NCF Nation: John Sheperd
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are my Big 12 picks for this weekend.
Colorado 21, Toledo 20: This might be the biggest game of Dan Hawkins’ career after his team’s opening-game debacle against Colorado State. The Buffaloes need to get a ground game going -- remember that guy on the bench is Darrell Scott -- and do a better job of limiting big plays on defense. Toledo quarterback Aaron Opelt threw 67 passes in last week’s loss at Purdue, but will find it much tougher this week against the Buffaloes’ underrated secondary keyed by cornerback Jimmy Smith. I’m looking for the Buffaloes to do just enough to escape the Glass Bowl with a victory-- but it’s not going to be easy or pretty.
Iowa 21, Iowa State 17: The Cyclones have had much recent success against the Hawkeyes at Jack Trice Stadium, where they have won four of the last five in the series since 1999. The Hawkeyes struggled last week against Northern Iowa and were lucky to escape with a victory only after blocking field goals on the last two plays of the game. I look for replacement running back Adam Robinson to run with a little more confidence this week for the Hawkeyes. Don't be surprised if wily Iowa coordinator Norm Parker cooks up a defensive scheme that will handcuff the Cyclones’ emerging no-huddle offense. But it wouldn’t surprise me if the Cyclones were able to make this one close and maybe even eke out an upset victory.
Nebraska 41, Arkansas State 14: The Cornhuskers ran off a 49-3 victory over FAU and Bo Pelini wasn’t happy about his team’s defensive efforts. They’ll be facing another challenger from the Sun Belt in Arkansas State, who shouldn’t pose too many problems. I’ll be interested to see the continued development of future Cornhuskers like Rex Burkhead and Cody Green and see how the defense reacts after the scalding criticism of their coach. If Pelini gets mad after giving up three points, what's he going to do if they give up seven or 10 or 14 points this week?
Oklahoma State 45, Houston 34: Oklahoma State had a strong opening performance, including a salty defensive showing that stopped Georgia cold after the Bulldogs scored a touchdown on their opening possession. It will be interesting to see if that huge victory left the Cowboys with a hangover. It’s something they can’t afford, considering Houston’s high-powered offense keyed by Case Keenum. The Cougars had Oklahoma State on the ropes last season before the Cowboys blew the game open in the second half. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar kind of game on Saturday.
Texas 45, Wyoming 7: The Longhorns’ toughest nonconference road game shouldn’t pose too many problems, even with injuries on the offensive line and other personnel losses in the secondary. I’ll be interested to see how alternating Wyoming quarterbacks Robert Benjamin and Austyn Carta-Samuels attack a Texas defense that allowed more points in an opening game last week in 10 years. It will also be noteworthy to watch Texas’ running backs and see if Vondrell McGee still is the featured back after his fumble problems last week. Despite playing at high elevation, the Longhorns should have no worries.
Kansas 44, UTEP 35: Kansas ran the ball strongly last week against Northern Colorado and should be able to do the same against the Miners. But it wouldn’t surprise me if UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe and some underrated offensive weapons make the Jayhawks sweat their way through their visit to the Sun Bowl. In the end, Dezmon Briscoe will make enough plays as a receiver and maybe as a kick returner to extend the Miners’ 16-game losing streak against Big 12 teams.
Missouri 34, Bowling Green 14: What can Blaine Gabbert do for an encore? His auspicious start has been the talk of the “Show-Me” State this week after a breakthrough performance against Illinois. I was just as impressed by the Tigers’ “Scorpion” defensive front which made Illinois quarterback Juice Williams miserable. The Missouri defense will be tested by Bowling Green’s talented pass-and-catch duo of Tyler Sheehan and Freddie Barnes. The Falcons beat Missouri in each of Gary Pinkel’s first two seasons at Missouri, including his first game there in 2001. But that’s a long time ago.
Oklahoma 34, Idaho State 0: Landry Jones gets his first start at quarterback as he replaces Sam Bradford. I look for Bob Stoops to have a conservative approach this week designed to build confidence for Jones over the next several games. There won’t be anything fancy as the Sooners will lean on a running game that needs to help restore assurance in an offensive line that struggled last week. Idaho State dropped a 50-3 outing at Arizona State last week in a game where Bengal quarterbacks threw four interceptions. It might be more of the same as the Sooners’ defense will be charged to pick up its performance with all of the lingering questions on offense.
Texas Tech 41, Rice 17: Taylor Potts didn’t have the best of college career starts, throwing three interceptions last week against North Dakota. I look for improvement from him and the Tech running attack as they meet rebuilding Rice. Owls coach David Bailiff is still struggling to find a quarterback and I expect both John Shepherd and Nick Fanuzzi to get an opportunity to play. But it won’t nearly be enough as the Red Raiders should cruise into the Texas game with a better performance than their first game.
Kansas State 31, Louisiana-Lafayette 24: Carson Coffman should have a better performance in his second game and the Kansas State special teams will be improved in a tougher-than-expected battle at Cajun Field. The Ragin’ Cajuns have a couple of nice offensive weapons in quarterback Chris Masson and running back Undrea Sails. If they get rolling, it could be a long night in the bayou for the Wildcats. I’m also a little concerned about how Kansas State’s lack of depth affects them at both offensive line and defensive line during what should be a hot, humid night. But in the end, Kansas State running backs Daniel Thomas and Keithen Valentine will provide enough offense for the Wildcats to escape Louisiana with a tough victory.
Last week: 10-2 (83.3 percent)
Season: 10-2 (83.3 percent)