Big 12 Fearless Predictions, Sept. 15
Posted Sep 13, 2007

It's been building for three years, and now it's finally here for Nebraska. Sam Keller and the Huskers get a chance to put the program among the elite of the elite again with a win over USC, but are the pieces really in place to pull off the huge upset?

Big 12
North Colorado | Iowa St | Kansas | Kansas State | Missouri | Nebraska
South Baylor | Oklahoma | Oklahoma State | Texas | Texas A&M | Texas Tech

Big 12 Fearless Predictions Sept. 1Sept. 8 | Sept. 22 | Sept. 29 
Oct. 6Oct. 13 | Oct. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17Nov. 24Dec. 1

How are the picks so far? SU: 20-3 ... ATS: 11-6

Big 12 Fearless Predictions, Week Three, Part 2

Big 12 Game of the Week

USC (1-0) at Nebraska (2-0)  8:00 pm ABC
Why to Watch: In 2003, the Huskers went 10-3 with an Alamo Bowl win over Michigan State. That off-season, head coach Frank Solich, who coached his team to the national title game just two years earlier, was fired, mainly because the higher-ups had a sense that Nebraska football was slipping overall and needed a change to be among the elite of the elite of the elite. To many, this was the equivalent of Tiger Woods completely revamping his golf swing despite being the number one player in the world. To others, the idea of scrapping the devastating Nebraska rushing offense for some newfangled spread thing was like messing with their religion. Now, three years after the hiring of Bill Callahan, everything has built to this moment. Oh sure, playing in the Big 12 Championship last year was an important step, but this is bigger. Much bigger. This is to finally announce that Nebraska deserves to be considered a top program again, and a loss to USC, especially if it's not pretty, would be devastating in the development. For USC, it's another day, another end-of-the-world game for someone else. The nation's number one team now has some serious challengers after LSU and Oklahoma made their statements in big games. Now the Trojans have to do the same or risk possibly falling to third. This is only the fourth time the two powerhouses have played. USC is 2-0-1 with the last victory coming last season in Los Angeles.
Why USC Might Win: USC has become the nation's top superpower by being in the national title hunt every year, and it got to that point under head coach Pete Carroll by winning almost every big non-conference road game. 2006: USC 50, Arkansas 14. 2005: USC 34, Notre Dame 31. 2004: USC 24, Virginia Tech, 13. 2003: USC 23, Auburn 0. 2002: USC 40, Colorado 3 (but the Trojans lost the next week at Kansas State). This program thrives off the big road game and is hardly going to be fazed by Lincoln, Nebraska. On the field, USC should be able to keep QB John David Booty upright and clean. The Husker pass rush has been mediocre and inconsistent over the first two games, and to get to Booty, it's going to have to do something funky. That's what USC wants. Booty is good, but not Leinart-like, when it comes to making the right reads, and he's had two weeks to prepare for this.
Why Nebraska Might Win: Is USC battle tested? This is a relatively young team, even by USC's standards, that only had one tune up game against Idaho before getting two weeks off to prepare. While it might seem like a plus to have the time off to work, there's history working against the Trojans. USC has lost a mere three regular season games in the last four years, and two of them (to Oregon State last year and at Cal in 2003) came on the road after a two-week layoff. This hardly appeared to be a razor-sharp team against the Vandals in week one as it went through the motions on the way to the easy win. It's asking a lot, even for USC, to just turn it on and be USC with little time to work. Nebraska is coming into this game after getting two games of the best offensive line play its seen under Callahan, while the secondary has been terrific so far. If the Huskers can consistently protect Sam Keller, and keep Booty from bombing away, the running game should be able to take over. Last year's Husker team wasn't quite ready for primetime when it lost 28-10 to the Trojans. This year's team, especially after a tougher-than-you-think win at Wake Forest, appears to be ready, and all the parts seem to be working, with the possible exception of ...
Who to Watch: Sam Keller. The former Arizona State Sun Devil knows all too well what it's like to play USC, and his past sins could come back to be a major plus in the game preparation. In 2005 against the Trojans, he was red hot as he led ASU to a 21-3 halftime lead. LenDale White and the USC running game took over in the second half, Keller was picked off six times, and ASU lost 38-28. Going into the locker room at halftime, Keller gave a cocky interview that all but made it sound like ASU had already won. He's not going to make the same mistake twice. Even if Nebraska gets up early, Keller will have to keep the foot on the gas, but he can't force plays that aren't there. The running game has been the focal point so far, but even with the help, Keller has thrown three interceptions and two touchdown passes. Now he has to be mistake-free for the Huskers to pull this off.
What Will Happen: This is where all the bumps and bruises will come back to haunt USC. Safety Josh Pinkard is out for the year with a torn ACL, WR Patrick Turner is still getting over a shoulder injury, star OT Sam Baker has a rub problem, top RB Chauncey Washington has a sprained shoulder, and the list goes on. Of course USC has depth to spare, but it needs all its starters healthy and jelled to handle the jacked up Huskers. Nebraska isn't faster than USC, but it'll play with a bit more bounce in its step on the way to a decent early lead, and will then hang on late as Booty's final drive to win the game comes up just short.
CFN Prediction: Nebraska 27 ... USC 23
... Line: USC -10
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 5

