Eye on the North

With the team's major hurdles out of the way and a clear path to the Big 12 championship game, it is time to start thinking about who our North division opponent will be.  Call it "looking ahead" if you will; I'll just call it confidence.

Unfortunately, it is not a particularly easy task right now trying to figure out the North.  Whether you think the North is better than people give them credit for or just really, really bad, there isn't a lot separating each team; no team has been completely eliminated yet.  Here are the current standings for the Big 12 North:

Team

Conference

Overall

Kansas State

4-2

6-4

Nebraska

3-2

6-3

Colorado

2-3

3-6

Iowa State

2-4

5-5

Kansas

1-4

5-4

Missouri

1-4

5-4

 

 

 

The following will be a series of quick profiles of each team and their chances to win the North, their key players, and what kind of threat they pose to Texas.

 

Kansas State

Best wins:  62-14 over Texas A&M, 17-10 over Kansas
Worst losses:  66-14 to Texas Tech, 17-15 to... wait for it... Louisiana Lafayette
Notable players:  WR Brandon Banks, DE Jeffrey Fitzgerald, RB Daniel Thomas
Good at:  Running the ball, stopping the run, and turnover margin.  Kansas State ranks 24th in rushing offense, 20th in rushing defense, and 6th in turnover margin. 
Bad at:  Passing the ball and stopping the pass.  K-State is 105th in passing and 83rd in defending the pass.
In three words or less:  Late bloomer.  The Wildcats rebounded from their destruction at the hands of Texas Tech to drill Texas A&M, beat Colorado and Kansas, and give OU a decent fight.
Remaining opponents:  11/14 vs. Missouri, 11/21 at Nebraska
Status in North Race;  One of two favorites.  K-State controls their fate and the game against Nebraska seems likely to decide the North. 
Additional comments:  In addition to their strengths, receiver Brandon Banks has returned 4 kickoffs for touchdowns (#1 in the nation) and averages 31.35 yards per carry (#6).  They put up a surprisingly good fight against Oklahoma.
Threat Level:  Low.  Their strength is to run the ball, which we're good against, and they can't defend the pass well.  Turnovers and special teams scores, like in 2007, would be the most conceivable way they could take down Texas.  K-State does have a two game winning streak against Texas and they upset Oklahoma in 2003.  Tricky tricky.

Nebraska

Best wins:  10-3 over Oklahoma, 27-12 over Missouri
Worst losses:  9-7 to Iowa State (boy, that was ugly), 31-10 Texas Tech
Notable players:  DT Ndamukong Suh, RB Roy Helu Jr., DE Jared Crick, DB Prince Amukamara
Good at:  Defense.  They rank 11th in the country in total defense.
Bad at:  Offense.  Not much more to say.
In three words or less:  Offensively offensive.  The offense threw away the game against Iowa State, couldn't get anything going against Texas Tech, and looked crappy in their win over OU.
Remaining opponents:  11/14 @ Kansas, 11/21 vs Kansas State, 11/27 @ Colorado
Status in North Race;  The other favorite.  Win out, and they're in.  Even if they don't, they have a chance.
Additional comments:  Their defense is legit and Suh is a monster.  If they had a competent offense, this Husker team would be really interesting.
Threat Level:  Medium.  Watching Suh ransack OU's offensive line was funny, but it didn't give me pleasant images of our guards and Chris Hall trying to block him.  Their defense will be an interesting matchup, but I'm not afraid of their offense at all, which is an abomination to offensive football.

Colorado

Best wins:  34-30 over Kansas, 35-34 over Texas A&M
Worst losses:  23-17 to Colorado State, 54-38 to Toledo.  Ouch.
Notable players:  RB Darrell Scott Rodney Stewart, WR Scotty McKnight
Good at:  Embarrassing teams they're not supposed to beat, like Kansas and A&M.
Bad at:  Football.  And keeping their most talented players on campus.
In three words or less:  Somehow still breathing.  This is a team widely considered at one point to be the worst team in the Big 12, yet they stand third place in the North standings.
Remaining opponents:  11/14 @ Iowa State, 11/21 @ Oklahoma State, 11/27 vs. Nebraska
Status in North Race:  Believe it or not, if they win out and the chips fall their way, they have a chance to win the North straight up, without even needing a tiebreak.
Additional comments:  It's never a good thing when some fans are even proposing the far-fetched legal argument that Hawkins would not be due his buyout if he was fired because he did such a negligent and poor job.
Threat Level:  Zilch.  I still think this is one of the bottom two or three teams, if not the very bottom team, in the Big 12.

