Notice I am calling this post "Kicking the Tires." That means it's a totally unscientific look at the opposition.
The Enemy: Oklahoma State, 4-3 (Wins: Florida Atlantic, Texas Tech, Sam Houston State, Nebraska; Losses: Georgia, Troy, Texas A&M)
Numbers that won't mean anything on Saturday but are fun to look at nonetheless...
Oklahoma State 12th
Oklahoma State 82
Oklahoma State 45
Oklahoma State 34
Oklahoma State 238 ypg
K-State 264.5 ypg
Oklahoma State 246.3
Josh Freeman, 151/245, 1523 yards, 5 TDs, 7 INTs
James Johnson, 88 attempts, 548 yards, 5.7 yards/attempt
Jordy Nelson, 56 receptions, 727 yards, 3 TDs
Zac Robinson, 90/154, 1328 yards, 10 TDs, 6 INTs
Dantrelle Savage, 96 attempts, 622 yards, 6.5 yards/attempt
Adarius Bowman, 44 receptions, 721 yards, 6 TDs
All right, so Okie State hasn't had the year some expected of them... including me. And maybe we can chalk up that big win in Lincoln last week to the turmoil that has engulfed Nebraska. And if we wanted to be really optimistic, we'd point to K-State's road abilities this year, with a win at Texas and a near-miss at Auburn.
But to do all that ignores the obvious; Oklahoma State has some seriously scary players, especially on offense. Zac Robinson is throwing the ball well, Dantrelle Savage is running like a madman, and Adarius Bowman is capable of brutalizing a secondary on any given day. The K-State defense will have its hands full on Saturday evening in Stillwater.
As usual, one of the keys for the K-State defense will be getting pressure on the opposing quarterback. Okie State has only given up seven sacks on the year, the Cats will need to add two or three to that total. It will be a difficult game plan, because the defensive linemen can't just pin their ears back and go after Robinson or there will be huge holes for Savage.
On the other hand, the Cowboys' pass defense ranks dead last in the Big 12, giving up 294 yards per game. Josh Freeman needs to find Jordy Nelson early and often, and the other receivers--calling you, Deon Murphy--need to step up as well. Another good day by James Johnson toting the rock would be welcome as well.
It gets said too often, but this is a very important game for the Cats. Actually, I've been thinking about this quite a bit this week--well, not really, mostly I've been thinking about the comparisons between MLB and Japanese professional baseball--when you already have one loss in conference and that loss is to another contender for your division crown, every game is big. They are especially big this year because KU has such a ridiculously easy schedule--no Oklahoma, no Texas, Nebraska has gone in the tank, Texas A&M is in turmoil, Okie State is inconsistent, and Iowa State is the worst team in the conference. The Cats need to keep on winning, and get some help from the rest of the league...
Looking around the conference this weekend, there's plenty for me to bitch about, so let's get on with it.
Oklahoma vs. Iowa State (11:30 a.m., FSN) How in the good name of all things holy is this game being televised? A matchup between the best and worst teams in the conference is not an intriguing matchup likely to draw big ratings. Sure, a lot of OU fans will probably watch it because it's on the road, but I would bet a lot of them won't stick with it all the way through. It would be one thing if this was just a harmless waste of good television space, but as I've mentioned many a time before, it's not just that. It's about money. Big 12 teams are allotted more money for each TV appearance, so this game is worth money to OU ( as if they need it). Good call, FSN, just like last week and that thrilling 56-3 Texas over Iowa State game you brought us, good call. I realize that you usually have to pick games 12 days in advance and that both K-State and Okie State were coming off a loss two weeks ago, but would it have killed you to exercise your five-day option and wait to see what this week's action brought? Considering it's a pretty average Big 12 schedule overall this week, that might have been a good idea.
For what it's worth, I predict Oklahoma to win (the first half) by a score of 42-0.
Baylor vs. Texas (11:30 a.m., Versus) Another WTF here as far as television goes. Put Texas on TV? Why the hell not! They only have double the money to spend that some other teams in the conference have, why not give them some more for playing the second-worst team in the conference.
Bevos 52, Judges 12
KU vs. Colorado (4:30 p.m., ESPN) Well I'll be damned, a game on TV that actually belongs there. Some of the shine got knocked off this showdown with CU's 47-20 loss in Manhattan last weekend (I could type that everyday), but it's still an important intra-divisional game. The Buffs are against the wall at 2-1 and facing a 2-0 division contender...at home. Statistically, there's no reason to think KU won't win this one, but there is just one thing I'm curious about seeing KU handle, and it has nothing to do with the players on the field or the coaches on the sidelines. It has everything to do with what those players breathe. Colorado would love nothing more than to run Hugh Charles at the 'beaks about 75 times tomorrow and watch those flatlanders fight for air like this catfish...
In case you were curious, yes, that is a basketball in its mouth.
It does seem a bit ridiculous that every week we hear the same refrain before each KU game: "They'll have to prove themselves this week." Let's get this out of the way; if the 'beakers lose to Colorado this weekend, it won't mean they're a fraud. Colorado is a pretty tough team, and has about as much homefield advantage as anyone. But the talk about KU won't end until they beat a nationally recognized team--the Cats aren't back on that level yet--and I don't see such a team in KU's future, unless they get OU in San Antonio. The Cats need a Colorado win in this one to throw the North race wide open.
Buffs 24, Beaks 21
Texas Tech vs. Missouri (2:30 p.m., ABC) All of a sudden, despite the big win over Nebraska, despite playing well in Norman, despite the 5-1 record, Mizzou is facing a difficult situation. If the Tigers lose this game, they are suddenly 1-2 in conference and still have games with Colorado, Texas A&M, K-State and KU left. On top of that, a Red Raider win will fire up the "Pinkel collapse" talk again, which is probably something the Zou Crew doesn't want to deal with. For the Cats' sake in the North race, a Tech win would probably help.
Pinkels 45, Pirates 38
Texas A&M vs. Nebraska (1:05 p.m.) I don't care what anyone says about this being a crucial game for either coach, they're both gone after this year. You don't commit possible NCAA violations or call the former God of the state a "crusty old f***" and keep your job very often. As for the game itself, if Franchione puts his two-page playbook to good use and runs his three running plays over and over again, Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson will continue the assault on the defense formerly known as the Blackshirts.
Cheaters 27, Losers 14
I won't get to see a lot of action tomorrow--especially the early stuff--because I will be contributing to charity by playing softball at the butt-crack of dawn.