Big 12 Previews
Iowa State (1–1) at Kansas State (2–0)
Saturday, 11 a.m., Arrowhead Stadium
Come Saturday afternoon, one of these two teams will have taken a leg up in the Big 12 North race. Who knows if either can maintain the advantage, but it’s a start.
Already, this game has been heavily influenced by outside forces. It completes a two-year, neutral-site agreement to play at the home of the Kansas City Chiefs. And it’s an early conference opener, created by an appeal from the league’s TV partners to push some interesting matchups into the September schedule.
The Wildcats enter unbeaten, but are coming off a shaky defensive performance that saw Missouri State score 24 points and roll up 447 yards. And that after the Cats defenders had taken to calling themselves the “Purple Swarm.”
Maybe that was the result of a letdown on the heels of a solid win over UCLA. Or maybe it was cause for concern. The Cyclones offer clarity.
Offensively, K-State keeps rolling behind tailback Daniel Thomas, who ranks third nationally in rushing at 185.5 yards per game.
Iowa State’s offense and defense took plenty of hits last week in a 35–7 beatdown administered by cross-state rival Iowa. Tackling troubles, which could be an issue against K-State’s Thomas, continue to plague the Cyclones defense. On offense, playmakers need to step up around quarterback Austen Arnaud.
Kansas (1–1) at Southern Miss (1–1)
Friday, 7 p.m.
The Jayhawks showed some mettle in bouncing back from a seemingly devastating loss to North Dakota State to upend Georgia Tech in Week 2. Yet there’s no time to relax, hitting the road for the first time against a dangerous Southern Miss squad. Kansas held off the Golden Eagles, 35–28, in a wild game in Lawrence a year ago.
The Eagles see this as a shot to take down a BCS league school, something they couldn’t do in their opening loss to South Carolina.
It’ll be a first time in hostile territory for two key KU youngsters: redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Webb and true freshman tailback James Sims. Both were inserted to provide a spark against Tech, which they did, combining for four touchdowns.
But Hattiesburg won’t look or feel at all like Lawrence, making their play on the road a key.
Hawaii (1–1) at Colorado (1–1)
Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
It may have taken three games, but the Buffaloes finally get their home opener — the program’s latest since 1980.
A neutral-site win over Colorado State and a humbling road rout at the hands of California leave the Buffs shakily seeking stability after a five-turnover, six-sack day against the Golden Bears.
Hawaii is in the midst of a 13-day, nearly 11,000-mile road trip. The Warriors posted the first Eastern Time Zone win in school history at Army, then flew to Las Vegas to prepare for this one, so fatigue could be a factor.
A tired offense is at the root of Colorado’s struggles. The Buffs rank last in the Big 12 in scoring offense, total offense and rushing offense and rank 10th in passing offense.
Nebraska (2–0) at Washington (1–1)
Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
The Huskers’ cushy non-conference schedule gets interrupted for this trip to the Pacific Northwest. It should be a telling game for Nebraska, which seeks confirmation to elite program status and takes true freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez on the road for the first time.
So far, the Huskers have been a big-play machine, with Martinez and tailback Roy Helu producing cross-country runs. The Blackshirts on defense have held up their end as well. Still, little can be truly gleaned from games against Western Kentucky and Idaho.
Meanwhile, the Huskies still have plenty to prove, too. Washington entered the season with much optimism, although in a rebuilding capacity, and a potential Heisman contender in quarterback Jake Locker. Then the Huskies lost at BYU, which was popped by Air Force, and the rebuilding in Seattle appears more extensive than first suspected.
Air Force (2–0) at Oklahoma (2–0)
Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Concern over the play of quarterback Landry Jones has subsided, after the sophomore carved up Florida State on his way to Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors. Jones had an uneven outing in the opener against Utah State, before starting on fire against the Seminoles. But don’t expect an easy outing against the Falcons, who held BYU to just 88 passing yards and return three players from a secondary that totaled 18 interceptions — 10 by current cornerbacks Anthony Wright and Reggie Rembert — a year ago.
Another intriguing matchup: OU’s run defense against the Falcons’ option attack, which leads the nation — by a lot — at 423 yards per game. The Sooners rank third in the Big 12 in rushing defense, allowing 101.5 on the ground, but haven’t faced a rushing threat through two games.
OU won the only other meeting between the two teams, 44–3, in Colorado Springs in 2001.
