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October 18, 2007

Coaches on hot seat meet in Lincoln

MORE WEEK 8 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

Buchanan's Big 12 picks
Week 6 Games:
Texas 52, Baylor 13
Kansas 27, Colorado 20
Kansas State 34, Oklahoma State 28
Texas A&M 27, Nebraska 21
Oklahoma 54, Iowa State 14
Missouri 41, Texas Tech 38

Overview: The asylum for disturbed football coaches, also known as the Big 12 Conference, is getting dangerously close to turning on the "No Vacancy" sign. After consecutive blowout losses to Missouri and Oklahoma State, Nebraska's Bill Callahan has broken the hearts of seemingly all Huskers. It doesn't seem as if there are many who are in agreement with his recent self-appraisal: "I know in my heart of hearts I'm doing an excellent job." Then, there's Texas A&M's Dennis Franchione, who might have broken terms of his contract when he broke news on "VIP Connection" his e-mail newsletter that provided "inside information" for a mere $1,200. That newsletter and a 5-2 record that isn't nearly as good as it looks has Aggies wanting to break ties with him. Indeed, this weekend's A&M-Nebraska game is being called "The Buyout Bowl." Baylor offensive line coach Eric Schnupp could have avoided considerable aggravation had he sought out another kind of bowl. Schnupp was suspended earlier this week after being cited for urinating on the bar of a Waco drinking establishment.

Best matchup: Missouri QB Chase Daniel vs. Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell. Daniel and Harrell aren't technically facing each other, but think of it as a matchup of great pitchers. But this "pitchers' duel" could produce 80 points or more. Harrell leads the nation in passing and directs an offense that averages 50 points per game. Daniel is third in the nation in passing and the Tigers average 40 points and against better defenses. By the way, both defenses have allowed more than 40 points in games this season. Take the over.

The pressure is on: Texas A&M. The Aggies desperately need a victory at Nebraska to ensure bowl eligibility. But the Aggies (5-2) have lost both their road games this season (to Miami and Texas Tech) by a combined 69-24, so even a road trip to face the slumping Huskers cannot be taken for granted. Adding to the importance of the game is that A&M's other remaining opponents Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas are a combined 22-4. The Aggies were in a similar situation in 2005, lost 42-14 to Iowa State, dropped their final three games and failed to qualify for a bowl.

Who's hot: Texas Tech's Harrell is having a tremendous season, and has been torrid in conference play. In three Big 12 games, he's 102 of 147 for 1,496 yards with 12 touchdowns and one interception. In the past two games victories over Iowa State and Texas A&M Harrell has completed more than 80 percent of his attempts and threw for 425 yards in both games. He has seven touchdowns and an interception in that span. Missouri's Daniel has completed more than 70 percent of his attempts and thrown for more than 360 yards in his past two games.

Who's not: Anyone named Szymanski. Over the past three games, Baylor QB Blake Szymanski has thrown just one touchdown pass and six interceptions. Meanwhile, Texas A&M's Matt Szymanski has converted just 10 of 18 field-goal attempts this season and is only 3-for-8 in conference games. He has not converted a field goal from beyond 30 yards in his past three games. In last week's 35-7 loss to Texas Tech, he missed from 41 and 33 yards.

Keep your eye on: In Texas' past two games, QB Colt McCoy has completed 76.4 percent of his passes for 622 yards and six touchdowns. Now, he gets to face a Baylor defense that has allowed at least 200 passing yards in every game this season. And the Bears are just as vulnerable against the run. That's OK, too: McCoy is the Longhorns' third-leading rusher.

