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Thursday, September 8, 2011
What to watch in the Big 12: Week 2

By David Ubben

Here's what I'm watching in this week's slate of games:

1. Oklahoma State's secondary. Starting safety Johnny Thomas is ineligible for the entire season, so it's up to senior Markelle Martin to lead a very young group of cornerbacks and promising safety Daytawion Lowe, to try to fill the void left by Thomas. They're going up against a difficult passing offense in Arizona and a fantastic receiver in Juron Criner. Criner reportedly may miss tonight's game, but the secondary still better learn fast.

2. Texas' running backs. Foswhitt Whittaker is the starter, but Malcolm Brown got hot in the second half and took over, leading the team in yardage and carries. Joe Bergeron may be a factor, too, but how does this situation look on and after Saturday's game against BYU?

3. Missouri's offensive line. Center Travis Ruth isn't back yet, and senior left tackle and captain Elvis Fisher is out for the season. They'll face a tough test at Arizona State, highlighted by linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who had three sacks in the Sun Devils' season opener.

4. Justin Blackmon. By his standards, he actually had kind of a quiet night (8 receptions, 144 yards) while his offense racked up 60 points in its season opener. He'll need another big game in a matchup with Arizona that looks like it will be extremely high scoring. Watch for him to get as many as 20 targets in Oklahoma State's passing game, which tore up the Wildcats in the Alamo Bowl.

5. Iowa State's linebackers. Marcus Coker looked fantastic against Missouri in his debut in last year's Insight Bowl. In Iowa's opener? Not so much. Iowa State struggled to stop the run last year, but Jake Knott and A.J. Klein will need to slow Coker down if Iowa State is going to take home the Cy-Hawk trophy.

6. Kansas' receivers. Daymond Patterson may not play against Northern Illinois, but somebody's got to step up. True freshman JaCorey Shepherd caught three passes for 107 yards and two scores last week, but no other Kansas receiver had a catch. The Jayhawks will lean on their running game again this week, but their receivers have to be better in Week 2.

7. Second-time starters at quarterback. Missouri's James Franklin and Iowa State's Steele Jantz didn't have fantastic first starts, but both showed some promise. Jantz did it with two big drives late in the game to get the win. Franklin played well outside of one big pick that cost the Tigers seven points and a couple near interceptions. Both will have to continue their development for their teams to pull upsets this week.

8. Texas' secondary. I put them "On the Spot" this week. Of course, I put Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright on the spot last week, and he had a huge game. Jake Heaps was unimpressive against Ole Miss last week, but don't count him out this week. His potential is enormous. Texas has to slow him down or prepare for a long day in Austin.