Big 12: Colin Kaepernick

Thanks for all the e-mails this week. Interesting stuff as always. Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say.

Bert in Frisco, Texas writes: You keeping talking about Texas Tech surprising everyone next season. What does surprising mean exactly and how many wins do you think surprising translates to?

David Ubben: Texas Tech has obviously overhauled its coaching staff on the sideline, and you have to figure there will be some growing pains in Kliff Kingsbury's first year as a head coach. That's no small task for a young guy who hasn't been in coaching long. It also doesn't have a returning starter at quarterback. There's lots of room for the Red Raiders to falter next year, and the expectations will be mild, likely 6-8 wins. That said, when you look at the rest of the team (and Kingsbury's upside) the potential to be a really, really good team is absolutely there.

Michael Brewer has looked great in his spot duty. Receiver Eric Ward is back and Jakeem Grant looked good this year, not to mention TE Jace Amaro, who's probably the most talented guy on the entire offense. ESPN 150 receivers Dominique Wheeler and Reginald Davis will be playing this year, too. Kerry Hyder and Terrance Bullitt are solid on the defensive side, and running backs Kenny Williams and SaDale Foster are solid.

Tech has the advantage next year of perhaps sneaking up on teams, too. Nobody (except maybe WVU) will be fired up to beat Tech. Nobody's got them circled on the calendar. The Red Raiders should be solid, though, and if the ball bounces their way a few times, don't be surprised if they win 10 games or more.



Rick in Waco, Texas writes: DU,Please give some justification (that would be acceptable to a reasonable person ) for grading Baylor an A on offense and OK State an A+. In case you took a nap in the off season, Baylor lost their all time leading receiver that was arguably better than the receiver lost by OSU. We lost a 1500 yard rusher (school record), two offensive linemen... Oh yea, and the Heisman Trophy winner. I realize that BU was just plain bad on the defensive side for the first 4 games in conference, and even struggled on O a bit in that stretch - but showed they could play with ANYONE in the second half. There's not a team in team in the country that they would have been concerned to play in December or January.

DU: Hey, remember that time when Baylor's No. 1 QB got hurt, and then a few games later, the No. 2 guy went down, too? Then after replacing him with the No. 1 guy, the No. 1 guy got hurt a game and a half later and the Bears had to finish the season with their No. 3 quarterback, but still finished in the top five nationally in total offense?

Me either.

Baylor lost a little more than OSU, mostly at running back, but most everyone knew Baylor had depth at the position anyway. OSU went through just as much as Baylor did, but its offense was more consistent through the first half of the season and at the end of the year, was basically on pace with the Bears, despite dealing with all that from the quarterback position. It's that simple.



Vince Young in Texas writes: Is it possible that I could be back in Philadelphia with the hiring of Chip Kelly? I know Vick is a great athlete but he's a little injury prone and I ran an offense very similar at the best school on the planet, THE University of Texas.

DU: I don't see it. Young's a great athlete, but there's a big misconception about how much Oregon's quarterbacks run. Last year, it was on just over 10 percent of the Ducks 1,000+ snaps. I expect that number will shrink even more in the NFL. Having a QB who can move is integral in running the zone read, but you still have to run the other 90 percent of your offense, too. That requires a guy who can deliver the ball accurately with velocity and good decison-making. Guys like Cam Newton, Kaepernick, RG3 and Russell Wilson have shown an ability to do that. Vince Young has not for the better part of his career.



David in Wichita, Kan. writes: Why are we only seeing a big difference for 7-on-7 on the offensive side of the ball? Shouldn't there be a marked improvement in coverage skills as well?

DU: Interesting question, David. Fantastic name, by the way. One would think so, but the results clearly indicate that has not been the case. It's apparent that 7-on-7 far benefits offensive players, but much more so the quarterbacks. Playing that much skeleton helps their decision-making and accuracy and gets them extremely comfortable delivering intermediate and deep balls, something that wasn't the case long ago. That's the biggest difference, and the biggest reason why the impact of 7-on-7 has swung so heavily in the offense's favor. Quarterbacks are better.

Talking noncon skeds, Huskers-Beebe, UT

June, 15, 2011
6/15/11
9:00
AM ET
A little late on this, but here's a look at yesterday's chat if you missed it.

If your question didn't get answered, we'll have a Mailbag later on, so let's hear your thoughts for this week.

And a few highlights:

Kevin in Texas asked: After dropping TCU from the schedule, playing New Mexico, Texas State, and Nevada (without Kaepernick), Texas Tech has one of the worst Non-conference schedules in recent memories. I was curious;, if you could control the Red Raiders non conference schedule, what teams would you choose for them to play? Could they actually form a rivalry with someone?

David Ubben: Yeah, I think people get too riled up about nonconference schedules. Unless you're playing for national titles, it's a bit overrated. I don't think I'm offending anyone by suggesting a national title is not in Tech's future this year. Tech has a rep for not playing BCS teams, but it hasn't had just terrible nonconference schedules. Houston and SMU are pretty good teams. Those are the ones it should look to develop a rivalry with. All the Texas teams have an advantage of not having to go far to find good nonconference games. Those C-USA teams in Texas are good nonconference games to schedule. I know some fans would love to go all alpha male and have their teams play Alabama, Ohio State and USC/Oregon every year, but unless you're jockeying for national titles, what do you gain? Not a whole lot, in my opinion. Call it a problem with college football, but the cost outweighs the benefit.

Dillon in Los Angeles asked: Lovely article about Nebraska's upgrade to the B10, and Babee's jilted jabs toward the venerable TO. Could you please clarify for all of your readers the difference between "revenue distribution" and "assigning rights". They are, I'm sure you know, two entirely different things. Specifically, Perlman asked Texas to assign all their media rights to the Big 12, which they wouldn't do. That has nothing to do with revenue distribution. Also, Husker Nation is honored to be covered in two ESPN blogs! Thanks Ubbie!

DU: Yeah, you pretty much covered it. The Big 12 is the only league where teams retain their third-tier media rights not bought by TV networks. The league takes control of those in the Big Ten and SEC, and now, the Pac-12. Revenue distribution doesn't have anything to do with that, but in the Big 12's case, specifically Texas vs. everyone else, it can cause further inequality between who is making the most money. When you stand to gain $15 million every year like Texas could, why in the world would you want to allow the Big 12 to keep your rights?

