Big 12: Pac-12

At Big 12 media days on Monday, Baylor Bears coach Art Briles discussed the popularity of Baylor QB Bryce Petty, going so far as to say that even someone who works at a Dairy Queen in Salem, Oregon, would know who Petty was.

 
It was a nice line. Too bad it wasn’t true.

A Portland radio station checked with the six Dairy Queen locations in the Salem area. No one knew who Petty was.

So the Pac-12 blog was wondering whether the reverse would be true. Petty might not be known in Oregon, but would Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota be known in Briles’ area? Would Mariota’s notoriety stretch to the deep ends of this great country? Would even people in Waco, Texas, know Mariota?

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsBaylor QB Bryce Petty may be popular among the Big 12 media, but his popularity at Dairy Queens could use some work.
Long story short: No. Of the three Dairy Queens in Waco (pulled up on a Google search), two lucky workers -- including one who works at a Dairy Queen near campus -- picked up the phone today and were asked a very simple question: Do you know who Marcus Mariota is?

No and no.

But here’s the kicker. The followup was: Do you know who Bryce Petty is?

Same answer. No and no.

The good part for Briles is that this probably means his star quarterback isn’t frequenting the ice cream shops around town. And, depending on your own personal feelings on dairy desserts and their effects on one’s on-field play, this will either make you like Petty slightly more or slightly less.

The bad part for Briles is that he was wrong. Very wrong. Not only does someone who works at a Dairy Queen a couple thousand miles from Baylor not know who Petty is, neither do people who work within a couple miles.

Coaches get away with golf

July, 3, 2014
Jul 3
1:30
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In more than 30 years of coaching, Steve Spurrier has never lost a round of golf to one of his players. New challengers are apt to dismiss the claim, but Spurrier is happy to provide witness accounts of each of his triumphs. It's a record he takes seriously.

Of course, opportunities to hit the tees at all are getting harder to come by for coaches. The recruiting calendar has grown more cumbersome, the demands of the job more strenuous, and the number of coaches regularly playing golf has diminished as a result. Even Spurrier, the elder statesmen of the coaching ranks on both the football field and the golf course, doesn't get out quite as much as he used to. By the end of July, his clubs are already gathering dust.

But as the demands of the job increase, the importance of finding an escape is even more crucial, Spurrier said. So he has kept golf a priority during those few months every year when NCAA rules prevent him from working with his players.

For the rest of David M. Hale's story about why golf is a favorite offseason activity for football coaches, click here. And to find out what a few college football coaches had to say about playing golf with players and other coaches, their best rounds, their favorite courses and more, click here.

Position U: Offensive line

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
11:45
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video
Who really deserves to claim the title of “Offensive Line U” for the 2000s?

OFFENSIVE LINE
1. Alabama (242 points): Nick Saban (whose first season at Alabama was 2007) has been the Crimson Tide’s coach for only half of the time period that we examined. But that’s when nearly all of the noteworthy accomplishments have occurred in the 2000s for the Tide’s offensive line: three national awards, seven All-America picks, 11 all-conference selections, four first-round picks and eight linemen drafted. Saban teams win by dominating the line of scrimmage, and the offensive line results reflect why Alabama has been so successful.

Award winners: Andre Smith, Outland (2008); Barrett Jones, Outland (2011), Rimington (2012).
Consensus All-Americans: Antoine Caldwell (2008), Andre Smith (2008), Mike Johnson (2009), Barrett Jones (2011, 2012), Chance Warmack (2012), Cyrus Kouandjio (2013).
First-team all-conference: Paul Hogan (2000), Marico Portis (2002), Wesley Britt (2002, 2003, 2004), Andre Smith (2007, 2008), Antoine Caldwell (2008), Mike Johnson (2009), James Carpenter (2010), Barrett Jones (2011, 2012), William Vlachos (2011), Chance Warmack (2012), D.J. Fluker (2012), Cyrus Kouandjio (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Andre Smith (2009), James Carpenter (2011), Chance Warmack (2013), D.J. Fluker (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Justin Smiley (Round 2, 2004), Evan Mathis (Round 3, 2005), Antoine Caldwell (Round 3, 2009), Mike Johnson (Round 3, 2010), Barrett Jones (Round 4, 2013), Cyrus Kouandjio (Round 2, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Shawn Draper (Round 5, 2001), Wesley Britt (Round 5, 2005),

2. Michigan (238 points): If any program was going to threaten Alabama’s claim on the top spot, it was Michigan, which has enjoyed a ridiculous run of success along the offensive line. Four first-round picks (Jeff Backus, Steve Hutchinson, Jake Long and Taylor Lewan) include one (Long) who was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Throw in five consensus All-Americans, two national award winners and 21 All-Big Ten selections. The 2000s were truly a great time to be a Michigan offensive lineman.

Award winners: David Baas, Rimington (2004); David Molk, Rimington (2011).
Consensus All-Americans: Steve Hutchinson (2000), David Baas (2004), Jake Long (2006, 2007), David Molk (2011).
First-team all-conference: Steve Hutchinson (2000), Jeff Backus (2000), Jonathan Goodwin (2001), David Baas (2002, 2003, 2004), Tony Pape (2002, 2003), Matt Lentz (2004, 2005), Adam Stenavich (2004, 2005), Adam Kraus (2006, 2007), Jake Long (2006, 2007), David Molk (2010, 2011), Taylor Lewan (2012, 2013), Patrick Omameh (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: Steve Hutchinson (2001), Jeff Backus (2001), Jake Long (2008), Taylor Lewan (2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Maurice Williams (Round 2, 2001), David Baas (Round 2, 2005), Michael Schofield (Round 3, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jonathan Goodwin (Round 5, 2002), Tony Pape (Round 7, 2004), Stephen Schilling (Round 6, 2011), David Molk (Round 7, 2012).

3. Wisconsin (192 points): Although Wisconsin placed well behind the juggernauts from Alabama and Michigan, the Badgers have a ton to brag about. Joe Thomas and Gabe Carimi were both Outland Trophy winners, consensus All-Americans and first-round draft picks. In fact, Wisconsin had a total of 14 offensive linemen drafted in the 2000s, four of whom went in the first round (with Kevin Zeitler and Travis Frederick joining Thomas and Carimi).

