Friday, 14 September 2012 02:56

Big 12 football: week three previews and predictions

Written by Jay Beck

#15 TCU @ Kansas

  • Game Time: 11:00
  • TV: FX
  • Sirius Channel 135
  • The Spread: Kansas +21


The Lowdown: TCU heads north for their first ever Big 12 conference game against a Kansas team that is trying to pick themselves up off the mat after falling to Rice last weekend.

TCU had the opening week off so the Horned Frogs have only one game under their belt heading to Lawrence, a 56-0 drubbing of Grambling State.  TCU racked up 531 total yards in the opener while holding the Tigers to just 70 yards for the game.  Sure, it was Grambling State, but that's an impressive start nonetheless.

uspw_6561284Meanwhile Kansas is trying to put last week's loss to Rice in the rear view mirror.  The Owl's kicked a last second field to win 25-24 after KU entered the fourth quarter with an eight point lead.

KU is still working to get new quarterback Dayne Crist on track after a rather slow start to the season.  Crist is completing just 51.6% of his passes with two touchdowns and three interceptions.  Kansas' running game has been solid with Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox both averaging over 100 yards through two games, but if Kansas hopes to hang around on Saturday, they'll need Crist to be better than he's been through the first two weeks.

The Horned Frogs will bring with them a very good quarterback in Casey Pachall to go along with a rushing attack that figures to be one of the best in the Big 12.  Their defense may be inexperienced in spots, but if there's one guy that's never had trouble teaching defense, it's TCU head coach, Gary Patterson

Kansas, Keys to the Game: Where do you begin?  The Jayhawks' passing game has sputtered thus far and they may be without WR Kale Pick who was injured in the Rice game.  The strength of the Kansas team is their rushing attack, but running into the TCU defense led by defensive end Stanley Mapongo won't be an easy chore. So where does that leave Charlie Weis?

Kansas needs to be balanced, but Crist is going to have to hit some throws in the passing game if KU is going to have a chance on Saturday.  Otherwise, TCU is going to be able to focus solely on Pierson and Cox in the running game.  Much has been made of Crist's arrival from Notre Dame and Saturday would be the perfect time for him to have the breakout game many expected when he arrived on campus.

TCU, Keys to the Game:  Start fast.  TCU is going to move the ball on Saturday.  This much I'm sure of with the Kansas defense still trying to figure out what parts go where.  If TCU can come out of the gate and put up a couple early touchdowns, there's no telling what will happen to Kansas.  This is a team that had an already fragile psyche before last's week loss to Rice.  If they get down 21-0 early, how will they respond?  Not to mention, getting up early will likely force Weis to throw the ball much more than he would like to which is something that could play right into the Horned Frogs' hands.

The Prediction: There's little question TCU is taking a big step-up in competition entering the Big 12, but Saturday's game in Lawrence might feel like they're still in the Mountain West.  Kansas might be improving, but they still don't have the manpower on defense to slow down a very good TCU offense.  Charlie Weis will figure out how to put some points on the scoreboard, just not enough of them.  Welcome to the Big 12, Horned Frogs.  TCU 50 Kansas 20.


UL-Lafayette @ Oklahoma State

  • Game Time: 11:00
  • TV: FSN
  • Sirius Channel: 137
  • The Spread: Oklahoma State -22.5


The Lowdown: Oklahoma State will try and bounce back from their first defeat of the season after falling to Arizona 59-38.  That, by the way, matches their loss total from all of last season.  There were few people that thought the Cowboys would duplicate last season's success but last week's performance could be some foreshadowing of what's to come considering that Arizona is a team the Pokes handled easily the past two seasons.

Oklahoma State racked up 167 yards in penalties, turned the ball over four times, and allowed the Wildcats to rack up 501 total yards, all areas they'll look to improve upon on Saturday morning.  Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon may be gone, but the Cowboys weren't shooting themselves in the foot like that last season.

