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October 22, 2009

Weekend breakdown of the Big 12

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THE SCHEDULE
Saturday
Colorado at Kansas State, 12:30 p.m.
Iowa State at Nebraska, 12:30 p.m.
Oklahoma State at Baylor, 12:30 p.m.
Oklahoma at Kansas, 3:30 p.m.
Texas A&M at Texas Tech, 7 p.m.
Texas at Missouri, 8 p.m.
Compared to Texas A&M, Janet Leigh was lucky. She only had to go to the Bates Motel once. The Aggies must venture into Texas Tech's Jones Stadium -- their version of the Bates Motel -- every other year.

Lately, when the schedule calls for A&M to visit Lubbock, it's like a double feature of "Psycho" and "Groundhog Day." The Aggies have been unmercifully bludgeoned there, and it has happened over and over.

A&M has lost seven in a row at Jones Stadium. The past three have been especially brutal, with Texas Tech winning 59-28 in '03, 56-17 in '05 and 35-7 in '07.

After last week's results -- and some remarks this past spring -- another beating may await the Aggies.

While Texas Tech was pulling off a mild 31-10 upset in Nebraska, A&M was getting pounded by Kansas State 62-14. The Wildcats led 59-0 early in the third quarter. That's the same Wildcats who had lost 66-14 the week before to -- you guessed it -- Texas Tech.

"I'm the captain of the ship, so to speak," second-year A&M coach Mike Sherman said. "We've sprung a leak and we need to fix it, and that's my job. However I lead them this week will be how they'll react to this loss. If I do a good job, I'll lead them in the right direction."

A ship captain analogy might not have been the best choice when facing Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, who has a well-documented fascination with pirates. And if the Aggies' ship continues to sink, that may cast uncertainty over whether Sherman will return next season.

Leach, who during the spring exchanged verbal jabs with Sherman after former Aggies quarterback Stephen McGee was selected in the NFL draft and Tech's Graham Harrell wasn't, offered a word of caution.

"When those guys [Aggies] play with enthusiasm, they're really pretty good," Leach said. "They've got some weapons on offense and speed on defense. They had a game that no one wants to have, but when you have a great program and a great tradition like they do, those kinds of teams generally respond.

"We will be on the receiving end of that response. I think they're going to come out swinging."

The problem is that, too often this season, A&M's defense has swung and missed. Allowing 62 points to Kansas State obviously is bad, but the Aggies have surrendered at least 30 points to three other opponents, including Utah State.

That doesn't bode well when facing Texas Tech, which is the second-highest scoring team in the country. The Red Raiders have scored at least 31 points in five of their seven games.

Things could change, though. A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson could have a big game. Maybe pass-rush specialist Von Miller will apply constant pressure. Eventually, A&M will win in Lubbock again.

But it won't be surprising if the Aggies lose Saturday in Jones Stadium and their season goes flowing down the drain. Again.

KEY MATCHUP: offensive line vs. Oklahoma pass rush. Kansas has given up just 12 sacks this season, but six came last week to Colorado. The Jayhawks now must protect Todd Reesing against an Oklahoma pass rush that has produced 22 sacks, fourth-most in the country. The Sooners had four against Texas last week.

PLAYERS ON THE SPOT: Pick a Nebraska quarterback. Coach Bo Pelini said he won't name a starting quarterback until game time Saturday. Zac Lee, the starter in every game so far, has passed for fewer than 160 yards in each of the past two games. He was temporarily benched in last week's 31-10 loss to Texas Tech and replaced by freshman Cody Green. Whoever is named the starter against Iowa State this week doesn't figure to have much room for error.

NUMBERS GAME: Coming off last week's 154-yard performance, Kansas WR Dezmon Briscoe is leading the nation with 134.2 receiving yards per game. Briscoe has had at least 117 receiving yards in four of the Jayhawks' past five games. That alone would be alarming to the Oklahoma secondary, which must contain Briscoe on Saturday. But the Sooners no doubt remember last season's game against Kansas, when Briscoe had 12 receptions for 269 yards and two touchdowns.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

"We feel like we've been starting over each week. We've had a difficult time finding our rhythm, and that's very important in football." -- Baylor coach Art Briles, to the Waco (Texas) Tribune, on a rash of injuries that has plagued the Bears

"We had a chip on our shoulder and practiced that way. We went out there and executed and took advantage of some of their mistakes. We just never took our foot off the pedal." -- Kansas State sophomore FS Tysyn Hartman, on the Wildcats' 62-14 win over Texas A&M

"It's sore, but it's not going to keep me out. It's football." -- Texas QB Colt McCoy, on his bruised right thumb.

ETC.: Colorado allowed just 38 total rushing yards in its two conference games, against Texas and Kansas. The Buffaloes held the Jayhawks to minus-8 yards last week. Colorado faces a tough test Saturday against Kansas State, which averages 184 rushing yards per game. Iowa State RB Alexander Robinson leads the Big 12 in rushing. He has gained 737 yards and has reached 100 yards in four games. Cyclones QB Austen Arnaud is expected back in the lineup after leaving last week's win over Baylor with a bruised hand. A victory over Oklahoma on Saturday would ensure Kansas will post at least six victories for the fifth consecutive season. The Jayhawks have only had two such streaks in school history (1895-99 and 1902-06). Kansas State grabbed three interceptions off Texas A&M QB Jerrod Johnson last week. Previously, Johnson had not thrown an interception this season. Missouri senior WR Danario Alexander is coming off a performance in which he posted career-highs with nine receptions and 178 receiving yards. Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh has posted at least one tackle for loss in 16 of the past 17 games and at least one in each of the past 10. He leads Nebraska with 36 tackles, nine tackles for loss and seven pass breakups. Oklahoma's Brody Eldridge has started at three positions this season, and that doesn't include special teams. He was at center in the Sooner's opener, tight end in their next four games, then played left guard last week. He's on the depth chart at left guard for this week's game against Kansas. Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson needs 467 yards to tie Cowboys coach Mike Gundy's school record of 7,997 career passing yards. The Cowboys on Saturday face Baylor, which ranks 52nd in the nation in pass defense. Texas S Earl Thomas and Oklahoma CB Brian Jackson have intercepted passes in each of the past four games. Texas is listing WRs Marquis Goodwin and Malcolm Williams as starters on the depth chart for the Missouri game. The Longhorns are looking to get more speed in the lineup. WR Jordan Shipley will play more in the slot. During coach Mack Brown's tenure, Texas is 11-0 the week after facing Oklahoma. Texas A&M WR Uzoma Nwachukwu has three 100-yard receiving games this season. He's the first freshman in school history to accomplish that feat. Texas Tech DE Brandon Sharpe has posted at least one sack in three consecutive games, and he had a career-high with four against Nebraska last week. This week, he faces Texas A&M, which has allowed 16.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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