NCF Nation: Brandon Pettigrew

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- When Andy McCollum was hired to guide Middle Tennessee State from a fledgling Division I-AA program to Division I-A in 1999, he knew the Blue Raiders had to find some sort of an advantage to compete with the sport’s heavyweights.

So McCollum hired Air Force assistant Larry Fedora, who had worked with him on Baylor’s staff in the mid-1990s.

“The first thing we thought was we were either going to run the option because of our personnel, or we were going to be wide open, because we didn’t think we had the linemen to knock people off the ball,” said McCollum, now Georgia Tech’s defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. “We had a couple of good wide receivers, and a quarterback who could throw the ball.”

Fedora and McCollum decided the Blue Raiders would play at an ultra-fast pace, wasting very little time between snaps, and would try to beat opponents with their tempo and conditioning.

Fedora and McCollum visited Tulane, where Tommy Bowden used a high-paced attack to lead the Green Wave to an 11-0 record in 1998. At the time, the Green Wave was about the only team in college football using a spread attack.

Fedora wanted the Blue Raiders to play even faster than Tulane. He added his own wrinkles to the offense, and has developed it even more over the years.

“Nobody was prepared for it,” McCollum said. “We practiced fast and had a lot of energy on our staff. We were looking for an edge, and it was to snap the ball before they were ready. We weren’t going to whip anybody off the ball.”

Fedora, who is set to begin his first season as North Carolina’s coach, hasn’t slowed down yet. He says his offense is different than the spread attacks run by Washington State’s Mike Leach and West Virginia’s Dana Holgerson.

“We still believe we’re going to be able to run the ball also,” Fedora said.

Fedora’s offense also utilizes the tight ends, which are sometimes overlooked in favor of more receivers in a spread offense. Tight end Ben Troupe excelled at Florida, and Brandon Pettigrew was an All-American at Oklahoma State.

“We’ve had some tight ends who have excelled in this offense,” Fedora said.

Now Fedora just has to find the right personnel at North Carolina.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Zac Robinson is confident about his team's chances this season.

Oklahoma State's senior quarterback expects to see an improvement over last season's 9-4 record. And he knows that a strong collective effort could lead to a shot at the Cowboys' first Big 12 South Division title and the school's first BCS bowl bid.

  Robert Benson/US Presswire
  Zac Robinson is excited about what the Cowboys bring back for 2009.

We sat down to talk with Robinson about wide receiver Dez Bryant's freakish athletic talents, Robinson's reasons for added weight from last season and what the Cowboys need to do to become Big 12 title contenders.

Your coach, Mike Gundy, is making a point to develop your backups and cutting back on your work this spring. Do you like your lack of activity?

Zac Robinson: It has been a little different for me this spring. I'll get out and get my reps and then spend my time teaching the young receivers. Any way I can help with the signal or with certain routes. I'm there trying to help them out and also the other quarterbacks. I'm just trying to get a lot of mental repetitions with the offense and help the other guys out.

When we go with our team period, I'll get the first four snaps and then let the rest of them ride out the rest of the period. Our offense is looking good. It's good to get a little bit of a break. I want to try to better myself in any way I can, but the other guys can use the work in the individual periods. I understand where they are going with it and how they want to have the next guys ready to go.

With Dez Bryant recovering from an injury and Bo Bowling suspended, a lot of your younger receivers are getting most of the snaps in the spring. How do they look so far?

ZR: The work they will get this spring will be great for them. I'm already seeing some guys who might be challenge for some playing time. And as much as it hurt us not to have Dez out there this spring, it's really good for our younger guys to get some reps. I'm excited to see them stand up and find out who can help us out. We've always known we have guys who are talented and who can help us out. They have stepped up in a big way this spring and shown what they can do.

(Read full post)

Posted by's Tim Griffin

I know it's March Madness. But spring practice is continuing across the Big 12 with plenty of interesting stories. Here are some of today's most notable:

