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September 13, 2006

Big 12: Week 3 breakdown

Buchanan's Big 12 Week 3 picks
Rivals.com national writer Olin Buchanan's predictions for Week 3 in the Big 12.
Saturday's games:
Toledo 31, Kansas 27
Iowa 27, Iowa State 24
Kansas State 23, Marshall 20
Oklahoma 24, Oregon 21
Texas 49, Rice 10
Texas Tech 31, TCU 24
Oklahoma State 42, Florida Atlantic 12
Arizona State 38, Colorado 14
Missouri 35, New Mexico 20
USC 38, Nebraska 27
Texas A&M 45, Army 17
Washington State 24, Baylor 20
Watch a preview:
Nebraska at Southern Cal
Best matchup: Bitter intrastate rivalries are always fun, and Iowa State-Iowa can get pretty nasty. Both teams are 2-0, but coming off uninspired showings in which they narrowly avoided upsets. No. 16 Iowa needed double overtime and a seven-play goal line stand to turn back lowly Syracuse. Iowa State held on for a 16-10 win over Nevada-Las Vegas when a potential game-tying touchdown pass was caught beyond the end zone boundary on the game's final play. The Hawkeyes and Cyclones both have championship aspirations in their respective conferences and this intense matchup could provide confidence and momentum to make a run at those goals. Iowa was without quarterback Drew Tate last week, and his playing status will be crucial. Last year he suffered a concussion in the first quarter and did not play the rest of the way in a 23-3 loss to Iowa State.

Worst matchup: Colorado quarterbacks James Cox and Bernard Jackson may be looking over their shoulders this week in preparation for what looms on Saturday. Colorado ranks last in the Big 12 and 98th nationally with six quarterback sacks allowed in two games against Montana State and Colorado State. The bruises figure to multiply this week with Arizona State, which leads the nation with 12 sacks. Senior linebacker Darron Ware and freshman Dexter Davis have combined for half of the Sun Devils' sack total. Maybe third-string quarterback Brian White's decision to leave the Colorado team last Sunday was an act of self-preservation.

The pressure is on: Even without Rhett Bomar at quarterback, the Oklahoma Sooners didn't worry too much because a smothering defense was supposed to ease the demand for point production. So far, that hasn't been the case. The Sooners have allowed 688 yards in two games against Alabama-Birmingham and Washington and next face Oregon, which ranks 14th nationally in total offense. Oklahoma has been surprisingly vulnerable against the run, allowing Washington's Louis Rankin 112 yards last week. That raises doubts against Oregon, which has a pair of productive backs in Jeremiah Johnson and Jonathan Stewart. A standout sophomore, Stewart missed most of last week's game because of a sprained ankle.

Upset alert: Texas Tech eked out an overtime victory over UTEP last week, and now faces the TCU Horned Frogs, who have a chance to prove they're more than just a big fish in a small pond, (i.e. the Mountain West Conference). The Horned Frogs have won at least 10 games in three of the last four seasons, but have been relegated to second- and third-tier bowl games because they're viewed as feasting on weak schedules. That doesn't sit well in Fort Worth. The Frogs average 396 yards per game, but they must do better in pass defense (ranking No. 101 nationally) to slow down Tech quarterback Graham Harrell - who is second nationally in passing yardage.

BCS implications/Most to gain or most to lose: The Nebraska Cornhuskers will travel more than 1,500 miles for a chance to show how far they've come under coach Bill Callahan. Nebraska has posted two blowout victories over outclassed opponents, but a triumph over No. 4 Southern California would establish the No. 19 Cornhuskers as a serious threat – if not the favorite – to win the Big 12 championship. A mere respectable loss in the Coliseum would even give the Huskers further validation that they're on the way back to national prominence. A victory, though, etches it in stone.

Who's hot: So much attention has been placed on Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel's fast start that the Tigers defense, which ranks second nationally, has almost gone unnoticed. Limiting Division I-AA Murray State to 150 total yards in the season-opener impressed no one, but following it up by allowing Ole Miss just 162 yards – including a mere 72 rushing – will open some eyes.

Who's not: Regardless of what the standings say, 2-0 Iowa State is experiencing an early chill. The Cyclones have been listed with Nebraska as the favorites to win the Big 12 North, but even in two victories have not looked like a true contender and have been reduced to praising the parity in college football. Iowa State needed triple-overtime to defeat Toledo in the season-opener. Toledo then was blasted 31-10 by Western Michigan. Last week, Iowa State escaped with a 16-10 victory over Nevada-Las Vegas and coach Dan McCarney noted UNLV had won its previous game by 44 points. Yeah, that was over Division I-AA Idaho State.

