Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the five most important things to take away from this weekend.
1. Setup Saturday? – With Auburn, Oregon and TCU taking Saturday off, Week 12 was a relatively quiet one in the top 25. Boise State was the lone team from the BCS top four to play in Week 12, and the Broncos turned in an impressive 51-0 victory over Fresno State. Although the Week 12 slate may have disappointed for some fans, it’s time to buckle up for an entertaining final stretch. Forget hitting the malls and stores after Thanksgiving, Friday has a must-see lineup. Auburn takes on Alabama, Oregon hosts Arizona and Boise State travels to Reno to take on Nevada. Three of the top four teams in the nation will be on in different time slots – all prime opportunities to impress the voters.
2. Virginia Tech clinches ACC Coastal – For the fourth time in six seasons, Virginia Tech is headed to the ACC Championship. The Hokies were outgained 464 to 369 by Miami, but it didn’t matter. The offense got timely plays from quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and the defense forced six turnovers. Running back Ryan Williams has battled a hamstring injury most of the year, but his 84-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter put the Hokies up for good and clinched their berth to Charlotte for the ACC title. Although Virginia Tech is going to end up with a solid season, there’s also a what might’ve been feeling. Had the Hokies defeated Boise State, do they lose to James Madison? My guess is the Hokies win convincingly and who knows, maybe they are sitting 11-0 with a chance to jump into the discussion for the national title. The Hokies close out the regular season with rival Virginia, but will have to wait a week to figure out if they play Florida State or NC State in the ACC Championship.
3. Tie remains atop the Big Ten – Several conference battles are coming down to the wire, but the Big Ten is the only one with three teams in the top 10 of the BCS. While Wisconsin was cruising against Michigan, Michigan State needed a furious second-half rally and Ohio State a fourth-down conversion late in the fourth quarter to keep a three-way tie atop the standings in the Big Ten. The Badgers have a loss to Michigan State, but are arguably the best team in the conference. Despite John Clay missing the last two games with a knee injury, the offense hasn’t missed a beat and only needed to throw one pass in the second half victory over Michigan. With a win over Northwestern and an Ohio State win over Michigan, the Badgers appear likely to make their first trip to Pasadena since the 2000 season. If the Spartans beat Penn State, Wisconsin beats Northwestern and the Buckeyes lose to the Wolverines, Michigan State will make the trip to Pasadena, owning the head-to-head victory over the Badgers.
4. Big 12 division winners still unsettled – The Big 12 has sent a team to the national championship game the last two seasons, but Nebraska’s 9-6 loss to Texas A&M closed the door on the small hope the conference had of making it three in a row. Nebraska’s loss also means the Big 12 North division will be unsettled for at least another week. The Cornhuskers still have a prime opportunity to punch a ticket to the Big 12 title game with a win over Colorado on Friday. However, the Cornhuskers will need a healthy Taylor Martinez at quarterback – something they didn’t have on Saturday night in College Station.
The annual Bedlam matchup between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will play a key role in deciding the South title. With a win over the Sooners, the Cowboys will make their first appearance in the Big 12 title game. The Sooners are 1-4 in their last five conference road games, with the lone victory coming on Saturday against Baylor. If the Sooners beat the Cowboys and Texas A&M beats Texas, three teams will be tied and the BCS standings will be used to decide the champion. Considering the Sooners rank 13th and the Aggies are 17th, a win over Oklahoma State should send Oklahoma to the Big 12 Championship.
5. Searching for answers in the Big East – West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Connecticut and Syracuse have all seemed to garner mention as the favorite for the Big East at some point this season. Through 12 weeks, the Big East crown still remains unsettled. Pittsburgh knocked off South Florida 17-10, giving the Panthers the edge going into Saturday’s Backyard Brawl matchup against West Virginia. The Mountaineers lost back-to-back games against Syracuse and Connecticut, but seem to have fixed some of the mistakes plaguing them in the two losses. The Huskies own tiebreakers over the Mountaineers and Panthers, but still have to face Cincinnati and South Florida. The Orange have impressed in Doug Marrone’s second season, but have a puzzling 0-3 record in conference play at home, while winning all three Big East games on the road. The Big East has been a wacky conference this season, but the Backyard Brawl on Friday, and Connecticut’s matchup against Cincinnati should clear the picture after next week.