  • The Oklahoman's Jake Trotter reports that Corey Wilson has been moved out of OU Medical Center and into a rehabilitation facility. Wilson suffered a serious spinal cord injury in an automobile accident two weeks ago.
  • Colorado could be scrambling for an opponent after Miami (Ohio) appears to have two opponents scheduled on Sept. 12 -- the Buffaloes and Northwestern, the Boulder Daily Camera's Kyle Ringo reports. 
  • Jared Crick could be poised to assume a starting defensive tackle position when Nebraska begins practice on March 25, according to Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal-Star.
  • Columbia Daily Tribune beat writer Dave Matter analyzes what the promotion of new coordinator Dave Steckel will mean for Missouri's defense.
  • Kansas added a late commitment at a huge position of need with the addition of linebacker Jon Watts of Oroville Butte (Calif.) Community College, according to the Lawrence Journal-World.
  • Former Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew frustrated a group of scouts from 19 NFL teams Wednesday when he failed to run at Oklahoma State's Pro Day. Pettigrew told Tulsa World reporter John Hoover he was sidelined with a grade one strain of his right hamstring.
  • Former Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz hopes to use the slight of not being invited to the recent NFL combine as motivation during the Cornhuskers' Pro Day on Thursday, the Omaha World-Herald's Mitch Sherman reports.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Ah, bowl time. I feel like I've missed out on a lot of the early fun from a lot of great games already.

The Big 12 finally starts on Monday night when Missouri faces Northwestern in the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

We'll have Oklahoma State and Oregon Tuesday in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl in San Diego and Kansas and Minnesota in the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., on Dec. 31.

  • How Missouri handles the stinging disappointment of another Big 12 championship game loss: The Tigers say they are intent on finishing strong, becoming the first team to win 10 games in back-to-back seasons in school history. But they have struggled defensively at the end of the season, allowing 102 points in losses to Kansas and Oklahoma. Northwestern's offense shouldn't prove troublesome, considering the Wildcats scored at least 28 points in a game only once in their final nine games of the season. What Missouri defense will show up in its bowl game?
  • The end of an era at Missouri: Chase Daniel and Chase Coffman will end illustrious careers with the Tigers, along with offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, who is off to his new job as head coach at Wyoming. Jeremy Maclin likely could be playing his final college game. This potent offensive mix has been the most productive offense in the school's recent history. Could they have one more huge outburst left in them in their final game together?
  • Better health for the Jayhawks: Key players like Kerry Meier, Jake Sharp and Todd Reesing were banged up most of the second half of the season for Kansas. After a month of rest and playing in the warm Arizona climate, will the potent Kansas trio be ready to take advantage of slumping Minnesota? The Gophers arrive with a four-game losing streak, compared to Kansas' excitement after a thrilling upset victory over Missouri in the Jayhawks' season finale.
  • Can the Jayhawks protect Reesing?: When Kansas was at its most successful offensively this season, Reesing was afforded protection and Sharp was a consistent runner. But the Wildcats often struggled to do that against the Big 12's power teams. It will be critical for Kansas redshirt freshman tackle Jeff Hatch to protect Reesing's blind size from Minnesota defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg, who led the Gophers with nine sacks.
  • Oklahoma State's defense without Tim Beckman: The Cowboys' former defensive coordinator left immediately for his new job as head coach at Toledo, leaving Mike Gundy without a coordinator for the bowl game against Oregon. First-year defensive line coach Glenn Spencer takes over Beckman's job of coaching linebackers. A game plan has been formulated with his work along with that of cornerbacks coach Jason Jones and safeties coach Joe DeForest. It could provide a big challenge against an Oregon offense that ranks fourth nationally in rushing, seventh in scoring and eighth in total offense.
  • A Holiday Bowl of points: Want to see a bowl game where the two teams combine for triple digits in points and into the thousands in yards between them? This could be your game. Oklahoma State features a talented array of offensive weapons like quarterback Zac Robinson, wide receiver Dez Bryant, running back Kendall Hunter and tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Oregon will counter with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, running backs Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount and tight end Ed Dickson. Considering that both teams have scored at least 40 points six times apiece this season, brace for a shootout in San Diego. Who needs a San Diego delicacy like fish tacos when you can gorge yourself on a delicacy like this?

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Here are a few tidbits from around the Big 12 heading into this week's games.

1. The Big 12's most stable coaching staff might be set for a shakeup after the season. Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen is in the mix for openings at New Mexico and Wyoming, and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus is being considered for the vacant head job at Toledo. If either leave, they could become the first assistants from Gary Pinkel's staff to leave for another job. That stability has been an underrated facet in the Tigers' development into the North's strongest current program -- particularly in terms of recruiting two-star and three-star recruits in Texas who have blossomed into key contributors once they arrived in Columbia. A staff change would put Pinkel in the unfamiliar position of having to hire a new assistant for the first time since he arrived at Missouri in 2001.

