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September 22, 2009

College Football Fix: A look at UT, the Big 12 and beyond

UP NEXT UP FOR TEXAS

Opponent:
UTEP
When: 2:30 p.m. CT, Saturday
TV: Fox Sports Net

SCOUTING UTEP: UTEP looked like it might be a team that could make a run for the Conference USA title this season with eight starters back on offense, including quarterback Trevor Vittatoe. In 2008, Vittatoe threw for 3,274 yards and completed 59 percent of his passes with 33 touchdowns and nine INTs. But it was the Miners' offense that seemed to set a negative tone in a season-opening 23-17 loss to Buffalo in El Paso.

UTEP's offense sputtered thanks to penalty after penalty (12 flags for 101 yards), and the defending Mid-American Conference champion Bulls cruised to an early 23-7 lead, and UTEP couldn't recover. Kansas lit up the Miners 34-7 in El Paso in Week 2, and then Mike Price's team finally got a win at New Mexico State this past weekend 38-12.

Texas will get a chance to work on its running game this week. The Miners are 106th nationally in rush defense, giving up 197.3 yards per game on the ground. It will definitely be worth letting Tre' Newton have more than two carries in the first half this week.

On offense, UTEP is nowhere near where it thought it would be with eight starters back. The Miners are 103rd nationally in total offense, 101st in sacks allowed (3 per game), 101st in pass efficiency, 100th in rush offense (99.7 ypg) and 97th in scoring offense (20.7 ppg).


BIG 12 RANKINGS

1. TEXAS (3-0; Last week: 1)

Last week:
Beat Texas Tech 34-24
Next up: UTEP
Bottom line: Is this the week Colt McCoy gets off to a fast start? If not, it's going to become a national story because this week marks the first quarter of the season. Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated addressed McCoy's sluggishness in his recap of the Texas Tech game. Fortunately for McCoy, Tim Tebow didn't exactly light it up against Tennessee, but there was a requisite highlight of Tebow screaming at his teammates to pick it up.


2. OKLAHOMA (2-1; Last week: 3)

Last week:
Beat Tulsa 45-0
Next up: Bye
Bottom line: The Sooners have moved back into the Top 10 in both polls after pounding a Tulsa team that went 11-3 last season but had only five starters back on offense. Tulsa was quarterbacked by former Longhorn G.J. Kinne, who threw two interceptions in Todd Graham's usually high-flying offense. OU also appears to have found a No. 2 receiver to Ryan Boyles (11 catches for 128 yards and three TDs) in Brandon Caleb, who had five catches for 104 yards and two TDs.

OU quarterback Landry Jones threw for six touchdowns, but he also had two interceptions. The Sooners now have two weeks to prepare for their trip to Miami (Fla.), which paddled Georgia Tech last week. QB Sam Bradford attempted to go through some drills Monday (mostly short throws) as he rehabs his right shoulder, but Bob Stoops said he wouldn't speculate on if Bradford would be ready to play against Miami.


3. OKLAHOMA STATE (2-1; Last week: 2)

Last week:
Beat Rice 41-24
Next up: Grambling
Bottom line: The Cowboys bounced back from their devastating loss at home to Houston last week by relying heavily on two of their Big Three on offense: QB Zac Robinson played a clean game (14 of 20 passing for 227 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a score) and found WR Dez Bryant nine times for 161 yards and both of his TD passes.

RB Kendall Hunter was sidelined by a sprained right ankle, but RB Keith Toston ran 18 times for 75 yards. Hunter is not expected to play against Grambling. Bryant (hamstring) and cornerback Perrish Cox (shoulder), also a top return specialist, are listed as day to day.


4. KANSAS (3-0; Last week: 4)

Last week:
Beat Duke 44-16
Next up: Southern Miss
Bottom line: The Jayhawks continue to ride the inspired play of QB Todd Reesing, who played his best game of the season against Duke on Saturday. Reesing threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns, including six passes for 117 yards and TD to WR Dezmon Briscoe.

KU will get a much better test against 3-0 Southern Miss, coached by former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Larry Fedora. Southern Miss can spread it out and score the way Kansas scores.


5. NEBRASKA (2-1; Last week: 6)

Last week:
Lost at Virginia Tech 16-15
Next up: Louisiana-Lafayette
Bottom line: The Huskers had the game won against Virginia Tech but gave up an 81-yard pass with 1:11 left, setting up an 11-yard TD pass with 21 seconds to play as the Hokies pulled off the unlikely comeback.

Nebraska QB Zac Lee had two interceptions and completed just 11 of 30 passes for 136 yards as Nebraska had five drives stall in Virginia Tech territory, resulting in five field goals. Nebraska is now 1-21 in its last 22 games against Top 20 teams. NU is 0-17 in road games against the Top 20 since the Huskers' 1997 national title season.


