Big 12: what to watch week 5
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are some things to watch for in Big 12 games on Saturday:
1. Oklahoma's chance to move to No. 1 -- With USC's loss at Oregon State on Thursday night, the Sooners are situated to fill the top spot in the polls by beating TCU. That hasn't been easy for them during the Horned Frogs' recent trips through Norman. Can the Sooners snap history and move to the top of the polls for the first time since 2003?
2. Colorado's backfield combination against Florida State's defense -- Heralded TB Darrell Scott has been hampered recently with a knee injury. His backup Rodney Stewart took advantage of his absence to rush for 166 yards against West Virginia last week. With Scott returning to health, I'm curious how coach Dan Hawkins divvies up the carries. It will be interesting to see an improving Colorado offensive line work against a Florida State defense that will be returning four more veteran defenders back from suspension and has allowed only one touchdown this season.
3. Can Kansas State DE Ian Campbell bounce back? -- Coming into the season, the senior was counted as one of the Big 12's top pass-rushing threats and a potential All-American player. But so far this season, Campbell has been missing in action with only three tackles and no sacks. For a reeling Kansas State defense that was forced to run as punishment when it got home from Louisville last week, Campbell's return against Louisiana-Lafayette would be huge.
4. Bo Pelini's step into the national spotlight -- The new Nebraska coach will be facing his most difficult test of his brief coaching tenure as the Cornhuskers host their first BCS foe in Virginia Tech. The Cornhuskers have barely had to battle into the fourth quarter against any of their first three foes. The Hokies are offensively challenged but still should provide a good indication of how far Pelini's rebuilding job has come along.
5. Zac Robinson's progress -- It will be interesting to judge the Oklahoma State quarterback's progress this season against Troy and to compare it to his performance last season against the Trojans. Robinson made his first career start in a nationally televised game and struggled mightily in a 41-23 loss. His chance for revenge could boost the Cowboys to their first 4-0 start under Mike Gundy and a likely return to the national Top 25 with a victory.
6. Texas' tight end options -- Blaine Irby was emerging as a blocking and receiving threat for the Longhorns before suffering a season-ending dislocated kneecap last week against Rice. Texas now is scrambling for a replacement and will use Peter Ullman and Greg Smith as his replacements Saturday against Arkansas. It will hard to match Irby's receiving contributions. Mack Brown has hinted his loss might force the Longhorns to use more four- and five-receiver threats.
7. Texas A&M's uncertainty at quarterback -- Jerrod Johnson had an uneven first start last week against Miami, throwing for three touchdowns but also making several critical mistakes. But he sustained a sprained shoulder and missed practice this week along with Stephen McGee, who is already nursing a similar injury. Which way will coach Mike Sherman turn for his starter Saturday against Army? McGee likely represents his best immediate choice, while starting Johnson would start Sherman's rebuilding project. Sherman desperately needs a victory as he attempts to break the first two-game home losing streak to start the season for the Aggies since 1972.
8. Oklahoma's offense matched against the challenge of TCU's defense -- The Sooners have been one of the nation's most potent offenses, leading the nation in scoring, ranking fourth in total offense and seventh in passing. It will be interesting to see if Sam Bradford can continue that success against a typically feisty TCU defense that leads the nation in rushing and total defense and ranks second in turnover margin. It will be the Sooners most serious offensive test of the season.
9. Colorado's adaptability to the hot sticky climate in Jacksonville -- The Buffaloes played their best football down the stretch in a comeback victory over Eastern Washington and in overtime last week against West Virginia. Can those late rallies continue in the expected heat and humidity Saturday against Florida State? Coach Dan Hawkins and the Colorado training staff has had them drinking green Gatorade throughout the week to get ready. Will those preparations keep them from wearing down against the Seminoles?
10. Nebraska's running game against Virginia Tech -- The Cornhuskers rushed for 330 yards in their most recent game against New Mexico State but will be challenged mightily by a Virginia Tech team that likes to stack the box and force teams to beat them by passing. Nebraska QB Joe Ganz has emerged as more of a running threat in recent weeks, but will likely have his chances to beat the Hokies by the air. And will Pelini turn to OL Andy Christensen, a projected starter who is finally available to play after a six-month suspension that included the first three games of the season? His eventual return could give the Cornhuskers' running game a boost.
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
0:19 3rd Qtr Western Michigan 10 Air Force 23 9:15 PM ET South Alabama Bowling Green
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10
6:00 PM ET Marshall Northern Illinois 9:30 PM ET Navy San Diego State
12:00 PM ET Central Michigan Western Kentucky 8:00 PM ET Fresno State Rice
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
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