It's time to turn out the lights on another week. It is hard to believe, but the season is already nearing its half-way point. Here are a few thoughts before we lock the door on another Saturday.
Let’s start by going back to Thursday night. Nebraska took care of Kansas State on the road in fairly impressive fashion. As most of the country has been talking about, Taylor Martinez went crazy piling up 241 yards on the ground. The Huskers racked up 587 yards on the night and only ran 52 plays which works out to an 11.3 yard average. Impressive no doubt.
It most likely won’t be so easy with the Longhorns traveling to Lincoln on Saturday. Really, when you break it down, it’s been almost too easy for Nebraska at times - meaning a lot of big plays/short drives. They’ve yet to face much, if any, adversity in their first five games (I’m not calling South Dakota State facing adversity. If you want to, then they didn’t handle it well). The big plays aren’t going to be so easy against Texas and it will be interesting to see how they handle having to sustain drives of more than five to seven plays. Texas has the type of secondary where they can commit an extra man or two to the run and not get burned in coverage. Nebraska keeps saying that Martinez is a very effective passer and the Huskers will probably need to rely on his arm to a greater extent come Saturday. More to come on this as the game gets closer.
Friday night in Stillwater, the Cowboys got off to a bit of a slow start and trailed Louisiana Lafayette at halftime, 21-17. They found their groove after half, however, and outscored ULL 37-7 in the third and fourth quarters. Quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon continue to put up ridiculous numbers in the passing game. Weeden threw for 351 yards, 190 of those going to Blackmon. Blackmon caught two more TD’s and now has 11 on the season. They’ll likely have another big game next week against Texas Tech who is almost a mirror image of the Cowboys. A lot of offense and not much defense.
Moving on to Saturday, Baylor and Texas Tech combined for 1150 yards and made a mockery of the defensive stat sheet. Tech quarterback Taylor Potts was on the money all day and should stop any rumblings that Steven Sheffield should be getting more playing time, at least for another week. Potts was 42 of 59 for 463 yards and threw four TD’s in the process. As big as the passing numbers were, I thought one reason for it was Tech’s success in the running game. Tech had 172 yards on the ground which helped keep the Baylor defense from dropping seven or eight into coverage. If they can continue to have that type of success on the ground, however small it may appear, this is going to be a potent offense to try and slow down the rest of the season.
Jerrod Johnson’s struggles continued on Saturday versus Arkansas. It wasn’t the turnover bug that got him this time, just more inconsistent play from the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year. Johnson was 15 for 41 (36.6%) on the day which was similar to his 11 for 31 performance against Florida International. He only threw one interception on Saturday (he had eight interceptions in their last two games), but the Aggies need to get better overall play from the senior leader. Their defense continues to show improvement which was the biggest question mark was coming into the year. Now it appears to be what’s wrong with Johnson.
Iowa State came crashing down from their one week high after beating Texas Tech last weekend. The Cyclones got mauled by 10th ranked Utah, 68-27. ISU led 14-10 after one quarter but it was all downhill from there. Utah had 593 yards of total offense and also racked up 324 yards on kick and punt returns. They returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score and also had a 78 yard punt return. The Cyclones are improving but still aren’t near talented enough to overcome those types of miscues against a talented team. It’s not going to get any easier for the Cyclones as they are square in the middle of a brutal schedule with Oklahoma and Texas up next.
Colorado raised a few eyebrows after their win over Georgia last weekend. Could the Buffaloes actually be turning the corner? No. Any heightened expectations were quickly washed away on Saturday as they were shut-out by Missouri 26-0. Quarterback Tyler Hansen was replaced by Cody Hawkins in the second half which made it seem like it was 2009 all over again. The running game that got everyone excited was nowhere to be found on Saturday. They rushed for a grand total of 60 yards on Saturday night.
On the flip side, give Missouri credit. Defense hasn’t always been a bright spot on Gary Pinkel’s team in his tenure at Missouri. There are still a lot of questions surrounding Mizzou with their weak schedule to this point, but they made a statement defensively this weekend. If they can slow down the Aggie offense on Saturday, I might actually start believing a little more in the 2010 Tigers.
As few other thoughts before we officially flip the switch on Saturday’s action.
**Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin has always been known for his speed and the damage he can do with his feet. So far this year, he’s been doing far more damage with his arm. He connected on 32 of 44 passes versus Texas Tech for 385 yards and this was on the heels of his 380 yard performance against Kansas which was a career best, for a week at least.
**Nebraska’s run defense answered the bell against one of the best rushing attacks in the conference. They held Daniel Thomas to 63 yards on 22 carries. The Husker defense is looking better by the week. A strong run defense to go a long with their secondary is going to cause nightmares for opposing offenses trying to figure out how to move the ball on the Blackshirts.
**Staying with Kansas State, they have absolutely nothing at quarterback. Carson Coffman is a nice player, but poses no real threat to opposing defenses. Without any type of playmaker at the position, Thomas is going to be much less effective than he should be in the running game.
**Texas Tech will probably be working on some special teams this week, specifically how to cover an onside kick. This is the second week in a row they’ve had an onside kick returned for a touchdown against them. If you missed it, here's a replay below.
**Blaine Gabbert left the Colorado game early with an injury that was being called a hip-pointer after the game. Gabbert didn’t look like his normal self after the injury and the Tigers finally pulled him out with the game firmly in hand. Gabbert’s status will be something worth monitoring with the road trip to College Station coming up this weekend.
**The Texas-Nebraska showdown that everyone has been talking about since last December is finally upon us. I was at the Big 12 Championship last year and talked to a bunch of Longhorn fans after the game. They weren’t talking about the game that just ended, but rather the trip to Lincoln this season. I doubt they expected they’d be making the trip with two marks in the loss column already.
**The Alabama loss on Saturday opens the door to a whole slew of teams. It definitely benefits the Big 12, assuming either Nebraska or Oklahoma can run the table. Alabama was the one shoe-in for the BCS title game should they have finished 12-0. Now that spot is potentially open for a team that takes care of its business. It is borderline ridiculous to be talking about it as this point, however, as these things always seem to have a way of working itself out. I can already hear it now, though. Should a one loss Alabama get into the title game over unbeaten Boise State or TCU? The fun is just beginning.
Well that’s it for another night. The clean-up is done, the car is outside running, and it’s time to head home. Thursday night’s Kansas-Kansas State game will be here soon enough and we’ll get to do it all over again. Safe travels home, wherever you're headed.
(Photos: US Presswire)