2009 Big 12 Fearless Predictions
Week 3 ... Sept. 19 Games
2009 CFN Big 12 Expert Picks & Roundup
Big 12 Fearless Predictions
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Week 3, Part 2 (K State at
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Game of the Week
Texas Tech (2-0) at Texas (2 -0), 8:00 EST, Saturday, September 19, ABC
Why to watch: In a game that defined the controversy of the 2008 season, Texas Tech beat Texas in a classic when Michael Crabtree caught a last-second touchdown pass to beat Texas 39-33. That was the only blemish for the Longhorns, and even though the loss was on the road and in the final moments, it was enough to knock them down a peg behind Oklahoma when it came to the polls and the BCS rankings. Even though it was a huge loss for Texas, it's not like this is being seen as some sort of revenge game this year. Texas Tech is rebuilding and reloading, even if it doesn't look like it after two games and 912 yards passing, and it isn't considered any sort of a threat to win the Big 12 South. Last year the Red Raiders were it , and this year that team is supposed to be Oklahoma State. At least it was until the gaffe against Houston (Tech's opponent next week). Now, with the Cowboys wounded and obviously beatable, and with Sam Bradford's shoulder possibly changing the shape of the divisional race, the door is open again for Texas Tech to make some big noise. Beating Texas would obviously bring the respect this year's team is looking for, but this will be a tall task on the road.
Texas might be the No. 2 team in the country, and it won its first two games in blowouts, but it hasn't quite hit its midseason stride. The pass rush has been fine, but nothing special, the passing game hasn't been as efficient as expected, and the defense hasn't been a total rock. Of course, that's nitpicking considering the Longhorns won their first two games over ULM and Rice by a combined score of 100-30, but the expectations are through the roof for the loaded team and every little blip is going to be scrutinized and overanalyzed considering the non-conference schedule is so awful (UCF and UTEP are the other two games).
This is the first time this year Texas gets a national spotlight, getting the honor that USC and Ohio State didn't receive last week with a primetime slot on ABC, but the same is true for Texas Tech. The Red Raiders can go from afterthoughts to national title contenders with a win, while Colt McCoy's Heisman chase the Texas BCS title dreams can get a kick-start with an impressive performance.
Why Texas Tech might win: Beating Texas Tech is all about generating pressure, and sometimes that doesn't even work. Brian Orakpo had a party in the Red Raider backfield last season, at least until he got hurt, and the Longhorns lost (although some would say his injury changed the game and ended up allowing Tech to have a shot). The Texas pass rush has been fine, registering five sacks against Wyoming last week after not getting any against ULM, but it hasn't been dominant and it hasn't been consistent. Meanwhile, the secondary has been allowing 193 yards per game despite facing two teams, ULM and Wyoming, that will struggle all year to find an effective passing game. If Tech QB Taylor Potts is given time to operate he'll pick apart the fine, but not special Texas defensive backs. On the flip side, Texas Tech's pass rush has been fantastic while the O line has allowed just one sack. Tech might be rebuilding a bit in some key areas, but the replacements have stepped in without missing a beat.
Why Texas might win:Texas now has a running game. Actually, to be more specific, it has a running game that involves running backs. McCoy was the main man on the ground last season, carrying the offense with his legs far too often for a player of his value, and while he hasn't stopped moving this year, he has made a conscious effort to let the backs do the work. Vondrell McGee and Tre Newton combine to average 100 yards per game, and unlike last year when the Longhorns were outgained 105 yards to 80 on the ground by Tech, they should have a big advantage with a more balanced offense. If and when this gets into a shootout, McCoy and his fabulous receivers will still take over, but the idea early on will be to keep Potts and the Tech passing attack off the field with long, pounding drives that could bleed the Red Raider defense dry.
