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September 15, 2011

Week 3 preview in the Big 12

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The Texas Longhorns hope to do what Texas A&M did.

No, they're not planning to send Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe an exit notice (not yet anyway) or seek inclusion into the SEC.

The Longhorns just want to do what the Aggies did midway through last season, when they benched starting quarterback Jerrod Johnson in favor of Ryan Tannehill and promptly went on a six-game winning streak, which included a victory over Oklahoma.

THE SCHEDULE
FRIDAY
Iowa State at Connecticut, 8 p.m.
SATURDAY
Kansas at Georgia Tech, 12:30 p.m.
Texas at UCLA, 3:30 p.m.
Texas Tech at New Mexico, 3:30 p.m.
Baylor at Stephen F. Austin, 7 p.m.
Idaho at Texas A&M, 7 p.m.
Kent State at Kansas State, 7 p.m.
Western Illinois at Missouri, 7 p.m.
Oklahoma at Florida State, 8 p.m.
Oklahoma State at Tulsa, 10 p.m.
Texas announced earlier this week that junior Garrett Gilbert would be replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Case McCoy, a change the Texas fandom has anticipated for almost a year.

Longhorns coaches indicated that true freshman David Ash also would see action in Saturday's game at UCLA. They also did not rule out that Gilbert could eventually resurface as the starter if McCoy and Ash struggle.

"It's [quarterback] no different than any other spot except it gets a lot of publicity," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "We make decisions based on what's working, and if something's not working, we try to change it up.

"Our depth chart is very fluid. What we're trying to do is make sure that we give ourselves the best chance to win each week. All you can do is base it on what you see in the first two ballgames and once you see them progress through the week with the game plan."

Actually, there is much more than the performances of this season to justify the change. Gilbert has thrown 23 interceptions and just 13 touchdown passes in his career. He was picked off 17 times a year ago as Texas was toiling through its first losing season under Brown.

Gilbert opened this season with a solid unspectacular showing in a victory over Rice, but he threw two interceptions in the first quarter of last week's game against BYU. Brown pulled Gilbert in the second quarter with Texas trailing 13-0. Behind McCoy and Ash, the Longhorns rallied for a 17-16 victory.

McCoy was 8-of-9 for 57 yards, while Ash was 2-of-3 for 35 yards and also rushed for 36.

"We didn't play well the first half in either ballgame," Brown said. "[Gilbert] played well and protected the ball against Rice. He had two interceptions [against BYU]. One of them wasn't his fault, but it still goes back to that. We just needed a spark to get us moving on offense, and we played better in the second half."

No matter how obvious it's needed, making a change at quarterback seemingly never has been easy for Brown.

In 2001, he made Chris Simms the starter over Major Applewhite, who had undergone offseason knee surgery. Simms put up good numbers, but inevitably crashed in big games. He threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in the Big 12 championship game loss to Colorado before Brown replaced him with Applewhite, who almost led the Longhorns a come-from-behind victory.

In 2003, Brown waited until after six games and a 65-13 loss to Oklahoma to replace Chance Mock with Vince Young, who would go on to lead Texas to a 30-2 record over the next 2 seasons.

OKLAHOMA AT FLORIDA STATE
The showdown between No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 5 Florida State is our Game of the Week. We'll have a closer look at OU-FSU on Friday.
Young was followed by Case McCoy's older brother, Colt, who led the Longhorns to 45 victories in four seasons.

The Longhorns actually began a run of more than a decade of good-to-excellent quarterback play in 1998, when Applewhite took over for injured starter Richard Walton in a road game at UCLA.

Ironically, the Longhorns again are on the road and facing UCLA on Saturday. Thus, maybe they're just hoping to do what they've previously done rather than what A&M did.

Best matchup: Oklahoma pass offense vs. Florida State pass defense. Sooners QB Landry Jones is one of the best in the country, and no team has a better set of receivers than Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills. Last season, that duo combined for 192 catches for 2,408 yards and 19 touchdowns. The Seminoles' secondary may be the best OU will face this season. CB Greg Reid is an All-America candidate, and Xavier Rhodes and Mike Harris are good corners, too. The Seminoles have allowed just 155 passing yards through two games, albeit against overmatched competition.

[Related: FSU corners look for redemption against Sooners]

Player on the spot: Oklahoma OT Donald Stephenson. As the Sooners' left tackle, Stephenson frequently lines up against the opponent's best pass rusher. But he won't often line up across from one as good as Florida State DE Brandon Jenkins. Jenkins earned All-ACC and some All-American acclaim last season when he had 13.5 sacks. If he applies consistent pressure on Landry Jones, he could disrupt OU's dangerous passing game. It's largely up to Stephenson to make sure Jenkins doesn't.

