Saturday’s Big 12 games encapsulated

Friday, September 17, 2010

Iowa State (1-1) vs. Kansas State (2-0) (Kansas City, Mo.), 11 a.m.

Line: Kansas State by 4

Fun facts: The Cyclones and Wildcats will meet in Arrowhead Stadium for the second straight year to complete a two-year deal. Each Big 12 school will receive $1.8 million from the Kansas City Chiefs for playing the two games at Arrowhead. Kansas State won last year’s meeting, 24-23.

Player to watch: K-State receiver Brodrick Smith. The sophomore transfer from the University of Minnesota caught six passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns last week against Missouri State. Will Smith emerge as the leading receiver of a relatively unknown Wildcats passing game?

Key matchup: Daniel Thomas vs. Iowa State defense. If the Cyclones want to avenge last year’s loss, they’ll have to stop the K-State machine that is Thomas. The running back topped 200 rushing yards two weeks ago and has scored four TDs this season.

No. 8 Nebraska (2-0) at Washington (1-1), 2:30 p.m.

Line: Nebraska by 31⁄2

Fun fact: The Nebraska defense, which ranked No. 1 in the country in scoring defense last year, has at least three interceptions in four of its last seven games.

Big 12 player to watch: Cornerback Prince Amukamara. The Nebraska senior cornerback will face a stern test against Washington quarterback Jake Locker. Both players should be high picks in next year’s NFL Draft.

Key matchup: Locker vs. Nebraska secondary. Locker, a senior who could be drafted No. 1 overall next April, has five touchdown passes against zero interceptions in two games. The Huskers defense has picked off six passes in two games. Can they pick off Locker?

Hawaii (1-1) at Colorado (1-1), 2:30 p.m.

Line: Colorado by 111⁄2

Fun facts: Colorado was the third-most-penalized team in the country last season. This year, the Buffaloes aren’t faring much better. CU has drawn 19 flags in two games, which ranks 111th out of 120 Div. I teams. Hawaii already has proven it can win on the road, as evidenced by its 31-28 victory at Army last week. With Colorado’s embarrassing 52-7 loss at California, it’s somewhat curious the Buffaloes are favored by double digits.

Big 12 player to watch: Cornerback Jimmy Smith. The Colorado senior figures to be tested against an electric Hawaii passing offense that ranks second in the country with more than 400 yards per game. It should be interesting to see how Smith, considered a potential first-round draft pick next year, responds to the challenge.

Key matchup: Colorado secondary vs. Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz. For as much as the Warriors throw the ball (an average of 42.5 times per game), they have yet to be intercepted this season.

Air Force (2-0) at No. 7 Oklahoma (2-0), 2:30 p.m.

Line: Oklahoma by 171⁄2

Fun fact: After a suspect performance against Utah State, the Oklahoma defense greatly improved against Florida State, limiting future first-round draft pick Christian Ponder to 113 yards and two interceptions.

Big 12 player to watch: Quarterback Landry Jones. Consistency is on the line in this game, and that’s what the sophomore QB will need if OU is to compete for a Big 12 Championship. Jones rebounded from a mediocre week 1 with a sizzling 30-of-40 performance with 380 yards and four scores against Florida State.

Key matchup: Oklahoma run defense vs. Air Force rushing attack. No secret here: Air Force likes to run. The Falcons have eclipsed 60 rushing attempts in each of their victories over Northwestern State and BYU. If Air Force can’t establish its ground game, OU’s home winning streak will extend to a nation’s-best 33 games.

Baylor (2-0) at No. 4 TCU (2-0), 3:30 p.m.

Line: TCU by 22

Fun facts: Baylor and TCU met in 2007, with the Horned Frogs prevailing, 27-0, in Fort Worth, Texas. The last time TCU faced a Big 12 foe was in 2008, when it lost to Oklahoma, 35-10, in Norman, Okla.

Big 12 player to watch: Quarterback Robert Griffin. How will the do-it-all sophomore fare against the vaunted Horned Frogs defense that ranked first in the country in total defense (239.69 yards given up per game) last year and is in the top 10 again this year?

