Big 12 mailbag: What Nebraska needs to do against Missouri?

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

If it’s Tuesday, it must be another day for letters from my faithful readers.

Thanks again for all of the contributions. I’ll try to get to as many as I can each week.

Roddy from Hickory, N.C., writes: Tim, who is key for the Cornhuskers' D vs. Blaine Gabbert and Danario Alexander on Thursday?

Tim Griffin: Roddy, I have to think the key for Nebraska will be pressuring Gabbert. As such, Ndamukong Suh’s pass-rush ability will be huge for Missouri in order to rattle the sophomore quarterback. If Suh can spend most of the game in Missouri’s backfield pressuring Blaine Gabbert, it’s going to be difficult for the Tigers to win that game.

I think if the Blackshirts can get three or more sacks, they’ve got a great chance of winning that game. And if they can maintain consistent pressure, I’m thinking it could really get into Gabbert’s head, even if he’s playing at home. It’s something he really hasn’t faced that much this season.

John from Shreveport, La., writes: Tim, I saw one of your articles on Saturday night in which you claimed that Arkansas' victory over Texas A&M further proves that the SEC is better than the Big 12. Why weren't you saying the Big 12 was better than the SEC when Oklahoma St. beat Georgia? That game was two of the better teams in their conference... A more even match-up than a middle of the pack SEC team and a terrible Big 12 team.

Tim Griffin: John, I think the Big 12 needs any opportunity where it can prove its teams are better than the SEC. A victory by Texas A&M over Arkansas would have proven that, adding to the earlier victory by Oklahoma State over Georgia. But since a strong showing the first week of the season, the Big 12 has struggled against teams from other BCS conferences. The sum total is that the Big 12 finished with a 4-7 record against teams from BCS conferences this year.

Those struggles also are on top of Big 12 teams losing twice to Houston (Oklahoma State and Texas Tech), a disappointing loss to the ACC’s Virginia Tech by Nebraska and three losses to teams in BCS conferences last week when Colorado was defeated by West Virginia, Oklahoma lost to Miami and Texas A&M was soundly thrashed by Arkansas.

Any opportunity at a victory is important. The fact the Big 12 went 0-3 last week against foes from BCS conferences was extremely significant. And a victory by A&M over Arkansas would have given the Big 12 a chance to crow about a 2-0 record over the SEC.

Instead, the loss makes it 1-1 and really doesn’t give the conference the chance to blot away bowl losses last season by Texas Tech to Mississippi in the Cotton Bowl and Oklahoma to Florida in the BCS championship game. It was a lost opportunity -- something that the Big 12 repeatedly struggled with in the first month of the season in nonconference play.

Jack Belch from Ankeny, Iowa, writes: Tim, I’m a big Cyclone fan and I’m wondering about something. In hindsight, do you think that Iowa State and Kansas State got a little greedy when they sold their game last week and another one next season to the Kansas City Chiefs’ organization to stage it at Arrowhead Stadium.

My son and I traveled over for the game. The traffic was a mess. We both thought it made a lot more sense to play that game on college campus where it belonged rather than in some NFL stadium where nobody has a homefield advantage and it didn’t even feel like a college game.

Tim Griffin: I’ve received other similar complaints from fans with both schools about the game last week at Kansas City. I’ve got to believe that if Iowa State would have kept it as a home game a near-sellout or sellout crowd would have attended the game at Jack Trice Stadium. I’m also thinking the Cyclones probably would have won the game, rather than losing by one point on the neutral field.

Kansas State will get the same advantage next season when the game originally scheduled for Manhattan, Kan., will be moved back to Kansas City for the second year of the contract.

But I was a little surprised by the small turnout. A crowd of 40,851 wasn’t what I expected at “Farmageddon.” I think a larger crowd would have been attracted at either home stadium if the game had been played there.

Wayne from St. Louis, Mo., writes: Hey Tim, on Sept. 24, you clearly stated that your criteria for helmet stickers are to recognize individuals whose teams also win (barring a surreal individual effort). You used this reasoning in denying individual recognition for Roy Helu Jr. (202 all-purpose yards), Alex Henery (5/5 FGs) and Ndamukong Suh (8 tackles, 4 pass breakups) who, despite having career days, were part of a one-point loss.

Yet on Saturday, Jeremy Beal was recognized with no mention that he was on a platoon that lost by, wait for it, one-point. I think the young man had an excellent game, but was hoping for some justification to avoid the appearance of a double-standard. Thank you for your coverage of the Big 12.

Tim Griffin: I’ve gotten this question in some form or fashion on several occasions in the last couple of weeks. Let me say that all three Nebraska players had nice games in a loss. But remember it was a loss. And there’s another extenuating circumstance to consider as well.

On the day of the Cornhuskers’ loss, there were 11 Big 12 games where the conference notched eight victories. I thought there were some candidates as deserving -- if not more so -- than the Cornhusker trio that went back to Lincoln with the loss. Those winning players got the nod to get a coveted helmet sticker.

In last week’s games, I had a far smaller group of teams to choose from with only six games. One game was between Kansas State and Iowa State. The Big 12 was 2-3 in the other games. I couldn’t justify not giving a game ball to Beal, who was a consistent force as a pass rusher against the Hurricanes considering I didn’t have as many victorious candidates to start to work with.

And if it’s consolation, I did notice that the Big 12 media panel agreed with me this week. They also selected Beal as their defensive player of the week, too.

Thanks again for all of the good questions. We’ll check back again Friday night.