Big 12: Atlantic Coast Conference
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
By all accounts, 2008 was a landmark season for Big 12 football.
The unprecedented three-way tie for the South Division championship that involved Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma made the conference must-see television for the second half of the season for fans across the country. Attention was riveted to the conference unlike any previous time in the Big 12's history.
It should be more of the same this season as strong races are expected in both the North and South Divisions.
The conference again will feature cutting-edge offensive units that will score boatloads of points and be powered by the most talented collection of quarterbacks that can be found anywhere.
Those numbers are nice, but the Big 12's lack of defensive production is the main reason I still think it ranks behind the Southeastern Conference.
The top athletes in the Big 12 are clustered on offensive units, helping to result in shootouts.
In the SEC, those same athletes seem to end up playing defense. It might not be as much fun to watch, but the physical nature is apparent.
In recent bowl games, the Big 12 has struggled to match that defensive nature of the SEC for many statement-making victories. Oklahoma's loss to Florida in the BCS title game and Texas Tech's defeat to Mississippi in the Cotton Bowl last year indicated there's still a gap between defenses found in the SEC and the Big 12.
The SEC also has a deeper concentration of top teams, as seen by its four teams in the top 10 when the USA Today coaches' poll was released earlier today.
It doesn't mean the Big 12 won't be exciting or fun to watch this season. Because it will be -- again.
But until Big 12 teams can notch some statement-making victories where defense isn't an afterthought, its national perception will continue to lag behind the SEC's.
The rest of the nation is no comparison. Big 12 teams can occasionally win their BCS bowl games, unlike the ACC. It might not have the fancy television network of the Big Ten, but has a more exciting brand of football to showcase. And it's not nearly as top heavy as the Pac-10 with its concentration of USC and Oregon at the top and little balance after.
Here's my ranking of the top eight conferences heading into the upcoming season
- Big 12
- Big Ten
- Big East
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
All right Big 12 fans, don't say that the ESPN.com football pundits didn't keep you on the edge of your seat.
Pat Forde, Mark Schlabach and Ivan Maisel attacked an interesting proposition, choosing the top programs if the FBS was being winnowed to 40 members.
The Big 12 finished with eight teams selected, including three of the final four picks. Don't say that we at ESPN.com don't enjoy a little finely-crafted drama from the live chat from their 40-team draft, which played out at this link.
Here are the Big 12 teams and where they were picked in the draft.
25. Texas Tech
26. Oklahoma State
39. Texas A&M
And for the fans of the other four schools -- Baylor, Colorado, Iowa State and Kansas State -- I wish my deepest sympathies. And please send the irate e-mails to the panel members and not to me.
The late run enabled the Big 12 to have the second-most schools picked in the relegation game than any other conference, trailing only nine picks from the SEC. The Pac-10, Big Ten and ACC had six schools apiece, two from the Mountain West and one each from the WAC, Big East and from the independents.
I wasn't surprised that the three power teams in the Big 12 were picked as high as they were. And South Division powers Texas Tech and Oklahoma State were actually picked a tad earlier than I might have expected. And the run of the three late schools might have showed that the esteemed panel might have been using some collective notes.
But having eight teams picked in this game is a pretty good indication of the Big 12's stature among national powers.
Truthfully, it's one or two more Big 12 schools than I expected would be picked.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's the end of a long grueling week for me after the media days. I'm still having flashbacks about too many coaching clichés and too much Dr Pepper after I finally got home last night.
But there were a nice collection of links across the blogosphere today to finish my week.
There is one that I bet will provide a little fodder for my friends in Nebraska.
Enjoy the weekend.
- The pundits at the Sporting Blog detail their list of worst coaches in history. And, yes, Bill Callahan is mentioned rather prominently.
- More than 2,500 mourners -- including former coach Barry Switzer and teammate Brian Bosworth -- attended Rick Bryan's funeral in Coweta, Okla., John Hoover of the Tulsa World reports. Bryan, a former two-time All-American at Oklahoma, died Sunday at the age of 47.
- The Birmingham News' Jon Solomon writes about speculation that the Atlantic Coast, Pac-10 and Big 12 conferences are working on a collective television network for their schools.
- Mike Finger of the Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News provides a primer on the five most-predictable questions he repeatedly heard during the recent Big 12 media days.
- Good story by Samuel McKewon of the Nebraska State Paper. He analyzes the role of walk-on players in Nebraska's football program.
- Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder told the Tulsa World's Bill Haisten that the school has already sold a record number of season tickets for the upcoming season and should finish by selling at least 42,000.
- The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel was frozen by Bill Snyder's conversational curveball at the Big 12 media days.
- Playmaking defensive back Lavocheya Cooper of Arp, Texas, committed to Oklahoma State, the Oklahoman's Brandon Chatman reports. Cooper chose the Cowboys over Iowa, Missouri, Utah, TCU, Houston and Baylor.
- The Austin American-Statesman's Randy Riggs profiles multi-tattooed Texas Tech offensive lineman Brandon Carter.
- Kansas City Star Big 12 beat writer Blair Kerkhoff compares Bill Snyder before and after his coaching sabbatical.
- USA Today's Brent Foster provides an extensive team-by-team breakdown of the Big 12.
- Mammoth 6-foot-9, 305-pound Colorado tackle Nate Solder still appears to be growing, the Denver Post's Jim Armstrong reports.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Trying to earn more television money while maximizing exposure for his schools is taking much of Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe's attention these days.
Beebe called working on settling that television question as the "major issue" that currently is facing him in his role as the conference's chief executive officer.
"I think that's fair to say because it was such a strong proponent of what put us together in the conference in the first place," Beebe said. "The origins of this conference was to get together to find a more valuable spot in the marketplace. We need all the platforms we can get for the quality of play that all of our student-athletes provide."
The Big 12 was formed in a marriage between the old Big Eight Conference and four schools from the old Southwest Conference because of vanishing spots in the market for those conferences in the mid-1990s.
A similar concern could be facing the Big 12 in the immediate future as it lags behind the megabuck contracts recently earned by the Southeastern and the Big Ten conferences that have helped propel those conferences to preeminent spots in college athletics.
"We can't deny it," Beebe said. "I give them a lot of credit for what they have been able to achieve. It's up to us to try to compete with that. It certainly concerns me there's going to be so much exposure of SEC product and Big Ten Network in this part of the country. And part of my charge will be how we will be able to compete with that in the future."
Several reports indicate there has been discussion among the Big 12, Pac-10 and Atlantic Coast conferences to provide a new television network with programming from two or perhaps three of the conferences in a consortium. Beebe said that the Big 12 must be creative in looking for ways to remain viable in the changing economic marketplace.
"I think we have to look at strategic partnerships with whomever, whether it's on the media side or the content owners (conferences) to find out what would be best for us," Beebe said. "I don't discount any scenario in that regard. Looking at a partnership with other conferences is something we'll have to take a close look at. Maybe there's something there that would work out for all of us."
Beebe conducted his press conference late Tuesday at the new Dallas Cowboys' stadium in Arlington. The facility will serve as the home of the next two Big 12 championship game and the site for three regular-season games involving Big 12 teams this season.
Big 12 officials like many things about the new stadium. The facility's location, its ability to accommodate more than 80,000 fans and the ability to stage games in climate-controlled conditions are particularly attractive. The conference already has forged a working relationship with the Cowboys as the Big 12 will serve as the sponsoring entity for the NCAA men's basketball Final Four in 2014 when it comes to facility.
The new stadium also will serve as the home of the Cotton Bowl beginning in January. The bowl hopes that moving to the new facility will boost its chances of elbowing its way into the rotation of BCS bowl locations -- although the BCS likely will not expand before its current contract expires in 2014.
"If there's going to be an expansion of games in the BCS, we're certainly going to be adamant about that including a bowl in our region," Beebe said. "This would be highly attractive with the kind of facility we have here. The Cotton Bowl is our Tier I partner and we would try to accommodate that."
Beebe said he hopes the conference will have agreements with its bowl partners by the start of the football season with plans to take them for approval to the conference's board of directors at its October meeting.
"Our bowl partners have been tremendous," Beebe said. "The addition of the Gator Bowl has been very great for us. I wish I was this desired when I was a single man. There are a lot of bowls interested in coming after us and we're very fortunate in that regard."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
After watching Big 12 games last season, I got the idea that the league was one where offenses dominated and defensive coordinators grew old very quickly.
But I didn't realize how much Big 12 offenses ruled until I looked at the numbers compared to the rest of the country.
The NCAA broke down all of the 2008 statistics on a conference-by-conference extrapolation. I then pulled out a calculator to delve deeper than the surface numbers.
The Big 12 led every conference in almost every major offensive statistic. Some of these margins were by an unexpectedly large margin.
Take average number of plays. Here's how the conferences rank on a per-game, per-team basis.
Big 12 71.0
Conference USA 69.9
Mountain West 69.1
Sun Belt 68.5
Big Ten 68.3
Western Athletic 67.4
Big East 66.1
Atlantic Coast 65.2
NATIONAL AVG 67.7
The statistics indicate the Big 12 ran 1.59 percent more plays than its next closest rival and was 4.93 percent above the national average.
Punting also provides another interesting comparison. The Big 12 ranks last among conferences in average punts per game. Here's a look at the national average in per-team punts per game.
Sun Belt 5.1
Western Athletic 5.0
Big Ten 5.0
Atlantic Coast 4.9
Big East 4.7
Mountain West 4.7
Conference USA 4.6
Big 12 3.7
NATIONAL AVG. 4.7
The Big 12 has fewer punts -- by a huge margin over any other conference. It's 27.45 percent below the national leader and one full punt per game below the national average.
The Big 12 also led the nation convincingly in most yards per team. Here's a look at the national per-team, per-game averages.
Big 12 439.6
Conference USA 401.8
Sun Belt 378.2
Western Athletic 370.2
Mountain West 368.8
Big Ten 367.2
Big East 360.9
Atlantic Coast 329.1
NATIONAL AVG. 371.6
Again, the Big 12 has a huge edge over the rest of the country. The per-team per-game total offense total is 9.41 percent above its next closest finisher, 18.3 percent above the national average and 33.6 percent above the last-place finisher's average.
Scoring again was led by the Big 12. Here's a per-conference, per-team, per game comparison.
Big 12 35.6
Conference USA 28.8
Western Athletic 26.7
Big Ten 26.6
Mountain West 26.4
Sun Belt 26.2
Big East 25.3
Atlantic Coast 24.0
NATIONAL AVG. 27.2
The Big 12's figures were a whopping 23.6 percent over second-place Conference USA, 30.9 percent above the national average and 58.9 percent above the scoring done by independents.
Here's how the conferences ranked on a yards-per-play average.
Big 12 6.19
Conference USA 5.75
Sun Belt 5.52
Western Athletic 5.50
Big East 5.46
Big Ten 5.35
Mountain West 5.33
Atlantic Coast 5.03
NATIONAL AVG. 5 49
The Big 12's average per play ranked 7.65 percent above its closest contender, 12.8 percent above the national average and 23.1 percent above the lowest finisher among the conferences.
It will be interesting to see if the Big 12 offenses can maintain that domination next season. With the strong cast of returning quarterbacks, it wouldn't surprise me if it is similarly skewed next season.