Big 12 Weekend Preview
Posted By:Russ James, Firth, NE Tags:
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21 Nebraska (3-1) at 24 Missouri (4-0)
In the marquee match-up of the conference this week the #21 Cornhuskers and the #24 Tigers take center stage in front of a national audience on Thursday night in Columbia. The game will be both school's first Big12 North contest as conference play finally gets underway. According to NU head coach Bo Pelini, "Now the season starts. Right now. That's the way we look at it." Adding, "Time to put the foot on the gas pedal and go."
Nebraska has struggled the past few years not only against Missouri, but against ranked opponents in general. A trend that continued for the Huskers in Blacksburg after taking a
16-15 loss against the then 13th ranked Hokies. The most recent meetings between the two have gone mostly the way of the Tigers including last year's 52-17 conference opener at
home, the most one-sided loss Nebraska had suffered in Memorial Stadium since 1955.
This year Husker fans obviously are hoping for a change. The Tigers lost alot to graduation but to this point anyway haven't seemed to have skipped a beat, but, the Tigers haven't really played anyone of note yet either. They run the same basic offense as they did last year the only difference being sophomore Blaine Gabbert is calling the shots, not Chase McDaniels. To this point Gabbert has had a pretty good showing for himself. Missouri is currently ranked 16th in total offense and 10th in passing offense. Gabbert finds himself sitting at an impressive 4th in passing efficiency, but again, to this point the stiffest competition he's seen is a #70 and 1-3 Illinois team. That is about to change.
While on defense the Huskers have made significant strides they are in the words of head coach Bo Pelini "no where near where they need to be". NU is 16th in pass efficiency defense, 21st in total defense and are first nationally in scoring defense, including holding a high powered Virginia Tech attack to just 16 points in Blacksburg. Against the run Nebraska has been a story of inconsistency on defense. While generally solid against the run, blown assignments, lack of execution and mental breakdowns by Pelini's young defense has led to some big gainers being given up on the ground. Inside the red zone however the Huskers get very very stingy, giving up just 2 TDs in their first four games.
The key in this one will be Nebraska pressuring the Missouri sophomore early and often. The Huskers win the match up with their defensive line against Missouri's Offensive front,
and they will need to keep Gabbert on the run out of rhythm and out of his comfort zone. Blaine is a big kid with good legs and a cannon of an arm and if the Black Shirts allow
him to settle into the pocket and get comforatable he will hurt them. On offense Nebraska has sufficient fire power to put the Tigers away, look for a steady diet of Roy Helu jr to eat up yards and time on the clock against a Missouri squad that ranks just 61st against the run.
Should be a fun game to watch, all stats and rankings aside these two teams don't care much for each other, Missouri will be ready and the home crowd will be pumped up for this
one. Nebraska gets the big road win. I think Missouri will keep it close for the first few quarters but NU will win going away late in the game.
The rest of the Big12 slate:
15 Oklahoma State (3-1) at Texas A&M (3-1)
The Cowboys of Oklahoma State began the year in impressive fashion with a 24-10 win at home to Georgia which shot the Cowboys up the polls to fifth, their highest ranking since
parachute pants and hair bands were all the rage. A week later though at Houston the Cowboys were upset to the tune of 45-35 by the Cougars, giving up some 512 yards of total offense.
The Aggies home field has not treated the Cowboys well in the past. A&M's Kyle field in College station has been a nightmare for coach Mike Gundy's Cowboy's, a trend the Aggies
hope to keep alive and well. OSU may have to do it without the help of stand out running back Kendall Hunter (ankle) and All-American wide-out Dez Bryant (hamstring), the status
of both of whom is up in the air for the A&M game. Stepping in are two surprising young players for coach Gundy, against Grambling State freshman tailback Jeremy Smith racked up 160 yards on the ground, and sophomore receiver Dameron Fooks caught two TDs. Neither Smith or Fooks had gained a single yard to that point in their college carreers.
A&M is as unpredictable as a Texas thunderstorm and you can never predict what they will or won't do at Kyle Field. One thing is for certain, they will definitely be needing that 12th man of theirs if they hope to upset Gundy and his Cowboys. I like OSU in this one, but you just never know with them Aggies.
Iowa State (3-2) at 16 Kansas (4-0)
As much as I hate to say it, I don't see this as being anything more than a spirited work-out for the Jayhawks. While not really having been tested to this point winning against Northern Colorado, UTEP, Duke and Southern Mississippi the 13th ranked Jayhawks been pretty much on cruise control. The fact that senior QB Todd Reesing is lighting up opposing defenses again is not surprising, what is surprising and of concern to the rest of the Big 12 is the opening up of Kansas' running attack. With the eyes of all opposing defensive coordinators firmly on Reesing, running lanes are oppening up for senior Jake Sharp and freshman Toben Opurum. The pair are each averaging over 80 yds a game and have combined for 13 TDs. The Jayhawks have not lost at home to a North opponent since 2004 and while this streak may be tested later in the season, it's safe for the time being.
