NCF Nation: Donald Booker

Big 12 pre-spring power rankings

February, 10, 2010
2/10/10
11:19
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With spring practice set to begin soon -- Texas opens its camp on March 2 -- here’s a quick look at how I have the teams ranked heading into spring practice. In formulating my rankings, I took into account returning players, transfers, arriving freshmen and a teams’ schedules.

1. Texas (14 starters back: 6 offensive, 7 defensive, 1 special teams). Garrett Gilbert got a head start on replacing Colt McCoy with his considerable playing time in the national title game, an invaluable learning experience for a young player. The Longhorns return most of the defense that improved in its second season under Will Muschamp. The biggest chores will be for offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who has to boost running game production and find a replacement for record-breaking wide receiver Jordan Shipley.

2. Nebraska (18 starters back: 8 offensive, 8 defensive, 2 special teams). Bo Pelini has the Cornhuskers positioned for a potential top-10 preseason ranking. Most of the offensive weapons will be back from a unit that sputtered down the stretch before breaking out in the Holiday Bowl victory. Quarterback Zac Lee will miss some of spring practice as he recovers from postseason surgery. Cody Green and Kody Spano will get most of the work until Lee returns. Nebraska coaches think the defense can be better this season, even without the up-the-middle strength of Ndamukong Suh, Phillip Dillard, Larry Asante and Matt O’Hanlon.

3. Oklahoma (15 starters back: 9 offensive, 4 defensive, 2 special teams). The Sooners overcame a debilitating run of injuries last season to finish with a flourish, knocking Oklahoma State out of a BCS game and winning the Sun Bowl in their final two games. Landry Jones will be infinitely better in his second season as a starter and Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray may be the best one-two receiving/running back combination in the conference. Bob Stoops will be facing a big renovation on defense where key players like Gerald McCoy and Dominique Franks left early for the NFL draft. Look for Travis Lewis to be the key to a defense that will need to improve by the time Big 12 play begins if the Sooners are to have any hope of claiming a seventh Big 12 title this season.

4. Missouri (19 starters back: 9 offensive, 9 defensive, 1 special teams). The Tigers will miss Danario Alexander and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who were arguably the best players at their positions in the conference last season. But Blaine Gabbert is back for a second season as starting quarterback and some talented recruits are expected to emerge on defense. A key for the Tigers’ success will be a more productive running game and consistency from the offensive line. Improvement on both will be critical for coordinator David Yost during the spring.

5. Texas Tech (15 starters back: 7 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). New coach Tommy Tuberville immediately will have to sort through a potentially difficult decision at quarterback between Taylor Potts and fan favorite Steven Sheffield. New coordinator James Willis hopes to install a 3-4 defense that should be a haven for athletic linebackers. But the group’s success will hinge on replacing Jamar Wall at cornerback and finding some pass-rushing threats to replace Brandon Sharpe, Richard Jones and Daniel Howard along the front.

6. Texas A&M (19 starters back: 8 offensive, 9 defensive, 2 special teams). With Jerrod Johnson, Jeff Fuller, Uzoma Nwachukwu and Christine Michael back, the Aggies shouldn’t have trouble scoring points, although the line needs to do a better job of protecting Johnson. But the Aggies’ success will depend on the returning starters quickly taking to new coordinator Tim DeRuyter’s teachings. The group was blistered for at least 35 points in seven games last season and allowed at least 30 points in two other games. So needless to say that even with nine starters back, DeRuyter has his work cut out.

7. Kansas (16 starters back: 7 offensive, 7 defensive, 2 special teams). New coach Turner Gill inherits an uncertain quarterback situation, but has the framework for a strong running attack with all of his starting linemen back, along with Toben Opurum and heralded back Brandon Bourbon as running threats. The Jayhawks will need to fill in for the loss of Darrell Stuckey in the secondary, but new coordinator Carl Torbush should find the elements for a blitzing, attacking defense among the returnees. But the biggest reason the Jayhawks might be bound for a bowl game in Gill’s first season is swapping Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma for Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Baylor in their cross-divisional schedule.