Who to watch: Potts, a junior, has been around the Red Raider system for a few years and he knows what he's doing. He has 6-3 size and a bigger arm than last year's star, Graham Harrell, but he has to keep the mistakes to a minimum. He lit up North Dakota for 405 yards and two scores in the opener and ran for two touchdowns, but he threw three picks. He appeared to be more relaxed and more decisive a week later against Rice, throwing for 456 yards and seven touchdowns without a pick, and now he'll have to make even quicker reads and he has to keep the chains moving. This might not be as explosive an offense without Michael Crabtree, but it can be just as effective as long as Potts isn't throwing pick, and he should be fine if the line gives him a little time. The Heisman voters will be watching McCoy, but Potts could be the one who gets everyone talking.
What will happen: Potts needs to be nearly perfect, and he won't be. He'll gouge the Texas secondary for at least 350 yards, but he'll also throw a few key interceptions that will change the course of the game. The Texas running game will show up early, and then it will be all McCoy as he'll have a flawless second half to lead the way through a shootout.
CFN Prediction: Texas 38 … Texas Tech 27 ... Line: Texas -16.5
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 5
-Free Expert Football Predictions
Duke (1-1) at Kansas (2-0),12:00 EST, Versus, Saturday, September 19
Why to watch: Insert obligatory basketball reference in this space. Yes, both institutions are better known for their indoor exploits, but Duke and Kansas are also trying to make their marks on grass. The Jayhawks have gotten off to a 2-0 start at the expense of Northern Colorado and UTEP, yet might not be truly challenged until the end of October. Don't expect any apologies from the program, especially as some in the Big 12 North have stumbled out of the starting gates. For the Blue Devils, beating Army has never meant so much. After dropping the opener with Richmond, Duke knew what an 0-2 would mean to its postseason hopes. The school responded with a pivotal 35-19 victory that has spawned a quarterback controversy in Durham. Redshirt freshman Sean Renfree came off the bench to spark the win, though senior Thaddeus Lewis remains the starter. Stay tuned.
Why Duke might win: The combination of Lewis and Renfree gives the Blue Devils two viable quarterbacks, who can attack one of Kansas' biggest concerns—pass defense. Lewis remains one of the ACC's top quarterbacks, while Renfree was near perfect in his debut, going 7-of-8 for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Receivers Johnny Williams, Austin Kelly, Donovan Varner, and Conner Vernon give Duke the depth and versatility to attack an unproven back seven. The rebuilt Jayhawk offensive line will be tested by DT Vince Oghobaase and underrated Devil front seven.
Why Kansas might win: Duke has just a single sack in the first two games. That's going to be a problem against this Jayhawk offense. If you can't pressure Todd Reesing, he'll pick you apart with his multitude of weapons, especially now that star WR Dezmon Briscoe has served his suspension. The running game is in great hands, with Jake Sharp and Toben Opurum, and Briscoe's return means lots of breathing room for complimentary receivers Kerry Meier and Johnathan Wilson. The Blue Devils don't have the pass defenders to keep this group in check.
Who to watch: Although the true litmus tests won't come for a while, the Kansas defense has performed well in the first two weeks, allowing just 10 points and one nonsense touchdown. Part of the success can be traced to the pressure being generated by the defensive line, namely ends Jake Laptad and Max Onyegbule. The pair has combined for seven tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, a concern for an average set of Duke offensive tackles.
What will happen: After misfiring on occasion in the first two games, this will be the week that the Kansas offense starts to fully hum up to its potential. The Jayhawks will strafe an overmatched Blue Devil defense with a combination of Reesing's passes and the running of Sharp and Opurum. Unlike a week ago, David Cutcliffe won't be able to go to his bench to spark his team to a comeback win.
