Oklahoma Sooners: Justin Blackmon
As signing day approaches, SoonerNation looks at the top-five Sooner State recruits of the Bob Stoops era who ended up elsewhere:
Player: Justin Blackmon
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1. The NFL draft begins tonight at 7 p.m, and though it’s unlikely any Sooners will hear their names called during the first round, there will be plenty of familiar names coming off the board. Oklahoma’s defense was much maligned late last season but Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, who torched the Sooners' secondary, is set to get selected No. 2 overall by Washington and Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, who had 18 receptions for 200 yards and one touchdown in two games against OU, likely will be drafted in the top 10. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper also has OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden going late in the first round. Clearly the Sooners weren’t the only team who struggled to stop Griffin or Weeden and Blackmon.
2. You have to wonder what it is like to be Landry Jones tonight. He could be walking across the stage to meet Roger Goodell, but instead he’s in class? There are several NFL teams looking for a quarterback in the draft and it’s easy to believe Jones would have been a top 10 pick if he had elected to declare early. Regardless, Sooners fans should be happy, they’ll have an NFL quarterback at the helm this fall, someone multiple NFL teams would love to have in their locker room.
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Over the last two seasons, no player made a bigger overall impact on the OU defense than Jamell Fleming. His combination of size and speed allowed him to matchup with the big-play wide receivers of the Big 12. Fleming was also a superb tackler against the run for a boundary cornerback.
What Oklahoma loses: The game against Texas Tech says it all. The OU defensive backfield basically collapsed without Fleming in the lineup. Seth Doege was hammered the boundary side of the field and finished with 441 yards passing and four touchdowns in the Red Raiders’ 41-38 victory. When Fleming was on the field, the boundary side was rarely a worry for the Sooners. OU was blown out by Oklahoma State, but Fleming did a relatively decent job limiting Justin Blackmon, who was held to under 100 yards receiving. Then in the Insight Bowl, Fleming shut down Big Ten Receiver of the Year, Marvin McNutt, who had just four catches for 46 yards.
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QB: Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: Weeden threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns (it could have been four if a game-winning TD pass to Colton Chelf hadn't been overturned) on 29-of-42 passing. His first pass was intercepted, but he had an otherwise solid night and ran for his first career touchdown in the 41-38 win against Stanford.
AP Photo/Darren AbateBaylor's Terrance Ganaway rushed for five TDs in the Alamo Bowl.
RB: Ben Malena, Texas A&M: Malena stepped in for the injured Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael and had a solid game in the Aggies' 33-22 win against Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. He finished with 77 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, showcasing his physical running style. He also caught six passes for 36 yards.
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma: Millard carried the ball four times for 21 yards but also helped pave the way for three Blake Bell touchdowns from the Belldozer formation.
WR: Ryan Swope, Texas A&M: Jeff Fuller had better numbers in the bowl, but it was aided by big catches late. Swope kept the Aggies offense humming for most of the game, with eight catches for 105 yards in the win against Northwestern.
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State: Blackmon was the best offensive player in the Big 12 bowls, spearheading Oklahoma State's offense in the Fiesta Bowl win with eight catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns.
WR: Colton Chelf, Oklahoma State: Chelf made two huge catches over the middle early and a third nearly won the game, but his touchdown was overturned. Still, OSU doesn't win its first BCS bowl without Chelf's 97 yards on five catches.
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri: By Egnew's standards, it was a quiet game, but he played well with a 25-yard grab and three catches for 39 yards in Mizzou's win.
OL: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State's offensive line is keyed by Garner, who helped the Cowboys handle Stanford's blitzes well and give Weeden plenty of time in the Fiesta Bowl win.
OL: Philip Blake, Baylor: Baylor ran for 482 yards and scored 67 points in its win against Washington in the Alamo Bowl. Blake's the man who keyed it all.
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State: Adcock's the best overall talent on OSU's line, and he showed it in the win against Stanford.
OL: Dan Hoch, Missouri: Missouri rolled over one of the nation's best rush defenses, North Carolina, for 337 yards on the ground.
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M: The Aggies' offense was potent for most of its win against Northwestern, and Joeckel was solid in run and pass blocking for the balanced attack.
DL: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas: Jeffcoat made five tackles, two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss in the Longhorns' 21-10 win against Cal. The Texas defense dominated, and the defensive line's play was the catalyst. He did it all with a torn pectoral muscle, too. He'll miss the spring after having it surgically repaired this week.
