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September 23, 2010

Week 4 preview in the Big 12

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"Rout 66."

UCF at Kansas State, 12:30 p.m.
Miami (Ohio) at Missouri, 2 p.m.
UCLA at Texas, 3:30 p.m.
New Mexico State at Kansas, 7 p.m.
Northern Iowa at Iowa State, 7 p.m.
South Dakota State at Nebraska, 7 p.m.
Baylor at Rice, 8 p.m.
Oklahoma at Cincinnati, 8 p.m.
That twist on the well-known highway appeared as a headline in Sunday sports sections across the state of Texas on Sept. 14, 1997. It really wasn't that clever, either.

In fact, it was a rather obvious choice. The day before, UCLA had routed 11th-ranked Texas 66-3, maybe the worst flogging in Longhorns history. And it came on their home turf, no less.

Losses at Texas never are accepted well. Monumental ones, like the 66-3 rout, aren't forgotten. And with UCLA returning to Austin to face Texas on Saturday, the memory resurfaces. But in retrospect, that drubbing is seen as a blessing in disguise.

The 63-point loss to UCLA set the tone for a 4-7 finish. Afterward, coach John Mackovic was told to hit the highway - Route 66 or any other, just get out of town. Then, Texas hired Mack Brown away from North Carolina.

The Longhorns haven't won fewer than nine games in a season since, have won a national championship and played for another.

On that day in '97, Brown couldn't have known he'd become Texas' next coach. But he remembers when the score was announced at Kenan Stadium during North Carolina's game against Stanford.

"I do remember I was on the sidelines at North Carolina, and [then-assistant] Cleve Bryant, who had worked here before, said, 'It's not going to be a good night in Austin, Texas,' " Brown told reporters earlier this week.

Brown said he won't mention that loss to this season's team.

"We won't talk to the kids about it," he said. "They were all 4 or 5 years old then. Only the media and fans will talk about it."

But he will talk about how UCLA bounced back from an 0-2 start to topple high-scoring Houston 31-13 last week.

If Brown is tempted to reference the Longhorns' '97 debacle against UCLA, he might point out that that Texas team -- like this one -- was the reigning Big 12 champion. The previous season, Texas had stunned Nebraska to win the first Big 12 championship. After the loss to UCLA, Mackovic said: "Last year, we won the championship and everybody lived with that. They'll just have to live with this, too."

Texas fans lived with it, but they didn't live with Mackovic much longer. And the Longhorns have been living rather large since that season.

Best matchup: UCLA rush offense vs. Texas rush defense. Texas leads the nation in run defense, allowing just 44 rushing yards per game after holding Texas Tech to minus-14 a week ago. But UCLA appears to be finally getting the hang of the "Pistol" offense and is coming off its best outing of the year. The Bruins are 31st in the nation in rushing offense after gaining 266 yards in last week's rout of Houston. RB Johnathan Franklin rushed for a season-high 158 yards and QB Kevin Prince added 60.

Player on the spot: Missouri DE Brad Madison. That Madison, a sophomore, is getting his first starting assignment would be a big deal on its own. But Madison is replacing an injured Aldon Smith, the Tigers' best defensive player. Smith, the Big 12's defensive freshman of the year last season, is out with a broken right fibula. Smith leads the Tigers with three sacks, and his 15 tackles are the most among Missouri defensive linemen. Madison has six tackles and one sack.

Numbers game: Quarterback was thought to be a position of concern for Oklahoma State, but Cowboys starter Brandon Weeden leads the nation with 11 touchdown passes. Last season's starter, Zac Robinson, threw 15 touchdown passes the entire season. Weeden is second in the nation (behind Arkansas' Ryan Mallett) with 325.0 passing yards per game and sixth in passing efficiency. He's thrown at least two TDs in every game and had six in last week's rout of Tulsa.

What they're saying

"I'm allergic to losing. Some guys can laugh off losing and giggle and come in here with a good attitude. Being here for three years and putting all the work that I've put in and my teammates have put in, fighting back from ACL surgery, I didn't sign up to get beat down like that." -- Baylor QB Robert Griffin, explaining a lingering foul mood from last week's 45-10 loss to TCU

"It would have meant a lot to her. She loved football. She was big on my success. She was part of the reason I came here. It probably would have meant the world to her." -- Kansas State senior walk-on RB William Powell, on how his mother, who died in the spring, would have reacted to the news that he'd been put on scholarship this week

"When he went in the game the other day, there were 11 defensive players who said, 'He's in the game, so he's going to get the ball,' and he still made 14 yards." -- Texas coach Mack Brown, on WR D.J. Monroe

"The bye week couldn't have come at a better time for me, with the struggles I had. I'll take the week to readjust some things." -- Texas A&M QB Jerrod Johnson, who threw four interceptions in last week's 27-20 come-from-behind win over Florida International

Etc.: Robert Griffin has accounted for eight of Baylor's nine touchdowns. The next touchdown he scores will be the 19th of his career and will set a Baylor record for TDs by a quarterback. … Colorado's Board of Regents approved a move to the Pac-10 conference for 2011. The university must pay $6.863 million to leave the Big 12 next season. Nebraska is paying $9.225 million to leave the Big 12 and join the Big Ten next season. … Iowa State is 8-0 under coach Paul Rhoads when holding opponents to fewer than 24 points. … Kansas State S Emmanuel Lamur, the team's leading tackler in '09, missed the past two games with an injury but is expected to return and should play against UCF. …Missouri has seven interceptions. The Tigers finished with just eight all of last season. … Nebraska had three players -- QB Taylor Martinez and RBs Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead -- rush for more than 100 yards in last week's win against Washington. That's the fifth time in school history the Huskers have had three 100-yard rushers in one game. The Huskers lead the nation with an 8.06-yards-per-carry average and 15 rushing touchdowns…. Oklahoma WR Ryan Broyles has had six consecutive games with more than 100 receiving yards. … Iowa State LB A.J. Klein returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown in last week's loss to Kansas State. It was Iowa State's first defensive touchdown since the 2008 season opener, a span of 27 games. … Kansas redshirt freshman QB Jordan Webb has been sacked eight times in his two starts. … Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said he is considering redshirting freshman RB Roy Finch, who's recovering from a hairline ankle fracture. … Oklahoma State picked up its first three interceptions of the season in last week's win over Tulsa. … The 144 total yards Texas allowed to Texas Tech on Saturday was the least the Longhorns have given up to the Red Raiders since 1982. … Texas A&M All-America LB Von Miller has yet to record a sack this season. Last season, he led the nation with 17 sacks. … Texas Tech is using sophomore WR Cornelius Douglas on defense in certain packages to cover inside receivers.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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