Saturday’s Chalkboard: Big 12 Match-Ups

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Week 12 Big 12 play kicks off Friday night when No. 2 Oklahoma State travels to face Iowa State. Will the team that beat the team that was ranked No. 2 duplicate the feat? Don’t bet on it. But there are some keys to success for each of the conference’s members worth following.

Oklahoma State at Iowa State

OKLAHOMA STATE: Be Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State has the superior talent and should dominate every match-up. OSU must come out from the opening whistle and declare its authority of the Cyclones. That means Brandon Weeden throwing for big yards to Justin Blackmon and company, and Joseph Randle providing the running attack.

IOWA STATE: Keep the Cowboy offense off the field

Long, sustained drives that yield points are Iowa State’s only hope. It’s not impossible, and it’s how Kansas State battled back in the second half against OSU two weeks ago.

FACTOID: Iowa State has played No. 1 or No. 2 ranked teams in Ames eight times. The Cyclones have never won.

Kansas at Texas A&M

KANSAS: Make the Aggies pass

The Big 12 coaches on the hottest seats find themselves in such position for different reasons. Turner Gill’s Jayhawks have been a mess defensively, and Mike Sherman’s Aggies are a mess offensively. The latter might seem a perplexing statement, unless one considers in its come-from-ahead losses, Sherman has continued to throw the ball rather than play the clock with the rush. KU is particularly bad stopping the rush; perhaps forcing Ryan Tannehill to throw in the neighborhood of 50-55 times will give the Jayhawks their best hope of an upset.

TEXAS A&M: Pound the ground

Admittedly, it’s lazy to break a game down to just one facet from each side. But against a team with a weakness as glaring as KU’s inability to stop the run, the Aggies need only establish the run early to dominate. KU is surrendering 6.1 yards per attempt; that means get Cyrus Gray the ball plenty and allow him to work.

FACTOID: Turner Gill has just one Big 12 Conference win since beginning at KU last season, and none against current members (the Jayhawks beat Colorado last November, 52-45). Every loss is by double digits.

Texas Tech at Missouri

TEXAS TECH: Find an offensive rhythm

Since rolling up 31 points in the first approximately 40 minutes against Oklahoma, Texas Tech has been unable to score with any consistency (43 points in the last 31/2; the Red Raiders were averaging that per game previously). Seth Doege went from the toast of the Big 12, to last week throwing a season-low 169 yards. Tech quarterbacks typically throw for 169 yards between classes.

MISSOURI: Overcome adversity

The Red Raiders rank No. 102 against the rush nationally. That bodes well for a Tiger offense predicated largely on its ability to run with multiple ball carriers — although, MU is without its top overall rusher. Henry Josey went down with what Dr. Pat Smith told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch was a “tragic…one-in-a-million” knee injury.

Were that not bad enough, MU must address how it fills Josey’s contributions without Gary Pinkel on the sideline. The head coach was addressed for DUI Wednesday and will not coach Saturday.

FACTOID: The Red Raiders’ current stretch of games without hitting at least 30 points since the end of the 2005 season, when they scored 17 against Oklahoma State, 23 against Oklahoma and 10 against Alabama in the Cotton Bowl.

Oklahoma at Baylor

OKLAHOMA: Establish the run game

In Baylor’s three losses, the Bears have surrendered 210 (Kansas State), 266 (Texas A&M) and 327 (Oklahoma State) yards rushing. The BU defense is porous, and its true Achilles’ heel is its inability to contain the rush. OU will be without its leading rusher, though — Dom Whaley went down with an ankle injury against Kansas State three weeks ago. Roy Finch and Blake Bell combined for three touchdowns and 137 yards the following week, but had paltry yards per carry averages below 4.

BAYLOR: Start quickly

In two of Baylor’s three losses, the Bears fell behind by double digits in the first half. Oklahoma is a team capable of pouring it on, and against the Bear defense is almost sure to. The key for BU is to give itself breathing room rather than having to play from behind, which is a struggle it can’t possibly win. Texas Tech bested OU with a quick start, then enough to weather the storm. Robert Griffin III has his opportunity for a Heisman moment, and it’ll be determined in the first 45 minutes.

FACTOID: Baylor has N-E-V-E-R defeated Oklahoma. Of course, BU has never had a talent the caliber of RG3.

Kansas State at Texas

KANSAS STATE: Exploit the quarterback situation

Texas has a young offense, particularly at quarterback where neither David Ash nor Case McCoy has really shined. K-State’s style is about ball control, a point that has been expressed ad nauseum here on SaturdayBlitz.com, but Saturday it will be of particular emphasis. If the Longhorns fail to move the ball, it will turn into a long, painful afternoon in Austin.

TEXAS: Swamp Collin Klein

Manny Diaz has really excelled has Texas’s defensive coordinator. The Longhorns rank No. 10 in rushing yards allowed, and will need to continue its success against one of the best rushers in college football. K-State quarterback Collin Klein’s 24 touchdowns on the ground are tops in the FBS. He’s also going for more than 100 yards per game. UT’s front four must pressure Klein from the onset to disrupt his rhythm and keep the Wildcats’ possessions short.

FACTOID: Kansas State is the sole Big 12 member with a winning record against Texas all-time. A win would pull the Longhorns even.