Jim in Grand Junction, Colo. asked: David: You actually take anything Beebe says about Nebraska seriously? Come on. His remarks about the Huskers just continue to make him look more petty and weaker. Nebraska's departure had nothing to do with revenue sharing - it did have to do with Nebraska staying in a league in which all major members were threatening to depart yet put the burden of comittment to them. Dan Beebe needs to grow up and take a job where immaturity doesn't hurt.

DU: Here's the fact of the matter: Beebe, the Big 12 and everyone from Nebraska can act like they've moved on all they want. Fact is, both still care about what happens to the other very much. It's why whenever Nebraska remarks about him, or he remarks about them, it becomes a big deal. And its why they say anything in the first place. It's going to be this way for at least a few years. Get used to it.

(An additional note: Why do you think no one ever talks about Colorado?)

Shane in Boston asked: I'm making the trip to Arlington for the A&M-Arkansas game, any recommendations for some quality BBQ while I'm in Texas?

DU: Sorry, nope. This is my No. 1 complaint about Dallas. I've tried about 7-8 BBQ places, and none of them are even close to my top 10. It's unbelievable.

Sterling Archer in Texas asked: What are your thoughts on the Longhorn network? Do you anticipate success? And are any other big 12 schools likely to try the same thing?

DU: I think it'll be a success, yes. Oklahoma may try, but they keep hedging a bit on making it happen. My guess is the other nine teams in the Big 12 eventually make a network.

Charles in South Texas asked: David,Since you can predict the future. I think Mendenhall is a pretty good coach. What's your thoughts on UT vs BYU outcome ?

DU: Yeah, he really impressed me. Watching them knock off Oklahoma in 2009, Bradford or otherwise, was a real eye-opener. Right now, I'd probably pick BYU in that one.

Ranking Big 12 nonconference schedules

June, 6, 2011
6/06/11
1:30
PM ET
Take heed, football fans: Three months from Monday we'll be digesting our first weekend of college football. That means nonconference play.

No team in the Big 12 has a schedule stocked solely with cream puffs, but like we all know, not all nonconference schedules are created equal. Here's how they rank in the Big 12, according to toughness.

1. Oklahoma -- Tulsa, at FSU, Ball State

The Sooners' headliner is a mammoth matchup in Tallahassee with Florida State on Sept. 17, but in-state opponent Tulsa visits Norman to open the season. The Golden Hurricane won 10 games last season. Oklahoma also faces Ball State.

2. Texas A&M -- SMU, Idaho, Arkansas

The Aggies and Hogs will meet up in Cowboys Stadium for the Big 12's second-best nonconference game. June Jones is building a solid program at SMU, which has been to bowl games in two consecutive seasons. Idaho will also visit College Station.

3. Texas -- Rice, BYU, at UCLA

Texas' nonconference slate should give a solid indication of what to expect in Year One of Mack Brown: Redux. After opening with Rice in Austin, Brigham Young comes to town. The Cougars can beat the Longhorns in Austin, and a trip to UCLA won't be easy, even with revenge in mind from last season's 34-12 embarrassment at home.

4. Iowa State -- Northern Iowa, Iowa, at UConn

The Cyclones' trip to Connecticut isn't as daunting as it could have been last season. The reigning Big East champs lose five starters on offense, including All-American running back Jordan Todman. Paul Rhoads will host Iowa and try to get his first win over the Hawkeyes, and the Cyclones host in-state opponent Northern Iowa.

5. Oklahoma State -- Louisiana-Lafayette, Arizona, at Tulsa

A rematch with Alamo Bowl opponent Arizona is the highlight of the Cowboys nonconference schedule, but OSU also travels to Tulsa. Avoiding the early struggles they had in last season's Friday night win over Louisiana-Lafayette in the Bayou would be welcomed in the Ragin' Cajuns return game to Stillwater.

6. Baylor -- TCU, Stephen F. Austin, Rice

The Bears, hosting TCU this time around, would like to atone for last season's 45-10 beat down in Fort Worth. Weaker in-state opponents didn't give the Bears trouble last season, but Stephen F. Austin and Rice will try to trip up the Bears in Waco after the opener against the Horned Frogs.

7. Missouri -- Miami OH, at Arizona State, Western Illinois

The Tigers got gypped in last season's nonconference schedule rankings, after Illinois and San Diego far exceeded expectations. A trip to Tempe to face the Sun Devils is the highlight this season, but Miami (OH) and Western Illinois won't have fans stuffing Faurot Field early on.

8. Kansas State -- Eastern Kentucky, Kent State, at Miami

Miami, like the Wildcats themselves, is a wild card this season in the program's first year under Al Golden. The trip to Coral Gables, Fla., won't be easy for the Cats. The back end of Ron Prince's ambitious scheduling is nearly finished, but in the new Big 12 under Bill Snyder having opponents like Eastern Kentucky and Kent State will be more common.

9. Kansas -- McNeese State, Northern Illinois, at Georgia Tech

Kansas got its best win last season against defending ACC champs Georgia Tech, but the Yellowjackets disappointed the rest of the way and finished 6-7. Northern Illinois is a good MAC team capable of beating Kansas, but the Jayhawks should be able to handle McNeese State.

10. Texas Tech -- Texas State, at New Mexico, Nevada

Nevada loses franchise quarterback Colin Kaepernick and New Mexico has shown no reason it won't be dreadful once again after winning only two games in two years under Mike Locksley. Texas State, meanwhile, is adjusting to life in the FBS.

Brandon Weeden a Manning Award finalist

November, 30, 2010
11/30/10
9:45
AM ET
Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden is the only Big 12 member of the list of 10 finalists for the Manning Award, given to the top quarterback in college football.

It's the only award voted on after the bowl games, and takes quarterbacks' bowl game performances into account.

Texas' Colt McCoy won the award last season.

Here's the full list of finalists:
That's a pretty stacked list. Baylor's Robert Griffin III and Oklahoma's Landry Jones are usually in the conversation for discussions like these, but I'm not sure either of those guys have an argument to be on this list over anyone who made it.

