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September 9, 2004

Texas at Arkansas highlight this week's Big 12

No. 19 Missouri (1-0, 0-0 Big 12) at Troy (1-0, 0-0 Sun Belt)
Thursday, Sept. 9 - ESPN2
6:00 p.m. CDT
Daily Line: Missouri -10.5


Missouri player to watch: Sean Coffey had five catches for a career-high 113 yards and a 60-yard touchdown in a 52-20 win against Arkansas State in the opener last week. The Tigers passing game has been missing a go-to guy since Justin Gage went to the NFL after the 2002 season. If Coffey can be that guy, it will open up a world of possibilities for a running game that was sixth in the nation a year ago and piled up 263 yards last Saturday.

Troy State player to watch: Demarcus Ware had three sacks, four-and-a-half tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles against Marshall last week. If Ware played in a major conference, he'd be getting All-America attention. As it is, he was the Sun Belt player of the week.

The inside scoop: Both Troy tailback DeWhitt Betterson and Missouri quarterback Brad Smith are slightly more than 700 yards from setting their respective school rushing records. Smith needs just 36 yards to move past former Tiger Corby Jones into 17th on the all-time NCAA rushing list for quarterbacks. With 76 yards, he would move all the way up to No. 14, just ahead of former Nebraska QB Jammal Lord.

Missouri will win if ... it can survive the emotion of the first half. This is, quite simply, the biggest game the Trojans have ever played at home. It's the first time a BCS conference school has ever played at Troy, and the game is on national TV. The fans and the players will be sky-high. The Trojans should be able to ride that emotion to a solid first quarter or first half. The Tigers have more talent. If they don't dig themselves too big of a hole, they'll be okay.

Troy State will win if ... the Tigers play like they did in 2003 on the road. Missouri beat Ball State in the third week of the season and didn't win another road game all season. Tigers coach Gary Pinkel says playing on the road is all about preparation and if you're good enough to get the job done. It remains to be seen if the Tigers are good enough.

The pick: Missouri 35, Troy 20

Southern Miss (0-0, 0-0 CUSA) at Nebraska (1-0, 0-0 Big 12)
Saturday, Sept. 11
11:00 a.m. CDT - ABC
Daily Line: Nebraska -14.5


Southern Miss player to watch: Senior linebacker Michael Boley is a 2004 preseason All-American and considered one of the top defensive players in the nation.

Nebraska player to watch: Junior running back Cory Ross had 125 yards on just 13 carries in the Cornhuskers' 56-17 win against Western Illinois. Expect Ross to get around 20 carries and also be looked at as a check-down option for sophomore quarterback Joe Dailey in the passing game.

The inside scoop: Southern Miss has an established history of being one of the best non-BCS Conference programs in the country. In 1999, the Golden Eagles nearly knocked off Nebraska in Lincoln. It took two defensive touchdowns and a Ralph Brown pass break-up at the goal line for the Huskers to win that game, 20-14. Expect the Southern Miss to bring some major pressure on Dailey with its talented linebacker corps.

Southern Miss will win if ... it can get pressure on Dailey and handle all of Nebraska's pre-snap shifts on offense. In addition, the Golden Eagles are going to need to force at least three turnovers if they want to win at Memorial Stadium.

Nebraska will win if ... Dailey stays within the confines of the offense. Last week, Dailey had a tendency to go for the deep ball too much, choices that led to four interceptions. This week, Coach Bill Callahan has emphasized the importance of looking for check-down options.

Notes: Nebraska will have a major advantage because it already has a game under its belt. Special team breakdowns are a question with the Huskers right now. Rumor has it special teams coordinator Bill Busch pulled an all-nighter in the coaches office Monday to fix the problems.

The pick: Nebraska 27, Southern Miss 10

Iowa State (1-0, 0-0 Big XII) vs. No. 16 Iowa (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
Saturday, Sept. 11
11 a.m. CDT - ESPN Plus
Daily Line: Iowa -24.5


Iowa State player to watch: Running back Stevie Hicks rushed for 111 yards in the Cyclones 23-0 win against Northern Iowa last week. That's the good news. The bad news is he faces a Hawkeye defense that allowed minus-13 total rushing yards in a 39-7 win against Kent State last Saturday.

