school record. Iowa State's Todd Blythe has set the school's career receptions record with 168. Kansas State has 13 interceptions in the past five games. Missouri tight end Martin Rucker needs one more touchdown reception to set a school career record of 15. Texas Tech freshman WR Michael Crabtree caught his 18th touchdown pass last week to set a Big 12 single-season record. Nebraska blitzed on more than 75 percent of its plays against Texas last week. Before that, the Huskers had blitzed only 19 percent of the time.

BIG 12 STANDINGS
NORTH DIVISION
TeamConf.All
Kansas4-08-0
Missouri3-17-1
Kansas State3-25-3
Colorado3-25-4
Nebraska1-44-5
Iowa State0-51-8
SOUTH DIVISION
TeamConf.All
Oklahoma3-17-1
Oklahoma State3-15-3
Texas3-27-2
Texas A&M3-25-3
Texas Tech2-36-3
Baylor0-53-6
Freshmen to watch: Texas Tech TB Aaron Crawford will get his second start of the season this week in place of junior Shannon Woods, who has been demoted to third string. The Red Raiders have rushed for fewer than 50 yards in three of their past four games. Crawford has 89 yards on 21 carries, but had 31 yards on two attempts last week against Colorado. Iowa State freshman TB Alexander Robinson, who rushed for 149 yards against Missouri a week ago, is facing a Kansas State defense that has allowed a 100-yard rusher in two of its past three games. Missouri SS Justin Garrett, who steps into the Tigers starting lineup in place of injured Pig Brown, has huge shoes to fill. Brown was Missouri's third-leading tackler, and the team leader in tackles for loss, fumble recoveries and interceptions.

Injury update: Missouri SS Pig Brown (torn Achilles' tendon) is out for the rest of the season. Nebraska QB Sam Keller (shoulder) and LB Lance Brandenburgh (shoulder) are out for the remainder of the season. LBs Blake Lawrence (ankle) and Bo Ruud (leg) are questionable for the Kansas game. Baylor WR Eddy Newton (dislocated shoulder) and Mikail Baker (broken collarbone) are questionable this week. Colorado G Edwin Harrison (knee), LB Jordon Dizon (eye), LB Jimmy Smith (knee) and TB R.J. Brown (concussion) are questionable. Iowa State WR Phillip Bates (undisclosed injury) is questionable. Kansas State LB Ross Diehl (undisclosed) is out. WR Lamark Brown (shoulder), CB Byron Garvin (undisclosed), LB Marcus Perry and C Jordan Bedfore are questionable. Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy (knee), FB Dane Zaslaw and LB Ryan Reynolds are questionable. Oklahoma State LBs Jeremy Nethon (sprained ankle) and Chris Collins (turf toe) are questionable. . Texas A&M G Chris Yoder (undisclosed) is questionable. Texas Tech WR L.A. Reed (knee) is questionable.

They said it
"It makes you want to pull your hair out, especially the turnovers. The frustrating part is we talk about that every week, and you try to make the connection between winning and losing. Obviously if you turn it over that many times, you're not going to beat anybody."
Baylor coach Guy Morriss on the Bears' seven turnovers in last week's loss to Kansas State

"We just have to stay more focused in the fourth quarter. With our assignments, we just can't get tired and lose sight of what we're supposed to do."
Nebraska linebacker Phillip Dillard on the Huskers' porous run defense

"We're definitely maturing. It's not so much that we need overt supervision. We can get ourselves rallied together and know the stuff we need to fix. We're doing it as a team. As players, we're coaching ourselves more."
Colorado linebacker Brad Jones

Etc.: Kansas is off to an 8-0 start, its best since 1909. The Jayhawks have two victories against South Division opponents for the first time since the Big 12 was formed. Missouri has not won in Boulder, Colo., since 1997. Colorado redshirt freshman QB Cody Hawkins has equaled a school record by throwing a touchdown pass in nine consecutive games. He also has thrown for 2,090 yards, making him the 12th player - and the first freshman - in Colorado history to pass for 2,000 yards in a season. Of the nine teams Colorado has played, three are ranked in the top eight and three others have been ranked in the Top 25. The Buffaloes face another ranked opponent Saturday when they play host to No. 9 Missouri. Iowa State's Brett Meyer became only the second quarterback in Big 12 history to pass for 9,000 yards in a career. Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury is the other.

MORE WEEK 10 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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