Big 12: Johnathan Franklin

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl keys

December, 27, 2012
Let's take a look at three keys for tonight's Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl.

1. Win the ground battle. Johnathan Franklin is a more established force, but Lache Seastrunk proved he can be plenty productive on the ground late in the season. Simply put, the team that runs the ball more effectively in this game will win. Somebody's likely to break open a double-digit lead at some point, and if you can't run the ball consistently, that lead is going to disappear very quickly. Both of these offenses can hang points in a hurry, so you better be able to do so while also running the clock and minimizing risk.

2. Limit (or exploit) the big plays. Nobody in college football is more effective at throwing the ball downfield than Baylor. The Bears are at their best and very, very hard to beat when Nick Florence is hitting Biletnikoff Award finalist Terrance Williams downfield or finding Tevin Reese. Williams has 26 catches this season longer than 20 yards downfield and 14 grabs longer than 40 yards, both more than any other player in FBS. Florence's 19 touchdown passes longer than 20 yards lead the FBS (Robert Griffin III had 22 last season), and Baylor also had an FBS-best 19 touchdown drives of less than a minute this season. If Baylor can keep that pace, it's going to win. If UCLA slows down those quick strikes, Baylor's penchant for turnovers may surface on lengthy drives.

3. Battle of the UCLA backfield. Penetration and lots of bodies around the line of scrimmage is a good way to cover the zone read, and when Brett Hundley gets that going, the UCLA running game looks nearly impossible to stop. He rushed for a season-high 83 yards in a near upset of Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game. Ultimately, the zone read is all about the backside defensive end, but Baylor needs to slow that package down to keep UCLA's offense in check. Truthfully, I don't like Baylor's chances of slowing down Franklin much, but it's going to be a lot easier if the Bears get some help to that DE and keep UCLA running the ball in more traditional ways.

Pregame: Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl

December, 27, 2012
UCLA (9-4, 6-3 Pac-12) vs. Baylor (7-5, 4-5 Big 12)

Who to watch: Baylor has been ridiculously good on offense all season, but it got even better over the homestretch when running back Lache Seastrunk, an Oregon transfer, asserted himself, eclipsing 100 yards rushing in four of his final five games (and the fifth was a 91 yards, three TD performance at Oklahoma). He's already popped off about winning the Heisman in 2013. With a good running game, life gets even easier for the high-flying pass-catch tandem of QB Nick Florence and receiver Terrance Williams. On the other side of the ball, UCLA QB Brett Hundley and running back Johnathan Franklin will be charged with keeping up. Franklin should eclipse 200 yards in this game.

What to watch: As noted, Baylor ranks among the nation's leaders in just about every offensive category. But on the other side of the ball, Baylor is among the nation's worst. The Bears rank 119th in the nation in total defense and 115th in scoring defense. They are really, really bad on defense. Think Colorado bad. UCLA is good on offense and solid-to-mediocre on defense. The question, really, is does the Bruins good-to-solid on both sides of the ball outperform the lopsided Bears, who entirely rely on their ludicrous speed offense to outscore foes.

Why to watch: Isn't it obvious? Do you recall the Baylor-Washington Alamo Bowl from a year ago? This could be a scoring fest. Both teams are talented on offense and like to play fast and both seemed to peak over the latter half of the season. Baylor's chances improved when UCLA safety Tevin McDonald was suspended for breaking team rules. It could come down to turnovers, as wasted possessions could prove critical. It's difficult to look at this matchup and not anticipate a highly-entertaining game.

Prediction: While losing McDonald is a significant blow to the pass defense, UCLA has enough talent on defense to slow the Bears down and perhaps to make any turnovers or miscues critical. The Bruins should get at handful of stops. The question is will it be enough for Franklin and Hundley? We expect this one to go deep into the fourth quarter. UCLA 42, Baylor 40.

Take 3: Pac-12 vs. Big 12

December, 26, 2012
The Pac-12 and Big 12 have three bowl games coming up -- including a BCS showdown in the Fiesta Bowl between a pair of top-five teams. David Ubben of the Big 12 blog and Ted Miller and Kevin Gemmell of the Pac-12 blog break down which of the three they are most looking forward to.

