Big 12: Billy Gillespie
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It wouldn't be a Friday afternoon without answering some reader mail. Here are some of the missives I've received during the last few days.
Scott Sauer of Norman, Okla., writes: Hey Tim! You should join Twitter. It would be a lot of fun to follow you for this upcoming season as your travel around the Big12 and cover games! I really enjoy your columns. Keep up the good work, Tim.
Tim Griffin: Scott, I appreciate your kind words. And like coaches and athletes around the country, I will be Twittering, or is it Tweeting, once the season begins. Look for our coverage of college football to expand during the upcoming season and that's one of the ways. I'll let you know more details as they occur.
Tim Garrison writes: Tim, does it seem to you that the sports writers on ESPN are already promoting Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy for the bronze trophy? If so why are they leaving out Bradford and other great players? Thanks and enjoy your blog!
Tim Griffin: I don't think that we are shaping the minds of voters yet. I do know that Colt McCoy had a trip to Bristol this past week to appear on a variety of programs while there. It's not unusual for players or coaches to do that. Gary Pinkel went to ESPN's studios during his team's off-week during the season to meet some of our people.
I really don't think any preseason publicity any candidate will receive will amount to much difference. I still think that most voters are cognizant of their actions on the field and the Heisman (which I presume is the bronze trophy you are talking about) will be settled that way.
Mike from Iowa writes: I live in Iowa but am a devoted Husker fan. Over the years, most of my friends and me have gotten into an argument about which program is better. So who in your opinion over the last 10 years has had a better program? Nebraska or Iowa?
Tim Griffin: Mike, sounds like it might be a little difficult convincing the natives. And hopefully, you didn't have any more wagered on this other than a pork tenderloin or a loosemeat sandwich from the Maid-Rite. But over the last 10 years, Nebraska has been better than Iowa, in my opinion.
At the start of the survey period, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz took over and struggled to 1-10 and 3-9 records in 1999 and 2000. Nebraska never won fewer than five games in any of those periods.
During the 10-year period you asked about, Iowa was 70-53 with a 4-3 record in bowl games. They made one trip to a BCS bowl game, losing to USC in the 2003 Orange Bowl.
Nebraska was 86-41 during that period with a 5-3 bowl record. Although the Cornhuskers had three head coaches during that period in Frank Solich, Bill Callahan and Bo Pelini, they did make two BCS bowl trips, winning over Tennessee in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl after the 1999 season and losing to Miami in the 2002 Rose Bowl for the national championship game.
And Nebraska's record is similar skewed towards the early years. Solich's first three teams had a combined record of 33-5.
So if you take the first three years of the equation out, Iowa has the most recent success. The Hawkeyes have a 59-29 record during that period, compared with a 53-36 record for the Cornhuskers.
But you specifically asked about the last 10 years. So when those first three seasons are included, I think you've got to say Nebraska was the more dominant national program.
Brett from Houston writes: I think it would be interesting if you performed some statistics on your "Lunch Links" and articles you post on your blog. What percentage of articles/links is devoted to which teams in the last couple of months? How about crafting one of your famous charts to tell us which Big 12 school gets the most love in your blog?
Tim Griffin: Brett, you raise an interesting question and it kind of asks in an indirect way where my primary sources of information are.
As far as my lunchtime links go, I try to spread them around to each school as evenly as possible. And I think I do a pretty good job of going to some mainstream media sources, but also some lesser-traveled parts of the blogosphere for coverage.
As such, I'm kind of at the mercy of those schools that receive the most coverage during the offseason. I think it's pretty clear to me that Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State consistently receive the most extensive daily coverage in their local newspapers of any Big 12 teams.
That's why the daily links sometimes seem so heavily skewed heavily to those schools -- mainly because those programs are the ones that are being written about most on a daily basis.
I'll try to look into what you said, because I also think it would be an interesting survey. And I'm always looking for another chart!
Heather for Austin writes: Tim, I keep hearing it reported that this year's Texas vs. OU game will be played at the new Cowboys stadium in Arlington, but I could have sworn that the game was still being played at the State Fair's Cotton Bowl. What's the correct story?
Tim Griffin: Heather, rest assured that the Texas-Oklahoma game will be played in the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 17. Next time you're through there you might want to find a parking spot for the game. It's never too early.
But officials from both schools and the city of Dallas signed a contract in 2007 that will keep the game at Fair Park through 2015.
The Dallas Cowboys' new stadium will offer all of the bells and whistles imaginable. But there's still something to be said about playing the Texas-Oklahoma game at the venerable Cotton Bowl with the State Fair of Texas as the backdrop.
It's when I allow myself to have my one corny dog of the year. I couldn't think of staging that game without the taunts and heckling I hear every year on the midway before and after the game. It quite simply is the most unique backdrop for any sports event I've ever experienced. And the game would be lessened immeasurably if it ever was to move.
Spencer from Iowa City, Iowa writes: Tim, I'm thinking a lot about the 2009 college football season, and one of the things that I can't decide is if Texas or Oklahoma is better. I know that the Sooners lose a lot of offensive linemen and wide receivers, and Texas loses a lot on their defensive line. Who do you think will be better, and why?
Tim Griffin: Spencer, first of all, I'm thinking a lot about the 2009 season, too. I wish it started this weekend, to be exact.
But to answer your question, I give Texas the slimmest of margins over the Sooners because I think their defensive line will prove to be too difficult for the young Oklahoma offensive line to contain. I think everything else about cancels the other factors out. I expect the Sooners to be much better on defense this season. I think one critical part to watch for Oklahoma will be improvement in the special teams. That was a huge liability for them all season. The Jordan Shipley kickoff return against them last year turned the game around.
I know Bob Stoops will be working his group with zest and fervor to try to get those special-teams shortcomings straightened out all through fall camp. I think growth in that unit could be the key for the Sooners to turn around their recent slump against Texas that has seen them lose three of the last four games in the series to the Longhorns.
kerman from Atlanta, Ga., writes: Hi Tim, as a Husker fan in ACC/SEC country, your blog helps me stay abreast of Big 12 news. Thanks for all of the great content. When I assess Nebraska's 2009 schedule, I see five home games they should win: the three against Sun Belt foes, and the two versus Big 12 teams in transition (ISU and KSU). I also doubt NU can beat either of its likely Top 10 opponents: Virginia Tech and Oklahoma. To me the remaining five games on the schedule are all swing games that will define the Huskers? How do you envision them faring in these contests? 1) @ Missouri 2) Texas Tech 3) @ Baylor 4) @ Kansas 5) @ Colorado. I wonder if you could rank your chances of them winning all of those games in order.
Tim Griffin: Justin, thanks for the kind words. Here is the way I would rank the games in order of difficulty, with the easiest first.
1. Texas Tech: Division-winning teams are supposed to win home games like this.
2. At Baylor: The Bears will be better, but Nebraska still should win this one.
3. At Missouri: I know the game will be on Thursday night, but it will be the first major conference test for Blaine Gabbert. And something tells me that Bo Pelini will have his defense watching the films of last year's game for inspiration leading into the game.
4. At Kansas: The Jayhawks will likely be desperate for a victory considering their tough South Division schedule. But if Nebraska can rush Todd Reesing like last season, they might have a better chance to sneak out with an upset than some might think.
5. At Colorado: I think the Buffaloes will be ready for this game this season. The two teams were very close last season and I think playing at altitude might benefit the Buffaloes this time around.
David Gibson of Vernon, Texas, writes: When will the first (preseason or whatever) 2009 college football poll be released? By whom? Thanks.
Tim Griffin: David, I take it that you are talking about the two major polls that most people consider as the most reputable -- the Associated Press media poll and the USA Today coaches' poll.
I don't have the exact dates that they will run, but typically the coaches' poll comes out in early August, usually on a Friday morning. The AP media poll will be released a couple of weeks later, usually on a Saturday a week or so before the season starts.
Several of my readers wrote to disagree with my stance on preseason polls. They do play an important part of shaping national perception and if we backed off on them for a couple of weeks into the season, it would drastically change them.
But they also add excitement to the month of August. Every college football fan voraciously devours those polls. They are curious where their teams are ranked, as well as others. I think we would missing out on something if we stopped this. That's why I would hope that they remain.
Chuck Roberts of Dallas writes: Seriously, what is the deal with coaches not signing their contracts? I don't think Bob Huggins signed his during his brief stay at K-State. Billy Gillespie may be wishing he'd signed his at Kentucky. I've always wondered why the schools go ahead and pay the coaches when they haven't signed their contracts. It seems to me they should withhold the paycheck until the contract is signed. That would get some results. What do you think?
Tim Griffin: Chuck, I agree with you. I find it hard to believe that anybody would ever leave the opportunity of confirming a multi-million dollar contract with a simple signature won't take the time to do it. But then, I'm sure most of them are in a different income-tax bracket than either me and you are, aren't they?
Thanks again for all of the good questions this week. Enjoy the weekend and I look forward to more next week.