Sunday, November 8, 2009
What we learned in the Big 12, Week 10
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Big 12 was supposed to have gotten clearer after Saturday's games. Instead, it's much more scrambled after a wild day that featured four upsets.
Here were some of the more noteworthy storylines.
The meek made their presence known in the Big 12 -- at least for one day. The two teams with seemingly the least to play for on Saturday came up with the biggest performances. Baylor was mired in a 13-game conference road losing streak and had produced only 34 points in its first four Big 12 games. Despite those earlier struggles, backup quarterback Nick Florence responded with a record-setting day to help the Bears claim a 40-32 victory at Missouri and keep their slim bowl hopes alive. And at Colorado, the Buffaloes charged back from an 11-point halftime deficit and a 10-point hole midway through the fourth quarter to claim a wild 35-34 triumph over Texas A&M to keep their postseason hopes alive, too. The two cellar dwellers have not only scrambled the Big 12’s bowl prospects, but also provided a little rare hope after their triumphs.
Oklahoma State can play a little defense, too. Mike Gundy’s offense has deservedly gotten much of the credit for Oklahoma State’s strong season to date. But the work done by wily defensive coordinator Bill Young might be the biggest reason the Cyclones are 7-2. Young’s defense was at it again Saturday in a 34-8 triumph at Iowa State, where the Cowboys limited ISU’s league-leading rushing attack to a season-low 54 yards and top rusher Alexander Robinson to 51 yards. It marked the fourth time in their last six games that the Cowboys have limited their opponent to 17 points or less. And most importantly, it enabled the Cowboys to claim their seventh victory for a fourth-straight season -- a feat that has never been accomplished in the 109-season history of the program.
Forget a championship-game appearance. Tumbling Kansas might not make a bowl trip. The Jayhawks were the fashionable preseason pick to win the North Division, featuring the division's most experienced quarterback, a productive offense and a defense that would make enough plays to push them to their first championship game appearance. But the wheels appear to have fallen off as the Jayhawks have lost four straight games to doom their title-game hopes and even imperil a bowl trip unless they can somehow eke out another win. Todd Reesing’s health is the biggest reason the Jayhawks have headed south with 10 turnovers during a 10-quarter period in the losing streak, capped by a 17-10 defeat at Kansas State on Saturday. That loss has produced Kansas’ first four-game losing streak since the 2006 season -- the last time the Jayhawks failed to go bowling. Unless Mark Mangino can find a quick cure for Reesing’s maladies, Kansas might be facing a similar possibility this season.
Nebraska and Oklahoma -- just like old times. It was somehow fitting that the storied Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry ended up with a 10-3 game Saturday night. The Cornhuskers allowed Oklahoma inside the Nebraska 40 four times in the fourth quarter and still limited the Sooners to its lowest scoring production in the Bob Stoops era. It helped them overcome a sputtering offensive performance where the Nebraska quarterback position seems more up-in-the-air than ever after Cody Green’s struggles. But Bo Pelini won’t mind too much as the Blackshirts took a page from the past to beat the Sooners with a gritty, determined effort. Somewhere, legendary former Nebraska defensive coordinators like Charlie McBride and Monte Kiffin were smiling about the effort.
McCoy and Shipley race through the history books together. Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley are roommates and have been friends for years. After their strong seasons, they will go down as the greatest pass-and-catch duo in Texas football history. Their game Saturday against UCF was clearly one for the ages. Shipley snagged a school-record 273 yards on 11 receptions -- marking the fourth time in his past seven games he’s produced double-digit receptions. McCoy’s 470-yard passing effort merely was the second-best total in the history of the program. Their big efforts boosted McCoy into the lead in the conference’s pass efficiency and Shipley into the Big 12’s receiving lead. And both have positioned themselves to claim some major hardware when the awards presentations start in December.