Ted Miller: It's not just that the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl matches top-five teams. And it's not just Oregon's and Kansas State's star power, with Wildcats QB Collin Klein, a Heisman Trophy finalist, and All American LB Arthur Brown on one side, and Ducks All-American RB Kenjon Barner and QB Marcus Mariota, a future Heisman finalist, on the other. Nor is it just the two coaches, old school Bill Snyder and new old school Chip Kelly, who many feel is headed to the NFL after this game.

Nor is it only that Pac-12 vs. Big 12 bragging rights hang heavily in the balance.

It's that you've got to love a game that has karmic significance.

Oregon and Kansas State were supposed to play this year. They had a home-and-home game contract. But then Oregon had a chance to play LSU to open the 2011 season and, well, then folks go all interpretive. Oregon fans see Kansas State as the Fraidy Cats, who took an opportunity to run away from a series instead of re-working it. Kansas State folks see logistical complications that forced their hand and, heck, it was the Ducks that first asked for an adjustment anyway.

Oregon is more than a touchdown favorite. You look at the two rosters, and it's not difficult to see a Ducks victory. And yet … who does karma favor?

Will the trash talk -- who me? -- between the fan bases come back to haunt Oregon? Will the Wildcats be vindicated? Let's just say the winner will provide more than the usual raspberries toward the other after the game.

And that is great fun.

David Ubben: I don’t know how you boys do it on the West Coast, but here in Big 12 country, we love offense. I didn’t put West Virginia 70, Baylor 63 on my best games of the year on accident. The last time Baylor got together with a Pac-12 team, I seem to remember all kinds of awesome stuff happening.

When Baylor and UCLA tangle in the Holiday Bowl, we can expect some similar fireworks, and some of them will even come courtesy of a player Pac-12 folks are surely familiar with: Lache Seastrunk. Baylor committed to him as its featured back down the stretch and he looked the part of the Big 12’s best back over the last month of the season, rushing for 693 yards and five touchdowns in his last five games. Everybody knows about Nick Florence (the nation’s leader in total offense) and Terrance Williams (the nation’s leading receiver), but this game may very well be about Seastrunk breaking out on a national scale. I’d like to see that. With apologies to offensive lineman Cyril Richardson, Seastrunk’s probably going to beat out receiver Tevin Reese as the best returning piece of this powerful offense.

Baylor doesn’t have a Heisman winner like RG3 who joined Terrance Ganaway in running away with that memorable Alamo Bowl win over Washington, but Seastrunk says he’s going to win it in 2013. I’m not going to be the one who says he can’t. UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin and Brett Hundley will be pretty fantastic foes for the Bears, but I can’t wait to see this showcase of offense.

Kevin Gemmell: Yes, David, we love our offense too. In fact, so much so that one of the most prominent offenses in football is named after the West Coast (which several Pac-12 teams run). But we can also play defense. And that is going to be the difference when Oregon State and Texas square off in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

The "Who's Going to Play Quarterback Bowl" finally has its starters -- Cody Vaz for the Beavers and David Ash for the Longhorns. But despite the fact that Oregon State has one of the most explosive wide receiver duos in the country in Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks -- I believe it's going to be the defense that carries the day for the Beavers. We know that Ash has had his troubles. And a struggling quarterback against an Oregon State secondary that ranks sixth nationally in interceptions doesn't bode well. Cornerback Jordan Poyer leads the way with seven picks this year -- that's second nationally.

Only two teams allowed more tackles for a loss this year than Texas and Oregon State is allowing opponents to convert third downs at just 29 percent. Say bonjour to Scott Crichton and Michael Doctor.

Yes, these two other games will be very offensive-centric. And that's going to make for a heck of a lot of holiday fun. This game will likely lack the offensive sizzle of the other two. There are no Heisman Trophy finalists (or players declaring they are going to win the Heisman next year). And that's OK, because there are those of us on the West Coast who still enjoy and appreciate a little bit of defense. And Oregon State's is nasty.

A closer look: Holiday Bowl

December, 12, 2012
As the bowl season approaches, we're going to be looking a little closer at each game. We'll go down the Big 12 bowl schedule in chronological order. Let's start with the Baylor Bears' date with UCLA.


Baylor (7-5) vs. No. 17 UCLA (9-4)

Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif.

When: Thursday, Dec. 27, 9:45 p.m. ET


About Baylor: Nobody knew for sure what was in store for Baylor after not only losing Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, but also the Big 12's leading receiver and fellow first-round draft pick Kendall Wright, and the Big 12's leading rusher, Terrance Ganaway. What we learned was Art Briles truly is a master of offense and quarterback development. The Bears enter this game as the hottest team in the Big 12, fresh off a dominant win over then-No. 1 Kansas State and wins over Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. Baylor looked very unlikely to crack the postseason sitting at 4-5 with three solid teams ahead. Then the Bears proved us all wrong and finished the season with the nation's No. 1 offense.

