Thursday, September 29, 2011
What to watch in the Big 12: Week 5
By David Ubben
Here's what I'm keeping an eye on in this weekend's games:
1. Texas A&M's running game. The Aggies have one of the league's best, but it got both stopped and abandoned in a quick-changing game last week against Oklahoma State. That can't happen against Arkansas, especially with Texas A&M's defense now fighting a few key injuries.
2. Kansas State's defense. How much better is this defense ... really? I'm not sure. But I know this: Robert Griffin III is a heck of a lot better than Jacory Harris. We'll learn just how much better when Baylor comes to Manhattan.
Iowa State's Steele Jantz provides a stern test for the Texas defense.
3. Texas' linebackers. They better be ready. Steele Jantz is more than willing to run free, and must be accounted for in the running game. It's up to this experienced group to stop him.
4. Robert Griffin III's accuracy. He's been on a tear of late. Will that continue now that the Bears are in conference play? By season's end, I still think TCU's defense will be better than K-State's, but the games that really count start now. We'll see if RG3 comes back to earth a bit.
5. Steele Jantz's decision making. He's gotten off to rough starts in his past two games, but has had two weeks to prepare for a Texas defense that's led the Big 12 in total defense for four seasons and sits in second now. Manny Diaz can make things complicated on QBs, and Jantz will have to overcome his inexperience. Texas is better than UConn. Throwing three INTs before making a completion won't cut it in this one.
6. Kansas' defense. It's probably better than last time out's disaster against Georgia Tech. You can't find an offense less similar than the Yellow Jackets', but Texas Tech is much more similar to what KU will see the rest of its season. We'll see how it does against Seth Doege & Co.
7. Texas Tech's receivers. Tech will be missing top target Darrin Moore, but somebody has to step up. Ten different players caught passes last week, but none had more than 54 yards receiving. The Red Raiders can probably beat Kansas like that, but can they continue to win like that?
8. Oklahoma's focus. You can't blame the Sooners if they look less than sharp this week. Big games against Florida State, Missouri and Texas sandwiched around a rather unappetizing Ball State. What's this team's mental state in a game it could sleepwalk through and win?
9. Malcolm Brown. The Longhorns' running back is continuing to progress, but after a week off to prepare for his first conference game, what does he have prepared? Oklahoma is waiting next week. He'll get plenty of opportunities this week, though.
10. Baylor's defense. This will be a different look than the Bears have seen, and a very physical quarterback in Collin Klein, who reminds me a lot of Austen Arnaud from Iowa State. Baylor's defense took quite a few shots against TCU, but hasn't seen an offense good enough to beat it since. That changes Saturday. Do the Bears respond?