Nebraska at Kansas State
Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
Let Nebraska’s Big 12 Farewell Tour begin.
The Huskers open conference play — their final go-round in the Big 12 — in what could prove to be a showdown for North supremacy.
Both teams are 4–0, with the Wildcats 3–0 at home. Nebraska has dominated the series overall (77–15–2) and of late, winning the past five meetings. But Bill Snyder has K-State back on a positive track in his second season of his second stint in charge of the program.
The teams are similar, built around old-school ground games on offense. The Huskers rank No. 4 nationally in rushing, while the Wildcats are No. 22. Neither has accomplished much through the air, with Nebraska 11th and K-State 12th in the Big 12 in passing, No. 102 and 103 nationally.
Still, the quarterbacks are central in the matchup. Nebraska freshman Taylor Martinez leads his team in rushing and triggers an option-oriented attack with his reads and runs as a major threat.
Wildcats senior Carson Coffman has attempted a just 76 passes — fewer than any league QB other than Martinez — yet has completed 62 percent with five touchdowns as a complement to workhorse running back Daniel Thomas, who ranks fifth in the nation at 157 rushing yards per game.
If there’s an apparent edge, it could be found with the defenses. K-State ranks last in the league and 102nd nationally in rushing defense.
Oklahoma State at Louisiana-Lafayette
Friday, 8 p.m.
The Cowboys must avoid a letdown after an emotional win over Texas A&M a week ago.
This is OSU’s first road game, significant with 19 freshmen or sophomores on the two-deep, many of whom will be playing away from the comfy confines of Boone Pickens Stadium for the first time.
Still, the Cowboys, 4–0, own a decided edge in talent and carry one of the nation’s most explosive offenses into Cajun Field. OSU is developing a triple-threat, with quarterback Brandon Weeden, running back Kendall Hunter and wideout Justin Blackmon all among the nation’s leaders in passing, rushing and receiving.
Lafayette is 2–2 overall, with both wins coming in Sun Belt Conference play. In their other matchup with a power-conference foe, the Ragin’ Cajuns were routed 55–7 at Georgia, which remains the Bulldogs’ lone victory of this season.
Baylor vs. Texas Tech (Cotton Bowl)
Saturday, 11 a.m.
The Red Raiders have beaten Baylor 14 straight times, spanning the entire life span of the Big 12 Conference. That streak, for the first time really, seems in true jeopardy. Consider last week’s league results for the two teams: Baylor 55, Kansas 7. Iowa State 52, Texas Tech 38.
The Bears ride momentum and confidence into this meeting, while the Red Raiders are reeling, losing two straight conference games and staring down the possibility of an 0–3 start in the Big 12.
One week after quarterback Austen Arnaud riddled the Tech defense, the challenge only grows in trying to contain Baylor’s Robert Griffin III.
In a loss to Texas, the Red Raiders offense couldn’t get untracked. At Iowa State, the defense helped the Cyclones rewrite their offensive record book. Clearly, the Tommy Tuberville transition isn’t going smoothly.
Meanwhile, Baylor is seeking to alter its history. The Bears haven’t posted a winning season or gone bowling as a member of the Big 12. Beating Tech could boost their chances of both.
Texas A&M vs. Arkansas (Cowboys Stadium)
Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
The Razorbacks and Aggies, former regular foes in the old Southwest Conference, step outside league play to clash in a critical game for each.
Both teams are coming off losses — the Hogs to Alabama two weeks ago, the Aggies at Oklahoma State last Thursday night. So bounce-backs are needed, in terms of confidence and national appeal.
Arkansas has had extra time to mull over its loss to the top-ranked Crimson Tide, a game in which the Hogs led in the fourth quarter.
The Aggies led at OSU, too, up by 14 at the half, before falling on a field goal as time expired.
A shootout could be in order in Arlington, with the game played at the home of the Dallas Cowboys. A&M averages 39.5 points per game, while Arkansas is scoring at a 31.5 clip. The quarterbacks — Ryan Mallett for the Hogs, Jerrod Johnson for A&M — are dynamic, although mistakes plagued both in the recent losses.
The Aggies’ feel like they’ve improved dramatically on defense from a year ago, when Arkansas whipped them 47–19.
Going back further, the Hogs own a 39–24–3 edge in the all-time series.
Colorado at Missouri
Saturday, 6 p.m.
The Buffaloes are ready to take their newfound confidence and momentum on the road. Times have been tough around Boulder in recent years, with disappointing records and increasing pressure on Colorado coach Dan Hawkins, who may have occupied the hottest seat in the country entering this season. But a 3–1 record, highlighted by last week’s 29–27 win over Georgia, has altered attitudes about the Buffs. Colorado showed signs of life on offense against the Bulldogs, running for 235 yards, with tailback Rodney Stewart gashing the Dawgs for 149 yards and a touchdown.
This test, however, will tell a reveal a lot about the Buffs. In their only other true road game, they were pounded 52–7 at Cal.
Missouri, 4–0, gets back into action after an off week. The Tigers’ fast start, while posted against overmatched foes, has featured an offense averaging 37.8 points and 431.5 yards per game.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert and wideout T.J. Moe form one of the Big 12’s most productive tandems through the air.
Utah at Iowa State
Saturday, 6 p.m.
A week ago, with quarterback Austen Arnaud nursing a sore non-throwing shoulder and Texas Tech coming to town, this looming date with the Utes looked ominous. Now it looks like an opportunity.
Iowa State’s breakout offensive performance against Techin a 52–38 statement win offers optimism for another, even louder statement against a Top 10 team.
Arnaud proved himself ready and more against Tech, passing for a career-best four touchdowns. And with running back Alexander Robinson balancing the offense and a playmaking defense creating turnovers and scores, the Cyclones carry the look of a more complete team.
Utah enters 4–0 and has hardly been tested. Even a win over Pittsburgh, which has since struggled, doesn’t carry the same clout it once did.
This will be a major test for the Cyclones. The Utes will arrive in Ames with a squad that ranks in the top 10 nationally in scoring offense and scoring defense. Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn missed two games with the thumb injury, but returned in a rout of San Jose State and should be even healthier with two weeks between games.
The Utes have thrived in the spotlight against BCS conference foes, with five postseason wins over big-boy schools during a nine-game bowl winning streak.