Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
1. Texas: The Longhorns took the weekend off to prepare for Colorado. The break almost came at a bad time for Texas, considering their performance against UTEP last week. And after the Miners’ stunning upset over Houston Saturday night, how good does Texas’ beatdown victory over the Miners look now?
2. Oklahoma State: After a week off, the Cowboys will travel to Texas A&M this weekend. The break was good for Mike Gundy’s team as it gave key players like Dez Bryant, Perrish Cox, Kendall Hunter and Jeremiah Price a week to heal. But the Cowboys might have received another injury concern when learning emerging freshman running back Jeremy Smith could be undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery.
3. Kansas: Maybe the Jayhawks’ victory over Southern Mississippi doesn’t look as attractive today, after the Golden Eagles’ loss at UAB. But Kansas still heads into Big 12 play heavy with momentum after the week off. The Cyclones have a score to settle with Iowa State after the Cyclones’ near-upset last season at Ames. Figure that Kansas will be focused for this one back home.
4. Nebraska: Coach Bo Pelini begins Big 12 play with one of his toughest Big 12 games first as the Cornhuskers travel to Missouri on Thursday to start conference play -- a place where they haven’t won since 2001. The Cornhuskers’ defense has been emerging in recent weeks and will be the key for their effort on Thursday night. And, yes, the Cornhuskers might have a score to settle with new Missouri quarterback -- and former Nebraska commit -- Blaine Gabbert.
5. Oklahoma: The Sooners dropped their second one-point decision of the season, struggling without much offensive firepower when Ryan Broyles joined Jermaine Gresham and Sam Bradford on the sideline. And that lack of productivity finally bit them when the Sooner defense finally wore down late against Miami, allowing the Hurricanes to kill the clock. Bob Stoops has always excelled when his back was against wall and facing big challenges. He might be facing the biggest test of his 11-season coaching career with the Sooners in the next few weeks.
6. Missouri: The Tigers have been the biggest early surprise in the conference and take a big step forward into North title contention with a victory over Nebraska. A win would continue their recent mastery over the Cornhuskers and prove their 4-0 start was no fluke. One particular key will be running the ball against the Cornhuskers, keeping Gabbert out of long-yardage situations against Nebraska’s fearsome pass rush.
7. Texas Tech: Mike Leach might be facing a rarity as Taylor Potts attempts to overcome a concussion that idled him for much of Saturday’s victory over New Mexico. Steven Sheffield immediately juiced the Red Raider offense, scoring on his first four possessions. But as the Red Raiders get ready for Kansas State, Leach has to be concerned about Tech’s five turnovers vs. New Mexico and the five sacks allowed after yielding only six in the first three games. Tech’s defense has some improvement as well after allowing New Mexico to produce its season-high in passing and total yards last week.
8. Baylor: Impressive relief performances by Nick Florence and Jarred Salubi enabled the Bears to finish off a 3-1 nonconference record. It won’t get any easier as Baylor travels to wounded Oklahoma for its conference opener. The defense remains a concern after Kent State rolled up season-best totals of 424 total yards and 259 passing yards. But Baylor’s special teams came up big with three blocked kicks -- two by Jason Lamb and one by Phil Taylor.
9. Kansas State: Bill Snyder had a trick up his sleeve and pulled it by using transfer Grant Gregory as his starter. Gregory responded with a strong night (206 passing yards, two TD passes, one TD run) to direct a comeback that produced the tight victory over Iowa State. The triumph helps Kansas State claim its first conference game for only the second time in the past nine seasons. And KSU’s victory was preserved by a blocked extra point with 36 seconds left by Emmanuel Lamur -- Kansas State’s 36th blocked kick since 2002.
10. Iowa State: The Cyclones had their chances before a disappointing loss to Kansas State that was settled on a blocked extra point in the last minute. The Cyclones played well at times without leading offensive threat Alexander Robinson, but were done in by too many defensive mistakes in critical situations and a lack of offensive rhythm. Three fourth-quarter three-and-outs on offense and two fumbles were simply too much for the Cyclones to overcome.
11. Texas A&M: After a fast start, the Aggies were exposed down the stretch by a faster and more talented Arkansas team to provide for their first loss of the season. It looked like 2008 all over again as the Aggies struggled to protect Jerrod Johnson. And after dominating early against Arkansas, Von Miller and the Aggies’ pass rush disappeared for most of the game. Those struggles mean that Mike Sherman has his work cut out as he starts facing even stronger teams in the Big 12 South.
12. Colorado: It won’t get any easier for Colorado as the Buffaloes face Texas and Kansas the next two weeks after their disappointing 1-3 record in nonconference play. They showed flashes at West Virginia, but were undone by the same problems that have vexed them all season. Their lack of productivity and defensive struggles are best indicated in this statistic: Colorado has produced only two plays of 40 or more yards in the first four games of the season, compared to allowing 11 plays of 40 yards or more on defense.