CFN Prediction: Kansas 38 … Duke 14 ... Line:
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 2
Free Expert Football Predictions
Tulsa (2-0) at Oklahoma (1-1),3:30 EST, Fox Sports Net, Saturday, September 19
Why to watch: Oklahoma took its first step toward recovering from its opening day debacle with BYU, blowing past Idaho State, 64-0. While it wasn't cause to celebrate, it did allow the Sooners to regroup, clear their heads, and get a bunch of snaps for QB Landry Jones. It also bled a week on the timetable for Sam Bradford's return, whenever that might be. Tulsa would love nothing more than to add to Oklahoma's misery with a second upset loss in a span of three weeks. Even as it spits out as many points and competes for titles, the Hurricane takes a predictable backseat to the Sooners in the state, leaving a chip on its shoulder. It's opened with impressive road wins over Tulane and New Mexico, never trailing in either game.
Why Tulsa might win: Sure, opening with Tulane and New Mexico tempers enthusiasm, but the Hurricane has played eight quarters of really good football. G.J. Kinne is maturing on the fly at quarterback, accounting for four touchdowns and 363 yards in Albuquerque, and the defense is infinitely better than a year ago. It's only allowed 23 points and less than two yards a carry, while picking up five sacks in each of the first two games. In what should be a shootout, it has the weapons, like receivers Damaris Johnson, Slick Shelley, and Trae Johnson, to go stride for stride.
Why Oklahoma might win: Trent Williams. Gerald McCoy. Auston English. Jeremy Beal. Tulsa can only dream of having next-level linemen of this caliber on its roster. The Sooners will dominate at the point of attack in a way that the Hurricane hasn't experienced in 2009. When OU has the ball, that'll mean lots of running room for DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown, and enough time for Jones to hit a streaking Ryan Broyles. On defense, it'll whip a rebuilding Tulsa front that's given up more sacks than all but three teams in the country.
Who to watch: McCoy is playing as if he's already outgrown the college game. A 6-4, 297-pound reincarnation of Tommie Harris, he moves with the quickness and agility of some ends, which is too much for pedestrian interior linemen. Doubling him will do no good for the Hurricane because it'll simply allow Beal, English, and the blitzing linebackers to get clean shots on Kinne.
What will happen: This is an interesting game for Jones, who'll need to continue making strides with his reads and progressions in order to navigate a frenetic Tulsa defense. To make his life a little easier, the Sooners will force feed the Hurricane a steady diet of Murray and Brown on the ground. Lost in Oklahoma's shaky start has been the play of the D, which has allowed 14 points and has the talent to keep Tulsa from being the second Conference USA team in as many weeks to stun a Big 12 power.
CFN Prediction: Oklahoma 40 … Tulsa 17 ... Line: Oklahoma -15.5
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 3
Nebraska (2-0) at Virginia Tech (1-1), 3:30 EST, Saturday, September 19, ABC
Why to watch: It could be the ACC's last stand, it could be the official marking of the reemergence of a former superpower, or it could just be a game between two very good teams. Nebraska wasn't quite ready yet for a truly big game in late September of last year, and it showed as Virginia Tech and Tyrod Taylor went into Lincoln and beat the Huskers 35-20. This season things appear to be different. The Huskers are more sound defensively, the offense has retooled, apparently for the better, and they're now looking to make a big splash on a national stage before continuing on with the Sun Belt portion of the program facing Louisiana-Lafayette next week (after whacking Florida Atlantic and Arkansas State to start the season). The Big 12 schedule kicks in full-force on October 8th with a trip to Missouri, but that's off in the distance; everyone around the program appears to be fully-focused on the task at hand.
Virginia Tech overcame the disappointing start to the year, losing to Alabama 34-24, by ripping up Marshall for 444 yards in a blowout win. However, for Tech and the ACC, a nice win over a BCS big-name is a must to start to rebuild their respective reputations. With five road games in the final eight, and a date with Miami next week, the Hokies can't afford to blow a home non-conference game, even to a team as good as Nebraska. If Tech can't get to the BCS by winning the ACC title again, it could still get close to an at-large bid as long as its impressive this week and without any major gaffes the rest of the way. This would be a résumé-building win for either team and will be played up all season long in the debates about strength of schedules and conference superiority.
