Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are a few under-the-radar topics that people are talking about across the Big 12.
The early success of Baylor backup quarterback Nick Florence and Texas Tech wide receiver Lyle Leong points out the benefit of grayshirting, a practice where players report a year early before they go on scholarship. Both Florence and Leong developed before joining their teams and were better prepared to play when they got their chances. The results have immeasurably helped both teams.
Kansas State third-string quarterback Joseph Kassanavoid is useful to the Wildcats in other ways than merely flashing dummy signals and carrying a clipboard on the sideline. The 6-foot-5, 239-pound Kassanavoid is a member of almost every special-teams unit for the Wildcats. He even got a couple of rotations at defensive end late in the Wildcats’ game against Iowa State last week, producing a key fumble early in the fourth quarter.
The best new version of the Wildcat offense is the “Bearcat” offense employed by Art Briles at Baylor. It’s a little more unconventional than most because freshman tight end Jerod Monk got the snap. It worked to perfection for a 1-yard touchdown run against Kent State, so you can’t argue with Briles' success.
One item I’m going to be curious to watch Thursday night will be how much Missouri coaches allow quarterback Blaine Gabbert to change plays at the line of scrimmage. Owing to his newness at the position, Gabbert hasn’t done much of that yet. It will be an acquired skill. But I’m wondering how much growth in that aspect of his game will be seen in the next several weeks.
Perhaps the wisest move that Bo Pelini has made has been his reinsertion of senior Phillip Dillard back into the starting lineup at linebacker. Dillard’s return has helped foster a nasty disposition in the group that is best seen in Nebraska's emerging run defense. And Dillard also has helped settle down freshmen starting linebackers Sean Fisher and Will Compton, who join him in the starting lineup.
The presumption that starting middle linebacker Orie Lemon would be a huge loss for Oklahoma State this season hasn't exactly worked out. The strong production of former junior-college player Donald Booker has boosted the Cowboys' defense. Booker has emerged as one of the conference’s most underrated linebackers, leading OSU with 26 tackles.
The best example of Colorado’s offensive and defensive struggles can be seen in this statistic. The Buffaloes have produced two gains of 40 yards or more on offense. And they’ve allowed 11 gains of 40 yards or more on defense.