Newcomer who could have an impact: During August practices, wide receiver Maurice Purify - the top-rated junior college prospect at his position and Eureka, Calif., native - talked about how he was looking forward to playing USC. The Trojans didn't offer Purify a scholarship. Well, here's his chance. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder has averaged 29.7 yards on three catches and has a touchdown. USC has issues in the secondary after staring safety Josh Pinkard sustained a season-ending knee injury in the Trojans' season-opening win over Arkansas.

Key stat: Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson has 304 rushing yards after his first two games, which is a quicker pace than in 2004 when he rushed for more than 1,900 yards. He had 217 after two games in 2004 and 283 last season. He now has 3,337 career yards and trails Billy Sims' career school record by 781 yards.

Take the line: Dad used to say, "Stay with what's hot," and that would be the Missouri Tigers. Mizzou is a 13-point favorite over a New Mexico team which lost to Division I-AA Portland State 17-6 in its opener. Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel has thrown six touchdown passes and the Tigers, who have posted lopsided victories over Murray State and Ole Miss, rank fifth nationally in total offense. Even more impressive, they rank second in total defense. In contrast, New Mexico ranks 93rd in total defense.

They said it: "You remember when you were playing catcher when you were playing Little League and you forgot to wear your cup and the pitcher put one into the ground? That's kind how I feel." -- Colorado coach Dan Hawkins after a 14-10 loss to rival Colorado State

Injury update: Nebraska starting center Kurt Mann missed last week's game against Nicholls State with a viral infection that raised his temperature up to 102 degrees. His status for this week is uncertain. … Cornerback Gardner McKay missed last week's game with a high ankle sprain and his availability is uncertain this week. … Texas Tech starting CB Chris Parker is questionable (ankle) … Kansas State wide receiver Jordy Nelson sustained a leg injury in the Wildcats' win over Florida Atlantic, but coach Ron Prince said he's fine. Linebackers Zach Diles and Reggie Walker also left the game with unspecified injuries which aren't thought to be serious.

Worth noting: The team which has led at the end of the first quarter has prevailed in 14 of the last 16 games matching Iowa State and Iowa. That includes last season when Iowa State held a 6-0 advantage after the first quarter and emerged with a 23-3 victory in Ames. … Baylor receiver Trent Shelton has established a school record with at least one reception in 35 consecutive games. … Bears cornerback C.J. Wilson had two interceptions in last week's victory over Northwestern State marking the first multiple-interception game for Baylor since 2001. … Colorado has yet to score in the second half. … Iowa State is 8-2 when tailback Stevie Hicks rushes for 100 yards. … Kansas running back John Cornish has notched back-to-back 100-yard rushing games. … The Jayhawks boast an eight-game winning streak at Memorial Stadium, which is their longest home winning streak since also winning eight consecutive in 1967-68 under coach Pepper Rogers. … Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel has completed 65.3 percent of his attempts and has yet to throw an interception … Kansas State's Justin McKinney returned the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown in last week's victory over Florida Atlantic. It marked the first time a Kansas State player returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown since Rod Elder returned one 74 yards for a score against Oklahoma in 1936. The Wildcats have scored at least one special teams touchdowns in their last three games. … Oklahoma's Reggie Smith is averaging 15.7 yards on punt returns after two games. Last season the Sooners averaged 7.4 yards on punt returns. … Nebraska senior tight end Matt Herian has 60 career catches and needs two more to set a school record for receptions by a tight end. … The Cornhuskers held Nicholls State without a pass completion last week. It was the 10th time in school history the Huskers did not allow an opponent to complete a pass, the last time was against Oklahoma State in 1992. … Texas has held its last 18 opponents scoreless on their opening drive and has allowed just 87 rushing yards combined in its two games this season. … Oklahoma State has scored 38 points in the second quarter this season, which is more than half of the Cowboys' second quarter production (61) of a year ago. The Cowboys have also scored on nine of 10 possessions in the red zone, all touchdowns. … Texas A&M sophomore running back Jorvorskie Lane scored four touchdowns in a victory over Louisiana-Lafayette, which is the most for an Aggie since Darren Lewis ran for four touchdowns against SMU in 1990. … A&M ranked last nationally in pass defense last season, but rank No. 1 thus far this year. … Texas Tech safety Darcel McBath snatched the first two interceptions of his career last week, including one in overtime which set up the Red Raiders' game-winning field goal.

Looking back: Big 12 teams were 10-2 last week with defending conference champion Texas and North Division champ Colorado losing. But at least the Longhorns fell to top-ranked Ohio State, 24-7. Perhaps the most impressive victory was Missouri's 34-7 thumping of Ole Miss, which was held under 100 yards rushing. That win signals that the Tigers may truly be a factor in the North Division race. Meanwhile, Nebraska, Baylor, Texas A&M, Kansas State and Oklahoma State posted lopsided victories. Texas Tech, Kansas and Iowa State had to sweat out close calls.

Freshman who impressed: Kansas State cornerback Josh Moore was the Wildcats' second-leading tackler against Florida Atlantic with six stops, including two for losses.

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