2. Despite struggles in a disappointing 2-10 season, Iowa State coach Gene Chizik doesn't expect to go through heavy use of junior-college players to restock his program. Chizik said that "a couple" of junior-college players could be brought in to help the Cyclones at specific areas of need, but he doubted he would make a heavy push because those players would be around the program for only two seasons. Chizik still remains committed to using arriving high school talent as the backbone in his rebuilding job with the Cyclones.

3. Expect Oklahoma State to try to emphasize a more balanced approach in Saturday's game against Oklahoma than last season. The Cowboys have been working on play-action passing after throwing for only 104 yards last year against the Sooners -- the lowest in a Big 12 game in Mike Gundy's coaching tenure. The Cowboys hope to get tight end Brandon Pettigrew more involved Saturday after he was held without a catch last season by the Sooners. And the passing game should clearly benefit from the return of running back Kendall Hunter, who should be ready to go after nursing a quadriceps injury that occurred in the Cowboys' last game against Colorado.

4. Colorado's banged-up secondary will be at a big disadvantage Friday against Nebraska with senior starting strong safety D.J. Dykes out and starting free safety Ryan Walters' status still uncertain. It could mean a pair of freshmen will be starting against the high-powered Nebraska passing attack -- Anthony Perkins at strong safety and Patrick Mahnke at free safety. Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz has to be salivating, considering he blistered the Buffaloes for 484 passing yards, 521 yards of total offense and four touchdown passes last season when the Buffaloes' secondary was a lot healthier.

5. Texas coaches have been disappointed in the last two seasons because their team wasn't as physical as A&M, losing the game in the trenches both seasons. It's led to a change in Texas' practices leading up to the Texas A&M game for the Longhorns. The Longhorns still should have the edge, considering that Texas A&M's offense isn't nearly as ground-oriented with Jerrod Johnson playing quarterback and with a young offensive line developing as it grows.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

1. Brent Venables' luster is restored. The Oklahoma defensive coordinator's reputation -- like the "Big Game" mystique of his boss, Bob Stoops -- had been dinged a little in recent seasons because of the Sooners' BCS bowl game struggles. But after the Sooners' swarming, decisive dissection of Texas Tech's offense Saturday night, the nation again was reminded why the Sooners' Big 12 dynasty was built first and foremost on defense. The Sooners' strong defensive performance should resonate as a resume to help sell Venables for one of those open jobs that are out there. If he can direct a team in the future like he can to play defense against Texas Tech, he should be considered one of the hottest commodities available.

2. Let the BCS lobbying begin. Before the third quarter of Saturday's Oklahoma-Texas Tech game was finished, Texas spin doctors were texting national football writers and poll voters to remind them about Texas' 45-35 victory over Oklahoma on Oct. 11. As if they really had forgotten. But it shows what will be as big a battle off the field as on it as two monolithic football programs with the public-relations machines to match. It should be interesting to see how everything unfolds. Texas failed in its biggest road test this season and so did Texas Tech. Now, it will be Oklahoma's chance against Oklahoma State in a bitter road rivalry game. A win there would resonate for the Sooners unlike either of the other two South Division challengers.

I'm expecting to see a lot of bully pulpit harmonizing from Mack Brown and Stoops if their teams win their regular-season finales next week. Wouldn't it be delicious if somehow those two old rivals could end up meeting at the BCS Championship Game? Sure, Florida and Alabama would both have to lose as the Longhorns and Sooners keep winning. But in this wackiest of all college football seasons, anything appears to be possible.

3. Texas Tech's dream season came to a crashing thud Saturday night. But it's still not out of the question that the Red Raiders might have a shot at their first Big 12 Championship Game. Mike Leach's team will be pinning its hopes on beating Baylor next Saturday afternoon and then hoping that Oklahoma State's best team in 20 years can rise up and claim an upset victory over Oklahoma. Stoops has won four of five previous games in Stillwater, but all of the Oklahoma victories were settled by six points or fewer. Texas Tech has to hope that Kendall Hunter makes a quick recovery from his quadriceps injury and that Zac Robinson, Brandon Pettigrew and Dez Bryant take advantage of their week off more fortuitously than the Red Raiders did.