Other thoughts from Week 12
There’s still plenty to be sorted out for 2010, but there’s already a lot of intrigue building for Week 1 of the 2011 season. The announcement of Boise State-Georgia as the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game means fans will be treated to two quality matchups with LSU-Oregon also on the slate. The Broncos also deserve a lot of credit for their willingness to play this game, which is a virtual home date for Georgia in Atlanta.
Although there are some details to be worked out, it looks like Hawaii will be joining the Mountain West. This move raises some questions regarding the future of the WAC and TCU’s standing in the Mountain West. Are the Warriors invited to the conference because TCU is leaving? If the Warriors leave the WAC, the remaining teams will be – New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech, Utah State, San Jose State, Idaho, Texas State and Texas-San Antonio – a far cry from having Boise State, Nevada and Fresno State.
One of Week 12’s quiet wins was Ohio beating Temple on Tuesday night. The Owls appeared to be in position to win their first MAC East title, but Ohio scored a 31-23 victory in Philadelphia. If the Bobcats beat Kent State on Friday, they will return to Detroit to play in the MAC Championship.
There’s no doubt Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is one of the best passers in the nation, but the sophomore is an underrated athlete. Luck has 445 rushing yards this year, including 92 against Washington and an impressive 58-yard run in Saturday’s win over California. Stanford’s 48-14 blowout victory over the Golden Bears was the first win by the Cardinal in Berkeley since 2000.
After watching Arkansas beat Mississippi State, one has to wonder what would happen if the Razorbacks had a chance to play Auburn again. The Razorbacks have found a running game behind Knile Davis and the defense has been solid. If the Razorbacks beat LSU on Saturday, they should get some consideration for an at-large spot in a BCS bowl.
Expect teams to continue scheduling games in baseball stadiums in the near future. Although the Wrigley Field experiment resulted in some wacky rules, another game in Chicago wouldn’t be a surprise. Missouri is exploring the possibility of playing in Busch Stadium, and the Pinstripe Bowl will be played in New Yankee Stadium. The experience of playing in a baseball stadium was interesting and one that only adds an extra element of intrigue.
Colorado is 2-0 since firing Dan Hawkins, with wins over Iowa State and Kansas State. Interim coach Brian Cabral has made an emphasis to get the ball to running back Rodney Stewart, rushing for 318 yards over the last two games. Although Cabral was considered a longshot to keep the job, a win over Nebraska on Friday could change his standing for 2011.
Another win that went under the radar was Eastern Michigan’s 21-17 victory over Buffalo. This was the first road win for the Eagles since October 4, 2008 against Bowling Green. Second-year coach Ron English is doing a good job turning around one of the nation’s worst programs.
Florida State’s 30-16 win over Maryland puts all of the pressure on NC State this Saturday. If the Wolfpack win in College Park, they will earn a spot in the ACC Championship. If the Terrapins pull the upset, the Seminoles will go to Charlotte to play Virginia Tech.
Cincinnati is having a disappointing season, but the door hasn’t closed on a bowl appearance. The Bearcats posted 69 points in Saturday’s win over Rutgers and have games against Connecticut and Pittsburgh remaining. With the way things have played out in the Big East this year, the Bearcats could win both games. Coach Butch Jones is catching a lot of heat, but the Bearcats have a young defense and quarterback Zach Collaros is back next season, which provides hope for a winning year in 2011.
Kent State’s Doug Martin resigned, becoming the fourth school to make a coaching change this season. Martin posted a 28-53 record in seven seasons at Kent State and will coach the season finale against Ohio.
Looking ahead to Week 13
A small sample of what’s ahead
Texas A&M vs. Texas (Thursday)
Aggies need win to stay alive in Big 12 South title race and loss eliminates Texas from bowl contention.
West Virginia vs. Pittsburgh (Friday)
Backyard Brawl will play a significant role in deciding Big East champ.
Auburn vs. Alabama (Friday)
Can the Alabama defense slow down Cameron Newton?
Colorado vs. Nebraska (Friday)
Final Big 12 regular season game for both teams, with Colorado off to the Pac-10 and Nebraska headed to the Big Ten after this season.
Arizona vs. Oregon (Friday)
Bye week gave Arizona plenty of time to prepare for Oregon – but will it matter?
