Big 12: J.B. Gerald

Big 12 predictions, Week 5

October, 1, 2009
10/01/09
8:36
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


Oh, so close to perfection last week.

I came close to my first perfect week of the season, missing only on Texas Tech’s late collapse at Houston.

I’m hoping for better luck this time around with an abbreviated schedule of six games that will only feature seven Big 12 teams in action.

Here are my picks:

West Virginia 34, Colorado 17: The Mountaineers will be intent on gaining revenge for their loss last season in Boulder, along with bouncing back from their recent loss at Auburn. The Buffaloes should have Darrell Scott and Rodney Stewart close to 100 percent, although they should struggle against West Virginia’s imposing run defense. West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown is looking for some retribution after he was knocked out of the Auburn game after earlier contributing five turnovers. Look for the Mountaineers to try to dictate tempo by running Noel Devine (16th nationally in rushing) against a weak Colorado rush defense (103rd nationally). West Virginia has too many weapons to keep this from being very competitive.

Iowa State 27, Kansas State 24: The winner of "Farmageddon" at Arrowhead Stadium will take an early step to staying out of the Big 12 North cellar and perhaps contending for a bowl berth. Austen Arnaud has played better in recent games and Alexander Robinson's cutback style has emerged in Tom Herman’s running attack. The Cyclones will face an underrated Kansas State defense that ranks among the top 26 teams in each of the major statistical categories of rush defense, pass defense, total defense and scoring defense. In order to be successful, Arnaud will have to make some plays and stay away from turnovers. But in the end, this game will be settled in the special teams. Kansas State needs to get Brandon Banks involved and Iowa State hopes that Mike Brandtner’s directional punting keeps the Wildcats bottled up. I like Iowa State by a small margin because it has better kicking with Grant Mahoney over Josh Cherry.

Texas Tech 56, New Mexico 20: “The Dysfunctional Bowl” will feature two programs that have been featured in the headlines for reasons off the football field. New Mexico coach Mike Locksley scuffled with his assistant J.B. Gerald while Mike Leach banned Twitter usage among his players after some critical comments were made about him by players after their tough loss at Houston last week. The Red Raiders have way too much offense in this one. Taylor Potts and the Tech offense should be able to pile up the points and yards -- particularly if the Red Raiders’ running game emerges again. The weak New Mexico defense ranks 111th on the ground and 107th or worse in the other three major defensive categories. Everything will be peachy for the Red Raiders after a big win in this one.

Baylor 34, Kent State 14: It will be interesting to see how the Bears approach this game after losing quarterback Robert Griffin to a season-ending knee injury and backup Blake Szymanski’s uncertain status with a bruised shoulder. The Bears still have enough offensive weapons to win, particularly against a Kent State defense that allowed 552 yards last week, but produced five turnovers in a 29-19 victory over Miami (Ohio). I’m expecting Baylor to lean on its rushing attack keyed by Jarred Salubi and Terrance Ganaway to dictate the game for the Bears. The loss of Griffin will hurt, but Baylor still has too many weapons to worry in this one.

Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 34: Texas A&M hasn’t faced a top-notch defense and has posted some monster offensive and defensive numbers attributable to its weak competition. That won’t be the case in this one as the Aggies will face a potent Arkansas passing offense keyed by Ryan Mallett and Greg Childs. In the end, Jerrod Johnson, Ryan Tannehill and Uzoma Nwachukwu should be able to exploit a weak Arkansas pass defense that has played better teams, but still ranks 119th nationally in pass efficiency defense.

Oklahoma 24, Miami 14: The big question all week is whether we will see Sam Bradford back in the lineup. The Sooners likely don’t need him -- particularly if backup Landry Jones shows the form he employed in his record-breaking start against Tulsa. And he has a playmaking Oklahoma defense that has been responsible for 12 sacks and nine takeaways primed for the challenge. Miami is coming to the end of the nation’s toughest four-game scheduling gauntlet to start the season. Virginia Tech's defense showed some cracks in Miami's offense as Jacory Harris struggled through a miserable game. And it won’t be any easier this week when the Sooners bring one of the nation’s best defenses to Land Shark Stadium.

Last Week: 9-1 (90 percent)

Season: 35-9 (77.3 percent)

What to watch in the Big 12, Week 5

October, 1, 2009
10/01/09
7:37
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


Here are 10 things to watch for in Big 12 games this weekend:

1. Will Sam Bradford play or not? Oklahoma didn’t look like it needed Bradford in back-to-back victories over Idaho State and Tulsa. A trip to Land Shark Stadium Saturday night against Miami might be different. The Sooners offense hummed when Landry Jones threw for a school-record six touchdown passes against Tulsa. It might be in for a more challenging game against Miami, which will be looking to bounce back after the its struggles last week at Virginia Tech.

