Big 12: Chase Holbrook
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It was inevitable that the Big 12 would lose some nonconference games again after last weekend's history-making sweep. So this weekend's results weren't really that astounding.
The conference could have gotten a bump if Kansas QB Todd Reesing had hooked up with Ray Brown late in the South Florida game. The pass, instead, was intercepted by USF's Nate Allen and provided the window that the Bulls needed for a game-winning field goal on the final play of the game.
Iowa State's loss at Iowa really wasn't that surprising. The Cyclones struggled against a tougher-than-advertised Iowa defense. And special-teams breakdowns in field goals and kick coverage bit them again as coach Gene Chizik still is looking for his first career road victory.
But other than that, the Big 12 looked strong. After three weeks, the conference has a combined 28-4 record with three of the defeats coming against foes from BCS conferences.
Here's a look at a few specific things we learned over the weekend.
1. The lack of a running game finally caught up with Kansas -- For as well as Reesing played -- save for that one fateful play -- the Jayhawks would have been much better off with at least a semblance of a token running attack. Kansas produced 61 yards rushing against Florida and is averaging 105 yards rushing per game to rank 101st nationally. The Jayhawks won't be able to beat many Big 12 foes without balancing the offense a little and taking some of the pressure from Reesing.
2. The biggest loser this week was Texas -- Hurricane Ike's postponement has put the Longhorns in a tough scheduling bind. Instead of having a week off before a tough Big 12 start that will include games against Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri, the Longhorns now will have Arkansas thrown on top of it. I bet coach Mack Brown liked it better the old way. And it probably didn't make him feel any better that there wasn't a drop of rain in Austin on Saturday.
3. Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford is progressing nicely, thank you -- Want to know the best way to judge that? He makes everything look so easy that throwing five touchdown passes and running another one -- a performance for the ages in the Sooner annals -- almost seems routine. Oklahoma delivered a 41-point beating to Washington that was the Huskies' worst home defeat since 1929. Bradford's handling of the Sooners' no-huddle offensive attack has been superb. That improvement, on top of the Sooners' other offensive and defensive weapons, have placed them as a legitimate BCS title game threat.
4. Forget about Michael Crabtree, Josh Smith, Josh Freeman or Jeremy Maclin -- The most exciting player in the Big 12 is Baylor QB Robert Griffin. His record-setting performance against Washington State -- even if it was against a jet-lagged Cougar defense -- was a memorable one. And sorry, Big 12 defensive coordinators, but he'll only be getting better with more experience.
5. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has to be smiling as he reviews his game film today -- Pelini finally saw the Cornhuskers play with the hard edge that he craves in their systematic dismantling of New Mexico State. For the first time this season, the Huskers ran the ball with authority, piling up 330 yards. And the Nebraska secondary had its best game of the season, too. New Mexico State QB Chase Holbrook, a career 70 percent completion percentage passer coming into the game, was 15-for-30 for 142 yards and two interceptions. The Cornhuskers are looking good heading into their nonconference finale against Virginia Tech in two weeks.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are ten things to watch for this week in the Big 12.
1. Missouri WR Danario Alexander's return: I'll be interested to see how Alexander performs in his first game since injuring his knee in the Big 12 championship game last December. He's a tall, athletic target who will be especially important for QB Chase Daniel in red-zone possessions. Just what the Tigers need, another offensive weapon.
2. Iowa State's defensive front against Iowa's inside running game: The Cyclones struggled mightily last week against Kent State. And they'll be stepping up in class as they try to contain bullish Iowa RBs Shonn Greene and Jewel Hampton.
3. The Oklahoma State triplets and what they'll do for an encore: QB Zac Robinson, RB Kendall Hunter and WR Dez Bryant all will have their chances against Missouri State, but I'm not betting on another 200-200-300 performance like last week. The Cowboys will have the game in hand by the middle of the second quarter, limiting their chances to pad their statistics in the second half.
