Sunday, October 17, 2010
What we learned in the Big 12: Week 7
By David Ubben
1. The Big 12 North a two-horse race. The gap between Missouri and Nebraska wasn't astronomical before Saturday, but it was clear. Now? It appears to be quite a bit closer than when the world woke up on Saturday. A Tigers-Cornhuskers showdown in Lincoln looms on Oct. 30. After Texas' upset of Nebraska on Saturday, a Missouri loss to Oklahoma next week wouldn't hurt too badly in terms of winning the North. As for the rest of the division, well ... let's just say you won't see Missouri or Nebraska losing to anyone by five touchdowns this year. It would be shocking to see the winner of that game in Lincoln not win the North.
DeMarco Murray and Oklahoma hold the Big 12's best shot at reaching the national title game.
2. Oklahoma answered the bell as the Big 12's lead national title contender. With Nebraska out -- for now -- of the national championship picture, Oklahoma looks like the conference's top team. The Sooners had arguably their best performance of the season, delivering a 52-0 beating to Iowa State in Norman. The defense has been inconsistent, but top to bottom, Oklahoma looks like the league's most complete team, even if it isn't the Big 12's most explosive team. When it comes to passing the ball and stopping the pass, as well as running the ball and stopping the run, Oklahoma has shown that it has the capacity to be one of the league's best. Rare are the games Oklahoma puts it together for an entire game, but the Sooners did that on Saturday night.
3. Write off Texas and Mack Brown at your own risk. You knew Texas had a chance to win in Lincoln on Saturday, if only because of Mack Brown's success against the Huskers. I felt confident the Huskers would win, but Mack Brown showed once again why he's one of the best coaches in the game. G-Magic, Garrett Gilbert is not. But he showed the ability to run, and one of the reasons it worked was because I very much doubt Nebraska had prepared for it. Maybe I'm wrong, but it certainly didn't look like it. Brown used those runs to build a lead, and then handed the game to his platoon of running backs, Fozzy Whittaker, Tre' Newton and Cody Johnson, who carried the Horns to a win. And that's without even mentioning the way Texas completely shut down Taylor Martinez and prompted the second benching in three games for the freshman. Texas was aided by dropped passes from Nebraska, but the Longhorns deserved to win that game.
This was a picture-perfect game plan that salvages some of Texas' season and leaves it in the Big 12 South picture, should Oklahoma stumble.
Additionally, our condolences to Brown and the family of his wife, Sally Brown, who didn't attend Saturday's game after the death of her brother.
4. Baylor will get its chance to make school history. Before the season I thought Baylor had six games on its schedule that didn't necessarily require an upset to win. So far, Baylor is 5-0 in those games and 5-2 heading into next week's game with a chance to end a 15-year bowl drought. It will host Kansas State and probably be a slight favorite, with Robert Griffin playing the best football of his career. For all the cruel fate of last season, beginning with Griffin's injury and ending with a one-win conference season, this year has gone almost exactly as planned for the Bears, who are a couple dropped passes away from already being bowl-eligible.
5. Kansas might be historically bad after all. So far, Kansas has played two teams in the bottom half of the Big 12, and it's lost by 48 and 52 points. That's inexcusable. Kansas ducks Texas and Oklahoma on this year's schedule, but what's going to happen when it plays at Nebraska on Nov. 13? The Jayhawks have to get better fast, and quit losing in such embarrassing fashion. That's embarrassing for everyone in the conference, and right now, these Jayhawks are looking like the new Washington State. Find me a BCS conference team playing worse football right now.
6. Oklahoma State must be accounted for in the Big 12 title race. Missouri gets to definitively have a chance to prove itself against Oklahoma next week. Oklahoma State's turn will come earlier in the afternoon when it hosts Nebraska. Don't discount the difficulty of winning in Lubbock, and Oklahoma State did exactly that, in more convincing fashion than Texas earlier this season. The deeper we get into this season, the clearer it becomes that Bedlam in Stillwater on the season's final weekend may decide the Big 12 South. A win by the Cowboys over Nebraska next week would make that almost a certainty.