Big 12 Friday, Sept. 14

Oklahoma State (1-1) at Troy (0-2)  8:00 pm ESPN2
Why to Watch: The last time a team from the Big 12 traveled to Troy to play an apparent nationally televised blowout game, Missouri was stunned in a 24-14 loss. While that was 2004, this is still a decent Trojan team that should be in the thick of the Sun Belt title hunt again. It hasn't been a smooth start, going 0-2 against Arkansas and Florida, but the offense hasn't been bad and the overall team appears to be in place to give the Cowboys a run. OSU is on the second leg of a Sun Belt tour after blasting Florida Atlantic 42-6. With one of the nation's most exciting offenses, OSU should put on a good show if it's not looking ahead to the Big 12 opener at Texas Tech.
Why Oklahoma State Might Win: Troy hasn't even been remotely close to stopping the run so far. The OSU ground game hasn't taken off and been the explosive juggernaut it's expected to become, but that's because it had good offensive balance against FAU and had to throw it to try to get back in the Georgia game. For Troy to win this game, it has to keep the chains moving and be effective on third downs. That could be a problem considering QB Omar Haugabook has only completed 46% of his passes. Fortunately for the Trojans ...
Why Troy Might Win: ... the Cowboy secondary has been mediocre. Georgia was able to throw on OSU without a problem, mainly because the defensive line didn't generate enough pressure. On the other side of the ball, the OSU O line has struggled in pass protection and hasn't done enough for the running game. Basically, all the parts haven't started to click yet, so if Troy plays a sharp, mistake-free game, it should have a chance to take this deep into the second half.
Who to Watch: Part of OSU's problem (and it's all relative considering the Cowboys just blew out FAU) has been injuries. Top RB Dantrell Savage has a bad groin injury, and good backup Julius Crosslin has a sprained knee, meaning sophomore Keith Toston has to carry the workload when he's been used to splitting time. The bigger question mark is at quarterback, where Bobby Reid has had knee and ankle problems. The injuries have opened the door for sophomore Zac Robinson, who completed 14 of 20 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns, with an interception, against FAU. Both will likely see time.
What Will Happen: Troy will catch OSU napping for about a half, and then the Cowboy passing game will take over. The Trojans won't have the firepower to keep up in the end, but they'll make this a fun game to watch.
CFN Prediction: Oklahoma State 31 ... Troy 20
... Line: Oklahoma State -10
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 2

