Sunday, October 31, 2010
What we learned in the Big 12: Week 9
By David Ubben
The Big 12 North is Nebraska's to lose. The Huskers made sure of that early, unleashing one of the most dominant quarters by any team in Big 12 play this season. Missouri didn't fall in a 24-0 hole early, Nebraska dug that thing with a week of preparation, and once the Tigers showed up (or didn't show up) the Huskers grabbed them by the collar and threw them in. From a wide-angle lens, though, Nebraska's win is good for drama in the North. Had Missouri won, it would need to lose three of its final four games to send Nebraska to the title game. Now, one slip-up by Nebraska could put the Tigers in. The Huskers' toughest test is likely a trip to College Station, but this is college football; anything can happen. And fret not, Tigers. Regardless of what Nebraska does the rest of the year, Missouri is in decent position to go 11-1 in the regular season if they can survive Lubbock next weekend. That's nothing to complain about. I'm sure there will be a few people who rush to proclaim Missouri got "exposed," but they ran into a motivated team that played its best and, without a flat performance against Texas, would still be very much in the thick of the national title picture.
Robert Griffin and Baylor are leading the Big 12 South heading into November.
No, seriously, you better take Baylor seriously. This isn't to say Texas didn't, but Baylor lined up and straight-up beat the Longhorns -- in Austin. Most surprising: No one was really surprised. The Bears didn't play fantastic, but they played well, and that's all they needed to beat Texas. The Longhorns have been average at best this season at home, but they have as much talent on defense as almost anyone in the country and they needed this game badly to salvage their season. Instead, they were firmly denied, setting up a suddenly huge game for Baylor next weekend. Was there a soul on the planet who thought Oklahoma State-Baylor in the first week of November would be between a pair of ranked teams? Shows what we media members, who picked the Cowboys and Bears to finish fifth and sixth in the league, know. We live in a strange age of Big 12 football, folks.
The Big 12 has the best receivers of any league in America. With Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon sitting out on Saturday, the league's No. 2 and No. 3 receivers put on a big-time showcase in wins. Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles set a school record with 208 yards and three touchdowns on nine catches before taking a seat as Oklahoma ran out the clock. Texas A&M's Jeff Fuller used 11 catches to rack up 171 yards and a pair of scores. All three are very different receivers, but eat your heart out Alshon Jeffery, A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Greg Childs.
Making difficult decisions will pay off. I can't imagine what that conversation between Mike Sherman and Jerrod Johnson went like. Johnson, I'm sure, took it well and will keep working. He's a great player who'll do whatever he's asked, but there's no question now that Sherman made the right call. He benched the Aggies' all-time leader in total offense and a three-year starter in Johnson in favor of Ryan Tannehill, who torched a mediocre Texas Tech secondary for a school-record 449 yards and four touchdowns. His performance gave the Aggies a much-needed win before they enter a brutal, brutal finish to their schedule against three South teams and Nebraska.
Paul Rhoads is very, very close to shocking everybody once again. Last year, it was impossible because he inherited a two-win team without any hope. This year, the schedule was just too hard for it to even be a remote possibility. But here the Cyclones are, sitting on five wins with a very winnable game at Colorado in two weeks between them and a trip to a bowl game for the second consecutive season. It'd be pretty unfair to say these Cyclones have no shot to beat Nebraska next week. Rhoads has already shown what happens when those types of things start getting said about his team.