Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Big 12 internal affairs: CU's Stewart provides RB depth
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are a few tidbits from around the conference that people are talking about as we approach the games this weekend.
- The performance of running back Rodney "Speedy" Stewart last week against Wyoming was an obvious indicator of why Colorado’s biggest offensive strength is its deep backfield. And Dan Hawkins has shown no hesitancy to go with different backs as his featured runner depending on game situations. Darrell Scott will get his chances after he becomes healthy, but Stewart is a consistent substitute if the Buffaloes need another feature back.
- Oklahoma State used its third set of starting offensive linemen in as many games last week against Rice, an underrated cause for the Cowboys' lack of offensive continuity so far this season. Redshirt freshman Lane Taylor made his first career start against Rice. He became the third different player to start at right guard after the Cowboys previously used Andrew Mitchell against Georgia and Anthony Morgan against Houston.
- Baylor’s lack of a vertical passing game has been the most surprising aspect of the Bears' offense early this season and it was a big liability against Connecticut. One would think with Robert Griffin, David Gettis and Kendall Wright that Art Briles would have been tempted to challenge the Connecticut secondary a little more. But the Bears had only one completion longer than 15 yards -- a 29-yard strike to Wright. They had only three passes longer than 15 yards against Wake Forest in the opener and one of those was a 33-yard gadget pass from running back Ernest Smith to Lanear Sampson.
- Kansas State’s game this week against Tennessee Tech will provide a victory, but it won’t count in the Wildcats’ bowl hopes. They’ve already beaten Massachusetts to qualify for the Division I-AA triumph that would count toward bowl certification. But after losses to Louisiana-Lafayette and UCLA in their last two games, the Wildcats aren't worrying about bowl games at this point of the season.
- Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp looked like he learned something from his team’s defensive effort last season against Texas Tech. The most impressive factor in this year's matchup was the way Texas' roaming defense snuffed out Tech’s screen game, which is the best in the conference. Tech’s running backs produced five receptions for no yardage in last week’s game. The week before against Rice, Tech’s running backs produced four receptions for 82 yards.
- The biggest early concern at Kansas State has been its lack of production on offense, where the Wildcats have not scored more than 21 points and are averaging 15 points a game. It’s the fewest points they've scored after three games since the Wildcats started 0-3 and scored only 28 points in Bill Snyder’s first season at the school in 1989. The biggest surprise has been the Wildcats' inability to get Brandon Banks involved in the offense as a deep threat. His average yards per reception are down from last season’s average of 15.7 per catch to 8.3 this season. The Wildcats need to get their prime playmaker involved quickly.
- Missouri is expecting Nevada to sell out to cover the run, daring sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert to beat them with his passing skills. Gabbert has looked good to this point of the season by completing 68 percent of his throws with eight touchdown passes and no interceptions. But he’s also had the benefit of a running game to balance his passing game in his first two games. Nevada coach Chris Ault is in the College Football Hall of Fame for a reason. I expect his Wolf Pack will cook up a strategy meant to flummox and confuse a young quarterback like Gabbert making his first road start.