About UCLA: The first season under Jim Mora Jr. has gone better than almost anyone could have figured. The Bruins drew chuckles when they hired a coach with just one season of college experience among his two-plus decades in coaching, and even that was only GA experience at his alma mater, Washington. The longtime NFL coach proved himself in his first season, helping UCLA reach the Pac-12 title game. A loss to Stanford denied the Bruins a Rose Bowl bid, but there's no question that Mora's first season has been a success.

Bears to watch: The headliner is quarterback Nick Florence, the nation's leader in total offense. He's shown a propensity to toss a pick or two (his 13 are more than all Big 12 QBs except Texas Tech's Seth Doege), but he's a lot more than the only Bear to keep an eye on. Running back Lache Seastrunk broke out late in the season, rushing for 693 yards and five scores in the final five games of the season, grabbing a starting role and looking like the hottest player in the league to end the season. Receiver Terrance Williams is an All-American, the nation's leader in receiving yardage and a Biletnikoff Award finalist. Defensively, linebacker Eddie Lackey grabbed a pair of Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors after returning picks for scores in each of Baylor's final two games.

Bruins to watch: UCLA loves the zone read and quarterback Brett Hundley was a breakout star in the Pac-12 this season. So was running back Johnathan Franklin, who racked up 1,700 yards to finish ninth nationally in rushing. That would have led the Big 12. Hundley threw for 26 touchdowns and ran for nine more. If Baylor's going to win this game, it starts with slowing down those two.

Did you know? Baylor's offense doesn't mess around. The Bears have nine touchdown drives this season that lasted exactly one play. That's ridiculous. Baylor also has 16 touchdown drives that lasted three plays or less. The biggest reason for that? Williams and fellow receiver Tevin Reese. Williams' 22 catches longer than 30 yards are eight more than any player in the country, and Reese is eighth nationally with eight grabs of 40 yards or longer. Another reason for BU's success? The Bears were a rousing minus-11 in turnover margin during their 0-4 start in Big 12 play. Since then, the Bears are plus-10 and went 4-1 in Big 12 play down the stretch.

Thoughts on the Big 12 bowl matchups

December, 5, 2012
We've got lots of time to talk bowls before they begin, but here's a few thoughts on how the Big 12 looks in each matchup heading into the postseason.