6. TEXAS TECH (2-1; Last week: 7)

Last week:
Lost to Texas 34-24
Next up: At Houston
Bottom line: QB Taylor Potts may have been the best quarterback on the field Saturday in Austin against the Longhorns, completing 46 of 62 passes for 420 yards and three TDs.

Texas hit him 20 times, including Sergio Kindle's helmet-popping sack, and Potts kept getting up. He'll have to be as good Saturday in Houston to keep pace with Cougars' QB Case Keenum.


7. BAYLOR (1-1; Last week: 5)

Last week:
Lost 30-22 to Connecticut
Next up: Northwestern (La.) State
Bottom line: Baylor was a 10-point favorite and had two weeks to prepare for the defending co-champion of the Big East. But the Bears' run defense was exposed. BU couldn't stop a UConn rushing attack it knew was coming.

Two UConn backs went over the 100-yard mark as Baylor gave up 235 yards on the ground and is now giving up 180.5 yards per game on the ground. Art Briles was no "MacGyver Briles" last week.


8. MISSOURI (3-0; Last week: 8)

Last week:
Defeated Furman 52-12
Next up: At Nevada
Bottom line: QB Blaine Gabbert has eight TD passes and zero interceptions for the Tigers, who lead the Big 12 in pass efficiency. Tigers went to a neutral field (St. Louis) for its season-opening victory over Illinois. Going west will be Mizzou's first true road game.


9. TEXAS A&M (2-0; Last week: 9)

Last week:
Defeated Utah St. 38-30
Next up: UAB
Bottom line: The Aggies may have lost WR Jeff Fuller for four to six weeks after Fuller, the team's leading receiver with 12 catches for 136 yards through two games, cracked the fibula in his right leg. QB Jerrod Johnson has yet to throw an interception in two games this season.

RB Christine Michael, who left the Utah State game with a calf strain, should be back this week. OT Lee Grimes (bruised ribs) is day to day. The Aggies were dead last in the Big 12 in rushing offense (88.5 ypg) last season. This season, A&M is No. 1 in the Big 12, averaging 248 yards per game on the ground.


10.IOWA STATE (2-1; Last week: 10)

Last week:
Beat Kent St. 34-14
Next up: Army
Bottom line: QB Austen Arnaud bounced back from being benched after throwing four interceptions in a 35-3 loss to Iowa last week. Arnaud was 13-of-21 passing for 144 yards and also ran for 42 yards. RB Alexander Robinson also had a big day, rushing for 143 yards on 23 carries.


11.COLORADO (1-2; Last week: 11)

Last week:
Defeated Wyoming 24-0
Next up: At West Virginia
Bottom line: Nice save by Dan Hawkins last week. But there's no chance to rest on CU's schedule. The Mountaineers had a lively game at Gene Chizik[db]'s Auburn last Saturday before giving up two leads and losing 41-30.


12.KANSAS STATE (1-2; Last week: 12)

Last week:
Lost at UCLA 23-9
Next up: Tennessee Tech
Bottom line: Kansas State gets a home date against Mack Brown's brother [db]Watson Brown, who has coached Tennessee Tech to a 7-16 record the previous two seasons.


THE TOP TEN

1. FLORIDA -
The good news for Colt McCoy? Tim Tebow didn't exactly light it up in the Lane Kiffin Bowl.

2. TEXAS - Defense has been carrying the team until Colt McCoy warms up … in the third quarter.

3. ALABAMA - QB Greg McElroy worked his former Southlake Carroll coach Todd Dodge and North Texas.

4. MISSISSIPPI - Jevan Snead gets to face the Old Ball Coach at South Carolina this week.

5. CAL - Jahvid Best made his Heisman case in a win at Minnesota by running for 131 yards and all five of his team's touchdowns.

6. LSU - Jordan Jefferson and Co. can't afford to look past Mississippi State this week with a road trip to Georgia looming.

7. PENN STATE - Nittany Lions start Big Ten play this week at home against Iowa.

8. MIAMI (FLA.) - QB Jacory Harris is in the Heisman Trophy race, and if Miami wins at Virginia Tech this week and against Oklahoma at home the following week, the Hurricanes could be the team UT should be sweating in the BCS race.

9. BOISE STATE - This year's BCS buster is off to a fast start.

10.USC - Who knew the Trojans' offense would only run with freshman QB Matt Barkley in the lineup?


THE PICKS

Mississippi (-3) at South Carolina

Ole Miss 28, South Carolina 24

Missouri (-7.5) at Nevada
Nevada 30, Missouri 27

Miami (-2.5) at Virginia Tech
Miami 23, Va. Tech 16

Iowa at Penn State (-10)
Penn State 27, Iowa 20

Texas Tech at Houston (-1)
Houston 43, Texas Tech 40

California (-6) at Oregon
Cal 24, Oregon 14

North Carolina at Georgia Tech (-2.5)
UNC 23, Ga. Tech 20

Washington at Stanford (-7)
Stanford 21, Washington 17

THE BOTTOM LINE LOCK OF THE WEEK

The Houston-Texas Tech over


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