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Sunday, September 21, 2008
What we learned in the Big 12 this week

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are a few tidbits we gleaned after watching the Big 12 this week.

1. The only team that can stop Missouri is Missouri. The Tigers slogged through a sloppy 42-21 victory over Buffalo despite some immense individual heroics by QB Chase Daniel. Despite a record-breaking single-game performance by Daniel, the Bulls stayed close because of three Missouri fumbles, some costly penalties and even the first kickoff return for a touchdown that has been allowed in Gary Pinkel's Missouri coaching tenure. The Tigers can make those mistakes and still beat Buffalo. Doing it against Big 12 power teams will be a different story.

2. Texas A&M FB Jorvorskie Lane is the biggest 285-pound decoy in the conference. It's clear that the Aggies have little confidence in their short-yardage running abilities, despite the presence of Lane, who used to gobble up first downs like he would munch on postgame cheeseburgers. The main reason is a green offensive line with four new starters who got little push in a 41-23 loss against Miami -- or against anybody else earlier this season. The Aggies failed on a critical third-and-1 early in the third quarter against Miami when the game was still close, using Lane as a struggling lead blocker on the play. And later in the game, they opted to throw on a third-and-1 from the goal line rather than drive the ball like the old days.

3. Mark Mangino should be worried about Kansas' sputtering running attack. Despite playing against an FCS opponent in Sam Houston State that the Jayhawks should have dominated, Kansas produced only 161 yards and a 3.4 yard-per-carry average. Mangino hinted after the game that changes in the offensive line might be forthcoming. Something needs to be done, because the lack of consistency is run blocking is causing QB Todd Reesing to force plays. That can't continue when conference play begins.

4. Don't look now, but Texas is quietly developing some defensive confidence. The Longhorns made Rice QB Chase Clement miserable with seven sacks and five pass deflections. They even held the Owls scoreless after 11 chances after a first-and-goal from the Texas 2 on a drive that was extended twice by pass interference penalties. The Longhorns have allowed one second-half score in their first three games. That's a good sign from what was perceived to be the Longhorns' biggest weakness coming into the season.

5. Colorado is good now, but wait until next season. The Buffaloes had an impressive victory against West Virginia and could have a shot at another one against Florida State on Saturday. But I still worry about their pass defense, and that will be exposed once Big 12 begins. Their better hopes will come next season -- when Chase Daniel and Joe Ganz will be gone and Josh Freeman might have opted for a shot at some big bucks in the NFL draft. Colorado should have the North's most experienced collection of talent in place by then.