Baylor (3-1) at 19 Oklahoma (2-2)
Who would've ever thought that the Bears of Baylor would be coming into Norman with a better record than the Sooners? Noone probably, and yet here we are. The Sooners opened the season with a surprising upset loss to then #20 BYU. The loss on the scoreboard wasn't the only loss suffered that day as senior QB and Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford was forced out with a shoulder injury. After the BYU loss Oklahoma had two softer opponents in Idaho State and Tulsa to warm up back-up QB Landry Jones and prepare for a date with the Hurricanes this past weekend. Despite being up by ten points at one point the Sooners weren't able to hold off the 'Canes and Jacory Harris and suffered their second one point loss of the season. Could things have been different with Bradford out there? Possibly, who know. The point is, the Hurricanes were out there and Oklahoma is now 2-2 and 19th in the polls.
While not nearly what the Sooners had in mind at the start of the season, it's nowhere near time for Oklahoma to pack up and look to next year. The Big12 season starts this weekend and the Sooners certainly have the fire pwer to make another run at a conference title, and a date with the Bears who have yet to beat Oklahoma is a good place to start.
The status of Bradford is still unclear for this game. He has apparently been cleared to play and yet conflicting reports say he may opt for surgery that would keep him on the sidelines for the rest of the year. Regardless Stoops and co. shouldn't need him to beat the Bears, and even if Bradford is ready this may be a good opportunity to rest him another week as a date with division rival Texas is just around the corner. In his place the last 3 games is freshman Landry Jones who has done a respectable job filling it for the Heisman winner. The only knock to this point on Jones are the 3 picks he's thrown to this point. Also out for the Sooners are TE Jermaine Gresham (season-knee) and the team's leading receiver Ryan Broyles (2-4 weeks-shoulder). Even so, the Sooners have a healthy DeMarco Murray at running back who has lit up the Bears for 191 yards and 7 TDs in their previous two meetings.
The Bears will also be without the services of sophomore phenom QB Robert Griffin who will be out for the year with a knee injury. I just don't see how the Bears have much of a
chance against an admittedly dinged up OU squad. The Sooners have one of the stingiest defenses in the land ranking 4th in points allowed and 10th in yards per game. Sooners win big and attempt to right the ship as they look to the Longhorns and the Red River shootout.
Colorada at 2 Texas
Texas and Florida have held firm to their rankings through the season as the rest of the top 25 seems to get shuffled on a daily basis. Texas and Heisman hopefull Colt McCoy have been steadily taking care of business both in the conference with a 34-24 win over Texas Tech and three non-conference victories over Louisianna-Monroe, Wyoming and UTEP.
Like Oklahoma and Baylor I don't see this one as being much more than a warm-up for Coach Brown and his Longhorns as they get set for the Red River. While Coach Brown is much to capable of a coach to look past Colorado or any opponent the Buffalos will have little for Texas as they head into Austin. McCoy and company win easily in a rout.
Kansas State at Texas Tech
This is a North v. South matchup that features two of the busiest teams in the Big12 to this point - with five games each, inluding one conference match up for both. The Wildcats were able to get off to a 1-0 conference mark with last week's thrilling win on a blocked extra point in the final seconds of the game against division foe Iowa State. The return of legendary head coach Bill Snyder seems to have served to energize a K State program that found itself floundering the past few sesons. The Red Raiders on the other hand have a conference record of 0-1 heading into the rest of the schedule after having to face the number two Longhorns on the road.
The good news for Tech is that after losing QB Graham Harrell to graduation last year junior Taylor Potts has stepped in for Coach Leech and has surpassed even the most optimistic of expectations. Ranked second nationally in passing, Potts has over 1800 yds through the air and a gaudy 13 TDs. The bad news is that he may be unavailable for the Kansas State game after suffering a concussion in a win against New Mexico. Following a long-standing policy of not discussing player injuries head coach Mike Leach isn't letting on at all whether or not Potts will play. Backing up Potts will be Steven Sheffield who stepped in during the New Mexico game and led the Raiders to TDs on his first four drives, so I guess if you're Bill Snyder and the Wildcats the message is; regardless of who's back there we will have our hands full.
Snyder and his team are making progress, but they aren't back just yet. Defensively the Wildcats have shown some impovement, in fact as of right now they are tops in the conference is pass efficiency defense - a statistic that will be sorely tested against Tech. Offensively K State is no match for what the Leach and his Red Raiders bring to the
table, trailing the entire conference in scoring offense. While the Raiders lead the Big 12 in passing offense and are second only to Houston in the country in passing.
The Red Raiders will even their confernce mark at 1-1 and rather handily I would think.
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