Numbers game: Last week, Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree failed to catch a touchdown pass for the first time this season. Colorado has had 17 players catch a pass this season. That's two off the school record of 19, set in 1999 and matched in 2004. ... With 20 offensive touchdowns through seven games, the Buffaloes already have more than all of last season. Baylor RB Brandon Whitaker has a team-leading 31 receptions, which is a career-high. He had 30 catches in each of the past two seasons. Colorado has posted 38 plays that have covered 20 yards or more. That's three more than they managed all of last season. Iowa State QB Bret Meyer has been sacked just 10 times in seven games. Oklahoma LB Curtis Lofton posted a career-high 18 tackles and scored his second touchdown of the season last week. Kansas has scored at least 50 points in four games, which is the best in school history. The previous best was three 50-point games by the 1947 team. Kansas State leads the nation in punt returns with a 21.9-yard average. The Wildcats have returned three for touchdowns and have scored on a kickoff return. Only one of six games between Missouri and Texas Tech has been decided by less than two touchdowns. Missouri leads the nation in third-down efficiency, having converted 58.5 percent. Kansas has grabbed three interceptions in each of the past two games and at least two in each of the past four games.

Kansas State2-14-2
Iowa State0-31-6
Oklahoma State2-14-3
Texas Tech2-15-1
Texas A&M2-15-2
Freshman to watch: Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin is averaging 209.8 all-purpose yards to rank fourth in the nation. He's a threat on runs, receptions and returns. He could be a big problem for Texas Tech's defense, which allowed 610 yards and 49 points against Oklahoma State. Look for Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford to have a big game. He has thrown 20 touchdown passes and should add to that total against Iowa State, which has given up eight touchdown passes in the past two games.

Injury update: Colorado LB and special teams captain R.J. Brown (concussion) is out. Baylor WR Eddy Newton (dislocated shoulder) is doubtful. DE Antonio Johnson (concussion) and WR Mikail Baker (broken collarbone) are questionable. Kansas State LB Marcus Perry (undisclosed) and C Jordan Bedore (hand) are questionable. LB Antwon Moore (knee) is out for the rest of the season. Oklahoma State DE Marque Fountain (hamstring) and LB Chris Collins (turf toe) are questionable. Texas LB Roddrick Muckelroy (hamstring) is questionable, and DE Aaron Lewis (elbow) and FB Luke Tiemann (wrist) are out indefinitely. Texas Tech WR L.A. Reed (knee) is questionable.

They said it: "It will be a fast-paced game that will take forever."
Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell on Saturday's game against Missouri. Both teams rank among the nation's top five in pass offense

"It is unfortunate because you never want to see anyone lose their job, but like I said, it is 'Mr. Toad's Wild Ride,' and if you aren't into that, you probably shouldn't get into this profession because it is probably going to be like that."
Colorado coach Dan Hawkins on the firing of Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson

"There won't be any changes until after the end of the season and then maybe not at all. We'll see how it's going."
Nebraska interim athletic director Tom Osborne on the fate of Huskers coach Bill Callahan

Etc.: Colorado, which plays host to No. 15 and undefeated Kansas, has knocked off 10 ranked and undefeated opponents at Folsom Field since 1989. That includes a 27-24 victory over then-No. 3 Oklahoma three weeks ago. Iowa State WR Todd Blythe has 159 career receptions and needs five catches to pass Lane Danielson to become the Cyclones' career leader in receptions. Since making his college debut against Miami University in the fourth game of the season, Colorado freshman Ryan Miller, a former Rivals.com five-star prospect, has seen his role on the offensive line increase. He made his first start at right tackle last Saturday against Kansas State. Texas has posted shutouts in four of its past eight games against Baylor. Baylor's offensive line has not allowed in sack in the past two games, marking the first time since 1995 the Bears have avoided sacks in consecutive games. Oklahoma sophomore TB Chris Brown scored three touchdowns against Missouri last week to become the fourth Sooner to score multiple touchdowns in a game this season. Brown also leads Oklahoma with 19 rushing first downs. Kansas State, which won at Colorado last year, is seeking to post consecutive road victories for the first time since 2003 when it travels to Oklahoma State. Nebraska freshman RB Quentin Castille notched his first career 100-yard game with 102 yards against Oklahoma State last week. Texas A&M TE Martellus Bennett is one game away from equaling the school record of 26 consecutive games with at least one pass reception. With its victory over Texas A&M last week, Texas Tech is bowl eligible for the 15th consecutive season.

MORE WEEK 8 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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