Boise State vs. Nevada (Friday)
An impressive showing by Broncos on Friday night could be enough to move past TCU in BCS standings.
South Carolina vs. Clemson
Will the Gamecocks get caught looking ahead to next week’s showdown in Atlanta against Auburn?
Kentucky vs. Tennessee
Volunteers need a victory to get a bowl and own a 25-game winning streak over Wildcats.
Michigan State vs. Penn State
Spartans still have Rose Bowl hopes, but winning in Happy Valley won’t be easy.
NC State vs. Maryland
The mission for NC State is simple – win and advance to the ACC Championship.
Georgia Tech vs. Georgia
Disappointing year so far for Georgia, but a win against rival Georgia Tech would give the Bulldogs momentum going into the bowl season.
Florida vs. Florida State
Seminoles looking to snap six-game losing streak to Florida.
Michigan vs. Ohio State
Michigan's struggling defense will have its hands full trying to slow down Terrelle Pryor.
Northwestern vs. Wisconsin
Without Dan Persa and a leaky run defense, Wildcats will struggle to keep up with Badgers.
Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State
Sooners have struggled on the road recently, but own a three-game winning streak in Stillwater.
Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss
Bulldogs looking for their first win in Oxford since 1998.
LSU vs. Arkansas
Winner of this matchup keeps alive for an at-large bid in a BCS bowl.
Taking a look at some of the key players suffering injuries this weekend.
Boston College RB Montel Harris (knee) – questionable for Week 13
Florida CB Janoris Jenkins (concussion) – probable for Week 13
Iowa RB Adam Robinson (concussion) – doubtful for Week 13
Kansas State QB Collin Klein (undisclosed) – questionable for Week 13
Michigan RB Vincent Smith (undisclosed) – questionable for Week 13
Michigan WR Darryl Stonum (ankle) – questionable for Week 13
Michigan LB Craig Roh (concussion) – questionable for Week 13
Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez (ankle) – questionable for Week 13
Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o (broken nose) – probable for Week 13
Oklahoma RB Roy Finch (concussion) – questionable for Week 13
Oregon State LB Keith Pankey (ankle) – questionable for Week 13
South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore (concussion) – probable for Week 13
Temple RB Bernard Pierce (hamstring) – questionable for Week 13
Tennessee DT Montori Hughes (ankle) – probable for Week 13
UCLA QB Richard Brehaut (concussion) – probable for Week 13
USC QB Matt Barkley (high ankle sprain) – questionable for Week 13
USC RB Marc Tyler (sprained akle) – questionable for Week 13
USC LB Chris Galippo (concussion) – doubtful for Week 13
Virginia Tech CB Rashad Carmichael (sprained ankle) – probable for Week 13
Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips on the decision to use only one end zone for the Wildcats’ game versus Illinois. Both offenses will go towards the west end zone at Wrigley Field on Saturday.
Each week, Athlon will take a deeper look at the fantasy matchups that affect your lineup. Some players will deserve a second look from managers, while others could create some concern. Check out Athlon's College Fantasy Start or Sit for Week 12:
Back-to-back 300-yard efforts have Big Orange nation fired up about the future of the Vols passing attack. A loaded but young receiving corps also has fans excited. Against the Dores, and their 106th-rated total defense, Bray should be able to deliver the goods.
Bryan Ellis, UAB (Memphis)
Ellis has been solid if nothing else from week to week this season. But he exploded last week for 35.72 TFP — 418 yards and 5 TDs against ECU. Memphis is very simply terrible on defense: 119th in pass efficiency, 120th in total defense and 117th in scoring defense.
Jordan La Secla, San Jose State (@ Hawaii)
The Spartans quarterback has been producing of late. He has seven of his nine passing touchdowns in the last three games and back-to-back 300-yard efforts. Hawaii 'boasts' the 83rd-rated pass defense, so this should be a high scoring affair out on the islands.
Tevin Washington, Georgia Tech (Duke)
Even in a bad loss to Miami last week, the option QB topped 100 yards both passing and rushing with a TD mixed in. Against two other option attacks this season, Duke allowed 34.38 TFP to RIcky Dobbs of Navy and 23.6 TFP to Trent Steelman of Army.
