Big 12 Weekend Preview
Garrett Gilbert will get his first taste of the Red River Rivalry.
By: Rob Doster | 9/29/10, 2:37 PM EDT
Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter
Texas A&M at Oklahoma State
Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
The Aggies and Cowboys consider themselves contenders in the Big 12 South. And with Texas and Oklahoma less than impressive so far, why not?
The winner, in a Thursday night special, furthers its case.
A shootout is expected, with both teams riding explosive offenses to 3–0 starts.
Behind the trio of quarterback Brandon Weeden, running back Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Justin Blackmon, the Cowboys dominate the NCAA offensive rankings. They’re off to the fastest scoring start in school history, with 171 points through three games.
Still, this will be the OSU offense’s first significant test — at least on the surface. A&M, a mess on defense a year ago, hired coordinator Tim DeRuyter from Air Force, where he built strong units that featured an aggressive, attacking style.
DeRuyter is also familiar with Cowboys offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, with the two matching wits three times in the past two seasons, when Holgorsen was setting records at Houston. DeRuyter left a calling card in last December’s Armed Forces Bowl, shackling Holgorsen’s Houston offense in a 47–20 win.
Can he do it again?
The Aggies offense revolves around quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who can be erratic, but fuels everything they do. Johnson has quality complements in wideout Jeff Fuller and running backs Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael.
OSU’s defense, under the guidance of underrated coordinator Bill Young, is young, but athletic and physical.
Kansas at Baylor
Saturday, 11 a.m.
While far from the spotlight of the Big 12’s biggest games of the week — OU-Texas and Oklahoma State-Texas A&M — this stands as a huge clash for the Jayhawks and Bears.
Both figured to be also-rans in the conference, but the winner at least emerges with hopes of a winning season and bowl bid. The loser looks up at the rest of the Big 12 — perhaps literally the entire rest of the Big 12.
Baylor’s been trying to climb the league’s ladder to respectability since the conference was formed. The Bears’ first shot at making a statement this season brought a beatdown by TCU.
While KU doesn’t present as stiff a test, the Bears still must prove they’re capable of making a statement, which here, as decided favorites, means a solid win. As always, quarterback Robert Griffin is the key figure for Baylor.
Kansas has been wildly inconsistent, shockingly falling at home to North Dakota State, but also upsetting Georgia Tech, on its way to a 2–2 start. The Jayhawks haven’t been afraid to tweak things, first switching quarterbacks to freshman Jordan Webb and now finding touches for dynamic playmaker D.J. Beshears, who returned a kickoff for a touchdown and also got snaps at running back and receiver a week ago, totaling three TDs.
Oklahoma vs. Texas, Cotton Bowl
Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Texas’ stunning home loss to UCLA swiped some of the shine from this latest meeting in a storied rivalry, the 105th edition. Still, the balance of power in the Big 12 South likely remains at stake.
Neither team has lived up to preseason billing. The Sooners, while 4–0, have had tight fights with Utah State, Air Force and Cincinnati, struggling to crank up their ground game and revealing leaks on defense.
Texas has no running game to speak of, and the transition from Colt McCoy to Garrett Gilbert at quarterback has been anything but smooth. At least it arrives with a stout defense that seems to match up well against OU’s offensive strengths.
So what gives in the Cotton Bowl? Who knows?
The Sooners seem to possess more star power, with quarterback Landry Jones, running back DeMarco Murray and wideout Ryan Broyles capable of dominating, along with defensive end Jeremy Beal and linebacker Travis Lewis.
Yet this contentious series is known for its magical moments and its breakout and breakthrough performers. And Texas is looking for someone to fit that bill.
The series has a long history of running in streaks. Most recently, OU won five straight from 2000-2004, before the Longhorns swayed momentum to win four of the last five, including the last two.
Saturday’s winner claims the Golden Hat and more, including the favorite’s role in the Big 12 south.
Texas Tech at Iowa State
Saturday, 6 p.m.
As successful as Tech was during the Mike Leach era, the Red Raiders were a different beast away from home. Much less beastly.
Now, with a week off to digest their home loss to Texas, the Raiders begin a four-of-five stretch of games outside Lubbock.
Maybe things will be different under Tommy Tuberville. And maybe what’s most different, an improved defense, can be an equalizer for Tech’s past troubles on the road. This trip to Iowa State, where Tuberville meets up old pal Paul Rhoads — his defensive coordinator at Auburn — will provide an indicator.
As promised, Tech remains a pass-happy offense, which is out of character for Tuberville. But Tech’s defense has been more along the lines of the rugged crews Tuberville is known for, which will be vital going into Ames, where the Cyclones will be looking to control the ball and the clock with tailback Alexander Robinson.
Both teams carry some quarterback concerns. For the Raiders, Taylor Potts is coming off a rough outing against Texas and always has Steven Sheffield looking over his shoulder. For the Cyclones, Austen Arnaud has his own shoulder to worry about, having injured his non-throwing shoulder in last week’s win over Northern Iowa. He is expected to start against Tech, although Jerome Tiller may also play.
Georgia at Colorado
Saturday, 6 p.m.
This once looked like an unfortunate bit of scheduling for the Buffaloes in a make-or-break year for coach Dan Hawkins. Now, Hawkins seat may actually be cooler than that of Georgia’s Mark Richt.
The Bulldogs — and Richt — are reeling, having lost three straight with their only win coming in Week 1 over Louisiana-Lafayette.
That’s not to say the Dawgs aren’t dangerous. They are, with enough talent to turn things around and make a charge through October and November. And they’ll have stud receiver A.J. Green for the first time this year, after Green missed the first four games under NCAA suspension.
Yet this game, which once looked like a doomsday deal for the Buffs, suddenly looks winnable. Colorado has had two weeks to prepare, riding the momentum of a romp past Hawaii into an open weekend.
Still, the Buffs must find some consistency and balance on offense, where the running game has mostly sputtered. A better ground game will take some heat off CU quarterback Tyler Hansen behind an offensive line facing the most athletic and physical defensive line to date.
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