8. Iowa State (13 starters back: 8 offensive, 4 defensive, 1 special teams). Paul Rhoads returns most of the offensive weapons that led the Cyclones to the Insight Bowl, most notably quarterback Austen Arnaud and running back Alexander Robinson. But the team loses all of its starting linebackers; veteran coordinator Wally Burnham will be challenged to cobble together a serviceable unit. The Cyclones could actually be a better team in 2010 but post a worse record. A tougher schedule featuring nonconference games against Utah, Iowa and Northern Illinois and the addition of South Division powers Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech will make last season’s bowl trip much tougher to duplicate.

9. Oklahoma State (10 starters back: 4 offensive, 4 defensive, 2 special teams). The Cowboys must find replacements for key players like Zac Robinson, Keith Tosten, four offensive linemen (including Outland finalist Russell Okung) and six of their back seven on defense. New offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen finds an uncertain quarterback situation but will lean heavily on a healthy Kendall Hunter. A manageable nonconference schedule should have them in bowl contention, but this should be a step back from Mike Gundy’s last two teams.

10. Kansas State (15 starters back: 7 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). The Wildcats missed out on a bowl trip last season only because they scheduled two FCS teams, but they surprisingly challenged for the Big 12 North title up to their last game of the season. It might be tougher to do that this season, although Daniel Thomas will provide the foundation on offense. Carson Coffman has the inside track at quarterback, but keep an eye out for Oregon transfer Chris Harper at either that position or wide receiver. Players like Jeffrey Fitzgerald and John Houlik will be missed on defense, but all four starters are back in the secondary.

11. Colorado (16 starters back: 8 offensive, 7 defensive, 1 special teams). Dan Hawkins’ seat is the hottest in the Big 12 and arguably in college football after missing a bowl for a second straight season last year. Tyler Hansen returns as the starting quarterback, but the Buffaloes need to find some help in the backfield with only three scholarship backs in spring practice. The defense was young last season and should be improved, but will miss the leadership provided by Jeff Smart and Cha’pelle Brown. A bowl trip likely will be necessary to save Hawkins’ job and a tough nonconference schedule featuring games at California and against Hawaii and Georgia will prove troublesome even before Big 12 play begins.

12. Baylor (14 starters back: 6 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). The Bears’ hopes of stopping the conference’s longest bowl drought will hinge largely on the health of Robert Griffin, who is recovering from knee surgery that forced him to miss the final nine games of the 2009 season. New offensive lineman “Big” Robert Griffin will have to protect his quarterback if coach Art Briles has any hope of making a bowl trip. Jay Finley and Kendall Wright are underrated offensive threats, but the Bears will miss key defensive leaders like Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake who were stalwarts for several years.

Instant analysis: Ole Miss 21, Oklahoma State 7

January, 2, 2010
1/02/10
6:41
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Oklahoma State’s hopes of claiming its first bowl victory since 2007 were undone by an embarrassing rash of fourth-quarter mistakes in the Cowboys’ 21-7 loss to Mississippi in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Here’s a look at what went wrong for the Cowboys and right for the Rebels.

How the game was won: Ole Miss took advantage of six Oklahoma State turnovers on consecutive fourth-quarter possessions to blow the game open. The Rebels got the ball back via interceptions by free safety Kendrick Lewis on consecutive drives, followed by back-to-back fumble recoveries and then interceptions by Patrick Trahan and Fon Ingram during a run in which the Rebels scored the game’s final 14 points.

It’s notable: Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt becomes the first coach to win back-to-back Cotton Bowls since Lou Holtz at Notre Dame in 1993 and 1994.