Alex Gillett, Eastern Michigan (@ Buffalo)
Fantasy editor Steven Lassan called for the upset on the Section 120 podcast, so if that happens, Gillett will have to be big. He is the team's leading rusher and has 784 yards of total offense in his last three with six total TDs. If Lasso is right, and he usually is, then Gillett will be a sound option this week.
Matt McGloin, Penn State (Indiana — Landover)
Yes, Robert Bolden could see some time this weekend, but the offense has been clearly improved under McGloin. The new starter has 634 yards passing and eight total TDs in his three starts (one in the Horseshoe, keep in mind). And Indiana just allowed 83 points to the Badgers.
Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin (@ Michigan)
Speaking of the Badgers, the expected barn-burner in Ann Arbor should be beneficial for the Wisconsin quarterback. Tolzien is eighth nationally in passer efficiency and had his best career game against the Maize and Blue last season when he threw for 240 yards and four TDs in the 45-24 win. Expect much of the same this week.
QB — Better Think Twice
Terrelle Pryor vs. Ricky Stanzi (Ohio State vs. Iowa)
Two great defenses should keep the upside limited this week for both passers — even if the new game plan has TP2 giddy over playing this weekend. Pryor had one of his worst career games last year (fantasy wise) when he totaled 29 yards rushing and 93 yards passing without a single score.
Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M (Nebraska)
The Aggie quarterback underacheived last week against Baylor — largly because he was not needed. He threw for 280 yards and a TD — not exactly a huge fantasy number. The Huskers' secondary is awesome. They lead the nation in pass efficiency defense and are second in pass defense.
Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech (@ Miami, Fla.)
The No. 2 pass efficiency defense in the nation resides in Coral Gables. And Taylor has been under 18 TFP in two games in a row, even in comfortable wins. Last year, Taylor posted a mediocre 98 yards passing, 75 yards rushing and one total TD. Either he isn't needed in a blowout win over a freshman quarterback or it's a low-scoring, tighly played affair. That is no good either way.
Christian Ponder, Florida State (@ Maryland)
The Maryland defense is greatly improved from a year ago, and Ponder is returning from an injury. This is an important game for both teams, so expect both defenses to be ready to play. This has the makings of a grind-it-out type of game that fantasy owners should want no part of in any fashion — expect maybe the defenses.
Ryan Lindley, San Diego State (Utah)
The Aztec passer has had only two games since the Utah match last season in which he passed for less than 207 yards (his total against the Utes last fall). He threw two INTs and SDSU was blown out 38-7. Expect the score to be much closer than that this year, but his upside seems limited against the eighth-best defense in the nation.
Ryan Colburn, Fresno State (@ Boise State)
Boise boasts the No. 3 total defense in the nation. The No. 2 scoring defense in the nation. And the Broncos have not lost a conference game since the Ming Dynasty. Colburn has been solid of late, but I would stay far away from him this weekend.
RB — Deserves A Second Look
Montee Ball and James White, Wisconsin (@ Michigan)
John Clay will suit up this weekend but is highly unlikely to see too many carries. Ball and White combined for 41 carries, 315 yards and five touchdowns last week against Indiana (all in the first 36 minutes of the game, mind you, Bret Bielema critics). Michigan is the worst total defense in the Big Ten, allowing more than 433 yards per game and over 32 points per game (9th in Big Ten).
Derrvin Speight, Utah State (Idaho)
After averaging 10 TFP through his first eight games, Speight has posted 52.1 TFP in his last two. He got 48 carries in those games, and against Idaho's 104-rated rush defense (197 ypg), he should be more than capable of a 20-pt fantasy week.
Marc Tyler, USC (@ Oregon State)
After a lot of split carries and weekly flux, it appears that Tyler has earned the workload for the Trojans. He has a team-high 60 carries over the last three. His 31 attempts for 160 yards (and a TD) last week dwarfed the rest of the USC backs — who combined for six carries. I am not sure how it happened, but Oregon State allowed 221 yards on 61 carries against Washington State last week. The Beavers will play better this weekend, but Wazzu? Need I say more?
