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Thursday, October 21, 2010
What to watch in the Big 12: Week 8

By David Ubben

Here are 10 things I'm keeping an eye on this week in the Big 12:

1. CB Prince Amukamara vs. WR Justin Blackmon. Two of the best at their position, this matchup will have a huge impact on Saturday. If Blackmon has a big day, Oklahoma State wins. If Nebraska's Amukamara holds Blackmon in check and well below his averages in yardage and receptions for the year, other receivers like Josh Cooper and Hubert Anyiam will have to pace the Cowboys' passing game.

Justin Blackmon
Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon leads the nation with 955 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Saturday he'll match up with Nebraska star Prince Amukamara.
2. Atmosphere in Columbia. Faurot Field may not have a reputation as one of the toughest Big 12 stadiums to win in, but that might change for Saturday's game against No. 1 Oklahoma. "College GameDay" is in town, the fans will be out all day leading up to the 8 p.m. ET kickoff and The Zou should be rocking with a chance to knock off the No. 1 team in the BCS.

3. The other Cowboys. The Oklahoma State receivers other than Blackmon need to play well, but a big day from running back Kendall Hunter might hold off the Huskers, too. For as much attention as the offense is getting, the defense still has to keep the Huskers' rushing attack from running wild.

4. Validating the Longhorns. The last time most figured Texas would roll at home, it got rolled, 34-12 against UCLA. Is the Texas team we saw in Lincoln last week the one we can expect for the rest of the season? A big win at home against Iowa State would be a nice step toward proving it is.

5. Can Kansas stay competitive? Kansas has lost its previous two games by a combined 100 points to two teams -- Baylor and Kansas State -- who probably have a little less talent than its opponent this week, Texas A&M. The Aggies have a lot of offense and a much-improved defense that doesn't let teams do what Kansas does best, run the ball. Texas A&M ranks No. 2 nationally in run defense. Are the Jayhawks going to step up like they did against Georgia Tech, or can we expect another 50-point loss?

6. Letdown or ecstasy at Baylor? Quarterback Robert Griffin described a bowl game as the team's "primary goal" this season. If it wins on Saturday, it'll have achieved it. If it doesn't, it must beat one of three top 25 opponents or Texas A&M to qualify for a bowl. Miss out on a win this weekend, and the Bears probably have to start sweating a bit.

7. The return of T-Magic. Oklahoma State doesn't have the type of defensive talent Texas has, but did the Longhorns provide a blueprint for putting a hex on Taylor Martinez? We'll find out soon. If T-Magic turns in another clunker in this one, Oklahoma State wins.

8. Texas Tech defense cannot rest. The Red Raiders are giving up over 41 points a game in their past three outings (1-2 in that stretch), and let two players reach 100 yards rushing against Iowa State earlier this year. Colorado's rushed for more than 200 yards twice in home wins this season, and will try to add a third at Folsom Field on Saturday.

9. Preseason Offensive Player of the Year to look like it. If there ever was a time for Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson to have a big game, it would be now. Kansas has sacked the quarterback just three times this season, and none of those sacks have come from a defensive lineman, meaning if Johnson's under pressure, somebody's probably open. Only Minnesota and New Mexico State have fewer sacks, and those teams have one win combined. This same defense let Kansas State's Carson Coffman complete 15 of 16 passes last week and score five touchdowns. Another alliterative quarterback will try to have a big day.

10. Sack party in Columbia. Missouri leads the league with 20 sacks. Oklahoma is tied for second, with 18. Whichever team can keep that trend going and put the other's quarterback on his back more will have a huge advantage in the Big 12's biggest game of the week.