Missouri @ Texas A&M
- Game time: 11:00
- TV: Fox Sports Net
- Sirius Channel 127 (Miz) 125 (A&M)
- The Spread: Texas A&M -3.5
- Records: Missouri (5-0, 1-0 in Big 12) A&M (3-2, 0-1 in Big 12)
The Lowdown: Texas A&M returns to College Station following two straight losses to Oklahoma State and Arkansas. Aggie quarterback Jerrod Johnson’s struggles continued against the Razorbacks. Following back to back games in which he threw four interceptions in each, Johnson completed only 15-40 passes against Arkansas. Johnson and the A&M receivers will need to pick up their games with the undefeated Tigers paying a visit to Kyle Field on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Tigers will leave the state of Missouri for the first time this season. Mizzou is 5-0 and is coming off a shutout victory over Colorado. The Tigers held the Buffaloes to 61 yards rushing and recorded four sacks against Colorado. The Tigers find themselves in an unusual spot sitting first in the conference in scoring defense giving up only 11.2 points per game. They will be facing their first major test of the season against a very good TAMU offense.
Missouri, Keys to the Game: The Tigers have been very good in creating turnovers so far this season. They have 14 on the year which ranks second (tie) in the conference behind only Oklahoma State’s 16. On the other side, A&M has turned the ball over 18 times which is six more than any other team in the league. Turnovers are always a key in any game, but will play an especially critical role in this one. A&M turns it over and Mizzou takes it away. If the Tigers keep it up, they should be on their way to a sixth straight victory to open the season. I wrote a piece earlier in the week asking if Missouri’s defense for real. Well, we’ll know more over the next several weeks and it starts on Saturday.
Texas A&M, Keys to the Game: Johnson has been surprisingly mediocre so far this season. There have been rumors (that Mike Sherman and Johnson have denied) that his shoulder still isn’t 100%. Whatever it is, Johnson hasn’t been near the quarterback most expected coming into the year. Texas A&M is fortunate to have two very good running backs in the backfield in Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray. Sherman would be wise to take advantage of the duo and get the running game going against the Tigers. It’s not like the Aggies have ignored the running game this year, but a recommitment to it won’t do anything but help Johnson in the passing game. San Diego State had success against the Tigers on the ground and there’s no reason TAMU can’t do the same thing.
Final Take: This Tigers are playing outside the state for the first time this season against a much improved Aggie defense. A&M is coming off back-to-back losses. Both teams struggled with an inferior opponent in the non-conference schedule (Mizzou with San Diego State and TAMU with Florida International). Flip a coin in this one; heads it's Mizzou, tails it's A&M. I’ll take tails. The Aggies will use a balanced attack and the 12th Man at Kyle Field is the edge the Aggies need against Missouri in a nail-biter. Texas A&M 28 Mizzou 27.
Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech
- Game time: 2:30
- TV: Fox Sports Net+
- Sirius Channel 154 (OSU) 113 (Tech)
- The Spread: Texas Tech -3
- Records: Oklahoma State (5-0, 1-0 in Big 12) Texas Tech (3-2, 1-2 in Big 12)
The Lowdown: The Red Raiders bounced back against Baylor last week after falling to Iowa State the week prior. The Tech offense started to look like the group many expected coming into the season. Quarterback Taylor Potts was lights out against Baylor completing 42 of 59 passes for 462 yards and four touchdowns. Maybe more importantly, the Texas Tech running game started showing some signs of life with Baron Batch picking up 97 yards while the team rushed for 173 yards overall as part of their 635 yard day.
Oklahoma State continues to cruise along and will head to Lubbock with a 5-0 record. The Cowboy’s offense has looked unstoppable most of the season with the first half against Texas A&M being the exception. Quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon have formed one of the best tandems in the country early in the season. Blackmon already has 11 touchdowns and Weeden has proven more than a capable replacement for the departed Zac Robinson. And don’t forget about running back Kendall Hunter who is averaging 140 yards per game on the ground.
For as good as both of the offenses have been, both of their defenses have struggled through most of the season, especially in defending the pass. That, combined with both teams’ penchant for the passing game offensively, means you can probably expect a whole lot of points to be scored on Saturday.
Texas Tech, Keys to the Game: In defending the Cowboy offense, it’s a little bit of pick your poison. Defend the run, and Weeden will pick you apart over the top. Likewise, if you drop seven in coverage, Hunter will make you pay on the ground. I think the easy answer is to focus on Hunter. If he’s racking up big yards on the ground it won’t matter what Weeden is doing. If you can take Hunter out of the game (or severely limit his production) at least you force Weeden to make plays and hopefully get a pick or two in the process. The Red Raiders have been solid in defending the run this year and they’ll need to be stout again on Saturday.
Oklahoma State, Keys to the Game: It’s no secret Texas Tech is going to attack you through the air. No one should expect the Cowboy defensive backs to cover the talented Tech receivers all day. It’ll be critical for the Cowboys to get pressure on Potts and if nothing else, force him out of the pocket or into making decisions quicker than he’d like. Tech has been solid in pass protection for the most part giving up only nine sacks on the year, not a bad number considering how much they throw the ball. The Cowboy defense has gotten to the quarterback 13 time this season so it’ll be important for OSU’s defense coordinator, Bill Young, to devise a pressure package that doesn’t let Potts sit in the pocket all day.
