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September 20, 2006

Big 12: Week 4 Breakdown

Buchanan's Big 12 Week 4 picks
Rivals.com national writer Olin Buchanan's predictions for Week 4 in the Big 12.
Saturday's games:
Baylor 21, Army 14
Georgia 31, Colorado 0
Texas 34, Iowa State 21
Kansas 24, South Florida 20
Louisville 38, Kansas State 17
Missouri 24, Ohio 14
Nebraska 28, Troy 20
Oklahoma 37, Middle Tennessee State 17
Oklahoma State 27, Houston 24
Texas A&M 34, Louisiana Tech 31
Texas Tech 49, Southeastern Louisiana 14
Best matchup: Enough with the meaningless non-conference games, already. The season's first Big 12 conference game could be a preview of the championship game. Reigning South Division champion Texas plays host to North Division contender Iowa State. Both teams are 2-1 with losses to Big Ten contenders (Texas lost to Ohio State, Iowa State lost to Iowa). Cyclones running back Stevie Hicks is averaging 90.3 yards per game, but faces a Longhorns run defense which ranks second nationally. UT has allowed just 75 yards on the ground thus far.

Worst matchup: Winless Colorado has managed just 23 points in three games and this week faces a Georgia defense which has notched consecutive shutouts against South Carolina and Alabama-Birmingham. The unbeaten Bulldogs are tied for fifth (with Texas) nationally in total defense, allowing just 203.67 yards per game. Colorado's offense ranks 115th nationally. The booming leg of Colorado kicker Mason Crosby might be the only things between Georgia and its third consecutive shutout.

The pressure is on: Baylor coach Guy Morriss has boldly proclaimed anything less than going to a bowl game would be a disappointment this season. With that in mind, the 1-2 Bears must prevail in every game they're expected to win, especially those played in Waco. This week's game against Army falls into that category. A loss to Army would require Baylor to go 5-3 in Big 12 play in order to gain bowl eligibility. Baylor has never won more than two Big 12 Conference games in a season.

Upset alert: Texas A&M's 3-0 start is extremely misleading. The Aggies' first three opponents – The Citadel, Louisiana-Lafayette and Army – have a combined 1-6 record. On top of that, A&M struggled with Army and had trouble with The Citadel. Even more misleading is the Aggies' pass defense, which ranked last nationally last season but is currently ranked No. 1 in the country. However, A&M has played teams that struggle to throw the football successfully. Louisiana-Lafayette ranks 118th nationally in passing offense, while Army ranks 113th. The Citadel ranks 61st – in Division I-AA. Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech quarterback Zac Champion and receiver Jonathan Holland are a dangerous combination that will test A&M's new 4-2-5 defensive scheme.

BCS implications: The only sure way to reach a BCS bowl is to win the conference, and Texas-Iowa State is the only game that affects the Big 12 race. A victory would help Texas as it tries to climb back into the national title picture after its loss to Ohio State on Sept. 9.

Most to gain or most to lose: Despite its 28-10 loss to Southern California last week, Nebraska still appears to be making strides toward returning to national prominence. But the Cornhuskers would take a step back – if not several – if they were upset by Troy, which isn't out of the question. Troy took a lead into the fourth quarter against Florida State two weeks ago.

Who's hot: Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson is even hotter than OU President David Boren, who demanded and received an apology from the Pac-10 for the officiating in the Sooners' 34-33 loss to Oregon. Peterson rushed for 211 yards in that game and now has 3,548 rushing yards in his career. He is just 570 yards shy of Billy Sims' school record. Peterson has 515 yards thus far this season and is averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

Who's not: The Big 12 overall is kind of frosty. Bad officiating or not, Oklahoma's loss to Oregon was one of seven defeats the conference took last week. The Big 12 has predictably fared well against Division I-AA teams and mid-majors, but in games against other "power" conferences, Big 12 teams are 2-6 with a Missouri victory over Ole Miss and an Oklahoma victory over Washington.