Iowa player to watch: Quarterback Drew Tate was fairly impressive in his collegiate debut against the Golden Flashes, throwing for 136 yards and two touchdowns. However, Tate was not able to finish the game because of dehydration, so he is taking extra precautions this week to try to prevent a repeat episode.

The inside scoop: The Hawkeyes rushed for 197 yards against Kent in their opener despite the suspensions of running backs Jermelle Lewis and Marques Simmons. The Cyclones defense gave Northern Iowa fits all day, holding them to a total of 80 yards and a paltry seven first downs. ISU will need to attack and fill throwing lanes on the pass. At 6-foot on a good day, Iowa's Tate can't see over the offensive line and needs those passing lanes to be effective. Iowa didn't have to punt much in its opener, but if this game somehow becomes a field position battle, look for Iowa to have the advantage with punter David Bradley, who averaged 50 yards a punt and uncorked one for 70 yards last week.

Iowa State will win if ... it can take Iowa's best shot and hang in there. The Cyclones are more than a three-touchdown underdog, but it does have the players to make this a competitive contest with a perfect game.

Iowa will in if ... it can avoid mistakes that keep Iowa State in the game. The Hawkeyes are the superior team this season, but in a rivalry game, stranger things have happened. Iowa has to get up big early on the Cyclones and not let them find any offensive rhythm.

Notes: Iowa leads the overall series 34-17, but Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz is just 1-4 against his in-state rivals.

The pick: Iowa 35, Iowa State 10

Fresno State (1-0, 0-0 WAC) at No. 13 Kansas State (1-0, 0-0 Big 12)
Saturday, Sept. 11
11:00 a.m. CDT - FSN
Daily Line: Kansas State -13


Fresno State player to watch: Running back Dwayne Wright has been a sparkplug for the Bulldogs since taking over the starting position in the middle of 2003. He rushed 24 times for 109 yards and one touchdown in last week's 35-16 win at Washington.

Kansas State player to watch: The ability of the Wildcats to control the game on the ground and get Darren Sproles into the secondary will determine the game's outcome. The Bulldogs allowed 4.1 yards per carry and two touchdowns to Washington's backfield by committee.

The inside scoop: While offense gets the recognition in the WAC, Fresno State has made its living on defense. The Bulldogs scored three defensive touchdowns in last week's victory against the Huskies, including two interceptions returned for scores. Look for Fresno State to load up the box and try to force K-State to go to the pass.

Fresno State will win if ... it can stop Sproles and sustain or improve its average rush-per-attempt of 3.9 yards. FSU prefers the run and its ability to get the job done on the ground will play a large roll in the game's outcome.

Kansas State will win if ... Sproles gets his touches, and Dylan Meier continues to not make mistakes.

Notes: The will be the first time Fresno State has played in the state of Kansas. The Bulldogs are 1-9 all time against the Big 12, including last year's 52-28 loss at Oklahoma. But don't expect the Bulldogs to shy away, Since 2000 they have more wins against BCS Conference opponents (8) than any other non-BCS school.

The pick: K-State 35, Fresno State 27

Colorado (1-0, 0-0 Big 12) at Washington State (1-0, 0-0 Pac-10)
Saturday, Sept. 11 - ABC
1:30 p.m. MDT - ABC
Daily Line: Colorado +2.5


Colorado player to watch: Last week, Colorado's Jordan Dizon became the first true freshman to start at linebacker in school history. Not only did he start, he tied for the team lead in tackles with eight. Dizon grew up in Kauai, Hawaii, hunting wild boar with nothing more than a knife. Opposing running backs hardly stand a chance.

Washington State player to watch: Despite suffering a dislocated wrist in August, Will Derting started last week against New Mexico with a cast on his hand. The junior middle linebacker was an all-conference selection last year after registering 86 tackles and seven-and-a-half sacks. He is one of 36 players on the watch list for the Lott Trophy and was a preseason All-America candidate in a number of publications.

