Big 12: Big 12

Season recap: Texas Tech

December, 7, 2011
The season started with promise, and ended early. Despite playing the Big 12's easiest nonconference schedule (Texas State, New Mexico, Nevada) and starting 4-0, Texas Tech endured a historically bad season. It had been 18 years since the last losing season in Lubbock, but Tommy Tuberville's Red Raiders (5-7) went through one in just his second year on the job.

Both sides of the ball struggled at times, but the biggest culprit was injuries. Leading rusher Eric Stephens was the first big loss, dislocating his knee in a loss to Texas A&M. The defense was riddled with injuries all year, bad enough that during the final few games, former receiver Cornelius Douglas was forced into a role as starting cornerback.

Despite a huge win over Oklahoma, one that ended the Sooners' 39-game home winning streak, this was a season to forget in Lubbock. After that game, the Red Raiders didn't win another game, and gave up 66 points in losses to both Oklahoma State and Baylor, sandwiched around a last-minute loss to Missouri.

Offensive MVP: Seth Doege, QB. Doege was on the money early in the season, and though he struggled at times, still put together a pretty good season. He set the NCAA record for single-game completion percentage against New Mexico, completing 40 of 44 passes and finished the season with, believe it or not, more passing yards than Baylor's Robert Griffin III. He completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 4,004 yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Defensive MVP: Scott Smith, defensive end. You could maybe go with Terrance Bullitt or Cody Davis in this spot, but Smith, despite sitting out the first four games with a suspension, returned and had a huge impact. It's a bit ironic, considering Texas Tech was 1-7 once Smith returned, but he was a pass-rushing force. He finished with nine tackles for loss, only half of a TFL behind the team leader, Bullitt. He also had 5.5 sacks, 3.5 more than any other Tech defender. He forced three fumbles and made 37 tackles.

Turning point: You might think it's the Oklahoma win, but clearly, that's not the case. The 41-7 loss to Iowa State seemed shocking at the time, but it was clearly a sign of what was to come. That was a 5-2 Tech team losing to a 3-4 band of Cyclones, but Iowa State finished 6-6 and Tech finished 5-7. It was the first of three huge blowouts, and against Iowa State, Texas and Oklahoma State, Doege threw two touchdown passes and three picks, including zero touchdowns against Iowa State and OSU.

What’s next: Time to reassess what went wrong this season and get healthy. Texas Tech wasn't a great team even before the injuries. They've got plenty to fix. The good news is a lot of top talent returns. Stephens isn't a 100 percent guarantee, but he should be back next fall. Darrin Moore finally got back to health late in the year, though Alex Torres should be back after tearing his ACL against Mizzou. Doege will return with his top three receivers (five of his top six, too) and his running back, and the defense returns its top six tacklers. The upside for this team is high next year.

Chat: A&M search, 2012, Big 12 vs. SEC

December, 6, 2011
Thanks for all the questions today. 'Twas a fun chat. Here's the full transcript.

You can send me better questions if yours didn't make the cut.

Time for some highlights:
Steve (Austin): With the SEC getting two teams in the national championship game this season I think I know the answer to this question; but in your opinion what division was better, the 2011 SEC West or the 2008 Big 12 South.

David Ubben: Definitely the SEC West this year. Complain if you must, but that division is stacked.

Britton (Louisiana): If the Big 12 had actually gone out last year and added 2 teams to stay at 12, kept a championship game (instead of rearranging the regular season to have their teams play on Champion game Saturday), and OKState had won....does the 13th, true conferance championship game, give them the extra points needed to pass Bama in the polls?

David Ubben: Interesting. I'm going to say no on that one, but another quality win couldn't hurt. They probably would have played Kansas State in the championship, a second top 11 opponent in two weeks.

Ron (Trapped in a glass box of emotions): I'm sure your getting a lot of these today, but who do you see as a legit HC option for TAMU? I know names like Smart, Peterson, and Fedora have been tossed around ( I'm no fan of Sumlin getting the nod).

David Ubben: It sounds like there's a lot of wavering on a lot of guys. For me, that's one more reason why the Aggies shouldn't have fired Mike Sherman. There's no home run hire floating around out there. They'd have to somehow convince a big-name BCS conference coach to come, and that's never easy. The C-USA championship loss certainly came at an awful time for Sumlin if he wanted that A&M job. It's a big gig, though. They'll be near the top of the heap when it comes to getting coaches.

