Thursday, December 24, 2009
Under my tree, it's stacked with my presents for Big 12 teams
By ESPN.com staff
It wouldn't be Christmas without a gift-giving binge around these parts.
As such, here are a few of my holidays presents tucked under the tree for each Big 12 team.
Baylor: Good health in 2010. The Bears' bowl hopes were doomed as soon as Robert Griffin went down with a season-ending knee injury that required surgery. His return to health will be pivotal in their hopes to end the conference's longest bowl drought.
Colorado: A little less bravado -- both on the field and in scheduling. Considering the Buffaloes have made one bowl trip in four seasons with Dan Hawkins, it might be wise to tone down some of their nonconference demands. Of course, Hawkins thought his team would be winning 10 games "with no excuses" this year. So much for that. But the Buffaloes could learn something and scale back on the 2010 nonconference schedule that will feature home games against Hawaii and Georgia and road contest at California and the annual rivalry game against Colorado State in Denver. The North Division will be tough enough, much less adding three other bowl teams.
Iowa State: Talent to match coach Paul Rhoads' enthusiasm. Rhoads clearly has his team playing above expected levels, or else the Cyclones wouldn't be beating Nebraska in Lincoln. But a key for turning a consistent bowl team will be if the ISU staff can upgrade the talent levels on their roster to compete with the Big 12's best teams on a regular basis.
Kansas: More "Kumbaya" sessions with Turner Gill. After the allegations against Mark Mangino for his tough disciplinary demands, Gill would be advised to do a 180 on what was asked before. More juice boxes and an occasional group hug or two would be a start.
Kansas State: Limit themselves to one gooey nonconference treat on the shelf. Victories over Tennessee Tech and Massachusetts provided a lot of empty calories for the Wildcats and one victory too many against FCS teams. If the Wildcats had traded one of those games against a manageable victory over a low FBS team, they would be practicing for a bowl game right now. And for Bill Snyder, that extra work with his team would have been important in its growth.
Missouri: Find another receiver to snag passes for Blaine Gabbert. In the last three years, the Tigers have turned out tight ends Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker and wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander. Gary Pinkel's program has turned out the Big 12's best assortment of receivers. Getting a player to develop from a group including Jerrell Jackson, Brandon Gerau, Rolandis Woodland, T.J. Moe, Wes Kemp or Michael Egnew will be critical in the Tigers' title hopes in 2010.
Nebraska: Developing an offense that isn't so offensive. The Cornhuskers' defense might go down in history as one of the best in Big 12 history. But it still couldn't mask an offense that produced only field goals in losses to Texas and Virginia Tech and one touchdown in a loss to Iowa State. Bo Pelini needs Zac Lee or Cody Green to take the quarterback job and develop a productive identity that is missing.
Oklahoma: Return of the Stoops swagger. It's hard to believe that only a year ago, the Sooners were playing for the national championship and an unprecedented three-peat of conference titles. That seems a long time ago after all of the injuries that led to a 7-5 record that is the worst regular-season mark in Coach Bob Stoops' tenure. The Sooners just need some luck in avoiding injuries and development in Landry Jones to get back in the hunt next season.
Oklahoma State: A big-time offensive playmaker. The loss of Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter for most of the season made the Cowboys seem like a station-to-station team with little breakaway pop on offense. In order to challenge teams like Texas and Oklahoma on a regular basis, Mike Gundy has got to find those kind of players.
Texas: Two more weeks of pundits telling Mack Brown's team that his team doesn't belong in the BCS title game. The Longhorns are already heading to California with a chip on their shoulder after their narrow escape over Nebraska and their offensive struggles in the title. Just wait until they start talking to reporters doubting their legitimacy when they get there. Brown couldn't ask for a better motivational ploy.
Texas A&M: Somebody should give Von Miller the gift set of Ndamukong Suh's videos from this season. Miller's return is critical defensively if the Aggies have any hopes of duplicating their offense. If Miller returned for a senior season, it would give the Aggies a big boost towards becoming a potential darkhorse challenger in the Big 12 South. But he's got to be there to help them.
Texas Tech: A little political correctness for Mike Leach. Even though his team seemed to respond after he blasted the size of his players' girlfriends, he still needs to think through his comments sometimes. But don't we all?