  • I mentioned this in my One Good Thing video from Monday, but the BCS' snub of Oklahoma might end up helping the Big 12 on the field, though it's certainly a hit in the checkbook. With every Big 12 team moving down a notch in the bowl pecking order, the matchups shifted heavily in favor of the Big 12 in several matchups. In many ways, conferences seal their reputations in the bowl season. For the Big 12, which was largely untested in nonconference play, this will be especially true.
  • Just like last season's Fiesta Bowl, the Big 12 and Pac-12 will play the best game outside of the title game pitting two teams that had national championship aspirations. Oklahoma State and Stanford played a classic last season in overtime. I'd expect Kansas State and Oregon to do the same this year in a gorgeous venue in Glendale, Ariz. K-State is an eight-point underdog, which is no surprise. Nobody in the Big 12 has the kind of speed backs Oregon does. The pace won't cause K-State to struggle, but we'll have a good idea how the Wildcats will handle that speed in the first quarter or so. Tough to tell this far out. K-State has never played a team like this before. Nobody's got speed in the backfield like Oregon.
  • [+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
    AP Photo/Aaron M. SprecherJohnny Manziel makes this Texas A&M team different from those against which Bob Stoops went 11-2.
    Meanwhile, the Cotton Bowl is the bowl season's next-best matchup, matching the Sooners against Texas A&M. It'll be another high-exposure game for the Big 12. The hard truth: The league's reputation this year will be made in those games. How you play against top-level competition decides that, and these are big-time matchups a whole lot of people want to see. Bob Stoops is 11-2 versus the Aggies, but this is a very different A&M team, probably the best he'll have seen, and the third Heisman candidate he'll have faced. Oklahoma's defense has struggled with mobile quarterbacks for a long while, even when Mike Stoops was the defensive coordinator. The Sooners will have to score a whole lot to win this one as a four-point underdog.
  • Baylor and UCLA? Nothing but fun in the Holiday Bowl. I can't wait. So much offense. Quarterback Brett Hundley is so fun to watch, and Johnathan Franklin's balance is amazing. He's got NFL back written all over him. You know about Baylor's offense. First one to 50 wins.
  • The biggest of the bowl lines in the Big 12? Oklahoma State, a 17-point favorite against Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. It's legit, though I do love referring to this game as the Zombie Cotton Bowl. The Boilermakers don't have a coach and were 3-6 and 0-5 in Big Ten play before ripping off a three-game winning streak against titans Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. If OSU can get beyond this business about getting dropped in the bowl pecking order (and keep coach Mike Gundy), it should be fine.
  • Florida over Louisville and the game mentioned above are the only ones with a bigger line this bowl season than Texas Tech, a two-touchdown favorite against another 6-6 team from the Big Ten, Minnesota. This one might be closer than we expect. Texas Tech is talented, but what have the Red Raiders done in the latter half of the season to make you believe they can roll over anyone? Kansas very nearly beat them, and perhaps should have. My gut says Tech rolls with a month to prepare for a bowl game after missing out last season, but don't be surprised if this one is tight.
  • Woof. Iowa State and Tulsa. I will watch this game because it's my job, but don't expect me to enjoy it. I hate rematches a whole lot. I do think it's a toss-up, and some late drama might spice this one up. Sometimes, the games you never expect are the games that turn out to be the most fun. (Hey there, Baylor vs. Kansas State!)
  • The weather will be interesting to watch in the Pinstripe Bowl. I love Syracuse's balance, and this game will have lots of points, too, but a bunch of Florida boys at West Virginia out in the cold at Yankee Stadium? Gotta look out for the upset, especially in a bowl game that falls well short of what WVU was dreaming about early this season.
  • I'm a little surprised Oregon State's not a bigger Alamo Bowl favorite against a Texas team that looked pretty underwhelming down the stretch, but I'm really intrigued to see what Texas does at quarterback. The guess here is Case McCoy, but I'd expect a pretty heated competition in the bowl practices. I still believe David Ash is the long-term guy for the Horns, but do you risk losing McCoy if you don't give him a fair shot? He turned the ball over against K-State, sure, but he also completed a whole bunch of passes, and I don't think he did enough to lose the gig.
  • TCU and Michigan State will look nothing like the football we're accustomed to seeing in the Big 12. Lots of pounding from MSU. Lots of zone read from TCU. Not a lot of passing. The Frogs are a two-point favorite and this is one of a handful of tossups. Whoever turns the ball over least wins this one. TCU racks up tons of takeaways ... and giveaways. I'm oddly excited for this game, and to see what differences there are between the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, and its predecessor, the Insight Bowl.

Big 12 Heisman Watch: Week 4

September, 18, 2012
Here's who I've got as the Big 12's best Heisman hopes through three weeks of games.

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Smith should take over the spot as the front-runner for the award after a crazy-good two games and a USC loss in which Matt Barkley played awful. Smith has accounted for 10 touchdowns (nine passing, one rushing) and thrown just nine incompletions. West Virginia's two wins have been no-doubters fueled by the offense, and Smith is second nationally in passer rating and fourth in touchdowns.

2. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Klein's Cats have had a pair of slow starts, but he made a big impression in K-State's win over Miami. He had a pretty good outing against North Texas, completing 15 of 20 passes for 230 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also added 85 yards rushing and a touchdown on 11 carries. Good enough. Klein is still a dark horse, but if he goes into Norman and wins? Look out.

3. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Jones is on this list in name only so far this season. He has been underwhelming through two games, but the Sooners are still in the top 10 and Jones has big name recognition. If he has a big game in the Sooners' first real test -- Kansas State -- he'll get back in the mix. Through two games, though, Jones is completing just 62.5 percent of his passes (40-of-64) for 474 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.

4. Tavon Austin, WR/KR/PR, West Virginia: Austin has been overshadowed a bit by his more traditional teammate, Stedman Bailey, but has put up some good numbers through two games, too. He's caught 21 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns, but was quiet in the return game on Saturday, not returning a punt and taking his only kick return just 8 yards. Bailey has put up bigger numbers in the receiving game, but traditional receivers have zero chance to win the Heisman. If Austin makes noise in the return game, he could get in the mix.

