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Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Big 12 mailbag: UT couldn't ask for better motivator than Big 12 title game

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Here are some letters I received this week on a variety of subjects.

Paul Lloyd of Austin, Texas, writes: Tim, great work on the Big 12, this is the only non-work related bookmark I keep on my computer at the office. I have a question or proposal for you about the BCS Championship game that I've been repeating since the Texas naysaying began. Do you feel that a month worth of doubt and underselling Texas helps their chances to play the "no one wants you here" edge against Alabama?

I know this is a common motivator in sports but it really hits home with Texas since before the 2005 team won the National Championship against USC, ESPN ran a week long piece that culminated in declaring that team the greatest ever. I think there's a reason Saban kept trying to remove any David vs. Goliath connotations Sunday night, because he knows how big a motivator and demotivator this can be for both sides. What are your thoughts?

Tim Griffin: Paul, I think you are exactly right on this. Texas will be repeatedly undersold during the next month of its preparation. Mack Brown couldn’t ask for a better psychological ploy than this happening.

The Longhorns will be doubted over the next few weeks. Colt McCoy and the offense will be castigated for their performance against a pretty good Nebraska defense.

And another advantage for the Longhorns will be the presence of Will Muschamp on Brown’s staff. If anybody knows about Nick Saban and his play-calling habits it will be Muschamp, who coached with him at LSU and later followed him to the Miami Dolphins.

Saban is a savvy enough coach to realize the “David vs. Goliath” comparison is a tad specious.

I prefer to consider the matchup as “King Kong vs. Goliath” between these two storied powers – in terms of football history, tradition, prestige, coaching and the like. The game should be an interesting one.


Jon Weinhold of Lincoln, Neb., writes: Hey Tim, love the column. I've recommended you to a few friends as a way to get a quick dose of Big XII news. That being said, do you think the biggest indication of how good Ndamukong Suh has been this season is that almost everyone has actually learned how to correctly pronounce his name? Second, as corn-fed and die-hard as I am, I'm SHOCKED that the Huskers moved UP in the polls after that loss to Texas. Remember, I'm a Nebraska fan, so I'm well-acquainted with dropping in the polls after a win, but not the reverse. Does that happen often around the nation and I just don't notice?

Tim Griffin: Jon, like you said, a lot of people have learned to correctly pronounce his first name over the last few weeks. But I still like how Bo Pelini sometimes still refers to him as “Big Suh” and Mack Brown a couple of times last week called him “Young Suh.” For those of you at home, his name is phonetically said “N Dom In Can.”

And you do bring an interesting point in Nebraska earning some unexpected respect for their close loss last week to Texas. They did play a great game – particularly the Cornhuskers’ defense. But it was going to be tough to beat Texas or any other good team without scoring any touchdowns.

But I do think that Bo Pelini’s team got a healthy dose of national respect around the country. They jumped from 20th to 19th in the coaches’ poll and 21st to 20th in the coaches’ poll. They even got votes as high as No. 12 by Ron English of Eastern Michigan and No. 13 by Rich Rodriguez of Michigan.

And I’m sure the Cornhuskers got a lot of respect from Mack Brown, who probably more than once has realized that his team was fortunate to escape Cowboys Stadium with the Big 12 title Saturday night.


John Nuxoll from Dallas writes: Hey Tim. Forgive the pointed question, but can you with a conscience not vote for the best player in college football this year --Nebraska's Suh -- just because traditionally the award is given to an offensive player?

Tim Griffin: John, I’ll reveal my vote for the Heisman a little later in the week – how's that for suspense? I’m planning an entire blog item on why I voted the way I did.

John, there’s no doubt Suh is a great player. I saw the way he dominated the center of the Texas line on Saturday night. But I also remembered some struggles he had earlier in the season against teams like Texas Tech and Kansas.

I also remember Colt McCoy’s struggles not only against Nebraska but also against Oklahoma. Or how Mark Ingram rushed for only 50 yards against Arkansas or 30 yards in 16 carries against Auburn only a week ago. Heck, I can remember when Toby Gerhart went for 82 yards against Wake Forest.

So my decision dealt with a lot of factors. And I’ll detail them later in the week. Watch for it.


Dan R. Becker from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Tim, I just want to see if I can get some clarification on the lack of outrage with a 7-5 Oklahoma team and 6-6 Texas A&M team jumping Missouri. No offense, but you have gained a reputation with a lot of fans from the North schools of supporting the South schools. To me, it just seems incredibly unfair to be characterizing this as a spat between ISU and Missouri when two other schools were very clearly involved as well. Like the blog and we all gain information from it but sometimes an argument like this one has more than just the obvious conflict to look at.

Tim Griffin: Dan, you are correct. But I also think it’s germane to the argument to point out Texas A&M did beat Iowa State in a head-to-head game and Oklahoma had a better record than Iowa State. It was interesting that most of the outrage I’ve read in Missouri newspapers over the last couple of days specifically concerns Missouri being passed by Iowa State more than Missouri and Texas A&M or Missouri and Oklahoma.

That might be because the Insight Bowl is judged to be the best of the trips from a spectators’ standpoint.

But in terms of a pecking order of teams heading into the bowls, I think it would be fair to put Iowa State last among the eight Big 12 schools. When a program with the eighth-best record among teams jumps past the one with the fifth-best record, I can understand why there might be some hurt feelings.


Ethan from Manhattan, Kan., writes: With Kansas State's season over with, the Wildcats’ largest question is who is going to step in at QB. I see Harper taking the job with Coffman as a backup but what if Snyder can get Cameron Newton from Blinn C.C.? Then I see KSU with one of the best set-ups for the wildcat in the nation. Harper would move to WR and Thomas was a QB in high school and Juco. KSU would have three athletic quarterbacks and a bunch of options for what could happen. What do you think is going to happen?

Tim Griffin: Like you said, a lot hinges on where Newton ends up. If he arrived at Kansas State, he would provide offensive coordinators Del Miller and Dana Dimel with a lot of different ways to go. I doubt we would see Daniel Thomas get much playing time at quarterback, except in those Wildcat formations. He’s simply too valuable as a running back, where his strength and durability made him the Big 12’s best running back this season. I’ve also heard some big things about Chris Harper, particularly if his shoulder is healthy when he returns. I would expect Carson Coffman to have the edge, but Harper will give him a big push once spring practice starts. Who plays quarterback at Kansas State will be one of the most interesting personnel battles in the Big 12 next year.

Thanks again for all of the questions. We'll check back again on Friday.