Big 12: What we learned 0811
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
1. Kicking problems for the power elite. I'm baffled at the kicking woes that have befallen the Big 12's top three teams. Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma all have struggled in recent weeks with reliable field-goal kicking. Usually sure Texas kicker Hunter Lawrence shanked kicks of 44 and 20 yards before he was removed for Ryan Bailey. Oklahoma kicker Jimmy Stevens missed from 30 yards and was involved in a sideline argument with 297-pound defensive tackle Cordero Moore. Despite his size disadvantage television replays showed the kicker grab the bigger player's facemask. And Texas Tech's prolonged slump with Donnie Carona makes that facet perhaps the Red Raiders' biggest question mark.
Of course, the three teams rank second (Oklahoma), third (Texas Tech) and fifth (Texas) in scoring in the national statistics through games of this week. What it's meant are that coaches for those three power squads have been more than willing to go for touchdowns rather than settle for field goals most of the season. But somewhere down the line, all will likely have to depend on a clutch kick. And I'm not sure that any of the coaches would feel certain about their chances today if they had to line up for a game-winning 45-yard kick to decide a BCS bowl trip.
2. Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson might be the conference's most underrated play caller. Watson cooked up a little bit of everything for Kansas on Saturday. Direct snaps to Marlon Lucky in the "Joker" package resulted in a touchdown pass thrown by the senior I-back. A pass to 300-pound defensive tackle-turned-fullback Ndamukong Suh produced another score. Another strong effort by Joe Ganz, the conference's most consistently underrated quarterback. It's not your father's Cornhuskers, but they looked pretty impressive on Saturday in stretching their home winning streak to 20 games against Kansas. It's likely pushed the Cornhuskers into a likely trip to the Sun Bowl and invaluable extra practice with the upcoming bowl trip.
3. Where were the Aggies? Texas A&M former students like to talk about the tradition and honor that the school has. But where were all the fans when two senior players who had played huge roles in the program in their career -- quarterback Stephen McGee and tailback Jorvorskie Lane - when Lane scored a late touchdown in garbage time against Oklahoma. Watching on television, I saw a lot of Aggies disguised as empty seats at Kyle Field at the end of the game.
4. Texas Tech's offensive line is the most underrated strength of the team. I stirred up a hornet's nest in my hot and not section Friday afternoon when I mentioned that the Red Raiders' line was not hot because it had allowed four sacks in the last two weeks. Relatively speaking, they were struggling because they had only allowed one sack all season before those two games against Kansas and Texas.
Maybe that inspired them, but the Red Raiders were in prime form in the trenches Saturday night against Oklahoma State as the major reason why Tech erupted for 629 yards -- Tech's fourth 600-yard performance of the season. Graham Harrell was barely touched en route to a 456-yard, six-TD pass performance. And Tech also rushed for 113 yards, its 10th straight 100-yard rushing performance.
5. Sunday dinner at the Hawkins' household in Boulder likely will be more pleasant today, I bet. The dramatic comeback orchestrated by Cody Hawkins took a lot of heat off his dad. The Buffaloes showed offensive flashes in their best half of the season against Iowa State. The big comeback likely will have the younger Hawkins in the starting lineup for the Buffaloes' final two games, making Misti Hawkins' meat loaf and broccoli casserole taste much better for all of those who are partaking at their table today.