Here's how I voted in this week's ESPN Heisman Watch:
  1. Geno Smith, QB, WVU
  2. De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
  3. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
  4. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
  5. Matt Barkley, QB, USC -- Completely silly to think Barkley is out of this race with one bad game and one loss. Take a look at what happened to RG3 last season.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Garrett Gilbert hung around Joe Jamail Field a little longer than his teammates, who walked slowly underneath the south bleachers into the locker room. He did the same, but slower and with his eyes fixed on a soon-to-be-hoarse section of delirious UCLA fans celebrating and chanting "U-C...L-A" over the half-hearted rendition of "Eyes of Texas" that sounded so much sweeter in Lubbock a week ago.

The last time Gilbert endured a loss, he threw four interceptions and added a fumble. This time, he threw just one, but added a fumble on a sack from his blind side similar to the one that ended Texas' comeback hopes in the national title game.

"I can't turn the ball over like that," Gilbert said. "That's on me."

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images"Turnovers are what loses games," said Mack Brown after his team committed five of them, " and we lost this game more than we had a chance to win it."
The interception -- a pass to an open James Kirkendoll that never cleared a roaming linebacker underneath -- was on Gilbert, but most of the other mistakes weren't. No. 7 Texas did very little right and most things wrong in a stunning 34-12 loss to UCLA, a team who was beaten 35-0 on its home field by Stanford two weeks earlier.

"There's probably 15 [mistakes] and they're all bothersome," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "Turnovers are what loses games, and we lost this game more than we had a chance to win it."

There were five in all, and three in the first half. None were more embarrassing, albeit meaningless, than a miscommunicated kickoff return in the final minute after a late UCLA touchdown provided the final margin.

In the first half, the defense made up for a few mistakes by recovering a pair of fumbles and setting up the offense for scores, but long touchdown drives on UCLA's first two possessions of the second half effectively quieted the Longhorn crowd and sent Texas to a loss earlier than about anyone expected.

"I don't feel like right now we're very good at anything," Brown said. "It's hard to point at what's worse when it's all bad."

He added: "It was a rear end kicking, and in the first half, it should have been a lot worse than it was, but the defense played their guts out."

The positives were minimal. Brown said a few players played well, and felt the team as a whole prepared well and entered ready to play. Running back D.J. Monroe even said Brown had to calm the team down before the game, so uncheck motivation and preparation as possible culprits.

"You can be ready to play and play poorly," Brown said.

Instead, it was mistakes, and Brown added it could have been 100-0 at the half if the team hadn't played well around the costly mistakes.

The only thing more numerous than the mistakes themselves were the ways Brown found to express his frustration about them afterward.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Franklin
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireJohnathan Franklin gashed the Texas defense for 118 of UCLA's 264 rushing yards. The Bruins scored three touchdowns on the ground including this one.
"This one's embarrassing for me. As a head coach I'm responsible for everyone in this program," Brown said. "It was not fair to Texas fans, it was not fair to the players. I've got to do a better job. You can't have that many mistakes and be doing my job."

Gilbert's interception and fumble were just two. The late kick return was another. In between, a punt return fumbled by Curtis Brown -- one he fielded inside his own 5-yard line and turned over in the red zone -- and a fumble on a run by Monroe that produced a UCLA field goal.

"It's the hardest thing in the world when you do not play well as a team. It's an awful feeling as a coach because you feel like you let your kids down, you let your fans down, you let everybody down," Brown said. "It's just awful. It's the worst thing you can do in our business. We're paid to do it well and we didn't do it well today."

Texas will have to do everything better next week against Oklahoma. The defense, which led the nation against the run through three games, was exposed in the second half by UCLA's zone read from the pistol formation. It let UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin take a big, 35-yard chunk out of an 80-yard scoring drive to begin the second half. On a later drive, quarterback Kevin Prince kept it and trotted into the end zone almost untouched from 38 yards to put the Bruins up 27-6, conjuring up images of 1997's "Rout 66," when unranked UCLA beat No. 11 Texas 66-3. Texas never controlled this game, and that's a bad sign for a team whose annual, season-defining game is seven days away.

"I'll go home right now and see if I can put some sense into this," Brown said, adding that the loss was was disappointing and stunning. "In fact, I'm shocked."

It's hard to fix what you didn't realize was wrong. Now, Texas has to diagnose 60 minutes of its worst football in recent history before a date with Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl next Saturday.

