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September 20, 2007

Aggies hit road to make statement

MORE WEEK 4 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

Buchanan's Big 12 picks
Saturday's Games:
Buffalo 34, Baylor 31
Colorado 20, Miami University 13
Iowa State 23, Toledo 14
Kansas 34, Florida International 14
Missouri 41, Illinois State 6
Nebraska 31, Ball State 17
Oklahoma 45, Tulsa 10
Texas Tech 41, Oklahoma State 27
Texas 52, Rice 20
Miami 20, Texas A&M 17
Overview: Welcome to the Big 12 vs. Mid-American Conference match-play challenge. Four MAC teams Ball State, Buffalo, Miami University and Toledo with a combined 4-8 record would appear to be overmatched against teams from the Big 12. The BCS conference is already 3-1 vs. the MAC this season. However, keep this in mind: Nebraska, Iowa State, Colorado and Baylor - who face MAC opponents this week - have combined for just five victories. One thing is certain this week: Texas Tech or Oklahoma State, who open Big 12 play in Stillwater, will top the South Division standings. Texas Tech leads the conference in pass offense, while Oklahoma State ranks 11th in pass defense. That would seem to suggest the MAC challenge isn't the only mismatch of the week.

Best matchup: Texas A&M and Miami have something to prove. The Aggies aim to show they are deserving of their No. 20 ranking and that they're better than they appeared in a triple-overtime escape against Fresno State two weeks ago. Miami aspires to prove it isn't nearly as bad as it appeared in getting blasted by Oklahoma 51-13 two weeks ago. Oklahoma exposed gaping holes in the Hurricanes' pass defense, but A&M's passing game is pedestrian at best. The Aggies are one of the nation's better running teams, while Miami has a solid run defense. A&M quarterback Stephen McGee and tailback Mike Goodson will test Miami's linebackers and defensive ends with the option.

The pressure is on: Oklahoma State's secondary was torched for 388 passing yards against Troy (not Aikman). Texas Tech is averaging 479.3 passing yards and has 14 touchdown passes in three games. Red Raiders quarterback Graham Harrell leads the nation is passing, and wide receiver Michael Crabtree leads the nation in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. After three weeks, the Cowboys are allowing an average of 265.6 passing yards to rank 93rd nationally. Maybe the Cowboys' secondary can get some help from a pass rush that has generated just four sacks thus far. The Red Raiders are 8-3 against Oklahoma State since the formation of the Big 12.

Who's hot: Iowa State kicker Bret Culbertson accounted for all the Cyclones' points in their 15-13 upset of Iowa. Culbertson was 5-for-6 on field-goal attempts, including one from 28 yards with one second remaining. The five field goals tied a school record. Also, credit Culbertson for handling the heat of the moment. He missed field goals that could have given Iowa State the Big 12 North Division title in 2004 and 2005. Before the Iowa game, he had been 0-for-3 this season.

Who's not: Colorado's running attack has produced 134 yards in three games, which wouldn't ranked among the Big 12's top 10 individual rushers. Colorado had 39 rushing yards against Arizona State two weeks ago and followed that up with a minus-27 against Florida State last week. Of course, sacks contribute to rushing totals. Without two sacks, Colorado still struggled to minus-12 yards on 22 attempts. Demetrius Sumler is the Buffs' leading rusher with 133 yards.

Freshman to watch: Missouri redshirt freshman receiver Jeremy Maclin, who ranks fourth nationally in all-purpose yardage, has caught seven passes in each of the past two games. Last week, he had 96 receiving yards and a touchdown. He has four touchdowns and is the first Tiger since 1960 to score a touchdown rushing, receiving and on a return in the same season. His touchdown and yardage totals could get a significant boost this week against I-AA Illinois State. Baylor true freshman receiver Krys Buerck, who led the Bears with seven catches for 85 yards and a touchdown against I-AA Texas State last week, will start this week at Buffalo.

