Big 12 Preview: Wk 11

The Pokes try to win in Austin for the first time since 1944.

The Pokes try to win in Austin for the first time since 1944.

Kansas State (6-3, 3-3) at Missouri (7-2, 3-2), Saturday, 11:30 a.m.

The Tigers are trying to avoid a familiar funk — the extended losing streak. Mizzou, after jumping into BCS title game talk, has lost two straight and now get a Wildcats team riding into Columbia on the strength of a rousing win over Texas.

It was just a year ago that the Tigers started 4–0, only to drop three straight on their way to a disappointing finish. The flashbacks are obvious, particularly after they were shut out in the second half at Texas Tech. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the driving force during Mizzou’s 7–0 start, is now scuffling and needs to rebound to right the Tigers path to bigger, better bowl games.

K-State carries momentum and a quarterback quandary into the game. Collin Klein provided the spark against Texas in his first career start, using his speed and mobility to inject another element into the Wildcat run game, rushing for 127 yards and two touchdowns.

Still, Carson Coffman, who sat against the Longhorns with an ankle sprain, remains in play in a decision that could go all the way to game time.

Iowa State (5-5, 3-3) at Colorado (3-6, 0-5), Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

The focus in Boulder has shifted away from the playing field and to speculation on who will be the team’s next coach, after Dan Hawkins was fired earlier this week. With the program heading to the brave new world of the Pac-10 Conference next fall, identifying and hiring the right successor is critical.

And yet, there is a game to be played as interim coach Brian Cabral tries to pull the Buffaloes — including starting quarterback Cody Hawkins, son of the fired coach — together.

On the heels of the program’s worst meltdown, a demoralizing loss that saw Kansas score 35 unanswered points to post an unlikely rally to victory, it won’t be easy. Still, Cody Hawkins says he remains committed as the Buffs try to end a five-game losing streak.

For Iowa State, it’s another chance to reach bowl eligibility, narrowly missing last week when a two-point try in overtime failed in a 31–30 loss to Nebraska. After a rough stretch of the schedule, the Cyclones have rebounded nicely, yet need this win to avoid a must-win situation in their season finale against Missouri.

Texas Tech (5-4, 3-4) at Oklahoma (7-2, 3-2), Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

OU’s recent road woes — a 6–6 record in its last 12 away from home — resurfaced a week ago in a loss at Texas A&M. The Sooners will surely enjoy returning to the comforts of home, where they own the nation’s longest current winning streak at 35 games.

The Sooners are a drastically different team at home, going beyond the winning. They’re more explosive on offense and dominant on defense. And they’ve won seven of eight meetings against Tech in Norman. Quarterback Landry Jones, too, is much better on Owen Field, and needs to be in what shapes up as a big game for both schools.
The Red Raiders, after posting perhaps their biggest win of the season — an upset of Missouri — possess rejuvenated bowl hopes. Tech’s defense shut down the Tigers over the final half and will need an even bigger effort to be competitive in Norman. Same for quarterback Taylor Potts, who came off the bench to lead three touchdown drives against Mizzou.

OU maintains South Division title hopes, but can’t afford any slipups before a likely showdown at Oklahoma State to close the regular season.

Texas A&M (6-3, 3-2) at Baylor (7-3, 4-2), Saturday, 6 p.m.

The Battle of the Brazos comes with a caveat: The loser is eliminated from the Big 12 South race.
Of course, neither figured to be a contender. Baylor has no such history of even flirting with first place. Three weeks ago, A&M stood 0–2 in conference play and seemed headed for major disappointment. Yet here they are, bidding to stay relevant deep into November.

All focus begins with the quarterbacks. Robert Griffin III is the face of Baylor’s rise, both in the conference and nationally. A&M’s three-game winning streak corresponds to the shift of Ryan Tannehill from wide receiver to behind center.

The Bears find themselves regrouping, after stumbling on the big stage a week ago, losing 55–28 at Oklahoma State. A&M enters after what may be the biggest win of coach Mike Sherman’s era, a 33–19 upset of Oklahoma.
A&M’s improving defense against Baylor’s Griffin-led offense produces the key matchup. Aggies linebacker Michal Hodges had 19 tackles against the Sooners and will have his radar directed at Griffin, as will sackmaster Von Miller.

Kansas (3-6, 1-4) at Nebraska (8-1, 4-1), Saturday, 6 p.m.

That was some celebration in Lawrence last week, at least for those who stuck around to witness the Jayhawks’ wild rally from a 45–17 hole to beat Colorado.

Back to reality, with the downtrodden Jayhawks going to Nebraska, where they’ve dropped 21 straight games. Back to Lincoln, too, for KU coach and former Nebraska star Turner Gill.

The Huskers’ latest standout quarterback, Taylor Martinez, is expected back after missing last week’s narrow win over Iowa State with an ankle injury. Nebraska occupies the driver’s seat in the Big 12 North and can move within a game of clinching by beating Kansas.

If KU has a chance, however fleeting, it comes with a suddenly sparkling running game. The Huskers have struggled to stop the run, ranking No. 73 nationally in rushing defense. And freshman running back James Sims may have enjoyed a breakout against Colorado, rushing for a career-best 123 yards and four touchdowns.

Oklahoma State (8-1, 4-1) at Texas (4-5, 2-4), Saturday, 7 p.m.

The Cowboys haven’t won in Austin in a long, long time — 1944 to be exact. But the Longhorns haven’t been this bad in a long, long time, either. And even if they weren’t, this might represent OSU’s best chance for a breakthrough in years. As it is, the Cowboys are actually favored on the road. And they’re decisive favorites.

The Cowboys’ unexpected rise to first place in the Big 12 South is built around their talented trio: quarterback Brandon Weeden, wideout Justin Blackmon and running back Kendall Hunter, any of whom could emerge as the player of the year in the league. OSU’s offense will be the most versatile and dangerous the Longhorns have seen and should be geeked after K-State gashed the Texas defense a week ago.

The pressure will be on a Texas offense that has struggled to find an identity all year long and now deals with talk of a possible change at quarterback, with sentiment for Case McCoy to get a shot in place of Garrett Gilbert, who has thrown a Big 12-high 14 interceptions.

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Athlon previews Week 11 in the Big 12 as Oklahoma State tries to win in Austin for the first time since 1944.

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