Alexander Teich, Navy (Arkansas State)
Navy's leading ball-carrier not named Dobbs has been Teich all season. His 114 carries lead the Middies running backs by a wide margin (Murray has 65 and Greene has 60). But Teich is finally reaching the end zone. He has scored three times over the last two games, and Arky State should pose no threat on defense (111th in rush defense) and is good enough on offense (34th in total offense) to keep it close.
Baron Batch and Eric Stephens, Texas Tech (Weber State)
Both backs are over 100 carries for the season — 142 and 100, respectively. Texas Tech has run the ball an unheard-of-in-Lubbock 89 times over the last two weeks. Against lowly Weber State, expect the Raiders to keep it safe and utilize the ground game once again.
Chris Rainey, Florida (Appalachian State)
The all-purpose back has 34 touches in three games since returning from suspension and scored in every game. He is also eligible at WR in most leagues so fill him in where needed. Urban Meyer seems dedicated to getting him touches in some fashion, and against Appy State, he should have plenty of room to work.
Cierre Wood, Notre Dame (Army — New York)
Since taking over for Armando Allen two weeks ago, the explosive Wood has been getting it done. He has 42 touches in those games, totalling 211 yards from scrimmage and two TDs. With the freshman taking snaps, expect Brian Kelly to lean heavily on Wood — well, at least as heavily as a Kelly-led offense ever will lean on a running back.
Pat Shed, UAB (Memphis)
Shed has averaged 24.1 TFP per game over his last three while totalling 63 carries and 18 receptions over that span. Memphis is pathetic on defense, and all Blazers should have a chance to post adequate numbers.
Robinson could find it tough sledding this weekend.
RB — Better Think Twice
Boom Herron vs. Adam Robinson (Ohio State @ Iowa)
Both of these running backs have been as consistent as any in the nation. But so have these defenses. In fact, both rank in the top-5 nationally against the run and are No. 1 and 2 in the Big Ten. Herron is the better play of the two with the banged-up Iowa linebacking corps and his nine straight games with a TD. I just feel like there could be better options out there.
Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M (Nebraska)
Since stepping in for Christine Michael, Gray has been exceptional. And the Huskers have not been as imposing as expected this season. Nebraska held Kansas to 72 yards on 34 carries and no scores last week. They claim the nation's most efficient pass defense and the nation's No. 2 total pass defense. Expect clogged running lanes for Gray.
Robbie Rouse, Fresno State (@ Boise State)
See Ryan Colburn above.
Orleans Darkwa, Tulane (UCF)
Darkwa has notched four straight 100-yard efforts and scored four times over that span. Yet, the Knights of UCF claim C-USA's No. 2 rush defense (17th nationally) by allowing only 116 yards per game. A 49-0 shutout last fall in which the Green Wave managed to rush for -30 yards as a team should keep the youngster out of most lineups this weekend.
Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State (Utah)
The Aztec running back has slowed of late. He has failed to reach 100 yards in five of his last seven games and has scored only twice in his last four. He was shut down by TCU and should find tough sledding against the nation's No. 8 defense.
Ryan Williams and Darren Evans, Virginia Tech (@ Miami, Fla.)
These two combined for 29 carries and 184 yards last week with a dead split in carries and yards. But neither scored. They combined for 22 carries and 98 yards the week before. The point is that both are much better actual football players than they are fantasy players right now. Stay away.
Keith Payne, Virginia (@ Boston College)
Boston College boasts the nation's No. 1 rushing defense, allowing only 74.6 yards per game. In three home conference games this year (Clemson, Maryland, Virginia Tech), the Eagles allowed a total of 237 yards on 97 carries for a paltry 2.4 clip. Stay away from the big fella this weekend.
Anyone for Troy or FAU (@ South Carolina, @ Texas)
WR — Week 12 Spot Starts
Roy Roundtree, Michigan (Wisconsin)
Has 15 catches for 315 yards and 3 TDs over has two games.
Denarius Moore and Justin Hunter, Tennessee (@ Vanderbilt)
In two games with Bray the pair has a combined line of 14-347-5.
Jock Sanders, West Virginia (@ Louisville)
Has been more involved of late — 26 catches over last four and 2 TDs last week.
Markus Wheaton, Oregon State (USC)
Has 9 carries and 17 receptions for 302 total yards and 3 TDs over last three.
Kelvin Bolden, Southern Miss (Houston)
Has 18 catches for 246 yards and 3 TDs over last three. Should be high scoring.
