Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are some of the tidbits that people are talking about across the Big 12 heading into games this week.
After his receivers struggled to get acclimated in rainy conditions at Missouri, Nebraska receivers coach Ted Gilmore told his team to ditch the gloves and hand warmers and catch bare-handed. The biggest beneficiary was Niles Paul, who bounced back after two earlier drops to snag a pair of touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to key Nebraska’s rally.
Iowa State coaches are enthused despite their 0-2 conference start. The biggest reason is the recent play of quarterback Austen Arnaud after the Cyclones have utilized a ground-heavy attack from the spread for most of the season. If Arnaud can continue to boost his passing, don’t be surprised if the Cyclones notch an upset or two that might be considered a surprise now.
Robert Griffin’s knee surgery earlier this week ended any hopes he might have had of playing this season. What will be more important will be how Baylor coach Art Briles handles his starting quarterback job during the rest of the season. Blake Szymanski should get the nod as soon as he’s healthy to play. But it will be interesting to see if there’s a point later this season where Briles figures it’s more advantageous to get freshman Nick Florence the majority of the work to build for his future, rather than playing Szymanski, who is a senior.
Colorado coaches believe that Tyler Hansen will be a different quarterback this season than the one who briefly claimed the starting position for the Buffaloes late last season. Hansen, they believe, won’t be quite as prone to run after progressing through his checks on offense. That maturity should help the Buffaloes become more productive offensively.
The secret to Todd Reesing’s early success this season is the lack of hits he’s taken from opposing defensive linemen. Reesing’s diminutive size always makes that a concern -- particularly when the meat of the Big 12 schedule kicks in. After this week’s game against Colorado, the Jayhawks will play Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Kansas State to start a punishing finish that also will include games against Texas, Nebraska and Missouri. If he can remains well protected and upright during that time, Mark Mangino’s pitch for postseason honors for his senior quarterback won’t be out of line.
One reason why Missouri’s ground game has struggled so much this season has been the Tigers' struggles with penalties. It’s been difficult for the Tigers to thrive in unfavorable down-and-distance situations. The Tigers were penalized for offensive holding four times last week against Nebraska. In 2008, the Tigers were flagged for 10 offensive holding penalties in a 14-game season.
The key to success in the Texas-Oklahoma game Saturday -- as it almost always seems to be -- will be running the ball. Since the Big 12 was formed in 1996, the team that rushed for the most yardage has won 11 of the 13 games, including every game but once since 1997. Both teams will struggle against fearsome run defenses, but the team that is the most patient should have the most success.
With the injury to starting guard Brian Simmons for the Texas game, look for Oklahoma offensive line coach James Patton to go with a player-by-committee rotation to fill in. Don’t be surprised if Tyler Evans, Stephen Good and Tavaris Jefferies all get a shot at snaps at Simmons’ position.
Keith Toston’s role as the most valuable backup running back in the conference was re-emphasized with his big game against Texas A&M. He produced 204 yards of total offense and helped take the pressure off a young group of receivers with two critical big gains on screen passes early in the game.
The experiment of moving Texas A&M tight end Jamie McCoy into the backfield as a running threat worked well enough that Aggies coaches plan to keep tinkering with the alignment. McCoy showed strong running as he picked up 24 yards on four carries in his first work as a ball carrier since playing briefly in the 2006 season as a quarterback.