4. Saturday's biggest winner in the North Division was Nebraska, and it had nothing to do with any Big 12 games. Syracuse's shocking upset over Notre Dame has dropped the Irish far down the Gator Bowl's wish list and pushed the Cornhuskers into the inside track for the game if they can beat Colorado on Friday. The Cornhuskers would be 8-4 and would have the sizzle of winning five of their last six games -- as well as returning to a bowl in coach Bo Pelini's first season. Gator Bowl officials are already salivating about a potential Nebraska-Florida State matchup, an enduring bowl treat between two once-dominant programs that were matched up four times in New Year's Day bowls from 1988-94. The only way that scenario won't happen will be if Notre Dame stuns USC next week in Los Angeles, where the Irish are 1-5 since 1996 and lost their last three games by an average margin of 27.3 points. Sounds like the Cornhuskers and their fans better start stocking up on suntan lotion.

5. Ron Prince's coaching career at Kansas State ended in a fitting fashion Saturday. The Wildcats claimed a 38-30 victory over Iowa State, but the way the game finished up was the perfect encapsulation of Prince's three-year coaching career there -- the shortest in Big 12 history for any North Division coach. Prince called time out with one second left to set the defense on one rousing conclusion. And Iowa State proceeded to score a touchdown on the final play of the game, tacking on a meaningless score (unless you were gambling on the game) to finish off a 626-yard performance. Even in his final victory, Prince's defense let him down at the end. It's been that way for him for three years.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Here are this week's rankings after last week's games.

1. Texas Tech -- Mike Leach still looking for his first Norman conquest since taking over Tech program. Saturday night would be a good time to start.

2. Texas -- Time for Mack Brown to assume the bully pulpit in selling his team to BCS pollsters - again.

3. Oklahoma -- Bob Stoops says his team would be leading the Big 12 in scoring defense without special teams lapses.

4. Oklahoma State -- Rest for "Bedlam Game" comes at a good time after Kendall Hunter and Brandon Pettigrew were knocked out of the Colorado game with injuries.

5. Missouri -- Even with their midseason struggles, Tigers still could pose a nasty championship game challenge for whatever South team emerges.

6. Nebraska -- Bo Pelini vows to keep Cornhuskers working during the bye week. That attitude is understandable considering a New Year's Day bowl game still is within reach.

7. Kansas -- What a difference a year makes: 2007 -- 3-0 vs. South with point differential of 120-49. 2008 -- 0-3 vs. South with a 59-143 point differential.

8. Colorado -- Just didn't have enough offensive weapons to fashion a comeback in upset bid against Oklahoma State.

9. Baylor -- Strong offensive and defensive efforts in triumph over Texas A&M was the capstone of Art Briles' first season.

10. Kansas State -- Ron Prince leaves his job juggling a quarterback controversy heading into his last game.

11. Texas A&M -- Aggies need victory over Texas in order to avoid being beaten by all South opponents in same season for the first time in school history.

12. Iowa State -- Several good, young players have emerged, but Cyclones appear to have regressed in Chizik's second season.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

1. The Texas Longhorns have come full circle this season. At the start of the season, nobody was talking about them. They rose during a dramatic run to No. 1 in the nation after a stunning victory over Oklahoma. They came one second from making history, nearly becoming the first team since 1943 to beat four straight teams ranked 12th or higher. And now, they are in serious danger of being overlooked in the national title hunt despite sustaining only one loss -- at the No. 2 team on a last-second breakdown. That's how excruciatingly small the margin of error is in football today. But Texas coach Mack Brown seems to have his accepted his fate. "If 35-7 against Kansas on the road isn't a good enough win for someone, we'll just go wherever they tell us to go," Brown said.

2. Baylor linebacker Joe Pawelek might be the most underrated player in the conference. It was fitting that Pawelek saved his best for Texas A&M on Saturday. Pawelek contributed seven tackles and two interceptions, including an end-zone pick. His unique talents in pass coverage are reminiscent of a player that any old-school Aggie fan could identify with -- Jack Pardee.

3. Can Colorado compete for the North title next season? The North should be wide open as Chase Daniel leaves Missouri, Joe Ganz departs from Nebraska and Josh Freeman likely could leave Kansas State. I've tended to think that Colorado was the team with the most returning pieces to have the best shot at winning. But with today's pinball-like scoring mentality in the conference, the Buffaloes need a more explosive passing offense. I don't think Cody Hawkins will cut it, meaning his father might face the tough choice of having to upgrade the position where his son is entrenched as a prime playmaker.

4. Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh is playing like the Big 12's best defensive player the last several weeks. And he's doing something that's extremely difficult by dominating from the defensive tackle position. Most defensive tackles tie up a couple of blockers and enable linebackers behind them to make plays. Suh is becoming such a force as the prime run-stopper for the Cornhuskers that he's leading his team in tackles. His development might be Bo Pelini's most striking transformation since he arrived.

5. Oklahoma State still has a lot to work on as its prepares for the "Bedlam Game" against Oklahoma. First, the Cowboys have to make sure that prime playmakers like Kendall Hunter and Brandon Pettigrew are healthy. And they also have to hope that their red-zone offense gets well in the next few days, too. Oklahoma State can't settle for field goals against the Sooners and expect to win in what should be a shootout in Stillwater.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

The kid from the Denver suburbs made a triumphant return to his old stomping grounds Saturday night.

Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson rushed for one touchdown and passed for another score to key the Cowboys' 30-17 victory over Colorado.

Robinson, a junior from nearby Littleton, Colo., punctuated his rushing touchdown by throwing his hands high in the air to signal to friends and family members who attended the game.

The victory keeps the Cowboys' hopes alive for a New Year's Day bowl.

The Colorado-Oklahoma State game turned out to be the most competitive Big 12 game of the day, but it was that way only because of some good fortune for the Buffaloes.

Colorado got a gift touchdown in the third quarter on a fortunate fourth-down rebound of a Cody Hawkins' pass that glanced off Cody Crawford's hands into the waiting grab of Scotty McKnight for a 29-yard touchdown. If Colorado didn't get that play, the Cowboys likely would have cruised to an easy victory.

Colorado had persevered for fourth-quarter comeback victories over Oklahoma and West Virginia during the last two seasons. And the Buffaloes appeared to have seized that momentum after Demetrius Sumler's 3-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.

But the Buffaloes never could climb back into the game as they struggled with poor field position and Hawkins' inability to make big plays when the Buffaloes needed them.

It means the 5-6 Colorado has to win at Nebraska on the day after Thanksgiving in order to qualify for a bowl game.

And considering the way that the Cornhuskers have been playing recently, that sounds like a huge test for the offensively-challenged Buffaloes.

Here are some other things I noticed while watching the game.

  • Injuries to Kendall Hunter (jammed left knee) and Brandon Pettigrew (apparent concussion) made Oklahoma State look pedestrian on offense at the end of the game. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has to hope both can heal up during their off week as they prepare for the Bedlam game with Oklahoma in two weeks.
  • One thing that struck me was how few tackles that the Colorado defensive line made throughout the game. George Hypolite's name was barely called.
  • I was surprised that we didn't see Colorado freshman quarterback Tyler Hansen play for the Buffaloes - particularly as Hawkins struggled in the second half. A change of pace provided by a running quarterback might have helped diversify the Buffaloes' offense.
  • Gundy needs to make sure that punter Matt Fodge gets a game ball for his performance in the fourth quarter. The biggest reason why Colorado's offense never got going late in the game was because they started drives at their own 7 and 10 when they still had a chance to climb back into the game.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

After being blown out last week at Texas Tech, some wondered how Oklahoma State would respond after such a one-sided defeat that ended its Big 12 South title hopes.

But after watching them cruise to a 13-3 halftime lead against Colorado, there seems to be little hangover for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys' strong performance is showing that even being the fourth-best team in the South Division perhaps perhaps could qualify a team to be considered among the top 10 teams in the nation.

Zac Robinson has directed a Cowboy offense that cracked the Colorado 5-yard line on its first two possessions, but came away with only a pair of field goals.

"Our defense did a good job of turning them away when they got close," Colorado coach Dan Hawkins told ABC-TV as he left the field at halftime.

Dez Bryant's one-handed 29-yard TD grab boosted the Cowboys to a comfortable lead that really isn't indicative of how they have dominated.

Hawkins has implored his team to "play with their horns out." The Buffaloes have played well within the shadow of their own end zone so far. Colorado just needs to expand that area outwards in the second half.

Here are some other observations I've gleaned after watching the first half and the end of Missouri's victory over Iowa State.

