Sunday, September 20, 2009
What we learned in the Big 12
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are five lessons we learned in the Big 12 this week:
1. Baylor's rush defense better improve. For all of the talk about Baylor’s offensive weapons, the Bears were beaten Saturday by a recipe that could prove worrisome once Big 12 play begins. Being gashed for 235 rushing yards by a Big East middle-feeder like Connecticut doesn’t sound good considering the Bears will have to stop backs like DeMarco Murray, Roy Helu Jr., Kendall Hunter, Derrick Washington and Alexander Robinson -- all in their first five conference games. Suddenly, all that talk about a bowl berth doesn’t sound quite so promising if the Bears can’t fix their rush defense.
2. Nebraska's killer lost opportunity. Bo Pelini will be kicking himself every time he watches the 12-second scramble by Tyrod Taylor on Virginia Tech’s game-winning play. But upon close examination, he’ll look back on a drive late in the third quarter that turned the game around. An apparent Nebraska touchdown pass from Zac Lee to Mike McNeill was wiped out by a Nebraska penalty. Two more penalties and a dropped pass led to a punt on a drive that should have finished with a makeable field goal attempt at worst. It was a possession the Cornhuskers couldn’t overcome in the end.
3. Landry Jones might be more ready for a Hurricane warning than we think. If you would have asked me late last Thursday night if Landry Jones could lead Oklahoma to a victory over Miami at Land Shark Stadium in two weeks, I would have been extremely dubious. Miami and Jacory Harris looked that good to me against Georgia Tech. But after watching Jones torch a good Tulsa team for six touchdown passes, I’m thinking he might be able to surprise people when the Sooners visit Miami -- particularly as Brandon Caleb develops into a productive No. 2 receiving threat behind Ryan Broyles.
4. Colorado's simpler defense pays off. There's a message in how Colorado played defense Saturday against Wyoming. After the game, Colorado coach Dan Hawkins said that the Buffaloes made things easier by running fewer personnel groups and fewer specialized situations. The result was Colorado’s first shutout in two years, punctuated by only five Wyoming plays of 10 yards or more. Sometimes limiting defensive demands works out better.
5. Texas A&M's receiving depth will have to carry the Aggies the next several games. Jeff Fuller’s cracked fibula will likely rob Texas A&M of its primary receiving playmaker for the next four to six weeks. But the Aggies have other options -- starting with Ryan Tannehill, who transitioned back to receiver and grabbed a team-high five receptions, including a big fourth-quarter TD grab against Utah State. And Uzoma Nwachukwu scored four touchdowns the four times he touched the ball. Fuller is the most talented and explosive of the Aggies’ receivers, but Tannehill and Nwachukwu provide them with pass-catching threats to get through Fuller's absence.