Award winners: Joe Thomas, Outland (2006); Gabe Carimi, Outland (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: Joe Thomas (2006), Gabe Carimi (2010).
First-team all-conference: Casey Rabach (2000), Dan Buenning (2004), Joe Thomas (2005, 2006), Marcus Coleman (2007), Gabe Carimi (2009, 2010), John Moffitt (2009, 2010), Peter Konz (2011), Josh Oglesby (2011), Kevin Zeitler (2011), Travis Frederick (2012), Rick Wagner (2012), Ryan Groy (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Joe Thomas (2007), Gabe Carimi (2011), Kevin Zeitler (2012), Travis Frederick (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Casey Rabach (Round 3, 2001), Bill Ferrario (Round 4, 2001), Al Johnson (Round 2, 2003), Dan Buenning (Round 4, 2005), Kraig Urbik (Round 3, 2009), John Moffitt (Round 3, 2011), Peter Konz (Round 2, 2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Ben Johnson (Round 7, 2003), Bill Nagy (Round 7, 2011), Ricky Wagner (Round 5, 2013).

4. Oklahoma (186 points): With four first-round picks and four consensus All-America selections, Oklahoma has had a great run along the offensive line in the 2000s. And the Sooners have been consistent throughout that time period, placing at least one lineman on the all-conference team in every season except 2000 and 2002. In some years, there were as many as three on the all-conference first team.

Award winners: Jammal Brown, Outland (2004).
Consensus All-Americans: Jammal Brown (2004), Duke Robinson (2007, 2008), Trent Williams (2009).
First-team all-conference: Frank Romero (2001), Jammal Brown (2003, 2004), Vince Carter (2003, 2004), Davin Joseph (2005), Chris Messner (2006), Duke Robinson (2007, 2008), Phil Loadholt (2008), Trent Williams (2008, 2009), Eric Mensik (2010), Gabe Ikard (2011, 2012, 2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Jammal Brown (2005), Davin Joseph (2006), Trent Williams (2009), Lane Johnson (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Chris Chester (Round 2, 2006), Phil Loadholt (Round 2, 2009), Donald Stephenson (Round 3, 2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Wes Sims (Round 6, 2005), Duke Robinson (2009).

5. USC (182 points): Considering how much success it experienced in the early and mid-2000s, it seems strange that USC didn’t have a first-round offensive lineman until Sam Baker in 2008 (the first of three, as Tyron Smith and Matt Kalil have since joined him). Nonetheless, the Trojans churned out six second-round picks, 17 all-conference linemen and a trio of All-Americans, so there has been plenty of acclaim for the group in the 2000s.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Jacob Rogers (2003), Deuce Lutui (2005), Sam Baker (2006).
First-team all-conference: Jacob Rogers (2002, 2003), Norm Katnik (2003), Ryan Kalil (2005, 2006), Deuce Lutui (2005), Sam Baker (2005, 2006, 2007), Chilo Rachal (2007), Kristopher O’Dowd (2008), Jeff Byer (2009), Charles Brown (2009), Tyron Smith (2010), Matt Kalil (2011), Khaled Holmes (2012), Marcus Martin (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Sam Baker (2008), Tyron Smith (2011), Matt Kalil (2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Jacob Rogers (Round 2, 2004), Winston Justice (Round 2, 2006), Deuce Lutui (Round 2, 2006), Ryan Kalil (Round 2, 2007), Chilo Rachal (Round 2, 2008), Charles Brown (Round 2, 2010), Khaled Holmes (Round 4, 2013), Marcus Martin (Round 3, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Fred Matua (Round 7, 2006).

6. Florida State (166 points): FSU has only one first-round draft pick and one national award winner (Bryan Stork, who won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center last season) along the offensive line in the 2000s. But with three All-Americans and 13 all-conference selections in the 2000s, the Seminoles still rank among the nation’s better programs for linemen.

Award winners: Bryan Stork, Rimington (2013).
Consensus All-Americans: Alex Barron (2003, 2004), Rodney Hudson (2010), Bryan Stork (2013).
First-team all-conference: Justin Amman (2000), Char-ron Dorsey (2000), Brett Williams (2001, 2002), Montrae Holland (2002), Alex Barron (2003, 2004), Rodney Hudson (2008, 2009, 2010), Bryan Stork (2013), Tre Jackson (2013), Cameron Erving (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Alex Barron (2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Montrae Holland (Round 4, 2003), Brett Williams (Round 4, 2003), Ray Willis (Round 4, 2005), Mario Henderson (Round 3, 2007), Rodney Hudson (Round 2, 2011), Menelik Watson (Round 2, 2013), Bryan Stork (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Char-ron Dorsey (Round 7, 2001), Milford Brown (Round 6, 2002), Todd Williams (Round 7, 2003), Andrew Datko (Round 7, 2012), Zebrie Sanders (Round 5, 2012).

7. Miami (158 points): The Hurricanes were nearly unstoppable at the turn of the century, thanks in large part to a supremely talented offensive line. Between 2000 and 2002, Miami had eight first-team all-conference players, two All-Americans and two national award winners. The Hurricanes have been successful along the line here and there since then, but their spot in the top 10 is largely because of those outstanding days in the early 2000s.

Award winners: Brett Romberg, Rimington (2002), Bryant McKinnie, Outland (2001).
Consensus All-Americans: Bryant McKinnie (2001), Brett Romberg (2002).
First-team all-conference: Joaquin Gonzalez (2000, 2001), Bryant McKinnie (2000, 2001), Martin Bibla (2001), Brett Romberg (2001, 2002), Sherko Haji-Rasouli (2002), Eric Winston (2003, 2005), Jason Fox (2009), Brandon Washington (2010).
NFL first-round draft picks: Bryant McKinnie (2002), Vernon Carey (2004).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Martin Bibla (Round 4, 2002), Rashad Butler (Round 3, 2006), Eric Winston (Round 3, 2006), Jason Fox (Round 4, 2010), Orlando Franklin (Round 2, 2011), Brandon Linder (Round 3, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Joaquin Gonzalex (Round 7, 2002), Carlos Joseph (Round 7, 2004), Chris Myers (Round 6, 2005), Brandon Washington (Round 6, 2012), Seantrel Henderson (Round 7, 2014).