Big 12 Saturday, Sept. 15

Iowa (2-0) at Iowa State (0-2)  1:30 PM  
Why to Watch: The painful "throw out the record book" cliché here as Iowa State always gives Iowa problems. The Cyclones would like to throw out the first two games of the Gene Chizik era, losing home games to Kent State and Northern Iowa, and looking awful in both. As bad as things have been, the season can take a wicked 180-degree turn if the Cyclones can pull off their magic against an Iowa team that struggled against Northern Illinois, and then dominated Syracuse in a 35-0 stomping. With a showdown against Wisconsin next week, Iowa could use a breather of a game to work on getting all the young players and the backups some meaningful work, but this is a rivalry game. Iowa State will have other ideas.
Why Iowa Might Win: When in doubt, when Iowa State starts to get a little bit of momentum, Iowa should be able to rely on the lines and come through with a long drive, or a stuffing stop, when it absolutely needs to. The Cyclone running game hasn't been bad, but it's about to hit a brick wall against a Hawkeye defensive front that's swallowing up the run. Iowa State's biggest problem has been turning the ball over and making big mistakes, and with the fearsome Hawkeye pass rush sure to pressure Bret Meyer, there should be several opportunities to force turnovers. Northern Illinois and Syracuse aren't great, but they're better than Iowa State and they combined to net 45 rushing yards.
Why Iowa State Might Win: Iowa State's defense hasn't been awful so far, and it should play just well enough to keep the game close. The offense has been the issue, and the run defense has struggled, but the secondary has done a good job so far, while the defensive front has generated decent pressure. This is an entirely different animal for new Iowa QB Jake Christensen, as he'll now have to deal with a road game in a rivalry game. Better Iowa teams than this have fallen to the Cyclones in the past. Iowa State will play like this is its Super Bowl.
Who to Watch: It's time for Bret Meyer to save his season and come up with his first really good performance against Iowa. Meyer is 1-2 against the Hawkeyes, and while he ran well last year, he struggled mightily to get anything going in the passing game with just 152 yards, 154 the year before, and 100 as a freshman. He had to do everything for the offense last week, but while he threw for 255 yards, he didn't throw a touchdown pass and tossed two picks. For Iowa State to have any shot, he can't just be effective; he has to be brilliant. For that to happen, it's time for WR Todd Blythe to show up. With only seven catches for 97 yards and a touchdown in the first two games, he hasn't been able to help the struggling attack.
What Will Happen: The emotion of the game will carry Iowa State for a half, as the defense forces a few Iowa mistakes, but the Cyclone offense will be shut down in the second half. The Iowa defensive line will be the difference.
CFN Prediction: Iowa 23 ... Iowa State 10
... Line: Iowa -17
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 2

Western Michigan (0-2) at Missouri (2-0)
  2:00 pm
Why to Watch: This couldn't have been a more disappointing start to the season for Western Michigan. Now on a three-game losing streak, one of the early favorites in the MAC race hasn't been able to run the ball, hasn't played defense, and has been blasted by a combined score of 99 to 51 in losses to West Virginia and Indiana. The last thing the Broncos need is to face a hot offense, but that's what it's getting against a Missouri team that's cranked out 78 points and 977 yards in its first two games. Mizzou can take breather after this game with Illinois State up next, but it needs to keep preparing for the showdown with Nebraska in two weeks.
Why Western Michigan Might Win: If games were just three quarters, Missouri might be in the hunt for the national title. No team does a better job of starting out hot, and inexplicably fading, than the Tigers, so if WMU can somehow keep it close and then let the passing game take over for the last 20 minutes or so, it might be equipped to pull off the upset in the final minutes. The Broncos, averaging 38.5 yards per kick, have a huge edge in the punting game over Mizzou and its 24.5-yard average.
Why Missouri Might Win: The Tiger defensive line can pack suitcase and a sleeping back because it'll be camped out in the WMU backfield all game long. The Broncos have been abysmal in pass protection, and while the quarterbacks have been productive, they've had to do it under fire. The extra pressure should mean more turnovers, which is the last thing the Broncos need. Mizzou is seventh in the nation in turnover margin, while WMU is 110th.
Who to Watch: Finally, after an entire off-season of speculation and battling, WMU has finally, absolutely settled on its quarterback ... for now. Tim Hiller has been the team's best option so far, and despite the team's overall struggles and several misfires, he's made decent decisions and has made the passing game go. One of the key reasons WMU is 16th in the nation in passing, beyond having to play catchup, has been junior Jamarko Simmons, who followed up a 14-catch, 144-yard, two touchdown day against West Virginia with a 14-catch, 158-yard, one touchdown day against Indiana.
What Will Happen: Missouri will use more offensive balance to try to play a full sixty minutes. The defense will do its part with at least five sacks and three takeaways.
CFN Prediction: Missouri 41 ... Western Michigan 24
... Line: Missouri -20
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 2

