This week, I'll be previewing other games around the Big 12, and talking about their significance to Iowa State. As we enter the final stretch of Big 12 play, bowl hopes are on the line, along with the usual bragging rights.
#6 Missouri at #14 Nebraska
As I said on Monday, this game is huge for the Big 12 North as a whole. If Missouri wins, they've got a soft lock on the North and the tiebreaker versus Nebraska. If Nebraska wins, they'll control their own destiny in the North, but have to come to Ames and go to College Station to face the Aggies. Whoever you want to win, this game should be worth watching (Cyclone fans should note that they should root for Nebraska).
So what do these two teams have in store for us Saturday Afternoon at 3:30 ET on ABC? Both teams have potent offenses, which in fairness I'm going to call a wash. Blaine Gabbert gets the job done, orchestrating his team with a mastery of the passing game, which then allows them to run the football with surprising effectiveness from a team without a well known running back. Taylor Martinez is still feeling his way into the leadership position for the Cornhuskers, but makes up for lack of experience with freakish talent. He's scorched defenses for more running yards than I think is believable before getting stopped cold by Texas. After that he put his aerial skills on display against Oklahoma State, knocking off their first unbeaten team and itching to prove they can do it again to the Tigers.
Strangely, Missouri appears to have the edge on defense. The Tiger's defensive play against the Sooners last week was nothing short of astonishing. They swarmed, they broke up passes, they shut down Demarco Murray in ways the Cyclones can only dream about. The real question however, is are they that good every week? That's what the Tigers have to prove this week, with not just Big 12 hopes on the line, but National Title ones. Nebraska's defense is nothing to sneeze at, however. Jared Crick is not the next Suh, but he's been a force on the D-Line for the Huskers. Prince Akamura is one of the best corners in College Football, if not the best.
I hesitate to make a prediction in this game, but I will say that I expect it to be relatively high-scoring. Look for both teams to score at least 35 points in a shoot-out.
More Big 12 Games after the jump
#17 Oklahoma State at Kansas State
The reason this game should be important to Cyclone fans, is that for ISU to have any Big 12 North dreams, KSU needs to lose one more game, and this may be the one. Oklahoma State is coming off an excruciating loss to Nebraska that effectively ended their already slim national title hopes. Brandon Weeden leads the Cowboys, and I've always been impressed with his poise and self-confidence. He's not the best Quarterback in the Big 12, but he knows he can get the job done. His favorite target, Justin Blackmon, however is in some serious trouble. Arrested this week for speeding and he was found to have had alcohol in his system as a minor. Add to that fact that no one knows how he got tickets to Monday's football game and OSU might lose it's star receiver.
KSU is still the same ol' KSU. Their offense is centered around Daniel Thomas, the stud of a running back that carries KSU on his back like the Titan Atlas carries the world. The problem is that I don't think the Wildcat offense is explosive enough to keep up with the number of points OSU can score. Added to that problem is the fact that Nebraska exposed K-State's defense for the entire conference to see, and this game could quickly turn into a blowout. That doesn't even begin to mention the psychological pressure from losing to Baylor last week.
I see no reason on paper that OSU loses this game, but if they lose Blackmon and there's a perfect storm in Manhattan, weird things could happen.
Colorado at #9 Oklahoma
Playing Oklahoma after their first loss of the season to Missouri is not a fun place to find oneself. Add to that the fact that Dan Hawkins' Colorado Buffalo team has yet to win a Big 12 game this year and there could be a serious pounding in Norman this week. The Buff's may beg for mercy, but don't look for Bob Stoops to grant it. Landry Jones made his first missteps of the season last week in Colombia and effectively ended the chances of a Big 12 contender for the Heisman. The Sooners will almost certainly find themselves either Big 12 Champions or BCS at large invitees this year, but the world basically has to end for them to make it to Glendale.
On the other side of the field, this is very likely Dan Hawkins last year as the coach of the Buffalos. I think it will be good for Colorado to have a new coach as they enter the Pac 12, it's like a clean slate. With Tyler Hansen out for the rest of the season, Cody Hawkins finds himself again taking the snaps. After being boo'd off the field last year Buff's fans are unlikely to see this as the turning point of their season.
Colorado will almost certainly stay winless in Big 12 play this week as the Sooners rack up 50 or more.
#25 Baylor at Texas
You almost feel sorry for the Longhorns, but not quite. They arrogantly told the world this summer that they were the Big 12. Hubris always worked out well for the Greeks, right? Now they find themselves looking up at the best Texas team in the Big 12, Baylor. Just think about that sentence for a minute. It boggles the mind. Garret Gilbert looked anemic against the Cyclones last weekend in Austin, and he'll have to do better than that against a surging Baylor team. Without a doubt, Baylor is beatable and Texas has the talent to win, as they showed in Lincoln two weeks ago. The fate of this game rests largely in Mack Brown's ability to pull his team together. Lose this game and Texas is in real danger of not making a bowl game the year after going to the National Championship.
I actually thing Texas pulls off the win here. Baylor might be surging, but the Longhorn defense has the talent to beat Robert Griffin III. I also get the feeling that Baylor already won the race it set out to win this spring. They wanted to go to a bowl game, now they will, what's left to fight for? Gut call, but I think the right one.
Texas Tech @ Texas A&M
Officially this is the battle for the Cellar of the Big 12 South. That said, the Cellar of the Big 12 South can probably beat the bottom half of any conference in the US, save, possibly, the SEC. Look for Ryan Tannehill to get his chance in the limelight for the Aggies after a very disappointing season from Jerrod Johnson. I don't think this season will get Mike Sherman canned regardless of what happens, but his seat is certainly getting hotter.
On the other sideline, Taylor Potts continues to prove he's got talent as a Quarterback. Sadly, the Red Raider defense hasn't been up to the challenge. It's a new system in Lubbock with Tommy Tubberville at the helm, but give it time and he'll get the train back on the tracks. The Red Raiders should be a lot meaner next season.
I think Tech can win this game in a convincing fashion, even on the road in College Station. More Video Game stats for Texas Tech? I think so.
Disclaimer: The author is in no way responsible if your team loses because of these predictions.