Jeff (Winston-Salem, NC): In my opinion one of the worst examples of the BCS is a Virginia Tech team that played Appalachian St., Arkansas State, Marshall and East Carolina in non-conference games. VT beat 3-9 Duke by 4 points, 5-7 East Carolina by 7 points, 4-8 Boston College (VT was losing until the middle of the 3rd quarter and won in unimpressive fashion), both 6-6 Miami and UNC by 3 points each (and VT didn't look like the better team in either game). What do you think?

David Ubben: You pretty much laid it out. Virginia Tech is not very good. I said this the past three weeks when the Hokies were inexplicably ahead of Oklahoma State in the coaches' poll.

Kevin (College Station, TX): When do I have to go to the SEC blog for my information. I'll miss you D.Ubss

David Ubben: We haven't talked about it yet, but I'm assuming some time before spring practice like we did with Nebraska and Colorado.

Willie (Manhattan): How could you possibly justify Virginia Tech in the sugar bowl over teams like Kansas State?

David Ubben: You can't.

Chris (D.C.): K-State and Arkansas in the Cotton is the only Big 12/SEC matchup in bowl games. Any chance K-State shows that the Big 12 is the better conference with an upset win?

David Ubben: There's a chance. I ranted about this on Twitter a bit on Sunday night. The Big 12 and the SEC have to find more opportunities to play each other, especially now that the Texas A&M-Arkansas series won't count. One game a year--the Cotton Bowl--isn't enough. These are the two best leagues. They should be playing each other. K-State's got a shot, but they'll have to be at their best.

RG3 (Waco): If I leave for the NFL, how does Baylor's season look next year?

David Ubben: They won't fall off like most think. Probably a fringe bowl team. Nick Florence should be pretty good after going through 2009 and learning a lot. Losing Kendall Wright is a huge hit, though, even if he stays.

Adam (Little Apple): Have you ever seen a team overachieve more in one season than K-State has this year?

David Ubben: Oklahoma State ... last year?

Max (KCK): Fair to say you grossly overestimated OU's draw in regards to your bowl game predictions vs. selection?

David Ubben: No, I'd say I grossly overestimated OU's ability to not get embarrassed by Oklahoma State.

Ginger Ross (Houston, TX): Who has a more legit claim of being jobbed by the BCS, Oklahoma State or Kansas State?

David Ubben: K-State by a long, long way.

Bryan (Dallas, TX): I'd like to compliment Coach Gundy on his handling of the media after learning his team did not make the championship. He is as classy as any coach out there and OSU should be proud.

David Ubben: Agree. He's handled this well. He's offered a few--excuse the pun--pokes of criticism, without going overboard and sounding like a crazy person.

Video: Most surprising player

December, 6, 2011

Ryan Burr and Robert Smith discuss who is the most surprising player of the college football season.

Big 12

Chat today at 3 p.m. ET

December, 6, 2011
The regular season is over, but our chats continue on.

We'll get started today at 3 p.m. ET.

Here's the link.

Feel free to drop your questions off throughout, keep them coming once we start and I'll see you there.

Conference ranking stage set for bowls

December, 6, 2011
Not much to say about this one, but here's your look at the ESPN Stats and Info Conference Rankings after the regular season and before the bowls.

The Big 12 maintained its No. 1 spot in the computer rankings, and the gap between the Big 12 and SEC isn't too wide. The SEC has the AP Poll lead with four teams in the top 10.

You'll also notice that a certain conference, currently ranked No. 6 in the standings, got two BCS bids, versus the Big 12's single spot.

Links: Harsin struggles in first year

December, 6, 2011
A few news and notes from HornsNation:

Carter Strickland: Quarterback development and running back injuries plagued Bryan Harsin's first season as Texas' offensive coordinator.

Season Review : Quarterbacks

HornsNation podcast

Bedlam from a different perspective

December, 6, 2011
Brian Phillips of Grantland is the brains behind the Oklahoma State-tormenting demon Squinky, the manifestation and source of all the painful moments in Pokes history over the years.

He watched Saturday's Bedlam game from the press box, and takes you through his experiences.

Is Squinky dead? Could be.
It started as a joke, this Squinky business, just a lighthearted way to describe the torment of OSU fans. Just your average tentacled hell-beast serving its time in a metaphor. But you have to understand, I had seen Oklahoma State lose to Oklahoma in every conceivable and numerous inconceivable ways over the years. I had seen leads eroded, leads obliterated, leads untended and left for dead. I had seen entire teams starve to death on the field. Early in the fourth quarter, with OSU leading 44-3, my head started spinning, and if a giant crack had opened at the 50-yard line and a tentacle had come rolling out Jules Verne-style, I'm not sure I would have blinked.

