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November 8, 2007

Big 12 North turning in solid year


Buchanan's Big 12 picks
This week's games:
Oklahoma 56, Baylor 10
Colorado 27, Iowa State 24
Kansas 28, Oklahoma State 21
Kansas State 45, Nebraska 20
Missouri 41, Texas A&M 20
Texas 31, Texas Tech 24

Overview: All the jokes, jeers and disrespect are about to end. The North is on the verge of rising again. The Big 12 North, that is. The six teams in the conference's cooler climate have taken a load of heat in recent seasons when they were dominated by their cousins in Oklahoma and Texas. The South has held the advantage in interdivisional games every year since 2002, and in 2004 won 15 of 18 games against the North. This season, the interdivisional record is 8-8, with six of the North's losses endured by lowly Iowa State and Nebraska. The two remaining interdivisional games are this weekend, and the North teams are favored in the two remaining games (Missouri plays host to Texas A&M and Kansas travels to Oklahoma State). If the Tigers and Jayhawks win as expected, the North no longer can be dismissed as the inferior division. Well, at least not until the championship game. The North still has to end a streak of three consecutive Big 12 champions coming out of the South.

Best matchup: Oklahoma State's run offense vs. Kansas' run defense. Behind senior TB Dantrell Savage, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in six consecutive games, Oklahoma State averages 246.3 rushing yards per game to rank seventh in the nation. The Cowboys have rushed for at least 200 yards in eight consecutive games and have exceeded 300 yards rushing three times all victories. They will test a KU unit that's sixth in the country against the run (77.7 ypg). The Jayhawks have held each of their past five opponents to fewer than 80 rushing yards, and Toledo's DeJuane Collins is the only player to hit the 100-yard mark against them.

The pressure is on: Texas' defense. In Duane Akina's first year as Texas' defensive coordinator, the Longhorns have been inconsistent holding five opponents to two touchdowns or less, but giving up more than 30 points on three occasions. The Horns have been particularly vulnerable against the pass, ranking 88th in the nation in pass defense. That's a troubling stat with Texas Tech, which leads the nation in passing offense, coming into Austin. Akina needs to devise a scheme to at least slow the Red Raiders (Missouri and Colorado did) and prove he's the right guy for the job.

Who's hot: Kansas QB Todd Reesing set a school record with six touchdown passes in last week's 76-39 annihilation of Nebraska. He has completed at least 63.6 percent of his passing attempts in each of the past three games. Texas TB Jamaal Charles has rushed for 470 yards and six touchdowns in the past two games. Of that, 341 yards and five touchdowns have come in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham equaled a school record last week with four touchdown catches in the Sooners' 42-14 victory over Texas A&M. Missouri's senior class has posted 28 victories in four years, which already makes it the fifth-most successful class in school history. If they were to win the rest of their games, including the Big 12 championship game and a bowl, it would finish with 33 victories and would tie for the most wins in a four-year span in school history. Kansas has a plus-16 turnover margin.

Who's not: Not only is Nebraska's defense not hot, they're cold. Bitterly cold like frost-bite cold. The Huskers allowed the most points in their 117-year history in last week's 76-39 loss to Kansas and have allowed 226 points in the past five games. Texas has allowed 1,029 passing yards in its past three games (343.0 ypg). Baylor has lost six in a row, and has surrendered 255 points in those six games (42.5 ppg). Oklahoma State has allowed 686 passing yards and four touchdown passes in the past two games.

Keep your eye on: Missouri QB Chase Daniel has thrown for more than 200 yards in every game this season and is coming off a 421-yard, five-touchdown performance against Colorado. This week, he goes against Texas A&M, which ranks 97th in pass defense. The Aggies allowed five touchdown passes in last week's loss to Oklahoma. And also watch Kansas State WR Jordy Nelson, who has 34 catches for 495 yards and five touchdowns in his past three games and figures to keep that hot streak going against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have allowed 100-yard receiving games to individuals in four of its past five games. Texas CB Deon Beasley has emerged as one of the Longhorns' best defensive players in recent weeks. He has posted several key tackles and pass breakups. The Longhorns will need him at his best against Texas Tech's high-scoring passing attack.