On the positive side, the Cowboy offense continues to crank out yards with true freshman Wes Lunt at quarterback.  He did throw three interceptions against Arizona, but only one was what should be classified as a "bad decision" which happened to be returned for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

Louisiana Lafayette heads to Stillwater after wins over Lamar (40-0) and Troy (37-24).  They finished 9-4 last season in the Sun Belt and beat San Diego State 32-30 in the New Orleans Bowl.  The Ragin Cajuns have been decent against the run this year but Troy did rack up 528 passing yards as part of their 588 yard day last weekend.  They'll need to be much better than that in Stillwater on Saturday if they hope to have any chance of pulling an upset.

Oklahoma State, Keys to the Game: Besides the final score, there was plenty not to like about the loss to Arizona, namelythe mistake prone, undisciplined football they debuted.  Yes, Arizona won by 21, but more times than not, the Cowboys beat themselves.  Saturday's game against an outmanned UL-Lafayette group provides the perfect opportunity for Oklahoma State to prove last week was an outlier rather than the norm.  Having defensive coordinator Bill Young back on the sidelines should also provide a boost as the Cowboys try and eliminate the mistakes that cost them against Arizona.

Lafayette, Keys to the Game: Any key to the game that involves Oklahoma State usually revolves around ball control on offense.  Last week against Troy, the Cajuns average almost 5.5 yards per carry and if they can get the running game going, they might stand of fighting chance of hanging around for four quarters.  If not, it could be a long afternoon with Lafayette's passing game completing only 53% of their passes against Lamar and Troy.

The Prediction: Lafayette will hang around for a two quarters or so, but Oklahoma State has to much firepower on offense for the Cajuns to keep up.  The Cowboys defense will also look much more like the unit many expected coming into the season.  Cowboys roll.  Oklahoma State 48 UL-Lafayette 20.


James Madison @ #8 West Virginia (at FedEx Field in Landover, MD)

  • Game Time: 2:30
  • TV: Root Sports
  • Sirius Channel: 138
  • The Spread: Not yet listed.


The Lowdown: On paper, West Virginia should win this by a lot, but stranger things have happened.  Remember, James Madison is the same team that knocked #13 ranked Virginia Tech 21-16 at Lane Stadium in 2010.  Could history repeat itself?  Doubtful, but hey, you play to win the game.

James Madison is coming off and 8-5 season last year and are led by a good dual threat quarterback, Justin Thorpe who rushed for 101 yards last week against Alcorn State and also completed 14 of 18 passes for another 140 yards.

For the Mountaineers, they are hoping for more of the same after opening the season by scoring 69 points against Marshall.  The Thunder Herd did have some success moving the ball against West Virginia's revamped defense, however, totaling 545 yards while running 101 total plays in the game. Marshall had four drives that contained more than 10 plays, three of which resulted in points.

The Prediction: West Virginia did get off to a slow start when they hosted Norfolk State last year and actually trailed 12-10 at half before rattling off 45 straight second half points.  They'll be looking for a much faster start on Saturday and here's guessing this game is over by halftime. West Virginia 52 James Madison 17.


Sam Houston State @ Baylor

  • Game Time: 6:00
  • TV: FCS
  • Sirius Channel: 132
  • The Spread: Not yet listed


The Lowdown: This will be the second meeting in the last three seasons between the Bearkats and Bears.  Baylor won the season opening meeting in 2010 by a score of 34-3.

Sam Houston State's enters Saturday night's game as the #2 ranked team in the FCS.  They are 1-0 coming off a victory over Incarnate Word, 54-7, to open the season.

Baylor might not have to study much film when it comes to knowing what to expect from the Bearkats' defense.  They put it right on their own website.

Instead of trying to prevent the deep pass, the Bearkats will continue to force the issue. The Kats will blitz and blitz often, coming after Baylor starting quarterback Nick Florence looking to get him out of rhythm early, as well as sticking to their man-to-man coverage scheme.

"This is a big game and we're going out there and play how we play," Sam Houston safety Darnell Taylor said. "We're going to blitz and we're going to run man. There ain't too much that's going to change."

That's a great plan if you can get to the quarterback, if not, expect plenty, and I mean plenty of big plays from Baylor on Saturday night.