2. Oklahoma’s defensive dominance: The Sooners enter the game with a scoreless streak of 123 minutes, 3 seconds after posting back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1987. The unit is still haunted by the late touchdown it allowed in the opener against BYU that ended up being the difference in that loss. Since then, the Sooners have forced nearly as many punts (19) as first downs allowed (22), and allowed opponents a scant 2.39 yards per snap. Miami, however, will be a different challenge with Jacory Harris, Graig Cooper, Javarris James and Leonard Hankerson all ready.

3. Texas A&M’s first big test: The Aggies have emerged as one of the nation’s biggest statistical surprises as they rank among the top seven teams nationally in rushing, passing, total yards and scoring and lead the nation in sacks. Those feats have all been accomplished against a tissue-soft schedule that hasn’t provided a true test yet. That will all change Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium as Arkansas and massive quarterback Ryan Mallett will challenge A&M in ways it hasn't seen yet this season.

4. Jerrod Johnson: The Aggies’ junior quarterback has shown vast growth since last season as he ranks third in the nation in total offense and is coming off a record game where he accounted for six touchdowns against UAB. Johnson has rushed for four touchdowns, passed for nine touchdowns and yet to be intercepted in 111 attempts this season. Arkansas will be his first BCS conference opponent of the season, but the Razorbacks have struggled against the pass. It could be more of the same for them against Johnson, too.

5. Alexander Robinson’s amazing recent rushing streak: Robinson’s cutback running has been a key to Iowa State’s 3-1 start as he’s rushed for 100 yards in his last three games -- the first Iowa State player to accomplish that feat since Ennis Haywood rushed for at least 100 yards in his first four games of the 2000 season. Robinson has provided some nice balance to what was expected to be a pass-heavy attack. His production will be pivotal as the Cyclones attempt to take a big step toward getting closer to bowl eligibility against Kansas State on Saturday.

6. Paul Rhoads vs. Bill Snyder: The conference’s two new coaches this season have a wide difference in coaching game experience as Kansas State’s Bill Snyder will be directing the Wildcats in his 209th career game and Paul Rhoads will be coaching Iowa State in his fourth. There’s some history between these two as Snyder used to recruit the high schools where Rhoads’ father, Cecil, worked during Rhoads' Hall of Fame career as a high school coach in Iowa. It will be interesting to see if Snyder’s experience provides him an edge in this matchup.

7. “The Dysfunctional Bowl:” Which coach has faced more off-the-field headlines this weekend? Is it Mike Leach’s Texas Tech team that dropped a disappointing loss at Houston, soon followed by the indefinite suspension of team captain Brandon Carter and Leach's banning of his team’s tweeting privileges after several uncomplimentary remarks became widely known. Or is it New Mexico’s Mike Locksley, who has received verbal and written reprimands from his superiors at New Mexico after splitting the upper lip of receivers coach J.B. Gerald after an altercation where a police report was filed. And that’s on top of an 0-4 start for the Lobos. It’s obvious that playing the game will be a relief for both coaches.

8. Texas Tech’s emerging running game: The Red Raiders appeared to have taken control of the game against Houston behind a bruising running game, keyed by a career night by Baron Batch, who rushed for a career-best 114 yards last week. Tech inexplicably got away from running the ball late in the Houston game and that switch might have cost them the game after the Red Raiders appeared to have dictated tempo during the middle of the game. They will have another chance Saturday against New Mexico, which ranks 111th in rushing defense and allowed 245 rushing yards to Texas A&M and 298 to Air Force earlier this season. The Red Raiders won’t run for that much, but they should be able to control the trenches against the Lobos, leading to a big game rushing if they want it.

9. Can Colorado build on its first 2009 victory? The Buffaloes are coming off a bye week after their triumph over Wyoming that turned some of Dan Hawkins’ self-described “conflama” that had dogged his program after two losses to start the season. His team will be facing a tough Thursday night challenge against West Virginia, which blew a fourth-quarter lead in the turnover-marred loss at Auburn. Colorado is a huge underdog in this game and will need a big effort to keep the game from getting away like earlier nationally televised losses to Colorado State and Toledo.

10. Baylor’s injury-plagued quarterbacks: Robert Griffin sustained a season-ending knee injury last week against Northwestern State. His backup, Blake Szymanski, bruised his shoulder later in the game and is listed as day to day. Szymanski will try to keep Baylor’s momentum going against Kent State, if he’s healthy. But if he can’t play, freshman Nick Florence will make the first start of his career against the Golden Flashes. Baylor’s bowl hopes -- so bright after their upset victory over Wake Forest to start the season -- have never looked more evanescent since Griffin’s injury.

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