Thursday, November 3, 2011
What to watch for in the Big 12: Week 10
By David Ubben
Here's what I'm keeping an eye on in this week's games.
1. Kansas State's secondary. The Wildcats failed their big test last week against Oklahoma and it gets just as difficult, if not more so, this week in Stillwater. And this time it's on the road. OSU's running game is better than Oklahoma's, and its passing game is just as difficult to cover. Brandon Weeden has been sharp, and the task ahead of Nigel Malone and David Garrett is enormous. This matchup will decide the game.
Missouri QB James Franklin should give SEC defenses cause for concern next season.
2. Baylor's front seven. The Bears are giving up almost 250 yards on the ground in conference play, and Missouri fields a two-headed rushing attack with James Franklin and Henry Josey, who both torched a solid Texas A&M front seven last week. These guys have to play well to give Robert Griffin III and the Bears a chance, or Missouri will control possession and the game.
3. Oklahoma's home prowess. The home streak is gone, but did the mystique follow Texas Tech out of the building? Badly beating a good Texas A&M team would be a nice start for the Sooners, but Texas A&M has to be significantly less intimidated by (A) seeing that result and (B) beating Oklahoma last season. So which is it?
4. Texas QB(s)? Texas continues to list Case McCoy and David Ash as co-starters when the playing time looks like there's nothing "co-" about it. Does McCoy still have a future on the field, or has the true freshman, Ash, taken over a full-time role? My guess is the latter, but Texas Tech will be a real test, unlike Kansas. The Red Raiders could be revealing.
5. Kansas ... offense? Prove to us that this offense really is better. Iowa State's defense doesn't really scare many folks across the Big 12, but KU had just three first downs against Texas last week and 46 total yards in a 43-0 loss. Part of that was the Longhorns eliminating the Jayhawks' running game, but can the offense help the Jayhawks get their first conference win?
6. Missouri's secondary. E.J. Gaines & Co. have stepped up their play in recent weeks, but this week will be a tough test for the Tigers. Griffin III endured a frustrating outing against Oklahoma State last week and will be back at home, where he's been dominant all season. Are the Tigers up to the task? They're dealing with one of the best receiving corps in the league, and a quarterback who would love nothing more than to beat them over the top.
7. Seth Doege's accuracy. Iowa State didn't blitz Tech much in last week's 41-7 win, but Doege wasn't sharp and the Red Raiders paid the price with a nonsensical loss. Doege's been outstanding, but can he bounce back this week? I expect him to, but Texas' secondary is one of the league's best, and the Longhorns will harass him and make him hurry throws at corners Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom.
8. Texas A&M's second half. It has to be said, does it not? Texas A&M has been the league's oddest team this year, only a few plays away from being in the top three, instead of Oklahoma State. But alas, here they are, with losses to three teams after having double-digit halftime leads. Second halves haven't been the issue on the whole for this team, but they've been more evident in the losses. What's in store this week at Oklahoma?
9. Iowa State's identity. Who are these Cyclones? Was last week a statement about how good they can be? Or did Texas Tech lay an egg? I don't know how much Kansas can answer that question this week. The Cyclones would be well-served to be the next team to blow out the Jayhawks, but Kansas could reach up and do to Iowa State what the Cyclones did to Tech. Should be an interesting matchup.
10. Oklahoma State's -- yes -- focus. We've seen it the past two weeks. Oklahoma, then Texas Tech. If Oklahoma State isn't sharp, K-State will make it pay for dropped passes and poorly timed three-and-outs. The ranking beside K-State's name should help the Cowboys perk up, but seeing last week's blowout loss to Oklahoma might inspire a bit of complacency. Or will it? OSU has stayed pretty loose this week, and this will be one of the toughest tests left before the showdown with Oklahoma.