8. Texas (150 points): Texas would have ranked higher on this list had we compiled it a few years ago. The Longhorns haven’t had a first-team all-conference pick or a draft pick since 2008, nor a consensus All-American since 2006. They were good enough in the early 2000s that the Longhorns still cracked the top 10, but Texas needs to turn it around under Charlie Strong if it intends to stay there over the next few years.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Leonard Davis (2000), Mike Williams (2001), Derrick Dockery (2002), Jonathan Scott (2005), Justin Blalock (2006).
First-team all-conference: Leonard Davis (2000), Mike Williams (2001), Derrick Dockery (2002), Tillman Holloway (2003), Justin Blalock (2004, 2005, 2006), Jonathan Scott (2004, 2005), Will Allen (2005), Kasey Studdard (2006), Tony Hills (2007), Adam Ulatoski (2008).
NFL first-round draft picks: Leonard Davis (2001), Mike Williams (2002).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Derrick Dockery (Round 3, 2003), Justin Blalock (Round 2, 2007), Tony Hills (Round 4, 2008).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jonathan Scott (Round 5, 2006), Kasey Studdard (Round 6, 2007).

T-9. Iowa (144 points): No. 2 overall pick Robert Gallery, who won the 2003 Outland Trophy and was an All-American that season and a two-time all-conference pick, is the big point winner for Iowa, but the Hawkeyes have produced a considerable number of productive offensive linemen. They can claim 13 drafted offensive linemen in the 2000s, including three first-rounders (Gallery, Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff).

Award winners: Robert Gallery, Outland (2003).
Consensus All-Americans: Eric Steinbach (2002), Robert Gallery (2003).
First-team all-conference: Eric Steinbach (2001, 2002), Robert Gallery (2002, 2003), Bruce Nelson (2002), Mike Jones (2006), Seth Olson (2008), Bryan Bulaga (2009), Dace Richardson (2009), Riley Reiff (2011), Brandon Scherff (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Robert Gallery (2004), Bryan Bulaga (2010), Riley Reiff (2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Eric Steinbach (Round 2, 2003), Bruce Nelson (Round 2, 2003), Marshal Yanda (Round 3, 2007), Seth Olsen (Round 4, 2009).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Ben Sobieski (Round 5, 2003), Pete McMahon (Round 6, 2005), Mike Elgin (Round 7, 2007), Kyle Calloway (Round 7, 2010), Julian Vandervelde (Round 5, 2011), Adam Gettis (Round 5, 2012).

T-9. Ohio State (144 points): With 13 draft picks -- but just one first-rounder, Nick Mangold -- and 14 all-conference picks, Ohio State built a solid résumé for offensive linemen in the 2000s. Center LeCharles Bentley, a Rimington Trophy winner, is the only All-American, but the Buckeyes have turned out plenty of outstanding players along the line.

Award winners: LeCharles Bentley, Rimington (2001).
Consensus All-Americans: LeCharles Bentley (2001).
First-team all-conference: LeCharles Bentley (2001), Tyson Walter (2001), Alex Stepanovich (2003), Rob Sims (2005), Doug Datish (2006), T.J. Downing (2006), Kirk Barton (2007), Alex Boone (2008), Justin Boren (2009, 2010), Mike Adams (2010), Mike Brewster (2010), Andrew Norwell (2012), Corey Linsley (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Nick Mangold (2006).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: LeCharles Bentley (Round 2, 2002), Alex Stepanovich (Round 4, 2004), Rob Sims (Round 4, 2006), Mike Adams (Round 2, 2012), Jack Mewhort (Round 2, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Tyson Walter (Round 6, 2002), Shane Olivea (Round 7, 2004), Adrien Clarke (Round 7, 2004), Doug Datish (Round 6, 2007), Kirk Barton (Round 7, 2008), Reid Fragel (Round 7, 2013), Corey Linsley (Round 5, 2014).

REST OF "OFFENSIVE LINE U" RANKINGS
134 – Stanford; 132 – Florida; 124 – TCU; 116 – Arkansas; 112 – Auburn; 108 – Louisville; 104 – Penn State, Utah; 98 – California; 96 – Texas A&M; 94 – Boston College, LSU; 92 – Ole Miss; 90 – Minnesota, Virginia, West Virginia; 88 – Colorado; 84 – Georgia Tech; 82 – Georgia, Oklahoma State; 80 – Nebraska; 76 – Arizona State, Pittsburgh; 74 – Virginia Tech; 72 – Clemson, Oregon; 70 – Tennessee; 66 – Baylor; 58 – BYU, North Carolina; 56 – Syracuse; 54 – Maryland, Wake Forest; 50 – Illinois, Rutgers; 48 – Kansas State, Oregon State; 46 – Notre Dame; 44 – Missouri; 38 – Mississippi State; 36 – Texas Tech; 34 – Washington State; 32 – Washington; 30 – Purdue; 28 – Vanderbilt; 24 – NC State, UCLA; 18 – Kansas, Michigan State; 16 – Iowa State, Kentucky; 14 – Arizona; 12 – Indiana; 10 – Northwestern; 10 – South Carolina; 8 – Duke
The SEC's long-awaited future schedule model came out Sunday, and it looks a lot like its predecessor. The league maintained an eight-game league schedule with longstanding division crossover games, rather than going to nine league games. Beginning in 2016, the conference will require each member to play one nonconference game against a team from a power conference on an annual basis. Teams will continue to be allowed to schedule FCS opponents.

Reporters Ted Miller and Adam Rittenberg weigh in on the SEC's schedule structure.

Ted Miller: Well, Adam, you knew it was coming. We live in an age when if you want to do something sneaky and con the public, you claim you are doing the opposite of your true intent. And then repeat it over and over again until some believe it really is opposite day.