AP Photo/Matt StrasenKansas State defensive end Adam Davis, 97, had two sacks and forced this first-half fumble by Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson in the Cotton Bowl.
DL: R.J. Washington, Oklahoma: With Ronnell Lewis ineligible, Washington showed up big in the win against Iowa. He had two sacks and made three tackles.
DL: Tony Jerod-Eddie, Texas A&M: Jerod-Eddie made eight tackles and had a sack in the win against Northwestern.
LB: Damontre Moore, Texas A&M: Moore was a monster in the season finale for the Aggies, making nine tackles and forcing a fumble on his lone sack.
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State: Klein flew around for the Cyclones, making 15 tackles in a physical game against Rutgers, though the Cyclones lost.
LB: Jordan Hicks, Texas: Could this be a big piece of momentum heading into 2012? Hicks starred with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup in the win against Cal.
CB: Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma: Fleming was the Big 12's best defensive player of the bowls and the best player on the field in the Insight Bowl, making seven tackles, intercepting a pass and returning it 21 yards. He also broke up three passes.
CB: David Garrett, Kansas State: Garrett made 10 tackles and had two tackles for loss in the loss to Arkansas.
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas: He hates the nickname Machete, but Vaccaro was hacking away at Cal. He made three tackles, including two for loss and a sack.
S: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State: Even if it was illegal (it was), Martin had the hit of the bowl season with a huge blast on Stanford's Ty Montgomery that took Montgomery's helmet off on the opening drive. He finished with nine tackles and a tackle for loss, with a fumble recovery.
P: Tress Way, Oklahoma: Way averaged 50 yards on his six punts, including a 67-yarder.
PK: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M: Bullock made all four of his field goal attempts, including two from beyond 40 yards.
PR: Dustin Harris, Texas A&M: Harris looked the part of the Big 12's best, returning a punt 35 yards and finishing with 54 yards on his four returns.
KR: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: Gilbert had a 50-yard return and returned his four kicks for a total of 136 yards.
It makes us all look like geniuses.
So, for the purpose of this, I'll assume a few predictions. First, I'll assume Robert Griffin III is heading for the NFL. I'll also assume Mike Stoops lands back at Oklahoma.
That said, it's time to project what this league looks like in 2012.
And, before we start, let me make this clear: The Big 12 from 1-6 is absolutely wide open. Last year, the league only had three legitimate title contenders: Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. This year, every one of the top six teams (and maybe seven, if RG3 returns) can win the Big 12 in a realistic scenario. The difference between Nos. 2 and 6 is minuscule and could change a ton by the end of spring practice.
And for the curious: I would have Missouri behind Kansas State on this list, and I'd have Texas A&M right behind Texas.
1. Oklahoma: The Sooners moved into the familiar role of favorite after Landry Jones announced he'd return in 2012, but not nearly as heavy a favorite as they were in 2011. Injuries hurt Oklahoma late this season, and replacing Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Frank Alexander, along with linebacker Travis Lewis and corner Jamell Fleming won't be easy. Receivers Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds have to play big for the Sooners to get the win.
2. Kansas State: The big question mark for this team is can it take care of business and not get stuck in close games in 2012? The Wildcats were 8-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less this season. They can't count on duplicating that in 2012. They should be better, and return most of the big pieces from this season's 10-win team, most importantly quarterback Collin Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown. Next season is the time to prove it.
3. West Virginia: Who else is excited to see Geno Smith, Dana Holgorsen and the Mountaineer Express show up in Big 12 country next season? Like I wrote last week, giving up 33 points and still winning by five touchdowns is the Big 12 way of life. The Mountaineers broke Baylor's week-old bowl scoring record with 70 points, and bring back most of a good Big East champion team in 2012. The transition won't be easy, but they've got a chance to make a big splash in their inaugural year. The Big 12 and West Virginia are both convinced that the Mountaineers will join the Big 12 in 2012 and are planning as if it will happen, though pending lawsuits with the Big East mean it's still unofficial.
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III is still undecided on his future, but he moved all the way up to No. 6 from No. 11 on Kiper's last Big Board update.
"Not buying any talk he'd be higher on some boards than Luck, but his altered delivery has resulted in better accuracy on downfield throws," Kiper wrote. "Great kid, underrated passer, big-time athlete. No ill effects from 2009 knee injury. Remarkable numbers."
