Line: K-State by 7.
Fun facts: UCF had a home-and-home series with Big 12 powerhouse Texas in 2007 and 2009. The Knights fell to the Longhorns in Austin, 35-3 last season, and nearly upset UT, falling 35-32, in 2007. Current Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (22 carries, 153 yards) scored the winning 46-yard touchdown for UT in the ’07 battle.
Big 12 player to watch: Running back Daniel Thomas. Does this guy ever get tired? Through three games, the senior’s averages are ridiculous: 27.7 carries, 184 yards, two touchdowns per game. K-State coach Bill Snyder has set up Thomas for carries in creative ways. Of his 34 carries last week against Iowa State, eight came out of the Wildcat formation.
Key matchup: Central Florida run defense vs. Thomas. UCF has been decent against the run (45th in country, 128.67 rushing yards surrendered per game). Stopping Thomas is the best way to beat K-State, but no one’s been able to do it.
Line: Missouri by 20.
Fun facts: Missouri salvaged a potential disaster by rallying to beat San Diego State in the final minute last week. The Tigers have been a better come-from-behind team with Blaine Gabbert under center. In the three years (2006-2008) Chase Daniel played quarterback for Missouri, the Tigers won one game in which they trailed at any point in the second half. In just over a year with Gabbert at quarterback, Missouri already has five come-from-behind victories. With two victories this season, Miami (Ohio) eclipsed its win total from a dismal 2009 (1-10).
Big 12 player to watch: Defensive end Brad Madison. The sophomore will be charged with the difficult task of replacing Aldon Smith, who figures to miss two weeks due to a fractured fibula. Smith, one of the best defensive ends in the Big 12, set a single-season MU school record with 11.5 sacks last season as a red-shirt freshman. He already had three sacks this season before getting hurt.
Key matchup: Miami (Ohio) offensive line vs. Missouri defensive front. Without Smith, how many sacks will Missouri have? The Tigers average two per game, while the RedHawks give up three per game.
Line: Texas by 15.
Fun facts: The Longhorns and Bruins signed a home-and-home deal that will bring the series to Austin, Texas, this season and Los Angeles next season. UCLA may be 1-2, but the Bruins have faced a rigorous schedule, opening with a loss at Kansas State and another one at home to then-No. 25 Stanford. UCLA won a big game last week at then-No. 23 Houston. The Bruins beat the Longhorns in consecutive years in 1997 (in Austin) and 1998 (in Pasadena, Calif.). UCLA obliterated Texas, 66-3, in the 1997 game in Austin for UT’s worst loss since 1904.
Big 12 player to watch: Safety Blake Gideon. If you want to see a head-hunting, hitting machine, keep an eye on the junior Gideon, who roams the secondary for a Texas unit that leads the Big 12 in scoring defense at a stingy 12.67 points allowed per game (ninth in country).
Key matchup: UCLA rushing offense vs. Texas defensive line. It doesn’t get much worse than UCLA’s passing offense, which ranks third-to-last in the country with just 100 passing yards per game. The Bruins can run the football, however, as evidenced by their 200 yards per game average. But can they run on Texas in Austin? The Longhorns are No. 1 in the country in stopping the run, limiting opponents to a paltry 44 rushing yards per game.
Line: Oklahoma by 131⁄2.
Fun facts: This is the second game in a home-and-home series between the two schools. Oklahoma won the 2008 battle, 52-26, in Norman, Okla.
Big 12 player to watch: Defensive end Jeremy Beal. You can bet Oklahoma’s coaches are firing up Beal by looking at Cincinnati game film and realizing how awful the offensive line has been in pass protection of UC quarterback Zach Collaros. The Bearcats have allowed 15 sacks this season, by far the worst number in the country.
Key matchup: UC offensive line vs. OU defensive line. The Sooners have eight sacks in three games. How many will they rack up against a suspect UC O-line?
Fun facts: Northern Iowa, a lower-level FCS team, defeated North Dakota State, 16-9, one week after NDSU upset Kansas University, 6-3, in Lawrence. The last time Northern Iowa and Iowa State met, UNI won, 24-13, in 2007 in Ames, Iowa.
Big 12 player to watch: Quarterback Jerome Tiller. Yes, he’s the backup, but starter Austen Arnaud bruised his left, non-throwing shoulder last week against Kansas State. The senior played through it and insisted he’s fine for today, but Tiller could be called if Arnaud shows lingering effects from the injury. Arnaud is 62-of-107 this season for 584 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions.
Key matchup: Running back Alexander Robinson vs. Northern Iowa D-line. After scoring twice in the first week, Robinson has been held without a score the past two weeks. It’s probably no coincidence the Cyclones won their first game, and lost their next two.
Fun fact: FCS school South Dakota State last faced Nebraska in 1963, when the Cornhuskers dominated, 58-7.
Big 12 player to watch: Quarterback Taylor Martinez. Against inferior opponents like the winless Jackrabbits, the red-shirt freshman should be able to run wild. As is, Martinez is averaging 140 rushing yards per game.
Key matchup: None. Nebraska has won by an average of 31.66 points per game and should probably increase that total today.
Line: Baylor by 71⁄2.
Fun facts: Baylor won the last meeting in 2007, 42-17. In the last three years, and including this year’s season opener against Texas, Rice has faced seven Big 12 teams. The Owls have lost to all seven opponents.
Big 12 player to watch: Quarterback Robert Griffin. The sophomore said he’s never been more embarrassed in his life after BU’s 45-10 loss to No. 4 TCU last weekend. How will he respond?
Key matchup: Baylor pass defense vs. Rice passing offense. TCU quarterback Andy Dalton set a single-game TCU record when he completed 91 percent of his passes against Baylor, including his first 11 attempts for 155 yards.