Three out of the six games this week should intrigue any football fan, especially one of the Big 12. The other three…not so much. That being the case, I'll get things kick started amongst the Piss and Black clad Zou, where 2 ranked teams face off…possibly for one of the last times? (Note: I have no idea how true this is, but take it for what you will...)
Texas Tech @ Missouri (-3.5)
Now this is a tough game to pick. Before last week, I would have had no problem picking Missouri. However, though I think no differently of Missouri than I did before the OU game, I am not so sure on this one for 3 reasons: 1) Gary Pinkel – we have seen these slides before; 2) MU Defense: I expected OU to score about like they did, but MU got absolutely NO pass rush – if that happens against Graham Harrell - watch out; & 3) Tech Defense: Maybe it said more about A&M than Tech, but holding them to 7 points is mildly impressive either way.
How MU wins: 1) Correct the aforementioned pass rush. If Harrell has as much time as Bradford did, Tech could easily put up a fiddy spot. Think about these numbers…MU is allowing 265 passing yards a game, good for 100th nationally, along with almost 11 yards per completion. Tech, on the other hand is passing for a touch over 500 yards a game. A little something extra to consider…Illinois, averaging 150 yards passing (113th) and who could only put up 6 points on the same Iowa team that couldn't handle the Cyclones scored 34 on Missouri on 316 yards passing. I'm guessing Graham Harrell soiled himself a bit upon hearing about this. 2) Win all the other battles. You here this more in basketball, but sometimes you need to just "concede" the fact that someone is going to get theirs. Tech is going to pass and score on Missouri. Missouri needs to win all the other battles (i.e. Take away the tech running game, establish a running game of their own, make some plays on special teams, convert third downs, turnover battle, etc...). Unless Tech has magically improved their defense by promoting a new DC, they still only do one thing well, which is pass, and usually that's not enough to beat a good team on the road. Too bad they aren't playing in Lubbock.
How Tech wins: 1) When they don't have the ball they should play defense. If they really have improved their defense and can at least stop the running game, this team has a chance to be scary. As previously mentioned, Tech is always going to score, but in order to win in football, you have to score more than the team you are playing, and Missouri can score too. Chase Daniel and the MU offense is good, but they aren't good enough to score with Tech if they can't run to compliment the pass. 2) Win turnover battle. Harrell has not had much trouble throwing to only his team this year (only 3 INTs on 347 attempts). This must continue as I'm definitely not sold on the Tech defense.
My instinct here is to take Tech, but I also have a feeling this is a different Missouri team from the ones we have seen in the past, so maybe they won't crumble and ultimately lose to an ISU team that can't beat anybody. Then again, their defense is worthless, but so is Tech's. If their defensive units are equally bad and Tech has the superior offense, you would think I would go that way. Instead, I'm taking Missouri in a shoot-out and this way if they win, I'm right and if they lose, I can take salvation in knowing they are 1-2 and the collapse has officially begun. Missouri 48 Tech 42
Kansas St. @ Oklahoma St. (-3)
Another very tough game to pick, especially with the line indicating that these teams are equal on a neutral field. The KSU resume includes destroying UT and CU with tough losses @ Auburn and to KU. The OSU resume includes a win over Tech, and humiliating losses to Troy and Georgia, along with a loss to A&M. Oh, and they beat, Nebraska. What I find hard to grasp here is that last week OSU was an underdog in Big Red Country, but after beating the Corn (albeit handily), they are now favored against a ranked opponent. Vegas usually knows best though.
How KSU wins: 1) Stop the run. Up until the KU game, the Purple were so confident in their defense (run specifically) they again assumed the self-proclaimed Lynch Mob nickname. After doing so, they have allowed 437 (R-170) and 411 (R-188) yards to KU and CU, respectively. Dantrell Savage is on tear recently, averaging 141 ypg. over the last 4 games. However, the opponents were Tech, Sam Houston, A&M, and Nebraska – not exactly a wrecking crew. Keeping him under 100 should be good enough for the W. 2) The Power of One. When Freeman turns the ball over, the Power Towels lose. When he throws it to the Purple team, they usually win. Seems simple enough doesn't it?
