Saturday, October 23, 2010

Today’s Big 12 games encapsulated


Iowa State (3-4) at No. 22 Texas (4-2), 11 a.m.

Line: Texas by 21

Fun facts: Iowa State has never beaten Texas. The Longhorns hold a 7-0 all-time advantage in the series. Fitting that the line is 21. UT’s margin of victory over ISU in six wins in the Big 12 era is 22 points.

Player to watch: Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert. How many times will UT coach Mack Brown call Gilbert’s number on the ground? The sophomore had only rushed for 14 yards all season before last week, when Brown made a concerted effort to make Gilbert an integral part of the ground game to spurn an upset of Nebraska. Gilbert, not typically known for his speed, ran for 71 yards and two scores last week in Lincoln, Neb., against one of the best defenses in the conference.

Key matchup: Iowa State rush defense vs. UT ground attack. The Cyclones are second-to-last in the conference in rush defense, surrendering 219 yards per game on the ground. If ISU can’t stop the run in Austin, it could be a long day for the Cyclones.

No. 14 Nebraska (5-1) at No. 17 Oklahoma State (6-0), 2:30 p.m.

Line: Nebraska by 6

Fun facts: Nebraska leads the all-time series, 36-5-1. Oklahoma State has won the last two (in 2007 and 2006), however, and three of the last four.

Player to watch: Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez. The red-shirt freshman had a nightmarish game against Texas, rushing for 21 yards and completing only four of his 12 attempted passes last week. Martinez, who’s still in the top 10 in the country in rushing, was benched in favor of Zac Lee. Coach Bo Pelini insists Martinez will get the start today in Stillwater, Okla. The Cornhuskers dropped seven passes last week, three of which would have been touchdowns. How will this unit respond a week after the dreadful showing?

Key matchup: Nebraska rushing offense vs. Oklahoma State rush defense. The Cowboys are more vulnerable against the pass on defense (114th in country), but Nebraska likes to establish its ground game to set the tone, particularly on the road. That was its recipe for blowing out Kansas State in Manhattan. OSU has been solid against the run this year (36th in country, 124.50 yards given up per game). If the Cowboys can contain Martinez and running backs Rex Burkhead and Roy Helu, they will have a chance at handing the Huskers their second upset loss in as many weeks. If that happens, it would be a huge step in OSU giving Oklahoma a run for the Big 12 South title.

Texas Tech (3-3) at Colorado (3-3), 2:30 p.m.

Line: Tech by 21⁄2

Fun facts: Colorado leads the all-time series, 5-4. The Buffaloes have won the last two meetings (2007 in Lubbock, Texas; 2006 in Boulder, Colo.).

Player to watch: Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen. The Buffaloes have lost two games in a row and Hansen’s been sacked five times and only thrown one touchdown in that time. These figures must improve.

Key matchup: Colorado pass offense vs. Texas Tech pass defense. Perfect time for Hansen to get back on track. The Red Raiders allow 292 yards per game through the air, fourth-worst in the country and the worst in the Big 12.

Kansas State (5-1) at Baylor (5-2), 2:30 p.m.

Line: Baylor by 6

Fun facts: Kansas State leads the all-time series, 6-1. Baylor’s only victory came in 2006 in Waco, Texas. The Bears could clinch their first bowl berth since 1994 with a victory.

Player to watch: Kansas State cornerback Stephen Harrison. Kansas University fans, even though they probably don’t want to, likely remember Harrison’s massive night last week, when the senior returned a fumble return for an 85-yard score and picked off a Jordan Webb pass in the end zone. Harrison and the Wildcats are in for a challenge today in defending Robert Griffin and Baylor’s passing attack, which averages 301 yards per game (13th in country). The Harrison-led KSU secondary is 12th in the country in defending the pass, giving up only 163 yards per game.

Key matchup: Robert Griffin vs. KSU defense. Baylor’s sophomore quarterback has a splendid 14:3 touchdown to interception ratio this season. And that’s not even counting Griffin’s six rushing scores. When Baylor loses, Griffin tends not to have an impact on the ground game. His two lowest rushing totals of the season were 18 yards against Texas Tech and 21 yards against TCU, Baylor’s only losses of the season.

No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 18 Missouri, 7 p.m.

Line: Oklahoma by 3

Fun facts: Oklahoma leads the all-time series, 64-23-5. The last two times the Sooners and Tigers met up was in the Big 12 Championship game. Oklahoma won, 62-21, in 2008 and 38-17 in 2007.

Player to watch: Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles. The junior went crazy last week against Iowa State for 15 catches, 182 yards and a TD. Even more ridiculous? He had 13 catches for 165 yards by halftime. That was against Iowa State. Missouri, certainly, is not Iowa State. The Tigers have been superb on defense this season and rank second in the country with only 10.83 points allowed per game. How much room will Broyles have against MU?

Key matchup: Oklahoma offense vs. Missouri defense. The Sooners average 36 points per game and are coming off arguably their most complete game of the season in a 52-0 rout of Iowa State. Missouri’s defense is coming off a 30-9 domination of Texas A&M; in College Station, Texas. Which unit will prevail? Also keep an eye on Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith, who has missed the last three weeks with a broken bone in his leg. The sophomore plans to make his return today. Smith, when healthy, is one of the most disruptive pass rushers in the conference.


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