It didn't happen. Phillips gives you a chance to see what it's like to expect the worst, and receive the best. Check out the full story.

Video: One Good Thing

December, 6, 2011

The One Good Thing for the Big 12 this week is simple: It has "One True Champion."

Lunch links: Which injustice is greater?

December, 6, 2011
How do you think the Fonz got so cool? He stretched his pelvic bowl.

OSU's Garner is Rimington Award finalist

December, 6, 2011
Oklahoma State center Grant Garner is a finalist for the Rimington Award, given annually to college football's top center. He's the only Big 12 representative among the six finalists.

He's joined by Alabama's William Vlachos, Michigan's David Molk, Georgia's Ben Jones, Wisconsin's Peter Konz and Dalton Freeman of Clemson.

A big honor for the big man. I'm feeling good about throwing him on my preseason All-Big 12 team, too.

Nebraska's Dominic Raiola is the only Big 12 player to ever win the award, and did so with the inaugural award 2000. Of course, Nebraska's gone now, so count that or not, depending on your preference.

The Final Big 12 Heisman Watch

December, 6, 2011
We've reached the season's conclusion, and with it, the Big 12 has only one Heisman finalist among the five that will go to New York this week for Saturday's announcement.

1. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Last week: 15-22, 320 yards, 2 TD, INT. 12 carries, 32 yards, 2 TD in a 48-24 win over Texas.

Making the case for Griffin III: RG3 bounced back from concussion-like symptoms against Texas Tech last week to lead the Bears to a win over Texas for a second consecutive season. With his big performance, despite rainy conditions, he overtook Russell Wilson of Wisconsin for the national lead and a new NCAA record for passing efficiency. More importantly, he helped Baylor win its ninth game and fifth Big 12 game, the most in school history. He's the likely frontrunner, but you never know for sure with the Heisman.

Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Kansas State's Collin Klein put together great seasons. Landry Jones had a nice one, too, even with the awful ending. None of them earned a trip to New York City, though.

Here's how I voted in this week's ESPN Heisman Watch:

1. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
2. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
3. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
4. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
5. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State

Big 12 has five AFCA All-Americans

December, 6, 2011
The American Football Coaches Association named its All-America team this week, and five Big 12 players made the cut.

We'll have our All-America and All-Big 12 teams here later this week, but here's who landed on this list:
  • Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
  • Levy Adcock, OL, Oklahoma State
  • Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
  • Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State
  • Randy Bullock, K, Texas A&M

All deserving, but what about Oklahoma defensive end Frank Alexander? Hmm.

Wrapping up the Big 12 regular season

December, 6, 2011
The Big 12's not so simple anymore.

Maybe it's unfair, but conferences are most often judged by their top teams. Glance at Oklahoma and Texas, the two teams that won every Big 12 title since 2003, and you'll see a combined eight losses in 2011.

The Longhorns improved from 5-7 to 7-5. Oklahoma? A 2010 Big 12 title bled into a national title chase in 2011 that ended with a third loss in its regular season finale, and a particularly embarrassing one, too.

Robert Griffin
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezRobert Griffin III's star turn got Baylor nine wins -- and himself an invitation to the Heisman ceremony.
Outright Big 12 champion stomped the Sooners in Stillwater, ending the Longhorns and Sooners' Red River Reign over the league. This year's second-place finisher, Kansas State, had been the last team not the Longhorns or Sooners to win the Big 12. Since that title in 2003, it's been all Texas and Oklahoma.

The league ain't what it used to be, in lots of good and bad ways. The newfound parity is a good sign.

Texas A&M and Missouri leaving for the SEC? A profoundly bad sign.

Texas A&M and Missouri's combined 0-6 record against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State? Another good sign.

TCU and West Virginia (probably) join the Big 12 next season, and will find a league that looks much different than it did even two years ago.

Texas' ascent still looks in-progress, and until the Longhorns find a quarterback, can't reasonably count on having any real shot at a Big 12 title. Oklahoma will be strapped for experience next season without Ryan Broyles and three of its best defenders. It will only get more difficult if Landry Jones, projected as a top-10 pick, leaves early for the NFL.

Oklahoma State broke the proverbial glass ceiling this year in resounding fashion, challenging the idea that 2011 was a "down year" in the Big 12. Oklahoma was a disappointment. Texas A&M tanked. The Longhorns were still too young and lacked enough offense.