How OSU wins: 1) Kick at your own risk. OSU is 115th nationally in punt defense, allowing 19.25 yards per return. On punts - are you kidding me!? Fortunately, their punter hits his kicks about 43 yards per, but that's an average net of just over 20 yards. Why even bother? 2) Utilize Adarius Bowman. The Towels definitely can't single cover him (who can?) so going to him early either generates points directly or opens up the aforementioned running game. 3) Play their defensive coordinator instead of the players - what a nut!
This game may be even tougher to pick than the first, so I am going to take KSU with the same strategy in mind – if they win, I'm right and if they lose, I get to revel in the knowledge that they have 2 conference losses. Plus, Mike Gundy is on the other sideline – I have a hunch he forgot about this game with the Longhorns coming to town next week. KSU 37 OSU 34
Texas A&M @ Nebraska (-2)
Can you believe Nebraska is favored after last week?! And against a 5-2 team that has those 5 wins entirely because they can run the ball? That makes about as much sense as Fred Thompson becoming our president…which could happen. And that is why this game is tough to pick as well. These two coaches/teams have sunk so low that I'm starting to wonder, "How bad was Terry Allen, really?" OK, it hasn't quite reached that point, but given where these programs have been and where their fan bases expect them to permanently reside, it might as well have.
How A&M wins: 1) This is going to sound crazy, but I would suggest running the ball. If you aren't interested in hearing the stats again, feel free to skip the next few lines. Nebraska has allowed 209 rushing ypg. and 18 rushing TDs – holy schnikies! Included in there is the 77 yards and 0Tds to Nevada. Take out that game and in their last 6 they are allowing 231 yards and 3TD per game on the ground – double schnikies! Oh, and A&M runs for 246 yards a game on 5.3/carry. 2) Play-action pass. If by chance the Blackshirts are loading up to take away the run, then and only then, go over the top after a play-action fake. Otherwise, forget the forward pass was ever invented, which should not be a problem for Stephen McGee.
How NU wins: 1) Tackling. As stated in last week's picks, I'm not sure this is possible. Watching Nebraska play defense has eerily resembled the sight of someone practicing foosball – the little defenders are still out there, they just don't move, react or purposely stop the ball. (Side note here: I realize there are 10 others not contributing to this defense, but can we all finally agree that Bo Ruud is not an All-American caliber linebacker? I thought so, thanks. 2) Score early. As I also said last week, if Nebraska doesn't score early, the clamoring 'Brasky faithful might bring out the boo birds. Instead, they all just left the stadium. Because of that and A&M's utter dependence on the run, an early lead would prove pretty valuable in this one.
I'm not yet convinced that the loser of this game will be fired…on the spot that is. Win or lose, each of these coaches are gone upon the conclusion of this season. Amazingly, I think Nebraska has the better team so I want to pick them. However, I also now believe Callahan will try and get fired so that he can get bought out for just over $3 million. TAMU 33 NU 24
As for these next two, I think we all know what is about to happen, so I'll keep it short and sweet.
Texas (-24.5) @ Baylor
Why Mack and Greg only utilize their superior athletes against the absolute worst competition, I don't know. However, that won't be a problem this week when they venture down to Waco. Baylor goes into this game without their offensive line coach and quarterback. It doesn't matter either way and the Bears should expect a long day. UT 55 Baylor 13
Oklahoma (-29.5) @ Iowa State
Until today, I had not heard this statistic, but since 1960, OU is 37-1-1 against ISU, losing 33-31 in 1990. Let's go ahead and chalk another one up on the big board. And since Bob Stoops has no problem running up the score, I'm guessing they cover that spread as well. OU 63 ISU 14
Kansas (-4) @ Colorado
If you still haven't had enough Jayhawk football after reading the expert analysis from this blog, there's a good article by Schlabach even though he is one of the few holding Kansas out of his Power 16 (bottom right). And another , from the Fort Worth Star Telegram.