Key matchup: TCU rushing attack vs. Baylor D-line. The Horned Frogs have piled up 10 rushing touchdowns in only two games. TCU has won 41 straight games under coach Gary Patterson when the Horned Frogs rush for at least 167 yards. If Baylor wants any chance at an upset, it must stop the run.

San Diego State (2-0) at Missouri (2-0), 6 p.m.

Line: Missouri by 15

Fun fact: San Diego State hasn’t had a winning season or bowl appearance since 1998.

Big 12 player to watch: Running back Henry Josey. With Derrick Washington kicked off the team and Kendial Lawrence out last week due to a shoulder injury, the freshman Josey torched McNeese State for 112 yards and three touchdowns — on only seven carries. Lawrence should return Saturday, and De’Vion Moore is still a factor, but keep an eye on Josey. It’s going to be tough to keep the Arlington, Texas, native off the field if he keeps finding the end zone at that rate.

Key matchup: San Diego State running game vs. Missouri D-line. SDSU freshman running back Ronnie Hillman galloped for 150 yards and four scores last week in the Aztecs’ 41-21 victory over New Mexico State. Safe to say New Mexico State doesn’t have anyone as disruptive as Missouri sophomore D-end Aldon Smith, however.

Florida International (0-1) at Texas A&M (2-0), 6 p.m.

Line: Texas A&M by 271⁄2

Fun facts: How’s this for a rough nonconference schedule? Last season, Florida International faced Alabama and Florida. No wonder the Golden Panthers went 3-9. FIU faced Kansas University in the 2008 opener and lost, 40-14, in Lawrence. The Golden Panthers are 0-1 after a 19-14 loss to Rutgers last week.

Big 12 player to watch: Wide receiver Jeff Fuller. The junior caught 10 passes for 160 yards and a score last week.

Key matchup: None. The Aggies should dominate this game any way you look at it. Keep an eye on A&M’s ball security, however. The Aggies lost four fumbles in the first half last week against Louisiana Tech.

Tulsa (1-1) at Oklahoma State (2-0), 6 p.m.

Line: Oklahoma State by 61⁄2

Fun facts: Like offense? This game should produce plenty of it. Tulsa ranks fourth in the country in total offense (562 yards per game), while Oklahoma State (533) is eighth.

Big 12 player to watch: Wide receiver Justin Blackmon. He’s only a sophomore, but Blackmon is developing into the Cowboys’ No. 1 receiver. After eight receptions for 125 yards and three touchdowns in week 1, Blackmon stepped up for 10 catches, 132 yards and two touchdowns last week. He could be the best receiver no one knows about.

Key matchup: Oklahoma State discipline vs. itself. The Cowboys were fantastic on offense against Troy, but the Trojans stayed in the game in large part because of 12 Oklahoma State flags for 139 yards. The Cowboys must improve this statistic before Big 12 play.

No. 6 Texas (2-0) at Texas Tech (2-0), 7 p.m.

Line: Texas by 3

Fun facts: Texas leads the all-time series, 44-15. It could be said Texas isn’t as exciting on offense in 2010. No Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley or Quan Cosby. No air-raid passing clinics. And, so far, no blowouts either. The Longhorns beat Rice, 34-17, in week 1 and took care of Wyoming, 34-7, last week.

Before you write the Longhorns off, though, consider coach Mack Brown’s 2010 philosophy on offense: run the ball more to open up the pass for sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert. It’s only two games, but Texas has not committed a turnover, and UT has not allowed a quarterback sack. You won’t lose a whole ton of games that way.

Player to watch: Gilbert. It will be the first time the Texas sophomore has started a Big 12 game. How will he handle himself? The Longhorns have a front-heavy schedule with Oklahoma (Oct. 2, Dallas) and Nebraska (Oct. 16, Lincoln, Neb.) looming, so Gilbert is going to have to grow up fast if UT wants to match last season’s undefeated conference record.

Key matchup: Texas Tech rush offense vs. Texas rush defense. We know about Tech’s aerial prowess. Taylor Potts was an absurd 46-of-62 for 420 yards and three scores in last year’s meeting, but Texas still won, 34-24, in Austin. Tech has to find some sort of ground game to pull off the victory and keep the UT defense off balance.