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September 23, 2004

Conference play begins in Week 4 of the Big 12

Texas Tech (2-1) at Kansas (2-1)
Saturday, 2:30 p.m. CDT, FOX Sports
The Daily Line: Texas Tech -6.5

Texas Tech player to watch: With quarterback Sonny Cumbie airing it out every week, someone has to be on the receiving end of all those passes. And it's Jarrett Hicks who has emerged as the Red Raiders' top receiver. The 6-foot-4 sophomore has caught 25 passes, including three touchdown receptions, in three games to rank fifth nationally, and he's averaging better than 20 yards per catch. Hicks had eight grabs for 211 yards and a touchdown in Tech's 70-35 dismantling of TCU last week.
Kansas player to watch: The Jayhawks are allowing less than 13 points per game this season and the play of linebacker Nick Reid has been a big reason why. He leads the Big 12 in tackles with 29 and tackles for loss with six.
The inside scoop: The Red Raiders lead the nation in passing offense with more than 460 yards per game, and Cumbie is averaging 62 pass attempts per game. The pressure clearly will be on the Kansas secondary, which has played well this year. The Jayhawks, who rank 10th nationally in total defense, are allowing just 172 yards per game through the air, and opposing quarterbacks are completing just 52 percent of their throws. But this will be the biggest test of the season for that unit, and its performance will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
Texas Tech will win if ... it can move the ball in the air as it's accustomed to and Cumbie doesn't turn the ball over.
Kansas will win if … it can sustain long drives to keep the Tech offense off the field and force Cumbie into some mistakes.
Notes: Texas Tech has won seven of the eight previous meetings, but the Jayhawks were victorious, 34-31, the last time the two teams met in 2001 … Kansas' 2-1 start is its best since 1997 … Cumbie has passed for at least 441 yards in each game this season.
The pick: Texas Tech 35, Kansas 31

Rice (2-0) at No. 5 Texas (2-0)
Saturday, 6 p.m. FOX Sports
The Daily Line: Texas -33

Texas player to watch: Running back Cedric Benson is on his way to the type of season enjoyed in Austin only by the likes of Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams. He's averaging nearly 185 yards per game and a staggering 8.4 yards per carry. If Texas keeps winning, Benson has a great shot at the Heisman.
Rice player to watch: Bruising fullback Ed Bailey rumbled for 234 yards in the Owls' 41-29 win against Hawaii last week. He's the key to the Rice option attack and averages 146 yards per game.
The inside scoop: This game will be decided on the ground. Although it's early, Rice leads the nation in rushing defense, having allowed just 15 yards on 45 carries this season. But Benson and the Longhorns, who lead the nation with 386 yards per game on the ground, obviously will provide a much greater challenge. The Rice offense, meanwhile, ranks ninth nationally in rushing offense with 284 yards per game, and it rolled up 405 yards on the ground against the Rainbow Warriors. Texas allows 106.5 rushing yards per game.
Rice could keep it close .. if its option attack controls the ball and its run defense is legit, but don't count on it.
Texas will win … because it has the superior players.
Notes: Texas has dominated the series 64-21-1 and has won nine of the last 10 meetings, including a 48-7 decision last season. The Longhorns have won 25 of their last 26 home games.
The pick: Texas 52, Rice 7

North Texas (0-3) at Baylor (1-1)
Saturday, 6 p.m. CDT
The Daily Line: North Texas -3

North Texas player to watch: Freshman running back Jamario Thomas stepped in for the injured Patrick Cobbs, the nation's leading rusher a year ago, in last week's 52-21 loss at Colorado and shattered the school record for rushing yards by a freshman with 247. He also scored twice in the game. With Cobbs out for at least two more weeks with a sprained knee, look for Thomas to get the bulk of the carries again this week.
Baylor player to watch: Quarterback Dane King, a junior college transfer, is off to a decent start for the Bears. He's completed 34 of 59 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns, but he's also thrown five interceptions. If King makes multiple mistakes against North Texas expect back up Shawn Bell to see time like he did in the 56-14 loss to UAB.
The inside scoop: As good as Thomas was against the Buffaloes, the Mean Green defense was equally as bad, allowing 586 yards. In fact, if North Texas is going to continue to give up 572 yards per game, its season average, the "Mean" may have to be removed from the team nickname. Baylor, meanwhile, will be tested on defense by Thomas and a North Texas offense that had more than 500 yards against Colorado. So, to break it down in the simplest of terms, this one should feature a lot of points.
North Texas will win if ... if Thomas has another big day, and it can force King into making poor decisions.
Baylor will win if … it takes care of the ball and turns the yardage it's sure to amass into touchdowns.
Notes: Baylor leads the series 11-1 but the lone win by the Mean Green came last season, 52-14. The Bears' Daniel Sepulveda leads the nation in punting with a 49.2-yard average.
The pick: North Texas 14, Baylor 15


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