Sunday, November 4, 2007

Big 12 Picks

Texas (-3) @ Oklahoma St.

First off, let me say that I’m rooting for OSU. In a perfect world, the play out here would mirror the KSU/UT game and the next week would follow suit as well when Kansas travels to Stillwater. And I’m actually thinking that it could play out that way. Stillwater is a tough place to win and Texas’ best win came…maybe last week against the Huskers? And needless to say, they only won that one out of sheer luck, stumbling upon the zone-read late in the game.

How UT wins: 1) Stop the run. OSU has been a completely different team with Dantrell Savage back in the line-up as he has registered over 100 yards in the 5 games since his return. He also went over 200 @ Nebraska, but I think that’s the equivalent of 100 against a normal opponent like Sam Houston St. or someone. Texas, meanwhile has been halfway decent at stopping the run, limiting opponents to roughly 94 per game. If they can do that on Saturday, they will be in terrific shape. 2) Run a real offense. I know it was Nebraska, but any team that can run for almost 300 yards in a quarter should be putting up more tan 33 points a game, especially since most of that came in the non-conference. In the era of the spread offense, Texas is instead choosing to play in a phone booth and always within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, yet not with an overpowering rush attack. I realize Limas Sweed was their best deep threat, but Cosby and Jones are not exactly white walk-ons either. Note to Greg Davis – Vince Young is not still on your team so you will need to scheme a few successful plays rather than just letting them happen.

How OSU wins: 1) Abuse the Texas linebackers. For some reason Mack Brown will not play his younger, better, more athletic linebacking corps more than a couple series’ a game. He instead opts for the slower, overrated, savvy veterans. Simply watch the KSU film for a clinic on how to exploit this deficiency. Double to d-line, which is their strength, and make the linebackers stop you – it won’t happen. If they don’t use Adarius Bowman like Jordy Nelson, Gundy should have to bend over and let Jenni Carlson strap-on. 2) Force Texas to beat you deep. They do NOT want to do this and will continuously attempts outs and screens as their downfield plays. Since the OSU run defense is nothing stellar, one would think they will also come out trying to zone-read the shit out of them a la the 4th quarter last week – which could work if they try something else as well. What Mack will fail to consider is that OSU watched that tape and planned accordingly, so Texas’ ability to adjust will be key.

This is a tough one to call. Part of me thinks OSU easily, but I have about as much faith in Mike Gundy as I do Gary Pinkel – now that’s fine company! However, Stillwater is a tough place to play and Texas needed remarkable second had comebacks to win there the last two times – I don’t think they have it in them this year. OSU 31 UT 27

Kansas St. (-19.5) @ Iowa St.

Obviously Kansas St. should win this game easily, so I won’t bore you with much of a breakdown. I’m not entirely sure they will win by 3 touchdowns though. Nobody except Baylor has ad much trouble running on the Purple and the Cyclones have a few serviceable backs. And though they haven’t done it any other week of the season, the ISU defense did look good against OU. The Power Towels are almost surely out of the running for the North, but are an interesting team and could be a factor (with MU coming to Manhattan) and could make their way into a decent bowl as their 4 remaining games (@ISU, @NU, MU, @ Fresno) are all winnable. However, they need to win this one to ensure bowl eligibility at the last 3 could also be dangerous. KSU 31 ISU 14

Texas Tech (-21) @ Baylor

Hard to believe Tech could be humiliated two weeks in a row and still be a 3 touchdown favorite on the road, in conference. But crazy as it may sound, I think they are the pick here. As I chronicled before and after the Kansas game, Baylor pretty much does nothing well. They were holding on to some nice passing statistics as a homeless man’s Tech for a while, but even those are diminishing as they continue to play competent opponents. Interestingly, Tech has done the same thing, but by being an extremely rich man’s Baylor, it is to a lesser degree. After throwing only 3 interceptions in the first 7 games, Graham Harrell has thrown 4 in each of the last 2 games (MU, CU). I’m thinking this one might resemble the first 7 moreso than the last 2. And though he has not produced quite as much the last two weeks either, I refuse to mention Tech and not include Michael Crabtree. Through 9 games, he has 100 catches, 18 of which have been for touchdowns covering roughly 1045 yards – wowzers! And to think, he was almost a Jayhawk. Personally, I choose to believe Quartaro and his unimaginative offense cost the Hawks a gem here, but I digress. Again, I don’t want to waste my time or yours with much analysis here as it has almost no bearing on the conference or interest outside of Lubbock. The only question here is whether Tech covers and I think they do. Tech 49 Baylor 20

