Big 12: what to watch
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are ten things to watch for this week in the Big 12.
1. Missouri WR Danario Alexander's return: I'll be interested to see how Alexander performs in his first game since injuring his knee in the Big 12 championship game last December. He's a tall, athletic target who will be especially important for QB Chase Daniel in red-zone possessions. Just what the Tigers need, another offensive weapon.
2. Iowa State's defensive front against Iowa's inside running game: The Cyclones struggled mightily last week against Kent State. And they'll be stepping up in class as they try to contain bullish Iowa RBs Shonn Greene and Jewel Hampton.
3. The Oklahoma State triplets and what they'll do for an encore: QB Zac Robinson, RB Kendall Hunter and WR Dez Bryant all will have their chances against Missouri State, but I'm not betting on another 200-200-300 performance like last week. The Cowboys will have the game in hand by the middle of the second quarter, limiting their chances to pad their statistics in the second half.
4. New Mexico State's first-game readiness: The Aggies, no doubt, will be at a huge disadvantage in their maiden voyage this season after their first game against Nicholls State University was postponed by Hurricane Gustav. Saturday will be Nebraska's third game. That experience should have the Cornhuskers ready for the Aggies' aerial attack keyed by QB Chase Holbrook.
5. Bob Stoops' heebie-jeebies in a Pac-10 stadium: Stoops has never won in two previous trips to the West Coast (Oregon in 2006, UCLA in 2005). That losing streak continues Oklahoma's struggles that have seen the team win only one of its last six road games against Pac-10 teams since 1988.
6. Washington State's early arrival at Baylor: Hurricane Ike pushed the kickoff up a day, making an already difficult trip more arduous for the Cougars. And they can't be feeling very confident after last week's 66-3 home blowout to California. WSU struggles defensively against the pass, so look for Robert Griffin to try to establish WR David Gettis early.
7. The trench battle between Kansas T Jeff Spikes and South Florida DE George Selvie: The Bulls have to pressure Kansas QB Todd Reesing for any chance to win. Selvie finished second nationally with 14.5 sacks, but hasn't notched one since mid-November. His slump has permeated the rest of his team as the Bulls have produced only one sack as a team this season.
8. Mike Leach's gambles: No Big 12 coach disdains punting on fourth-and-short situations as much as Leach, no matter where on the field he's positioned. After being burned twice on missed fourth-down plays deep in his own end of the field last week at Nevada, it will be interesting to see how reckless Leach will be Saturday against SMU.
9. Graham Harrell's slump: Some are wondering if Texas Tech's talented quarterback has hit a wall after struggling last week against Nevada. He had a below 50 percent completion percentage for the first time in his starting career last week. Harrell has thrown three touchdowns after the first two games of the season. He averaged 3.6 touchdown passes per game last season.
10. Nebraska's offensive discipline: The Cornhuskers struggled with self-inflicted mistakes last week against San Jose State. They were flagged eight times offensively, including false-start penalties on three consecutive snaps at one juncture. A veteran quarterback and offensive line were expected to have better communication than that.
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
Final Illinois 18 Louisiana Tech 35 Final Rutgers 40 North Carolina 21 Final North Carolina State 34 UCF 27
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
Final Marshall 52 Northern Illinois 23 Final Navy 17 San Diego State 16
Final Central Michigan 48 Western Kentucky 49 Final Fresno State 6 Rice 30
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State