"Everything that we did messed up," Brown said. "Our gameplan was to try to stay off the field like we did at Tech and make them play late. It worked early, but we didn't score points. I don't know why we're not scoring points. They ended up keeping us on the field and it totally backfired. Everything we wanted to do, they did."

The questions will come as the week progresses. Texas hasn't looked like a team that has successfully established the power running game it sought after Colt McCoy checked out of Austin and took his 70 percent completion rate with him. Brown wanted to support his quarterback with a running game. So far, that support hasn't been there.

Whether or not Texas will keep looking for it hasn't been determined, but Saturday's game tape may hold the answers.

"We have to make sure we're asking guys to do what they can do," said offensive coordinator Greg Davis.

Instant analysis: UCLA 34, Texas 12

September, 25, 2010
AUSTIN, Texas -- That was ugly. That was a loss when just about everything went wrong for the Texas Longhorns, and the UCLA Bruins didn't catch a lot of breaks. They beat Texas straight up in every facet of the game. The Longhorns look like they have some soul-searching to do before next week's matchup with Oklahoma. UCLA didn't provide any opportunities, and neither will the rival Sooners.

How the game was won: Texas scored the first three points of the game, but never reached any kind of offensive rhythm. The defense was worn down and looked ordinary in the second half as UCLA scored touchdowns on its first two drives of the second half to race to a 34-12 win.

Stat of the game: Texas turned the ball over four times. Three of those turnovers came in the first half, but the defense kept it close and the Longhorns trailed 13-3. The offense wasn't strong enough to offset two UCLA touchdowns in the third quarter.

Player of the game: Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA. Against Texas' vaunted run defense -- the nation's best through three games -- Franklin topped 100 yards and scored a touchdown.

Second guessing: Texas' decision to force an unproductive run game. The Longhorns didn't move much on offense, but looked a lot better when they spread it back out and let Garrett Gilbert try to make plays with his arm. It's hard to imagine Texas' coaches didn't see the same thing. It should be very interesting to see what Texas' offense looks like next week against Oklahoma.

What Texas learned: One half of great defense and two halves of bad offense equal a lopsided loss to a middle-of-the-road Pac-10 team. Gilbert looked decent in spots, but missed a wide-open James Kirkendoll in the end zone for a first-half touchdown that would have given Texas the lead. The running game was never a factor and it doesn't look like it will be moving forward. The defense can't win games by itself.

What it means: Texas' national championship aspirations will need plenty of help. Forget Boise State, Texas has to start with themselves. The Longhorns defense played well for a half, but on the whole, Texas looked like an eight-win team. The good news is it's a nonconference game and Texas still has a week before it plays a game that affects its chances at reaching a BCS bowl game.

Record performance: UCLA has now outscored Texas 100-15 in its past two trips to Austin, after beating Texas 66-3 in 1997.

Big 12 predictions, Week 3

September, 17, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

After struggling through one of my worst weeks in recent history, I'm hoping for a turnaround in these picks.

Here they are.

Kansas 41, Duke 17: The Jayhawks have too many offensive weapons and an improved defense with a knack of making big plays. Jake Sharp and Toben Opurum provide an emerging 1-2 weapon at running back and Dezmon Briscoe will juice production in the passing game with Todd Reesing as he becomes more comfortable in the offense. Duke coach David Cutcliffe will likely alternate Sean Renfree and Thaddeus Lewis at quarterback. Both will likely struggle against an emerging Kansas defensive front that has produced nine sacks in its first two games.

Missouri 45, Furman 6: Look for the Tigers to jump on their FCS opponent quickly, hoping to make amends after last week’s closer-than-expected victory over Bowling Green. Blaine Gabbert regressed in his second start, but should be ready to show improvement this week. If they can find the edge exhibited against Illinois, this one won’t be close for very long.

Colorado 24, Wyoming 21: It can’t get any worse for Dan Hawkins and the Buffaloes, can it? If they lose this one, it will. Despite the struggles stopping big plays and operating the offense in losses against Colorado State and Toledo, the Buffaloes will rebound. Even though the Cowboys turned the heat up on Texas last week and Dave Christensen had his way against the Buffaloes when he was offensive coordinator at Missouri -- he outscored Colorado by a combined 113-10 margin last season -- it won’t be that easy this time. The Buffaloes will rebound and win a gritty game that won’t be very spectator friendly.

