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Wednesday, November 21, 2012
What to watch in the Big 12: Week 12

By David Ubben

Here's what I'm keeping an eye on in the Big 12 during its four games this week:

1. They got a new attitude. Last year's Bedlam? Well, it wasn't what either side was used to. Oklahoma State rolled by 34 points to win the Big 12 title. This year, the results could go one of two ways for OSU, which has been completely destroyed in each of its past four trips to Norman. Has Oklahoma State proven it can compete on equal footing with the Sooners, or just angered big brother down South? Even a competitive loss would be evidence of the former.

2. Encore! Encore! Encore! Tavon Austin was absurd in his new role at running back for West Virginia, but he can't run for 344 yards every week ... can he? Look for a whole lot more for Austin there, but what's he got in store for Iowa State?

Sam B. Richardson
Sam Richardson will lead what is expected to be a more up-tempo Iowa State offense in 2013.
3. But does he like green eggs and ham? Are you on board with Sam? I am. Iowa State should be, too. Freshman quarterback Sam Richardson was forced into duty last week against Kansas and blew up with five total touchdowns, 23-of-27 passing and 250 yards through the air. Can he back up that performance with another big one against a suspect West Virginia defense?

4. Keep 'em away from the urn. TCU has one of the best pass rushes and defensive lines in the Big 12. Devonte Fields and Stansly Maponga are beasts and the Frogs are second in the Big 12 with 23 sacks. Can Texas protect David Ash? The Longhorns have given up only seven sacks this year, fewest in the Big 12 and fourth nationally. Should be a matchup of two high-quality lines.

5. Fix for a flat? Oklahoma's defense was the Big 12's best this year, but West Virginia poked all kinds of holes in the Sooners' D last week. How much of that was Sooners shortcomings and how much of it was amazing skill position talent from the Mountaineers? Oklahoma State may provide an answer and another difficult test.

6. He thinks he can, he thinks he can. Mike Gundy didn't wait long to give Clint Chelf another chance to take his train to the next station in Norman. He announced after Saturday's win over West Virginia that Chelf would start Bedlam. Still, this environment will be the most difficult Chelf has ever encountered, and it will be his first-ever road start. Can the junior keep it rolling against a tough secondary in a big spot?

7. Dominance up front. Texas loves to run the ball and it's finally starting to come together. Texas has topped 200 yards rushing in three of the past four games and has 12 rushing touchdowns over that stretch. As we mentioned earlier, TCU's defensive line is serious business. It's the only Big 12 defense that has given up fewer than 100 yards a game and has given up less than double-digit rushing touchdowns (8). Whoever wins this battle wins the Thanksgiving night game.

8. Time for a tuneup. Texas Tech's defense gave up 400 yards once in its first six games. All of its past five opponents have topped 400 yards, including 500 yards by TCU in a loss. Can Texas Tech shore up what was one of the Big 12's best defenses early in the season? The Red Raiders are still second in the Big 12 in the stat, but sit fourth in the Big 12 in conference play.

9. Vindication, finally? Last year's Bedlam was a nightmare for Landry Jones for all kinds of reasons. Worst of all was a fumble over his head that led to an Oklahoma State defensive touchdown. He's had a tumultuous career, but in his final home start, does he have one special performance left? It'll keep Oklahoma on track for the BCS.

10. Crowd at Cowboys Stadium. Texas Tech and Baylor playing in Cowboys Stadium in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex is good for recruiting, but is it worth another poor crowd? They won't sell out, but last year's game in Cowboys Stadium had just over 51,000, and the year before in the Cotton Bowl was only 48,000. Not a good look for nationally televised games.