But there's a reason why, even without a team in the national championship game for the second consecutive year, this was far from a down year for the Big 12. You just have to look a little harder.

Oklahoma State surpassed last year's 10-win regular season with 11 this year, the most in school history. Kansas State is one of the nation's biggest surprises, and was robbed of a spot in the BCS by the Hokie-loving Sugar Bowl. Baylor? All the Bears did was win more Big 12 games (5) than any year before, and put themselves in position for the program's first Heisman winner ever.

Injuries morphed Oklahoma from great to just good, but this year, the Big 12's identity was much deeper than "How did Texas and Oklahoma do?"

The league went 27-3 in nonconference play, winning the eternal love of the BCS computers and landing eight teams in bowl games, despite switching to a nine-game conference schedule. In other words, every team replaced a likely nonconference win with a Big 12 opponent. The league, top to bottom, still put together an outstanding season. That .900 percentage was the best nonconference winning percentage of any league since the SEC in 1997.

Two of those losses, by the way, came from Texas A&M and Missouri, who will be gone to the SEC after this season.

The Big 12 missed out on the national title race, but it wasn't down this year. It was way, way up. You just had to look a little harder to tell.

Time to look back on the season that was:

Offensive MVP: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Griffin might be the nation's offensive MVP, so why would it be any different here? The Heisman finalist (and likely favorite) helped carry the Bears to a 9-3 season and broke the NCAA record for pass-efficiency rating, at 192.31. He racked up 3,998 yards, 36 touchdowns and six interceptions on 267-of-369 passing.

Defensive MVP: Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma

Alexander played through a painful shoulder injury in Bedlam, and suffered a knee injury in the game, but he was outstanding throughout the season as the biggest wrecking ball on defense of anyone in the Big 12. He's got all the physical measurables, using his speed, flexibility and quickness at 6-foot-4, 255 pounds to lead the Big 12 with 8.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss.

Newcomer(s) of the year: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State and Nigel Malone, CB, Kansas State

I couldn't decide between these two. Both helped completely revitalize a K-State defense that struggled last year. Brown transferred to K-State from Miami and Malone arrived via the City College of San Francisco. Brown was arguably the Big 12's surest tackler, ranking ninth in the league with 95 stops, including 7.5 for loss, two sacks and his first pick was a game-changer against Baylor to help K-State get the victory. He was the first player all season to intercept RG3, and one of just six all season. Malone, meanwhile, snatched seven picks, two more than any player in the Big 12. He also broke up nine passes and made 57 tackles (46 solo).

[+] EnlargeKansas State's Bill Snyder
Scott Sewell/US PRESSWIREBill Snyder molded Kansas State's crew of unknowns into the Big 12's biggest surprise.
Coach of the Year: Bill Snyder, Kansas State

Easy pick here. The numbers say it all. Kansas State was loaded with unknowns. Lots of first-year players, especially on defense (see above), and one of his most hyped players, running back Bryce Brown, left the team at midseason. He also had a former receiver at quarterback, Collin Klein, who became one of the nation's most valuable players. The big man took a beating, but ran for 1,099 yards and a Big 12-best 26 touchdowns. The Wildcats were picked to finish eighth in the Big 12, and don't exude talent as much as most other Big 12 teams do. They nearly won the Big 12, though, and finished eighth in the BCS standings.

Biggest Surprise: Iowa State 37, Oklahoma State 31 in 2OT on Nov. 18.

This one had the biggest impact, too. The Cowboys were 28-point favorites and raced to a 24-7 third-quarter lead. They didn't score again until overtime. Iowa State rallied to tie the game, and the usually reliable Quinn Sharp missed what could have been a game-winning 37-yard field goal with just over a minute to play. After Brandon Weeden threw an interception in the second overtime, Iowa State pounded the running game and Jeff Woody crossed the goal line to win the game, put Iowa State into a second bowl game in three years, and knocked Oklahoma State out of the national title chase. The morning of the game, Oklahoma State learned that women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna had been killed in a plane crash. After the gam, the Cowboys were left trying to stomach a painful, shocking loss on the field, where the stands at Jack Trice Stadium had emptied for an epic field rush.

Biggest Disappointment: Texas A&M

No question about this one. Texas A&M was a Big 12 contender and had the talent to possibly win a national title. The mental makeup, though, didn't exactly reek of toughness. The Aggies were favored in 11 games and led by double digits in all 11 of those games. They lost six, including five losses with double-digit halftime leads. They saved the most painful loss for last. Hated rival Texas, a catalyst for the move to the SEC, erased a 10-0 and 16-7 halftime lead to beat the Aggies 27-25 on a last-second field goal after a late two-minute drill. Less than a week later, Texas A&M fired coach Mike Sherman and is looking for his replacement before moving to the SEC next season.

