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November 22, 2007

Get ready for the Big 12 playoffs

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

OLIN BUCHANAN'S BIG 12 PICKS
This week's games
Friday's games
Colorado 31, Nebraska 24
Texas 27, Texas A&M 21
Saturday's games
Missouri 38, Kansas 31
Fresno State 34, Kansas State 31
Oklahoma 23, Oklahoma State 20

Overview: Those who have begged and pleaded for a playoff can breathe a sigh of relief. It's finally here, disguised as the final two weeks of the Big 12 regular-season schedule. Saturday night, No. 2 Kansas and No. 3 Missouri clash at a neutral site, no less to decide the Big 12 North title. The winner advances to next week's conference championship game and possibly to the BCS championship game. The BCS title game was a possibility for Oklahoma, too, until the Sooners were upset at Texas Tech last week. Now, the Sooners need a victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday or a Texas loss to Texas A&M on Friday to clinch the Big 12 South race. The Sooners will be without TB DeMarco Murray and may not have starting QB Sam Bradford or DE Auston English because of injuries. Though the Sooners defeated Texas in October, an OU loss and a Longhorns victory would vault the 'Horns into the championship game. That would be a role reversal from a season ago. Texas lost its final two conference games last season, which allowed Oklahoma to win the South and eventually the Big 12 crown.

Best matchup: Kansas vs. Missouri. Any time two teams ranked in the top five square off, it's a big game. When they're traditional rivals, that adds fuel to the fire. When they're rivals hoping to win their first conference championships since the '60s and keep alive national-championship aspirations, that fire becomes an inferno. What more can be asked of Kansas-Missouri this season? They boast emerging stars at quarterback in Missouri's Chase Daniel and Kansas' Todd Reesing, and have offenses ranked among the nation's top 10. Reesing has thrown 13 touchdown passes in the past three games. Daniel has thrown 12 in the same span. Statistically, Kansas has a far superior defense - led by outstanding CB Aqib Talib. However, Missouri has faced better competition. The winner advances to the Big 12 championship game. The loser may be headed to the Cotton Bowl or Holiday Bowl.

The pressure is on: Kansas State. The Wildcats need a victory at Fresno State to become bowl-eligible. They're 1-3 on the road this season, and have lost three in a row as visitors and four of the past five overall. Second-year coach Ron Prince is 12-12 at K-State, and consecutive upset victories over Texas are keeping him from harsher scrutiny. Other than those wins over Texas, Kansas State has yet to defeat a team that finished the regular season with a winning record. Fresno State is 6-4 and has scored at least 27 points in five of its past six games. Meanwhile, K-State allows an average of 29.5 points per game.

Who's hot: Oklahoma State TB Dantrell Savage has extended his streak of consecutive 100-yard games to eight, which is the nation's longest such streak. Kansas State WR Jordy Nelson has caught at least eight passes in five consecutive games, and has seven touchdowns and 714 receiving yards in that span. Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin has posted three 100-yard receiving games in a row and has caught five touchdown passes in those games. Oklahoma LB Curtis Lofton had 11 tackles in last week's loss to Texas Tech. That was his eighth game with double-digit tackles, a single-season school record.

Who's not: Kansas State's defense has allowed 153 points in the past three games. The Wildcats have given up 12 touchdown passes and an average of 495.6 yards in that stretch, while managing just one interception. Kansas State now ranks 93rd in the nation in pass defense. Texas A&M's running game has produced just 335 yards in the past three games, an average of 111.6. That is a meager figure for a running team. No Aggies running back has managed more than 50 yards in a game in that span.

Keep your eye on: Texas A&M TE Martellus Bennett. He has caught three touchdown passes in the past two games. Texas' soft pass defense, which allows an average of 267.6 yards per game, was burned by the tight end in earlier games against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The Oklahoma quarterback situation also bears watching. Bradford was knocked out of the game early in last week's loss to Texas Tech with a concussion, and his playing status remains uncertain. If he cannot play, the Sooners must rely on seldom-used junior Joey Halzle, who has thrown just 49 passes this season. Halzle played well in the second half of the loss to Tech.