Turning point: With about 9 minutes remaining in a tie game, OSU had the ball on the Ole Miss 19-yard line and appeared poised to claim the lead. Ole Miss defensive tackle Jerrell Powe looked to have obviously jumped offsides on a snap as he charged past OSU center Andrew Lewis before the snap was completed. Feeling that he had a free play, Robinson threw to the end zone, where he was intercepted by Lewis in the end zone. The Cowboys unraveled from that point in the game.

Player of the game: Oklahoma State’s defense was gearing to stop Ole Miss running back Dexter McCluster. And it still didn’t matter. McCluster rushed for 185 yards on 34 carries, including touchdown runs of 86 and 2 yards to account for both of the Rebel’s offensive touchdowns. He also produced five receptions for 45 yards, becoming the first player in Southeastern Conference history to account for 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in the same season.

Unsung hero: Patrick Trahan capped the victory with two pivotal fourth-quarter plays. He recovered a fumble by OSU wide receiver Hubert Anyiam and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown to give the Rebels a 21-7 lead. He then provided an interception on OSU’s next possession to ice the victory.

Stat of the game: The two teams combined for 12 turnovers, but it didn't top the Cotton Bowl record of 13 that was set when Alabama claimed a 29-21 victory over Texas A&M on Jan. 1, 1942.

What it means: Oklahoma State failed to tie a school record with a 10th victory. The Cowboys’ late collapse in the final two games was a disappointment, but OSU overachieved considering their injury and suspension losses over the course of the season. The Cowboys lose key players like Robinson, Russell Okung, Keith Toston, Perrish Cox and starting linebackers Andre Sexton, Donald Booker and Patrick Lavin next season. But they will try to rebuild around a retooled offense that will should be centered around running back Kendall Hunter, who looked to regain his form Saturday after struggling with injuries all season.

Ole Miss didn’t achieve its preseason goal of contending for an SEC championship, but the Rebels claimed back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time since 1959 and 1960. And they likely will have Jevan Snead back for another season as well.

Big 12 power rankings

December, 7, 2009
12/07/09
9:57
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Here's how I rank them heading into the bowls.

1. Texas: The Longhorns earned their BCS championship game berth, but it wasn’t pretty. They struggled all night offensively against Nebraska and were lucky to escape Arlington with the Big 12 championship. The most immediate concern for this team will be the return of the running game and to find some kind of pass blocking after all of the struggles in the championship game. If Texas struggled against teams like Oklahoma and Nebraska, the same bodes for the game against Alabama. Colt McCoy’s Heisman hopes took a big hit. Fortunately for him, Ndamukong Suh will be wearing a coat and tie the next time he sees him rather than a football uniform.

2. Nebraska: It was amazing that the Cornhuskers were so close to the Big 12 title, considering all of their struggles on offense. But even after producing five first downs and 106 total yards against Texas, the Cornhuskers were close because of the play of their defense, particularly Suh. Some of the comments that the Pelini brothers made after the game that were reported in the Omaha World-Herald will only increase the intensity of next season’s game when Texas visits Nebraska. But after Saturday night, there’s no doubt that Bo Pelini has pushed the Cornhuskers program ahead faster than most expected. And the Holiday Bowl will be another way for the Cornhuskers to continue their growth.

3. Oklahoma State: A week after their demolition at the hands of Oklahoma, it will be interesting to see how the Cowboys respond to the start of Cotton Bowl preparations. The Cowboys will face a determined challenge in the trenches against Mississippi, which stunned Texas Tech last season. The Cowboys sure could use Donald Booker in a physical game like that -- and a healthy Zac Robinson.

4. Texas Tech: Mike Leach has never missed a bowl during his 10-year tenure with the Red Raiders. Tech is running into the bowl game in good shape with Steven Sheffield recovering from his foot injury and Taylor Potts coming off a strong finish. The Red Raiders also might end up catching a very winnable bowl game in the Alamo Bowl as they face a fractured Michigan State program that is being torn apart after a controversial series of suspensions. A win likely would enable the Red Raiders to crack the final Top 25, so a big effort is important in bowl preparations.

