Sunday, September 19, 2010
What we learned in the Big 12: Week 3
By David Ubben
1. Not much about Oklahoma State's offense. I know the numbers look impressive. So do the highlights. But I've seen this show before, and it was called Missouri in 2007 and 2008. The truth is, spread offenses can look absolutely unstoppable against inferior athletes. So far, that's all Oklahoma State has seen, and for the most part, it's looked unstoppable. But in 2008, Missouri rose to as high as No. 3 in the polls, scoring 52 points three times and 69 points in another one of its first five games -- all against bad defenses. Then came the teeth of conference play. The Tigers lost to Oklahoma State at home and found themselves down 35-0 in the second quarter to Texas a week later. Will Oklahoma State see a similar result when it reaches the bulk of its Big 12 South schedule? Maybe not. I don't know. But I do know that Missouri team had a better quarterback (Chase Daniel), a better top receiver (Jeremy Maclin) and a Mackey Award-winning tight end (Chase Coffman) as a reliable alternate option in the passing game and the No. 1 option in the red zone Oklahoma State has in Justin Blackmon. Clearly Oklahoma State has a superior running game, headlined by Kendall Hunter. Will that mean results that look more like what Texas Tech has been able to do at home against Texas and Oklahoma and less like what had made Missouri 0-11 against those teams under Gary Pinkel? Considering Dana Holgorsen's resume, the former might be reality. We'll find out soon. But I'm not ready to crown Oklahoma State's offense as a Big 12 South gamechanger just yet. Its Week 1 opponent, Washington State, beat Montana State by a point and lost convincingly to SMU. Its Week 2 opponent, Troy, lost to UAB on Saturday. We know Oklahoma State's offense can dominate defenses it's clearly better than. We don't know how it will look against a well-coordinated defense with similar or superior athletes.
Kendall Hunter and the Cowboys haven't been tested during nonconference play.
2. Missouri and Texas A&M have to get better fast. Neither team had any business winning its game this week. Each was rescued by clutch fourth-quarter performances. Play like that in conference play and you lose big. Period. Texas A&M is off next week. Missouri plays Miami (Ohio). Both open conference play in two weeks. If the kinks aren't worked out by then, both can forget being factors at the top of their divisions. Play like that, and they're more likely to slide down well below where each was picked to finish in the preseason.
3. Baylor isn't ready for the big time. TCU is a very good team. So are several teams in the Big 12. Baylor looked helpless against the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth, letting TCU earn a lopsided win against a major conference opponent. If Baylor plays like that against the rest of the Big 12 South, it can brace for similar losses and make plans at home for bowl season.
4. Nebraska's running game is terrifying. Yeah, Washington's defense is weak. But plenty of teams play plenty of weak defenses. Few, if any, have three 100-yard rushers that are all threats to do it again on any week. Nebraska's defense looks on track to be as good as it was a year ago, and it will only get better as the season progresses. If the running game does the same, the Huskers will be a team in the national title picture. So far, the Huskers are the only team in the conference with three blowout wins, and their three includes a road blowout against a Pac-10 team. Taylor Martinez, Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead give this Huskers offense an edge that was missing in 2009 behind an offensive line that's turned in outstanding performances for the season's first three weeks.
5. So is Texas' defense. The offense clearly has to make strides, but this was a "Wow" performance from the Longhorns. Most "wow-worthy" was how easy the Longhorns made it look. They stopped the run. They rushed four guys. That left the rest to a secondary and linebacking corps full of pro talent, who gave Texas Tech quarterback Taylor Potts nowhere to go with the ball, while running from those four rushers who provided constant pressure and finished with four sacks. Coach Mack Brown said in August he thought this year's version had a chance to be his best defense ever. More performances like the one it turned in on Saturday night in Lubbock will prove Brown right.