That's an unbelievable rise for Griffin, who was nowhere to be found on the Big Board at midseason.
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones simply slid up to No. 12 from his spot at No. 13 last week.
"I still like the way he's battled in 2011, but it's fair to say his reputation outpaced his performance this season," Kiper wrote. "Accuracy is still very good. Good size, strong arm but needs to improve footwork. Still a very good prospect."
Jones hasn't announced his decision, but Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said last week he expects Jones to stay. That's what he should do, too.
Justin Blackmon stuck at No. 5 on the Big Board.
Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
Landry Jones had four turnovers in the Sooners' 44-10 loss to Oklahoma State.
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- The proud Pokes finally did the deed.
The goalposts came down, and the Oklahoma State flags went up.
Red state? Blue state? For the first time since 2002, Oklahoma is an orange state.
The impact of Saturday's dominant 44-10 Oklahoma State win over Oklahoma was far-reaching. After voters from coast to coast slot LSU No. 1, they'll have to decide on No. 2: Alabama or Oklahoma State?
But on this night, the Cowboys had a chance to enjoy the simpler pleasures, too.
All that politicking and SEC mudslinging will last less than 24 hours.
This win on Saturday night? It'll last a whole year and bleed everywhere -- from coffee shops to elementary schools across Oklahoma.
Coach Mike Gundy says he's immune from the ever-present smack talk. But everybody else?
"I know it affects the players," Gundy said. "And coaches' families, their kids. I've got three kids that go to school, and all the coaches have kids. They want to win. That's what their dads do. That's just a fact. Whether you like it or not, there's legitimate reasons for us to win, so when they go in those restaurants, they don't have to listen to, 'Hey, y'all made it all the way to No. 2 in the country, but you still didn't beat OU.'"
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThis was only the 17th time Oklahoma State has beaten their in-state rivals Oklahoma.
"It's one thing to hear it around the rest of the state, but when you go home and you have to hear people talk to you about it, it makes it worse," said receiver Justin Blackmon, who hails from the heart of Sooner country. His hometown of Ardmore, Okla., is only about 80 miles south of Norman.
"I know they won't be able to talk," Blackmon said.
The simple truth: Wins like these are more special for the folks in orange. They don't see them quite as often, but that number is growing.
For a year, they'll relish the first outright conference title in school history and the first since they shared a conference crown in 1976.
Gundy called it the most gratifying football moment of his career, overtaking the first time he beat Texas in 2010.
"Nothing compares," said the career Cowboy, who has spent 21 years as a player, assistant and now head coach at Oklahoma State.
This one was special.
"We've earned their respect over the last four, five, six years, so it's different," Gundy said. "There were a number of years we didn't even have their respect. They respected us, and that helps, but still, you've gotta beat 'em. Otherwise it's always, OSU has got to this level or that level, but they've never beat OU."
And Gundy, in a fashion that turned the second half into a party atmosphere instead of a tense one, became the first coach since that coaching savant down in the Bayou, Les Miles, to knock off Oklahoma as the Cowboy-in-chief.
The Cowboys didn't beat Oklahoma. They beat the heck out of Oklahoma. The offensive line: "Phew, dominant," quarterback Brandon Weeden said with a shake of his head.
Weeden had enough time in the pocket for most of the night to craft each of his linemen a handwritten thank-you note to hand out in the postgame locker room, where Gundy obliged his team with another one of his patented dance sessions.
"I had no choice," he said. "I'm a YouTube sensation. There's no telling what'll be on there next."
That was only after a well-deserved Gatorade shower.
"God, that was cold," Gundy said.
Yeah, Oklahoma fans felt the same way.
Oklahoma State running backs Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle -- who combined ran 22 times for 178 yards and four touchdowns -- found holes from the offensive line wide enough that if the two were Siamese twins, their numbers might not have been much different.
The last time Oklahoma State took the field, Iowa State fans stormed it. Saturday night, it was the Cowboys' turn, all before slapping on orange shirts and white hats declaring them "Big 12 Champions."
Fans braved the nine-foot drop from the stands to the field at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Weeden stopped and posed for an endless string of photos. Players celebrated among the mob.
"I had my helmet on, and I got slapped in the head so many times, I might have a concussion," Weeden joked.
He stopped and shook Pickens' hand after. Those hundreds of millions of dollars that Pickens handed over to the school he loves so much? BCS National Championship Game appearance or not, it's paying off.
