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Big 12 upsets reset weekend's focus


A&M-OSU suddenly is Big 12 South's first-place matchup


All eyes have been peeking toward Saturday since Big 12 schedules were released. It's the day the heavyweights are paired. The day you need three TVs or a bunch of time on TiVo and then even more time to watch it all.

On days such as Saturday, you tend to get special results. History is made because of the games' importance. Helmets collide a little more forcefully. Nerves fray a little more easily. Legends can be made in one play if that play is big enough.

Can you say Oklahoma State-Texas A&M?

How about Kansas-Kansas State?

Were you expecting the Red River Shootout or Missouri-Nebraska?

Sorry, the landscape in the Big 12 has changed. What a difference a day - Upset Saturday - makes.

First place in the South is on the line in College Station, Texas, this weekend, not the Cotton Bowl.

It's probably appropriate YouTube star Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State and Texas A&M Internet pen pal Dennis Franchione are battling for the early lead in the division. It's about time the two earned a little ink for something related to action on the field.

In the North, first place will be on the line in Columbia, Mo., where the undefeated Tigers are trying to earn their third straight win at home over the Cornhuskers, something Mizzou hasn't done since 1957-61.

Missouri has struggled to finish seasons strong under coach Gary Pinkel, probably requiring Tums for most of the media members who voted the Tigers preseason favorites to win the North.

Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione gives the crowd a thumbs up after he gave the Aggies a leg up in the Big 12 South. ERICH SCHLEGEL / DMN Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione gives the crowd a thumbs up after he gave the Aggies a leg up in the Big 12 South.

Nebraska, however, has struggled with Ball State and Iowa State this season, drawing boos at home from the most respectful fans in college football. Husker Nation is growing impatient for a signature win under fourth-year coach Bill Callahan.

First place in the Big 12 North will also be on the line in Manhattan, Kan.

Second-year K-State coach Ron Prince already has two signature wins - both against Texas. He said after routing the Longhorns, 41-21, that he set out to build a team based on speed, defense and special teams. That was all on display at Royal-Memorial Stadium as two former walk-ons from tiny Kansas towns, defensive end Ian Campbell and receiver Jordy Nelson, stomped all over Texas' five-star recruits.

By the way, who in the Big 12 has the nation's top-ranked scoring defense and fourth-ranked scoring offense? If you said Kansas, no, don't check yourself into a clinic. You're right.

The Jayhawks haven't played anybody yet, dipping into the MAC twice (Central Michigan and Toledo), Division I-AA (Southeastern Louisiana) and the Sun Belt (Florida International). Those teams have a combined 4-15 record.

But KU coach Mark Mangino can look back one day and tell his grandkids his defense (allowing 5.8 points per game) was ranked ahead of No. 1 LSU's (6.4 ppg) - at least for one week. More important, Mangino may have finally found a quarterback.

Mangino, the offensive coordinator of Oklahoma's 2000 national title team, has struggled to find consistency from his signal-callers until his sixth season at KU.

Sophomore Todd Reesing of Austin Lake Travis is everything Mangino has been looking for: He's confident, charismatic, a locker-room leader and productive. Reesing has thrown for 11 touchdowns with one interception and is the nation's 10th-rated passer.

"Todd's growing into his role nicely," Mangino said.

Bottom line, this may be the year of the land grab in the Big 12.

Only on rare occasions does beachfront property become available. But that may be the case this season, because the two teams carrying the league for most of the last seven years dropped pianos off their backs in dramatic fashion over the weekend.

Tenth-ranked OU got caught snoozing in the second half against rapidly improving Colorado.

Nineteenth-ranked Texas, struggling to get quarterback Colt McCoy comfortable behind a patchwork offensive line all season, drowned in a sea of turnovers (four) and special teams mistakes against Kansas State.

So any team interested in changing addresses in the Big 12 pecking order this season should step forward. Now is the time.


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