Thursday, November 18, 2010
What to watch in the Big 12: Week 12
By David Ubben
I'll be in College Station this weekend for Nebraska and Texas A&M's showdown, but here's what else I'm watching around the league.
1. Encore! Encore! Colorado interim coach Brian Cabral rallied his team to a convincing win over an Iowa State team that came to Boulder in need of a victory to become bowl eligible. Now, Kansas State heads west in another winnable game for the Buffs. Is a second consecutive Big 12 win in store? Colorado hasn't done that since wins over Oklahoma and Baylor in 2007, the only season former coach Dan Hawkins took his team to a bowl.
2. Rise of the 12th Man. The buildup in College Station this week for the Aggies' game against Nebraska Saturday night at Kyle Field has been pretty palpable all week. The school has pulled a record number of student tickets, and the environment could rival or exceed the best game-day atmosphere so far this season, when Missouri upset Oklahoma in Columbia.
Nebraska needs Taylor Martinez to rediscover his rushing mojo against a stiff Texas A&M run defense.
3. Taylor Martinez. He hasn't been himself since the first half against Missouri, and hasn't broken a huge run since his breakout performance against Kansas State. He'll need to be healthy against a good Texas A&M rush defense on Saturday, and he'll need to complete a good percentage of his passes for at least a couple of big plays to get the road win.
4. Jerome Tiller. Tiller, a sophomore, is young and experienced for a backup yet inexperienced for a starter. He'll get the biggest start of his career when he leads the Iowa State offense against Missouri with the Cyclones' postseason hopes on the line. How does he respond, and how does his time as the Cyclones' starter, which should be constant over the next two seasons, begin?
5. Can the Cowboys stay consistent? Hey, I wouldn't blame Oklahoma State if it's not at its sharpest in Lawrence on Saturday with a high-stakes Bedlam looming, but they've been the league's most consistent team this year, and should roll at Kansas. Do they let an improving Turner Gill squad hang around, or get the job done early?
6. Texas turnaround. If Texas can't get this one, well, they're not getting another one this year. Texas looked wholly unimpressive in its nonconference wins, but what does the offense look like against Florida Atlantic? Do they hand it to Cody Johnson or let Garrett Gilbert sling it to Mike Davis and let a connection for the future establish further chemistry? The latter is probably a good call, but this game isn't a gimme for the Longhorns, whose confidence has to be at an all-time low.
7. Sooners losing their way. There's no truth to the rumor that the Sooners will be donning red visors against Baylor to fool themselves into believing they're back at Owen Field. But Oklahoma, touchdown favorites, should win this game. The "Oklahoma can't win on the road" meme picked up a ton of steam with the Sooners' loss to Texas A&M, but winning this one is step 1 to ending it. Step 2 is going to Stillwater and winning as underdogs, a much more difficult task. That said, a loss in this game would only amplify the noise back in Norman regarding the struggles on the road. Baylor has never beaten the Sooners.
8. Baylor going out with a bang. The Bears' season finale is against Oklahoma, and they've maybe never had a better chance to knock off the Sooners. A win would mean three things: 1) Baylor finishes with eight wins. 2) Baylor should go to a solid, medium-sized bowl and 3) Baylor knocks off Texas and Oklahoma in the same year. Who had all of that back in August?
9. Rallying Cyclones. Jerome Tiller is the guy to watch, but will we see an inspired performance from the rest of the Cyclones with their leader sidelined in sweats? Austen Arnaud meant a lot to the program and his teammates, and there would be no greater tribute to a great career than to knock off Missouri in a game Iowa State can definitely win.
10. Running back face-off. Rodney Stewart and Daniel Thomas have both topped 1,000 yards in great seasons, and now meet each other as two of just four running backs in the conference with over 1,000 yards. Thomas has found a new running mate in quarterback Collin Klein while campaigning for wins, but the good bet is the back who runs for more yards is on the winning team.