Big 12 Preview: Week 6

By Nate Latsch
FOXSportsMidwest.com

Five Big 12 Conference North Division teams will be involved in three important games this weekend, beginning with a big battle of undefeated squads on Thursday night.

NEBRASKA AT KANSAS STATE

The first big showdown of the Big 12 Conference North Division comes on Thursday night with a battle of unbeaten teams at Bill Snyder Stadium when Kansas State (4-0, 1-0 in Big 12) hosts No. 7 Nebraska (4-0, 0-0).

Nebraska, which struggled some in a 17-3 win over South Dakota State on Sept. 25, is fourth among FBS squads in rushing yards per game (309.3), 11th in points scored� (40 per game) and seventh in points against (12.8).

Kansas State, which needed fourth-quarter comebacks to defeat Iowa State and UCF in its last two games, is ranked 22nd among FBS schools in rushing yardage per game (216), 49th in scoring average (30.8) and 39th in points against (19.8 per game).

The matchup will feature two of the best players in the Big 12 in Nebraska redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez and Kansas State senior running back Daniel Thomas.

Martinez has thrown for 532 yards and two touchdowns, with three interceptions, and rushed for 496 yards and eight touchdowns.

�He runs extremely well,� K-State coach Bill Snyder told reporters this week. �He is elusive, he has good quickness, good speed and throws the ball well.�

Thomas has rushed for a Big 12 Conference-best 628 yards and has scored six touchdowns.

�Daniel Thomas is a great back, one of the better backs that we’re going to see this year,� Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick told reporters. �Whenever we get a challenge such as this, we’re going to be ready for it, and it’s going to be exciting to get after him and have him get after us. It’s going to be a fight, but it’s why we’re here and what we are looking forward to.”

COLORADO AT MISSOURI

When Colorado (3-1) plays at Missouri (4-0) on Saturday night, it will be the Big 12 Conference opener for both schools.

Missouri is ranked 22nd in the coaches poll and 24th in the Associated Press poll. The Tigers rank 17th among FBS teams in scoring average (37.8 points per game) and are 10th in points allowed (14 per contest). They are 24th in passing yards per game (277.5), 63rd in rushing yards (154) and 32nd in total yards (431.5).

Junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert has completed 68.2 percent of his passes (103 of 151) for 1,039 yards, with five touchdowns and three interceptions, and has also scored two touchdowns.

“It’s Big 12 Conference play,� Gabbert told reporters this week. �We ended the non-conference season 4-0 like we wanted but now the games are tough every week. Everybody is a competitive team in the Big 12 and we’re excited to play Colorado.”

Gabbert�s favorite targets have been sophomore wide receiver T.J. Moe (37 catches for 394 yards and two touchdowns) and junior tight end Michael Egnew (33 catches for 298 yards and one touchdown).

The Tigers are well rested after a week off and should be ready for Colorado, which matched its win total from a year ago with its 29-27 victory over visiting Georgia on Saturday.

The Buffaloes rank 85th among FBS schools in scoring (22.8 points per game and 61st in points against (23.8), though both statistics are skewed by a 52-7 loss to Cal on the road on Sept. 11. Colorado is 53 rd in rushing yardage per game (169.3) and 91st in passing yardage per game (179).

UTAH AT IOWA STATE

Iowa State (3-2) has already played two Big 12 Conference games, losing to Kansas State and beating Texas Tech, and will host a formidable non-conference opponent on Saturday night in No. 10 Utah (4-0).

Since a 27-24 overtime victory against Pittsburgh to open the season, Utah has been dominate in wins over UNLV, New Mexico and San Jose State. The Utes are averaging 44.3 points per game, which ranks sixth among FBS teams, and allowing 12.8 points per contest, which ranks seventh, and are ranked seventh in the nation in total defense.

�Iowa State is a good football team,� Utah coach Kyle Whittingham told reporters this week. �They had a nice win against Texas Tech on Saturday and are 3-0 at home this year. They ran the ball particularly well – they had two running backs with over 100 yards and their quarterback had a good day. It was a good win for those guys. It’ll be a challenge for us. We have played Iowa State four times, all in the 70’s, and gone 0-4. We are going there with a big challenge ahead of us but as long as our guys stay focused and have a good day of practice, we will show up and compete.�

Iowa State, which was 1-2 after the first three weeks of the season, has turned things around with wins against Northern Iowa and Texas Tech the last two games.

�It could have been somewhat of a turning point for us with that victory Saturday night for further convincing ourselves, and I mean coaches and players, that we are getting things,� Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads told the The (Ames) Tribune.