Keep an eye on: Iowa State QB Steele Jantz. The early indicators are that Iowa State will be as good as Jantz is. He struggled and committed three turnovers in the season opener and the Cyclones squeaked by Northern Iowa. But he was excellent in last week's 44-41 triple-overtime victory over Iowa, throwing for 279 passing yards and four touchdowns. This week, Iowa State faces a Connecticut defense that has fared well against the pass in its first two games. If Jantz has a strong game, the Cyclones could have their first 3-0 start since 2005.

Numbers game: Texas A&M TB Cyrus Gray has become the Aggies' career all-purpose yardage leader with 5,159 yards. In addition, Gray has rushed for 100 yards in eight consecutive games since taking over as the starting tailback midway through last season. The key for Gray reaching 100 yards would appear to be 20 carries. He has gotten 20 carries in eight games in his career, and has reached triple figures in each of them.

Quotes of the week

"I'm just trying to get the most wins underneath my belt, just like everyone else. And you can't get the next win until you put everything else behind you and move on." - Iowa State CB Leonard Johnson, to the Des Moines Register on refocusing after last week's 44-41 victory over Iowa "I'm serious in a way that I'll do whatever it needs to be. If I need to play defense I'll do that, too. I'm a football player, man." - Missouri WR T.J. Moe, on volunteering to move to tailback, where injuries have depleted the Tigers' depth "I think they have really good defensive line players, and they have a really good linebacker. But I think it's a mismatch with our skill guys and their secondary, so we should be able to win in that area." - Texas Tech QB Seth Doege, on matching up with New Mexico

Poll watch: Oklahoma puts its No. 1 ranking on the line at No. 5 Florida State. A victory would provide an enormous boost when the BCS standings are released next month. Oklahoma is ranked No. 1 in the AP poll for the 100th time in school history. That's more time spent at the top than any other program in the country. Four other Big 12 teams are in the top 25, but only No. 23 Texas, which travels to face UCLA, would seem in jeopardy of falling out. The Longhorns lost to UCLA 34-12 last season in Austin. Meanwhile, No. 8 Oklahoma State (vs. Tulsa), No. 9 Texas A&M (vs. Idaho) and No. 19 Baylor (vs. Stephen F. Austin) don't figure to be seriously challenged.

Etc.: Kansas is seeking its first road victory under coach Turner Gill. The Jayhawks have lost eight consecutive games on an opponent's home field since winning at UTEP in the second game of the '09 season. ... Baylor senior WR Kendall Wright needs 122 receiving yards to become the Bears' career leader with 3,018 yards. He would become only the sixth player in school history with 3,000 yards and already is the only player in school history with 200-plus receptions. In addition, he needs one more touchdown catch to tie the school record of 19, which is held by Lawrence Elkins and Melvin Bonner. ... Starting C Travis Ruth and WR Jerrell Jackson will play for Missouri on Saturday after missing the first two games with injuries. But the Tigers expect to be without DE Jacquies Smith, RB De'Vion Moore and LB Will Ebner. ... Coming off its triple-overtime win over archrival Iowa, Iowa State is hoping to reverse a trend of playing poorly after a big victory. In '09, the Cyclones lost 35-10 to Texas A&M a week after upsetting Nebraska. Last season, they upset Texas Tech and lost to Utah 68-27 the following week. They also upset Texas, but the next week fell behind early and had to rally for a 28-16 win over Kansas. ... Oklahoma LB Travis Lewis, who has been sidelined with a broken toe, will not be able to return for Saturday's game against Florida State. But DT Stacy McGee, who was suspended for the opener, will play. ... Texas true freshman RB Malcolm Brown's status on the depth chart has changed from backup to co-starter with Fozzy Whittaker. Brown could get his first start this weekend. ... Texas A&M has reinstated LB Damontre Moore, who was suspended for the Aggies' opener. ... Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is seeking his 50th career victory when the Cowboys face Tulsa. ... Texas Tech coaches want better production from the offensive line after it gave up two sacks and allowed QB Seth Doege to be hit four times in the first game. ... Baylor QB Robert Griffin has a 12.5-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in non-conference games. He has thrown 25 touchdown passes and only two interceptions outside of Big 12 play. Baylor is 11-3 when Griffin throws at least two touchdown passes. ... Kansas starting DT John Williams will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. ... Ravaged by injuries in its backfield, Missouri is listing redshirt freshman Greg White as the backup to starting RB Henry Josey. T.J. Moe, the Tigers' most productive receiver, is working at tailback, too. ... Oklahoma junior RB Jermie Calhoun, a former five-star recruit, has announced he plans to transfer ... Oklahoma State has scored at least one touchdown in every quarter so far this season. ... Texas has lost its past three meetings against UCLA (2010, 1998, 1997) by a combined score of 149-46. ... The status remains uncertain for Texas Tech DE Leon Mackey, who suffered a partially collapsed lung in the season-opening game against Texas State. Coaches say Mackey will miss several weeks and possibly the rest of the season.

Olin Buchanan is a senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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