Gabbert shows mettle in strong finishing effort

September, 26, 2009
9/26/09
12:46
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


Blaine Gabbert's development took another step forward Friday night.

The Missouri sophomore quarterback helped the Tigers blow the game open by orchestrating drives on four-straight possessions in the second half that enabled the Tigers to claim a 31-21 triumph over Nevada.

The Tigers put the game away in the second half by muscling through Nevada's defense on scoring drives of 80, 71, 97 and 51 yards.

Gabbert finished by passing for a career-best 414 yards and three touchdowns, making it look easy against a gasping Nevada secondary.

Some thought that Gabbert would crumble under the pressure of his first true road contest. The Wolf Pack ratcheted up the pressure by stacking the line to contain Missouri's running game, daring Gabbert to beat them with his arm.

He did just that, taking advantage of Danario Alexander running through the Nevada secondary for a career-best nine catches for 170 yards.

The game turned when Nevada running back Luke Lippincott fumbled at the Missouri 2-yard line on the second play of the fourth quarter. Nevada was trailing 21-13 and appeared poised to pull closer when linebacker Brian Coulter pounced on the fumble.

But instead, the Tigers took the ball 97 yards on a drive that was jump-started by two critical third-down conversions.

Gabbert confidently hooked up first with Alexander and then with Wes Kemp on plays deep in his own territory that young starting quarterbacks aren't supposed to be able to make.

The fumble marked the second straight season that Nevada appeared to have a Big 12 team on the ropes before a critical second-half miscue killed their momentum.

Last season, Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick fumbled at the Texas Tech goal line as the Wolf Pack were poised to take the lead over the Red Raiders. Graham Harrell took advantage of the break by driving for three touchdowns after the mistake to give them a 35-19 victory.

Lippincott's fumble was just as critical.

And Gabbert stepped on their throats to lead the clinching offensive burst -- just like Harrell did last season.

No wonder it seemed like every time I saw Nevada coach Chris Ault during the game, he was grimacing and yelling into his headset. Critical turnovers -- especially when they occur over and over -- have a way of irritating coaches.

Missouri-Nevada first-half analysis

September, 25, 2009
9/25/09
10:46
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are some of the trends I've noticed in Missouri's 12-7 halftime lead over Nevada.

Turning point: Blaine Gabbert eluded pressure and remained upright before hitting Danario Alexander for a 31-yard TD grab to enable Missouri to grab the halftime lead. The touchdown enabled the Tigers to overcome a sputtering start and take the lead at the break.

Stat of the half: Missouri has produced 20 yards of rushing offense in the first half, with 14 coming on one run by Jarrell Jackson. On Missouri's other 14 carries in the first half, they produced 6 rushing rushing yards, for an average of 0.4 yards per carry

Best player in the half: Missouri wide receiver Danario Alexander, who repeatedly ran free in the Nevada secondary against the smaller and seemingly slower Wolf Pack secondary. Alexander provided three clutch receptions for third-down conversions, including two catches on the scoring drive including the touchdown.

Best call: After struggling to keep Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick in check early in the game, the Tigers seemed more intent in covering him during the second quarter. The extra attention worked out as Kaepernick was only 2-for-7 with three sacks in the second quarter.

What Missouri needs to do: The Tigers were a different defensive team in the second quarter after stifling Kaepernick as the second quarter progesses. If that can continue and the Tigers can get their running game going, they should be able to escape Nevada's upset bid.

What Nevada needs to do: After losing leading rusher Vai Taua to an elbow injury after Nevada's first possession, the Wolf Pack need to develop enough passing to balance with their running game. The Wolf Pack had trouble with Missouri defensive coordiantor Dave Steckel's blitz packages as the game progresses and must protect Kaepernick better. And the defense, which played much better than expected, can't let the bigger and taller Missouri receivers wear them down as the game continues.

10 things to watch in the Big 12, Week 4

September, 24, 2009
9/24/09
7:41
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


Here are 10 things I'm looking forward to watching across the Big 12 this weekend:

1. Taylor Potts vs. Case Keenum in the weekend’s best aerial battle. Texas Tech travels to cozy Robertson Stadium on the campus of the University of Houston to meet up with the Cougars, who at No. 17, are ranked highest in the Associated Press poll since they were No. 10 on Sept. 12, 1991. Saturday’s game should be an aerial circus featuring two of the nation’s top-four passers. Their individual battle underscores the matchup between their two teams, who will be meeting for the first time since 1995 -- the last season of Southwest Conference play.

2. Blaine Gabbert’s first true road game: Missouri’s sophomore quarterback has his first start away from the state of Missouri as the Tigers travel to winless Nevada. Veteran Nevada coach Chris Ault will likely pack the box and force Gabbert to beat him with his arm. When the Tigers are balanced, Gabbert is extremely effective, leading the conference and ranking 11th nationally in passing efficiency. The Missouri defense ranks a pedestrian 86th nationally in pass defense and will be challenged by multi-talented Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

3. Kansas' stout run defense against Southern Mississippi’s Damion Fletcher: The improving Jayhawks defense will receive its biggest test of the preseason in the conference’s only battle of unbeaten teams. Kansas will be challenged by Southern Mississippi running back Damion Fletcher, who ranks 11th nationally in rushing (114.7 yards per game). The Jayhawks' defense ranks fourth nationally in sacks, sixth in scoring defense and eighth in rush defense, but will be facing its biggest challenge of the season so far.

4. Can Colt McCoy break his recent first-half slumps? Texas’ Heisman Trophy candidate has struggled through difficult first halves and has been victimized by four interceptions in his first three games after throwing only eight picks in 433 pass attempts last season. McCoy’s first halves so far this season have produced a pedestrian quarterback rating of 122.57, compared to 177.64 in the second half. He’ll be challenged by UTEP’s defense, which ranks 92nd in total defense. The game seems like a perfect salve for McCoy’s recent struggles.