Newcomer who could have an impact: Nebraska running back Kenny Wilson had a season-high 19 carries against Southern Cal last week, which may hint that his role in the offense is increasing.

Key stat: Missouri ranks second nationally in quarterback sacks with 4.67 per game. Defensive end Brian Smith had four sacks in last week's win over New Mexico.

Take the line: Giving 26½ points isn't easy, but Colorado's offense has been so inept that a four-touchdown victory for Georgia doesn't seem outlandish - especially for a game played in Athens. Colorado hasn't managed more than 10 points in any game and the best defense it has faced is Arizona State, which ranks 38th nationally. Georgia ranks fifth. The Bulldogs' offense and special teams aren't bad, either. By the way, Georgia faced Colorado coach Dan Hawkins last season when he was coach at Boise State and won 48-13.
Season record: 1-2

They said it: "It was a horrible offensive effort. We aren't very tough. We don't have any leadership on offense. We didn't even fight back. We have 18 seniors on the team. Since last year, seven have gotten better, five are the same, and six have gotten worse. I've got to see how they practice this week. They'll either play hard or get replaced. Look out on the field this weekend with your binoculars and you'll see who is not out there." -- Texas Tech coach Mike Leach after last week's 12-3 loss to TCU

Injury update: Kansas quarterback Kerry Meier hurt his throwing arm in the fourth quarter of last Thursday night's game against Toledo, but is expected to play this week. ... Texas A&M running backs Courtney Lewis and Brandon Leone did not make the trip to San Antonio for last week's game against Army, and both are uncertain for Louisiana Tech. A&M offensive tackle Yemi Babalola has missed two consecutive games with an ankle injury, but is considered probable for this week. … Texas Tech cornerback Chris Parker is questionable with an ankle injury and guard Louis Vasquez is questionable with a sore leg. … Missouri's Evander Hood is out at least four weeks with a broken bone in his foot. Redshirt freshman Jaron Baston will take over his spot at the third defensive tackle. … Nebraska center Kurt Mann remains out with a virus and will miss this weekend's game against Troy. … Texas linebacker Drew Kelson and safety Marcus Griffin are questionable with ankle injuries.

Worth noting: Kansas State's defense has not allowed a touchdown in two games. The only score surrendered during that stretch was a touchdown return of a blocked punt by Marshall. …Colorado running back Hugh Charles recorded the fourth 100-yard game of his career with 109 against Arizona State. … Baylor quarterback Shawn Bell completed 31 passes against Washington State to tie his school record for completions in a non-overtime game. Bell has passed for at least 200 yards in five consecutive games, which is the most since Don Trull set a school record by doing it in seven in a row in 1964. … The combination of Bret Meyer and Todd Blythe is now the most prolific passing duo in Iowa State history. Meyer threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Blythe against Iowa, marking the 18th time they have hooked up for a touchdown pass. … Meyer is now Iowa State's all-time passing leader with 5,391 yards. … With a victory over Ohio this weekend Missouri would start 4-0 for the first time since 2003 when it finished 8-5. … Oklahoma State punter Matt Fodge nailed a 70-yard kick against Florida Atlantic, which was his second 70-plus-yard effort this season. He hit a career-long 72-yarder in the season-opener. … In last week's 12-3 loss to TCU, Texas Tech failed to score a touchdown for the first time since 2000 when the Red Raiders fell to Nebraska 56-3. … Texas A&M is 15-1 under coach Dennis Franchione in games in which it has fewer turnovers than its opponents. … Aggie running back Jorvorskie Lane has scored seven touchdowns in the last two weeks.

Looking back: Missouri, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M all remained undefeated on the season. Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa State and Texas Tech endured their first losses. Texas bounced back from a loss to Ohio State to blast Rice.

Freshman who impressed: Missouri true freshman defensive back Del Howard grabbed his second interception of the season last week.

More Week 4 Conference Previews: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

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