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What to watch for in the Big 12, Week 8

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are some trends I'm looking forward to watching across the Big 12 on Saturday.

1. Chase Daniel's return to Texas: The record-breaking Missouri quarterback always dreamed as a boy of playing at Memorial Stadium in Austin. After he was spurned in his recruiting by the Longhorns, Daniel finally has a chance to play against his old favorites in a must-win game for his team after its loss last week to Oklahoma State. The Tigers desperately need a victory in order to keep their flickering national title hopes alive. And Daniel needs a big outing to resuscitate his Heisman hopes.

2. How Oklahoma reacts after the Texas loss: The Sooners twice blew double-digit leads before wilting in the second half last week in a loss to Texas. Coach Bob Stoops is 9-0 in weeks after Texas games, but will be facing a big challenge against Kansas. The Jayhawks have quietly crept into first place in the North Division after two straight victories and control their own destiny for their first division title after Missouri's loss. And Mark Mangino is 17-2 in his last 19 games.

3. Texas Tech rekindles its bitter rivalry with Texas A&M: There's a reason why the statue of Will Rogers and his horse Soapsuds on the Tech campus is situated with its rear pointed to College Station. Fans from these two schools don't like each other and Saturday's game should again be a spirited one, despite the Aggies' early struggles. The Red Raiders are ranked fifth nationally in the coaches poll and have their national title aspirations clearly ahead as they travel to College Station. Mike Leach has dominated the A&M series, winning six of the last seven games. The Aggies are reeling through their worst start in the Big 12 history, but will undoubtedly have a special effort waiting for their old foes.

4. Oklahoma State facing a potential trap game: The Cowboys have soared to No. 7 nationally after six wins to open the season. With memories of the Cowboys' huge upset at Missouri still fresh and a huge game looming next week in Austin against Texas, it could be understandable that they could overlook Saturday's game against Baylor. The Cowboys have dominated the series with 11 victories in the 12 games since the Big 12 was formed. Will that result in overconfidence with so much clearly still left for the Cowboys to play for? Or will the opportunity for the OSU's first 7-0 start since 1945 keep the Cowboys grounded?

5. Robert Griffin's increasing command of the Baylor offense: After Griffin carried the ball an average of 22 times in his previous two games, Baylor coaches worked on getting other players involved last week. The results were dramatic as Griffin completed 21 of 24 passes to set a school single-game completion-percentage record in a victory against Iowa State. He ran the ball only nine times. It will be interesting to see if Baylor coaches opt for similar usage against an Oklahoma State team that has struggled pressuring opposing quarterbacks.

6. Back to the basics at Nebraska: The Cornhuskers employed a simplified offensive game plan last week that almost enabled them to escape with an upset victory at Texas Tech. The return was keyed by Marlon Lucky, who provided his best all-around game of the season with 66 rushing yards and a season-best seven receptions. Having similar success Saturday against Iowa State will be critical as the Cornhuskers hope to avoid their first 0-3 conference start since 1945.

7. Bo's big plays on defense: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini once was known as an architect for opportunistic defenses that thrived on generating turnovers. But the Cornhuskers have struggled recently, producing one recovered fumble since last season's Iowa State game, a span of 13 games. Nebraska's defense has got to do a better job of producing big plays in the second half of the season if they have any bowl hopes.

8. The battle of the special teams when Colorado and Kansas State meet: No Big 12 team does as good a job blocking punts as Kansas State, which has generated four blocked punts -- all returned for touchdowns -- among its nation-leading six blocked kicks this season. The Wildcats will need big plays to counteract the big returns from Colorado return specialist Josh Smith, who has scored four of the Buffaloes' 18 touchdowns and set up five more with his long returns.

9. Can Colorado's sputtering offense get well against Kansas State's defense? The Buffaloes' patchwork offensive line figures to have some success this week against Kansas State. But the Buffaloes might find a tonic against a Kansas State team that has struggled defensively, allowing more than 500 yards in each of its last four games.

10. Kansas finally proves itself against the South Division's power elite: The Jayhawks get their first chance to play against one of the big boys from the South Division when they visit Oklahoma on Saturday. Later in the season, the Jayhawks will host Texas Tech and Texas. Kansas avoided all three teams in a school-record 12-1 season last year that was capped by an Orange Bowl victory. We'll start seeing how the Jayhawks match up with the traditional powers from the other division in Saturday's game.