  • Colorado kicker Aric Goodman finally snapped a streak of eight straight missed field goals when he converted a 31-yard field goal to account for all of Colorado's scoring in the first half. "He's been money on hitting the upright," Hawkins said.
  • Backup Colorado running back Derrick Sumler has looked good in the early going, rushing for a team-best 52 yards. He's getting the majority of carries after Darrell Scott was dinged up in practice and unavailable for tonight's game. For all of the disappointment about Colorado's makeshift line this season, an even bigger one has to be Scott's injury-plagued freshman campaign.
  • Colorado's defense took a big hit when free safety Ryan Walters, one of the unit's most experienced and dependable players went down with a knee and ankle injury. His return is questionable -- and you can tell a difference in the Buffaloes' defense after he left.
  • Bryant was understandably whining about not getting the ball in the red zone after Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith was briefly knocked out of the game. Bryant appeared to be open on the play, but Robinson instead overthrew tight end Brandon Pettigrew in the end zone. Bryant put aside his anger later in the half with his TD reception - his first career touchdown at a road game.
  • As expected, Missouri didn't look back in a 52-20 victory over Iowa State that wrapped up the Big 12's North title and brought home the coveted Telephone Trophy back to Columbia. The Tigers now have a week off before a season-ending game against Kansas before the Big 12 title game Dec. 6 in Kansas City. I think they've got a better chance to win that title than most might realize.

Pre-game report from Lubbock

November, 8, 2008

Posted by's Tim Griffin

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Welcome to Jones AT&T Stadium, where I've found a much bigger concentration of Iowa Hawkeyes and LSU Tigers fans than I ever knew existed.

Penn State's loss has already assured Texas Tech's chance of remaining in the top two if they can beat No. 9 Oklahoma State tonight. Alabama is looking pretty shaky as I write this.

Here are some trends that I'll be watching as the game progresses.

Oklahoma State's defense against Tech's passing attack: Graham Harrell torched the Cowboys for 646 yards last season and came only a dropped Michael Crabtree pass from beating them. If Oklahoma State doesn't improve its pass rush, they could be facing a similar dilemma tonight. And if they don't provide some token pressure from some blitz packages they normally don't use that much, Harrell will pick them apart.

Texas Tech's attitude: I'm curious how the Red Raiders will approach the game after last week's dramatic upset victory over No. 1 Texas last week. Their emotions have to be dragging, at least just a little.

Only one team since 1965 has beaten a No. 1 team and then rebounded to beat another top-10 team the following week. The Red Raiders do have the advantage of playing at home, which helped spur that 1984 Oklahoma to beat Oklahoma State on the rebound game.

How Texas Tech limits big plays: The Red Raiders have struggled against Oklahoma State in recent seasons, allowing six rushing touchdowns runs of at least 45 yards. And they will have to contend with big-play threat Dez Bryant, who has produced five TD receptions of 35 yards or longer and also two long punt returns for scores. Remember that Tech was burned for a 91-yard pass last week by Colt McCoy. But I still look for Tech to use its usual zone-heavy pass defense it has favored this season.

Tech's run defense: The interior of the Tech's run defense has played much better this season, ranking 10th nationally with an average of 99.7 rushing yards allowed. Colby Whitlock has been a beast inside recently and Brandon Williams has been a steady performer. But the Red Raiders haven't faced anywhere near the challenge from the veteran Oklahoma State offensive line and Big 12 rushing leader Kendall Hunter. The Red Raiders must keep out of second-and-short and third-and-short situations to give their pass rushing talents some teeth.

Can Oklahoma State develop a second receiving threat?: Texas Tech defenders will be keying on stopping Bryant. That should give them a chance to isolate 6-foot-6 tight end Brandon Pettigrew, especially if shorter safeties Daniel Charbonnet and Darcel McBath are being forced to commit to run support because of worries about Hunter and Keith Toston.

Injuries: The biggest concern for Tech continues to be Crabtree, who has been hobbled since the Texas A&M game with a sprained ankle. He twice left the game last week, but still rebounded to produce a season-best 10 catches and the game-winning touchdown grab.

Leading sacker McKinner Dixon limped off the field last week with a gimpy ankle and did not return. His condition was not addressed by Leach earlier this week.

Oklahoma State comes into the game relatively healthy. Special teams standout Taylor Sokolsky will miss the game with a broken foot. And safety Lucien Antoine was lost for the season with a knee injury against Houston.

Weather: It's perfect football weather with clear, seasonably moderate weather. Temperatures are in the mid-60s with humidity of 17 percent and winds from the southeast at 10 mph. The temperature should continue dropping throughout the evening before settling in the high-40s later this evening. There is no chance of precipitation.

Posted by's Tim Griffin

The eyeball test doesn't do justice to Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson.

