The Sweep

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Mandel_stewart
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Sweep
After defeating Oklahoma, Texas must now face Missouri and Oklahoma State.
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1. That Nobody's making it out of the Big 12 undefeated. After watching undefeated squads Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma State beat up on lightweights over the season's first six weeks, the nation watched the Sooners and Longhorns and Tigers and Cowboys both stage thrilling contests. You know you're in a tough league when, in Oklahoma's case, your quarterback, Sam Bradford, throws for five touchdowns, and you still lose. And the team whose defense had the most to prove, Okie State, thwarted Mizzou star Chase Daniel.

At the end of the day, the two teams with the most favorable schedules -- Oklahoma and Missouri -- lost. As good as Colt McCoy and the Longhorns looked, they have the unenviable task of taking on the Tigers, Cowboys and 6-0 Texas Tech the next three weeks. Both the Red Raiders and Oklahoma State have yet to face the other three heavyweights in their division. Much like the SEC, I'd be surprised if the Big 12's elite don't wind up knocking each other off. The good news: As was Florida and LSU's case the past two years, one loss won't preclude a national-title berth.

2. That LSU's defense ain't what it used to be. In hindsight, the warning signs were there all along. First, the Tigers became the only team to date to allow Auburn's woeful offense to look respectable. Then Mississippi State moved the ball surprisingly well in Baton Rouge. And Florida obviously represented a serious upgrade in offensive capability. But 51 points? Seriously? From the defending national champions? From a team whose defense has consistently ranked among the very best in the country the past several years?

On the one hand, it should be expected that LSU would suffer a drop-off on that side of the ball after losing stalwarts like Glenn Dorsey, Craig Steltz, Ali Highsmith and Chevis Jackson. And it didn't help that Ricky Jean Francois missed the game with an injury, or that the Tigers' ill-performing offense continually put its defense in bad positions. Either way, it's clear LSU's defense isn't at championship level this season, and it makes you wonder how much they miss departed coordinator Bo Pelini.

3. That Rich Rodriguez has a confidence crisis on his hands. Coming into the season, all but the most blindly delusional Michigan fans knew they were in for a rough transition season. They could forgive a couple of ugly losses (and ugly wins) along the way, and, while it would be tough to accept, they could forgive an uncharacteristic, 6-6 type season. But they won't forgive losing to Toledo anytime soon, and they shouldn't. Appalachian State was a Caribbean cruise compared to the misery of scoring 10 points and passing for 120 yards against a 1-4 MAC team.

With the exception of one fourth-quarter outburst against Wisconsin, the Wolverines have showed almost no progress over the past six games. Certainly, there are promising pieces -- most notably freshman RB Sam McGuffie -- but an offense is only as good as its quarterback, and it's quite clear Michigan's QB of the future is not currently on its roster. Rodriguez better hope one of next year's freshmen is capable of taking over the reins immediately. In the meantime, it could be another 11 months, or longer, before the faithful will have any reason to regain confidence.

4. That Kendall Hunter belongs on all Heisman lists. For all the talk about the Big 12's Heisman-caliber quarterbacks, it's no coincidence that the two victors in the Oklahoma-Texas and Oklahoma State-Missouri clashes were the ones that produced 100-yard rushers. Texas' Chris Ogbonnaya only burst onto the scene two weeks ago, but the Cowboys' sophomore tailback has been quietly churning out big games all season. His 154-yard performance against Missouri marked his fifth 100-yard output in six games (the other: 90 yards against Texas A&M).

Watching Hunter plow over Missouri defenders Saturday night, it struck me just how rare a runner he is. In most shotgun-based offenses like Oklahoma State's, the tailback is usually a slasher. While Hunter is listed at just 5-foot-8, 190 pounds, he is unquestionably a power runner. Time and again, he would take the shotgun handoff from Zac Robinson, head straight through the line and start dragging defenders as he ate up chunks of yardage. It makes it awfully tough on opponents when both the Cowboys' pass and run games are equally potent.

5. That Tim Brewster is a miracle worker. When Minnesota originally hired its new coach two years ago, the initial reaction was: "Who?" When he proceeded to produce a 1-11 record in his first season, a lot of Gophers fans were asking, "Why (did we hire this guy?)" When he managed to woo a top-20 recruiting class to Minnesota, the whole country wondered: "How?" And now we're left asking the same question now that Brewster has inexplicably turned the Gophers from 1-11 to 6-1 (even finding a way to mysteriously beat Illinois despite allowing 550 yards).

Having talked to Brewster, it's easy to see why players buy into him. His relentlessly upbeat, energetic personality is contagious. Minnesota still has a ways to go in building up its talent level, but several of Brewster's imports are already paying dividends. Freshman RB Deleone Eskridge ran for 124 yards and two TDs against the Illini, while juco LB Simoni Lawrence returned a fumble for a touchdown. Having already faced Ohio State, and with no Penn State or Michigan State on the schedule, the Gophers could well win eight or nine games. Can you say Coach of the Year?

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