Thursday, October 28, 2010
What to watch in the Big 12: Week 9
By David Ubben
Here's what I'm keeping an eye on this weekend:
1. Oklahoma State's offense. They won't have suspended receiver Justin Blackmon, who's been the major driving force behind the passing game for the entire season, and leads the nation in receiving yards and touchdowns. How many more touches will that provide for running back Kendall Hunter, and can Josh Cooper step up as the primary remaining target for the Cowboys? I probably would have picked OSU to win this one by at least three touchdowns with Blackmon, and I still think it'll win convincingly, but Blackmon's absence is a big wildcard for the offense.
With Justin Blackmon out on Saturday, Kendall Hunter may need to play a bigger role in Oklahoma State's offense.
2. Big hits. Clips of players easing up or doing things out of character filled NFL postgame shows last Sunday. Will Nebraska linebacker Eric Martin's suspension have any similar effects this week?
3. Aldon Smith vs. Taylor Martinez. Smith did a great job spying Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase in the second half of Missouri's season opener. Martinez will be a whole different animal. He won't be able to do it alone, but if Smith can get in the backfield and muck up the Huskers' zone read, Missouri's defense could have a great day.
4. Texas. Broad, maybe, but what's this team look like against a team in Baylor that's very capable of beating the Longhorns this week? Longhorns coach Mack Brown called out his team and assistants during the week, and it'll be fascinating to see how they respond. Texas has already lost two games this year at home to teams that aren't as good as Baylor.
5. Texas A&M quarterbacks. Last week, Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill split 82 snaps equally, but Mike Sherman has been coy about who'll start on Saturday. Tannehill played well, but he did it against a bottom-feeding Kansas team. Will Sherman stick with Johnson against a more talented Texas Tech team?
6. Cody Hawkins. For the rest of the season, it's Hawkins' team. Tyler Hansen will miss the rest of the season with a ruptured spleen, so how does Hawkins begin the end of his career? He couldn't ask for a more difficult venue, trying to end Oklahoma's 34-game home winning streak, but Hawkins beat Sam Bradford and the Sooners in 2007, the last time he took on Oklahoma.
7. Huskers are no homebodies. Nebraska has had its two worst performances of the year at home, while unleashing two butt-whippings to Kansas State and Washington on the road, and beating Oklahoma State last week. Bo Pelini says he'll make a few tweaks to the routine this week, but what effect will they have?
8. D.J. Monroe. Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis seems like he's made a weekly routine out of lamenting his under-use of the speedy, versatile Monroe, who admits he doesn't have a solid grasp of the playbook, but his playmaking ability makes it seem like the only play he needs to memorize is the "Here, take the ball and run." He had just one carry last week, and used it to run for 10 yards. How many more 60-yard scores like he had against Oklahoma are left in him this season? Texas' anemic offense needs as many as it can get against one of the best offenses in the league, Baylor.
9. Kansas' string of futility. They couldn't do it against Texas A&M, but is this the week Kansas competes? They travel to play an Iowa State team riding high after beating Texas, but the Jayhawks, 0-3 in Big 12 play, have yet to lose a conference game by less than five touchdowns.
10. Ryan Broyles. He played with two gimpy ankles last week against Missouri, and still caught eight passes for 110 yards with a thick tape job over his right cleat against the Tigers. Broyles is racking up receptions, but he's been surpassed by Justin Blackmon as the league's best wideout. With Blackmon sidelined and Broyles' ankles on the mend, what's he got in store for the Buffs, with a tough matchup waiting at both corners?