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Athlon previews the Week 3 action in the Big 12.
Week 3 is not the most glamorous slate of action in the Big 12. TCU-Kansas is the only conference game, while Texas-Ole Miss is the only other matchup featuring two BCS teams. Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas Tech play teams from non-AQ conferences, while West Virginia, Baylor and Iowa State have games against FCS foes. It's a light week of action, but there are still plenty of storylines and matchups to watch this Saturday.
Other Week 3 Previews and Predictions
1. Will Oklahoma State bounce back after last week’s loss?
It’s tough enough to win on the road against a good team, but it’s nearly impossible to win when you commit 15 penalties and four turnovers. That’s the obstacle Oklahoma State had to overcome last Saturday against Arizona. The Cowboys jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but Arizona followed that up with 30 unanswered points and eventually claimed a 59-38 victory. While the Cowboys are disappointed with the loss, the good news was true freshman quarterback Wes Lunt wasn’t intimidated. He completed 37 of 60 throws for 436 yards and four touchdowns. Louisiana-Lafayette visits Stillwater this Saturday, a team Oklahoma State defeated by 26 points in 2010 and 27 in 2011. However, the Ragin’ Cajuns won’t be an easy out, as they are off to a 2-0 start and return 12 starters from last season’s team that won nine games. Barring another game filled with turnovers and penalties, the Cowboys should comfortably win this one and with Texas coming up next (Sept. 29), it’s an important game to get Lunt and any of the new starters ready for Big 12 play.
2. How will David Ash fare on the road against Ole Miss?
So far, so good for Texas’ David Ash. The sophomore quarterback has completed 36 of 49 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns in the first two games of the year. While the competition hasn’t been elite, Ash has made good decisions and is completing a high percentage of throws. The competition steps up this Saturday, as Texas travels to Oxford to take on Ole Miss. The Rebels are improved under new coach Hugh Freeze, but the defense allowed 27 points to FCS opponent Central Arkansas in the opener and is giving up 260.5 passing yards per game. Ash has made only one road start in his career, throwing for 158 yards and one interception in a 17-5 loss to Missouri. With the Longhorns owning one of college football’s top defenses and a deep stable of running backs, Ash doesn’t need to have a monster performance for Texas to win on the ground. However, this is a key test for the Longhorns, especially with Big 12 play beginning on Sept. 29 at Oklahoma State.
3. TCU plays first Big 12 game
The Horned Frogs were impressive in a 56-0 rout over Grambling last Saturday. However, the competition steps up a notch this week, as TCU heads to Lawrence to open Big 12 play. It’s another historic moment for the school, especially after opening a renovated and impressive Amon G. Carter Stadium last week. The Horned Frogs are big favorites against Kansas, who was upset by Rice in Week 2. While it’s a new environment for TCU, it should have no trouble beating the Jayhawks, as they are allowing over 407 yards a game. The Horned Frogs’ offense should be able to move the ball at will against Kansas, but the key battle to watch will be on defense. TCU has only four returning starters back from last season, which should be put to the test with the Jayhawks averaging 229 rushing yards per game. Life in the Big 12 will be tougher than it was in the Mountain West, but expect TCU to open play in its new conference with a convincing win.
4. Will Dayne Crist get on track for Kansas?
Outside of last week’s loss to Rice, the biggest surprise at Kansas has been the play of quarterback Dayne Crist. Through two weeks, he has completed 33 of 64 throws for 313 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Although Crist wasn’t expected to challenge for All-America honors, his familiarity with Charlie Weis’ offense should have sparked the Kansas’ passing attack. Instead, the Jayhawks rank as the Big 12’s worst passing team through the first two weeks of the season and now face a TCU defense that allowed 26 passing yards to Grambling in the season opener. Crist doesn’t have a ton of playmakers at receiver, but he needs to play better for Kansas to have a chance to win this Saturday against the Horned Frogs.
5. Time for Geno Smith to pad the Heisman resume
West Virginia’s much-anticipated Big 12 opener isn’t until Sept. 29 against Baylor, so Geno Smith will have two more opportunities to shine in non-conference play, starting this Saturday against James Madison. Smith threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns against Marshall and checks in No. 2 in Athlon’s Heisman voting after the second week of the season. He should have no trouble matching those numbers against the Dukes, a team that allowed 277 passing yards to North Carolina’s Bryn Renner in the season opener last year. While James Madison is off to a 2-0 start, West Virginia’s offense has too much firepower and should pull away for an easy win. The most important aspect for the Mountaineers this week? Avoid injuries and continue to get comfortable with the new 3-4 scheme on defense.
6. What will Nick Florence do for an encore?
Baylor quarterback Nick Florence was nearly flawless in his debut, completing 21 of 30 throws for 341 yards and four touchdowns against SMU. The Bears have another non-conference game this Saturday, taking on FCS opponent Sam Houston State. The Bearkats are one of the better FCS teams but will have their hands full trying to slow down Florence and Baylor’s receivers. Florence won’t match Robert Griffin’s rushing stats at the end of the year, but he’s plenty capable of keeping the Bears in the mix for a finish in the top half of the Big 12. Expect the senior to have another big statistical showing on Saturday, while Baylor should cruise to its third consecutive 2-0 start under Art Briles.
7. One more non-conference game for Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas Tech
Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas Tech each look to close out their non-conference schedule with a perfect 3-0 slate. The Cyclones host FCS opponent Western Illinois, the Red Raiders take on New Mexico, while the Wildcats match up against North Texas. All three teams should win comfortably, but these matchups are all about staying healthy and getting as many snaps as possible for some of the new starters. Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz is off to a good start, but this game is a solid confidence-builder before taking on Texas Tech on Sept. 29. The Red Raiders seem to be improved on defense, but the competition has been soft. While the Lobos were shutout in a loss to Texas last week, this is another opportunity for Texas Tech to work out some of the kinks on defense before Big 12 play begins. Kansas State was impressive in a 52-13 blowout win over Miami (Fla.) last week and would like to keep the workload light on Saturday for quarterback Collin Klein. With Kansas State playing at Oklahoma next week, Klein needs to be 100 percent if the Wildcats want to have any shot at winning in Norman.
Week 3 Big 12 Predictions
|Big 12 Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|UL Lafayette (+22) at Okla. State||Ok State 31-21||Ok State 41-21||Ok State 45-24||Ok State 44-28|
|TCU at Kansas (+21)||TCU 35-10||TCU 35-17||TCU 38-13||TCU 34-13|
|James Madison vs. WVU||WVU 63-7||WVU 51-10||WVU 58-7||WVU 44-17|
|North Texas (+28.5) at K-State||K-State 31-10||K-State 49-10||K-State 38-10||K-State 31-10|
|New Mexico (+33.5) at Tex. Tech||TTU 35-24||TTU 31-10||TTU 48-17||TTU 41-14|
|Sam Houston St. at Baylor||Baylor 56-14||Baylor 41-13||Baylor 52-17||Baylor 48-10|
|Western Illinois at Iowa State||ISU 31-7||ISU 34-10||ISU 45-3||ISU 37-7|
|Texas at Ole Miss (+10)||Texas 31-7||Texas 38-17||Texas 38-10||Texas 20-10|
by Steven Lassan
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