The Prediction: Sam Houston State isn't a team Baylor can take lightly, but I would expect the Bears to take care of business.  Baylor's defense will be tested by a strong SHSU rushing attack, but the Bearkats simply won't be able to score enough points to keep up.  Baylor 48 Sam Houston State 20.


North Texas @ #14 Kansas State

  • Game Time: 6:00
  • TV: FSN
  • Sirius Channel: 128
  • The Spread: K-State -28


The Lowdown: Former Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney makes his return to the Big 12 for the first time since leaving Ames following the 2006 season.  McCarney was the 2004 Big 12 Coach of the Year and has butted heads with Bill Snyder more than a few time so if anyone knows what the Mean Green is walking into Saturday, McCarney would be the guy.

uspw_5872518Saturday's game in Manhattan won't be the first test for North Texas this year, however.  They opened the season in Baton Rouge, LA against LSU and should be able to draw on the experience of already having played in one of the toughest environments in the country.  While they never threatened LSU, the kept the game competitive throughout falling 41-14.

They followed that up with a 34-7 win over Texas Southern last week behind a rushing attack that gained 352 yards on the ground.

Kansas State comes in fresh off a 52-13 throttling of Miami outgaining the Hurricanes by 236 yards.  The Wildcat defense held Miami to just 40 yards rushing, something North Texas will certainly make note of.

North Texas, Keys to the Game: The Wildcats are going to do what they do running the ball.  Can North Texas stop it?  LSU ran for 316 yard against North Texas, although as good as Kansas State, they are still not quite in that league.

The Wildcats pose a problem in the run game with the way they use Collin Klein.  It's not really option football, it's not really spread football, it's more of a power running game featuring the quarterback.  It's coming and North Texas need to figure out how to stop it in a hurry before it's too late.

Kansas State, Keys to the Game: Who does Kansas State play next week?  Oklahoma.  First off, that needs to be the farthest thing from anyone's mind wearing a purple jersey on Saturday.  K-State is clearly better than North Texas, but they're also capable of pulling off an upset of the Wildcats don't come out 100% focused on the task at hand.

So how do they do it?  It's start by stopping the run.  Both of North Texas' running backs went over the century mark last week and they run behind an offensive line returning four starters.  The more K-State can put the Mean Green in passing situations, the better for the Wildcats.  North Texas' passing attack has been sporadic at best through two games and it's not something they want to rely on, especially when the KSU defense knows it is coming.

The Prediction: This is a game that might actually be closer than some expect.  The Wildcats only led Missouri State 16-9 heading into the fourth quarter in the opener before pouring it on in the fourth quarter so it's not out of the realm of possibilities for McCarney's team to stay within reach throughout.

Keeping it close is one thing, winning is another thing entirely.  Kansas State is too good and too experienced to let this one slip through their hands.  Wildcats win.  Kansas State 40 North Texas 21.


New Mexico @ Texas Tech

  • Game Time: 6:00
  • TV: FCS
  • Sirius Channel: 128
  • The Spread: Texas Tech -32.5


The Lowdown: New Mexico heads back to the state of Texas for the second straight week after visiting Austin last Saturday where they received a 45-0 beating by the Longhorns.

The biggest question mark for the Lobos is the status of quarterback B.R. Holbrook who sustained a rib injury against Texas and didn't return.  New Mexico  coach Bob Davie has said Holbrook is doubtful, although it wouldn't be surprising to see Holbrook give it a go.  If not, true freshman Cole Gautshche will see action for the second straight week.

New Mexico had some early success against Texas with Holbrook running the Lobos option offense.  Texas Tech's defense has been much improved so far this season but it's obviously not up to the level of the Longhorns just yet.  If Holbrook is able to go, New Mexico runs the type of offense that could potentially give the Red Raiders some problems.

On the other side of the ball, Seth Doege and the Texas Tech offense should be able to have their way with the Lobo defense.  Keep in mind, this is a team that has won just three games over the past three seasons.  Texas Tech put up 59 points against them last year and TCU even did them 10 points better in their 69-0 victory. New Mexico may be improving, but they haven't improved that much.