5. Battle of the running attacks as Iowa State faces Army's option attack: The most consistent part of Iowa State’s offense has been its running game, which is averaging a potent 209 yards per game. Underrated Alexander Robinson has been the key with an average of 108.7 yards per game to rank second in the conference behind Roy Helu Jr. The Cyclones’ power will be countered by Army's traditional running attack, which ranks seventh nationally in rushing and features four backs who average at least 44 yards per game.

6. A Nebraska celebration of football: The Cornhuskers’ disappointing loss at Virginia Tech last week will be forgotten as the team returns for a big weekend to celebrate the school’s fanatical support. Saturday’s game will be the 300th consecutive home sellout in a remarkable streak that dates back to 1962. The Cornhuskers will be wearing some cool throwback uniforms and will be looking to win against Louisiana-Lafayette -- a team that has already notched one upset over a Big 12 team this season after beating Kansas State two weeks ago.

7. What will Uzoma Nwachukwu do for an encore? Texas A&M’s scintillating freshman wide receiver had a remarkable game last week against Utah State, touching the ball four times and scoring four touchdowns to set a school freshman one-game scoring record. With top receiver Jeff Fuller out up to six weeks with a cracked fibula, Nwachukwu will need to become a bigger part of the offense. The Aggies’ chances should be bolstered against 1-2 UAB, which has lost its last two games in a row and is allowing 333.7 passing yards a game to rank 118th nationally. Jerrod Johnson has to be excited about playing that leaky pass defense.

8. Can Brandon Banks return to Kansas State’s offense? The Wildcats have had trouble getting Banks open for the big gains that marked him last season as a junior. Banks ranks among the nation’s top 50 receivers with an average of 5.3 grabs per game. But his yard-per-catch average has dropped significantly from 15.7 last season to 8.3 this season. And he could be facing a bigger challenge than expected from FCS challenger Tennessee Tech, which is allowing only 128 yards passing per game. It's important to get Banks back and producing to balance Kansas State's offense.

9. Robert Griffin’s chance at redemption: The Baylor quarterback struggled through the worst game of his career last week, producing just 139 yards of total offense in the Bears' loss to Connecticut. If the Bears have any legitimate hopes of rebounding for a bowl trip, they need to get the production of their playmaker back. They start their comeback Saturday against Northwestern State, which has been singed in three straight losses to Houston, Grambling and North Dakota. It will also represent the return of Quentin Castille against Big 12 opponents. Castille, formerly of Nebraska, is Northwestern State’s second-leading rusher at 51.3 yards per game.

10. What Bill Young will do with Oklahoma State's struggling defense: After a strong effort in a season-opening victory over Georgia, Oklahoma State’s pass defense has disappeared in its last two games. The Cowboys have allowed their last two foes to complete an average of 30 passes for 333.5 yards per game. The slump has dropped Oklahoma State to 90th in total defense and 108th in pass defense. Grambling isn’t known for its passing attack as quarterback Greg Dillon has thrown for an average of 101.5 yards per game. But wily Oklahoma State coordinator Bill Young still needs to get the Cowboys back and productive for the beginning of conference play in two weeks.

Big 12 spectators' guide, Week 4

September, 23, 2009
9/23/09
9:51
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


Here’s a spectator’s guide for this weekend’s games. A ranking of four stars indicates must-see football. Three-star games are definitely worth an extensive investment in time. 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 watching your kids’ soccer games or taking care of some yardwork than hunkering down in front of the television.

Check out this list and plan your Saturday schedules accordingly. All times are for Saturday games unless otherwise noted.

Four-star games

Texas Tech at Houston (ESPN2, 9:15 p.m. ET): Stay up late for this offensive battle between underrated Case Keenum of Houston and Texas Tech’s Taylor Potts, who showed much moxie last week in his national coming-out party against Texas. The Cougars lead the nation in scoring and rank fourth in passing. Texas Tech leads the nation in passing.

Three-star games

Southern Mississippi at Kansas (noon): The streaking Jayhawks will be tested against Southern Mississippi, whose eight-game winning streak is tied with Mississippi behind only Florida’s 13-game streak. The Golden Eagles bring a lot of firepower with Damion Fletcher (11th nationally in rushing) and 6-foot-6 wide receiver DeAndre Brown, who Kansas coach Mark Mangino says will be the toughest receiver his team will face this season. Kansas will hope to continue building with a balanced offense that is the only team nationally to rank among the top 16 in rushing, scoring, passing offense and total offense.

Missouri at Nevada (ESPN, 9 p.m. Friday): The Tigers will face their first road challenge of the season against the 0-2 Wolf Pack, who have been an early disappointment after losing at Notre Dame and Colorado State. Sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert leads the Big 12 in passing efficiency, but will be challenged to match multitalented Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Nevada will try to dictate tempo with Vai Taua, who is tied for 21st nationally in rushing.

Two-star games

UTEP at Texas (3:30 p.m.): Emerging Longhorns should receive a break this week against the Miners, who lost twice at home before winning last week at New Mexico State. Texas should dictate the game against a UTEP offense that ranks 97th or worst in scoring offense, total offense and rushing and tied for 101st in sacks allowed. The Longhorns have won all three previous games in the series by a combined 92-13 margin.

Army at Iowa State (7 p.m.): Iowa State’s confidence will be tested by Army’s option-based ground attack which ranks seventh nationally with an average of 257.7 rushing yards per game. Iowa State will counter with Alexander Robinson, who ranks 15th nationally and has rushed for back-to-back 100-yard games. One item to watch will be Iowa State’s short defensive backs against 6-foot-10, 285-pound Army wide receiver Ali Villanueva, who is tied for his team's lead in receiving.

Louisiana-Lafayette at Nebraska (7 p.m.): This will be a celebration of all things Nebraska football as the Cornhuskers’ program celebrates its 300th consecutive sellout in a streak that dates to 1962. The Cornhuskers will wear throwback uniforms as they hope to rebound from last week’s disappointing loss at Virginia Tech. The Ragin’ Cajuns will be gunning for their second victory over a Big 12 school in three weeks with an offense that has not allowed a sack this season.

UAB at Texas A&M (7 p.m.): The Aggies should have another breather after easy victories over New Mexico and Utah State. Aggie linebacker Von Miller leads the nation in sacks and Jerrod Johnson is third in total offense. The Aggies shouldn’t be challenged by a Blazers team that has lost two straight and ranks 110th in total defense and 118th in pass defense.

