Big 12 mailbag: Johnson needs big game to grab national attention

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Happy Friday. Here are some of the better letters that were sent to me earlier this week.

Aaron from Dallas, Texas, writes: Tim, what exactly do Texas A&M fans need to do to get our quarterback Jerrod Johnson to show up on the leader board for the Heisman Trophy vote. He’s had a great season to this point. Why isn’t he getting more national attention?

Tim Griffin: Johnson has a chance to sway a lot of opinions Saturday night in Arlington, Texas, when he plays Arkansas. Johnson has posted some really big numbers so far, ranking third nationally in total offense and 11th in passing efficiency. He’s also got a striking 9-to-0 ratio in touchdowns to interceptions and has accounted for at least 351 yards of total offense in each of his three starts this season.

But I think most Heisman voters are holding back until they see what he does against Big 12 opposition. Johnson hasn’t exactly played an imposing schedule with victories over New Mexico, Utah State and UAB.

If he can keep up a similar statistical binge once Big 12 play begins, I think Johnson will start popping up on those Heisman lists. But he’s got to start doing it against better opposition before people start taking him and his team more seriously.

Robert Johnson of Artesia, N.M., writes: Tim, which team needed the break the most of the Big 12 teams that are not playing this week? And which team might see its momentum altered by not playing this week.

Tim Griffin: I think Oklahoma State could use the week off more than any other team, considering the Cowboys’ injuries to Kendall Hunter, Dez Bryant, Perrish Cox and Jeremiah Price. And the team that probably wishes it was playing this week – at least if last week’s performance was any indication – might be Texas. The Longhorns had their most complete victory in several seasons when they walloped UTEP last week. A game this week could have given the Longhorns a chance to build on their momentum. But it shouldn’t matter as they prepare for their conference opener next week against Colorado.

Rodney Maxim of Bogata, Columbia writes: Do you think that the Sooners' and Longhorns' defenses this year are comparable to the SEC defenses of last year?

Tim Griffin: Rodney, yes, I would consider the Oklahoma and Texas defenses on par with what we saw from teams like Florida and Mississippi last season. The Sooners really appear to be in a groove with their back-to-back shutouts. If the Sooners can make it three-straight tomorrow against Miami, it would be the first time they’ve accomplished that feat since 1962.

The key for both teams is the strong work of their defensive lines. Gerald McCoy and Lamarr Houston provide similar work inside as the bulwark of their respective front fours. I like Oklahoma’s depth having multiple pass rushers, although Sergio Kindle can really be a force when he’s really on. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, he can be streaky at times.

I like the Sooners’ linebackers better, particularly the heady leadership provided by Ryan Reynolds and Travis Lewis’ playmaking abilities. Texas probably has a better secondary, particularly with the way the Longhorns have produced interceptions this season. The Longhorns have already notched six interceptions so far this season in four games to match the total they produced in the entire 2008 season.

But both defenses are very good and are among the best defenses I can remember in the Big 12 in several years and definitely comparable to those SEC groups.

Patrick Rowley from Omaha, Neb. writes: Tim, I love your blog and read it daily. From what I have read, Robert Griffin sustained his season-ending injury on Baylor's first drive in the first quarter. However, he continued to play, and well I might add, until the end of the first half. Did Baylor’s staff miss something in regards to that injury, and by leaving him in for the remainder of the half did that cause more damage to his injury?

Tim Griffin: Patrick thanks for the compliment. As far as Robert Griffin, I don’t know if the Baylor trainers knew how badly his injury was until it was diagnosed with an MRI after the game. I know that Griffin wanted to go back in and was determined to play. His performance shows Griffin’s athletic ability if he could pass for 226 yards and three touchdowns on basically one good leg. I know Griffin has said he still has slim hope to be playing later this season. I would hope that he would be very careful about this and consider his future before he makes his decision. I look forward to him not only playing on Sundays one day, but perhaps even representing his country in a future Olympics. I would hope those dreams aren’t short-circuited by returning to the lineup too quickly and not letting his injury heal properly.

Jason from Grand Island, Neb., writes: Tim, I've heard it said that one must have a short memory to play sports to forget mistakes and such. Apparently, the college football voters fall into the same category. I've seen Virginia Tech in so many of the "experts" top five rankings, it makes me sick. Following the Hokies’ ranking everybody always talks about how "good they look". And yet, Nebraska, a team that outplayed them for four quarters, but fell short barely hangs in the top 25. What is wrong with this picture, why are voters so quick to praise a team for exposing an overrated team (Miami), but failing to notice the rest of their games? And how high do you think Nebraska would have been ranked if the Cornhuskers had beaten Virginia Tech?

Tim Griffin: For whatever anybody might think about how good that Nebraska played at Virginia Tech, the fact remains they couldn’t make the plays to win the game. I think most pollsters are looking at that as the most overriding factor. And the fact the Hokies came back to hammer Miami in the slop last week only made both victories look that attractive to voters.

The Cornhuskers in the end couldn’t score a touchdown against the Hokies, struggled with red-zone problems and had two critical pass- coverage busts that caused them to lose the game. If Nebraska had won that game, I think they likely would be ranked among the top 10-12 teams, considering all the teams in the top 25 that have lost earlier this season. But the loss, coupled with the three Sun Belt Conference teams that Nebraska have defeated in a less-than-imposing opening schedule, makes them a little undervalued in the national polls in my opinion.

Bo Pelini’s team will have an opportunity to prove its mettle in the next several weeks, starting with the huge conference opener next week against Missouri. I can’t wait.

That’s all the time I have for questions this week. Keep them coming and we’ll check back again next week.