Paul RIchardson, Colorado (Kansas State)
Posted 16 receptions for 262 yards and 2 TDs in last two.
Top 10 DEF/ST Waiver Wire Spot Starts
1. Texas (FAU)
2. Clemson (@ Wake Forest)
3. Texas Tech (Weber State)
4. Tennessee (@ Vanderbilt)
5. Boston College (Virginia)
6. Oklahoma State (@ Kansas)
7. UConn (@ Syracuse)
8. South Carolina (Troy)
9. Northern Illinois (@ Ball State)
10. Nevada (New Mexico State)
Stanford (9-1, 6-1) at California (5-5, 3-4), Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
The Cardinal will continue their quest for a BCS bowl berth with a visit to their rival. No. 1 Oregon remains the only team to beat Stanford. If both teams continue on their current paths, Stanford could be in line for a ticket to the Rose Bowl. The Cardinal’s balanced, potent offense will get a test from the Bears, who put together one of the best defensive performances in the nation this season during their 15–13 loss to Oregon last weekend. Cal leads the Pac-10 and is 10th nationally in total defense, but most of its success this season has come against spread offenses. The Cardinal run a power, pro-style attack that will be a whole new challenge for the Bears. That being said, Cal stopped Stanford’s offense last season when it was the hottest in the country.
USC (7-3, 4-3) at Oregon State (4-5, 3-3), Saturday, 5 p.m.
Two teams going in different directions meet in the Pacific Northwest. The Trojans, despite having nothing to play for, are playing their best ball at the end of the season. USC has won two in a row, including a road victory at Arizona last week. The Trojans, who are not eligible to play in a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions, can still reach a 10-win season if they win their final three games. The Beavers, meanwhile, are reeling. They have lost three of four, including an embarrassing 31–14 home setback to Washington State last week. This begins a brutal final stretch of the season for the Beavers. After Saturday, Oregon State travels to Stanford before closing out the regular season in the Civil War against Oregon. The Beavers need to win two of their final three games to be bowl-eligible.
Oklahoma State (9-1, 5-1) at Kansas (3-7, 1-5), Saturday, 11 a.m.
The term “trap game” gets tossed around much too much. That said, it applies here, and the Jayhawks have one such conquest (Georgia Tech) to prove it.
Still, don’t expect it, with this Oklahoma State team proving repeatedly that its leaders know how to maintain focus. And the focus is clear: rolling through Lawrence on the way to a South Division showdown with archrival Oklahoma.
It’ll be Senior Day at KU, which can be good for a minor emotional boost. But the Jayhawks simply don’t have the firepower (Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon, Kendall Hunter, et al) on offense to keep pace, unless OSU stumbles.
Once upon a time, the road was rough on the Cowboys. But they’ve won 10 of their last 13 away from home, including all four games this season, claiming victory in places that had been their Waterloo for decades.
The Pokes are too close to the prize to lose their way now. By beating Kansas, they’ll face OU for their first South title in the Big 12. And that will set them up with a likely rematch with Nebraska for the school’s first conference title.
Kansas State (6-4, 3-4) at Colorado (4-6, 1-5), Saturday, 1:10 p.m.
The Buffaloes claimed their first Big 12 win in more than a calendar year last Saturday. Now, how about No. 2?
What a difference a week — and a win — makes, as Colorado climbed out of the mess of a mid-season coaching change to convincingly beat Iowa State. Now, going back-to-back doesn’t seem like such a stretch, especially if quarterback Cody Hawkins can repeat his solid performance and interim coach Brian Cabral can maintain an emotional re-focus.
The Wildcats take one of the league’s top rushing offenses into Boulder, with running quarterback Colin Klein adding another element to go with tailback Daniel Thomas. Klein has given the ’Cats a boost, rotating at quarterback with Carson Coffman.
Still, the lack of a passing attack limits K-State. And the Buffs slowed Iowa State’s ground game a week ago, although the ’Cats present a much more physical challenge in their run game.
Weber State (6-4) at Texas Tech (5-5), Saturday, 2 p.m.
The Red Raiders are still seeking another win to reach bowl-eligible status. Thankfully, this one, against FCS-level Weber State, counts.