Even we fall for it. Our ESPN.com headline says, "Schedule strength is SEC priority," when the opposite is actually the truth.

[+] EnlargeTexas A&M
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThe SEC is sticking with an eight-game league schedule.
It's irrelevant outside of the SEC whether the conference retained its "longstanding non-divisional rivalries." It's also irrelevant that the SEC insists it will continue to upgrade its nonconference schedule.

The only thing that matters is the SEC's massive con that games the system as we move toward the College Football Playoff: The SEC will maintain its eight-game conference schedule when other major conferences are -- or are planning to -- play nine conference games.

That is the only thing that matters, and this is nothing more than the SEC giving itself an annual advantage by deciding that it will eliminate seven losses from its standings.

This is not regional bias, folks. This is not SEC jealousy. This is something called "math."

With an eight-game SEC schedule, 5-7 teams become 6-6 teams. And 8-4 teams become 9-3 teams. And that 11-1 team that beat the 9-3 team that should really be 8-4 will look better than the 11-1 team in the Big 12, Pac-12 or Big Ten that beat an 8-4 team who would be 9-3 in the SEC.

Those sentences might glaze over many eyes and evoke a "Huh?" But they are the very thing that won the day among SEC leaders when it was decided to duck the mathematical realities of a nine-game conference schedule.

I'll now take a breath. Adam, what do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: It makes me less excited about the playoff, for starters. Maybe I'm na´ve, but I saw the playoff, with its purported emphasis on schedule strength, as the great equalizer in scheduling. Maybe it still will be, but I have my doubts.

You cover a league (Pac-12) that for years has employed the most challenging schedule model in the country: nine league games plus marquee nonconference contests. I cover a league (Big Ten) that has traditionally resided in cupcake city. But three factors -- the playoff, an expanded conference and an upcoming TV contract -- triggered the Big Ten to adopt a nine-game league schedule, no more FCS opponents in the near future and stronger nonleague opponents. This is good for the fans. Expansion might remain a sore subject for some, but the idea of playing each other more, not less, is a good one.

If every league had the same model -- nine league games, at least one marquee nonleague game, a championship game -- it would create a degree of equity, produce more appealing games for fans and allow the selection committee to evaluate teams with similar profiles.

This SEC chest-puffing about the requirement to schedule one nonleague game against an opponent from a power conference is the most laughable part of Sunday's announcement. SEC teams already do this, just like those from the Big Ten, Pac-12 and so on. What really changes here? Can I still see SEC teams playing FCS teams in November? OK, cool, just checking. Rejoice, SEC fans.

Now fast-forward to December 2016, and the selection committee is choosing between a two-loss Pac-12 or Big Ten champion, which has played nine league games plus a championship game, and a one-loss, second-place SEC team with eight league games and no championship game. If the SEC team is chosen, it invalidates the whole system. Here's hoping the committee makes the right call.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Ivory, Jonathan Allen
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAlabama crushed FCS foe Chattanooga in 2013; FCS Western Carolina is on tap in 2014.
Perhaps then, we'll see the SEC align at nine.

But maybe this has the opposite effect: leagues backing away from playing more conference games. The ACC has a similar decision ahead.

What do you think comes next?

Miller: Know what would be great? If SEC fans would realize they are being cheated, just as much as the rest of college football. Why would Alabama fans rather watch a game against a Sun Belt team more often than, say, Georgia?

It would be great if they demanded a better schedule, one that went further toward determining the best teams in the SEC. In a 14-team league, how can anyone insist playing eight conference games rather than nine is better and more equitable?

Of course, that won't happen. As you and I have seen through the years, it's mostly "my conference, wrong or right" in the SEC. The typical SEC fan response when their conference is criticized ranges from "Well, your conference stinks!" to "We owned the BCS!" Folks down South tend to defensively circle the wagons instead of aspire to some objective self-analysis, though you could reasonably argue that is a powerful syndrome operating throughout college football.

Part of that defensiveness is there is no real rebuttal. This isn't an argument. It's an empirical truth that the SEC is gaming the system by playing eight conference games.

So as to what actually might come next, my thought is the CFP selection committee needs to make a stand: An eight-game conference schedule should automatically operate as a demerit as it falsely elevates the apparent strength of a conference.

What do you think?

Rittenberg: We're all wondering about the committee's collective guts, especially when it squares off against the SEC monolith. That certainly would be a way to show the group means business. Because it's not about whether the Big Ten stinks, as hundreds of SEC fans told me Sunday night on Twitter. Yes, the Big Ten stinks, but it's not a Big Ten-SEC debate. It's about the SEC living in the playoff realm alongside the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC.

While I'm not surprised by the SEC fan sensitivity to anyone who dares to critique their beloved league, how many other fan bases would actually want this? Don't fans want more appealing matchups? I know Big Ten fans want to play other league teams more, not less. They want more rivalry games. They want to see marquee nonleague contests. I'm guessing Pac-12 fans feel the same way.

The ACC's decision will be fascinating. Most of the coaches, like their colleagues in every other league, want to stay at eight. The ADs seem to be leaning toward nine. We could have four leagues playing nine league games and one playing eight.

The SEC would be on its own. Perhaps that's exactly what it wants.

Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2014

January, 7, 2014
Jan 7
12:50
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The BCS era ended with No. 1 Florida State ending the SEC's streak of seven consecutive BCS national championships Monday night, winning its first national title since 1999 with a 34-31 victory over No. 2 Auburn in the VIZIO BCS National Championship at the Rose Bowl.

With Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and a plethora of starters returning this coming season, FSU will be the team to beat again in 2014. FSU is the No. 1 team in the first edition of the 2014 Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25 poll.

The Seminoles will be a popular choice to win back-to-back national titles in 2014, the first season of college football's new four-team playoff.

Click here to view the full Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25 poll.

Click here Insider to see how all of the schools in the Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25 are faring in recruiting for the Class of 2014.