 AP Photo/Brody Schmidt
 Zac Robinson is a threat through the air and on the ground.

The junior quarterback might not be able to match the gaudy statistics of Texas Tech's Graham Harrell or Texas' Colt McCoy. He's not a physical presence or has a rocket arm like Kansas State's Josh Freeman. He doesn't have the speed of Baylor's Robert Griffin. And he's not the fiery field leader like Kansas' Todd Reesing or Missouri's Chase Daniel.

But Robinson brings a little bit of all of their talents into what assuredly makes him the most underrated quarterback in the conference when his running, passing and leadership skills are factored together.

"I think he's a pretty complete player," Texas Tech coach Mike Leach said. "He throws it pretty well and can run well and he's a physical guy. I think the fact that he's tough is understated, but it's a fact when you watch him play."

His development has helped the 8-1 Cowboys to their fastest start since 1985 heading into Saturday's game against Texas Tech.

Robinson has been a key reason, ranking second in the nation and leading the Big 12 with a 192.45 pass efficiency rating. He's passed for an average of 231.3 yards per game with 20 touchdown passes and only five interceptions.

Those numbers were swelled by his career game last week when he passed for 395 yards and five TDs -- he also rushed for 66 yards -- against Iowa State.

"He means as much to them as any of the other quarterbacks around the conference," Texas Tech free safety Darcel McBath said. "He's tough because he can run and throw so well. He lit the scoreboard up against us and we definitely remember that."

(Read full post)

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Texas 45, Texas Tech 42 -- The Longhorns are finishing up a grueling four-game stretch of facing Top 25 opponents after earlier victories over Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State. It could be understandable if they had a little bit less in their tank this week, particularly after the nicks their secondary has taken. That's not a good sign against Texas Tech's high-powered offensive attack, which has always seemed to have success against Texas despite the Longhorns' five-game winning streak in the series. In the end, defense has always been the problem for the Red Raiders against Texas. And while Tech will take a much better, more-balanced team on the field this week than in recent games with the Longhorns, it still won't be enough. Texas just has too many weapons. And I look for the game to be settled on special teams. Texas has a consistent kicker in Hunter Lawrence and Tech is struggling with sputtering Donnie Carona. That will provide just enough of an advantage that enables the Longhorns to escape with a tight victory. But it won't be easy.

Oklahoma 45, Nebraska 31 -- The Big Eight's most storied former rivalry will be replayed Saturday in its new form in Norman. The Sooners simply have too many offensive weapons for the Cornhuskers. They should be able to consistently run the ball against a banged-up Nebraska linebacking corps that will be missing Phillip Dillard. And Sam Bradford should be up for another big passing game as well. The Cornhuskers will try to continue their recent offensive recipe of controlling the clock and trying to keep their outmanned defense off the field. It will work for a while, but look for the Sooners to pull away late.

Texas A&M 27, Colorado 24 -- The new-look Aggies will continue their recent winning streak, riding the strong passing skills of Jerrod Johnson to victory. I like the matchup of the Aggies' young receiving corps against Colorado's secondary, which still might be a little shell-shocked from their struggles last week against Missouri. The Aggies' defense remains their biggest question, but I don't think that Colorado has enough weapons to claim its first road victory of the season against them.

Kansas 35, Kansas State 31 -- Look for the beleaguered Jayhawks defense to rise up with a stronger performance after being torched for 108 points in the last two weeks. Kansas State is a little bit too turnover-prone and Ron Prince is still looking for his team's first victory against its in-state rival. Kansas running back Jake Sharp needs a big game in order to allow the Jayhawks to take advantage of the undermanned Kansas State rush defense. And I think he'll do it, providing an edge silencing some of the more lippy Wildcats who were popping off earlier in the week about winning the game.

Oklahoma State 49, Iowa State 20 -- The Cowboys can't afford to look back at last week's disappointing loss to Texas if they want to keep their slim Big 12 South title hopes alive. And they shouldn't against an Iowa State team that has been struggling defensively, particularly against the pass. That sounds like a recipe for big games by Dez Bryant and Brandon Pettigrew as the Cowboys take to the air more than usual to claim the victory, extending Iowa State's 33-game road losing streak to ranked opponents. ISU's last victory against a ranked team on the road came on Oct. 20, 1990, at Oklahoma. It won't come on Saturday.

