Big 12 Sports.com Correspondent
Coach Art Briles first Big 12 Conference game will be against the nation's No. 1 ranked team, Oklahoma. "The challenge is with ourselves," Briles said. "We're playing for respectability and credibility. OU deserves all the credit for what they've done." ... Briles said facing the Sooners requires a certain mindset. "Oklahoma does everything well at a high rate of speed," he said. "We've got to play hard for 60 minutes. It's not about a notch on our belt or a feather in our cap we're playing the No. 1 team. We want to play well for 60 minutes. That's how we're approaching it." ... Since he was hired, Briles has preached about changing the culture of Baylor football. "It's an overall process, a continuing process," he said. "We're trying to change the way people view us and the way we respond to how people view us. We need to be a player in the Big 12 South, not just a member."
The Buffaloes play host to No. 5 Texas. Asked for his opinion of the Longhorns, coach Dan Hawkins' praise was succinct: "Awesome." In what way? "Every." ... Colorado's secondary will be challenged to slow Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy, who is second nationally in passing efficiency. "We need to get a couple of extra defenders on the field," Hawkins said. "He's really having a great year, he's playing with a ton of confidence. He's having a Heisman type year and is really fun to watch." ... The Longhorns are tied for the national lead in sacks and have 14 in their last two games. They have a lot of guys who are explosive, strong, guys who get up the field," Hawkins said. "That's why they've got so many sacks and tackles for loss."
With the Cyclones in a rebuilding mode under coach Gene Chizik, who much more challenging is it with six teams ranked in the top 25? "It's a tall order," coach Gene Chizik said with a rueful laugh. "But that's what makes it fun. It's neat to be in a league that's getting so strong. It makes certain jobs harder. But we're really trying to put blinders on, focus and worry about us." ... Iowa State plays host to No. 16 Kansas Saturday to start Big 12 play. "We'll have to play a perfect game to be in the game with 'em," Chizik said. "That's the bottom line." ... The Cyclones' coaching staff used the off week to step back and evaluate the team. "We found out that so many of the costly mistakes we had made came from young players," Chizik said. "That's not an excuse. It's a lot of technique issues. We've got to keep doing what we do and get better at it."
The Jayhawks didn't play Saturday and coach Mark Mangino said the bye week came at a good time. "We had a productive week," he said. "We had a chance to reflect on the areas we need to address with conference play starting. We worked on fundamental football and tried to improve in all areas." ... Kansas opens play at Iowa State Saturday. The Cyclones have lost two in a row, including a game at UNLV where they rallied from a 28-7 deficit to force overtime. "Austen Arnaud, their quarterback, is a dual threat," Mangino said. "He can beat you with his legs and his arm." ... Magino was asked about five Big 12 quarterbacks completing over 70 percent of their passes. "If you're going seven on seven against your scout team in practice, that's about what percentage you'd expect," he said.
With half the teams in the Big 12 ranked and four teams in the top 10, what's a coach to do? "You can't look at the big picture," Wildcats coach Ron Prince said. "As a coaching staff, you can only impact the next game you're playing. That's what deserves your full attention, not who you might play down the road." ... Kansas State faces No. 8 Texas Tech. Most fans focus on the Red Raiders' passing attack and overlook the team's running game. "It's not overlooked in our building," Prince said. "They have one of the largest offensive lines in the country and Shannon Woods is one of the most dangerous players in the conference." ... Sophomore Lamark Brown, who switched from receiver to running back, had 142 yards rushing in Kansas State's victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. "He was a good running back in high school, he brings a lot of confidence to the position," Prince said. "He gave us a dimension we haven't had for awhile. He ran with a lot of toughness and power."
The Big 12's success in the polls this week was a hot topic. "It all sorts out when you start playing each other," said Tigers coach Gary Pinkel, whose team plays at Nebraska. "That will start this week. We'll see how it unfolds but it will be very, very interesting. But it's where you end up in January. I just want to be somewhere at the end of the year." ... Quarterback Chase Daniel is completing nearly 76 percent of his passes and his completion percentage has improved each of the three years he's been the starter. "He's been throwing to the same guys for most of that time," Pinkel said. "It's not only his experience, it's the people that he's been playing catch with." ... The home team has won the last six games in the Missouri-Nebraska series. "That's just history, this is 2008," Pinkel said. "Nebraska will be the best team we've played."
