Missouri and Baylor face huge road tests in Week 9.
Oklahoma State (6–1, 2–1) at Kansas State (5–2, 2–2), Saturday, 11 a.m.
Both teams are in bounce-back mode, with the Cowboys coming off their first loss and the Wildcats dropping two of their last three. In a major contrast of styles, whichever team can dictate the tempo likely wins.
K-State has flopped against high-powered offenses. Baylor set school records for passing and rushing against the Cats a week ago. And OSU’s attack may be better, with the trio of quarterback Brandon Weeden, running back Kendall Hunter and wideout Justin Blackmon all among the nation’s leaders.
Keep an eye on Blackmon’s status; he is facing a suspicion of DUI complaint and a possible team suspension.
The Cowboys’ defense carries concerns, too, having just surrendered 51 points to Nebraska. And OSU hasn’t yet faced a power running game like K-State will bring with Daniel Thomas. Can the Cowboys, who face a finesse offense every day in practice, man up?
A wild card to consider: The Cowboys rank No. 119 in kickoff coverage and have allowed three returns for touchdowns this season. The Wildcats are No. 1 in kickoff returns.
Kansas (2–5, 0–3) at Iowa State (4–4, 2–2), Saturday, 1 p.m.
Say this about the Cyclones: Even when they appear down, they don’t stay down.
Beaten up in back-to-back games by Utah and Oklahoma, Iowa State rallied with a stunning win at Texas in what initially sized up as a death march, but shaped up as a show of toughness. Just like they did a year ago in winning at Nebraska, the Cyclones brushed aside previous disappointments to post a benchmark victory.
And it restored Iowa State’s bowl hopes, which would get another boost with a win over the Jayhawks, who stumble into Ames on the bad momentum of three straight blowout defeats.
First-year KU coach Turner Gill may be looking to a third starting quarterback with Jordan Webb and Kale Pick both ineffective and, now, dealing with injuries. Quin Mecham, a junior college transfer, appears set to start against the Cyclones.
The Jayhawks, who own a five-game winning streak against ISU, have now lost 10 straight Big 12 games since beating the Cyclones last October.
Missouri (7–0, 3–0) at Nebraska (6–1, 2–1), Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Missouri’s takedown of Oklahoma, then BCS No. 1 and a constant thorn in the Tigers’ paws, registered as a massive mark in the program’s history. Could Saturday’s game at Nebraska be bigger?
On a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately scale, absolutely. Mizzou is the Big 12’s only remaining unbeaten and one of seven nationally, bidding for a place in the national title chase. And a win in Lincoln is required. And the matchup, the last scheduled meeting between longtime foes before the Huskers bolt for the Big Ten, carries that added edge. So, yes, this game is bigger. And it’s big on both sides.
The Huskers somewhat righted their course a week ago, knocking off previously unbeaten Oklahoma State. And they control their path in the North Division and potentially in the BCS bowl picture — if they can subdue Mizzou.
Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez enjoyed a breakout game against the Cowboys, answering critics by throwing for five touchdowns when his passing skills had been called into question. Still, defensive concerns remain after OSU gashed the Blackshirts on the ground and through the air, scoring 41 points in defeat.
The Tigers have the look of the Big 12’s most balanced team, with an evolving offense led by quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the nation’s No. 5 scoring defense, which allows just 13.1 points a game.
Texas Tech (4–3, 2–3) at Texas A&M (4–3, 1–2), Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
The Pirate is gone. So, too, for now is the passion and the intrigue for a rivalry that boiled over in recent years, flame-fed by former Tech coach Mike Leach.
Now, Mike Sherman’s A&M team scrambles for relevancy, and Tommy Tuberville’s first Tech team is bland in comparison to what used to take place on the West Texas plains.
At least there’s something at stake, with this game a potential swing game to the bowl hopes for both teams.
A&M’s quarterback position bears watching, now that Ryan Tannehill has moved from wide receiver to behind center and thrived, throwing for three touchdowns in last week’s win over Kansas. Jerrod Johnson won’t be forgotten, but he’ll apparently share the position going forward.
For the Red Raiders, offense, while not up to Leach-like standards, is not the issue. It’s a defense that has allowed 34.4 points a game in conference play — 10th-most in the Big 12.
Baylor (6–2, 3–1) at Texas (4–3, 2–2), Saturday, 6 p.m.
What does this game mean for Baylor? Everything.
Don’t look now, but the Bears are in the rankings and atop the Big 12 South. And for the first time in a long time, Baylor carries a significant shot at beating the Longhorns into Austin.
Texas has won 12 straight in the series and 16 of the last 17. So history hardly aligns with the Bears. This hurdle is as much mental as it is physical. Still, Baylor has hope, much of it tied to dynamic quarterback Robert Griffin III, who hails from the Austin area, was snubbed by the Longhorns and might figure he has something to prove beyond all he’s done to elevate his program. Think Longhorns fans wouldn’t like to see Griffin in burnt orange?
Who knows which Texas team will show up, even at home? The Horns lost to UCLA and Iowa State at home. They won at Nebraska, yet couldn’t carry the momentum, with the Cyclones sticking them in stunning fashion a week later.
Garrett Gilbert is struggling at quarterback, and there aren’t enough playmakers around him to make the offense respectable.
Clearly, the Longhorns are vulnerable. But are the Bears equipped to take advantage? Baylor’s best win came a week ago, against Kansas State. But in their one other appearance in a statement game, the Bears were hammered at TCU.
This one could be different. And it could result in a very different Big 12 South that includes Baylor as a contender.
Colorado (3–4, 0–3) at Oklahoma (6–1, 2–1), Saturday, 8:15 p.m.
Adversity just keeps piling up for the Buffaloes. Colorado, winless in conference play on its farewell tour of the Big 12, took two major hits in a home loss to Texas Tech, losing starting quarterback Tyler Hansen to a ruptured spleen and linebacker and leading tackler Jon Major to a knee injury.
Beaten and bruised is no way to visit Oklahoma, where the Sooners figure to be hopping mad following their first loss at Missouri and where they seldom lose, owning the nation’s longest home winning streak at 34.
Former starter and oft-embattled Cody Hawkins will replace Hansen behind center. Hawkins does hold special memories in this series, engineering an upset of the Sooners in Boulder the last time the teams met in 2007.
OU quarterback Landry Jones looks to rebound from a rough outing at Missouri, where he didn’t complete a pass in the fourth quarter as the Tigers rallied to victory.