Instant Analysis: Oregon 30, Texas 7

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
10:05
PM ET


SAN ANTONIO -- No. 10 Oregon beats Texas 30-7 in the Valero Alamo Bowl. A few thoughts on the game:

It was over when: Oregon safety Derrick Malone picked off a Case McCoy pass over the middle midway through the fourth quarter, then went 39 yards for the score. The Ducks went up 30-7 on McCoy’s second pick-six of the night.

Game ball goes to: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was masterful both on the ground and through the air, throwing for 253 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 133. A month off to heal a nagging knee injury did him plenty of good.

Stat of the game: McCoy finished with 48 passing yards and no touchdowns. The two passes he completed to Oregon defenders were returned for a total of 75 yards and two touchdowns.

Unsung hero: Oregon safety Avery Patterson, who gave the Ducks a 7-0 lead just 68 seconds into the game when he picked off a McCoy pass and scored on a 37-yard return. The senior added nine tackles in his final game.

Best call: The Ducks’ first score on offense came when Mariota, with Jackson Jeffcoat fast approaching, flipped to Josh Huff on a shovel pass and he found the end zone from 16 yards out. Huff finished with 104 receiving yards and a school-record 1,140 in 2013.

What Oregon learned: If Mariota makes good on his promise to return in 2014, Oregon should once again have a preseason top-10 team and plenty of firepower to make a run at a college football playoff bid.

What Texas learned: Nothing it didn’t already know, really. Its Case McCoy-led offense can pound the rock but couldn’t keep up with elite teams and capitalize on opportunities. The Longhorns couldn’t give Mack Brown a satisfying sendoff. Now it’s time to find his successor.

To watch the trophy presentation of the Valero Alamo Bowl, click here.

Valero Alamo Bowl roundtable

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
1:30
PM ET
Pac-12 reporter Kevin Gemmell and Texas reporter Max Olson break down the biggest storylines in Monday’s Valero Alamo Bowl matchup featuring Texas and No. 10 Oregon:

How do you think Mack Brown's resignation affects this game?

Max Olson: Throughout the past few weeks, Brown has stuck to the same message publicly: Texas players should win this game for themselves, not for their coach. They’ve had a brutal season, overcome plenty and have a chance to cap it with a ninth win and a few good memories. Brown keeps saying he wants this to be about the kids, not him.

What we’ll get out of kids, though, I just don’t know. They’ve been big underdogs before. They came out firing against Oklahoma and built real momentum. They held Baylor to 3 points in the first half but ran out of gas. Which Texas team shows up Monday? They’ll need plenty of motivation and good fortune.

Kevin Gemmell: My first thought was that this was going to be a huge motivation advantage for Texas -- and I’m a big believer that the bowl season is all about which team is motivated to be there. But I think the recent news that Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti is also retiring balances things out in the Oregon locker room. While he’s not as big of a name nationally as Brown, he’s as much an Oregon institution as Brown is to Texas.

Both pregame speeches will be rousing. Heartstrings will be tugged. But ultimately it comes down to what happens on the field. If Oregon is able to set aside its disappointment of not being in a BCS game, then who is coaching on which sideline shouldn't matter because on paper Oregon is the stronger team.

What should be expected of a 100-percent healthy Marcus Mariota?

Gemmell: For starters, an extra element to the Oregon offense that makes them that much tougher to stop. Consider Mariota in the first seven games of the season before his knee injury. He averaged 70.4 rushing yards per game and scored nine touchdowns -- including at least one rushing touchdown in all seven games. Since hurting the knee against UCLA, he’s averaged just 17.8 rushing yards with zero rushing touchdowns.

He also threw four interceptions in the final two games after going pick-free for the first 10, so aside from his rushing abilities -- which are substantial -- his throwing mechanics should be much stronger. I’m of the belief that when he’s 100 percent healthy, Mariota is the best football player in the country. And if Texas gets a 100 percent Mariota, he’s going to be very, very difficult to stop.

Olson: Mariota is one of the many reasons why this is just not a good matchup for Texas, especially considering its defense has had legitimate issues defending the option against mobile quarterbacks. Of quarterbacks who started the last two seasons, nobody in the country has a better Total QBR than Mariota at 89.0. He’s the real deal. I fully expect him to put up big numbers in the Alamodome, and it’ll be interesting to see how Texas defends him, probably with Jackson Jeffcoat reprising his freestyle “spinner” role.

Who will be the key player in this game?

Olson: If you’ve been following this Texas team, you know the key isn’t getting a huge performance from Case McCoy. Yes, he needs to play relatively mistake-free and hit on the big passes when they’re there. But Texas doesn’t stand a chance in this one without a big night from Malcolm Brown.

The San Antonio native had rushed for 421 yards in the four games since Texas lost Johnathan Gray, including 118 in the first half against Baylor. He did a terrific job of hitting cutback lanes against the Bears, and run defense hasn’t been a strength for Oregon. Brown needs to get rolling or Texas could fall behind quickly.

Gemmell: Take your pick from any number of superstars on both sides of the ball for Oregon. Be it Mariota, Josh Huff or Byron Marshall. Defensively, cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is as lockdown as they come. But the guy who always seems to show up in the postseason is De’Anthony Thomas.

Last season against Kansas State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, he returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, caught four balls for 60 yards and a score and rushed twice for 15 yards. In the 2011 Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio, he carried twice for 155 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Wisconsin. He also caught four balls for 34 yards and returned five kicks for 125 yards. Thomas is a big-game player with blazing speed and scary elusiveness. When he’s hitting on all cylinders, he’s a difference maker.

National University Holiday Bowl preview

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
12:00
PM ET
Arizona State (10-3) and Texas Tech (7-5) square off Monday night in San Diego in the National University Holiday Bowl at 10:15 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Here’s a quick preview:

What to watch: There is a good chance, a very good chance actually, that this game could turn into a track meet. The Sun Devils average 41 points per game -- 10th in the country -- and Texas Tech isn’t too shabby offensively either, averaging almost 36 points per game. Which defense is going to step up and make a play? Arizona State seems the more likely option of the two. Texas Tech gives up 31.2 points per game while the Sun Devils only give up 25.8. The Sun Devils also have a plus-14 turnover margin with 21 interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks are completing just 54.7 percent of their passes against ASU.

