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September 18, 2008

Big 12: Colorado expects to face tough test

MORE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

Welcome to the "Big 12-Big East Showdown." Usually this stuff is reserved for gimmicky, made-for-television basketball series. But coincidence and TV exposure have brought the Big 12 and Big East together for a whole bunch of football.

It started last Friday with Kansas losing a 20-3 lead in the humidity of Tampa and losing a heartbreaker, 37-34, at South Florida - which right now looks like the class of the Big East. And this week will help shed some light on the depth of the Big 12.

Louisville defeated Kansas State 38-29 on Wednesday night.

Thursday night's game between West Virginia (1-1) and Colorado (2-0) could be telling. The Mountaineers were considered a Big East favorite … before getting hammered by East Carolina 24-3 two weeks ago. Colorado is probably a year away. The Buffs are rebuilding their offense and have a below-average running game and an average passing attack.

But here's where things get interesting. Colorado has the nation's 11th-best run defense (in part because teams are throwing like crazy against the Buffs). West Virginia's bread-and-butter is its ground attack with quarterback Pat White, who is averaging 5.5 yards per carry, and tailback Noel Devine, who is averaging 6.7 yards per carry.

"Defensively, what worries me is even though they have such an exciting offense, defensively they are a lot like the bunch we played in East Carolina," West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said. "They have three seniors up front with a senior linebacker with two junior linebackers. They have three seniors in the secondary with one All-American candidate, No. 29, (cornerback) Cha'pelle Brown. They have a veteran defense that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher since 2004. I didn't know that, and that gets me excited and I hope it gets our guys excited."

Friday night, Baylor gets a shot at Connecticut, which shared the Big East title with West Virginia last season. These are two of the nation's best rushing teams. UConn has Donald Brown, the country's No. 2 rusher, averaging 188.7 yards per game on the ground. Baylor has freshman quarterback Robert Griffin, who broke the Bears' single-game rushing record last week by posting 217 yards on the ground in a 45-17 rout of Washington State.

"Honestly, I love being at home, but there is something about going on the road and having everyone wanting you not to do well and then having the opportunity to do well in those environments," Baylor first-year coach Art Briles said of the Bears' first road game. "It's very inspiring and challenging. I like it, and our team will like it. We are anxious and ready to get on the road and face the world."

  • Rice's pass offense vs. Texas' pass defense. Longhorns defensive coordinator Will Muschamp gets another good test for his young secondary in Rice QB Chase Clement throwing to WR Jarett Dillard and TE James Casey. Clement and Dillard need two more TD passes to become the most prolific quarterback-wide receiver duo in NCAA history. Casey leads the nation in receptions per game (9.67 rpg).

    Louisville 38, Kansas State 29
    West Virginia at Colorado, 8:30 p.m.
    Baylor at Connecticut, 8 p.m.
    Buffalo at Missouri, 12:30 p.m.
    Miami at Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m.
    Rice at Texas, 7 p.m.
    Sam Houston State at Kansas, 7 p.m.
    Massachusetts at Texas Tech, 7 p.m.
    Iowa State at UNLV, 9 p.m.

  • Texas A&M's quarterback. Aggies coach Mike Sherman may have to lean on backup QB Jerrod Johnson this week with starter Stephen McGee still fighting back from a right (throwing) shoulder injury. Johnson led the Aggies to a victory at New Mexico, a win that looks better after New Mexico took down Arizona last week. Under new defensive coordinator Bill Young, the 'Canes rank 18th nationally in total defense. A&M is 110th in total offense.

  • Nebraska QB Joe Ganz became the third player in school history to score a touchdown three ways (by run, pass and reception) in leading the Huskers to a 38-7 victory over New Mexico State. …Oklahoma State ran for 450 yards in a 57-13 rout of Missouri State. Keith Toston (148 yards), Beau Johnson (138) and Kendall Hunter (132) finished with more than 100 yards. …Oklahoma has scored on all 18 of its trips inside the red zone to lead the nation. In a 55-14 victory at Washington, OU reached the 500-yard mark in total offense for the second consecutive game; OU had 591 yards after rolling up 592 against Cincinnati. The Sooners eclipsed the 50-point mark for the eighth time with QB Sam Bradford under center, a span of 17 games. … Baylor QB Robert Griffin is completing 62 percent of his passes for 548 yards and four touchdowns without an interception in three games.

  • Five Big 12 teams are ranked 91st or worse nationally in pass defense. Colorado is No. 91 (245 ypg), Texas No. 98 (261 ypg), Nebraska is No. 103 (269.7 ypg), Texas Tech is No. 105 (272.7 ypg) and Missouri is No. 109 (293.7 ypg). … Kansas is sixth nationally in pass offense (347 ypg) but 102nd in rushing offense. The Jayhawks are last in kickoff returns. In seven returns this season, Marcus Herford is averaging 9.3 yards. Kansas was seventh nationally in kick returns last season, led by Herford, who averaged 28.7 yards per return and was named the Big 12's special teams player of the year. … Iowa State is 115th nationally in net punting (26.0 ypp). … Texas A&M is 114th in rush defense, giving up 235.5 yards per game on the ground.

  • "The quarterback and receivers are holding us back. I'm not going to tolerate it. If we have to, we'll make changes." – Texas Tech coach Mike Leach after a 43-7 victory over SMU, upset about some dropped passes and missed opportunities involving QB Graham Harrell and All-America WR Michael Crabtree.

    "West Virginia is one of the top offensive teams in the country, so you would expect a lot more points than that." – Colorado coach Dan Hawkins when asked if he was surprised by East Carolina's 24-3 victory over West Virginia.

    "The offense as a whole: the passing game is working well and clicking, the run game is obviously not where we want it to be at this point in time. We are behind in that area." – Kansas coach Mark Mangino, whose team averaged 2.9 yards per carry in a loss to USF

  • ETC.
  • Missouri matched a school record in scoring 69 points in a rout of Nevada. Chase Daniel was 23 of 28 for 405 yards and four TDs as the Tigers rolled up 651 yards. Daniel became the leading career passer in school history, and WR Jeremy Maclin had six catches for 172 yards and three scores. … With Bob Stoops' 100th career win coming at Washington last weekend, OU became the only school in the nation with four coaches to reach 100 victories. Stoops joined Bennie Owen, Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer. … Baylor ranks third nationally with 10 sacks. … Texas A&M's McGee, who is questionable for Saturday's home game against Miami, has started 29 consecutive games. … Oklahoma State already has 10 scoring drives of two minutes or less. … Texas had an unexpected break in its schedule after Hurricane Ike postponed last week's matchup against Arkansas. The Longhorns and Razorbacks will play Sept. 27. … In a 43-7 victory over SMU, Texas Tech came up with five interceptions, including four in SMU's first six possessions of the game. Tech's Daniel Charbonnet set a school record with three interceptions to earn Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors. …The Big 12 has five of the nation's top 10 scoring offenses, more than any other league: 1. Missouri (57.67), 3. Kansas State (57.0), 5. Oklahoma (54.67), 6. Oklahoma State (50.67), 10. Texas (47.0). … The conference also leads the country with four teams listed among the top 10 in total offense: 1. Missouri (597.33), 2. Texas Tech (584.33), 5. Oklahoma (556.67), 6. Oklahoma State (546.0).

    MORE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

    Chip Brown is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at cbrown@rivals.com.

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