Missouri (-4) @ Colorado

In Missouri’s lackluster 42-28 win over Iowa State last week, I think we may have seen the first signs of the Gary Pinkel collapse factor. I have been saying all year that I think this is a different Missouri team – and I still do – but Gary Pinkel is still roaming those sidelines and if Iowa State even resembled a football team, Missouri’s season could have gone up in flames last week. By the way, how insulting is it that even though Missouri has lost and has not beaten a currently ranked opponent, Sports Illustrated did a 3 page article on them last week, detailing among other things how Gary Pinkel has dropped his tough guy mentality. As he is quoted, all it took was a player dying to realize that he needed to lighten up a bit. The man’s a genius. Meanwhile, Kansas is ranked ahead of Missouri, is undefeated and has won 3 conference road games against teams heading to bowl games – but hey, they did get a page after the win in Manhattan. But again, I digress.

How MU wins: 1) Control the tempo. They need to do this on both sides of the ball. Obviously Colorado will want to run the ball all game, keeping Booger off the field and wearing down the Pig-less Missouri defense. This is exactly how Colorado ultimately beat OU and seeing as how Missouri doesn’t have a great run defense, it could be an issue tomorrow. C-Hawk is better than advertised I think, but if Missouri is able to limit their ground game, he won’t be able to do what Booger does. Interesting note here though – Missouri is giving up almost 280 passing ypg and now they don’t have their best defensive back (and probably player too). Still though, if I’m Missouri I make him beat me. 2) Score early. This ties in with the first point, but an early lead would force Colorado to go to the air, doing 2 things for Missouri; a) making Cody Hawkins beat them and b) controlling the tempo. Colorado was able to comeback from down 17 to OU, but I don’t see that happening again.

How CU wins: 1) Score more. Sounds simple enough, right? Colorado has a good defense, but Kansas left a lot of points on the field and I think Missouri’s offense is slightly better. However, Missouri has a ridiculously over-hyped defense. Trust me, I’m still impressed that they held Tech to 10 points, but they have done little else to convince me. Most notably, as recent as 6 days ago, they surrendered 28 to the hapless Cyclones. Combine that with losing their best defensive player and Colorado has a chance to move the chains this week. I’m not sure by how much, but I think they will need to hit at least 30 to win this one. 2) Turnovers. Colorado has struggled with turnovers all season. Cody Hawkins in particular has 14 interceptions. Though Missouri’s defense is not great, they were able to get to Harrell and force him into 4 picks – if the same happens with Hawkins, it could be a long day. On the other side, I’m not sure what to expect from their defense. Though solid, they have not forced many turnovers on the season and don’t typically get much of a pass rush. However, that all went up in smoke last week when they used these Tigers’ blueprint to fluster Harrell and subsequently steal 4 picks. If they can do the same to big Chase, they will be in phenomenal shape.

So what’s going to happen? I really don’t know. I think it’s partly my hatred for Missouri but I have a hunch that Colorado is going to give them all they can handle. Also, one can never be sure until it’s seen but I really think losing Pig is going to hurt Missouri sooner or later. I’m hoping for both. In the games I have seen, he was constantly around the ball and often times led the team in tackles. You don’t need to look any further than the Colts (and Bob Sanders) to know how much of a difference a run stopping safety makes. On top of that, I’m also under the impression he was one of their vocal leaders as well. This loss should not be underestimated either. I’m tempted to go with my recent philosophy of picking Missouri but being able to take solace in knowing that if I’m wrong, Missouri loses. But…that has yet to work and I have always been right so this time I’m taking Colorado for the outright upset. Colorado 31 Missouri 30