Who to watch: The big question is who will start at quarterback for Texas Tech -- Davis Webb or Michael Brewer. This all came about after Baker Mayfield, in a strange turn of events, announced after the season that he was transferring. There's also a chance we could see both QBs. For the Sun Devils, it looks doubtful that Marion Grice will play, meaning the bulk of the running work falls on D.J. Foster. Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton is an All-American and the Pac-12’s two-time defensive player of the year. Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro is also an All-American with more than 1,200 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.

Why to watch: The Holiday Bowl is traditionally one of the more exciting games of the postseason. Since its inception in 1978, 17 of the 35 games have been decided by a touchdown or less, and 20 of the games were decided in the final four minutes. This is also the last year that it will keep ties with the Big 12. Next year one of the top tier teams from the Big Ten will be paired against the Pac-12.

Prediction: Arizona State 42, Texas Tech 24.

Valero Alamo Bowl preview

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
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No. 10 Oregon and Texas face off Monday (6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN) in the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. A few key players and matchups to watch:

Who to watch: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota says he’s 100 percent healthy, and that’s very good news for the Ducks. A knee injury suffered against UCLA in October limited his ability to run in Oregon’s final five games, two of which were losses. Now that he has had time off to recover, expect the Ducks’ high-tempo option attack to be back to full speed. Mariota is coming back for 2014 and has a chance to end his sophomore campaign with a big game against a Texas defense that has proven vulnerable to running quarterbacks.

What to watch: What can Texas do up front to grab control of this game from the Ducks? These Longhorns are capable of big upsets when their offensive line owns the line of scrimmage, and they’re reshuffling to put All-Big 12 left guard Trey Hopkins at right tackle. On defense, defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed must be disruptive, and you could see Jeffcoat play all over the field in a hybrid role. Texas can’t win this game without being the more physical team.

Why to watch: Mack Brown’s last hurrah after 16 seasons as head coach of the Longhorns. Texas has won seven of its past eight bowl games dating back to 2004, and its players want to send Brown off with one final victory, the 245th of his career. When everybody counted them out, Brown’s players rallied and knocked off No. 12 Oklahoma 38-20 in the Red River Rivalry this season. Can the Longhorns pull off another stunner?

Prediction: Oregon 38, Texas 17. Oregon simply has too much firepower for Texas, whose four losses have come by an average margin of 21 points. Retiring Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti gets the celebratory final Gatorade bath.

Holiday Bowl roundtable

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
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Polar opposites meet Monday night when Arizona State takes on Texas Tech in the National University Holiday Bowl (10:15 p.m. ET on ESPN) in San Diego, Calif. The Sun Devils won seven straight games before their Pac-12 title game loss to Stanford to end the season, while Texas Tech lost five straight games after beginning the season 7-0 to end their campaign at 7-5.

To get you ready for the second Pac-12 vs. Big 12 battle of the day, Pac-12 reporter Kevin Gemmell answers three questions about the Arizona State and Big 12 reporter Brandon Chatmon answers three questions about Texas Tech before the Holiday Bowl.

Gemmell answers three questions about Arizona State

What’s the key to stopping the Sun Devils' offense?

[+] EnlargeD.J. Foster
AP Photo/Matt YorkSophomore running back D.J. Foster brings an explosive element to the Arizona State offense, one it can exploit against a porous Texas Tech rush defense.
You’re going to have to stop them, because they aren’t going to stop themselves. The Sun Devils have a plus-14 turnover ratio – which was tops in the Pac-12 -- including a league-high 21 interceptions. They convert better than 90 percent of the time they get into the red zone and, despite being up tempo, they are capable of long and deliberate drives.

There is hope that Marion Grice will be able to play. If he does, that changes the way the Sun Devils can run their offense because they can have Grice and D.J. Foster on the field at the same time, which opens up all sorts of possibilities in the screen game. ASU is a tempo offense, so Texas Tech’s best chance to is to do what it can to disrupt that tempo.

How does Will Sutton compare to the top defensive tackles you’ve seen? Can he take over the game?

The Will Sutton of 2012 is a lot different than the Will Sutton of 2013. Both were able to take over games for different reasons. Sutton is a workhorse. And that he’s added 20 pounds from last year to this year has changed the way he attacks offenses, and likewise how offenses attack him.

Last year he was about 275-280 and had one of the fastest first steps I’ve seen from a defensive tackle -- so much so that there was some question about whether he’d be a tackle or an end at the next level. He's returned, added the weight and kept most of his quick first step, but teams have keyed in on him much more than they did last season -- which is why his numbers are down. But that’s opened things up for guys such as Carl Bradford and Chris Young to up their games. Plus he rarely sits a snap.

Which relatively unknown Sun Devil is a guy to keep an eye on in the Holiday Bowl?

Offensively, I’d keep an eye on tight end Chris Coyle. He’s well known in the Pac-12, but nationally he doesn’t get the ink that Mackey Award winner Austin Seferian-Jenkins from Washington gets. Ironically, ASJ (as he’s known in these parts) was second-team all-conference to Coyle but still won the Mackey. Coyle is the perfect tight end for what ASU likes to do offensively. When Grice and Foster are on the field together, they’ll run Foster out of the slot, which opens up the middle for Coyle on seam and drag routes. When he gets going with a full head of steam, he’s tough to bring down.

Defensively, safety Alden Darby gets a lot of the publicity for being the leader of the secondary. But defensive back Robert Nelson had an outstanding season with 42 tackles and six interceptions, which was tied with three other players for tops in the Pac-12.

Chatmon answers three questions about Texas Tech

[+] EnlargeDavis Webb
AP Photo/Chris JacksonFreshman Davis Webb will likely split time with sophomore Michael Brewer at quarterback for the Red Raiders.
What’s the pulse of the team right now having dropped five in a row?

It’s hard to remain too confident when your last win was in mid-October. But the Red Raiders have the personality of their coach, Kliff Kingsbury, which means they’ll enter the game expecting to win and won’t leave any stone unturned in their pursuit of a season-ending win. Tech would like to send its seniors, some of whom have played for three different coaches, out with a win. And lack of effort has never been a problem during the losing streak; it’s been a lack of experience that has reared its ugly head and led to losses. So, even though they haven’t had a lot of recent success, the Red Raiders won’t go down without a fight.