The inside scoop: The matchup between Colorado and Washington State was the turning point in both team's season a year ago. The Cougars beat the Buffs 47-26 in Boulder. Washington State continued on to win its next six games and finished the season 10-3. Colorado was not as fortunate, losing five of its next six games and missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 1997.

Colorado will win if ... the offensive line can provide adequate protection for quarterback Joel Klatt against the Cougars' aggressive pass rush.

Washington State will win if ... it can get the Buffs to turn the ball over, and new starting quarterback Josh Swogger can pick apart a Colorado secondary that gave up 403 yards through the air against Colorado State.

Notes: The game will be played at Qwest Field in Seattle, rather than Pullman. Colorado leads the all-time series 3-2, and the Buffs have won 16 of their last 19 second games of the season.

The pick: Colorado grinds this one out, 27-24.

Wyoming (1-0, 0-0 Mountain West) at Texas A&M (0-1, 0-0 Big 12)
Saturday, Sept. 11
2:30 p.m. CDT - FSN
Daily Line: Texas A&M -11


Wyoming player to watch: Wide receiver Dustin Pleasant is salivating at the opportunity to face the A&M secondary. The Temple, Texas native caught seven passes for 140 yards, including touchdown receptions of 34 and 55 yards last week.

Texas A&M player to watch: This is a player and mindset to watch. With opposing teams blitzing left and right, the Aggies must commit to establishing the running game. If banged up Courtney Lewis isn't able to go, young backs Chris Alexander and Samson Taylor will need to step up and see the ball more than 10 times each against Wyoming.

The inside scoop: The 12th man should play a roll in this game. Saturday will be Cowboy quarterback Corey Bramlet's first career road start, and there are a lot of other places he'd likely choose over Kyle Field for this occasion. At home last week against Appalachian State, Bramlet went 16-for-29 with 239 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Wyoming will win if ... it can force turnovers and hit the big play. The Cowboys don't have enough depth to go four quarters of sustaining long offensive drives. If Pleasant can get behind the secondary and the defense can force Reggie McNeal's hand, Wyoming has a shot.

Texas A&M will win if ... it establishes the running game and gives Reggie McNeal time to pick apart the Wyoming defense with his arm or legs. This is a game the Aggies should dominate physically.

The pick: Behind the running game and injured hand of McNeal, Texas A&M breaks the 30-point barrier and ends its four-game losing streak, 35-27.

Houston (0-1, 0-0 Conference USA) at No. 2 Oklahoma (1-0, 0-0 Big 12)
Saturday, Sept. 11
6:00 p.m. CDT - TBS
Daily Line: Oklahoma -36


Houston player to watch: The only chance Houston has to stay in this game is through Kevin Kolb's arm. Kolb went 15 of 33 for 204 yards, one touchdown and one interception in a loss to Rice last week, numbers slightly below his career averages.

Oklahoma player to watch: Houston will need to pass often to stay in this game, which has safety Brodney Pool very excited. If Pool isn't trying to take a wide receiver's head off, he'll likely be grabbing OU's first interception of the season.

The inside scoop: The last time Kolb played in a hostile environment like Memorial Field was at Michigan in 2003. Kolb went 15 of 30 for just 64 yards that day. Oklahoma has won eight in a row and 18 of its last 19 against schools from the state of Texas.

Houston will win if ... Oklahoma chooses the close-talker episode of Seinfeld as its pregame movie Friday night. The laughs alone from that episode will cause at least three season-ending neck injuries. In addition, the Sooners will have a hard time concentrating game day while they all pretend to be close-talkers themselves during the game.

Oklahoma will win if ... it doesn't watch the close-talker episode of Seinfield as its pregame movie.

Notes: Oklahoma and Houston meet for just the second time. The two collided in the 1981 Sun Bowl at El Paso with the Sooners prevailing, 40-14. OU is 12-4 against teams currently holding membership in Conference USA (2-1 vs. Army, 1-0 Houston, 2-0 vs. Louisville, 1-0 vs. South Florida, 6-3 vs. TCU).

