What to watch in the Big 12, Week 14
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are some trends I'm watching for this weekend in Big 12 games:
1. The Big 12 South race -- The tightest Big 12 divisional race in history is playing out as Texas Tech, Texas and Oklahoma enter the final week of the season tied for first place in the South Division. If all three win, it will send league officials scurrying to the Bowl Championship Series standings to determine who will meet Missouri in the Big 12 Championship Game next week. In case of a two-way tie, Texas Tech holds the tiebreaker over Texas, Texas holds the edge over Oklahoma and the Sooners would advance if tied with Texas Tech. It will make the fine art of earning style points very important in all games this weekend for the three South challengers.
2. The Heisman race heats up -- Texas' Colt McCoy, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Texas Tech's Graham Harrell are involved in a similarly tight battle for the Heisman. Most voters are expected to hold onto their votes until after next week's championship game, providing an edge for the quarterback that finishes with the biggest late-season performances. All of them have that chance heading into this week's games.
3. Texas' revitalized strength in the trenches -- Texas players were humiliated after they were whipped inside in embarrassing losses to Texas A&M in the last two seasons. It's given them a chip on their shoulders as they prepare for Thursday's game in Austin. Texas coaches pushed the Longhorns through rougher practices leading up to the A&M game, hoping that the harder work would toughen them for an inexperienced Aggie team that doesn't appear to have the interior strength this season as some of former coach Dennis Franchione's previous squads.
4. Stephen McGee's last hurrah -- McGee earned a place in Aggie lore by directing two dramatic victories over the Longhorns in the last two seasons. He's lost his starting place after injuring his shoulder earlier this season, giving way to record-breaking sophomore Jerrod Johnson. Would A&M coach Mike Sherman consider giving McGee a chance to play in a tight game because of his previous success over the Longhorns? It will be interesting if McGee will get to play in what will be the last game of his college career with the Aggies.
5. Can the Sooners play any better? -- Oklahoma produced one of the most complete games of coach Bob Stoops' tenure with an impressive 65-21 drubbing of Texas Tech that resuscitated the Sooners' national title hopes. The Sooners notched an impressive beatdown over Texas Tech, cruising to a 42-7 halftime advantage in a game that was over early. Can they duplicate that emotion in what should be a tough battle against old foe Oklahoma State on the road? Oklahoma's Big 12 title hopes and chances to play in the Bowl Championship Series title game will be riding on it.
6. Kendall Hunter's gimpy quadriceps muscle -- The Big 12's leading rusher was injured midway through Oklahoma State's victory over Colorado two weeks ago. Coach Mike Gundy expects Hunter to be ready to play Saturday against Oklahoma. If Hunter isn't 100 percent, it will be much more difficult for the Cowboys to spring a home upset. And it would also mean more work for backup Keith Toston and place more demands on other phases of the Cowboys' balanced offensive attack.
7. Any hangover for the Red Raiders? -- Texas Tech's national title hopes were quashed by their humiliating loss, a performance where they allowed more points than in any game in school history. The Red Raiders still have legitimate hopes to rebound and claim their first berth in a Big 12 Championship Game if they can beat Baylor and other variables work in their favor. But they won't have any hopes unless they blot those bad Norman memories very quickly in Harrell's last home game.
8. Art Briles' return to Lubbock -- The Baylor coach is a Texas Tech graduate, was an original member of Mike Leach's staff and still has many friends and family members in the area. Despite that association, Briles would like nothing better than to unleash freshman quarterback Robert Griffin on his old team and hope he ends their Big 12 title game hopes in the process.
9. Not much national buzz at Arrowhead Stadium this time for Missouri-Kansas -- The rest of the country is greeting Kansas-Missouri this season with a collective yawn.
The Tigers have already wrapped up the North Division title. But it won't matter in this blood feud between these two bitter rivals. Chase Daniel will be gunning to make history as he attempts to beat the Jayhawks for the third straight time. Kansas coach Mark Mangino just hopes his defense will show up after being toasted for 209 points in its last five games. Missouri's high-powered offensive attack will provide a huge challenge for the struggling Jayhawks, who are headed for back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in school history.
10. Bowl hopes in Lincoln -- Surging Nebraska can take a big step to earning a New Year's Day bowl game by beating Colorado. Underrated Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz will be putting the finishing touches on one of the top statistical seasons in school history. He'll be facing an injury-depleted Colorado secondary that likely will be starting freshmen safeties Anthony Perkins and Patrick Mahnke against him. That group needs a big performance as the Buffaloes must win in order to become bowl eligible.