October 18, 2006

Big 12: Week 8 Breakdown

Buchanan's Big 12 picks
Rivals.com national writer Olin Buchanan's predictions for Week 8 in the Big 12.
Saturday's games:
Texas 31, Nebraska 24
Texas A&M 38, Oklahoma State 35
Baylor 34, Kansas 28
Oklahoma 21, Colorado 17
Missouri 27, Kansas State 7
Iowa State 24, Texas Tech 17

Best matchup: The Texas vs. Nebraska clash is so big it will probably be played twice. This looks like a preview of the Big 12 title game. Perhaps the most compelling element of the game will be whether the Cornhuskers' four-pronged rushing attack of Marlon Lucky, Brandon Jackson, Cody Glenn and Kenny Wilson – who each have at least 60 carries -- can break through against the Texas run defense. UT's rushing defense is ranked second nationally and allowed only one back – Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson – to gain 100 yards. Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor will also try to exploit a Texas pass defense which has had a tendency to give up big plays.

Worst matchup: Missouri vs. Kansas State. No doubt, the Missouri Tigers went back to Columbia angry and feeling like they let a victory get away against Texas A&M. The Tigers will be looking to make amends. The Tigers defense still ranks among the nation's top 20, and Kansas State has been held to six or fewer points in three of their last four games.

The pressure is on: Oklahoma quarterback Paul Thompson has played better than perhaps most expected. He has completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 1,334 yards and 10 touchdowns, but that was with Adrian Peterson in the backfield. Now that Peterson is out with a broken collar bone, defenses won't be putting eight or nine players close to the line of scrimmage. Thompson will have to show he can pass successfully against defenses that now see him as the Sooners' chief offensive threat.

Upset alert: A few weeks ago it would have seemed like lunacy to suggest that Colorado had a chance to upset Oklahoma in Norman. But the Buffaloes (1-6) appear to be adapting to Dan Hawkins' offensive system – they have scored 61 points in the last two games. In addition, the Buffs have been sound defensively all year. Colorado has held five opponents to 21 or fewer points and Baylor needed overtime to exceed that total. The Sooners' defense has been inconsistent, and the offense faces questions without Peterson. Anticipate an OU victory, but don't discount the improving Buffaloes.

Who's hot: Oklahoma State quarterback Bobby Reid set a school record with 457 yards of total offense, threw five touchdown passes – four to Adarius Bowman - and rushed for another in last week's come-from-behind, 42-32 victory over Kansas. He broke the Oklahoma State total offense record that was previously held by Cowboys coach Mike Gundy.

Who's not: Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell has thrown five interceptions in the last two games – both losses – and was temporarily benched in last week's 30-6 loss to Colorado. Harrell was intercepted three times and threw just one touchdown pass.

BCS implications: Those all rest with Texas, which ranked No. 9 in the initial BCS standings. The fifth-ranked Longhorns need to play quality opponents to have a chance to move up, and No. 17 Nebraska certainly qualifies. Of course, Nebraska has BCS aspirations of its own. A victory would establish the Cornhuskers as the favorite to win the Big 12 championship.

Most to lose or gain: Folks in Ames, Iowa, were hopeful this would finally be the year Iowa State broke through and won the North Division. Instead, the Cyclones (3-4) are tied with Kansas for last place. Of course, the three conference losses have come against Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, so even the most stubborn critic should give coach Dan McCarney some slack. However, a home loss to Texas Tech, which is coming off a blowout loss to Colorado, wouldn't be so easily forgiven. Another loss would also foster uneasy thoughts of failing to reach bowl eligibility.

Must see TV: Texas vs. Nebraska, 11 a.m., ABC. The fifth-ranked Longhorns lead the South Division. The No. 17 Cornhuskers lead the North Division. This game matches two of just four programs in NCAA history to post 800 victories.

They said it:"All the decisions I have to make, now I have no problem with that because that's my job. In my position, if you're worried about making those decisions and … worried about the criticism, then I might as well start go pumping gas somewhere. Do something different. I didn't mean to disrespect anybody that pumps gas, but you understand what I'm saying, where I'm coming from."
-- Missouri coach Gary Pinkel on making fourth down calls

Newcomer/backup that could have an impact: This one is pretty obvious. With Adrian Peterson out, backup running back Allen Patrick will be the focus of Oklahoma's running game. Patrick has rushed for 62 yards on 18 carries so far this season.

Key stat: Nebraska has rushed for 18 touchdowns this season, almost doubling the amount (10) the Cornhuskers managed all of last season.

