Thursday, September 27, 2012
What to watch in the Big 12: Week 5
By David Ubben
Here's what I'm keeping an eye on in this week's four games across the Big 12:
1. Who's the man? I'm skeptical of Wes Lunt's supernatural healing powers. So, considering his knee was immobilized until Monday, and he wasn't expected to practice until today, I'm also skeptical that he'll play a down Saturday against Texas, the roughest and best defense in the Big 12 with the biggest and fastest defensive line. Call me crazy, but that doesn't sound like the best idea for your true freshman's long-term health. Still, Lunt was listed as a co-starter alongside J.W. Walsh on this week's depth chart. Will he play? We may find out Friday when OSU releases its injury report. Walsh will get a much tougher test, but he looked pretty solid against Louisiana-Lafayette.
2. Are we done yet? I agree with coach Gary Patterson -- the red zone turnovers are out of character for the Frogs. Still, they've turned potential blowout wins into just OK wins in two consecutive weeks. The Frogs turned it over four times in the red zone against Kansas and twice against Virginia. How much longer can they get away with that? SMU would love to take advantage, so TCU had better fix it.
3. Feeling the need for speed:Tevin Reese and Tavon Austin are on the short list of the Big 12's fastest players. They've both had huge games early on this season, but which speedster outraces the other in Morgantown? It may ultimately decide the game. They both have a teammate who can go up and grab jump balls, but with two questionable defenses, these two may have the day's biggest highlights.
4. Is it real? Is it spectacular? Texas Tech leads the nation in total defense, which is unlikely to last but impressive nonetheless. Just how good is this defense? The first three games told us pretty much nothing, except that the Red Raiders are better than last year and won't be giving up chunks of yardage to bad teams. Iowa State is not a bad team and has plenty of playmakers. What can Tech prove as its schedule toughens up?
Can Calvin Barnett and the Cowboys' D slow down the Texas rushing attack?
5. Calvin's last stand: Heading into this weekend, it feels like Texas' running game versus Oklahoma State's defensive line is one of the biggest mismatches on the Week 5 slate. Will that be the case? The Longhorns have looked efficient and physical running both inside and outside the tackles, and Arizona worked over OSU's defense with a zone read. If anybody's going to slow down Texas, it's Calvin Barnett getting a push up front and mucking up the Longhorns' schemes.
6. All Tuckered out.Matthew Tucker was pretty average against Virginia, gaining 52 yards on 15 carries. He's the one back Patterson says he trusts, but what will he look like on the road against SMU? TCU needs him to play big this year, and he needs to show something before Big 12 play really hits its stride. Can he top 100 yards?
7. Throw it to the guys in white.Nick Florence has put up big numbers. But when I saw the Bears play SMU, he tested fate pretty often, throwing the ball into coverage a handful of times but getting away with it. He wasn't picked off all night. He did it again last week against Louisiana-Monroe, with one really bad interception and another that came on a ball thrown while he was being hit. Simply put: He can't throw interceptions this week. More than one will all but eliminate Baylor's opportunity to win this game. He has to make better decisions.
8. They just keep coming, Clones. Texas Tech has about 74 receivers on its team who can be productive in this offense, and Seth Doege finds them all. Still, Tech might have the league's deepest receiving corps and Doege spreads it out really well. It'll be a tough test for the Cyclones. Texas Tech has already had 13 players catch at least four passes through just three games. ISU's defense showed up big time against OSU last year, and it may need a similar effort to win this one.
9. Can you say Heisman? What's the deal with David Ash? Did we see a flash on the road against Ole Miss a couple of weeks ago? Or was this the beginning of a special season for Ash in Austin? We'll get a pretty good idea in Stillwater on Saturday. OSU's corners, Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert, are as good as any in the Big 12.
10. Big test for a big D. Texas' defense, unlike Texas Tech's, has not been overly strong through its first three games. Saturday could be a good opportunity for the Longhorns' D to prove what it can do long-term. The Longhorns have the horses to be elite, but giving up 31 points to Ole Miss won't impress anybody. Tackling issues were pervasive in that win. Linebacker Jordan Hicks isn't healthy, and his status is up in the air, but I'd expect him to play, despite an injured hip.