Numbers game: Texas A&M tight end Martellus Bennett has changed his jersey number from 13 to 85 in honor of injured Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett. Bennett and Everett became friends after they met on a recruiting trip to Miami in 2004. Texas A&M is hoping to reverse a downward trend Thursday night against Miami. In four seasons under coach Dennis Franchione, the Aggies are 1-5 against BCS non-conference opponents. Kansas had statistically the worst pass defense in the nation last season. After three games this season, the Jayhawks rank 10th nationally. Oklahoma is averaging 63.1 points to lead the nation in scoring offense. Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel needs 109 passing yards to join Brad Smith and Phil Bradley as the only Tigers quarterbacks to record 5,000 yards passing and 500 yards rushing in their careers. Daniel should need about a quarter to reach that this week against Illinois State. Colorado's five starting offensive linemen played every snap for the third consecutive game. The unit has played all 212 snaps on the season. Kansas forced three interceptions and a fumble in last week's victory over Toledo. This week's opponent, Florida International, has committed 10 turnovers. Only three other teams have committed more this season. Kansas State has 13 sacks to rank fourth nationally (tied with Georgia Tech, LSU and Michigan). Nebraska allowed 49 points to USC last week, which was the most allowed in Lincoln since Minnesota scored 61 in 1945.

Keep your eye on: Texas Tech's pass rush. The Red Raiders had six sacks in last week's victory over Rice and have 10 for the season. To complicate matters for Oklahoma State, Cowboys center David Washington - who has 27 consecutive starts - is out for the season with a leg injury. Look for Oklahoma's pitch-and-catch duo of quarterback Sam Bradford and receiver Malcolm Kelly to have a big day. They have already combined for seven touchdowns. Kelly is averaging 21.5 yards per catch and Bradford is completing almost 80 percent of his attempts. Friday's opponent is Tulsa, which ranks 108th nationally in pass defense and is allowing 301.5 yards per game. Texas A&M has scored a TD on the first drive of the second half in six consecutive games.

They said it: "I was with a team one time that won a lot of games in September and went to bowl games and it worked out pretty good."
- Kansas coach Mark Mangino, once an assistant to Bill Snyder at Kansas State, on the 3-0 Jayhawks' perceived weak schedule so far.

"We can run the ball. We can certainly run the ball. There's no question about it."
- Nebraska coach Bill Callahan after the Huskers were held to 31 rushing yards on 28 attempts in last week's 49-31 loss to USC

"It's going to be a great game. I'll show them what they missed out on."
- Texas A&M tight end Martellus Bennett on Miami, which plays host to the Aggies on Thursday. Bennett was recruited by the Hurricanes

BIG 12 STANDINGS
NORTH DIVISION
TeamConf.All
Kansas0-03-0
Missouri0-03-0
Kansas State0-02-1
Nebraska0-02-1
Colorado0-01-2
Iowa State0-01-2
SOUTH DIVISION
TeamConf.All
Oklahoma0-03-0
Texas0-03-0
Texas A&M0-03-0
Texas Tech0-03-0
Baylor0-02-1
Oklahoma State0-01-2
Injury update: Colorado cornerback Terrence Wheatley (knee) is probable this week. Baylor running back Brandon Whitaker (undisclosed) is questionable. Wide receiver Mikail Baker (broken collarbone), offensive lineman Jason Smith (strained MCL) and offensive tackle Thad Boatner (knee) are out. Iowa State linebacker Adam Carper (knee) will miss the rest of the season. Kansas State linebacker Antwon Moore (knee) is out for the rest of the season. Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (hand) is questionable. Oklahoma State tailback Dantrell Savage (groin) is questionable. Texas tight end Jermichael Finley (shoulder), receiver Limas Sweed (ankle), tackle Adam Ulatoski (elbow) and defensive end Brian Orakpo (knee) are questionable.

Worth noting: Texas reinstated receiver Billy Pittman, who sat out a three-game suspension for receiving improper benefits. The Longhorns also reinstated sophomore linebacker Sergio Kindle and junior defensive end Henry Melton, who served three-game suspensions for drunken-driving arrests last summer. Baylor already has eight sacks, which is just three fewer than the Bears managed all last season. Colorado defensive tackle Christopher Perri and linebacker Michael Sipili have been reinstated after serving three-game suspensions. Texas Tech kicker Alex Trlica has successfully converted 187 consecutive extra-point attempts, which is an ongoing NCAA record. Texas A&M did not punt in last week's victory over Louisiana-Monroe. That's the first time since 1990 the Aggies didn't punt in a game.

MORE WEEK 4 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC



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