Texas Tech (2-0) at Rice (0-2)  3:00 pm
Why to watch: Despite having to break in a slew of new receivers this year, Mike Leach has the high-powered Red Raider passing attack clicking as if it’s already mid-season.  QB Graham Harrell is second nationally to only Hawaii’s Colt Brennan in total offense, and those receivers, particularly freshman Michael Crabtree, are catching on just fine.  After a slow start versus UTEP last week, it was that aerial assault that fueled a furious second-half comeback and a second win to start the season.  With a win over Rice this week, the Raiders will clinch the Conference USA West.  For the Owls, last year’s magical season that ended with bowl game must feel like a lifetime ago.  With a new coach and the same toothless defense, Rice has begun 2007 with losses to Nicholls State and Baylor.  The program was 0-4 out of the gate last year, so some inspiration can be found in the 2006 squad.
Why Texas Tech might win: Running basically the same offense that’s installed in Lubbock, unheralded Baylor QB Blake Szymanski torched the Owls last Saturday for 412 yards and six touchdown passes without throwing a pick.  Against this Rice secondary, David Klingler’s single-game passing marks might be in jeopardy if Harrell & Co. stick around for more than three quarters.  Making matters worse in Houston, the Owl offense that bailed the team out so often in 2006 has been a no-show through two games.
Why Rice might win: The Red Raiders have new starters everywhere on defense, and it showed last week against UTEP.  Tech allowed 431 balanced yards and had just one sack, indications that the young unit will take time to mesh this fall.  The key for the Owls will be the play of QB Chase Clement, who’s been a shell of himself this month.  If he can tap into last year’s form and hook up regularly with WR Jarett Dillard, the Texas Tech defense can be scored upon.
Who to watch: If opposing defenses start committing too many resources to Crabtree, Danny Amendola will seamlessly pick up the slack.  While not nearly as explosive, he’s a polished pass-catcher from the slot with 22 receptions and two touchdowns already.  If Rice doubles up on Crabtree, Amendola will have at least ten grabs for a third game-in-a-row.
What will happen: Well-rested after playing two games in the first days of the season, Texas Tech will score at will on the Rice defense.  Harrell’s capable of going for 500 yards for the second time in his career if Leach keeps him in long enough.
CFN Prediction: Texas Tech 52 … Rice 17 ... Line: Texas Tech -28.5
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 1.5

Utah State
(0-2) at Oklahoma (2-0)  3:30 pm ESPN2
Why to Watch: If you’re a fan of spinning scoreboards and the old Sooner teams of yesterday, which used to hang half a hundred without breathing hard, then this is the game for you. Oklahoma is averaging 65 points a game, and a visit from the 0-2 Aggies, who have blown two consecutive fourth-quarter leads, isn’t going to hurt that average. The Sooners blasted Miami, 51-13, last week and are now being considered among the nation’s elite, along with USC and LSU, and in the national title hunt. If you thought Appalachian State beating Michigan was a shocker, a Utah State win would be even bigger.
Why Utah State Might Win: To keep it close, QB Leon Jackson has to use his leg as well as his arm to keep the chains moving, and he has to do everything possible to avoid turnovers. The Sooners have picked off three passes and returned one for a touchdown, and Jackson is going to have to press early on. Running back Curtis Marsh has to solid enough to establish some semblance of a ground game on the opening drive. This is a veteran Aggie team that’s playing far better than it did last year, and if OU is snoozing after the big win over Miami, this might not be too bad until after halftime.
Why Oklahoma Might Win: Oklahoma’s offense has been outstanding, thanks to redshirt freshman QB Sam Bradford, who is a ridiculous 40-of-48 for 568 yards with eight scores and no picks. He has a deep receiving corps, led by big-play man Malcolm Kelly, and running back DeMarco Murray has 151 yards on the ground and five touchdowns. It’s all stemming from an offensive line that isn’t allowing Bradford to get touched. The Sooner defense hasn’t been overwhelming, but the secondary showed against Miami why it’s among the best in America, while the run defense is allowing just one yard per carry.
Whom to Watch: Anybody who wondered whether Bradford was up to the job of running the show doesn’t have too many doubts now. He has been accurate, confident and capable of making the big play down the field. A lot of young QBs are kept in a cocoon and just throw short passes. Not Bradford, who has been able to throw it all over the place without making too many mistakes. Even against Miami, which was supposed to be formidable defensively, he looked in control and produced well.
What Will Happen: The Sooners, won’t be as sharp as they’ve been over he first two games, but they’ll score early and often.
CFN Prediction: Oklahoma 48 … Utah State 6 ... Line: Oklahoma -46 
Must See Rating: (5 Britney at the VMAs - 1 Big Shots) ... 1.5


Big 12 Fearless Predictions, Week Three, Part 2



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