Why Nebraska might win: Just like Alabama was an awful matchup for Virginia Tech, Nebraska is just as tough a draw. The Huskers don't have the Tide's run defense, but the defensive front is big, strong, and talented, even if the run defense numbers don't show it. Tech needs to run effectively to win, and that's going to be hard against DT Ndamukong Suh up front and a great-tackling group in the secondary. While the Hokies will get enough yards on the ground to keep things moving from time to time, the running game isn't going to be consistent. That's where Taylor will have to rely on his arm and his passing game, which haven't been great so far. The Huskers saw a stronger all-around quarterback than Taylor last week in Arkansas State's Corey Leonard and kept him under wraps. Leonard can't run like Taylor, but he can throw. He wasn't able to do either, and Taylor, with a line that has allowed eight sacks so far, will have problems breaking free.
Why Virginia Tech might win:Can the Nebraska offense really play? It's been great so far, but there was massive turnover at the skill positions and they haven't been remotely tested yet. The Husker offensive line has been fine, and QB Zac Lee has been ultra-efficient and extremely effective, but he hasn't been touched and hasn't had to deal with any adversity. If the running game isn't working, and that's the first thing Nebraska will try after watching game film of Mark Ingram and Alabama steamrolling through the Hokie D, it will be on Lee to produce even though his receiving corps is mediocre and he'll be under constant pressure.
Who to watch: Who's the star Hokie running back going to be this week? Darren Evans hasn't been missed too much yet with sophomore Ryan Williams running so brilliantly, averaging over ten yards a crack last week including a 57-yard touchdown run, one of his three scores, while David Wilson and Josh Oglesby have been fantastic when given the shot. But the game might all come down to Taylor. The junior ran for 87 yards and a score and completed 9-of-15 passes for 171 yards in last year's win over the Huskers. The Nebraska defense knows what's coming but can it hit it? It's one thing to try to prepare for a playmaker like Taylor who can make the ground game devastating, but it's another to deal with the execution. Taylor has more weapons around him this year and he doesn't have to do all the work, but he'll be the star if the Hokies win.
What will happen: This should be fantastic. The two strong defenses will give up just enough to allow each offense big chances throughout the game, but the run defense of Nebraska's, and the pass rush that will throw the Virginia Tech line around, will be just effective enough to come away with an impressive non-conference win. Tech couldn't stop Mark Ingram and the Bama ground game, and it'll be outmuscled this week, too.
CFN Prediction: Nebraska 23 … Virginia Tech 20 ... Line: Virginia Tech -3.5
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 4.5
-Free Expert Football Predictions
Furman (2-0) at Missouri (2-0), 2:00 EST, Saturday, September 19
Why to watch: Missouri had a fantastic first week blowing away Illinois 37-9, but it needed everything in the bag to rally at home to get by Bowling Green in a 27-20 fight. Now the Tigers need to use the next two weeks, with a trip to Nevada coming next, to get their young team rolling before the key Big 12 North battle with Nebraska. But Furman isn't going to be a total pushover. The Paladins have a loaded FCS offense that should keep them in the SoCon race all season long, and they showed it off in the first two weeks scoring 83 points with a nearly perfect balanced attack. They get to play at Auburn later this year for their one other game against a BCS team.
Why Furman might win: Which Missouri team will show up? There wasn't the explosion last week against Bowling Green like there was against Illinois, and there will be some mistakes along the way with Blaine Gabbert and several new offensive starters still trying to get on the same page. But the key will be the Furman offense, which should be efficient and effective for a few stretches. Jordan Sorrells is a veteran quarterback who won't be fazed by the big-time atmosphere, and he should keep the pressure on the Mizzou defensive backs all game long.
Why Missouri might win:Furman won its first two games in blowout fashion, but it's not like the defense was a rock. The secondary got lit up by Presbyterian for 292 yards and three scores, while UT Chattanooga was efficient and effective through the air. The Paladins don't have a killer pass rush and aren't likely to consistently pressure Gabbert, who should have a big day pushing the ball down the field. The home runs will be there if the Tigers are a little bit patient.