Take the line: Colorado is a 12½ point underdog to Oklahoma, which made perfect sense until Adrian Peterson got hurt. The Buffaloes have been respectable defensively, although they've had some issues against the pass. Normally, that would raise red flags against Oklahoma with Paul Thompson throwing to Malcolm Kelly, but Peterson's absence can also negatively affect the OU passing game. On the offensive side, Colorado is making progress behind quarterback Bernard Jackson. There are enough factors involve to take Colorado and the points. Season record: 3-4

Significant stat: Nebraska junior receiver Maurice Purify has 15 catches this season,14 of which have gone for either first downs or touchdowns.

Injury update: As has been mentioned over and over, Oklahoma tailback Adrian Peterson is out for the remainder of the regular season with a broken collar bone. … Texas guard Cedric Dockery is out for the year with a knee injury. Corner Tarell Brown (toe) and safety Marcus Griffin (ankle) are questionable. … Nebraska linebacker Corey McKeon hurt an ankle last week, but is probable for the game against Texas…. Nebraska center Kurt Mann is back after missing five games with mononucleosis. …Oklahoma State linebacker Chris Collins will miss the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. … Missouri cornerback Domonique Johnson remains out this week, but could return to play Oklahoma on Oct. 28. … Texas Tech linebacker Fletcher Session is back after sitting out last week with an injured shoulder. Wide receiver Robert Johnson is probable after missing last week because of disciplinary reasons. … Colorado center Mark Fenton and safety J.J. Billingsley are questionable this week.

Worth noting: Oklahoma State's Adarius Bowman, a transfer from North Carolina who sat out last season, now leads the nation is receiving yardage after catching 13 passes for 300 yards and four touchdowns against Kansas. His receiving total was the 11th highest in NCAA history. … Nebraska left tackle Chris Patrick has not allowed a sack. … Baylor quarterback Shawn Bell tied a school record by throwing the 32nd touchdown pass of his career. … In an upset win over Texas Tech, Colorado kicker Mason Crosby kicked a 56-yard field goal, which was the second longest of the season. He also kicked a 53-yarder, which puts Crosby on a list with UCLA's Justin Medlock as the only kickers in the nation with two field goals from 50 or more yards. Crosby has six of the eight longest field goals in Colorado history. … The Buffaloes were not penalized in the game against Texas Tech, marking only the fourth time in school history the Buffaloes avoided a penalty. … Colorado has not beaten a ranked opponent in 12 tries and hasn't won against a ranked team on the road since defeating No. 20 UCLA on Sept. 21, 2002. This week the Buffaloes travel to Norman to face No. 20 Oklahoma. … Kansas has forced at least one turnover in 14 of its last 17 games. … Jayhawks running back Jon Cornish had a 35-yard run against Oklahoma State, which gives him six runs in excess of 30 yards this season. Cornish is second in the Big 12 in rushing with 765 yards and figures to finish as the Big 12's leading rusher because of the injury to OU's Peterson. … Iowa State running back Stevie Hicks recorded the longest run of his career when he dashed 58 yards on the final play of the first half of last week's loss to Oklahoma. … Kansas State kicker Jeff Snodgrass had 20 career field goals, including four from 50-plus yards which is just one behind Martin Gramatica on the school's record for long-range kicks. … Oklahoma's defense has allowed a total of just 565 yards in the last three games after allowing 501 to Oregon four weeks ago. … Texas A&M's defense held Missouri to a season-low 74 rushing yards. … Texas Tech kicker Alex Trlica needs just two points to become the school's all-time high-scoring kicker. … Texas has forced 10 fumbles in the last two games. The Longhorns have also scored four defensive touchdowns this season, three of fumble returns. … Chase Daniel hopes to succeed Jeff Handy as the last quarterback to lead Missouri to a victory over Kansas State. Handy led the Tigers to a victory in 199. In the losing streak against Kansas State, Missouri has been ranked just once while the Wildcats were ranked 10 times. This marks the first time Missouri (No. 24) is ranked and Kansas State is unranked during that streak.

Freshman who impressed: Texas quarterback Colt McCoy threw a school record six touchdown passes in the Longhorns' 63-31 victory over Baylor. McCoy, who ranks fifth nationally in passing efficiency, is on a roll. The previous week he threw two touchdown passes to engineer a 28-10 victory over Oklahoma.

A look back at last week: Oklahoma defeated Iowa State, but lost star tailback Adrian Peterson for the season. Meanwhile, Texas A&M dealt Missouri its first loss behind the pile-driving running of Jorvorskie Lane. Colorado managed its first victory to the chagrin of Texas Tech. Kansas blew a 17-0 lead in a loss to Oklahoma State and Texas and Nebraska took the lead in their respective divisions.

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