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Thursday, November 17, 2011
What to watch in the Big 12: Week 12

By David Ubben

Here's what I'm looking for in five games across the Big 12 this weekend.

1. Oklahoma State's focus. This has to be a weekly watch, does it not? OSU is a markedly better team than Iowa State. This is clear. A single-digit win would be fairly inexplicable, especially considering the Cowboys' success on the road.

2. Texas' health. The Longhorns' offense got tied up with injuries last week, playing the majority of the game without its top three running backs and top receiver Jaxon Shipley. Linebacker Keenan Robinson also injured his thumb against Mizzou. He's listed as a co-starter on this week's depth chart, but coach Mack Brown is playing it coy with injuries this week. Who's in and out for the Horns will have a lot to do with the team's success against K-State.

3. Oklahoma's new offense. We still haven't seen Oklahoma play a full game without Ryan Broyles and Dominique Whaley. They'll have to put points on the board against Baylor on Saturday. How do they compensate for the loss of Broyles?

Collin Klein
Collin Klein is slated to face his toughest challenge of the season Saturday against the Texas D.
4. Collin Klein's "other" threat. Texas will be the best defense K-State has faced this year, so relying solely on the running game won't be enough for K-State to beat the Longhorns. Klein will have to make plays with his arm. He made them against Texas A&M last week for 281 yards, but UT's pass defense is a whole different deal. He'll be tested.

5. Missouri's new look in the backfield. Henry Josey is done for the year, and Kendial Lawrence is back as the starter in Mizzou's backfield. Texas Tech is extremely vulnerable up front, and Lawrence will need to take advantage alongside De'Vion Moore. Can the pair, along with quarterback James Franklin, take advantage of arguably Texas Tech's biggest weakness?

6. Baylor's changing reputation. The Bears have ascended into a very good second-tier Big 12 team, but have not been able to beat the real titans of the league. Oklahoma State blew them out this year. OSU, OU and Texas A&M all did it last year. You want to prove something? Beat Oklahoma. Baylor's never done it in 20 tries.

7. Texas A&M's second half. Don't blame me. The Aggies keep doing it. We'll keep watching. Leads of 14-0 and 31-21 evaporated against Kansas State last week, and the Aggies had better take care of business or the season could find a new low: letting an improving Kansas team get its first conference win on Kyle Field. If you're 5-5 like A&M is, I don't think you can rule anything out.

8. Texas Tech's first half. In the Red Raiders' last three games, Tech's been outscored a combined 104-13 by Iowa State, Texas and Oklahoma State. Can't do that. If Tech can hang with Mizzou for the first half, it would give itself a nice chance to win the game down the stretch. The Red Raiders haven't had a chance lately, though.

9. Kansas' legitimacy. Is this resurgence for real or not? Not many people think Kansas can beat Texas A&M, but the Jayhawks have legitimately come very, very close against Iowa State and Baylor. Can they be competitive against the Aggies and give themselves a shot late?

10. Iowa State's defense. There might not be a tougher test in college football than the experienced, balanced Oklahoma State offense. To give the Cyclones a chance, the ISU defense has to play its best game of the year by far. Iowa State doesn't have enough offense to get in a shootout in the 40s. Both sides will require a lot to make the upset happen, but the Cyclones can't let OSU move the ball at will.