5. Missouri: It’s hard to believe that a team ranked this high will end up playing in the Big 12’s bowl game with the smallest payout. Actually, Gary Pinkel probably isn’t complaining too much. Navy’s one-dimensional offense shouldn’t pose that much of a problem to the Tigers. They get a shot to play in another Texas city for a bowl game -- it will be four different ones in four years in Houston -- but it will keep the Tigers as a prime topic of conversation in one of Texas’ most fertile recruiting areas. Even though the trip might not be as glamorous as a trip to Arizona, it will still be a bowl trip and a winnable one at that.

6. Oklahoma: The Sooners will be making their first visit to El Paso since 1993 with their trip to the Sun Bowl. It’s a big disappointment after all of the high expectations coming into the season. But the game against Stanford should be a challenging one. It will be a test for the Sooners to check Andrew Luck, Toby Gerhart and all of the Cardinal’s offensive weapons. But the opportunity to win after losing five of his last six bowl games should be something that will drive Bob Stoops and his team during the next several weeks.

7. Texas A&M: Expect one of the most entertaining bowl games when Texas A&M hooks up with Georgia in the Independence Bowl. With Joe Cox and Jerrod Johnson throwing passes and the relative struggles of both team’s pass defenses, the first team in the 50s might end up winning. It will be a good challenge for the Aggies -- particularly on defense -- as they try to stem a recent bowl tailspin that has seen them lose seven of their last eight bowl games since 1998.

8. Kansas State: No bowl game for the Wildcats, but Bill Snyder is hitting the junior-college recruiting trail in earnest as he tries to find playmakers who will fill in for departing seniors like Jeffrey Fitzgerald and Grant Gregory. The Wildcats came much closer to making a bowl trip this season than most expected before the season. Their inability to practice in December will be a huge impetus for Snyder to make sure he includes only one FCS team on his future schedules.

9. Iowa State: Cyclone fans have traditionally stepped up with the kind of interest that makes bowl directors take notice -- even pushing them ahead of teams like Missouri that had significantly better records and head-to-head victories over the Cyclones. Paul Rhoads won’t apologize for his trip to the Insight Bowl, or a chance at a winnable game against Minnesota. ISU will be looking to hand Minnesota its third straight Insight Bowl loss from a different Big 12 team. Considering the Gophers’ late-season offensive struggles, the Cyclones should have a good shot at their first bowl victory since 2004.

10. Kansas: After Mark Mangino’s “resignation” last week, Lew Perkins is looking for a new coach. That chore obviously overrides all other aspects of running the program. Perkins is under the gun a little bit, considering that recruiting can be started by the new coach as soon as he is hired. The coaching search at least will take some of the focus away from the seven-game losing streak that will keep the Jayhawks home for the holidays after a promising 5-0 start this season.

11. Colorado: Dan Hawkins is answering questions about his secret new e-mail address. That’s what happens when you talk about winning “10 games with no excuses” and end up not making a bowl game. But after Hawkins’ one-season reprieve, he’s probably not complaining too much.

12. Baylor: The Bears remain tied with Duke for the nation’s longest bowl drought at 15 seasons and counting. The key for Art Briles’ team to break it next season is getting Robert Griffin healthy and developing a defense that can stand up to the rigors it will face in the South Division next season.

Texas, Nebraska top Big 12 weekly rankings

November, 30, 2009
11/30/09
9:00
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Here's how I rank them heading into the Big 12's championship game week.

1. Texas: The Longhorns are cruising to the BCS title game, although they showed some unexpected defensive struggles against Texas A&M. Fortunately for them, Colt McCoy was ready with the kind of performance that subdued their old rivalry and gave him some big Heisman Trophy traction. Their challenge beating Nebraska this week will be to stay away from mistakes and play with the confidence that befits their national title contender status.