Missouri 45, Baylor 21 -- The Tigers rebounded nicely with an impressive shutout victory over Colorado and still control their own destiny in the North Division. Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin should have a big days against an improving but still outmanned Baylor defense. Robert Griffin will have some moments but not nearly enough to allow his team to snap a six-game losing streak against the Tigers.

My picks last week: 4-2 (66.7 percent)

My picks for the season: 62-10 (86.1 percent)

Posted by's Tim Griffin

It's always struck me how different Colorado seems from the rest of the Big 12 every trip I make to Boulder.

The scenery for Folsom Field is breathtaking, making it one of the jewels of college football. And school officials and fans seem intent to keep it that way, too.

Colorado school officials announced Tuesday that they are pledging "zero waste" at home games, hoping to recycle 90 percent of the 10 tons of trash generated at each home game this season. They are even offering valet parking for those fans who arrive at games on bicycles.

Such environmental recognition is refreshing -- particularly considering some of the mounds of empty nacho cartons and liquor bottles I've had to wade through heading out of stadiums over the years. It's commendable, but I'm thinking that only in Boulder can you valet-park your bicycle close to a stadium.

Hopefully, these morning links won't prove to be quite as disposable to my readers. Sorry the links are a little light today. The hamsters powering the wireless at the beautiful Fairfield Inn in Topeka, Kan., must have been tired this morning. Some of the more involved Web sites -- yeah, I'm talking about you guys at the Oklahoman -- were difficult to access.

  • Only three Big 12 coaches grace the cover of their team's media guides this season, according to Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star. They are Kansas' Mark Mangino, Baylor's Art Briles and Iowa State's Gene Chizik. It's particularly hard to believe that Nebraska's Bo Pelini isn't found on the cover of the Cornhuskers' guide. At least until he plays his first game, Bo is bigger than the program there.
  • This isn't a misprint. Baylor's offensive line might be a team strength this season for a change, the Waco Tribune-Herald reports.
  • Take a number and wait your turn. Colorado offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich is sorting through reps for six quarterbacks this summer.
  • Like most college freshmen, TB Darrell Scott's introduction to college football is coming with some growing pains, the Denver Post's Tom Kensler writes. Superman has to learn to crawl before he can fly, I guess.
  • Converted WR L.A. Reed is working with Texas Tech's first-team defense at cornerback. Reed has been a tackling machine on special teams for the Red Raiders. If he can bring that same desire to covering wide receivers, Big 12 wide receivers better beware.
  • New Texas defensive coordinator Will "Mr. Boom" Muschamp wants to turn up the defensive pressure this season -- even if he doesn't always see many sacks against the Big 12's spread offenses.
  • The Oklahoman's Scott Wright says in a video chat that Oklahoma State TE Brandon Pettigrew might be the state's top NFL prospect this season.
  • Oklahoma backup QB Landry Jones isn't flinching, despite the likelihood that he'll be watching a lot of Sam Bradford for the immediate future.
  • Texas coach Mack Brown talked about why playing two quarterbacks will be important this season on "Jim Rome Is Burning." The neatest part of the interview could be seen in the background with the new additions at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium highlighted.
  • Bo Pelini's early emphasis has been on producing turnovers. His Cornhuskers have a long way to go, however, considering they had one forced turnover over the final seven games in 2007. "It's embarrassing," CB Armando Murillo told the Lincoln Journal-Star's Brian Rosenthal. "I'm not going to lie. It is."
  • Maybe those national title expectations are a pretty good inspiration. Missouri LB Van Alexander returned to practice several weeks ahead of schedule after off-season knee surgery.
  • New Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen is a tried and true Jayhawk, according to the Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff. Bowen used to sell soft drinks at Memorial Stadium as a kid, hustling to get rid of his first tray and then knocking off to watch the game. Bowen told me an even better story yesterday about how he and his brothers "know every crack" in the stadium from sneaking into the facility at other games.
  • Kansas RB Jocques Crawford admitted to some mixed feelings watching Kansas beat Memphis, his father's old alma mater, for the national basketball championship earlier this year.
  • Anybody in the Sunflower State with a little extra room in their attic? The city of Wichita is threatening to evict the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame from its city-owned home within 30 days, the Wichita Eagle reports. Who knows, you might get a Wilt Chamberlain warm-up suit or a jersey worn by Veryl Switzer in the deal?
  • Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson has backtracked a little, saying that Marlon Lucky is still his team's No. 1 I-back. But Watson added that Roy Helu Jr. will also get reps with the No. 1 offense.