The pick: Oklahoma 45, Houston 7

Toledo (0-1, 0-0 Mid-American) at Kansas (1-0, 0-0 Big 12)
Saturday, Sept. 11
6:00 p.m. CDT
Daily Line: Kansas -3.5


Toledo player to watch: Middle linebacker Anthony Jordan has to show up for this game. In 2003, Jordan led the Rockets in tackles, however in last week's 63-21 loss to Minnesota, he finished with just two tackles. If the Rockets rely upon safety Patrick Body to make all the stops, Kansas will have no problem moving the chains.

Kansas player to watch: Though he finished with just 56 yards, running back John Randle provided a spark for the Jayhawks offense. Randle and the rest of the running backs will not put up 415 yards like Minnesota did against Toledo, but they can break the 200-yard barrier.

The inside scoop: The matchup between the Toledo passing game, led by quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and receiver Lance Moore, and the Kansas secondary will decide this game. The Jayhawks must not give up the big play on defense and force as many three-and-outs as possible. Field position will also play a major role. Kansas does not have an offense that can continually go 80 yards to score.

Toledo will win if ... its defensive line holds up. The group was pushed around last week against the Gophers and must step up this week.

Kansas will win if ... it rushes for more than 200 yards. The combination of moving the chains through the running game and keeping Toledo's offense on the sideline will score the Jayhawks the win.

Notes: Toledo, which received 33 votes in the AP's preseason poll and was the Mid-American Conference media's pick to win the league, returns 14 starters from last year's team that went 8-4.

The pick: Kansas 24, Toledo 17

Tulsa (0-1, 0-0 WAC) at Oklahoma State (1-0, 0-0 Big 12)
Saturday, Sept. 11
6:00 p.m. CDT
Daily Line: Oklahoma State -21


Tulsa player to watch: Expect to hear linebacker Nelson Coleman's name called a lot Saturday. The redshirt freshman, who's a huge fan of Popeyes chicken, led the team with nine tackles in last week's 21-3 loss to Kansas.

Oklahoma State player to watch: I'm not sold on the comparisons to K-State's Darren Sproles yet, but Vernard Morency has delivered every time he's had a chance. Look for him to get 25 or more touches this week.

The inside scoop: If Tulsa wants any kind of chance at winning this game, quarterback James Kilian needs to do better than the 14 of 31, 99-yard and one interception outing he had against Kansas. Kilian passed for more than 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2003 and is much better than last week's numbers show. However, Killian may not get many chances. The Cowboys had more than 36 minutes of time of possession against UCLA. OSU also had 26 first downs, 24 of which came on the ground.

Tulsa will win if ... it can stop the run, and force Donovan Woods to pass often. Woods still has a little rust on his passing game. He went 2-for-8 for 23 yards in his debut at UCLA last week.

Oklahoma State will win if ... it continues to dominate the line of scrimmage. UCLA had its issues, but the ability of the Cowboys offensive line and fullbacks to open gaping holes deserves credit.

Notes: Oklahoma State and Tulsa will be facing each other for the 70th time in a series that began in 1914. This will be Tulsa's first appearance in Stillwater since 1999 when the Cowboys captured a 46-9 win. The teams last met in 2000 at Tulsa's Skelly Stadium, with OSU winning by a 36-26 margin. Saturday will mark the first meeting between OSU coach Les Miles and Tulsa's Steve Kragthorpe

The pick: Oklahoma State 31, Tulsa 10

Texas State (1-0, 0-0 Southland) at Baylor (1-0, 0-0 Big 12)
Saturday, Sept. 11
6:00 p.m. CDT
Daily Line: No line


Texas State player to watch: In 11 carries, running back Terrell Harris gained 77 yards and scored on a 19-yard touchdown run to lead Texas State past Angelo State last week.

Baylor player to watch: After a three-interception performance in week one, expect quarterback Dane King to have a short leash this week. Back-up Shawn Bell performed well in last week's loss to UAB and has plenty of game experience.

The inside scoop: Two current Bears began their careers at Texas State: OL Yancy Boatner and DL Anderson Horn. Boatner sat out the 2002 season as a redshirt at Texas State and transferred to Dixie State College in Utah before transferring to Baylor this season. Horn, who is in his second season with the Baylor program, did not see any playing time at Texas State in 2002 and sat out last season at Baylor in compliance with NCAA rules.

