Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Big 12 spectators guide, Week 6
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here’s a quick spectator’s guide for this weekend’s games. A ranking of four stars indicates absolutely, positively must-see football. Three-star games are definitely worth an extensive investment in time, although you can be forgiven if you turn the station during commercial breaks or make a queso break for a few minutes. Two-star games bear a quick glimpse or two for occasional score updates, but little more. And one-star games mean you might be better off taking care of some honey-dos around the house.
Check out this list and plan your Saturday schedule accordingly. All times are for Saturday games unless otherwise noted.
Nebraska at Missouri (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET Thursday): This one should be an intriguing matchup between two teams that will be in the hunt for the North Division's championship at the end of the season. We'll have the matchup between young quarterbacks Zac Lee of Nebraska and Blaine Gabbert of Missouri, who almost attended Nebraska before opting to stay in his home state. Two aggressive defenses will be on display with Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon able to show their stuff to a national audience. This one could hinge on expected nasty weather, which might give the Cornhuskers an edge because of their ground game keyed by Big 12 rushing leader Roy Helu Jr. Oh, and one other thing: These two teams don't like each other -- particularly after Missouri's recent 93-23 margin of victory the past two seasons.
Oklahoma State at Texas A&M (noon): I know, I know. This one doesn't seem to be that attractive, does it? I think it does if you look closely for a couple of key reasons. If Oklahoma State is really, truly a South Division contender, the Cowboys need to take care of business in hostile road games like this one at Kyle Field. OSU is untested on the road after playing its first four games at home. It needs a good showing in this game to prove the early hype is legitimate. OSU has shown at times it deserves it -- like during the Georgia game. But the loss to Houston exhibited many of the questions that have dogged the program in the past. This game will be interesting for the Aggies because they assuredly can't play as badly as they did last week against Arkansas, can they? After a strong 10-minute spurt to start the game, the Aggies collapsed under the Razorbacks' avalanche of points. A&M's collection of offensive talent could prove troublesome to Oklahoma State, particularly if injuries continue to dog the Cowboys and they can get Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael going in the running game. This game might turn out being more entertaining than we think, particularly if the Aggies can take advantage of the crowd to build some early momentum and confidence.
Iowa State at Kansas (12:30 p.m.): This matchup last season turned out to be one of the most entertaining games of the season as Iowa State jumped to a 20-0 halftime lead before Kansas stormed back for a wild 35-33 victory. I wouldn't expect this one to be nearly as close as the Jayhawks are intent on proving they are legitimate North Division challengers. Their opening Big 12 test won't be nearly as daunting as either Nebraska or Missouri will face this week, but it will be interesting to see how Kansas plays coming off a bye. Its defense struggled early against Southern Mississippi before sealing the comeback with a strong fourth-quarter outing. It'll need to continue that defensive momentum against Austen Arnaud and Co. Both teams' top rushing threats -- Iowa State's Alexander Robinson and Kansas' Jake Sharp -- have been dinged up. Both likely will play in what should be an interesting matchup.
Baylor at Oklahoma (ABC, 3:30 p.m.): This game could hinge on the play of backup quarterbacks as Baylor will start third-stringer Nick Florence or second-stringer Blake Szymanski in place of Robert Griffin. The Sooners might end up playing Landry Jones, although Sam Bradford was making noise about playing early in the week. If Bradford plays, it boosts interest in this game immeasurably. The Sooners have won all 17 previous games in this series and desperately need a victory on Saturday to boost confidence going into the game against Texas next week. They need to build some confidence in their running game and also look for some productive receivers who can stretch defenses. Baylor played well under Florence last week, but will be challenged by an Oklahoma defense still stinging from late collapses in a pair of one-point losses to BYU and Miami. In the Sooners' last 10 losses, on four occasions they've dropped the game by one point. I wouldn't expect that to be a concern Saturday afternoon.
Kansas State at Texas Tech (7 p.m.): Mike Leach could start his first backup quarterback in his history with the program if Taylor Potts is idled after last week's concussion. If he can't play, Steven "Sticks" Sheffield will return to lead the Red Raiders, who also will have starting guard Brandon Carter back in the lineup. The Tech line draws much confidence from Carter's presence and really missed him last week, as seen by the five sacks allowed. They will be facing an underrated Kansas State defense that ranks among the top 40 in all four major defensive statistical categories -- rush defense, pass defense, total defense and scoring defense. For good measure, the Wildcats rank No. 7 nationally in pass defense and will test whoever starts at quarterback for the Red Raiders. The Wildcats will dictate the tempo of the game with starting quarterback Grant Gregory. KSU ranks third nationally in time of possession, averaging 35 minutes, 29 seconds per game. Look for wily KSU coach Bill Snyder to try to keep the ball away from Tech's offense. It will be his best chance at an upset.
Colorado at Texas (ESPN, 7:15 p.m.): This one could get ugly quickly as the Longhorns look for a final tune-up before the Oklahoma game next week. They run into a struggling Colorado program that ranks 102nd or lower in six national statistical categories, including total defense, pass efficiency defense, rushing defense and rushing. After a week off, Colt McCoy will be intent on a quicker start than in his first four games this season. Texas' surging offense should roll up some huge numbers considering it leads the nation in scoring, ranks fourth in total offense and ninth in passing. Mack Brown hasn't forgotten about losing the 2001 Big 12 title game to Gary Barnett and the Buffaloes. Since then, the Longhorns have won all four games in the series by an average margin of 35 points, rolling up 31, 42, 70 and 38 points.