Big 12 Weekend Preview

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Central Florida at Kansas State

Saturday, 11:30 a.m.

For K-State, this is one of those matchups that classically gets tagged a “trap game.” Except it may be more dangerous than even that.

On the heels of a Big 12 North win over Iowa State, with a Conference USA foe coming to town, this is no time for the Wildcats to sleep on UCF. The Knights, 2–1, are talented and fast and able to put more than a scare into the home team. The Knights rank among the nation’s top 20 in pass defense, total defense, scoring defense and pass efficiency defense.

This test, however, centers around UCF’s ability to slow the run, or more specifically, K-State running back Daniel Thomas, who ranks second nationally in rushing with 552 yards through three games.

For the Wildcats, their defense may have to contend with two quarterbacks — veteran Rob Calabrese and freshman Jeffrey Godfrey. A dynamic 5-foot-11, 176-pounder, Godfrey got his first start against Buffalo and sparked a 24—10 win.

 

Miami (Ohio) at Missouri

Saturday, 1 p.m.

Mizzou is 3–0. And scrambling for an identity. The Tigers rescued themselves from despair a week ago, scoring on a long pass play in the final minute to rally past San Diego State, 27–24. The win kept Mizzou perfect in record, if imperfectly, after four turnovers in a ragged effort.

Now the Tigers get an intriguing visitor in Miami, which is 2–1 and coming off an impressive 31–10 rout of Colorado State, continuing a climb back to respectability after managing just three wins combined the previous two seasons.

With 20 starters back on offense and defense, the RedHawks have experience, yet are trying to change a culture of losing.

The Tigers will be without star defensive end and sack master Aldon Smith, who suffered a fractured right fibula in the win over San Diego State.

Offensively, Mizzou looks to quarterback Blaine Gabbert to sharpen his game. Gabbert has found two reliable receivers in wideout T.J. Moe and tight end Michael Egnew.

 

UCLA at Texas

Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

On name alone, this meeting qualifies as the marquee game in this Big 12 weekend. The Longhorns and Bruins carry strong history and tradition into this clash of West Coast cool and Southwest swagger.

Texas’ swagger this season flows from its defense, which leads the nation in rushing defense and leads most highlight reels in bone-rattling hits. Offensively, things are still developing for the Longhorns. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert continues to adjust in his first season as starter and a revolving door at running back reflects the urgency of the coaching staff to get the ground game going in support of Gilbert.

The Bruins, at 1–2, have lost at Kansas State, been blown out by Stanford, but also posted an upset of Houston. Their inconsistency could be tied to turnovers, as their 10 giveaways — five interceptions, five lost fumbles — are second-most nationally.

 

Oklahoma  at Cincinnati (Paul Brown Stadium)

Saturday, 5 p.m.

Back in the preseason, this clash at the home of the Cincinnati Bengals stood out as the toughest test in what figured to be a challenging non-conference schedule. Not anymore.

The Bearcats, who had gone 33–7 the past three seasons, winning two Big East championships, have started slow under new coach Butch Jones. Cincinnati returned offensive firepower, including quarterback Zach Collaros, but has struggled to block anyone, resulting in too many sacks and a lack of rhythm. And a 1–2 start.

Still, while the Sooners are 3–0, they were tested by Utah State and Air Force. And they’re heading on the road for the first time — all five of 2009’s losses occurred outside of Norman.

For OU quarterback Landry Jones, this represents a proving ground, too, as his play was uneven on the road a year ago.

 

South Dakota State at Nebraska

Saturday, 6 p.m.

After a beatdown of Washington, it’s back to bullying lesser foes for the Cornhuskers. Nebraska’s soft non-conference schedule — the Huskies included — closes with a visit from the Jackrabbits, an FCS squad that has enjoyed recent success at its level, but has already lost to Delaware and Illinois State this season. Barring a miracle, it all adds up to the Huskers’ first 4–0 start since 2005.

Nebraska keeps rolling behind freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez, who has bolstered an offense that was unimpressive and uninspiring a year ago. His eight rushing touchdowns are already a school freshman record.

The Huskers defense should be salivating at facing Jackrabbits quarterback Thomas O’Brien, who has thrown five interceptions with just one touchdown.

 

Northern Iowa at Iowa State

Saturday, 6 p.m.

For some schools, scheduling lower-division schools is a guaranteed win. For others, like Iowa State, it’s a scary proposition, especially when the opponent is from up the road, carrying a chip on its shoulder and some history of taking down the big boys.

Northern Iowa won at Iowa State in its last visit in 2007. And in their two recent losses to Iowa State, the Panthers lost by a single point. The Cyclones also lost to UNI in 1992 and 1994.

Already this season, six FCS teams have won against big-boy schools. In the Big 12, Kansas was taken down by North Dakota State.

Iowa State, coming off a disappointing conference-opening loss to Kansas State, should stand warned.

 

New Mexico State at Kansas

Saturday, 6 p.m.

Lose one, win one, lose one… As Kansas searches for a consistency of success so far absent this season, the Aggies offer an opportunity to build momentum for the Big 12 grind ahead.

New Mexico State, at 0–2, generally gets lumped among the nation’s worst teams. After his team was routed at UTEP last week, Aggies coach DeWayne Walker apologized to the program’s fans for the “poor showing.”

Apologies might have been in order from the Jayhawks last week as well, after a sloppy loss at Southern Miss. The transition to new coach Turner Gill and his staff clearly continues. And the Jayhawks are scrambling to overcome various injuries.

Still, this is a chance for KU to flex its muscles as a huge favorite. With Big 12 play on deck, it may be the last time.

 

Baylor at Rice

Saturday, 7 p.m.

The Bears must regroup from a deflating defeat at TCU, where they learned they’re still a few rungs down on the ladder up to contending against top competition. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III also looks to regroup, following a rare scuffling performance against the Horned Frogs. Something must give here, as Baylor has lost three straight away from Waco, while Rice has dropped six of its last eight home games.

The Bears could use more diversity on offense, where Griffin III carries much of the burden. He’s accounted for eight of the team’s nine touchdowns — four rushing and five passing.

Defensively, Baylor could be without both cornerbacks this weekend, with Antareis Bryan and Clifton Odom likely out with injuries.

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