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Saturday, August 23, 2008
Tim's mailbag: Here's why I picked Baylor over KSU

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

My recent lists were meant as more than mere filler serving up a little anticipation before the season begins. Readers take these things pretty seriously, so I figured I might give some of my rationale behind a few of my more controversial recent blog posts.

Here goes in another mailbag:

Rock from Olathe, Kan. writes: Tim, are you smoking something? How in the wide, wide world of football could you ever imagine that Baylor is a better job than Kansas State. I'm interested to hear your answer.

Tim Griffin: I've been pilloried across the Sunflower State for my recent post ranking the Big 12 coaching jobs. Again, as I clearly stated early in my missive, it was strictly my opinion. Remember, the thesis of my piece was what job would be attractive for me as a young coach starting my career.

I think, and still believe, that recruiting is the biggest facet in college football. I hate to sound like some of those coaches I've heard over the years, but haven't you heard "It's not about the Xs and the Os as much as the Jimmys and the Joes"?

Baylor is located in one of the fertile areas of the nation, even with its many recent struggles. Kansas State must go out of state or depend on junior-college additions. I think that's the biggest factor that boosts the Baylor job over Kansas State to me.

Also, I think the Baylor facilities are a tad better than those at Kansas State. The facilities that will open later this year at Waco are state-of-the-art. Kansas State's are a little older. The two stadiums are comparable.

It's also been shown in recent years that Baylor's financial commitment to football is stronger than Kansas State's. Art Briles got a contract of more than $1.8 million per year to take the job at Baylor. Ron Prince needed two years before he got past $1 million. And Kansas State has previously struggled keeping up with other Big 12 teams in terms of keeping assistant coaches because of salaries. I've heard that is supposed to change. But we'll see.

Obviously, past success provides a huge advantage for Kansas State. But the days that Bill Snyder first starting turning around the program are more than 15 years ago. And it will be tough for Kansas State to climb back into contention in the North Division.

If I was a young coach, it might be more attractive for me to turn around a downtrodden program than one that's had previous success. That's probably why there's a statue of Grant Teaff outside of Floyd Casey Stadium and he never took his team to a bowl higher than the Cotton Bowl. And he's very much alive to enjoy the notoriety, too.

Here's another way to judge the difference in the programs and the perceptions they have among coaches. The last two coaches to be hired at Baylor were a head coach from the nation's strongest conference (Guy Morriss, Kentucky) and another head coach who had developed one of the nation's top non-BCS programs (Art Briles, Houston). Kansas State hired an offensive coordinator from an ACC school (Ron Prince, Virginia). It looks like head coaches in the business might see some appeal in Baylor -- or at least those two -- for many of the same reasons I've mentioned.

But again, it was the difference between 10th and 11th in the conference. And in my opinion, it was very slim. But I had to pick one and I chose Baylor.


Lindsay from Oklahoma writes: Everyone is talking about the Sooner offense...what do you think about the Sooner D?

Tim Griffin: For a team that doesn't have many, I think the Sooners defense remains the biggest question for me. DE Auston English is back after having his appendix removed and I expect him to round into shape as the season progresses. A bigger loss could be LB Austin Box, who is out with a knee injury for several weeks. MLB Ryan Reynolds hasn't shown he can make it through a season without getting hurt. And I still think the Sooners will miss Reggie Smith and Curtis Lofton as the season progresses. Oklahoma still is the best team in the South and might be in the Big 12 as well. But in order to play up to their lofty BCS expectations  -- and actually win a bowl game for a change -- the defense is going to have to gel.


Baby Tate writes: Thank you for posting my article of the 12 Surprise Whippings of College Football from the Bleacher Report. But I want to clarify why the Colorado-Nebraska game wasn't listed. My time period was 1965-2000. I'm pretty much an old timer and I prefer to write about periods with which I'm most familiar. My next article could be "How The JFK Tragedy Affected The Choice Of The Air Force Over The More Deserving Memphis State Tigers of Spook Murphy in 1963". 

Tim Griffin: Sorry for the confusion on that, Baby. And I know a lot of my fellow Memphians have never gotten over that Spook couldn't take his Tigers to a bowl game after that 9-0-1 season in 1963. And the closest we ever got to bowling when I was in college was on those Thursday fraternity nights down at the local 10-pin lanes.


