Big 12 Stock Watch: Week 9

October, 27, 2010
10/27/10
2:00
PM ET
Here's this week's look at trends across the Big 12.

Rising: Kickoff returns

Big 12 players returned three kicks for touchdowns on Saturday. Kansas State's William Powell and Nebraska's Niles Paul both housed kickoffs from 100 yards out, and Missouri's Gahn McGaffie returned the opening kick against Oklahoma 86 yards for a touchdown.

In the previous seven weeks this season, Big 12 players had returned just three total kicks for touchdowns, and two (Iowa State's Jeremy Reeves vs. Texas Tech and Baylor's Terrance Ganaway vs. Texas Tech) came on onside kicks. Kansas' D.J. Beshears had the other, a 96-yarder against New Mexico State.

Falling: Defenses against Baylor

The Bears lead the Big 12 in plays of longer than 10 yards (142), 20 yards (53), 30 yards (27) and 40 yards (16).

Only Nebraska has more plays of longer than 50, 60 and 70 yards. Both the Bears and Nebraska have two plays longer than 80 yards, as does Oklahoma State. Baylor's 94-yard touchdown pass from Robert Griffin III to Josh Gordon is the only play from scrimmage this season longer than 90 yards.

Rising: Missouri's red zone defense

Oklahoma reached the red zone six times against Missouri on Saturday, and scored just three times after a missed 31-yard field goal attempt and a pair of turnovers. While the frequency of visits deep inside Missouri territory was out of character for the Tigers, the result wasn't. Missouri opponents have reached the red zone 21 times this season, scoring on just 11 occasions. That's a national-best average of 52 percent, just above Oklahoma's 50 percent success on Saturday.

Most impressive is the next best team in the Big 12, Texas A&M, is allowing points on 72 percent (16-of-22) of opponent visits to the red zone, a full 20 percentage points more.

Nos. 2 and 3 in the statistic nationally? Boise State and Oregon, who are five and 11 percentage points behind the Tigers, respectively. That's some pretty good company.

Oklahoma, meanwhile, has let opponents in the red zone 19 times, allowing points on 18 occasions for a league-worst 94.7 percent rate. That's 115th nationally, better than just Army, Boston College, Louisiana-Lafayette, Kentucky and Penn State. That's some pretty bad company.

Missouri's opponent this week, Nebraska, is 18-of-21 in red zone defense conversions.

Falling: Iowa State's red zone defense

In a league of their own in the same stat: Iowa State. The Cyclones have allowed opponents in the red zone 44 times this year, giving up 34 total scores and 24 touchdowns. Iowa State has played eight games, but no other team in college football has allowed an opponent in the red zone more than 41 times this year, ranking the Cyclones last of 120 FBS teams.

Those 44 red zone attempts are 12 more than any other team in the Big 12.

Rising: Trick plays

Perhaps more accurately, trick plays that work. Kansas State did it best on Saturday, using star running back Daniel Thomas, a former juco quarterback, in the passing game. Thomas hit receiver Aubrey Quarles for a 67-yard touchdown pass on his first pass of the season. He completed 3-of-4 passes for 50 yards and a touchdown as a junior in 2009.

Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden also found receiver Justin Blackmon for an 80-yard touchdown on a first-half flea flicker.

Missouri got a little fancy trying to go for the game-ender on Saturday night against Oklahoma. The Tigers, leading 26-21 with just 12 minutes to play, threw a short pass to tight end Michael Egnew, who pitched to a streaking Kendial Lawrence up the sideline, a.k.a. the hook-and-ladder. Lawrence was originally given a touchdown, but officials ruled he stepped out before scoring and Missouri had to settle for a field goal.

Falling: Starting quarterbacks

Three Big 12 starters from last week may not do it again next week. Colorado's Tyler Hansen is out for the season with a ruptured spleen and required surgery on Tuesday, according to the Boulder Daily Camera. He'll be replaced by senior Cody Hawkins, who started for 2.5 seasons before ceding to Hansen midway through last year. Kansas' Jordan Webb and Kale Pick are both out with injuries, giving way to juco transfer Quinn Mecham, who was listed as the starter on this week's depth chart, preparing to make his first career start. Late in last week's 45-10 loss, Kansas' D.J. Beshears, who you may remember from earlier in this post, was forced to take snaps at quarterback.

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