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What to watch in the Big 12: Week 5

9/30/2010

Here's what I'm keeping an eye on in the five Big 12 games over the weekend.

1. Who makes up for last week? Oklahoma hasn't run the ball well since Week 1. DeMarco Murray rushed 28 times last week and averaged just 2.4 yards per carry, with a long of just 9 yards. Meanwhile, Texas' defense got dominated by UCLA, allowing 264 rushing yards. In a game that should be as physical as this one, running the ball or stopping the run will mean a win.

2. Frankly, I prefer apple over cherry. Texas' four first-half turnovers last week put them in a 13-3 hole against UCLA. Do it again, and Oklahoma will bury them quite a bit deeper. Last year, Oklahoma turned the ball over five times. This should be a low-scoring game and field position will matter. Turnovers are the quickest way to lose it.

3. He's an imposter! He's not Santa! So far, both Oklahoma State and Texas A&M have gotten what they wanted. For the Cowboys, it's been a prolific offense despite the inexperience of its personnel. Texas A&M has shored up the defensive lapses that made it one of the nation's worst defensive teams last year. Neither has played an opposing defense (Oklahoma State) or offense (Texas A&M) that will really impress anyone. Which one is more legitimate than the other? No doubt, when Oklahoma State has the ball, this matchup will be long on interest.

4. We're playing football here, guys, not chess. Texas A&M defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter dominated Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen the last time they met, when Air Force beat Houston 47-20 in last year's Armed Forces Bowl. Holgorsen never had a running back like Kendall Hunter at Houston. DeRuyter never had a Joker like Von Miller. Which coordinator can arrange his pieces well enough for the win? One of the most intriguing matchups in tonight's game definitely won't be on the field.

5. No, you may not play with my walkie-talkie. Kansas had communication issues in its last road game, a trip to Southern Miss against a fast-paced offense. They'll face another in Baylor this week. Can the Jayhawks fix those problems and be able to receive and execute the necessary calls?

6. Don't let the knee brace fool you, they're still letting him play. Kansas stopped the last running quarterback it played, Georgia Tech's Joshua Nesbitt, from beating them. But the Jayhawks have never played one like Robert Griffin, who's a much better passer than Nesbitt and faster. Plus, this is a spread scheme. Limiting Griffin's effectiveness is always primary when teams play Baylor, and this is no exception.

7. Jersey sales on the concourse only. Georgia gets a big target back for first-year starter Aaron Murray in receiver A.J. Green, who was suspended for the first four games of 2010. If he has a big game, Colorado's going to lose this game. Holding home field advantage starts with keeping Green from getting loose.

8. He's different from the MmmBop guys. When Tyler Hansen has played well, so have the Buffs. He completed 70 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and an interception in the Buffaloes two wins. He threw three interceptions and completed just over 50 percent of his passes in the loss to California. A lot of how he plays depends on the play of the offensive line and if the running game picks up, but if the Buffs protect Hansen from an SEC defense and give him the opportunity to make plays, they'll have a good shot to win.

9. Paging the Cadillac. Texas Tech's offense hasn't been as effective so far under Tommy Tuberville, ranking 10th in total offense and averaging 50 fewer rushing yards per game than any other team in the Big 12. It must get better to get back in the Big 12 South race. Saturday is its first chance, two weeks after rushing for minus-14 yards against Texas.

10. Baron Batch is the bowler, but the Cyclones would like to join. You're heard plenty about Iowa State's bear of a schedule, but winnable games like this are the ones the Cyclones have to win to make a second consecutive bowl appearance. As it stands, the Cyclones have four top-15 teams on their schedule and No. 21 Texas. Texas Tech isn't among the group of Iowa State's other seven games.