2. Nebraska: It’s no surprise the Cornhuskers are playing for the Big 12 title. But they have overcome their share of adversity as they make their first championship game appearance since 2006. Bo Pelini's team has a puncher’s chance Saturday night against Texas mainly because of a determined defensive front and a special teams unit that has dictated field position all season long. Punter/kicker Alex Henery has been among the most valuable Cornhuskers all season and will need a big game against Texas on Saturday.

3. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys ran into a buzz saw Saturday at Oklahoma as they struggled offensively throughout the game against a determined and challenged Oklahoma defensive unit that whipped them in the trenches. With their BCS at-large hopes dead, Mike Gundy's team remains the likely choice for the Cotton Bowl and the opportunity to finish with 10 victories for the first time since 1988. But it wasn't a good sign for them that Donald Booker likely will miss a bowl game and Zac Robinson was hobbling with a sprained ankle.

4. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders dodged a bullet in a struggling offensive performance against Baylor before Taylor Potts piloted them to a second-half comeback against the plucky Bears. But the biggest story in that game and all season was a strong defensive effort down the stretch. Mike Leach has Tech pointed upward through what was expected to be a rebuilding year. Considering all of the quarterback injuries, the Red Raiders have accomplished more than what was expected in an 8-4 season.

5. Missouri: Battling out of an early hole, the Tigers showed some gumption in their comeback against Kansas. Danario Alexander again showed why he deserves to be a Biletnikoff Award finalist after producing his third 200-yard effort in the past four games. In Missouri football history, there had been three previous 200-yard receiving games before Alexander. Blaine Gabbert finished strongly, avoiding an interception over his last 161 attempts of the season. The defense struggled against Kansas, but provided a key stop at the end of the game, and Carl Gettis' two fumble recoveries helped spark the comeback.

6. Oklahoma: The Sooners came up with their defensive performance of the season, limiting Oklahoma State to 109 yards and denying them from converting on all 14 third-down plays. Ryan Broyles made a huge difference in the return game and the Sooners overcame a patchwork offensive line to play consistently. Bob Stoops punctuated his most disappointing regular season with an impressive triumph. Now, he'll attack those pesky bowl-game struggles that have dogged him the past few seasons.

7. Texas A&M: Jerrod Johnson started his 2010 Heisman candidacy early with a career game against Texas as he accounted for 439 total yards and four touchdown passes. The Aggies had the offense to stick with Texas, but critical errors on defense and special teams were too great in the end to overcome. The upcoming bowl practice will be invaluable for a young team aiming to improve and become a potential surprise in the South Division next season.

8. Kansas State: No bowl game for the Wildcats, but Bill Snyder can take a lot of pride in the job that he did to take them within a game of the Big 12 championship game. Mike Gundy’s loss at Oklahoma opens up discussion for Snyder as the Big 12’s coach of the year. Considering the way Snyder built his team’s offense around quarterback Grant Gregory and running back Daniel Thomas -- both of whom arrived on campus shortly before fall practice -- provides evidence that he merits serious consideration for the honor.

9. Iowa State: Kansas’ loss assures the Cyclones a bowl berth and a chance to have some critical bowl practice for a young team that will grow immensely from the experience. Paul Rhoads will get his share of coach of the year votes for his four-game win/loss turnaround from last season. And how about a chance for the Cyclones to finish this season with bowl trip to Shreveport and a shot at Gene Chizik and Auburn? But ISU won't be picky about any bowl trip.

10. Kansas: For 57 minutes Saturday, Mark Mangino was providing a clinic on why he should return as the Jayhawks’ coach. But his clock management and play-calling decisions down the stretch left him open to huge questioning as Missouri charged back for the comeback victory. It still remains amazing that a team that started 5-0 and appeared ready to challenge for the Big 12 North title would fall apart like the Jayhawks did during a seven-game losing streak to finish the season. And their late performance Saturday against Missouri provides critics with ample ammunition why a coaching change is necessary.