One-star games

Tennessee Tech at Kansas State (1 p.m.): Kansas State hopes to stem a two-game losing streak against the Golden Eagles, coached by Watson Brown, older brother of Texas coach Mack Brown. Tennessee Tech created three turnovers and blocked a kick last week against Eastern Kentucky. But they’ll be challenged by the Wildcats, who will be facing their second FCS challenge after beating Massachusetts in the opener. Kansas State ranks among the bottom five teams nationally in sacks (118th) and tackles for losses (116th).

Northwestern State at Baylor (7 p.m.): Coach Art Briles’ team was shaken after the upset home loss against Connecticut last week. Robert Griffin is coming off his worst college game after producing a career-low 139 total yards against Connecticut. Northwestern State has lost its first three games, including a home loss to North Dakota last week. The Demons have struggled defensively, allowing 40 points per game. And Quentin Castille, formerly of Nebraska, is averaging 51.3 yards rushing per game.

Grambling State at Oklahoma State (7 p.m.): Oklahoma State hopes for more continuity in its final nonconference game. Their struggling pass defense (108th nationally) will be challenged by Grambling State quarterback Greg Dillon. Grambling has won two straight games but will be facing its only FBS challenge of the season in this game.

Big 12 grades: Sooners' Tulsa demolition earns highest marks

September, 22, 2009
9/22/09
7:37
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here’s a look at my Big 12 grade book for last week’s games.

Oklahoma: A-plus: Landry Jones broke the school record for touchdown passes and the defense notched its second-straight shutout in an impressive victory over Tulsa. The line is blocking better and Sam Bradford got another week of rest. Whether he plays in two weeks against Miami remains to be seen, but Jones and the offense will go into that game with some confidence after this performance.

Iowa State:A: Solid performance as Austen Arnaud showed resiliency bouncing back from his struggles of the previous week. The defense stymied Kent State throughout, forcing nine punts and denying them on 11 of their 12 third-down plays. It’s a nice building block to come out of Paul Rhoads’ first road game. He’s already been able to accomplish something that Gene Chizik never did at Iowa State.

Colorado: A: A simple defensive plan led to a shutout for a Buffaloes defense that had been gashed for 54 points against Toledo and was allowing an average of 500 yards per game before their victory over Wyoming. The offense showed some growth, too, with the strong running of Rodney Stewart keying the victory.

Missouri:A-minus: Blaine Gabbert bounced back from a struggling second performance to engineer a strong effort against Furman that featured six-straight scoring possession in the first half. The defense did allow 305 passing yards to the FCS Paladins and must improve for better success this week against Nevada and Colin Kaepernick. The game against the Wolf Pack should be the Tigers’ best non-conference challenge.

Kansas:A-minus: Slow start by the defense as they allowed a touchdown on Duke’s first possession and then cruised from there. The offense persevered despite Jake Sharp’s injury, although the running wasn’t quite as dominant as in the first two games. The Jayhawks need to show continued growth as they face Southern Mississippi this week.

Texas: B: Another slow first-half start featured a pedestrian effort by Colt McCoy with more interceptions than touchdown passes for the first time since his sophomore season. The defense showed a fearsome pass rush and Sergio Kindle finally got his first sack at a huge time. If the Longhorns could put two halves together, they might really be fearsome.

Texas A&M:B: The Aggies’ offense again was productive, likely owing more to the level of competition against Utah State than anything else. But the fast-paced attack has been strong so far and is something to build on heading into conference play. The defense will be another story and needs to prepare for its matchup with Ryan Mallett and Arkansas in two weeks.

Oklahoma State:B-minus: Zac Robinson had his best game of the season passing, as he targeted Dez Bryant early in the game and got him involved. The offensive line continues to be a concern as far as continuity. A big strength last season, it must improve to enable the Cowboys to fulfill those lofty offensive promises. And the defense limped home with its second-straight struggling performance, enabling Rice to pass for 301 yards and score three second-half touchdowns in a 41-24 triumph.

Nebraska:C-plus: It probably isn’t much consolation to Bo Pelini now, but the Cornhuskers outplayed Virginia Tech. Roy Helu Jr.’s running is a strong weapon, but the offense needed more consistency in the red zone. And the defense was good enough to beat the Hokies except for two plays – which unfortunately were the two plays that they needed to finish off in order to win.

Texas Tech: C: The Red Raiders played better than they typically do in Austin, but still didn’t have enough to win. Taylor Potts showed grittiness to go along with his 430 passing yards. And the defense wasn’t bad either – especially considering how undermanned it was at defensive end and safety. Problems with late turnovers and critical penalties eventually led to the loss. And they can’t afford to wallow in the disappointment with a tough game looming at underrated Houston.

Baylor: D: When Robert Griffin struggles, it usually means the Bears will have trouble. And that was case last week against Connecticut when Griffin accounted for a career-low 139 total yards. More troublesome was a supposedly rejuvenated run defense that yielded a pair of 100-yard backs for the first time since playing the Huskies last season. Throw in a couple of critical fumbles and it was a good indicator that the Bears’ bowl hopes aren’t quite as bright as we might have suspected.

Kansas State: D:Same old stuff happened again this week as the Wildcats’ offense struggled and their special teams weren’t very special again. UCLA confounded the Wildcats by clamping down on Daniel Thomas and forcing Carson Coffman to beat them with his arm. Coffman wasn’t able to do it as he directed them for only one touchdown and struggled with six sacks. The defense played better, but it’s clear the Wildcats need better across-the-board play offensively in order to be competitive in the Big 12.

Watch out for these nonconference foes in Big 12 North games

August, 26, 2009
8/26/09
8:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

College Football News published an interesting list of the top 200 players in college football a couple of weeks ago.

We earlier listed the Big 12 teams and their selections.

But here's a way to introduce you to some of the better players from the nonconference teams that Big 12 teams will be facing this season.

First, the Big 12 North Division and its nonconference opponents.

And don't say we didn't warn you about some of these players.


NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS
Florida Atlantic (Sept. 5): QB Rusty Smith (No. 89)Arkansas State (Sept. 12): DE Alex Carrington (No. 97), RB Reggie Arnold (No. 124), QB Corey Leonard (No. 129)at Virginia Tech (Sept. 19): QB Tyrod Taylor (No. 93), G Sergio Render (No. 98), CB Stephan Virgil (No. 147)Louisiana-Lafayette (Sept. 26): None
KANSAS JAYHAWKS
Northern Colorado (Sept. 5): Noneat UTEP (Sept. 12): QB Trevor Vittatoe (No. 163)Duke (Sept. 19): DT Vince Oghobaase (No. 102)Southern Mississippi (Sept. 26): RB Damion Fletcher (No. 67)
MISSOURI TIGERS
Illinois (at St. Louis, Sept. 5): WR Arrelious Been (No. 25), QB Juice Williams (No. 41), LB Martez Wilson (No. 174)Bowling Green (Sept. 12): NoneFurman (Sept. 19): Noneat Nevada (Sept. 25): QB Colin Kaepernick (No. 34), DE Kevin Basped (No. 149), DE Dontay Moch (No. 167), RB Vai Taua (No. 200)

COLORADO BUFFALOES
Colorado State (Sept. 6): Noneat Toledo (Sept. 11): SS Barry Church (No. 128)Wyoming (Sept. 19): DT John Fletcher (No. 161)at West Virginia (Oct. 1): RB Noel Devine (No. 75), LB Reed Williams (No. 96), DT Scooter Berry (No. 125), QB Jarrett Brown (No. 140)
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS
Massachusetts (Sept. 5): NoneLouisiana-Lafayette (Sept. 12): NoneUCLA (Sept. 19): DT Brian Price (No. 21), CB Alterraun Verner (No. 83), LB Reggie Carter (No. 107)Tennessee Tech (Sept. 26): None.
IOWA STATE CYCLONES
North Dakota State (Sept. 3): NoneIowa (Sept. 12): T Bryan Bulaga (No. 80), LB Pat Angerer (No. 177)at Kent State (Sept. 19): RB Eugene Jarvis (No. 94)Army (Sept. 26): None
Coming Thursday: The South Division and its nonconference opponents.

Three predictions for Missouri

August, 6, 2009
8/06/09
9:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

There's no doubt after spending a lot of time around Missouri players last week that they feel disrespected by preseason prognosticators who aren't picking them to contend in the North Division title race this season.

Sure, the Tigers lose players like Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman, Jeremy Maclin, William Moore, Ziggy Hood and Jeff Wolfert from their back-to-back title-game teams. All arguably are among the greatest players at their positions in school history.

Recruiting has picked up in recent years for the Tigers. And that infusion will have them be competitive in nearly every game this season.

But being able to contend for a third-straight appearance in the Big 12 championship game might be a different story -- particularly with the balance that should be present in the rest of the division this season.

Here's a look at three predictions for the Tigers this year.

1. There's no way that Missouri can escape the nonconference part of their schedule without at least one loss.

Illinois has lost all four games in the Missouri series since it returned to St. Louis in 2002. The Illini have been embarrassed by allowing an average of 46 points per game in the last two seasons. They will want revenge and with Juice Williams, they probably will get it this season.

And veteran Nevada coach Chris Ault still remembers how the Tigers ran up the score in a 69-17 loss at Columbia last season. The Wolf Pack will have their chance at revenge this season, buying quarterback Colin Kaepernick some exposure before a national television audience.

I'm expecting Missouri to lose at least one of those nonconference games. And it wouldn't be a shock to me if they lost both of them.

2. Blaine Gabbert won't be Chase Daniel, but he won't fare badly in his first season as starter.

There was some "Chicken Little" thinking among Missouri fans when Gabbert struggled during the spring game. Don't worry about him. By the middle of the season, I'm expecting him to be an accomplished Big 12 starter.

And even with the troubles I'm expecting for his team early, the Big 12 will be a different story. And if Gabbert can orchestrate a big victory over Nebraska on Oct. 8 in the Tigers' Big 12 opener, they might hang around the Big 12 North Division title race a lot longer than most are expecting.

3. Missouri will have five receivers who will produce at least 50 receptions this season.

The Tigers won't have Maclin, Coffman or Tommy Saunders this year. Don't look for as much concentration at the top of the receiving list, but expect a lot more balance. Danario Alexander, Wes Kemp, Andrew Jones, Jared Perry and even running back Derrick Washington are ready to step up as receivers this season. New coordinator David Yost's offensive strategy will feature a lot of producers.

Five games to fear in the Big 12

July, 13, 2009
7/13/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

There are several obvious games that are already noticeable that should carry an extra bit of trepidation for Big 12 teams as they prepare for the upcoming season. Even with Big 12 teams likely to be solidly favored in these games, here are five games that should come with a warning label considering the opponent and the circumstances of the game.

North Dakota State at Iowa State, Sept. 3: Craig Bohl will have the Bison fired up for their game in Ames. And he knows a little bit about beating the Cyclones, considering his history as a defensive coordinator at Nebraska.

This game has all the marking of one to worry about for the Cyclones. It's Paul Rhoads' first game as a head coach. The Bison have been tough in other road games at FCS teams in recent seasons, losing by three points at Wyoming last season, beating Minnesota and Central Michigan on the road in 2007 and losing by one point at Minnesota and beating Ball State on the road in 2006. Even with the talent disparity, this game might be closer than expected.

Rhoads should ask Colorado coach Dan Hawkins how much losing to an FCS team in your first game at a Big 12 school can ruin your first season. That 2006 opening-game loss to Montana State was a particularly bad start for Hawkins' coaching tenure there.

Houston at Oklahoma State, Sept. 12: This game is coming at a tricky time for Oklahoma State, which will be coming back for a second game after a huge emotional opener against Georgia the week before. The Cougars will have 5,000-yard passer Case Keenum along with 1,000-yard rusher Bryce Beall and 1,000-yard receiver Tyron Carrier among a group of 15 returning starters.