Oklahoma 38, Tulsa 17: Landry Jones makes his second career start against Tulsa, an underrated program under Todd Graham that will be itching to earn some national revenge against their “big brothers” from across the state. This should be a good matchup between the Golden Hurricane, who led the nation in total offense each of the past two seasons, and the salty Oklahoma defense. Sooners coaches are familiar with Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne, who they tried to recruit as a linebacker. Even without Sam Bradford, the Sooners still should have enough offense to win.

Virginia Tech 28, Nebraska 21: Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee will be looking to stop the Hokies’ 31-game home nonconference winning streak in his first career road start. There might be tougher first-game assignments in college football, but I don’t know of many. Lee leads the conference in pass efficiency, but will be stepping up in class when he faces the active Virginia Tech defense. Ryan Williams and fellow freshman David Wilson both rushed for more than 160 yards last week and the Hokies will be looking to set the tempo by using them. Still, the Cornhuskers might make this one closer than expected with a strong pass rush against Tyrod Taylor and if they can stay away from special-teams mistakes.

Baylor 31, Connecticut 21: The Bears will be gunning for their second straight conquest over an opponent from a BCS-affiliated conference against Connecticut, which beat them in Storrs last season. But this is a different Baylor team, which has had a bye week to settle down after an upset victory over Wake Forest in its opener. Backup quarterback Cody Endres steps in as Connecticut’s starter after Zach Frazer was hurt last week against North Carolina. One item to watch will be how Baylor’s young Canadian tackles Danny Watkins and Phillip Blake will handle Lindsay Witten, who leads the Big East in sacks.

Kent State 24, Iowa State 21: Paul Rhoads will try to halt the Cyclones’ nation-worst 17-game road losing streak. Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud will be trying to rebound after throwing four interceptions in the Cyclones’ 35-3 loss last week to Iowa. Freshman quarterback Spencer Keith will make his first career start for the Golden Flashes, who ranked 96th or worse in each of the four major offensive statistical categories. In the end, this one might be settled by which of two of the nation’s worst turnover margin teams -- Kent State is 94th and Iowa State is 108th -- does the better job of protecting the ball.

Texas A&M 38, Utah State 10: Texas A&M hopes to build on a strong opening-game performance against New Mexico where the offense and defense were both productive in a 41-6 victory. Jerrod Johnson looked more comfortable starting his second season as quarterback and the Aggies showed strong skill players. The defense, while still not at the “Wrecking Crew” standards of the past, had a strong effort with five sacks keyed by three from Von Miller. Utah State was challenging for Utah, but likely doesn’t have the firepower to stay close to the rejuvenated A&M attack for long in this game.

Oklahoma State 45, Rice 17: The Cowboys are intent on rebounding after last week’s disappointing home loss to Houston. They likely will play without Big 12 leading rusher Kendall Hunter, but backups Beau Johnson and Keith Toston averaged nearly 8 yards per carry against Houston. The Cowboys gave up more yardage in the first half last week than against Georgia in the previous week. They shouldn’t face much of a challenge from Rice, which is rebuilding from last season’s 10-win team. Coach David Bailiff alternated among three quarterbacks last week and could do the same against an Oklahoma State defense that will be intent on improvement this week.

Texas 54, Texas Tech 31: Even though they claim otherwise, rest assured the Longhorns have been awaiting this rematch ever since their 39-33 loss in Lubbock last season. They should have the upper hand in this one because their secondary is a year more experienced and this will be Texas Tech quarterback Taylor Potts’ first road game as a starter. The Longhorns looked lethargic in the first half last week at Wyoming, but blew the game by scoring 28 unanswered points in the second half. It won’t be that easy this week against Potts and the Red Raiders, but look for the Longhorns’ offense to produce similar late success.

UCLA 21, Kansas State 10: This one figures to be a low scoring game as the Wildcats have sputtered offensively and UCLA will be playing without starting quarterback Kevin Prince, who sustained a broken jaw late in the Bruins’ victory at Tennessee. Look for both teams to try to take control on the ground with UCLA employing Johnathan Franklin and Kansas State countering with Big 12 rushing leader Daniel Thomas. The Wildcats have also struggled mightily with special teams in their first two games and must improve for any upset hopes. But the UCLA defense is too formidable, winning this one as they pick up the slack for an offense missing Prince.

Last week: 7-3 (70 percent)

For the season: 16-6 (72.7 percent)