What’s the latest on the QB situation?

Kingsbury expects to play Michael Brewer and Davis Webb in the Holiday Bowl but has declined to name a starter. Brewer, a sophomore, was expected to start after the spring, but a back injury kept him sidelined for the majority of the season. Webb, a true freshman, had an up-and-down season but definitely had good moments under center in Kingsbury’s offense. With neither guy really separating themselves during bowl preparations, Kingsbury will probably go with the hot hand against the Sun Devils.

During the losing streak Tech has given up nearly 49 points per game. Is there any reason to think they can slow down ASU’s offense?

Not really. I was going to give TTU's defense the benefit of the doubt, then I remembered it allowed at least 277 rushing yards in every game during this five-game losing streak. Injuries and inexperience have played a role, but there’s no reason to think the Red Raiders will shut down ASU’s explosive offense. TTU just has to hope it slows ASU's offense down enough, get a turnover or two and operate efficiently on offense to stop its losing skid. They can’t enter the game expecting the defense to win it for them.

Flip Week: Kansas State

December, 24, 2013
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Editor's note: During Week 12, 10 ESPN.com reporters changed conferences to experience college football in unfamiliar territory. Here is what they learned from the experience.

I went to Manhattan -- Kansas, that is -- from Nov. 14-17 to see what Kansas State football had to offer and how it compared to a Pac-12 weekend.

Two things happened: 1) I was impressed; 2) I had a blast.

For one, Manhattan is a cool college town. I suspected it would be after talking to some folks beforehand who know the place well. And everyone was incredibly friendly and accommodating, from fans and boosters to Kansas State administrators. Even media-averse coach Bill Snyder took a moment for a casual chat.

Was it different than the Pac-12? Yes and no.

There is certainly a different feel to K-State compared to say, Stanford, USC, Washington, Arizona State and California. Particularly Cal-Berkeley. K-State most closely resembled Oregon State and Washington State. The game-day experience, from the pregame tailgate to the stadium atmosphere, had its own unique vibe, too, as all places do.

Still, in the end, passionate college football fans express themselves mostly in the same way. The music, chants and colors are different, but a game-winning field goal -- which the Wildcats got to beat TCU -- gets the same reaction everywhere: unbridled joy.

So here are some impressions.

[+] EnlargeBill Snyder Statue
Ted Miller/ESPNKansas State prides itself on the family atmosphere at Bill Snyder Stadium in Manhattan.
Best meal: None of my meals was bad -- dinner at Coco Bolos, breakfast at The Chef, lunch at So Long Saloon -- but I'd have to rate my prime rib at Harry’s Restaurant on Saturday night after the game as the highlight. I'd write that the bartender made a nice martini, but then my boss would read this and suspect I had a martini while on assignment, which I would never, ever, ever do.

Must-see sight in Manhattan: If you are young -- or young at heart! -- there is no better place to be on a Friday night in Manhattan than Aggieville. My foray included Rock-a-Belly Deli, Taco Lucha, Keltic Star and Aggie Station, and I saw the Kansas State band circulate around the entertainment district, firing up Wildcats fans for the next day's game with TCU. I've been to a lot of great college towns -- 39, by my quick estimation -- and Manhattan definitely rates among the best.

Biggest surprise: It may have been the celestial ribs from Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ pleasantly digesting in my stomach after a late lunch pit stop in Kansas City after my flight, but I was surprised by how scenic the drive was down I-70 into Kansas' Flint Hills and Manhattan, and how appealing I found the vastness of the tall-grass prairie. Like many from the coasts, I've long viewed Kansas as a fly-over state, flat and tornado-infested. The rolling, treeless hills provided a topography a West Coast person doesn't typically see. For Pac-12 folks, I'd compare it to the drive through the Palouse from Spokane to Pullman in Washington. Another surprise was a sunny, 70-degree day on Nov. 16.

Biggest difference from conference I cover: You mean other than no one barking at me about how I favor such-and-such Pac-12 team over such-and-such Pac-12 team? Well, it was clear that I was pretty removed from any large population center. I don't get that with most Pac-12 stops, where skyscrapers are often within view or just a few miles away. That's also probably a big reason why the town and campus were not as socially diverse as most Pac-12 destinations. Further, the Pac-12 as a whole has a lot more "granola" to it than the Big 12, and that's even more true when you compare Manhattan to, say, Berkeley or Eugene. Without getting too political, it seems reasonable to suspect Manhattan is just a bit more red than the decidedly blue Pac-12.

They said it: "Kansas State University is not the biggest school in the country. It's not the wealthiest school in the country. But it has among the most loyal, dedicated, traditional fans of any school in the country. This school went through many, many years of not much success, but the fans stuck with the program, and it's been a great success since Bill Snyder arrived here." -- Bill Keller, Kansas State booster, at the tailgate before TCU game

If I could go back: Because I had so much advance help from ESPN.com's Jeremy Crabtree, Kansas State sports information director Kenny Lannou and Kansas State fan Alex Judd (a friend of Crabtree's and Pac-12 general counsel/senior VP Woodie Dixon), I'd probably do another trip much as I did my first -- a stop in Kansas City for barbecue before heading to Manhattan and a couple of nights on the town in Aggieville. If I could do one thing, though, I'd take a more thorough tour of the campus. The limestone buildings were pretty cool, and it looked like a pleasant place to wander around, weather permitting.

Video: Arizona State coach Todd Graham

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
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Arizona State coach Todd Graham talks about his team playing in the National University Holiday Bowl against Texas Tech and the promotion of offensive coordinator Mike Norvell.

Video: Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
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Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury talks about playing Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl, his quarterback situation and the up-and-down year.

National University Holiday Bowl

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
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Arizona State Sun Devils (10-3) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-5)

Dec. 30, 10:15 p.m. ET, San Diego (ESPN)


ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS BREAKDOWN
Arizona State hit the 10-win mark in Todd Graham's second season as head coach and won the Pac-12's South Division. Despite a decisive loss in the conference title game to Stanford, the program appears to be on a decided uptick.