Final Take: Two great offenses going against two suspect defenses – whoever gets the ball last, wins. Lubbock is never an easy place to play and Tech will use the home field advantage and edge out the Cowboys in the fourth quarter. Texas Tech goes to 2-2 in the Big 12. Texas Tech 45 Oklahoma State 35.
Baylor @ Colorado
- Game time: 6:30
- TV: Fox College Sports
- Sirius Channel 161 (Bay) 154 (Col)
- The Spread: Colorado +1.5
- Records: Baylor (4-2, 1-1 in Big 12) Colorado (3-2, 0-1 in Big 12)
The Lowdown: Both Colorado and Baylor will enter Saturday’s game in similar situations. Both teams are coming off losses, neither being able to capitalize on big wins the week before. Baylor throttled Kansas, 55-7, and then fell one score short against Texas Tech. Colorado picked up a win against Georgia, but followed that up by laying an egg in Columbia falling to Missouri, 26-0.
Colorado had found a running game in its wins over Hawaii and Georgia but it disappeared against Missouri. The Buffs rushed for only 61 yards against the Tigers and were no doubt hurt by the injury to running back Brian Lockridge who will miss the reason of the season with an ankle injury. Colorado also switched quarterbacks in the second half, replacing Tyler Hansen with Cody Hawkins in order to jumpstart the offense (Sound eerily similar to 2009).
Baylor on the other hand is set at quarterback. Robert Griffin has had back-to back career days against Kansas and Texas Tech. The issue for Baylor has been on the defensive side of the ball. Tech gouged the Bears for 635 yards of offense, similar to what TCU did to Baylor earlier in the year when they ran up 558 yards.
Colorado, Keys to the Game: It’s back to the drawing board for the Colorado offense. Granted they were playing from behind a good portion of the game, but the rushing game that had been good to them the previous two games was nowhere to be found. If the Buffs want to have any success the rest of the season, they need to continue to run the ball and that starts with better line play up front. The line simply has to be more consistent than they’ve been thus far, whether it’s opening holes for Steward or keeping teams off their quarterback. If Colorado rushes for less than 100 yards against Baylor, they lose.
Baylor, Keys to the Game: The Baylor defense can't be feeling great about themselves following last week’s game in Dallas. This should be a good week to get their confidence back against an offense that has been inconsistent at best in 2010. Baylor has 12 sacks on the season and they’ll be going up against an offensive line that has allowed 14 on the year. If the Bears can get into the Colorado backfield consistently on Saturday night, it could be another long night for Tyler Hansen.
Final Take: Colorado has lost 15 straight games on the road but this one is in Boulder where they’ve played better and are 3-0 this year. I’m going to say it doesn’t matter here. Robert Griffin will be too much for the Buffs to handle for four quarters and the Colorado offense is to inconsistent to count on any more than 21 points. Colorado hangs tough but the Bears pick up a road win. Baylor 28 Colorado 20.
Iowa State @ Oklahoma
- Game time: 6:00
- TV: Fox Sports Net
- Sirius Channel 127 (ISU) 121 (OU)
- The Spread: Oklahoma -22
- Records: Iowa State (3-3, 1-1 in Big 12) Oklahoma (5-0)
The Lowdown: Just when you think Iowa State might have something going after knocking off Texas Tech, they get drilled by Utah and give up 68 points in doing so. The Cyclones got off to a nice start and led after one quarter, 14-10. The Utes took charge from then on and outscored ISU 58-13 the rest of the way. Utah is very, very, solid but the fact that got over on the Cyclones on their home field doesn’t make the prospects this week or next against Texas look very promising as their gauntlet of a schedule continues.
The Sooners meanwhile had an extra week to enjoy their win over Texas in Dallas. The Sooners jumped out to an early lead and did enough to hold on while moving to 5-0. It hasn’t always looked pretty for OU, but the five wins is really the only stat that matters. Defensively, the Sooners still rank 11th in total defense, but expect that ranking to improve this week. With an extra week to prepare and heal any bumps and bruises suffered through the first five weeks, the prospects don’t look good for the Cyclones. Oklahoma has their sights set on the big prize now that Texas is in the rear view mirror.
Iowa State, Keys to the Game: There’s no question ISU won’t be the most talented team on the field, but they still have the senior leadership on offense to keep it interesting. Oklahoma’s defense has been susceptible at times this year. If the Cyclones hope to have any chance in Norman, they’ll need to rely on quarterback Austen Arnaud to keep the chains moving, and hopefully keep the Sooner offense on the sideline as much as possible. Balance will be the key and if they can put themselves in manageable third down situations, Arnaud is capable enough of a thrower to do some damage against the Sooner secondary.
Oklahoma, Keys to the Game: The Sooner defense has been surprisingly mediocre most of the season. With the bye week to get back to basics, it’s time for the OU defense to dominate a weaker opponent. If the Sooners are able to keep the pressure on Arnaud throughout the game, there’s no reason to believe the Sooners shouldn't stymie the ISU offense.
Final Take: If Oklahoma wants to be considered serious contenders for the national title, now is the time to start showing it. Iowa State, as they showed by scoring 52 against Texas Tech, is capable of moving the ball, but it shouldn’t happen against the Sooners considering the talent disparity between the two teams. Jones, Murray and Broyles will have big days before watching the fourth quarter on the sidelines. Oklahoma rolls. OU 41 Iowa State 17.