And not only do the Cougars return a lot of experience, but they also have a modicum of confidence against OSU. Houston led the Cowboys last season, 16-7, late in the first half before the Cowboys' offense blitzed them for four touchdowns in a span of barely 7½ minutes. If Houston can do a better job defensively this season, it could make Mike Gundy sweat against the preseason Conference USA West Division's favorites.

Kansas at UTEP, Sept. 12: The trip to the Sun Bowl might be a little more harrowing than expected for the Jayhawks.

UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe threw for 33 touchdown passes and 3,274 yards last season. The Miners also surround him with 14 other returning starters. If Vittatoe can stay protected, he might be able to singe the Jayhawks' questionable linebacking corps and perhaps win a shootout. Stranger things have happened -- particularly playing in front of what should be a sellout crowd at the Sun Bowl.

And here's a statistic to keep in mind before the game: The Jayhawks have lost their last three true nonconference road games and haven't claimed a nonconference road game since winning at Wyoming in 2003. Their trip to El Paso won't be a picnic.

Wyoming at Colorado, Sept. 19: On paper, this looks like a game the Buffaloes should easily win. But a couple of trends might prove to benefit new Wyoming coach Dave Christensen, who will be playing his first road game.

Christensen was the offensive coordinator of a Missouri team that beat Colorado by a combined margin of 113-10 over the past two seasons, including a 58-0 victory last season. He won't have Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin or Chase Coffman in this game, but he still has confidence of being successful against Colorado's defense.

The Cowboys won at Tennessee last season so they aren't intimidated by hostile road environments. They have 17 starters back, including eight defensive players who will be facing Colorado's defense with some confidence after strong play late last season.

Colorado has a history of struggling as a big favorite in previous nonconference home games, winning by seven against Eastern Washington last season and losing at home to Montana State in Hawkins' first game in 2006. The signs point to this being a game where the Buffaloes potentially could struggle.

Missouri at Nevada, Sept. 25: This Friday night game will set up nicely for veteran Nevada coach Chris Ault and the Wolf Pack, who will showcase their program on national television in this game.

Nevada has the explosive Pistol offense keyed by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the returning Western Athletic Conference player of the year who will be looking to make a national name for himself with a big performance. Also back are 2008 WAC leading rusher Vai Taua and 2007 leading rusher Luke Lippincott, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in the second game last year. And they'll be facing a retooled Missouri defense.

The Wolf Pack still remember a gadget pass for a touchdown by Missouri wide receiver Tommy Saunders when they were behind 45-17 midway through the third quarter of a game they eventually lost 69-17 in Columbia last season. Could revenge spur a better effort at home? It will be interesting to see if the Wolf Pack can similarly make the Tigers sweat in a game played at high altitude at Reno.

Ranking the best and worst of Big 12 nonconference schedules

June, 10, 2009
6/10/09
12:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Big 12 teams should be seldom tested before conference play begins as most teams again are opting to compete with a pillow-soft slate of opponents.

Here's the toughest and weakest of the Big 12 nonconference schedules:

1. Oklahoma: BYU (at Arlington, Texas), Idaho State, Tulsa, at Miami

The Sooners deserve props for adding the BYU game late. The nationally televised game should showcase Oklahoma's defense as it thwarts Max Hall and Harvey Unga for the Cougars. Idaho State is a bad Division I-AA team that went 1-11 last season. Tulsa and Miami both went to bowl games last season. The Golden Hurricane will be breaking in a new quarterback and a new coordinator -- not a good recipe for success for a road team at Owen Field. And although the game against Miami brings back memories of Jimmy Johnson vs. Barry Switzer, the fact is that the Hurricanes could be worn out by the time Oklahoma visits. Miami starts the season with a meat-grinder schedule of Florida State, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech before the Sooners visit.

2. Colorado: Colorado State, at Toledo, Wyoming, at West Virginia

Coach Dan Hawkins has this team pegged for good things in the conference. The Buffaloes will be tested by four FBS opponents, including two on the road. The rivalry game against Colorado State should be decided in the trenches and the Buffaloes' offensive line will be a load for the Rams. The Toledo game might be trickier than expected considering the Buffaloes will be playing this one only five days after the Colorado State game. But Colorado still should have the talent to prevail. Something tells me that Hawkins will remember that new Wyoming coach Dave Christensen's offense hung 113 points against his defense the last two seasons when he was at Missouri. And the West Virginia trip will be a challenge, although new Mountaineers quarterback Jarrett Brown is largely untested.

3. Missouri: Illinois (at St. Louis), Bowling Green, Furman, at Nevada

The Tigers' inexperienced defense will get a huge challenge in the opener against Illinois' pass-and-catch tandem of Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn. They'll be facing another experienced quarterback in three-year Bowling Green starter Tyler Sheehan, but the Falcons' defense will be breaking in two new cornerbacks. Furman has a talented quarterback in Jordan Sorrells, but the Paladin's defense shouldn't be able to match Missouri. The trip to Nevada might be a hornet's nest. The Wolf Pack have made four straight bowl trips, multi-purpose quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the Western Athletic Conference's last two leading rushers. And, oh, yeah, the Wolf Pack probably still remember that 69-17 beatdown to the Tigers last season in Columbia.

4. Nebraska: Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State, at Virginia Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette

No truth to the rumor that the Cornhuskers are gunning for the September version of the Sun Belt championship. Their road game at Virginia Tech is the toughest game that any Big 12 team will play this season. But Bo Pelini will have two games to get his defense ready for Tyrod Taylor and Co. Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger made his career name by beating the Cornhuskers in the 1984 Orange Bowl while at Miami. He won't be nearly as successful this time around. Arkansas State stunned Texas A&M last season, but the Red Wolves will be utilizing a new offensive line this season. And Louisiana-Lafayette's offense is very young and the Cornhuskers will be catching them the week after they have met up with LSU.

5. Oklahoma State: Georgia, Houston, Rice, Grambling

Four home games make for an ideal schedule for the Cowboys to make some national noise. The Georgia game will be arguably the biggest home nonconference game in school history. But the Cowboys grab a break as the Bulldogs try to break in new quarterback Joe Cox. Houston will have Case Keenum and a high-powered offensive attack, but the Cowboys blistered the Cougars for 56 points last year and could score more this season. Rice won't be as good this season after losing most of its offensive firepower. And Grambling has a great football history and an even better band.

