What we learned in the Big 12: Week 4
September, 26, 2010
By David Ubben | ESPN.com
1. Horns cannot live on defense alone. Texas' offense was bad for 60 minutes, and the defense looked ordinary for the final 30. It all added up to a 22-point home loss to a 16-point underdog in UCLA -- a Bruins team that was shut out at home to weeks ago by Stanford. Texas failed to run the ball effectively, never put together a drive through the air and looked inexperienced after UCLA scored on its opening possession of the second half to take a 20-3 lead. Nebraska's poor offense tried to rely on a world-class defense last year and finished with four losses. Texas might face the same fate this year, or worse, if the defense plays like it did in the second half. A 13-10 loss to UCLA because of an inept Texas offense wouldn't have surprised me. But the defense looked ordinary in the second half and if the unit doesn't return to form quickly, we may have to reconsider whether the Longhorns are actually any good.
AP Photo/Eric GayGarrett Gilbert and the Longhorns managed only one touchdown in their loss to UCLA.
2. It's good to have a zero in the loss column. Take deep breaths and don't worry about style points, you unblemished Midwestern squads. For now, that's Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. Texas proved everyone is vulnerable with one bad day, but so far this season Nebraska (SDSU), Missouri (the other SDSU), Texas A&M (FIU), Oklahoma (USU) and Oklahoma State (Troy) survived their bad days. Quality of opponent certainly had a lot to do with that, but if any of those other five teams struggled against a better team, they'd be carrying a loss into conference play, too.
3. Hold the phone on January hotel reservations in Phoenix, Nebraska fans. The defense looked vulnerable to the running game for the third week in four outings so far this season and Taylor Martinez morphed into a mistake-prone redshirt freshman. Nebraska's a great team with the potential to make a title run, but everybody would agree that another day like Saturday for the Cornhuskers will mean a loss in conference play. With a young front seven and the ball so often in the hands of a freshman, it's a real possibility for Nebraska. Everyone saw the best version of the team last week in Seattle. Based on coach Bo Pelini's comments after the win over South Dakota State, we saw the worst version on Saturday. (Side note: After what happened to Kansas, do the Dakota states have some sort of vendetta against the Big 12?)
4. Oklahoma's defense might get better, but it's not very consistent. Utah State torched them through the air. Then the Sooners effectively ended Christian Ponder's Heisman candidacy. A week later, Air Force rolled up 351 rushing yards. On Saturday, a struggling Cincinnati offense had running back Isaiah Pead rush for 169 yards and Zach Collaros threw for more than 300 yards. Timely turnovers meant a win for the Sooners. But without DT Gerald McCoy and having to break in two new corners and linebackers, this is not the Oklahoma defense that ranked in the national top 10 in total defense in 2009.
5. Kansas State has guts. I swear, there may not be a more boring team to watch in college football, especially when teams bottle up Daniel Thomas, who still is making a strong case as college football's best running back. (Note to Mark Ingram, Kendall Hunter, John Clay, DeMarco Murray, Noel Devine and Jacquizz Rodgers: Look at what is around you. Look at what is around Daniel Thomas. Then look at his numbers. Then look at yours.) But twice this season, Kansas State has needed big plays. Both times, it's gotten them. No team has been in tighter games more constantly than the Wildcats, and for as underwhelming as its win over UCLA looked after the Bruins lost to Stanford, check out how it looks now. I already christened the game-winner on Saturday as the "Drive of the Year" in the conference, and the confidence Carson Coffman gained from it might mean it'll happen again. Pair that up with Nebraska's vulnerability to the run, and I'll say it: On October 7, Huskers beware.