11. Colorado: Dan Hawkins’ job was saved and he’ll enjoy the benefit of coaching a team that should be more experienced after this season’s struggles. This time around, don’t expect Hawkins to make any wild pronouncements or predictions for next season at the team’s season-ending banquet like last season. The Buffaloes showed hope for the future by gashing Nebraska for 403 yards -- the most allowed by the Cornhuskers this season. Hawkins' first task will be to work on the team’s fundamentals after the Buffaloes committed 107 penalties this season.

12. Baylor: Blake Szymanski’s return to the starting lineup looked like a masterstroke before Texas Tech charged back for the comeback victory. The Bears’ bowl hopes were in trouble as soon as Robert Griffin was out with a season-ending injury. But Art Briles' team still played tough and showed a lot of moxie as the season progressed without its standout quarterback. The Bears learned lessons from the struggles but will have to rebuild a defense that will be stripped of key playmakers like Jordan Lake and Joe Pawelek. Briles must find replacements if the Bears have any hopes of snapping their conference-worst bowl drought that dates to 1993.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


STILLWATER, Okla. -- It started raining just as the first half ended, making the mood even darker and gloomier for Oklahoma State fans who have seen the No. 5 Cowboys fall into an early 24-7 hole against Houston.

Here's a quick look at how the first half played out in a game where Houston could be ahead by a larger margin considering their two turnovers deep in Oklahoma State territory.

Turning point: David Hunter's crunching tackle forced a fumble by Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter at the Oklahoma State 16-yard line to conclude the Cowboys' first possession. Houston quarterback Case Keenum scored on a 16-yard keeper on the next play and the Cougars have never been behind since then.

Stat of the half: Houston has produced 322 yards on 42 plays -- an average of 7.7 yards per snap. That offensive proficiency is the main reason why the Cougars haven't been forced to punt in the first half. The only time the Cougars have been stopped came on two drives ended by turnovers.

Best player of the half: Keenum was sharp from his opening possession. He has completed 19 of 25 passes -- including 11 straight completions at one point -- for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Keenum also added a 16-yard touchdown run on his only carry.

Best call: Houston singed an Oklahoma State blitz when Keenum hooked up with wide receiver Tyron Carrier on a 32-yard touchdown pass with 30.3 seconds left. The big play -- Houston's largest gain of the first half -- boosted the Cougars' halftime lead to 24-7. Keenum stood up to the maximum blitz by Oklahoma State linebacker Donald Booker before hitting Carrier barely past the line of scrimmage.

What Houston needs to do: Keep doing what it has so far, especially on offense. The Cowboys haven't had an answer for Dana Holgorsen's innovative combination of passes and runs. The defense will be challenged by Oklahoma State's high-powered offense, so better pressure will be necessary. And the Cougars have done a nice job on special teams, picking up an onside kick that set up their final drive.

What Oklahoma State needs to do: The Cowboys need to flush away the memories of their first-half struggles -- and quickly. The Cowboys defense, which looked so promising last week against Georgia, needs to get more pressure on Keenum. The Houston quarterback has barely been touched in the first half. And it would behoove them to get into their offense as quickly as possible because they likely will have to win this game in a shootout if their defense continues to struggle.

Update from Oklahoma State

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
3:13
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


STILLWATER, Okla. -- I had the chance to focus on Georgia quarterback Joe Cox, who looks ready for the approaching Oklahoma State game.

Cox was struggling with flu-like symptoms late this week and arrived later than the rest of his teammates. But he appeared flushed as he threw on the sidelines during the Bulldogs' pre-game workouts in the humid conditions at the game.

The Bulldogs also will play without Caleb King, who is struggling without a hamstring injury and won't play in Saturday's game.

As expected, Oklahoma middle linebacker Orie Lemon will not play. He's out with his team without pads with shorts and a giant brace on his right knee. He'll be replaced by senior Donald Booker in the Oklahoma State starting lineup.

Despite rumors to the contrary earlier this week, Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson, linebacker Andre Sexton and cornerback Perrish Cox all are dressed and appear ready to play.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Good Monday afternoon.

