Tim's mailbag: 2008 Border War better than 2007

June, 19, 2009
6/19/09
2:49
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

If it's Friday afternoon, it must be time for opening my mailbag.

We received some interesting questions and comments this week. Here are some of the best.

Bob Jackson from Sioux Falls, S.D., writes: Tim, I'm really enjoying your countdown on the top 25 moments in Big 12 history. But one question. Why did you pick the Missouri-Kansas game last year over the one in 2007 that had so much hype involved with it? I'm curious how you determined one from another.

Tim Griffin: Bob, hopefully all of my readers are enjoying the countdown of moments as much as I enjoyed developing the list.

My rationale for picking specific moments over others deals with the "wow factor" of the game. I wanted my top events to be moments that made people gasp with excitement when they were watching them live. It has no correlation to the importance of the game, although big plays in huge games tend to make those more memorable than others.

But I picked the 2008 game over the 2007 one because of those "wow" moments. The 2007 game had much more hype than any Missouri-Kansas game in history, but had trouble living up to that billing. Missouri jumped ahead early and really had to scramble only at the end of the game when a late sack and safety by Lorenzo Williams wrapped up the game.

The game last season had lessened stakes than that one. But it was hard to tell it by watching the game. There were four lead changes in the fourth quarter, including the dramatic game-winning score from Todd Reesing to Kerry Meier. The fact that both players were injured earlier in the season and battled back to play in the game heightened its drama, in my opinion. And the fact that Missouri had a chance to tie the game on the final play before a blocked kick only added to the excitement.

Both games were good, but the 2008 game was slightly more memorable to me than the one in 2007 because of those memorable plays. And that's why I ranked them in that order.


Bill Barkley from Waco, Texas, writes: Tim, Just a comment about Art Briles and Baylor. I think Briles is not only one of the best coaches in the Big 12 but he is one of the best coaches in the nation. NOBODY [Mike Singletary included] could be doing as good a job as he has done at Baylor. Robert Griffin is here as you know because of Briles. Put Mack Brown in Waco without Will Muschamp and Major Applewhite and see how many games he wins. Put Art Briles in Austin or College Station and we could be talking a top-5 team in the nation every year. This guy has it as a coach.

Tim Griffin: Bill, I agree with you on Briles' coaching acumen. Look at the job he did dominating Texas high school football before even coming to college. But one concern I might have if I was a Baylor backer and the Bears play as well as some of those rosy preseason predictions. Then, I'm wondering if other more attractive schools might come looking at him as a coach.

Obviously, making a bowl game is his most immediate goal. But if that happens and a football power school wants to hire him, it will then be interesting to see if Briles stays in Waco.


David Clouse from Pacola, Okla., writes: What are you expecting this season out of Oklahoma running back Chris Brown? He could be the most valuable RB in the conference, yet DeMarco Murray receives most of the attention. Brown will be a huge key for OU on third downs this year.

Tim Griffin: Actually, I think that Brown will also be effective on first, second and fourth  downs, too.

I think that together, Brown and Murray are the best combination in the Big 12 (Sorry, Nebraska fans). And working together only heightens their value. Both don't face the constant pounding that would be in place if they were both every-down backs. It's not to say that either couldn't fill that role, but just that they are each more effective with the other as a part of the team.

For example, I still think that Murray's presence in the BCS title game might have helped lead to a different result for the Sooners. It would have been interesting to see his explosive running and Brown's bullish between-the-tackles thrusts against Florida.

If both stay healthy, it wouldn't surprise me to again see Brown and Murray both rush for more than 1,000 yards. Neither will likely be in the mix for All-American honors, but their abilities together help make the Sooners one of the nation's top teams.


Ted Padberg of Independence, Mo., writes: I have news for you, Tim. Blaine Gabbert may just supplant Chase Daniel in the Mizzou record books and in the hearts of Tiger fans. He has that much potential.

Tim Griffin: Ted, I'm not arguing with you. Gabbert is coming into the Missouri lineup as likely the most hyped recruit in Gary Pinkel's tenure. He has better size and likely a better arm than Daniel did. He won't have the surrounding weapons - at least this season - so it will be interesting to see how patient Missouri fans will be after the Tigers' back-to-back championship game appearances in the last two seasons.

So there are huge expectations that he will be facing. He might someday do more than Daniel, but he arrives having to replace the most statistically successful quarterback in school history. And no matter how you consider it, those are some huge shoes to fill.


Matt from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Great blog Tim! I was just wondering how long you think it will take Bo Pelini to get Nebraska in a BCS game or national championship game. Will it be within four seasons?

Tim Griffin: Obviously, the quick turnarounds and early success that coaches like Bob Stoops, Pete Carroll and Jim Tressel have enjoyed have proven that tradition-rich programs can turn around quickly. And Pelini is in exactly that kind of position.

But in order to get into that BCS discussion, he's going to have to significantly improve the Cornhuskers' recruiting. He needs to start attracting a bunch of athletic difference makers that will be needed to enable the Cornhuskers to compete with Texas and Oklahoma for the Big 12 title. They'll need to be in that ballpark to get into the BCS mix.

Can that happen in four seasons? No doubt. But Pelini will have to build on his first season of success and ratchet up the Cornhuskers' program another couple of rungs to get them on that level.

And there still is a lot of work remaining to get there.


Joe Bonds of Dallas writes: Tim, I will agree that Texas' non-conference schedule is extremely weak this year, but could someone please point out that it was not intentionally scheduled this way. Utah backed out, Arkansas backed out and UT tried to negotiate a game with Wisconsin this year. Texas does have some big-name programs on the schedule in the future. Why does no one point that out?

Tim Griffin: Joe, you are exactly right. But the BCS computers or pollsters aren't going to factor in that the Longhorns almost played Utah or that Arkansas didn't want to play them or that Wisconsin couldn't have been arranged.

We can point out who the Longhorns almost played, but it still won't take away the fact that their non-conference schedule includes games against Louisiana-Monroe, UCF, UTEP and Wyoming. Those will be the four games that Texas will be judged against.

And I still think that lack of competition, especially compared to some of the non-conference games that other potential national contenders are playing, could come back to haunt the Longhorns.

The road to a national championship is paved with good intentions. But that weak non-conference schedule remains something that Mack Brown and the Longhorns can't diminis
h. Because it's there.


Kenneth Smith of Houston writes: How will Brandon Banks will play this year? Considering teams know who he is now, will that change how he produces for Kansas State. Also how high will he go into the draft?

Tim Griffin: I've gone on record as thinking that Brandon Banks might be the most underrated player in the Big 12. And even though teams know about him a little more this season, they still have to stop him. And that's more easily said than done.

I've heard rumblings that Banks will have a new role with Del Miller as the offensive coordinator. It wouldn't surprise me to see him used in a modified role of a "Wildcat" where he would take direct snaps from center and perhaps and run and throw the ball a little like Darren McFadden originally did for Arkansas.

If he does that and is successful, it will only boost his national stature.

Banks is one of the fastest players in the country with reputed 4.28 speed in the 40-yard dash. But his professional chances are hampered by his size at 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds. Because of that size, I think it's a long shot he'll be drafted until he really tears things up this fall.

Thanks for all of the good questions. We'll check in again next week.  

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