4. New Mexico State's first-game readiness: The Aggies, no doubt, will be at a huge disadvantage in their maiden voyage this season after their first game against Nicholls State University was postponed by Hurricane Gustav. Saturday will be Nebraska's third game. That experience should have the Cornhuskers ready for the Aggies' aerial attack keyed by QB Chase Holbrook.
5. Bob Stoops' heebie-jeebies in a Pac-10 stadium: Stoops has never won in two previous trips to the West Coast (Oregon in 2006, UCLA in 2005). That losing streak continues Oklahoma's struggles that have seen the team win only one of its last six road games against Pac-10 teams since 1988.
6. Washington State's early arrival at Baylor: Hurricane Ike pushed the kickoff up a day, making an already difficult trip more arduous for the Cougars. And they can't be feeling very confident after last week's 66-3 home blowout to California. WSU struggles defensively against the pass, so look for Robert Griffin to try to establish WR David Gettis early.
7. The trench battle between Kansas T Jeff Spikes and South Florida DE George Selvie: The Bulls have to pressure Kansas QB Todd Reesing for any chance to win. Selvie finished second nationally with 14.5 sacks, but hasn't notched one since mid-November. His slump has permeated the rest of his team as the Bulls have produced only one sack as a team this season.
8. Mike Leach's gambles: No Big 12 coach disdains punting on fourth-and-short situations as much as Leach, no matter where on the field he's positioned. After being burned twice on missed fourth-down plays deep in his own end of the field last week at Nevada, it will be interesting to see how reckless Leach will be Saturday against SMU.
9. Graham Harrell's slump: Some are wondering if Texas Tech's talented quarterback has hit a wall after struggling last week against Nevada. He had a below 50 percent completion percentage for the first time in his starting career last week. Harrell has thrown three touchdowns after the first two games of the season. He averaged 3.6 touchdown passes per game last season.
10. Nebraska's offensive discipline: The Cornhuskers struggled with self-inflicted mistakes last week against San Jose State. They were flagged eight times offensively, including false-start penalties on three consecutive snaps at one juncture. A veteran quarterback and offensive line were expected to have better communication than that.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Big 12's record of 12-0 was impressive last week, but the first sweep in conference history should be taken with a huge grain of salt. Some of the opponents that the Big 12 teams beat barely had a pulse.
It will be a different story this week with more competitive games. I'm even picking a couple of Big 12 teams to lose. Here are my picks:
USF 23, Kansas 20 -- I still don't think the Jayhawks have enough of a ground attack to win what should be a tight defensive battle. Kansas QB Todd Reesing has been phenomenal this season, but his offense has got to be more balanced to expect a victory in this statement game for both programs. And don't be surprised if USF DE George Selvie is a disruptive force in this game against Kansas' young offensive tackles.
Iowa 27, Iowa State 14 -- Gene Chizik continued ISU's recent domination in the series with a 15-13 victory in Ames last season. But look for the Hawkeyes to return the favor with a convincing victory this season, mainly because of the tough inside running of Shonn Greene and Jewel Hampton against the Cyclones' undersized front.
Baylor 27, Washington State 17 -- This should be a good indicator of the relative strengths of the Big 12 and Pac-10 conferences when their respective cellar-dwellers meeting. Baylor QB Robert Griffin will be the difference in this one. Look for him to make a couple of big plays against a Washington State team that has been outscored 105-16 in its first two games, ranks last nationally passing efficiency and scoring defense and is next-to-last in total offense.
Missouri 41, Nevada 17 -- Chase Daniel will be explosive early and watching in a ball cap from the sidelines by the second half. The Tigers need to show some defensive improvement after struggling performances in their first two games and the return of S William Moore and LB Van Alexander certainly will help. They might have some trouble with underrated Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick, who repeatedly befuddled Texas Tech last week, but should easily prevail.
Nebraska 37, New Mexico State 17 -- The Aggies might have had a better chance to compete in this one before having their first game postponed because of weather concerns. New Mexico State QB Chase Holbrook will make some plays against Nebraska's developing defense, but not nearly enough. Nebraska has beaten the Aggies by a combined margin of 125-0 in two previous games in the series. Hal Mumme's offense will score this time, giving them a pyrrhic victory of sorts.
