This week's Roundtable is brought to you by the boys at Crimson and Cream Machine. Since I have temporarily usurped TB's mod powers for the day, I get go first. Mwahaha.
1. What is the biggest Big 12 game this weekend not involving OU and Texas? Why?
BracketCat: I'll approach this from a statistical angle. There are five games this week pitting a Top 5 scoring defense (all allowing less than 10 points per game) against an offense scoring more than 32.6 points per game (my thanks to Rivals.com for that tidbit). They are Florida vs. Arkansas, Nebraska vs. Texas Tech, Oklahoma vs. Texas, USC vs. Notre Dame and USF vs. Cincinnati. Not coincidentally, those are some of the best matchups on TV this week, as well.
By the process of elimination and in accordance with the stated parameters, I'll throw out the Red River Shootout (bite me, political correctness) and the non-Big 12 games, leaving me with my answer: Texas Tech at Nebraska. It will be fascinating to see if Ndamukong Suh can wreak the same kind of havoc on Texas Tech's offensive line and passing game as he did to Missouri.
Plus, after having the image of Steven "Sticks" Sheffield lobbing TD passes like grenades against the K-State secondary burned into my brain seven times last Saturday, I am eager to watch him eat some Memorial Stadium turf - even if that means rooting for the Huskers, a team of which I am not particularly fond.
Runner-up is Missouri at Oklahoma State, two evenly matched teams who played a classic last season in Columbia.
TB: This is probably everyone's answer, but Nebraska vs. Texas Tech intrigues me. While the popular storyline out of last Thursday's win over Missouri seemed to be ZOMG 'SKERZ BE ROLLIN!!!, I was a little more reserved in what I think that game meant. Some Husker fans are talking about this being a potential "trap" game, but I think that title is inaccurate. They're playing a high-powered, South division opponent, and in the last five years or so, none of the North teams have proven they can beat even the middling South teams consistently. In other words, this game is sort of a referendum. Can Nebraska beat one of the better South teams?
For that matter, the Missouri-Oklahoma State game serves the same purpose on a smaller level. Mizzou is not the top dog in the North this year, but with injuries and suspensions, Oklahoma State is in the pack with Texas Tech as the teams closest to OU and UT in the South. If the North teams win both of these games, it will go a long way toward reversing the tide of talk about realignment and other silliness we heard too often last season. Of course, if the North teams lose, all that talk will only fire right back up again.
BracketCat: Ndamukong Suh? If only...
TB: No. Ndamukong Suh is not going to win it. Sorry, Nebraska fans. Jordan Shipley is probably the closest thing to a contender the conference has left, but he's such a late addition to the conversation I doubt he can overcome the Heisman voter inertia.
3. Its pretty much a consensus of opinions that Dan Hawkins is already standing with one foot out the door at Colorado. Who has the better chance of getting off the hot seat this season, him or Bobby Bowden?
BracketCat: Bobby Bowden, because he actually has accomplished something at his current school, such as posting a winning season, winning a bowl game and collecting at least one conference title. Once you remove all references to Chris Petersen, Dan Hawkin's resume is thinner than truck stop toilet paper. And he gets bonus points for the losing record against Ron Prince. Which is why I hope they give him a 10-year extension, of course.
TB: Hawkins, though not necessarily by improving the play of his team. Bowden is old and has a coach-in-waiting already under contract to take over. They have serious leverage on him, in other words. Hawkins, on the other hand, might make some strides over the remainder of the season that point toward improvement, however of a moderate degree. The big problem for CU is that they probably don't have the money to pay his buyout. If they can't, he gets off the hot seat by default.
4. We've got one full weekend of conference play under our belts. Who can you say, with confidence, that is out of the North and South division races already?
BracketCat: Uh, gee... K-State, whose defense just got shelled worse than No Man's Land? Iowa State, the only FBS team to actually lose to us? Colorado, the team that makes the previous two look like bowl-bound success stories? All good candidates in the North.
In the South, only Baylor really is out of it. Despite looking competitive against Oklahoma absent Robert Griffin, I suspect any team not named Oklahoma is going to have to dethrone the champs on the field to win the South with at least an asterisk. Baylor scored an F on that count. No one else has taken the test yet.
TB: K-State, Colorado and Iowa State are out of it in the North. With the loss to Nebraska, Missouri is standing at the door saying its farewells, unless it unexpectedly beats Oklahoma State this weekend and gets a warm reinvitation to do another round of shots.
In the South, Baylor is done. They may pick up a win we're not expecting because I thought Nick Florence played fairly well against OU in his first start, but they're done for. Texas A&M can be counted out, too. If they can't beat at home an OSU team that is short players like it got hit by the H1N1 flu, it's not going to be in the mix. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are the ones standing at the door saying their goodbyes, Tech because of the loss to Texas and Okie State because of the aforementioned issues.