Texas State will win if ... it gets Baylor down early and comes up with multiple turnovers. This will be a difficult game for the Bobcats to win.

Baylor will win if ... it plays within itself. The Bears cannot fall to the pressure of putting on a good show in front of the home crowd. If the Bears play their game, the fans will get their win.

Notes: This is the first meeting between Baylor and Texas State since a 45-7 Bears victory Oct. 8, 1988 in Waco. At that time, Texas State was known as Southwest Texas State. Baylor has won each of the previous five meetings with the Bobcats, all of which were played in Waco and includes a 76-0 decision in 1916 -- the third-largest margin of victory in Baylor football history.

The pick: Baylor 29, Texas State 7

Texas Tech (1-0, 0-0 Big 12) at New Mexico (0-1, 0-0 Mountain West)
Saturday, Sept. 11
7:00 p.m. CDT
Daily Line: Texas Tech -3.5


New Mexico player to watch: As running back DonTrell Moore goes, so goes the Lobos. Were it not for a blocked punt and Kole McKamey throwing three interceptions against Washington State last week, Moore's 167 yards and 61-yard touchdown run would have won it for New Mexico.

Texas Tech player to watch: After allowing other Red Raiders to enjoy the spotlight for a week, expect running back Taurean Henderson to take it back this week. The emergence of other offensive weapons will open the door for Henderson's big-play ability.

The inside scoop: Moore is two 100-yard games away from tying Winslow Oliver's New Mexico career mark of 16 set between 1992-1995. And you can expect him to get No. 15 this week, because regardless of the score, the Lobos feed Moore at every opportunity.

New Mexico will win if ... it doesn't get too far behind early. The Lobos running game becomes more effective as the game goes on but doesn't lead to a lot of quick strikes while playing from behind. If the Lobos can get a lead early and force Tech to take some risks defensively, the running game will hit a big play. That's a lot of ifs, but it's more likely than North Carolina coach John Bunting lasting two weeks on The Apprentice.

Texas Tech will win if ... quarterback Sonny Cumbie plays as well as he did against SMU. The Red Raiders do not need an exceptional performance from Cumbie to win this matchup. However, Tech can't afford to give up turnovers at its end because New Mexico's offense does well on a short field.

Notes: Texas Tech leads 32-5-2 in a series that dates back to 1931. The Red Raiders have won the last 10 meetings, including three straight in Albuquerque.

The pick: Texas Tech 42, New Mexico 27

No. 7 Texas (1-0) at Arkansas (1-0)
Saturday, 7:45 p.m. CDT - ESPN
Daily Line:
Texas by 10.5

Texas player to watch: The Big 12 Freshman of the Year last season, quarterback Vince Young threw for 153 yards and ran for 49 more in the Longhorns' season-opening 65-0 destruction of North Texas. If the Texas running game stays hot, Young will get multiple opportunities to hurt Arkansas with his legs and arm.

Arkansas player to watch: Quarterback Matt Jones was a major factor in the Razorbacks' upset win at Texas in 2003 as he rushed for 102 yards on 12 carries and threw for 139 more. Last week, in a season-opening 63-13 win against New Mexico State, Jones completed 13 of 16 passes for 195 yards.

The inside scoop: Texas needs to get running back Cedric Benson going early and often against Arkansas. The Razorbacks held Benson to 27 yards on 13 carries a year ago and never trailed in the game. The Arkansas run defense looked strong once again last week, allowing just 55 yards on 29 carries. The teams have met 75 times, but this is the first regular-season meeting in Fayetteville since 1989 when both schools were in the Southwest Conference.

Texas will win if … the Longhorns can get the running game going and keep Jones under control. Despite the blowout win last week, Jones was Arkansas' leading rusher with 38 yards.

Arkansas will win if … it can force Texas to the air by getting an early lead and again stopping Benson. That would also allow the crowd to become a factor if it begins to smell a second straight upset over the hated Longhorns.

The pick: Texas 34, Arkansas 21

Sean Callahan, Gabe DeArMond, John Gworek, Adam Munsterteiger, Kevin Noon contributed to this article.


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