Sunday, October 25, 2009
What we learned in the Big 12, Week 8
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are some items we learned in the Big 12 in Saturday's games:
1. Mike Sherman hasn’t had a sweeter college victory than the one he had Saturday night against Texas Tech. The Texas A&M coach’s passing game was mocked by Texas Tech coach Mike Leach after the NFL draft earlier this season. Sherman returned the favor by showing Leach something about a new quarterback he couldn't match in Jerrod Johnson. Sherman challenged his team that they would be in a fight and even showed them films of the Muhammad Ali-George Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle" upset in 1974 the night before the game to get them ready. His team came out swinging a night later.
2. Nebraska's game of dropsy Saturday afternoon defied all logic. The Cornhuskers had eight turnovers -- including four fumbles inside the Iowa State 6-yard line in a tough 9-7 loss to the Cyclones. With Nebraska forcing no turnovers, the Cornhuskers’ minus-8 turnover margin was the worst in school history. But more amazingly, where was Cody Green? The ballyhooed freshman quarterback didn’t have to start the game, but his addition into the lineup for a possession or two might have provided a jump-start for the Cornhuskers' sputtering offense. Instead, Nebraska's struggles continued a trend where the Cornhuskers have produced only 20 points in their last 14 quarters against BCS opposition. Bo Pelini and Shawn Watson have their work cut out for them -- pronto.
3. The best coaching job in the country Saturday was turned in by Paul Rhoads. Sure, the Cyclones had a few breaks with all of the turnovers. But the new Iowa State coach directed his team to a 9-7 victory over Nebraska without starting quarterback Austen Arnaud and leading rusher Alexander Robinson in the lineup. And the Cyclones did it despite a virus that caused many members of the team to get sick in the locker room during halftime. Rhoads is the first ISU coach to win five games in his first season since George Veenker in 1931. And with one more victory, he’ll have the Cyclones headed to their first bowl game since 2005.
4. Kansas State appears to be for real in the North Division. With every team in the division but the Wildcats having at least two conference losses, why can’t Bill Snyder lead his team to the North title? Despite beating Colorado by two touchdowns Saturday afternoon, Snyder was steamed about his team’s critical penalties in the second half that twice took them out of field goal range. But Snyder can’t be mad at his defense, which limited Colorado to only a touchdown and dominated in the trenches from the opening snap in Saturday's game. KSU has a tough finishing schedule but could make it to a bowl even if it has to win seven games to get there. If the Wildcats play like they did Saturday, and the rest of the North's powers like they did, it won't be a big surprise to see the KSU playing in the championship game.
5. Zac Robinson might be playing like the first all-conference quarterback in the 109-year history of the Oklahoma State program. That’s right. Oklahoma State has never had an all-conference quarterback in its history. But Robinson certainly is filling the bill after his record-setting performance against Baylor. Robinson is keeping the OSU program humming as it has kept winning despite Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter being out of the lineup. He’ll be facing the biggest challenge of the season against Texas ' "Goon Squad" next week, which has knocked out starting quarterbacks in its last three games. But if Robinson can direct the OSU offense in that game like he has so far this season, the Cowboys might have a shot at upsetting the Longhorns.