[+] EnlargeWill Sutton
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsDefensive tackle Will Sutton is a disruptive force for the Sun Devils.
The season did start with controversy. On Sept. 14 at Arizona State, Wisconsin appeared to have put itself in position to kick a winning field goal, but Badgers QB Joel Stave opted to unconventionally place the ball on the ground instead of just falling down himself, and the Pac-12 officiating crew melted down in a panic of indecision, allowing the clock to expire. It was embarrassing for the conference but nonetheless a win in the ledger for the Sun Devils.

After an impressive domination of USC, a 62-41 defeat that got Trojans coach Lane Kiffin fired, the Sun Devils played a flat game against Notre Dame in Cowboy Stadium. That, however, would be their last regular-season defeat. They rolled up seven impressive wins in a row and won the South and earned home-field advantage in the Pac-12 title game.

Most notable was a road victory at No. 14 UCLA -- the Sun Devils had been notoriously inconsistent on the road -- and a 58-21 beatdown of archival Arizona.

While Stanford pushed Arizona State around in both meetings this fall, knocking the Sun Devils out of the Rose Bowl, it clearly was a satisfying season in Tempe. The Sun Devils are led by DT Will Sutton, two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, and QB Taylor Kelly, who earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors. The only bad news over the final part of the season was an injury to RB Marion Grice, who missed the last two games and is questionable at best for the Holiday Bowl.
-- Ted Miller

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TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS BREAKDOWN
Momentum is a strange thing. Texas Tech had an awful lot of it to start 2013, winning seven in a row to kick off Kliff Kingsbury’s debut season. The team climbed as high as No. 10 in the polls.

[+] EnlargeBaker Mayfield
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsBaker Mayfield will hope to step forward in the Texas Tech QB derby during the postseason.
Then came five losses in a row, by an average margin of 20 points, to the Big 12’s five other bowl-eligible teams. They had the third-worst turnover margin in FBS and second-worst run defense in the Big 12. A promising season fell apart quickly.

This bowl game gives Kingsbury a chance to regain some of that momentum entering the offseason, both for next year’s team and the next few months of recruiting. A victory would be Texas Tech’s first since Oct. 19, a win at West Virginia.

It’s also more time to shore up the weaknesses that the Big 12’s best teams were able to expose. The Red Raiders’ run defense gave up 294 rushing yards per game in its losses and should be seriously tested again.

Perhaps the biggest questions the bowl can answer for Texas Tech is this: Who’s the quarterback? Baker Mayfield started seven games in 2013, Davis Webb started five and Michael Brewer could still be in the mix. Getting another game and 15 extra practices could help bring clarity. -- Max Olson

Valero Alamo Bowl

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
10:00
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Oregon Ducks (10-2) vs. Texas Longhorns (8-4)

Dec. 30, 6:45 p.m. ET, San Antonio (ESPN)


OREGON DUCKS BREAKDOWN
During an 8-0 start, Oregon fans had only one thought in coach Mark Helfrich's first season: We want Bama. During a 2-2 finish, they started missing Chip Kelly.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesMarcus Mariota should be at full strength and ready to run in the postseason.
That 8-0 start was a thing of beauty, as the Ducks climbed to No. 2 in the nation, dominating on both sides of the ball. They hung 59 points on both Virginia and Tennessee. They turned a precarious seven-point fourth-quarter lead into a 45-24 stomping of hated rival Washington, a 10th consecutive victory in the series by at least 17 points. They showed some grit in the second half against UCLA, swamping the Bruins 42-14.

Not only were the Ducks again in the thick of the national title hunt, but QB Marcus Mariota was also the nation's leading Heisman Trophy candidate.

But in that win over the Bruins, Mariota sprained his knee. While the injury didn't force him to miss a game, it severely limited his ability to run either on designed plays or scrambles. That put a major part of the Ducks’ offense on ice.

Stanford dominated the Ducks on both sides of the ball in a 26-20 win on Nov. 7, the Pac-12's marquee date of the year. Mariota struggled mightily, but the real issue was the line of scrimmage. The Cardinal owned it.

The low point, however, was a 42-16 defeat at Arizona that proved the death knell of the Ducks' BCS bowl hopes. It was Oregon's first loss to an unranked team since 2009. The 26-point margin of defeat was their biggest since losing 44-10 to USC in 2008.

The Ducks bounced back with a victory in the Civil War, but that 36-35 nail-biter at home over a reeling Beavers team was hardly suggestive of the team that dominated foes through the first eight games. It will be interesting to see how the Ducks respond in the postseason. It should help that Mariota should be close to full health. -- Ted Miller

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TEXAS LONGHORNS BREAKDOWN
The Longhorns had everything on the line against Baylor, including a Big 12 title and a trip to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. They couldn’t get the job done. The bowl matchup that the 30-10 loss leads to is immaterial to Texas fans now. All they want to know is whether the Mack Brown era is over.

[+] EnlargeCase McCoy
John Albright/Icon SMITexas will lean on its run game but will need Case McCoy to make a few plays to close out the season with a win.
If that ends up being the case, we’ll know before Texas takes the field for its bowl game later this month. These Longhorns could have plenty to play for in their finale, even if at 8-4 they’ve ended up in the same Valero Alamo Bowl they played in last year.

Despite losing five starters to season-ending injuries, the Longhorns turned around a rough start with a 7-2 record in Big 12 play. They made that run with a potent power run game, now led by Malcolm Brown (774 yards, nine touchdowns). Whether or not Mack Brown is done, this is the final game for nine senior starters and an opportunity for Case McCoy to end his up-and-down career on a high note.

Texas’ defense underwent a revival in 10 games under Greg Robinson and did hold Baylor’s top-ranked scoring offense to three points in the first half. Jackson Jeffcoat finished with a Big 12-leading 12 sacks in his senior season and anchors a unit that has plenty of experience defending high-tempo spread offenses. -- Max Olson

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