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Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Kansas, Tech, OU soar in latest Big 12 gradebook

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


Here's the latest installment of my grades for last week's efforts by Big 12 teams.

Kansas: A. More than solid running game and the strong return of Dezmon Briscoe showed the Jayhawks’ offense at its strength. But the biggest surprise was how the defense was able to dismantle Trevor Vittatoe and UTEP. It was a strong performance of a team deserving to be in the top 20.

Oklahoma: A. I’m not grading on a curve, but you still have to consider the opponent when playing Idaho State. It was good for Oklahoma’s confidence that its second test wasn’t nearly as trying as the first. But the offense and defense both had strong outings. And the game provided Landry Jones something to build on heading into a game against tougher-than-presumed Tulsa this week.

Texas Tech: A-minus. The only element missing was a running game when it was needed, and that’s almost a misnomer with Mike Leach. Taylor Potts came within one TD pass of tying the school single-game record. The defense provides a strong across-the-board performance with six sacks and 12 pass deflections. This was the kind of grade Tech needs to build confidence as it meets Texas this week.

Nebraska: B. Zac Lee has been a revelation at quarterback and he’s receiving better-than-expected play at wide receiver. The biggest concern is the defense. Sure, the Cornhuskers allowed only nine points against Arkansas State, but I’m still worried about how the Red Wolves were able to gash them for big gains. The Blackshirts can’t afford to do that at Virginia Tech this week.

Texas: B-minus. The offense struggled through the first half and the offensive line still isn’t dominating like it should. Colt McCoy overcame a slow start and looked like himself. The defense didn’t allow a touchdown, but the Longhorns don’t need to monkey around with their special teams. Just kick the ball and play strong offense and defense. Everything else should take care of itself.

Missouri: C. The Tigers overcame all kinds of adversity and still claimed a win over pesky Bowling Green. But it still wasn’t one to be saved for posterity. Blaine Gabbert had a huge return to earth after his first game, but the running game picked him up. The Tigers had more rushing yards than passing yards for the first time since the 2008 Cotton Bowl. I suspect more games like this in 2009 for the Tigers.

Oklahoma State: D. The Cowboys looked like a team that believed its press clippings as it struggled to stick with Houston after dominating Georgia the week before. Zac Robinson doesn’t appear to be the same player today as he was last year. And without Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant late in the game, the Cowboys were missing their two top offensive threats. The OSU defense had trouble sticking with Houston’s athletic skill-position players and couldn’t consistently pressure Case Keenum. It all added up to a bad day for the Cowboys.

Kansas State: D. Neither Carson Coffman nor Grant Gregory were consistent, but Bill Snyder admitted Monday that he didn’t have anybody else to turn to. Daniel Thomas appears to be the real deal at tailback, although the offense looks like it could use several more playmakers like him. The defense was the most impressive part of the loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. But the special teams continue to struggle as Josh Cherry missed two field goals and an extra point. Those are the kind of blunders that the Wildcats can’t afford.

Iowa State: D-. There were just too many mistakes in this game to take much out of it. Austen Arnaud’s confidence has to be shaken by all of his interceptions thrown against Iowa. The defense showed some promise early, but wore down late in the game. This will be a learning year for Paul Rhoads and his team and it will be interesting to see how the handle this setback.

Colorado: F. And we only thought it couldn’t get any worse. Surprise. The offense was supposed to be able to run the ball consistently, but inexplicably got away from that plan as it fell behind early. The receivers looked like they couldn’t match the athleticism of their counterparts from Toledo. The Buffaloes’ defense again allowed way too many big plays. It will be interesting to see if Dan Hawkins can get his team back together against Wyoming this week. Because after the first two weeks, I’m not sure.

Didn’t play: Texas A&M and Baylor.