Big 12 mailbag: Look for South to dominate Big 12's top bowl slots

November, 10, 2009
11/10/09
6:26
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Happy Tuesday. Here are some of the questions that filled my e-mail earlier this week.

Jack Patterson of Amarillo, Texas, writes: Tim, I am an avid reader of your blogs. I check them at least once a day for new updates on all the Big 12. Lately though, I have had an issue with all the talk of the Big 12 North.

With the exception of Oklahoma’s offensive production against Nebraska this past Saturday night, the South Division has absolutely dominated our Northern rivals. Yet, there has been almost no talk about the fight for a second-place finish in the South. Let's say Texas runs the table, the winner of the Oklahoma State vs. Texas Tech game wins out, and the loser of that game wins their final two games. That would put the first, second and third place teams finishing above the first, second and possibly third place teams from the north.

Granted, the North Division has an exciting race to be played out over the next three weeks, but the South Division is playing solid football week in and week out. How will the bowls play out if this scenario occurs.

Tim Griffin: Victories by Nebraska over Oklahoma and Colorado over Texas A&M last week aside, the strength of the South looks much stronger than the strength of the North. Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are a combined 7-0 against the North. And if the rest of the season plays out as most would expect, it would be hard not to see those teams going perfect against the North.

I think the South Division will end up claiming three of the top four bowl spots. If Nebraska wins the North, their tradition and fan appeal will get them one of the top three bowls. But the other top two bowls will go to South teams when it’s all over.


Tyler Asche of Columbia, Mo., writes: Tim, this Heisman race is really starting to get on my nerves. First, ESPN takes Ndamukong Suh off as a viable option, and then doesn’t even recognize him as the leader in their weekly text message. Suh is having one of the most dominant season that a defensive tackle has EVER put up in the history of college football helping a struggling offensive team stay in and win games. The list is full of great names and players, but how many of those young men are putting up numbers better than anyone in history at their position? It's a shame how the media is closing the door on such a phenomenal athletes chances to have to win a once in a lifetime award. I'm starting the feel that the Heisman just isn't what it used to be.

Tim Griffin: There’s no debate about Suh’s abilities. But it’s hard to argue for a defensive tackle because their statistics are hard to quantify. But for whatever it’s worth, remember that Jared Crick leads Suh in total tackles, sacks and tackles for losses this season. So I don’t know if I necessarily would say that Suh has the best statistics for a defensive tackle ever.

He’s clearly one of the most valuable players in college football. And his statistics don’t tell his story.


Matt Howard from Virginia writes: Tim, I'm a pretty big Oklahoma fan and all of these injuries are really depressing me. Jermaine Gresham, Sam Bradford, Ryan Broyles, Bradford again, and now Auston English, Brody Eldridge, and Jarvis Jones. Has anyone else been hit as hard in their starting lineup as OU this year?

Tim Griffin: In my recent history, I can’t remember a team that has struggled with injuries like the Sooners this season. And also don’t forget to include Broyles, Brandon Caleb, DeMarco Murray and Brian Simmons have missed a combined eight games with injuries. Freshman linebacker Tom Wort, one of the revelations of early training camp, was lost with a season-ending knee injury. And linebacker Mike Balogun was declared ineligible before the season started.

It shows how good the current Oklahoma defense is, making them historical good for what will likely end up to be an 8-4 or 7-5 season.

This is a season that Bob Stoops will just choose to forget.


Fred Dodge of Annapolis, Md., writes: Tim, I am Husker through and through and while I am really happy about the win over Oklahoma I see it as a different version of Iowa State's win over Nebraska. The gutty underdog getting a bunch of turnovers and beating an error-prone talented team. In truth, this does nothing to change my view that the Big 12 North is a second-tier division. Please compare the Big 12 North to the Mountain West and Western Athletic Conferences. Am I wrong (at least as far as football goes)? Does anybody in the North stack-up to TCU and Utah; and don't you think they would run the table in the North?

Tim Griffin: College football obviously is cyclical, but you have to admire the development in the Mountain West. TCU is 9-0 and Utah is 8-1 with only a loss at Oregon. BYU showed its strength earlier in the season by beating Oklahoma and has lost to only Florida State and TCU. All three of those teams I think are better than the Nebraska/Kansas State/Colorado concentration in the Big 12 North. The South, I’m not so sure about.

As far as the WAC, I’m not so sure if I would rank them with the Big 12 North. Remember that current WAC leader Nevada lost on its home field to Missouri, which is struggling to remain out of the Big 12 North cellar. Nevada has turned things around with a current six-game winning streak and Fresno has a five-game streak. Boise State is better than any Big 12 North team this season, but the rest of the WAC isn’t at that level.

And as far as running the table, I still think that those top Mountain West and WAC teams would have trouble winning consistently in the Big 12. But this season, TCU, Boise State and Utah would likely be at the top.


Eric Owens of Orange, Texas, writes: Here’s a question about a hypothetical bowl scenario. Let’s assume Gator Bowl chooses a 10-2 Pitt over a 7-5 Notre Dame. Is the Sun Bowl obligated to take a Big 12 team, or could they still select Notre Dame and shut the Big 12 out of a bowl slot?

Tim Griffin: This is the final season of the combined Gator/Sun contract with the Big East/Notre Dame and the Big 12. The perimeters provided for two seasons for the bowl from each conference. The Big 12 has filled the Gator Bowl in each of the last two seasons with Texas Tech in 2007 and Nebraska last season. Under terms of the contract, the Gator Bowl is obligated to take a team from the Big East or Notre Dame this season. The Sun Bowl, which had Missouri in 2006, is obligated to take a Big 12 team this season.

The Sun Bowl won't have access to a Big 12 team after this season with its new contract beginning in 2010 when representatives from the Pac-10 and Atlantic Coast conferences meet.

Thanks again for all of the good questions. We’ll catch up again on Friday afternoon.

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