Baylor (2–0) at TCU (2–0)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Back in 1996, the Southwest Conference divided, with the fortunate forming a bond with the Big Eight and joining to become the Big 12. Those not as fortunate, TCU included, were left to fend for themselves.
All these years later, things have worked out OK for the Horned Frogs. TCU now enjoys a national presence, Top 10 status and legitimate hopes for a BCS — even theBCS — bowl.
For Baylor, which elbowed TCU out of the Big 12, it’s been a struggle, with a regular residence at the bottom of the Big 12 South and no bowl games of any kind since joining the league. All that, and the fact that the Bears have one of their best teams since the split of the SWC, make this a fascinating matchup.
TCU boasts one of the nation’s top defenses and a 15-game winning streak at home. Baylor brings in one of the nation’s most dynamic players, quarterback Robert Griffin III, who almost single-handedly pumped life into the program.
The series, which some say is more heated than ever, is knotted at 49–49–7 overall, but the Frogs have won the last two.
Florida International (0–1) at Texas A&M (2–0)
Saturday, 6 p.m.
Jarrod Johnson keeps putting up numbers that scream for attention when it comes to talking about the nation’s top quarterbacks. He’s riding a run of four straight 300-yard passing games, with last week’s 340-yard day also producing four scores, matching a career high.
Don’t expect Johnson to slow down this week, although FIU made Rutgers sweat before falling 19–14. Johnson has plenty of help, including a top target in Jeff Fuller, who as a junior is already tied for the school’s career touchdown receiving record with 19. Fellow wideout Ryan Tannehill is equally dangerous. And the running backs tandem of Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray balances things out.
San Diego State (2–0) at Missouri (2–0)
Saturday, 6 p.m.
This was supposed to be one of those automatic wins on the Mizzou schedule. Circled and counted. But get this — the Aztecs, one of the worst teams in college football in recent years, are 2–0, the program’s best start since 1994. OK, so the Aztecs’ wins are over Nichols State and New Mexico State. But the team is clearly playing better under second-year coach Brady Hoke.
The Tigers are benefiting from an opportunistic defense that is tied for the nation’s lead in takeaways with nine. Mizzou already claims six interceptions, compared to the eight last year’s defense managed in 13 games.
Freshman running back Henry Joesy is filling the void after the loss of Derrick Washington, who was kicked off the team due to legal matters. Joesy turned seven carries into three touchdowns and 112 yards in last week’s rout of McNeese State.
Tulsa (1–1) at Oklahoma State (2–0)
Saturday, 6:05 p.m.
This on-again, off-again series renews with the first of three games. The Cowboys lead overall 37–27–5 in a series that dates back to 1914.
This is always a huge game for the Golden Hurricane, with bragging rights and recruiting battles and an opportunity to take down a BCS conference school — and a perceived big brother to boot — all at stake.
It’s a dangerous game for OSU, for all those reasons in reverse, and also because Tulsa can play like it has nothing to lose.
The Cowboys were pushed in a 41–38 win over Troy, mostly due to their own mistakes (five turnovers and 12 penalties for 139 yards). The offense, under new coordinator Dana Holgorsen, continues to impress, led by quarterback Brandon Weeden, tailback Kendall Hunter and wideout Justin Blackmon, who have had a hand in 11 of the team’s 12 touchdowns.
Texas (2–0) at Texas Tech (2–0)
Saturday, 7 p.m.
So far, so good for Tommy Tuberville at Texas Tech. The “Air Raid” offense remains. The Red Raiders have won. So far.
But this is where Tuberville will be weighed — against the Longhorns. The Mike Leach comparisons aren’t going away. And Leach marked wins over Texas and Oklahoma during his time in Lubbock, including two in five years at home against the Horns.
Tuberville claims to feel no pressure, but it’s there, in a game that also offers an early lead in the Big 12 South.
Tech quarterback Taylor Potts passed for 420 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s loss in Austin, but he says he’s better prepared for his second game in the series. The Red Raiders defense has been opportunistic through two games, creating seven turnovers.
Texas, amid usual soaring expectations, has started sluggishly, despite two comfortable wins.
Going on the road, to one of the most hostile environments in the Big 12, will provide a test, especially for an offensive line that was already missing projected starter Trey Allen and has now lost Luke Poehlmann for the season to a knee injury.
The Longhorns’ emphasis on establishing a running game keeps rotating backfield candidates — Cody Johnson, Tre Newton, Fozzy Whitaker — but the emphasis may be better focused up front.