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Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Tim's mailbag: More Jayhawks coverage looming from me

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Noah from Lawrence, Kan., writes: Hey Tim, love the blog, even though KU hasn't been covered much since the USF game. I know Oklahoma is favored this weekend and needs a win, but what does KU have to do to pull the huge upset in Norman on Saturday?

Tim Griffin: Noah, I appreciate the kind words. I just got finished talking to Jake Sharp for a post I'll have later in the week and I'm also going to be in Norman for the game, which I think will be a fascinating one. First, people don't realize that Kansas quietly has crept into first place in the North Division. But they are catching Oklahoma at a bad time, considering the Sooners' loss to Texas. Oklahoma is 9-0 in the week after the Texas game under Bob Stoops. For Kansas to escape with the upset, they'll need to do the same things that Texas successfully did -- run the ball successfully, pressure Sam Bradford and get a couple of plays on special teams. It's not impossible, but I think Mark Mangino is going to have a difficult return to Norman.


Patrick from Austin writes: Who do you think poses the biggest threat to Texas' undefeated regular season? Chase Daniel & Co? Oklahoma State? Texas Tech?

Tim Griffin: Patrick, how about all three? I've got a funny feeling about this week's game in Austin. Chase Daniel has orchestrated a big turnaround in that program. Even after the loss last week, it wouldn't surprise me if they came into Austin and gave the Longhorns a tough game and maybe even pull off the upset. I also think that Oklahoma State and Texas Tech both could give the Longhorns problems. If I was ranking them as far as likelihood of an upset today, I would list them at Missouri, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. I expect Texas to lose one of those three games and maybe even two of them, even with the No. 1 ranking.


Moorpark writes: I can't believe that the polls have Oklahoma at fourth. This team is overrated as demonstrated by Texas' win. All they do is embarrass themselves against a mobile quarterback. It's been clearly depicted in their last two bowl games. They are just like LSU. Overrated. Maybe, some day the media will acknowledge that.

Tim Griffin: When I first learned of OU's ranking, I, too, was a tad surprised. But then I started thinking. They played Texas evenly for most of the game. They had as many yards and actually scored more offensive touchdowns. They did twice blow double-digit leads. But I think, as anybody who was there at the Cotton Bowl last week would acknowledge, that the game was closer than the 10-point final margin indicated. The Sooners still have a shot for the conference championship, a BCS bowl and maybe even the national championship. LSU accomplished that with two losses. What Oklahoma has to hope for is that they can finish out without a loss and have Texas lose twice. Because the Longhorns win any head-to-head tie with the Sooners because of their victory last week in Dallas.


Fargo from Stillwater, Okla., writes: This upset of Missouri was big but I would have to say that the most stunning upset in Oklahoma State history was the defeat of OU a few years ago when OU was being discussed as the best team in the history of college football and OSU had a losing record. Rashaun Woods caught the winning TD pass from Josh Fields when Josh was a freshman. The game was in Norman.

Tim Griffin: Fargo, I remember the game well. But I think for sheer shock value the game last week even outstrips that game. One, an underrated Oklahoma State defense took apart a Missouri offense that was being ranked among the greatest in Big 12 history. And the fact that Oklahoma State now moves into the top 10 and has a shot for national recognition and its first Big 12 championship makes it even bigger than that Oklahoma victory.


Stevie from Hot Springs, Ark., writes: Tim, I know you love all of the trappings of the State Fair of Texas that go along with the Texas-OU game. How did your day go and were you able to check out any fried twinkies either before or after the game?

Tim Griffin: I did take a double-helping of my Lipitor the night before heading down to the fair, but it was very sedate. As I mentioned on my blog on game day, I only saw one scuffle. Traffic wasn't nearly as bad as I expected and the midway only was teeming right after the game. Afterwards, I stayed around with a couple of my fellow scribes where I toasted the end of another Red River Rivalry with a cold beer and a corny dog. It's something I've done for about 15 years. The other foods that were available really didn't do much for me. I noticed that one of the new offerings was something called fried avocado chunks. I don't know about anybody else, but the thought of any kind of food available on a midway called "chunks" didn't sound very appetizing to me. So I avoided it along with the deep-fried peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and the fried twinkies that a lot of people were munching on.