Texas A&M @ Oklahoma (-20.5)

As Kansas nears closer to possibly winning the Big 12 north I become more and more interested in evaluating Oklahoma. Before I go on, let me preface this by saying that even if you had told me after September that Kansas would go through the Big 12 unscathed but had to play OU in the Big 12 Championship, I would not have liked to odds for the Jayhawks. I was more impressed with OU during the non-conference than any other team in the country. However, since then they have done little else to merit this distinction. They do have two “good” wins over Missouri and Texas, but looked less than spectacular in both and looked awful in the win at Iowa State and the loss in Boulder. Long story short, this team has its flaws and someone (not sure who) will expose them before season’s end.

How TAMU wins: 1) Run, run, run, run…pass. Obviously OU will not let A&M run the way Nebraska did (but FIU wouldn’t either), but if Colorado can run on Boomer, so can A&M. Also of note here, A&M is undefeated in every game Jorvorskie has carried it 20 times – why their coaches don’t know this, I haven’t a clue. Once this is established, take advantage of the extremely suspect OU corners and also LB Ryan Reynolds who is poor in pass protection. Note to Fran: Find a way to get Reynolds matched up with Martellus Bennett and exploit this. I know, I know, that makes sense and that’s totally not what you’re about but you should give it a try. If you don’t win out, you’re getting fired anyways, so why not roll the dice a little and use all eleven players on the field. 2) Play cover 2. Sam Bradford is remarkably poised and accurate, probably because he gets hit about as often as Tom Brady. However, if you have to take your chances with him beating you or the OU running game beating you, I’d lean towards Bradford. The easiest way to do that is to play a cover 2 and play it well. I don’t even know why I’m bothering though as I’m sue OU has been shitting their pants all week after watching B-Mac run over A&M last week.

How OU wins: 1) Exploit the aforementioned run defense. McAnderson gained an easy 183 yards last week and had another 36 yard touchdown called back on a suspect holding penalty. Sharp also had some running room on the outside. OU should be just fine here. And if not they shouldn’t have a ton of trouble with the A&M secondary that allows over 250 yards per game. 2) Stop the run. I know it’s not flashy, but it’s really all a team has to do. Kansas held A&M scoreless for over 3 quarters and to 74 rushing yards for the game – it’s no coincidence.

I would love for A&M to pull the upset here and make KU look that much better. But since that won’t happen, I’ll hold out hope that they keep it close and at least not diminish Kansas’ win over them. OU is just plain better than A&M and even if these teams were equal, how could you not take Stoops over Fran? OU 34 A&M 17

Other things to consider:

1) At #8 in the BCS, Kansas is closer to #3 LSU than they are to #9 Missouri. With a win, they could be on the move this week.
2) Also helping them here is that ASU is at Oregon this week. One of them has to lose. And BC is playing host to Florida St. I have a hunch that the Noles’ ends may get to Matt Ryan and could pull the upset here. Could be wishful thinking, but that’s where I’m at right now. If all this happens, Kansas could easily be sitting in the 5 spot on Sunday as they are only narrowly behind #7 WVU and could jump them.
3) If I’m correct and Colorado nudges Missouri, KU will have a two game north lead with 3 to play.
4) Rock Chalk! Hot Toddy! Happy Homecoming!
5) P.s. Sorry for the lackadaisical posting week. I was in NY all week and could not find the time. Along those same lines, apologies on the lack of stats in these picks – I didn’t have Internet access as this was written on a plane bound for Kansas City. Hopefully all will be back to normal next week.
6) On account of #5, here is this week’s power poll that usually is represented in the recap.
1) Kansas
2) Missouri
3) Kansas St.
4) Colorado
5) Nebraska
6) Iowa State
1) Oklahoma
2) Oklahoma St.
3) Texas
4) Texas Tech
5) Texas A&M
6) Baylor

**Note** You may have noticed that this was posted Sunday – but it goes without saying that I am not forfeiting my gentlemen’s honor here.

No comments: