Big 12: Austin Arnaud
That's how it goes, right?
College basketball is over, but brackets live on forever. Or something. Anyway, inspired by our friends over at the SEC blog, we'll try our hand at a little bracketology on the football field.
What if the Big 12 played a single-elimination tournament?
Ten-team brackets are a little unusual and more complex than the NCAA Tournament bracket, so if you're unfamiliar, we'll be working off this bracket.
I seeded the tournament based on my pre-spring power rankings (which, admittedly, have fluctuated already since January) and in true NCAA Tournament fashion, all the games will be played on neutral sites. Additionally, these games will be played riiiiight ... now!
That means no incoming freshmen unless they enrolled early, and no time to settle position battles, get players healthy or improve.
Wrenches being thrown everywhere! The humanity!
So ... here we go.
No. 7 Texas Tech vs. No. 10 Kansas: Texas Tech may be breaking in a new quarterback, trying to work with new receivers and giving the ball to inexperienced running backs (albeit backs loaded with potential) but the Red Raiders should win this one easily. Kansas doesn't have the skill position talent to exploit the Red Raiders' defensive weaknesses and won't be able to stop them. Seth Doege has shown signs of being far better than competent, but the same can't be said for Kansas' quarterbacks. The Red Raiders should be pretty good up front and slow the Jayhawks' running backs. Texas Tech 34, Kansas 13
No. 8 Kansas State vs. No. 9 Iowa State: Last year's Farmageddon was an underrated game in terms of entertainment, but both teams lost their workhorses. Alexander Robinson and Daniel Thomas won't face off in this one, but Kansas State is the only team in the Big 12 who hasn't started spring practice yet. Undone by unforeseen scheduling! The Wildcats' revolving door of quarterbacks can't find a rhythm against the Cyclones, who use Jerome Tiller like Nebraska used Taylor Martinez last year and zone read the Wildcats with Tiller and Shontrelle Johnson for the upset win. Iowa State 21, Kansas State 17
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 9 Iowa State: Last year, Oklahoma beat these guys 52-0 in Norman. It won't be that bad this time, but the Sooners return just about everybody (save the secondary) and Iowa State lost its two best players, Austen Arnaud and Robinson. Sometimes, it's just that simple. Oklahoma 48, Iowa State 13
No. 2 Texas A&M vs. No. 7 Texas Tech: Texas A&M's deep receiving corps has worked together for awhile and can definitely take advantage of Texas Tech's youth in the secondary. The Red Raiders' safeties had a nice spring and did a nice job grasping new defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow's system from TCU, but the Aggies just have too many offensive weapons. Another big day for Tannehill, who won't touch his school-record 449 yards like he did last time against Tech in his first career start, but he clears 300 yards. Texas A&M 31, Texas Tech 21
No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 6 Baylor: Baylor got steamrolled in their first big test once they climbed atop the Big 12 South standings, falling behind 34-0 in Stillwater. Both teams bring back loads of talent, and Baylor's defense should be slightly improved, but still learning. Baylor learns from the big-game failures from last year, but Oklahoma State is still the better, more balanced team. Oklahoma State 38, Baylor 35
No. 4: Missouri vs. No. 5 Texas: The one game this round that didn't happen last year, Texas will have a tough time capitalizing on Missouri's two big question marks: Quarterback and secondary. Missouri goes with Tyler Gabbert for most of the game and mixes in James Franklin for a few series with good results. Texas tests the Tigers' deep with a newly aggressive offense, but none of the quarterbacks even came close to completing a deep ball on Sunday. Kip Edwards grabs a couple picks on balls forced into Mike Davis and the Tigers get enough offense for the win. Missouri 27, Texas 14
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Missouri: Missouri won't have a raucous crowd or a locker room bent on beating OU for the first time under their current coach this time around. Missouri hangs around early, but the Tigers don't have enough offense. Although Oklahoma is playing without All-Big 12 corner Jamell Fleming, Missouri still doesn't have a deep threat or a quarterback quite comfortable with trying to find one. The Sooners zero in on T.J. Moe and the running game and knock off the Tigers. Oklahoma 31, Missouri 24
No. 2 Texas A&M vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State: These two weren't separated by much last year, and I'd have loved to see them play one more time. Their 38-35 classic last year was one of the league's best games and both teams look loaded up for another big year. A&M still has defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, but Oklahoma State lost Dana Holgorsen. Bad news? Yes. But the good news for Oklahoma State is Texas A&M is missing three starters from the secondary this spring. Play this thing in July and we might have another classic. But now? Another heartbreak for the Aggies. Oklahoma State 34, Texas A&M 31
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State: Bedlam may very well decide the Big 12 title next November, and it decides our little bracket party here with a spring tournament. Both offenses are breaking in new offensive coordinators, but Oklahoma's Josh Heupel is much more ingrained in the system than Oklahoma State's Todd Monken, who was being taught the offense by the current Cowboys this spring. Both offenses lost big-name running backs, and both have solid replacements in line with depth. Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle at Oklahoma State match up well with Oklahoma's Roy Finch, Brandon Williams and Brennan Clay. Both have receiver depth and Oklahoma State should have an advantage against a young OU secondary. The league's co-Defensive Players of the Year, S Tony Jefferson of Oklahoma and LB Shaun Lewis of Oklahoma State, validate the award with big nights. But Oklahoma State has to convince me that it can win a big game with so much (humor me, here) on the line. It played well in last year's Bedlam but came up short. They're even closer this time, but Oklahoma takes home the title in another classic. Oklahoma 41, Oklahoma State 38 (OT)
Luther, take it away!
Here's the latest four-star viewer's guide for the games of the weekend. Plan your honey-dos and set your tape recorders accordingly.
A ranking of four stars indicates must-see television, and maybe even a game tape to be savored by more devoted viewers later in the week. Three-star games are worth the investment in time. Two-star games bear a quick glimpse or two for occasional score updates. And one-star games are indications that your time might be better spent at your kids’ soccer games.
All starting times are Eastern.
Four -star games
Texas at Oklahoma State (8 p.m, ABC/ESPN2/360): The Longhorns’ toughest remaining obstacle to the Big 12 title will come Saturday night in Stillwater. Mike Gundy has done a masterful job of keeping his team together despite injuries and suspensions, but this might be a little bit much to overcome. Mack Brown has an 11-0 record against OSU and has won games in almost every way imaginable against the Cowboys. Can his luck hold for another year?
Kansas State at Oklahoma (7 p.m.): The Wildcats will try to maintain their surprise North Division lead by coming into Owen Field. It will be an intriguing battle between teacher and pupil as Bill Snyder squares off against the most successful of his coaching protégés -- Bob Stoops. The Sooners’ offensive line has been playing better but will be tested against KSU’s emerging defensive front.
Iowa State at Texas A&M (3:30 p.m.): This game has suddenly gotten more interesting as both teams notched impressive upsets last week. Iowa State should have starting quarterback Austen Arnaud back in the lineup against a Texas A&M defense that still is streaky. The secret for ISU coach Paul Rhoads in this game will be for his offense to dominate time of possession and keep A&M’s surging offense off the field.
Kansas at Texas Tech (3:30 p.m., ABC/360): The Jayhawks absolutely, positively need this game. And they are hitting Texas Tech at the wrong time only a week after the Red Raiders were embarrassed in the trenches by Texas A&M. Mike Leach can make light about his team’s struggles listening to their corpulent girlfriends, but bet that his message has been a lot sterner behind closed doors this week. Tech freshman QB Seth Doege will get the start in what should be an entertaining offensive shootout.
Missouri at Colorado (1:30 p.m.): Amazingly, neither team is out of the North race yet. But the loser of this game will be facing some almost insurmountable odds. I’m curious to see if Blaine Gabbert can rebound to his form of the nonconference and also how the Buffaloes respond to Dan Hawkins’ impassioned speech earlier this week.
Nebraska at Baylor (12:30 p.m.): Maybe this is the week that Cody Green finally gets to start -- or at least to play -- for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are playing with their backs against the wall after back-to-back home losses, but this team has responded well in previous road games this season. They shouldn’t face too much of a challenge from a Baylor team that is struggling offensively without Robert Griffin and will be starting Nick Florence.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It wasn't that long ago that the bedrock of the Nebraska football program was its imposing offensive and defensive lines. The Cornhuskers' weight-training program was the foundation of a program that claimed a share of three national championships during a four-season period in the 1990s under former coach Tom Osborne.
Lincoln Journal Star columnist Steven Sipple had an interesting point today about why the Cornhusker program has atrophied in recent seasons.
The Cornhuskers haven't had an all-conference offensive lineman since Toniu Fonoti in 2001 and an all-league defensive lineman since Steve Warren in 1999.
Bo Pelini has his work cut out as he tries to rebuild the once-proud Cornhusker program. But here's a suggestion for the new Nebraska coach: Be sure your team gets a heaping dose of Big 12 links every morning. Because like Wonder Bread, they help build strong bodies 12 ways.
Here's a little nourishment this morning for the Cornhuskers -- and for everybody else.
- Texas LB Sergio Kindle is excited about his role in new coordinator Will Muschamp's defense. "I could scream, but I won't do that. I'm excited," Kindle told the San Antonio Express-News' Natalie England. "I love rushing. The quarterback is going to be my prey. I'm the predator."
- The Des Moines Register's Andrew Logue answered a variety of Iowa State questions in his weekly Tuesday afternoon chat. Among the notables, Logue gives QB Austin Arnaud a slight edge in the quarterback battle and says finding a kicker will be critical over the next two weeks.
- Wyoming transfer Aric Goodman is in line to earn Colorado's starting kicking job. And he's earned the nickname "Money" from his teammates because of his consistency so far in practice.
- Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder said the construction date of the Cowboys' indoor practice facility likely will be pushed back because a hit in Boone Pickens' hedge fund caused by recent fluctuations in oil prices. Work had been scheduled to begin on Oct. 1.
- Ah, the days of summer. Colorado players are set for a trip to Water World Wednesday afternoon after cooling down following Tuesday's practice with a water balloon fight.
- Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray was back at practice Tuesday after missing two days with a sprained ankle.
- New Kansas State offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero has helped QB Josh Freeman become perhaps the most improved Kansas State player compared to last year, KSU coach Ron Prince told Jeffrey Martin of the Wichita Eagle. Yes, the same Freeman who set the school record with 3,353 passing yards last season.
- Missouri TE Chase Coffman is expected back in practice in about a week after undergoing surgery Tuesday to repair a broken right pinky finger.
- Special air-cooled vests developed by Nike are helping Oklahoma beat the heat at practice this summer.
- Derrick Washington is poised to emerge as Missouri's top running threat to replace Tony Temple. Washington's value, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune's Dave Matter, is boosted by his pass-catching abilities.
- Kansas State coach Ron Prince's new contract gives him the ability to walk away to another job without a buyout, according to the Manhattan Mercury. Prince's new deal also substantially raises his potential bonuses and boosts his budget for assistant coaching salaries by $99,000 per year.
- Heralded Baylor WR David Gettis has never lived up to the recruiting hype. New coach Art Briles is intent on changing that. "God was good to him," Briles told the Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner. "We need to make God smile."
- Missouri QB Chase Daniel thinks that EA Sports did a good job in replicating him in "NCAA Football 09."
- Texas coaches are toying with the use of bullish 255-pound TB Cody Johnson in some speciality situations.
- Texas Tech has broken a school record for season tickets with 41,173, and has sold at least 43,000 tickets for each of its seven 2008 home games.
- Texas Tech TB Aaron Crawford provides something a little different from the Red Raiders' glut of other backs. "The thing I like about him is he gets downhill hard," Tech running backs coach Seth Littrell told Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. "He's not going to be a flashy guy, where he's going to make a bunch of jukes and stuff. He runs physical. He runs extremely hard. He makes plays just by being powerful."
- Baylor coach Art Briles told the Houston Chronicle's Joseph Duarte that he might delay his decision on a starting quarterback until just before pregame warm-ups of the Bears' Aug. 28 opener against Wake Forest. "Seriously, I wish I was kidding," Briles said.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Midwest is known for having straight-talking, plain-spoken people who like their football. As such, here's a six-pack of quick predictions on the Big 12 North. Please feel free to keep these around for posterity throughout the season, congratulating me on the ones I nailed and conveniently forgetting about the ones I am sure to whiff on.
1. Missouri will be a better team this season than last season. The Tigers have quarterback Chase Daniel and do-everything offensive threat Jeremy Maclin back, too. But the biggest reason I expect to see improvement by the Tigers into a BCS bowl game is because of the development of their defense.
2. Even with players like Daniel, Michael Crabtreee, Graham Harrell and Sam Bradford returning across the Big 12, the most valuable player in the Big 12 will be Nebraska RB Marlon Lucky. The Cornhuskers desperately need him to match or surpass what he's accomplished for them before. A consistent running game will be important as new Nebraska coach Bo Pelini tries to mask the deficiencies of his defense. The best way to do that will be a solid ball-control offense led by Lucky.
3. Kansas' record won't be nearly as good as last year. The Jayhawks benefitted by a taffy pull that masqueraded as a cross-conference schedule in 2007. That changes this year with the arrival of Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech back for the Jayhawks.
4. Colorado's biggest strength coming into the season will be continuity in its coaching staff. For the first time in 20 seasons, Colorado hasn't had to replace any coaches over the off-season. That will be a huge plus in Coach Dan Hawkins' third season directing the program.
5. Iowa State will be hamstrung by Coach Gene Chizik's intention to play both Austin Arnaud and Phillip Bates at quarterback. He needs to pick one player and use him for most of his snaps. The old coaching adage about two starting quarterbacks being one too many should be something Chizik should consider in building his program. Just ask his old boss, Texas coach Mack Brown.
6. The Big 12's warmest hot seat is at Kansas State, where Ron Prince needs to take the Wildcats to a bowl game this season. A boatload of junior college transfers and an easier nonconference schedule should benefit him. But Prince likely needs to win three conference games to go bowling, and that could be asking a lot from his current group.
Questions, questions, everybody has questions with the start of football about six weeks away. The North Division should have as many as any other place in college football, so here are some major ones that the teams need to settle for success in 2008.
1. Can linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Van Alexander return to health to provide Missouri with two needed playmakers to help spark continued defensive improvement?
3. Will Bo Pelini be able to cook up some playmaking production for his Nebraska defense after the Cornhuskers' struggles last season? Nebraska produced only 13 sacks and 11 turnovers last season. If that total doesn't improve, don't look for as many Nebraska fans to be wearing those "ReBOrn" T-shirts as you see around Lincoln today.
4. Can Colorado quarterback Cody Hawkins become a more efficient leader and steer away from the mistakes that proved troublesome last season? Hawkins completed 22 touchdown passes, but was intercepted 17 times. That ratio must improve or Hawkins' dad, Colorado coach Dan Hawkins, will be feeling most of the heat.
5. Are there enough offensive replacements on Iowa State's roster to make up for the loss of the pitch-and-catch tandem of quarterback Brett Meier and wide receiver Todd Blythe? The duo combined to rewrite the Cyclones' record book during their careers. Either Austin Arnaud or Phillip Bates will get the first crack at quarterback and Marquis Hamilton has the kind of big body required to replace Blythe.
6. Will the arrival of 19 junior-college players prove to be a quick fix for Kansas State coach Ron Prince, or will it be his last gasp at trying to start his program? Or, for that matter, will there be any future seasons for Prince, who finished with a thud last year with a season-ending four-game losing streak?