John Smith from Chicago writes: I'm a Sooner fan stuck in Chicago! While we can say that this year is not a loss yet, should I be concerned with the fact that the special teams is a sign of real problems to come? Aren't special teams and particularly kickoff coverage where the future stars at linebacker and the secondary feed and grow up? I'm really concerned that OU's inability to cover kicks hints at a bigger issue with depth and the defense in the next couple of years. Can Stoops and crew fix special teams and run defense this year???

Tim Griffin: John, you make a great point about Oklahoma's special teams struggles. Jordan Shipley's kickoff return against them was the second kickoff return touchdown allowed this season by the Sooners and they almost allowed another one against TCU. And you also are spot-on with your point about the future linebackers and secondary players getting their start on special teams. although Bob Stoops has always made it a practice to stock his special teams with a lot of starting players, too.

That's why I think this upcoming game against Kansas will be intriguing. The Sooners have to do something running the ball after producing less than 50 yards on the ground in two of their last three games. And it will be interesting to see who will get most of the playing time to replace Ryan Reynolds at middle linebacker. I've never seen a Stoops-coached team struggle as much running the ball or covering kicks. Not a good recipe if they want to run the table and try to get back into BCS contention.


Ken from Ardmore, Okla., writes: Why do you think that Brent Venables s not a head coach? He may be the last one left of Bob Stoops' original hires.

Tim Griffin: I'm also intrigued why Venables, who I consider one of the best coordinators in college football and a good guy, hasn't gotten his chance. I know his children are at an age when many coaches wouldn't want to move. And maybe he's decided that staying with Stoops -- and making the big contract that he commands at OU as a coordinator -- is better for him than the hassles of taking over a struggling program.

Another factor is that many athletic directors always are looking for the hot young assistant coach. That line of thinking causes them to skip past many established assistant coaches who have plied their trades for a long time. Names like Will Muschamp and Dave Christensen s
izzle a little more because they are new, hot commodities.

But I think that Venables would do a good job if he had a chance. Somebody just needs to offer him a job.


Grant from Houston writes: How do you break down everybody's chances of winning the Big 12 South? What would your percentage chances be for everybody of winning it. And also how about for the North, too.

Tim Griffin: OK, here goes. South: Texas 40%, Oklahoma State 25%, Texas Tech 20%, Oklahoma 15% And in the North: Missouri 62%, Kansas 36%, Kansas State 2%.


KCMO from Kansas City writes: That stat you've been using about Missouri not winning at Texas since 1896 is kind of misleading. We haven't played Texas on a consistent basis before 1996 when the Big 12 was formed. We've gone several stretches of 10 years or so where we didn't play them at all.

Tim Griffin: As Bruce Bowen of the San Antonio Spurs likes to say, "It is what it is." There's no way you can sugarcoat that statistic which is one of the most powerful in the Big 12's record book. I don't care if they haven't played Texas but two or three times. The fact that Missouri's last win in Austin came in 1896 has a lot of relevance in my opinion. How long ago was it? Grover Cleveland was in his second term as United States president. There were 45 states in the United States. Oklahoma was still 11 years away from statehood. That's a long time between victories.


Chuck Roberts from Dallas writes: I know he plays for a lousy team, but shouldn't Josh Freeman's name be mentioned in the Heisman consideration?

Tim Griffin: I don't know about the Heisman, where he's going to be at the mercy of his won-loss record. But Freeman is quietly compiling one of the best all-around statistical seasons in Big 12 history. After six games, Freeman has run for 12 touchdown and passed for 12 more. So he could easily become the Big 12's first quarterback to have a 20 touchdowns rushing/20 touchdowns passing season. And with a strong finish he could join Tim Tebow as the only quarterback in history with a 20 touchdowns rushing/30 touchdowns passing season.

But Freeman must win some big games to start getting noticed for national honors. His big reward will come when the NFL Draft rolls around. Many of the NFL scouts I've talked to consider him to be the best quarterback prospect in the conference.