Oklahoma State, for the first time, is the Big 12 champion.
"To see [the players] enjoy that, that's a huge thrill for me, because there's so much that goes into this," Gundy said. "I just want them to be able to enjoy it."
They will. And so will the rest of the Oklahoma State family.
Landry on the spot
In Stillwater this season, Oklahoma State has scored 61, 37, 70, 59 and 52 points. Chances are, to beat the Cowboys, Oklahoma will have to outscore them. And with Ryan Broyles unable to provide the pop, the pressure is on quarterback Landry Jones to keep the Sooners in the game. Jones outdueled Brandon Weeden to lead the Oklahoma to a shootout victory last season. For the Sooners to win, Jones will need to outgun Weeden again.
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiWithout a few playmakers, Landry Jones wil need to carry the Sooners' offense against Oklahoma State.
The Blake Bell package has been virtually unstoppable this season. On 33 carries, Bell has rumbled for 11 first downs and nine touchdowns, and fullback Trey Millard has added two rushing touchdowns out of the set. Oklahoma State has had its struggles against power rushing plays, which is why the “Belldozer” could be a game-changer for the Sooners offensively.
Young run guns
With the passing game slipping sans Broyles, the Sooners will be relying on young running backs Roy Finch and Brandon Williams to pick up the slack. Both have played well the last two weeks, averaging a combined 6.2 yards per carry. That kind of production will give the Sooners to hang if this game turns into a shootout.
OU’s embattled secondary has been gashed by the lesser passing attacks of Texas Tech and Baylor. The “Sharks” have to come to play if the Sooners are to have a chance in this one. The talent is there. The experience is there, too. Time for the “Sharks” to live up to their own preseason hype.
No un-special teams
The Sooners have been surprisingly superb in special teams the last few weeks, but they’ll be facing perhaps the top special teams unit in the nation. The Pokes returned kicks for touchdowns in the teams’ last two meetings and Stillwater, and the Sooners can’t allow Justin Gilbert to run wild on them again. Michael Hunnicutt also needs to continue to nail his field goals, as the Sooners can’t afford to leave any points on the field this game.
Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. broke down a few of the matchups between NFL talents we're apt to see during Saturday's game.
You'll need ESPN Insider to see the whole thing and more on each matchup, but here's some of what Muench sees.
Oklahoma QB Landry Jones vs. Oklahoma State S Markelle Martin
It's important that Jones get his rhythm back this week, especially when throwing over the middle.Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon vs. Oklahoma CB Jamell Fleming
Martin reads quarterbacks' eyes, is instinctive and closes well when the ball is in the air. He's also shown above-average ball skills and he isn't afraid to jump routes.
Fleming doesn't have shutdown cover skills, but he can also hold up in underneath coverage thanks to his speed and fluidity. However, Blackmon's strength will be a distinct advantage in this matchup.Oklahoma State RT Levy Adcock vs. Oklahoma DE Frank Alexander
Oklahoma State's pass-heavy scheme also puts Alexander in a bit of a catch-22 against the run. He can't simply fly upfield and play the run on the way to the passer, because that will make it easy for Adcock to turn him outside when the Cowboys run the ball.Oklahoma State RB Joseph Randle vs. Oklahoma WLB Travis Lewis
In terms of the passing game, Adcock can anchor and protect the edge working against Alexander. However, Alexander is relentless and won't give up when he doesn't win with his first move.
Lewis is an effective tackler who locates the ball quickly, takes sound pursuit angles and wraps up on contact. He doesn't stack and shed particularly well, though, so Randle must run with vision and make Lewis fight through blocks when pursuing. Lewis can't afford to start running around blocks in an effort to get to the speedy Randle, either, because he isn't explosive enough to recover if he gets caught out of position.
Good stuff from the scouts. Check out the full story.
Thanks to the passing of Landry Jones and the running of Blake Bell, the Sooners go toe-to-toe with the Pokes early. But after withstanding a couple of quick OU scoring strikes to open the third quarter, Brandon Weeden's offense pulls away in the fourth to give the Cowboys their first outright conference title in 63 years.
AP Photo/Alonzo J. AdamsOklahoma defensive end Frank Alexander has a chance to be the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
- Jake Trotter
Oklahoma State 38, Oklahoma 35
The Cowboys finally get over the hump thanks to a late turnover by the Sooners which ends a potential game-winning drive. The weather has a impact on OSU as they struggle to make big plays through the air but still make enough plays to pull out the victory. OU leans on its running game to put up points but three turnovers prove costly.
