Sunday, October 10, 2010
What we learned in the Big 12: Week 6
By David Ubben
1. Taylor Martinez is a Heisman candidate. We're five games into the season. Martinez is a redshirt freshman who's played one conference game. Yes. It's a little early. He's going to make mistakes. But as it stands right now, Martinez has given the Big 12 its first legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy. When Nebraska's defense plays well like it did against Kansas State, Nebraska looks very scary, knowing that it may only be a matter of time before Martinez gets loose. He's going to get his carries every week, and when he gets in the open field, he's probably going to outrun whoever meets him there.
2. It's time to take Missouri's defense seriously. Talk all you want about strength of schedule, but so far, this defense looks like one of Gary Pinkel's best. The loss of linebacker Sean Weatherspoon hurts in the leadership department, but the other nine starters have forged together a defense that looks like one of the Big 12's best midway through the season. We'll find out more when the Tigers see the best offense they've faced all season in Texas A&M next weekend, but Missouri is giving up just more than 11 points a game -- good for a spot in the top five nationally. I don't care who you're playing, shutouts are hard to come by in conference play. And the ballhawking Tigers entered the week in the top 10 in turnover margin. Like Missouri's defensive coaches love to emphasize, "It's all about the ball!" And all of a sudden, that leaky secondary that ranked outside the national top 100 last year is stocked with experienced juniors and seniors tired of giving up big plays.
Collin Klein's performance Saturday reopened the quarterback competition at Kansas State.
3. Quarterbacks who lose preseason competitions should keep the faith. First, we had Jordan Webb at Kansas, who took over for Kale Pick after a season-opening loss and got the Jayhawks a win over Georgia Tech. This week, two more quarterbacks got their chance. Collin Klein stepped in for Carson Coffman at Kansas State, and coach Bill Snyder says the job is back up for grabs. Colorado's Cody Hawkins stepped in for Tyler Hansen, but didn't manage to put any points on the board for the Buffs in a 26-0 loss to Missouri. Coach Dan Hawkins insisted after the game that Hansen was still his starter, but hey, you never know. A slow start next week for Buffs against Baylor may mean another appearance for the senior backup.
4. Texas A&M's season is in serious jeopardy. It has to be frustrating for Texas A&M, who isn't that far from being 5-0, but they have two one-possession losses to ranked teams, Oklahoma State and Arkansas. That's not to say the Aggies don't have major issues on offense--quarterback Jerrod Johnson only managed to complete 15-of-40 passes against Arkansas--but that much-needed defensive improvement has arrived. Now that it's here, turnovers and poor execution have landed the Aggies at 3-2, staring down the barrel at 3-3 with a ranked Missouri team carrying lots of momentum into College Station next week. As one Texas A&M scribe said in the press box after Saturday's loss, "Now if that 2009 offense could come play with the 2010 defense, this team might have something." But alas, despite the best efforts of Doc Brown, they can't. Texas A&M needs badly to beat the Tigers next week.
5. Texas Tech is back off the mat. No team had their proverbial backs against the wall more than Texas Tech this week, facing Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. But for the Red Raiders, 45-38 winners, it's amazing how much better 1-2 looks than 0-3, isn't it? Texas Tech now has to ready themselves for a gigantic showdown in Lubbock with a red-hot Oklahoma State offense coordinated by familiar face Dana Holgorsen, who spent eight years in Lubbock as a coordinator for Mike Leach. A win means a lot remains on the table, with a 2-2 record holding the tiebreaker against Oklahoma State. But if Texas Tech hadn't won on Saturday, a season without a bowl game would have been a possibility.