Iowa State

Best wins:  9-7 over Nebraska
Worst losses:  35-10 to Texas A&M, 35-3 to Iowa, 34-8 to Oklahoma State
Notable players:   RB Alexander Robinson, QB Austen Arnaud (running)
Good at:  Running the football and effort.  And eagerly receiving games handed to them on a silver platter.
Bad at:  Passing and defense
In three words or less:  Valiant, but futile.  Iowa State plays hard and it was cool to see their locker room celebration after defeating Nebraska, but they don't have a very strong team.
Remaining opponents:  11/14 vs Colorado, 11/21 @ Missouri
Status in North Race:  For them to get in, they obviously need to win out, and they need Kansas State to lose their next two and Nebraska to lose to everyone but K-State.  That puts K-State, Iowa State, and Nebraska at 4-4 in the conference.  K-State would get shoved aside because of their inferior overall record (6-6 compared to 7-5), and then Iowa State would have the head-to-head nod over Nebraska.  I think.
Additional comments:  They can beat Colorado, but it is unlikely they'll win out, even against struggling Mizzou.
Threat Level:  Zero.  As long as we don't turn the ball over eight times (and perhaps even if we did), there's no way we could lose to the Cyclones if by some crazy miracle we see them in Dallas.

Kansas

Best wins:  Uh... 44-16 over Duke and 34-7 over UTEP.  Hey, Houston couldn't beat UTEP in El Paso.
Worst losses:  Choose any of the last four.
Notable players:   QB Todd Reesing, WR Desmond Briscoe, WR Kerry Meier, DE Jake Laptad
Good at:  Passing the ball
Bad at:  Defense, turnover margin, and having confidence in your quarterback.
In three words or less:  Sinking.  The Jayhawks started 5-0 before being upset by Colorado, and it's been straight downhill from there with three more consecutive losses.
Remaining opponents:  11/14 vs. Nebraska, 11/21 @ Texas, 11/28 vs. Missouri (neutral site)
Status in North Race:  Also alive.  They need K-State to lose out (including a loss to Nebraska) and Nebraska to lose to Colorado, while Kansas wins out, which includes a win over Nebraska.  Their superior overall record at that point would give them the edge in the tiebreaker.  Follow?
Additional comments:  Perhaps the most disappointing team in the North considering their undefeated start.  They have the least chance of winning the North because they are the only team playing Texas in the future.
Threat Level:  Very low.  If we beat them (and we should), they're out of the North race anyway, so that's that.

Missouri

Best wins:  37-9 over Illinois, and... 36-17 over Colorado
Worst losses:  41-7 to Texas, 40-32 to Baylor
Notable players:   QB Blaine Gabbert, WR Danario Alexander, LB Sean Witherspoon
Good at:  Passing offense and rushing defense.
Bad at:  Rushing offense and passing defense.  And staying healthy (Gabbert).
In three words or less:  "What if" team.  If Suh never landed on Gabbert's ankle, Missouri may have beaten Nebraska and even Oklahoma State.  Instead, they're tied for last in the division.
Remaining opponents:  11/14 @ Kansas State, 11/21 vs. Iowa State, 11/28 vs. Kansas (neutral site)
Status in North Race;  The Baylor loss hurt, but they're still alive in the same way Kansas is.  If they win out (which includes a game against K-State), K-State loses their other game against Nebraska, and Nebraska loses their other two games, then Mizzou wins the North.  Isn't this fun?
Additional comments:  They have a better shot than Kansas since Texas isn't coming up for them, but it still isn't a very good one.
Threat level:  Very Low.  We know we're much better than they are.

Head Spinning...

That was fun.  Hopefully by next week, somebody is eliminated and we can narrow this list down appropriately.  It will be an interesting stretch run for the North.  At the moment, I think Nebraska will be the one we'll see in Dallas, although I understand many Texas fans want to see Kansas State for some "revenge."  Either way, we will be heavily favored against any North opponent, and as long as we take care of ourselves, they should not get within a couple scores of the Horns.  Of course, for all we know Nebraska could thrash everyone by 30+ the next three games and scare the crap out of us by the end.  We'll see.

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