Pick to click: Freshman Brandon Williams flashes the potential that has had Sooners fans drooling all season with one long touchdown run as he secures the first 100-yard game of his OU career.
- Brandon Chatmon
Oklahoma State 31, Oklahoma 22
Weather is going to play a big role in this one as freezing rain that could turn into snow is being expected. In a battle of the running games, it is OSU's Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith that get the best of OU's Roy Finch and Brandon Williams in helping the Cowboys earn a Big 12 championship and their first BCS bowl appearance.
Pick to click: The secondary has heard for the last two weeks about how the "sharks" moniker needs to go away. The group responds with an inspired game. Led by Jamell Fleming, OU's secondary will cause at least two turnovers.
- Bob Przybylo
For Oklahoma State, 60 minutes in Ames, Iowa, all but assured it wouldn't. LSU and Georgia will play an essentially meaningless SEC title game Saturday night. Win or lose, the currently undefeated Tigers will almost certainly play a one-loss team for the national championship.
Perhaps it will be Oklahoma State. It's much more likely to be Alabama, which is idle this weekend.
For the Oklahoma State-inclined, it's easy to look at Saturday's game against Oklahoma and see what it isn't. The dream of a national semifinal in which the Cowboys' BCS title opportunity comes explicitly at the cost of the Sooners is likely gone. Neither team will likely meet LSU to play for all the crawdads down on the bayou.
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiIt may not lead to the BCS title game, but Justin Blackmon and Oklahoma State can reach unprecedented ground with a win over Oklahoma.
Six teams have won a Big 12 title. Oklahoma State can win its first Saturday, denying the Sooners a share in the process.
Doing so would mean beating rival Oklahoma for the first time since 2002. So, maybe coach Mike Gundy refuses to politick for his team this week, but that only means he grasps what this week means, rather than what it doesn't.
"We're in a situation that we have a chance to win a football game and win a conference championship for the first time in the history of the school," Gundy said, "and I just feel like that's more important than politicking for a spot in second place or wherever it would be in the BCS."
A win also would give Oklahoma State its 11th of the season with a chance for a school-record 12th in a BCS bowl, one more place Oklahoma State has never been.
For all of Oklahoma State's recent success, this season is an example of how things work in college football. Only one team has ever won the national title without first playing in a BCS game. Never mind that Oklahoma is the only team to do it.
What hurt OSU fans most about the gut-punch at Iowa State? This felt like "The Year" for every Pistol Pete disciple. Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon will be cashing NFL checks this time next year, an event sure enough that Blackmon, a junior, will take part in senior day festivities Saturday.
And maybe it is The Year. But there's plenty of reason to believe it's "A Year That Didn't Quite Work Out." Oklahoma has had plenty of those.
Weeden was a walk-on who spent a handful of years playing baseball. Blackmon was a three-star recruit. Both are special. But Oklahoma State is recruiting better than ever.
"We’ve got a lot of great guys in this program that are really young. We haven’t ever had kids like this around here," Gundy told me after a dramatic win over Kansas State this year. "I see a lot of things changing. It’s just different than it ever has been."
Why couldn't Oklahoma State recruit another Weeden and Blackmon? Oklahoma does it every season. Lose Sam Bradford? Enter Landry Jones. Ryan Broyles shatters records. Kenny Stills breaks Broyles' freshman records.
Oklahoma State lost a first-round pick at receiver and a record-breaking receiver after the nine-win 2009 season, along with four offensive linemen. Nobody gave the Cowboys a chance. They won 11 games. Gundy credits his culture within the program. Underclassmen know what's expected of them when it's their time.
The Cowboys are closer to Oklahoma than ever before. This season and the last, the Cowboys have been the better team entering the game, although Oklahoma knocked off the Cowboys to win the Big 12 South last season.
Oklahoma State might not hang with Oklahoma's near-perennial top-10 classes, but the Cowboys have consistently reeled in top-25 classes in recent years.
A win Saturday would continue a streak that only the coaching elite can claim: Oklahoma State will have won as many or more games as the previous season during all seven of Gundy's seasons.
In 2010, the big step was winning a share of the Big 12 South. This year, it could be winning the Big 12.
So maybe this isn't the year Oklahoma State wins the national title.