Numbers game: Through 10 games, 41 freshmen (25 redshirt, 16 true) have made a start for Colorado, which is just one off the school record set in 1998. Colorado is 3-0 against teams from the Big 12 South and 0-3 against the North. Six Kansas players have at least 14 receptions and none has more than 38. Missouri has won 14 of its past 15 home games. Baylor FS Jordan Lake had 15 tackles last week against Texas Tech, his third consecutive game with double-digit stops. Nebraska WR Maurice Purify posted a career-high 158 receiving yards last week. TB Marlon Lucky has set a Nebraska single-season record with 61 receptions this season. Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson set a school record with 430 passing yards last week against Texas. Texas A&M TE Martellus Bennett has set a school record with at least one catch in 27 consecutive games. Kansas ranks second nationally in scoring offense and in scoring defense. Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell has become the fifth player in NCAA history to reach 4,000 passing yards in consecutive seasons.

Kansas State3-35-4
Iowa State1-52-8
Oklahoma State3-25-4
Texas A&M3-36-4
Texas Tech3-37-3
Freshmen to watch: Kansas true freshman WR Dezmon Briscoe has caught 11 passes in the past two games. That includes three touchdown receptions in last week's victory over Nebraska. He's emerging as a more frequent target for Reesing.

Bowl implications: Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech and Texas A&M are bowl-eligible. Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma need victories to maintain hopes of playing in the BCS national-championship game. Texas still has aspirations of reaching a BCS bowl, but cannot afford another loss. Colorado, Kansas State and Oklahoma State each need another win to become bowl eligible.

Injury update: Baylor WRs Eddy Newton (dislocated shoulder) and Mikail Baker (collarbone) are questionable. Oklahoma DT Steven Coleman (abdominal) and FB Dane Zaslaw (knee) are questionable, and DE Auston English (leg) is out. Oklahoma State LB Jeremy Nethon (sprained ankle) is questionable. Texas A&M G Chris Yoder (undisclosed) is questionable. Texas C Dallas Griffin (knee) will miss the rest of the season. SS Drew Kelson (knee), DE Eddie Jones (shoulder) and LB Sergio Kindle (shoulder) are questionable. Texas Tech WR Lyle Leong (arm) is questionable. Colorado CB Terrence Wheatley (sprained foot) and is questionable. Iowa State TB Jason Scales (undisclosed) and CBs Zac Sandvis (undisclosed) and Drenard Williams (undisclosed) are questionable. Kansas State DE Clayton Cox (undisclosed), LB Ross Diehl (undisclosed), CB Byron Garvin and C Jordan Bedore (undisclosed) are questionable. DT Steven Cline (knee) is out the remainder of the season. Nebraska LB Bo Ruud (knee) is questionable.

They said it
"The term 'resignation' is not in our vocabulary."
Embattled Nebraska coach Bill Callahan vowing he will not quit.

"For people to bring up coaching changes during the season is just ridiculous. I'm really disappointed at where the state of college football is right now."
Texas A&M DE Chris Harrington

"He doesn't care about that and neither do I."
Kansas coach Mark Mangino on Reesing not being named Big 12 offensive player of the week after throwing six touchdown passes against Nebraska

Etc.: Oklahoma State LB Chris Collins pleaded guilty earlier this week to aggravated sexual assault stemming from a 2004 incident with a 12-year-old girl. He is facing a sentence that could range from probation to life in prison. Texas coach Mack Brown called for more policing of fan behavior after claiming Oklahoma State fans pelted the Longhorns with bottles and other debris following Texas' win in Stillwater last week. How bad is Nebraska's defense? Kansas' Reesing threw six touchdowns against the Huskers last Saturday and wasn't named the Big 12 offensive player of the week. Texas OT Tony Hills has allowed just one sack in 10 games and has been in on more than 95 percent of the Longhorns' offensive plays. Missouri is seeking to post its ninth victory for the first time since 1969. The Tigers' freshman WR Jeremy Maclin has set a school record for single-season all-purpose yardage with 1,682 yards. Colorado QB Cody Hawkins failed to throw a touchdown pass in last week's loss to Missouri. It was the first time this season he did not throw one.


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

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