Who to watch: With Jeremy Maclin off to the Philadelphia Eagles and TE Chase Coffman struggling in Cincinnati, Missouri needed a receiver to step up and be the go-to target for Gabbert, and Danario Alexander did that. The senior followed up a ten-catch opener against Illinois with seven grabs for 56 yards against Bowling Green, and while he might not have the big-time pop of Maclin, he has been steady and has done a great job of working as a reliable safety valve. Also providing senior leadership has been Jared Perry, who caught a touchdown in each of the first two games and has taken advantage of defenses starting to pay attention to Alexander.
What will happen: Furman will throw for plenty of yards, but the defense won't have a prayer of slowing down the Tiger offense. The Mizzou starters will be off the field after the third quarter.
CFN Prediction: Missouri 45 … Furman 17 ... Line: No Line
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 1
-Free Expert Football Predictions
Wyoming (1-1) at Colorado (0-2), 3:30 EST, Saturday, September 19
Why to watch: It's one thing to lose a tough battle against a fired up rival like Colorado State, but it's a whole other issue to get destroyed by Toledo 54-38. Colorado was supposed to turn things around this year under head coach Dan Hawkins, but the defense has been a complete and utter disaster, the offense has been shockingly bad, and the message boards are buzzing with possible candidates to take over the job. The big problem for the Buffs is that this is supposed to be the easy part of the schedule. This is the lone home oasis in a span of four games, with trips to West Virginia and Texas coming up next, and with three more road games to deal with over the second half of the season. Wyoming doesn't have the firepower of Toledo or the power of Colorado State, but Dave Christensen's team is playing better and it wasn't completely awful in last week's 41-10 loss to Texas. The Mountain West season starts up next week against UNLV, but nothing would do more for the new coaching staff and the struggling program than to go on the road and come up with a win over a BCS team.
Why Wyoming might win: The Cowboys have been good at forcing takeaways with six in the first two games, the offense hasn't made a slew of huge mistakes, and the running game has been surprisingly solid. On the other side, Colorado has had problems with turnovers with four interceptions and two fumbles, while the run defense has been gouged. The Buff offensive line has been abysmal with no push for the running game and no pass protection for Cody Hawkins, and it should have problems against a Wyoming defensive front that held up reasonably well against Texas.
Why Colorado might win:The Cowboy offensive line has struggled, too. It's been decent for the ground game, helped by the mobility of QB Robert Benjamin, but it allowed seven sacks in the first two games. For the Buffs, the one thing that has worked reasonably well for a few stretches has been the passing game. It has been inconsistent at times and disastrous in key moments, but in comeback mode last week and when the running game wasn't working against CSU, Cody Hawkins was able to put up some big yards. He should hit the 300-yard mark this week if the running game doesn't show up.
Who to watch: With no help from the offensive line, Darrell Scott and the Colorado runners have had nowhere to go. However, there's some help on the way in the backfield with last year's breakout runner, Rodney Stewart, back from a hamstring problem. He and Scott have to take the offense on their backs, because Hawkins isn't getting the job done. Erratic, mistake-prone, and generally ineffective for far too long, Hawkins has to use his experience and be a steadier factor for the Buff attack. He's back after suffering a concussion, but he'll be watched closely. If Tyler Hansen comes in, the passing game will struggle but the ground game should get a boost.
What will happen: Colorado will finally get its win and everyone can breathe easily for a few moments. Wyoming will get into the backfield and will knock Hawkins around, but the CU defense should get a break against a Cowboy attack that won't be able to keep the chains moving. It's not going to be pretty, but it will be a victory.
CFN Prediction: Colorado 31 … Wyoming 16 ... Line: Colorado -7
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 2
-Free Expert Football Predictions
Week 3, Part 2 (K State at
UCLA, Rice at Ok State, and More)