What to watch in the Big 12: Week 4
September, 20, 2012
By David Ubben | ESPNDallas.com
Here's what I'm keeping an eye on in this week's five games across the Big 12.
1. Dominance up front is where it's at: How did Kansas State beat Miami so handily? By handling its business on both the offensive and defensive lines. Oklahoma's offensive line has been underwhelming, and it's thin, too. The defensive line is unproven and has had to shift around because of suspensions and personnel issues. If Kansas State is going to come into Norman and do the impossible (?), that's how it's going to happen.
2. Was last year a reality, or a rarity? Where Oklahoma had the biggest advantage a year ago? On the outside. Landry Jones torched Kansas State's secondary for 505 yards, and the Sooners scored 58 points in the blowout win. The personnel is mostly the same for the Cats in the secondary, but if the Sooners hang 58 again, this one's going to just be another blowout.
Rick Scuteri/AP ImagesLandry Jones is hoping for another monster game against Kansas State.
3. How much better are you, really? Baylor's defense looked good against SMU in Week 1, but I'm not so sure how much Mustangs quarterback Garrett Gilbert has (A) improved or (B) was ready to run June Jones' offense. Last week, Baylor's defense didn't look great against Sam Houston State, especially in the first half. The second half was a different story. So which defense can we count on seeing from Baylor? The answer to that question might determine the outcome of the Friday-nighter.
4. Welcome to the land of the big-armed passers: Five of the nation's top six leaders in passer rating are in the Big 12, and Collin Klein gives the Big 12 six of the top nine. The Big 12 is living up to its reputation as the league with the best quarterbacks. Will that continue this week, the final one before conference play officially kicks in?
5. Keeping up appearances: Geno Smith has been downright ridiculous through two games. The competition doesn't get much tougher this week, but can he maintain his 9-9 touchdown-incompletion ratio? Craziness. Also, if you've lost track, TCU quarterback Casey Pachall isn't far off. He's got five touchdowns and six incompletions.
6. Don't get defensive about it. (On second thought, do exactly that): Kansas' defense looked decent last week against TCU, and helped force four turnovers, moving into the national lead with 12. Northern Illinois topped 40 points in Lawrence last year, but the Huskies' offense has been unimpressive to this point this season. What does the Kansas defense have in store this week, in its first road game?
7. Can we get a medic here? STAT! Wildcats star linebacker Arthur Brown went down with what looked like an ugly, ugly ankle injury last week against North Texas. However, after missing only limited time, he returned to the field and made two tackles on his first two snaps, and finished with a career-high 13 stops. He's expected to play again, but will he look like his usual self? Kansas State needs him to.
8. What about the supporting cast? TCU's Josh Boyce and Brandon Carter have been really good through two weeks, both grabbing multiple touchdowns, nine catches and amassing at least 160 yards. Skye Dawson was quiet last week, and LaDarius Brown didn't have a catch until breaking out for five catches and 70 yards last week against Kansas. What does TCU's receiver depth have in store for this week against Virginia?
9. Welcome to the Thunderdome: Bob Stoops didn't really "call out" Oklahoma's crowd this week, but he did say he wanted the atmosphere to be something special. Will the folks around Owen Field respond? I'll be there to find out. We'll see.
10. Time to improve: Landry Jones has been unimpressive through two games, completing just 62 percent of his passes, and his offensive line has put him on the run more than you'd like to see if you're in crimson and cream. He has to be much better this week, both to grab the win and also to feel encouraged about how the rest of the season will play out. He's still dealing with a young offensive line and inexperienced receivers, and those guys have to help him out.