Oklahoma State 48, Missouri State 6 -- History was made last week when OSU's talented trio of Dez Bryant, Kendall Hunter and Zac Robinson became the first trio in Big 12 history to go for 200 yards rushing and receiving and 300 yards passing in the same game. Their numbers won't be as impressive against Terry Allen's team -- only because they likely won't be playing during the second half. OSU cruises in this one.
Texas Tech 61, SMU 20 -- Don't be surprised if this one lasts for more than four hours with all of the passes that will be thrown at Jones AT&T Stadium. Tech QB Graham Harrell will be intent on making up for a pedestrian performance last week in Nevada. And something tells me that Mike Leach is going to want to make a statement to June Jones about who has the most prolific passing offense in the Lone Star State. SMU has lost 10 straight games on the road and 12 in a row to Tech since last beating them in 1986.
Oklahoma 41, Washington 17 -- The Sooners' sizzling offense has hung half-a-hundred against each of their opponents this season. It won't be as easy this time around, but still a comfortable statement victory on the road -- something that OU didn't do very often last season. It will be interesting to watch multi-talented Washington QB Jake Locker against the speedy Sooner defense, keyed by emerging freshman LB Travis Lewis.
Last week: 12-0 (100 percent). Season: 23-1 (95.8 percent).
Posted by ESPN's Tim Griffin
Here's the latest four-star viewer's guide for the games of the weekend. Plan your honey-dos and set your tape recorders accordingly.
A ranking of four stars indicates must-see television, and maybe even a game tape to be savored by more devoted viewers. Three-star games are worth the investment in time. Two-star games bear a quick glimpse or two for occasional score updates. And one-star games are indications that your time might be better spent at the grocery store or playing with the kids. All games will be played on Saturday unless otherwise noted.
Kansas at South Florida (ESPN/8 p.m. ET, Friday) -- Both teams will be trying to prove their national legitimacy in a battle between old Bill Snyder disciples Mark Mangino and Jim Leavitt.
Iowa State at Iowa (Big Ten Network, noon) -- Hard to believe that the game for the Cy-Hawk Trophy is one of only four this week matching 2-0 teams.
Arkansas at Texas (ABC, 3:30 p.m.) -- Darrell Royal and Frank Broyles aren't roaming the sidelines like the good ol' days, but Mack Brown hasn't forgotten the thumping that the Razorbacks gave his team in Austin in 2003 in their last trip.
Oklahoma at Washington, (ESPN, 7:45 p.m.) -- Bob Stoops didn't like his last trip to the northwest when he was jobbed by a Pac-10 officiating crew in Oregon. This game should be easier, particularly with Ty Willingham's job status being an open question in Seattle these days.
Washington State at Baylor (FSN, 12:30 p.m.) -- This matchup is intriguing only because a judgment can be made about the relative strengths of the Big 12 and Pac-10 conferences when its worst teams meet.
Nevada at Missouri (PPV, 12:30 p.m.) -- Rangy Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick gave Texas Tech fits last week. It won't be quite as easy in Columbia, particularly with top Nevada running threat Luke Lippincott out for the season with a knee injury.
New Mexico State at Nebraska (PPV, 7 p.m.) -- This has some entertainment value as New Mexico State mad scientist Hal Mumme and talented QB Chase Holbrook faces the Nebraska secondary. How much will the Cornhuskers miss Barry Turner? And how much will the Aggies be a mystery in their first game of the season?
SMU at Texas Tech (FSN, 7 p.m.) -- Wonder if there might be a few passes at Jones SBC Stadium in this one? Tech has dominated the series, winning the last 12 games since SMU's six-game streak from 1981-86.
Missouri State at Oklahoma State (FCS, 7 p.m.) -- Don't expect the Cowboys' talented offense to show much mercy against Terry Allen's Missouri State team. The Bears have never beaten a Big 12 team in nine previous games.