Hope the Easter Bunny was good to all Big 12 fans, bringing lots of treats and not too many egg-salad sandwiches and malted-milk eggs to go along with these lunchtime links today.

Here are some of the most notable stories from across the conference.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's what we learned in the Big 12 on Saturday:

1. Impressive victories by Texas over Missouri and Oklahoma over Kansas indicate that the South has shot past the North in terms of relative strength this season. The South has already claimed a 7-1 lead, buoyed by the two victories on Saturday over the two top North contenders by an average of 19.5 points per game. And the only North win this season remains Kansas State's triumph over lowly Texas A&M last week.

2. The best sign in Texas' victory over Missouri for Longhorn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp was the ease that the Longhorns were able to generate pressure with a three- or four-man rush -- just like in the second half against Oklahoma last week. That should bode well for the Longhorns in the next two weeks when Texas' young secondary will be tested by Dez Bryant and Michael Crabtree, the Big 12's best two receivers.

3. Pulling freshman quarterback Tyler Hansen's redshirt with six games left in the season was a dicey move by Colorado coach Dan Hawkins. Putting Hansen into the lineup ahead of his son, quarterback Cody Hawkins, could have been a tough one around his kitchen table. But the move was correct, as evidenced by Colorado's comeback victory over Kansas State. The Colorado coach knew his sputtering team needed an offensive boost and realized that Hansen's running abilities would give the Buffaloes the best chance to be successful against Kansas State's leaky defense. The result was a victory Saturday that resuscitated the Buffs' bowl hopes.

4. Chase Daniel's Heisman hopes are likely dead after he struggled through a difficult performance against Texas. With the national attention focused on Austin, Missouri fell into an early 35-0 deficit that will resonate with voters. And this statistic best indicates how bad a night it was for Daniel, whose offense didn't have a three-and-out during the first five games of the season. Texas forced three-and-outs the first four times that Missouri had the ball Saturday night.

5. The best reason for Oklahoma State's confidence heading into next week's showdown against Texas is their increased defensive pass rush after some early struggles. OSU defensive coordinator Tim Beckman has cooked up a new formation that has helped generate half of the Cowboys' sacks in the last two weeks. Beckman has inserted defensive end Derek Burton at nose guard, flanked by two other defensive ends around him. And backup middle linebacker Donald Booker has alternated as a stand-up end or a blitzing middle linebacker for increased pass-rushing traction. The unit's work will be vital in trying to keep Texas QB Colt McCoy from feeling comfortable in the pocket in next week's South Division showdown of BCS challengers. And Oklahoma State might need something special, considering the Cowboys have lost 10 straight games in Austin with their most recent victory coming in 1944.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Most observers are expecting a lot of points Saturday night at Faurot Field -- a game that could resemble an Arena Football League shootout considering the explosive offenses of Missouri and Oklahoma State.

It's understandable why, considering some of the numbers coming into the game. The Tigers rank second in scoring and the Cowboys are third. Missouri's defense is 83rd overall in total defense and 114th in pass defense. Oklahoma State's is 114th in sacks and 116th in tackles for losses.

Even with those daunting indicators, OSU linebacker Patrick Lavine says he doesn't care what dire defensive predictions are floating around days before the game.

"That doesn't bother us. The defense is going to go out there and play as hard as we can regardless of what is being said," Lavine said. "We've progressed so much from day 1 to where we are now. We're building some confidence and I think we'll show it when we get our chance."

The Cowboys' improved defensive work has been one of the biggest surprises in OSU's 5-0 start that's its best since 2004.

The OSU defense went into a feeding frenzy in its 56-28 victory over Texas A&M, providing five first-half turnovers and three three-and-outs to spark the early knockout.

"Our staff has really done a good job in the last nine months of building on the success we had in the bowl game and bringing the team together and really making [sure] they understood what we were trying to accomplish Xs and Os wise," OSU coach Mike Gundy said. "The players have rallied together in running to the football."

(Read full post)

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