Thursday, November 8, 2012
What to watch in the SEC/Big 12: Week 11
By David Ubben
Here's what I'm keeping an eye on in the Big 12 this week.
1. Sit him down if he sees birdies circling his head. Kansas State coach Bill Snyder sounds optimistic about quarterback Collin Klein's status this week, but will the Heisman front-runner be on the field? And if he is, will he look like his usual self? Will the K-State offense dial back the designed runs for him to try to protect whatever ails him? All pressing questions -- and we likely won't know the answers until Saturday night.
2. He's back ... then he wasn't. Is he back again?Wes Lunt looked good at times on Saturday, but the freshman quarterback made some costly mistakes in Oklahoma State's loss to Kansas State and missed much of the game with an undisclosed injury of his own. Lunt looks good playing the position, but the decision-making is a legitimate issue at this point. Will he be back on the field against West Virginia this week?
3. Fool's gold? Or growth for the Eers? Speaking of, West Virginia's defense showed up for most of the game against TCU last week, holding the Frogs to the second-fewest total yards WVU had given up in conference play. The 94-yard score to tie the game marred that improvement, but can WVU keep it rolling this week against Oklahoma State? The coaches liked the improvement they saw coming off the bye week. Is it legitimate?
4. Amon for a change in Fort Worth. (I'm sorry.) TCU hasn't won at home since Sept. 22 and is 0-2 in Big 12 play at home this year, with a lopsided loss to Iowa State and a heartbreaking loss to Texas Tech in triple overtime. TCU has played its best ball away from home, but can it change those fortunes this week?
5. Where there's a Williams, there's a way. Oklahoma's secondary is all kinds of legit, but the Sooners haven't faced a receiver anything like the caliber of Baylor's Terrance Williams. Can he break loose and have a big game after catching the historic game winner against the Sooners last year? If Baylor's going to spring the upset, that has to happen. The Biletnikoff front-runner leads the nation in receiving and averages nearly 170 yards a game.
6. An encore for George. Iowa State's Jeremiah George racked up 17 tackles last week filling in for injured linebacker Jake Knott. He'll get a huge task this week against a powerful Texas running game that's back to full strength, finally. Can he keep that going this week? He'll have a solid running mate in experienced A.J. Klein, but neither can do it alone.
If James Sims can crack 100 yards for a sixth straight game, maybe Kansas' Big 12 skid cracks, too.
7. Another set of legs can go a long way.Johnathan Gray has played outstanding with Malcolm Brown sidelined the past few weeks. The true freshman has his first two career 100-yard games while Joe Bergeron has vultured his way to 16 rushing touchdowns, fourth-most nationally. With Brown back now from injury, can Texas' backfield keep using fresh legs to boost its effectiveness?
8. Who's it going to be? Seems like every week it's a new featured receiver for Oklahoma's offense. Kenny Stills gets it done, then it's Sterling Shepard, then it's Jalen Saunders. Then back to Stills with a sprinkling of Justin Brown. Who emerges this week against a porous Baylor defense? Lots of receptions to be had.
9. Six is the magical number.James Sims has five 100-yard games in a row, the first Kansas back to do that since 1974. He's been an amazing bright spot in another dark season in Lawrence. Can he do it again against Texas Tech and give the Jayhawks a fighting chance to end their 18-game losing streak in Big 12 play? If KU had Sims earlier in the season, it likely would have three wins.
10. No time to feel sorry for yourself. Texas Tech got off to a hot 6-1 start, but its season is at a bit of a crossroads. Can it take care of business and play well against Kansas, winning convincingly? Or will it slip up and let KU make it a game? Tech got beat pretty soundly a week ago, but is it going to throw a pity party or take out its anger against the Jayhawks in Lubbock? We'll learn a little bit about this team this week after last week's disheartening loss. The Big 12 title is almost certainly off the board, but can the Red Raiders stay committed?
4. Alabama's D vs. Johnny Football: We saw some holes open up in Alabama's defense last week against LSU. The players insist that things will get cleaned up this week, but the Aggies have an high-octane offense that could exploit Alabama's weaknesses, especially with a quarterback like Johnny Manziel. He has been the SEC's most exciting player and could pose quite a problem for this defense with his ability to run and throw. He's second in the SEC in passing and first in rushing. It comes down to being very sound and balanced on defense to contain him. Alabama's secondary gave up some big plays last week, and Texas A&M has a better passer and receivers for the Tide to handle. -- Edward Aschoff