Another big week in the best conference in the country. To get a gauge on how loaded the league is this year, look no further than the #1 spot in the land. Last week, the holder of said spot lost and while an upset, no one was all that surprised. This week, the holder of said spot (while favored to win) could easily lose and again, no one would be all that surprised. Such is life in the Big XII conference this year. On the season, we're 8-4 TGS and 7-5 ATS. That won't get it done.
Before we move to the picks, I should let you know that this week's Rock Chalk Roundtable has been posted over at Rock Chalk Talk. Check it out.
Game of the Week
Methzou @ Texas (-4)
Since I first started looking at the schedule this year, I circled this game as the one the Tigers would absolutely not win. I don't even know why. Because until Orakpo turned into Julius Peppers, no one really knew how Texas could defend the pass with their young secondary. And honestly, they still don't defend it incredibly well (387 and 5 for Bradford), but they shut down the running game completely (48 total for OU). In today's Big XII as long as you have an offense to go along with it, shutting down one of the two is usually good enough to win.
Meanwhile, the Tigers' defense has long been suspect and nothing changed in their loss last week. Despite holding OSU well below their season averages, it was pretty apparent that they weren't doing anything to stop them. Hunter rarely had much trouble picking up yards (6.8 per) and obviously that opened things up for Robinson on any hint of a play action. The Methzou defense has an NFL player at every level, but as a whole they just aren't that good. Colt McCoy should have fun. But Booger might too. Honestly, I find myself leaning toward taking the upset here until I remember that Orakpo will be lined up against Elvis Fisher. Then I remember how good Chase is at throwing on the run. Then I take Texas to win comfortably. All they have to do is get a second half lead (H/T: TG).(Bonus: Great video courtesy of The Wiz of Odds)
Texas 44 Methzou 34.
Baylor (+17) @ Oklahoma State
I've never trusted Okie State. And I still don't. But I've never felt better about their chances after finding out that Mike Gundy doesn't even watch a defensive snap. There's no denying that he's got a great offensive mind. Defense, not so much. But even with that newfound hope, if this game were in Waco I'd take the Bears to pull the upset. In Stillwater, I'll say Robert Griffin gives them trouble, but not nearly enough for the win. I've watched Baylor play enough "defense" against Wake Forest to know that Gundy is so excited for this one that he forgot to tan on Tuesday.
OSU 45 Baylor 30
KSU (+3.5) @ Colorado
There seems to be a renewed faith in the Wildcats this week after they handled the Aggies in College Station. Although can you really handle an opponent that outgains you by 95 yards? Especially when that opponent's yard total is 544 yards when they could only muster 290 on Army (236 @ New Mexico? 303 v. Ark. State?)? J-Free can absolutely carve up defenses that don't belong in college football. And he's not terribly awful against mediocre ones either, at least when he's not turning the ball over. But this defense has now given up 500+ yards in four straight games and in that time they only faced one legitimate opponent. Colorado is bad. KSU is worse.
CU 31 KSU 28
Nebraska @ Iowa State (+8)
Joe Ganz will look back on that one for a while. Well maybe not, since he throws one every other game too. But it's usually not in overtime with a chance to beat a top 10 team when the defense would have actually had to make more of a play to not catch the ball. But on the other hand, the Bugeaters did an incredible job of holding onto the ball even without establishing much of a running game. That is officially their best defense. And that's progress. ISU, meanwhile, went on the road and did exactly what it is they do on the road; nothing. This time they're back in Ames. I like the Huskers to escape with a win but anything more than a TD seems a bit much.
Nebraska 31 ISU 27
Texas Tech (-21) @ Texas A&M
It sure seems like Tech should cover this easily. But it seemed like they would last week also. But considering what they did to KSU and what the Wildcats did to A&M, I have to lean Tech on this one. Personally, I'm hoping they use up as much of their offense as possible before next week.
Tech 55 A&M 21
Kansas (+20) @ Oklahoma
I'd be lying if I told you that watching TCU's defense manhandle the Mormons last night didn't concern me. Sure, they had some success against OU: held them to 25 yards rushing, sacked Bradford a couple times, and after falling behind 21-3, only allowed two TDs, both on 50+ yard passes to Manny Johnson. But Sammie still went over 400 and that 35 was put up pretty easily. And TCU definitely has a better defense than the Jayhawks. Fortunately, Kansas has a much better offense. Unfortunately, that will only go so far in keeping OU off the scoreboard.
A few keys to the game…
The first quarter: This has obviously been an issue for the Jayhawks lately. The ISU struggles were well chronicled, but despite the lack of attention, it was more of the same against Colorado. Fortunately, the defense was awake and they had a home crowd behind them. The offense still struggled out of the gates, though, and that can't happen this week. You may have heard a little something about OU's first quarter dominance (110-6). Against Texas that's the only quarter they won. That hasn't been the case in every game obviously, but it does point to the fact that they really like to jump on teams early, especially at home. If Kansas can keep things close through 15 minutes (or even lead), the dynamic of this game will definitely change.
The big play: I'm not saying Sam Bradford can't methodically move the ball down the field all game, because I think he can. But that's definitely not what the Sooners want to do. They love the big play. And they're very good at making it happen. Their top 4 receivers have all scored from over 42 yards out (Manny Johnson's done it 4 times, twice more from over 30). Playing soft coverage is frustrating as hell against someone like Booger who loves to dink and dunk. But against this offense, it may be the perfect fit, because if they start scoring easily and getting the crowd going, it could get ugly. Kendrick Harper, you've been warned.
Converting: I don't want to limit this to the red zone, because third downs will be just as important. The Hawks have to find a way to give themselves a third and short and then convert time and again. The OU defense wore down horribly against Texas (see: Ogbannaya's 62 yard run) and they can do so again if KU can keep them on the field. Just as, if not more importantly, the Hawks need to convert any and all scoring chances into TDs. OU won't be settling for FGs and neither can we. Especially if we're not going to make them, Branstetter.
Something extra: The common theme with any upset is the underdog being able to do something they weren't expected to. Whether it be: running the ball well, flustering Bradford all game, coming up with a defensive or special teams touchdown, convincing Bob that it's January, they need something. I don't care what it is or how it comes to be, but simply lining up and playing it out won't get it done. They'll score too much. And we won't score enough. And unfortunately, that's how I see it playing out. I hope I'm wrong.
OU 41 KU 31
Last week: 2-4 TGS, 3-3 ATS
Season: 8-4 TGS, 7-5 ATS