Rob from Nacogdoches, Texas writes: Tim, I've seen the Howard Schnellenberger video that you posted a couple of days ago. What's the one thing that sticks out most to you after watching it?

Tim Griffin: It's not the confidence that the veteran Florida Atlantic University coach obviously has for his team, his suspenders or the way he repeatedly flashes his Super Bowl and national championship rings at the camera as he rubs his hands. I'm thinking more about how well that comfortable orange chair he was sitting in would go in my study.


Caleb from El Reno writes: I recently read your ranking of the Big 12 quaterbacks. How do you put Daniel over Bradford? Bradford holds the advantage in size and athletic ability, not to mention Bradford handed Daniel his only two losses last year. It just doesn't make any sense to put one quarterback over another quarterback who beat him heads-up twice.

Tim Griffin: Except maybe if one of those quarterbacks had Curtis Lofton playing on his team and the other one didn't, it does.


Orlando writes: Bradford, give me a break. He's another ESPN creation. Passing efficiency is another way to hide the fact he gets his butt kicked away from Norman.

Tim Griffin: It's hard to argue with a record number of touchdown passes he threw last season as a freshman, isn't it? And although Bradford has one of the best offenses in the country surrounding him -- think Colt McCoy of Texas in 2006 -- he still is a pretty tough customer. I've seen him withstand some withering hits during his short career.


Gary in Pleasanton, Calif writes: Tim, It was nice hearing Kirk (ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit) mention something about Nebraska. There are a couple of coaches that are from the #1 and #2 teams last year that now with Nebraska. Could you maybe shed some light on why Nebraska never gets any press whether they are ranked or not?

Tim Griffin: Gary, I'm going to differ with you on that. I think Nebraska got a lot of publicity nationally when it was on its national title binge in the 1990s. And I think that it gets its share in the Big 12 as well. Maybe not to the levels of USC, Florida, Oklahoma or Texas, but the Cornhuskers haven't been to that BCS-level in recent years, either.

If Bo Pelini turns things around for the Cornhuskers, I can guarantee you'll hear a lot from national commentators. And it just won't be coming from his old college teammates like Herbstreit.


Adam writes: Tim, Love your blog! My question though: you ranked the top 10 big 12 offensive lineman, leaving out Oklahoma State. Are you aware OSU led the l
eauge in rushing, and gave up very few sacks (not sure where the lack of sacks ranks in the league). Last year our best lineman, Russ Okung, shut down the country's top defensive end (in terms of sacks) in the Independence Bowl. How can a unit, arguably strongest in the league, and a top linemen like Okung be missing from your listing? What is the criteria for your choices?

Tim Griffin: Looking back, I might have included Okung on the list and I gave careful consideration to David Washington, who missed my list because he was hurt most of last season. But I think the Oklahoma State line might be the collection of its parts without one or two standouts. I talked to some NFL scouts that I trust and also to others who follow the Big 12 closely. While not infallible, I think my choices were pretty close.


Jason writes: Tim I'd like to know how Travis Schneider of A&M has been looking. He switched from left to right tackle this year and you don't hear much about him, so what are you hearing?

Tim Griffin: I was impressed with Schneider on several plays I saw last week at Texas A&M's open practice -- amazing what a concept that is, isn't it? Schneider will be counted to help a green offensive line develop. He'll be the most important player in the unit because of his experience.

But one tip I have for him about notoriety -- he'll develop more of it with his blocks than his locks. Schneider has one of the most notable hairstyles I've seen this year. He needs to be a more aggressive player on the field this season.


Sean Arnold of Kearney, Neb., writes: Tim I'm surprised that none of the Nebraska kickers made your list of best special teams players in the conference. I understand that not every team could be represented but I thought at least our punter Dan Titchener would make it with his ability to drop the ball inside the 20 yard line. Oh well, still love your stuff. Go Big Red

Tim Griffin: Sean, I agree about Nebraska's total talent on special teams. But I couldn't see putting one of them in my top 10. Titchener is probably about the third best punter in the league, just below the two that I picked.

Guys, thanks for all of the letters and keep them coming. Game day is only five days away. I can't wait.