5. Which race is going to be better in the North, the race to win the division or the race to stay out of the cellar?
BracketCat: LOL. Good one, guys. Since I think Nebraska's defensive line is going to pummel Todd Reesing into mincemeat no matter where the game is played, I'd have to say the trash-heap race is more compelling. Of course, I'm biased, since my team already has a leg up in that race due to a fantastic Farmageddon finish.
TB: I have a team in the race for the cellar, and even I don't give a shit.
6. OU/Texas - Who ya got?
BracketCat: Texas, by one point.
7. Big 12 Power Rankings - Let's see 'em!
BracketCat: Big shakeup this week, but that's what happens when you're losing at home to Colorado at halftime.
1. Nebraska -- Crazy talk? Maybe. But Ndamukong Suh is beginning to look like a once-in-a-decade kind of player, and Texas ain't anything special right now.
2. Texas -- If these two meet in the Big 12 Championship, Texas may have the home crowd, but I'm not so sure they could beat the Huskers on a neutral field the way they are playing so far. I'd put the over/under on Texas rushing yards in that game at 50.
3. Oklahoma -- Still haven't beat anyone of substance, but this week is their chance.
4. Kansas -- Despite the crappy defense, Jayhawks remain unblemished and merit Top 4 consideration. But their time is coming...
T5. Missouri -- I'll let the two of them duke it out for sole control of this spot next week.
T5. Oklahoma State -- Ditto.
7. Texas Tech -- No, you don't get to move up for running it up on an overmatched opponent. Shame on you.
8. Baylor -- Vaults A&M again with a good showing in Norman. These ain't your pappy's old, lay-down-and-die Bears.
9. Texas A&M -- Their offensive numbers mean nothing. Try beating a BCS team for a change. Oops, probably spoke too soon.
10. Iowa State -- Two years in a row, the Cyclones should have beat the Jayhawks. Of course, two years in a row, they should have won the Big 12 North. Welcome to life in Ames.
11. Colorado -- Nice first-half moral victory, Buffs.
12. Kansas State -- 66-14? Yeah, we're 12th... blocked PAT notwithstanding.
TB: Power pollin'
1. Texas -- Yes, they had some issues against Colorado, they can't run the ball, and Colt McCoy isn't as clutch as Texas fans thought. But they have the most firepower and talent of any team, and if they can shed the Texas attitude of "we'll do just enough to win, given the opponent," they'll be fine.
2. Oklahoma -- Both of its losses have been in narrow fashion to pretty good teams. Really need to get the offensive line figured out, and getting a few skill players healthy wouldn't hurt, but they have the most upside and least questions of anyone outside of Texas.
3. Nebraska -- If the game had ended at 45 minutes last week, no Husker fans would be having visions of an 11-1 season dancing in their heads. Of course, it was 60 minutes, and for some reason, now some of them do.
4. Oklahoma State -- Jump the beaks because they gutted out a tough win on the road through adversity. Who knows how they'll fare over the long run without Dez Bryant, but they still have a solid team.
5. KU -- If they don't get that defense fixed, they're staring at the possibility of losing to every team not named K-State or Colorado remaining on their schedule. Note I'm not saying they will lose, but when your game is trying to outscore the opposition, you're running a risk each time out.
6. Missouri -- I really shouldn't drop the Tigers this far, because I'm not sure you can learn a whole lot from a game played in the rain with a one-legged quarterback. But the lack of a running game and the fourth-quarter disintegration by the defense was alarming.
7. Texas Tech -- Had a discussion with a friend today, and wanted to pose this question: If Mike Leach coached a school where he got elite talent (Texas, Florida, USC, etc.), would he ever lose? His scheme is practically unstoppable unless you have at least equivalent athleticism, but at Texas Tech, he's recruited at a solid level, but not in the neighborhood of those other schools just listed. Thoughts?
8. Texas A&M -- Played OSU tough at home, but given the adversity OSU was facing, I'm not sure whether that's much of a moral victory. Pains me to say it, but they should pick up a road win this weekend when they play K-State.
9. Baylor -- Pinball Bears are back up to here by virtue of a better-than-expected showing against OU (it says something about how bad Baylor has been that a 26-point loss to OU is an improvement). Still aren't anything special, but the three amigos of the North cellar have them beat this year.
10. Iowa State -- Were one overthrown pass from (probably) beating KU in Lawrence. Oh, Austen Arnaud, you could have underthrown that pass and Darius Darks still would have scored. Oh, the humanity.
11. Colorado -- Put a scare into Texas thanks in large part to Texas doing everything it could to lose the game. Still, that's a lot better than...
12. K-State -- Jesus. Let us never speak again of what happened on the South Plains.