Coach Bo Pelini was flagged for a costly personal foul late in the Huskers' loss to Virginia Tech. Pelini angrily argued a personal foul that had been called on a Nebraska defender for a late hit. He was asked if was worried about his temper. "No." Has anyone talked to him about keeping his cool? "No." ... The Huskers' defense, which will try to slow Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel and the Tigers' passing attack, needs lots of improvement. "We dropped coverages, missed assignments, we didn't play disciplined football," Pelini said in reviewing Saturday night's 35-30 loss to Virginia Tech. "That hurt us, we shot ourselves in the foot. It's happened a couple of times over the first month of the season. We shot ourselves in the foot, we've got to be more consistent."
Coach Bob Stoops puts no stock in the Sooners being ranked No. 1. "We've gotta win this week," he said. "All our stock is in trying to get better when we play every Saturday." ... On the No. 1 ranking putting a bigger bulls eye on OU: "We generally have a good-sized one regardless of the ranking." ... The Sooners face Baylor, a team that is starting freshman Robert Griffin at quarterback. "He's got great, great feet, he's a track guy with great speed," Stoops said. "They spread it out, it all goes through him and they utilize his speed. He's a major threat." ... TCU limited Oklahoma to just 25 yards rushing. "Even if the other team is determined to take it away, we still have to block better, execute better," Stoops said. "If a team is determined to play us a certain way to take away something, we've got to take advantage of it."
No matter what the records of the two teams, the Cowboys games with Texas A&M, Saturday's opponent, have been difficult to figure. Texas A&M has won the last two games by one point each. "I don't know why we've had close games like that," Coach Mike Gundy said. "It's hard to predict what's gonna happen in college football." ... Oklahoma State leads Division I-A in rushing, is third in scoring offense and fourth in total offense. "They're playing pretty well," Gundy said. "In their minds, they probably feel we've accomplished as much as we can." ... Oklahoma State made the top 25 in both the media and the coaches' poll. "I think the players get excited about the ranking," Gundy said. "But it's not something we talk about. We're more interested in the task at hand."
The No. 5 Longhorns join Missouri and top-ranked Oklahoma to give the Big 12 three teams in the top five in this week's rankings. "I really polls are unimportant until the middle of October," coach Mack Brown said. "It takes awhile to play really good teams so you can figure out who you are." ... Brown likes where is 4-0 team is. "We're playing with a lot of chemistry and a lot of heart," he said. "We played like this in Holiday Bowl. The players aren't listening to outside distractions, they're just enjoying playing. It's been a fun team to coach." ... Senior defensive end Brian Orakpo is second nationally in sacks. "Brian is playing with so much confidence and he's becoming one of the best pass rushers we've ever hard. He's a force for us."
Coach Mike Sherman reported that senior quarterback Stephen McGee suffered a sprained right (throwing) shoulder similar to the injury that knocked him out of the New Mexico game. "It's not quite as bad as the one he suffered before," Sherman said. "We'll see how he is at practice Tuesday and see what role he can play this week." ... The Aggies travel to Stillwater to play Oklahoma State. The last two games have been decided by one point. "That's all history," Sherman said. "I try to deal with the present. We've got to beat this team, this Saturday at 6 p.m." ... After a struggling non-conference season that included two losses at Kyle Field, Sherman was asked if opening conference play provides a fresh start. "I believe you have 12 opportunities to play and you need to play as hard as you can in each one. It's hard to say that you play should elevate when conference play starts because it should already be elevated."
The Raiders didn't play Saturday and it was a rare off week for coach Mike Leach's team. "We don't have a lot of experience with the off week," he said. "We've had a lot of seasons where we played straight through without a break. We kinda went stir crazy. We want to get back to playing." Leach said that the practices in the off week didn't focus on any specific aspect. ... Leach was asked about talk that No. 8 Texas Tech might be overrated. "I don't have any thoughts on that," he said. "I ignore all of that. We just go out and play and see where that takes us."