After a slow start to the season with only a handful of marquee games in September, the Big 12 has been the conference of October. The final Saturday of the month should continue to deliver.
The major game of the weekend is in Norman, where undefeated Notre Dame will face Oklahoma for the first time since 1999. The Sooners are 1-8 against the Irish with Oklahoma’s only win in 1956.
That’s a game of national significance, but conference frontrunner and BCS title contender Kansas State will have another major test when it faces surprising Texas Tech.
Other Week 9 Previews and Predictions
Big 12’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 9:
Is this Landry Jones’ time to shine?
Landry Jones is starting to look more and more like the quarterback we thought he’d be this season. In his last three games, Jones has completed 65 of 105 passes for 871 yards with seven touchdowns and an interception. Notre Dame’s forte is against the run, but the Irish have intercepted four passes the last two weeks. Granted, however, Stanford’s Josh Nunes and BYU’s Riley Nelson are not nearly as established as Jones. As Oklahoma starts to creep back into the BCS picture, a win over Notre Dame will be necessary, and Jones is the Sooners’ best hope to hand Notre Dame its first loss.
Belldozer v. Notre Dame, who wins?
Notre Dame last week allowed its first offensive touchdowns since Sept. 8 against Purdue, but both were in the passing game. The Irish have yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season, thanks to a fourth-down stop against Stanford on the goal line two weeks ago. If Oklahoma gets into a goal-line situation, the Sooners almost certainly will turn to backup quarterback Blake Bell, who has 21 rushing touchdowns the last two seasons. It will be strength v. strength if Bell lines up against Heisman-contending linebacker Manti Te’o.
How does Kansas State handle frontrunner status?
In less than a year, Kansas State has gone from a plucky underdog to a national title contender. At the same time, Collin Klein has become a Heisman contender. The Wildcats no longer have to fight for respect or headlines -- they’ve become one of the top stories of the season. That’s not a position Bill Snyder or Kansas State has faced in more than a decade. In an odd turn of events, the sudden Big 12 favorite and BCS contender will host another underdog story featuring a productive quarterback and stifling defense in Texas Tech, perhaps the best opponent K-State will face the remainder of the regular season. By reaching the No. 3 spot in this week’s BCS standings, the Wildcats are no longer in the business of proving themselves. They’re in the business of building style points.
Can Seth Doege navigate the ballhawking Kansas State defense?
Since throwing three interceptions against Oklahoma, Seth Doege has throw 13 touchdown passes and one interception against West Virginia and TCU. Meanwhile, the Kansas State defense has made offenses at Oklahoma and West Virginia look pedestrian. Can Doege do what Landry Jones and Geno Smith couldn’t? Kansas State, meanwhile, has intercepted seven passes the last two weeks.
Are we starting to see the cracks in Texas Tech’s defense?
Texas Tech continues to lead the Big 12 in defense, but the Red Raiders are coming off a game in which they allowed 516 yards and 53 points against TCU, albeit in triple overtime. Beyond that, Tech allowed 5.8 yards per play, its highest average of the season. Was that a one-week lapse or a sign of things to come? The numbers may point to the latter. Texas Tech’s three highest yards allowed per play have come in the last three weeks, including 5.5 against Oklahoma and 4.9 against West Virginia in addition to TCU. Kansas State and Klein will bring a new test, with the most run-oriented team the Red Raiders have seen since the third week of the season against New Mexico, who like Kansas State, utilizes the option.
Will the Oklahoma State offense keep rolling behind another hobbled quarterback?
Oklahoma State remains among the national top 10 in the four major offensive categories, including No. 1 in total offense. The Cowboys’ offense, though, is scrambling for the second time this season due to an injury to the starting quarterback. Redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh sustained the knee injury that would eventually end his season in the first quarter against Iowa State, but he remained in the game to pass for 415 yards. When the severity of the injury was discovered after the game, Walsh was shut down for the remainder of the season. That likely returns the job to Wes Lunt, who began the season as the starter before a series of knee and ankle problems. If Lunt’s return is further delayed, the job will go to junior Clint Chelf. The questions at quarterback come at a critical part of the schedule as Oklahoma State faces TCU this week followed by Kansas State, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Oklahoma.
How will Nick Florence fare against an above average defense?
When Baylor has the ball, this should be one of the most interesting matchups in the Big 12. Baylor quarterback Nick Florence has flourished in road games against porous defenses from West Virginia and Texas, though both games resulted in losses. Against TCU, however, Florence threw four interceptions. His chance at redemption comes in a key game for Baylor’s postseason hopes. Winless in the Big 12, Baylor needs three more wins to get to bowl eligibility, something that’s going to be tough with Oklahoma, Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State remaining on the schedule. Iowa State (4-3, 1-3 Big 12) is in a similar situation, but if the Cyclones can’t move the ball against the Baylor defense do they really deserve to go to a bowl game?
How bad can the Texas defense get?
A matchup against Kansas should be a confidence builder for the Texas defense. In theory. The Jayhawks handed the quarterback job to redshirt freshman Michael Cummings. We could mention the 600-plus yards Texas has allowed the last two weeks, but it may say more about the Texas defense that Kansas coach Charlie Weis doesn’t mind benching his veteran starter for a redshirt freshman against the Longhorns. The situation is bad in Austin on defense, but it could get worse if the Jayhawks rookie starts putting up numbers.
Week 9 Big 12 Predictions
Week 9 Big 12 Games
Texas at Kansas
TCU at Oklahoma State
Oklahoma St. 33-27
Oklahoma St. 31-27
Oklahoma St. 34-27
Texas Tech at Kansas State
Kansas State 35-21
Kansas State 35-24
Kansas State 34-31
Kansas State 35-27
Baylor at Iowa State
Iowa State 27-24
Iowa State 38-34
Notre Dame at Oklahoma
Notre Dame 21-14
by David Fox
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