Numbers game: Baylor QB Blake Szymanski established a single-season school record by accounting for 23 touchdowns (22 passing, one rushing). Iowa State QB Bret Meyer ended his career ranked third all-time in the Big 12 in total offense (10,422 yards) and passing yards (9,499). Kansas QB Todd Reesing has established a single-season school record for completions with 228. He has also thrown 205 consecutive passes without an interception. Kansas State QB Josh Freeman, who has thrown for 3,097 yards, is the only quarterback in school history to pass for more than 3,000 yards in a season. Wildcats TB James Johnson recorded a career-high 172 yards rushing last week against Missouri. Missouri has 10 wins (on the field) for the first time in school history. The Tigers were 10-0 in 1960, but were award a victory by forfeit. Oklahoma has equaled a school record with five defensive touchdowns this season three by interception and two via fumble returns. Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson has set a school record with 3,122 total yards this season. Texas is the only Division I-A team to post at least nine victories in each of the past 10 seasons. And if the Longhorns defeat Texas A&M on Friday, it will mark their seventh consecutive season with at least 10 victories. Texas Tech's Graham Harrell is the second Red Raiders quarterback to pass for 5,000 yards in a season (B.J. Symons was the first). Harrell has 5,298 yards. Only six quarterbacks in NCAA history have passed for 5,000 yards in a season.

BIG 12 STANDINGS
NORTH DIVISION
TeamConf.All
Kansas7-011-0
Missouri6-110-1
Colorado3-45-6
Kansas State3-55-6
Nebraska2-55-6
Iowa State2-63-9
SOUTH DIVISION
TeamConf.All
Oklahoma5-29-2
Texas5-29-2
Oklahoma State4-36-5
Texas Tech4-48-4
Texas A&M3-46-5
Baylor0-83-9
Freshman to watch: Oklahoma State'sDez Bryant is the Cowboys' leading wide receiver now that Adarius Bowman is hurt, and Bryant likely will need to be ultra-productive if the Cowboys are to upset Oklahoma. The Sooners, who rank 83rd nationally in pass defense, have been especially vulnerable of late. They have allowed a total of 700 passing yards in the past two games. Missouri's Maclin has scored at least one touchdown in each of the Tigers' past eight games. Last week's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Kansas State marked the fourth different way in which he has scored this season. He also has had touchdowns via receptions, rushes and a punt return. Colorado QB Cody Hawkins has thrown 10 touchdown passes and six interceptions in the Buffaloes' five wins. But he has thrown seven touchdowns and nine interceptions in their six losses. He'll need a solid outing for Colorado to defeat Nebraska and clinch bowl eligibility.

Injury update: Colorado CB Terrence Wheatley (foot) is doubtful. Kansas State DT Zach Kendall (undisclosed) and C Jordan Bedore (hand) are questionable. Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford (concussion) and DEs Alan Davis (concussion) and Auston English (leg) are questionable. TB DeMarco Murray (kneecap) is out. WR Adron Tennell (torn ACL) will miss the rest of the season. Texas LBs Robert Killebrew (arm) and Jared Norton (shoulder) and DE Eddie Jones (shoulder) are questionable.

They said it:
"Ohio State-Michigan, I don't even know why they're rivals. There's a reason why we're rivals."
Kansas' Talib on the Jayhawks' grudge match with Missouri

"It's the biggest Kansas-Missouri game ever. But even if we were both down, folks around here made it clear to me from Day One that this is the game we need to win."
Kansas coach Mark Mangino

"We haven't done it in November enough around here. You've got to do it. Can you finish? We're going to see where we're at."
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel

"We've played both Kansas and Missouri, and there were times we were playing as well as we could against Missouri and we still couldn't stop them or move it against them."
Kansas State coach Ron Prince

Bowl implications: Kansas and Missouri are still in the national championship picture, while Oklahoma and Texas remain in contention to play in a BCS bowl. The Colorado-Nebraska winner attains bowl eligibility, and Kansas State needs a victory over Fresno State to clinch a postseason appearance.

Etc.: Missouri Governor Matt Blunt and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius have made the obligatory wager on this week's big game. The losing governor must wear the opposing team's colors. Popular, but unlicensed, T-shirts that hearken to the Civil War are being sold this week in advance of the Kansas-Missouri game. The Missouri T-shirt shows an image of Lawrence, Kan., being burned and pillaged by Confederate insurgents in 1863 and includes the caption, "Scoreboard." Kansas vendors responded with a shirt featuring famous abolitionist John Brown and the line, "Kansas: Keeping America safe from Missouri since 1854." Oklahoma freshman QB Keith Nichol is getting more snaps in practice because of the uncertainty involving Bradford. Nebraska coach Bill Callahan and Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione are expected to be fired after the completion of the season. It's unknown whether either will coach in a bowl if their teams are involved in one. Baylor fired coach Guy Morriss and already has talked with former Bears All-American linebacker Mike Singletary to gauge his interest in the job. Singletary is currently the assistant head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

MORE CONFERENCE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big East | 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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