What to watch in the Big 12, Week 8

October, 22, 2009
10/22/09
8:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are 10 things I’m looking forward to seeing in Saturday’s Big 12 games:

1. Will Texas’ run defense continue its tormenting ways against Big 12 teams? The Longhorns have allowed opponents only 29 rushing yards in their last four games (7.3 yards per game) and a 0.3 yard-per-carry average. How will the Longhorns fare against Missouri, whose running game has been an early disappointment and has produced only 79 yards per game in its last three games? It will be important for the Tigers to try to establish at least a little bit of continuity to keep Blaine Gabbert from having to rely too much on passing. Against Texas, that's going to be tough.

2. Missouri’s resiliency. The Tigers have been an early disappointment with two early losses starting the season that have dropped them into the North Division cellar. They will be big underdogs to Texas as they try to avoid their first 0-3 start in conference play since 2002.

3. Landry Jones returns to the starting lineup. Sam Bradford is likely out for the season, leaving Jones in his place for Saturday's game at Kansas. Jones was better than expected in his previous three starts, notching a 2-1 record and tying the school record with six touchdown passes against Tulsa. The Jayhawks have a formidable pass rush (3.17 sacks per game), but are susceptible to patient passers who are willing to pick their spots. Jones falls into that category.

4. Mark Mangino against coaching mentor Bob Stoops. Mangino was the offensive coordinator on Oklahoma’s 2000 national championship team before taking the job at Kansas in 2002. During his previous matchups against Stoops, Mangino is 0-3 and never played the Sooners closer than 14 points. Things might be different Saturday as the Jayhawks get the injury-ravaged Sooners on their home field for the first time since 2001.

5. Kansas State’s rejuvenated pass rush against Colorado. The Wildcats produced six sacks last week against Texas A&M as their defensive pressure served as the key defensive factor for them against the Aggies. Earlier in the season, the Wildcats had produced six other sacks in the first six games. The Wildcats have to continue to dial up that pressure, but it will be a difficult challenge against elusive Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen.

6. After all those early stumbles, could Colorado really be a North challenger? And is Kansas State really a division challenger? We’ll find that out when the Buffaloes travel to Kansas State. Kansas State made a turnaround of 100 points in two weeks after losing by 52 points to Texas Tech and then beating Texas A&M by 48 points the following week -- the biggest two-week turnaround in victory margin in Big 12 history. That run has pushed the Wildcats into first place in the North over three other teams, including the Buffaloes who are a half-game behind. The Wildcats can continue their unexpected run to title contention by winning on Saturday in Manhattan.

7. Who starts at quarterback for Nebraska? After Zac Lee struggled last week and Cody Green orchestrated a late touchdown drive, coach Bo Pelini has thrown competition open for the position. Green’s running and passing skills could give the Cornhuskers a different element as they meet plucky Iowa State. Look for both quarterbacks to play, but it will be interesting to see who gets the majority of snaps and if Pelini makes a change in his starter in the middle of the season.

8. Will Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson be back in the starting lineup for Iowa State? Both Arnaud (bruised hand) and Robinson (strained groin muscle) were hobbled in the Cyclones' victory last week over Baylor. Both need to be close to 100 percent to enable the Cyclones to have any hope of claiming their first victory in Lincoln since 1977 -- a streak of 15 straight games.

9. Who will be Texas Tech’s starting quarterback against Texas A&M? Texas Tech sensation Steven Sheffield sustained a foot injury that reportedly will keep him out of the lineup for Saturday’s game in Lubbock against Texas A&M. Coach Mike Leach has only said his starter will be a game-time decision and hasn't released who he is considering as a starter. But if Sheffield can’t go, Leach could turn to original starter Taylor Potts who has missed the last two complete games after sustaining a concussion against New Mexico. Or he might be forced to start third-string freshman Seth Doege.

10. Keith Toston emerges as the league's best backup running back. Toston has been a strong producer for the Cowboys since taking over the starting position when Kendall Hunter went down with a foot injury earlier this season. Toston has averaged 94 yards per game, 5.0 yards per carry and scored four rushing touchdowns since then. He should have the opportunity for a big night again against Baylor, which ranks 100th nationally against the rush.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?