Tech has completed conference play in a quirky scheduling twist that features back-to-back non-conference home games, Saturday and again next week against Houston. In an uneven season, this presents an opportunity to build some momentum for the Red Raiders and for inconsistent quarterback Taylor Potts.
Weber State won’t be fazed by the step up in competition, with games against FBS schools a regularity in its scheduling. The Wildcats opened this season with a 38-20 loss at Boston College.
Still, don’t expect an upset. Weber State is just 3–43 all-time against the big boys, with the last breakthrough coming in 1993.
Florida Atlantic (4-5) at Texas (4-6), Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
The Longhorns’ mighty fall leaves them with this unlikely scenario: a must-win game against, get this, FAU. Must-win in terms of avoiding a losing season.
Must-win in terms of maintaining hope for — gasp! — a bowl bid. Must-win in terms of avoiding complete and total embarrassment. That’s where Texas stands, having lost four straight games and four of five at home this season.
The Horns continue to scuffle offensively, due to a lack of playmakers that would seem impossible considering the school’s annual recruiting hauls. Still, quarterback Garrett Gilbert’s struggles have fans and media calling for a look at backup Case McCoy. There would be similar calls at other positions, if only options existed.
FAU has rebounded from five straight losses to win three in a row and at least carry momentum into Austin.
Missouri (8-2, 4-2) at Iowa State (5-6, 3-4), Saturday, 6 p.m.
Week 11 was rough on the Cyclones. They lost as a favorite at Colorado and they lost injured quarterback Austen Arnaud in the process, robbing them of their gritty and respected leader, not to mention the program’s No. 2 passing leader in terms of career yards and touchdowns. That puts replacement Jerome Tiller on the spot, as Iowa State gets one final shot at gaining bowl eligibility. Tiller, of course, will need help, from running back Alexander Robinson and a cast of receivers and a defense that ranks No. 92 nationally in total defense.
Missouri, meanwhile, maintains hope for a North Division title, although its needs assistance from Texas A&M and Colorado in overtaking Nebraska. Still, it’s hope. And the Tigers seem to have rediscovered their offense, with Blaine Gabbert and Co. and a spiced-up playbook producing big numbers in a 38-28 win over K-State.
Oklahoma (8-2, 4-2) at Baylor (7-4, 4-3), Saturday, 7 p.m.
The Sooners are tiring of the “road struggle” questions, to the point that a testy Bob Stoops limited media access to just five players this week. But the questions aren’t going away, not until Oklahoma proves capable of stepping out of its Jekyll-Hyde routine. At home, the Sooners are superb. On the road, they’re susceptible, with losses in their last two trips outside of Norman.
OU Quarterback Landry Jones is just 1–5 in true road games as a starter, where he’s struggled with inconsistency and interception woes.
Not that it’s all on Jones. The Sooners defense has allowed 69 points in those two road losses (at Missouri and Texas A&M).
Baylor, however, would figure to provide a level of comfort. OU hasn’t lost to Baylor. Anywhere. Ever. And suddenly, the arguments that this is a different Baylor are fading. The Bears are better, clearly, yet have failed mightily against the best of competition, including the past two weeks in losses to Oklahoma State and A&M.
Baylor maintains a shot, with its explosive Robert Griffin III-led offense capable of putting up points. The Bears defense, however, is banged up, stressing an already difficult challenge of slowing the Sooners, who look to stay on track for a South Division title shot.
The Aggies have rebounded to win four straight games and put themselves in the South title chase. An improving defense and the move to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback have transformed a team that once stood 0–2 in Big 12 play. And a win over Nebraska would further cement A&M’s status as a program on the rise, not only this season, but also going forward.
The Huskers can clinch the North title with a win, yet seek a return to form as well. Nebraska’s four-game winning streak has revealed some rocky moments, and quarterback Taylor Martinez has slowed down following his early season breakout.
And for all the references to the “Blackshirts” on defense, the Huskers haven’t been a shutdown defense at all, except against the league’s lightweights.
For Nebraska, this trip to College Station will be a test. Along with Tannehill’s impact, the Aggies have given running back Cyrus Gray a heavier workload and benefitted. And with the Huskers headed for Kyle Field — perhaps for the last time — in an ABC prime-time television slot, a full and frenzied house is expected in what amounts to the Big 12’s Game of the Week.