6. Baylor: at Wake Forest, Connecticut, Northwestern State, Kent State

The nonconference schedule could determine whether the Bears can snap that long bowl drought. And it won't be an easy one considering that Baylor is the only Big 12 team with two opponents from "Big Six" conferences. The Wake Forest opener will be a huge test, but Robert Griffin might be able to feast on a depleted Demon Deacon defense that lost four starters to the NFL draft. The Bears nearly beat Connecticut last season on the road and the Huskies lose their starting quarterback and top rusher from that team. New coach Bradley Dale Peveto will bring new ideas for Northwestern State, but the Bears have a big edge. And Kent State will be breaking in a new quarterback for a team that has won only 19 games in the last five seasons under Doug Martin.

7. Kansas: Northern Colorado, at UTEP, Duke, Southern Mississippi

The Jayhawks should be able to name their margin against Northern Colorado in the opener. The trip to the Sun Bowl against UTEP the following week might be a different matter. UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe could be a challenge, although the Jayhawks should have enough firepower to outscore them. A Kansas-Duke game would be a made-for-national television delight in basketball. Football, however, is a different story. And Southern Mississippi might be poised to challenge for the Conference USA title and might be a chore with leading conference rusher Damion Fletcher and all of its starting secondary back to challenge Todd Reesing and Dezmon Briscoe.

8. Texas A&M: New Mexico, Utah State, UAB, Arkansas (at Arlington, Texas)

The Aggies desperately need to build confidence and collect a few victories before the South Division gauntlet begins. After last season's opening-game loss against Arkansas State, expect coach Mike Sherman to have the Aggies focused for all of the games. They catch new New Mexico coach Mike Locksley with an uncertain quarterback in the Lobos' opener. Utah State is universally picked to finish last in the Western Athletic Conference. UAB will be rebuilding its defense and likely won't pose many problems for Jerrod Johnson. But the game against Arkansas at
the new Dallas Cowboys' stadium will be a challenge for A&M's defense. The Razorbacks should be much improved in Bobby Petrino's second season. Fans are paying premium prices and expect big things from both teams. The Aggies may catch a break considering the Razorbacks will play SEC contenders Georgia and Alabama in their previous two weeks.

9. Texas Tech: North Dakota, Rice, at Houston, New Mexico

Mike Leach's nonconference schedule won't be as bad as last season's trip to the pastry wagon, but not by much. North Dakota is transitioning into FCS status this season after ranking 137th among the 148 Division II passing teams last season. Sounds like target practice for Taylor Potts, doesn't it? Rice won't be nearly as tough as last season without James Casey, Jarrett Dillard and Chase Clement gone. The trip to Houston will be Tech's biggest challenge and Case Keenum will test Tech's rebuilt secondary in the first battle between the old Southwest Conference rivals since 1995. And New Mexico will have had several weeks to work under Locksley's system, making them a tougher challenge for the Red Raiders in early October.

10. Texas: Louisiana-Monroe, at Wyoming, UTEP, Central Florida

The Longhorns had a couple of game against Utah and Arkansas fall through in their planning. But don't expect the Longhorns to get that much sympathy for a group of opponents that won't give them much BCS bounce. Louisiana-Monroe will be breaking in a retooled offense with a new quarterback. The road trip to Wyoming doesn't resonate like some the Longhorns have made to places like Ohio State and Arkansas in recent seasons. The Cowboys will be breaking in a new quarterback, too. UTEP could contend for the Conference USA West title, but the Miners are a different team on the road. And the Nov. 7 game against Central Florida will bring the nation's worst offensive team from last season into Austin.

11. Iowa State: North Dakota State, Iowa, at Kent State, Army

Paul Rhoads doesn't want any surprises early in his first season and his nonconference schedule. North Dakota State has posed problems to FBS teams like Minnesota in the past. Iowa doesn't have Shonn Greene back, but has almost everybody else back on a stout defense that will challenge the Cyclones. Mighty mite 5-foot-5, 170-pound tailback Eugene Jarvis will test ISU's defense and the trip to Kent State won't be a gimme. And new Army coach Rich Ellerson will bring 6-10, 283-pound wide receiver Ali Villanueva along with starting quarterback Chip Bowden from a team that won three games last season.

12. Kansas State: Massachusetts, at Louisiana-Lafayette, at UCLA, Tennessee Tech

The schedule doesn't provide as many gooey treats as some that Bill Snyder's teams have feasted on in the past, but it's still nothing to write home about. Massachusetts is a contender in the CAA, which is the toughest top-to-bottom FCS conference in the nation. Louisiana-Lafayette will have to replace a lot of offensive talent, but can be troublesome at Cajun Field. UCLA struggled offensively last year and will be breaking in a new quarterback with four new offensive linemen. KSU might be able to compete in that one better than most might think. And Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown, older brother of Texas coach Mack Brown, returns a talented pass-and-catch combination of Lee Sweeney and Tim Benford. KSU still should roll, however.

Tags:

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My Big 12 dream schedule for 2009

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
2:43
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It's never too early to start thinking about the upcoming season and the games that the Big 12 will provide.

During a flight of fancy last night, I sat down and plotted my ultimate dream schedule if I could watch what I now consider the best game every week.

Here's my list, including a running total of the miles I would travel from my San Antonio home:

Week 1: Georgia at Oklahoma State, Sept. 5 -- This might be the best nonconference game of the season for a Big 12 team as Mike Gundy's Cowboys face the Bulldogs. It should be a clash of two top 20 teams in the season opener. We'll get an early opportunity to see whether the Cowboys are as legitimate as their preseason publicity might suggest.

  • Other games I considered: Oklahoma vs. Brigham Young (at Arlington), Illinois-Missouri (at St. Louis), Colorado State at Colorado.
  • Round-trip mileage from San Antonio to Stillwater: 934 miles

(Read full post)

Big 12 picks: Not as easy as last week, for obvious reasons

September, 11, 2008
9/11/08
10:00
AM ET

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:

FRIDAY

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.

SATURDAY

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).

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