The Prediction: The Red Raiders simply have too much offense for New Mexico to hang around for long.  Texas Tech will pad the stats book for the third straight week before hitting the road in Big 12 play next week.  Texas Tech 54 New Mexico 14.


Western Illinois @ Iowa State

  • Game Time: 6:00
  • TV: Cyclone.TV
  • Sirius Channel: Not Listed
  • The Spread: Not yet available


The Lowdown: I'm not going to proclaim to be some kind of expert on the Fighting Leathernecks other than to say they are 2-0 after wins over Butler and Indianapolis.  My sole memory of Western Illinois football came last season when they visited Missouri and lost 69-0.  The Tigers racked up 744 total yards of offense while Western Illinois mustered all of 44 yards.  Henry Josey rushed the ball 14 times for 263 yards for a salty 18.8 yard per carry average

Iowa State might not beat them that bad, but they clearly won't have much trouble against a team that finished 2-10 a year ago in the Missouri Valley.  The higlight here is without a doubt the football debut of Cylone.TV which will carry the game Saturday night.

The Prediction: Iowa State 48 Western Illinois 10.


#12 Texas @ Ole Miss

  • Game Time: 8:15
  • TV: ESPN
  • Sirius Channel: 117 (TX) 138 (Miss)
  • The Spread: Texas -10


The Lowdown: It sounds like the people in Oxford are a bit excited for Texas's trip on Saturday night with some calling in the biggest nonconference home game in over 50 years.

Does Ole Miss have a chance to win?  Of course they do.  Will they? I guess you'll have to keep reading to find out.

The Longhorns have gotten off to a solid, if unspectacular start to the season with victories over Wyoming and New Mexico.  David Ash has improved his accuracy although they continue to work on getting more big plays out of the passing game with many of Ash's completions coming in the dink-and-dunk variety.

Ole Miss has been racking up the points and yards under new head coach, Hugh Freeze. In each of their victories over Central Arkansas and UTEP, the Rebels totaled over 500 yards of offense led by quarterback Bo Wallace.

Wallace is a junior college transfer who redshirted his first season at Arkansas State where Freeze happened to be the head coach.  Under Freeze, Ole Miss has switched to a high-tempo offense much like Texas sees in the Big 12.

Ole Miss's offense might be up-tempo, but that doesn't mean they do it exclusively through the air.  The Rebels have a balance rushing attack led by Jeff Scott and Randall Mackey.  Throw in the quarterback runs by Wallace and Ole Miss is capable of hitting you in a variety of ways in the ground game.

Texas, meanwhile, continues to rely on a strong defense while the offense continues to feel their way although they have looked like an improved group over 2011's version.  Joe Bergeron leads the team in rushing followed closely behind by Malcolm Brown.  True freshman Jonathan Gray also saw seven carries last week in their win over New Mexico.

Texas, Keys to the Game: David Ash.  Surprising, right?  So far Ash has been solid completing 73.5% of his passes but now he takes the show in the road for the first time this season.  Granted, Ole Miss was 0-8 in the SEC last season, but this will still be a much faster team than what Texas witnessed during their first two games.  An efficient Ash means Texas likely wins the game.  A mistake prone Ash like we saw the last season, and all bets are off on Saturday night.

Ole Miss, Keys to the Game: One of the better matchups of the entire day will be Hugh Freeze's offense going up against Manny Diaz's defense.  Texas has talent all over the place, but Ole Miss is going to play fast and try and catch the Longhorns in matchups they don't necessarily want to be in.  Bo Wallace has been great to this point, but the athleticism he'll see out of Texas' defense will be much different than what's he's seen on the field in the first two weeks.  Can Freeze and Wallace figure out enough ways to hurt Texas?  If so, it'll likely be Wallace making plays with his legs when the Longhorn's pass rush comes after him.  A couple big runs by Wallace and Texas may be forced to stay in containment which will help open up the passing game.

The Prediction:  It won't be easy, but the Longhorns will head into the bye week with ther perfect record intact. Texas 28 Ole Miss 20.

Last modified on Saturday, 15 September 2012 07:05
Jay Beck

Jay Beck

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