Best Game: Kansas State 53, Texas A&M 50 in 4OT on Nov. 12

This might be the best game in Big 12 history. With just 6:38 to play, Kansas State trailed, 31-21. Klein hit Chris Harper for a 53-yard score to get the Wildcats within reach, and K-State forced overtime on a 44-yard kick by Anthony Cantele with just 2:12 to play. The two teams traded touchdowns in the first and third overtimes, sandwiched around field goals in the second overtime. In the third, though? Texas A&M elected to kick a 20-yard field goal on 4th-and-1 at the K-State 3-yard line. Kansas State answered with all running plays and drew a pass-interference penalty before Klein pushed the pile for a 1-yard touchdown to win the game.

History at stake for Heisman hopefuls

December, 5, 2011

On Monday the five finalists invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony were revealed. This year has featured one of the most interesting races for the Heisman as no one player has stood from the rest.

Here's a look at what a Heisman Trophy win -- or loss -- would mean to these players and their respective schools.

Trent Richardson, Alabama
Two seasons ago Trent Richardson was a part of a National Championship team with a Heisman Trophy winner, when running back Mark Ingram became Alabama's first winner. Richardson has nearly identical numbers to Ingram this season, and has already totaled 23 touchdowns compared to Ingram's 20 TD's.

If Richardson were to win the award it would put him and Ingram in some rare company. In the history of the Heisman Trophy only three times have two different players playing the same position at the same school won the award in a span of three seasons. It last happened when USC QB Matt Leinart won it in 2004 after Carson Palmer had taken home the award in 2002.

Andrew Luck, Stanford
Luck is listed second here as he finished second for the Heisman last season and Stanford has actually had the Heisman runner-up in each of the past two seasons (Toby Gerhart, 2009).

If Luck wins he would be the second player in Stanford history to win the award (Jim Plunkett, 1970) and join 1981 Herschel Walker as the only Heisman runner-ups to win the award the next season.

If Luck finishes second, Stanford would set a record. No school has ever had a Heisman runner-up in three consecutive seasons.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Montee Ball earned his invite thanks to his impressive numbers. Ball needs one touchdown in the Rose Bowl to tie Barry Sanders' FBS record for touchdowns in a season (39). Sanders won the Heimsan trophy during that 1988 season.

Ball's 38 touchdowns are the most by a Big Ten player since Eddie George had 25 in his Heisman Trophy winning 1995 season.

Robert Griffin III, Baylor
RGIII finished off a great regular season in which he threw 36 touchdowns compared to only six interceptions, while also leading Baylor to nine wins, its most since the 1986 season.

Griffin's invite is an accomplishment in its own considering he plays for Baylor. The Bears have only had one player finish in the top five of the Heisman vote in school history. In 1963 Don Trull finished fourth.

If Baylor's Robert Griffin III wins the Heisman Trophy this year, he will be just the third player since the BCS was established in 1998 to win the Heisman without his team playing in a BCS bowl game.

Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
The Honey Badger will take the trip to New York looking to join Charles Woodson as the only defensive backs to win the Heisman trophy.

Despite being a defensive player, recent history is on Mathieu's side to take home the award. Since 2003, seven of the past eight Heisman Trophy winners have come from the team at number one in the BCS standings entering the National Championship Game.

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III has been named one of five finalists for the Heisman Trophy.

The finalists were unveiled tonight on SportsCenter. Running back Montee Ball of Wisconsin, defensive back Tyrann Mathieu of LSU, quarterback Andrew Luck of Stanford and running back Trent Richardson of Alabama are also finalists.

Griffin broke his own school record with 3,998 yards, 36 touchdowns and six interceptions on 267-of-369 passing. He also set the NCAA record for passing efficiency, at 192.31.

He helped lead the Bears into the Alamo Bowl with a 9-3 record that included wins over TCU, Oklahoma and Texas.

Griffin may be the favorite for the award after voting closed earlier today, and would be the first Heisman winner in Baylor history. He joined family, coaches and teammates at Baylor's facility to watch tonight's announcement.

"I could be wrong, but I think Baylor won its first Heisman tonight," Griffin said in a postgame interview after throwing for 320 yards and accounting for four touchdowns in Saturday's 48-24 win over Texas.