But it might be the next step.
The Oklahoma State receiver was slowed by a ankle injury during last year’s meeting but still finished the game with eight catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. This season, the Cowboys wideout is healthy heading into the Bedlam matchup.
“I’m excited,” Blackmon said. “You don’t want to go into any game hurt. I’m healed up, ready to go.”
A healthy Blackmon should be the biggest test for the Sooners secondary. Fortunately for OU, they have two of the Big 12‘s best cornerbacks in Demontre Hurst and Jamell Fleming.
“It’s going to be a challenge for myself and Jamell,” Hurst said. “He competes in everything he does.”
Blackmon brings terrific size (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) and athleticism to the table. He is in line to win the Biletnikoff Award for the second time as the nation’s most outstanding receiver.
“He’s very physical,” Hurst said. “The main thing for me and our defense is to match what he does. We just have to match his physicalness.”
And Consider Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables thrilled that Saturday will be the final time he’ll have to deal with Justin Blackmon.
“He’s got great strength and he’s a great competitor, too,” Venables said. “He likes when the game is on the line and wants to be the guy.
“Whether you double team him, triple him, single him, it doesn’t matter. It’s usually the same results. He’s a fabulous player.”
Blackmon, a redshirt junior, will be honored during senior day activities Saturday.
Sept. 3: Louisiana-Lafayette (W)
Sept. 8: Arizona, 37-14 (W)
Sept. 17: at Tulsa, 59-33 (W)
Sept. 24: at Texas A&M, 30-29 (W)
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1. Have mercy, Oklahoma. At this point, it's mostly just curiosity. It won't get any worse for Kansas this year, but I remember checking my phone on the field at the Cotton Bowl last Saturday and seeing OSU led 35-7 at the end of the first quarter. I shouldn't have been surprised. I was. Oklahoma's winning this game. The biggest question is by how much.
2. Whaddaya got, Wrecking Crew? Especially you guys at the back. There's no reason Texas A&M should be this bad defending the pass. It's a definite anomaly. The Aggies rank last nationally and are giving up 113 more yards per game through the air than in 2010, but it is second nationally in sacks. Want to prove you're not that bad? Shutting down or slowing down Baylor will do it.
3. Baylor's front seven. Meanwhile, Texas A&M is fully capable of running over just about anybody in the league, and definitely Baylor. The Bears rank 82nd nationally in rush defense, and that could mean a big day for Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray.
4. Kansas State's time of possession. Caring about this stat has gone out of style everywhere but Manhattan, it seems. The Wildcats average 35:56 a game, which is almost three full minutes more than anyone in the league. Tech, meanwhile, is one of seven Big 12 teams under the 30-minute mark. Will a win in this stat mean a win on the scoreboard?
5. Does home field matter...at all? Can the crowd in Kansas do anything to help stave off an ugly loss for the Jayhawks?
6. Which side is more desperate? Iowa State needs this game to keep its hopes of a bowl game alive. If Missouri loses, the possibility of missing the postseason becomes very real, too. Win and the Tigers may get some momentum moving forward. This is a classic case of a must-win for both sides. That usually produces great football.
7. Henry Josey. I'm guessing most of you didn't know the man who started the season as Missouri's third-string running back is leading the Big 12 in rushing. He's been outstanding. That's what happens when you average more than 10 yards a carry. Will Missouri keep handing him the ball as its other backs get back to health?
8. Texas' pass rush. There's no truth to rumors that Landry Jones consuming both a corn dog and a fried Snickers in the backfield last week, but he had enough time to do it if he wanted to. The Longhorns can't let Oklahoma State's quick-release offense do the same. Brandon Weeden must be pressured, or OSU will roll in this one easily.
9. Case McCoy and David Ash. How will the distribution between these two Texas quarterbacks look? Ash is the more physically impressive quarterback, but he made big, big mistakes against Oklahoma's experienced defense. These guys have to play well and move the ball consistently for the Horns to pull the upset.
10. OSU stays consistent? The Cowboys, outside of a game last year without Justin Blackmon, was the Big 12's most consistent team a year ago. That's been the case again this year, and OSU has won seven consecutive road games. Texas has never lost the week after the Red River Rivalry under Mack Brown, but this is likely the toughest team the Horns have seen in that 13-game stretch. Austin is generally a tough place to play, but OSU made it look easy last year. Will this year look the same?