Big 12: Bobby Petrino
- No changes.
- Head coach Art Briles was reportedly contacted by Arkansas and Texas Tech, but signed a new extension with Baylor and hasn't expressed interest in any jobs or admitted to any interviews.
- No changes.
- Head coach Paul Rhoads reportedly drew interest from Wisconsin, but Rhoads went on the record this week to say he has no interest in replacing Bret Bielema in Madison.
- No changes.
- No changes.
- Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel was a candidate for the Louisiana Tech opening last week, but reportedly turned down the job. The Bulldogs eventually hired Skip Holtz to replace Sonny Dykes.
- Co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell has also reportedly drawn interest from other schools, but it sounds like he's staying at Oklahoma.
- Offensive coordinator Todd Monken left to become the head coach at Southern Miss.
- Head coach Mike Gundy reportedly interviewed with both Tennessee and Arkansas and some local reports even indicated that he had accepted the Arkansas job, but they ultimately proved to be false. Gundy has since gone on record saying there's "no question" he'll be the Cowboys' head coach in 2013.
- Defensive coordinator Bill Young on if he'll return next season or retire: "I don’t know, I don’t know," Young told The Oklahoman. "I’m going to think about it."
- Co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin left to become the head coach at Arkansas State.
- Co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite replaces Harsin as the playcaller and will coach quarterbacks now. Texas plans to replace him as running backs coach after the season ends.
- Receivers coach Darrell Wyatt was promoted to co-offensive coordinator.
- Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz reportedly interviewed with Florida International, but removed himself from consideration and will stay at Texas.
- No changes.
- Head coach Gary Patterson was reportedly a leading candidate to replace John L. Smith at Arkansas, but there were no reports of interviews or significant contact between the two parties.
- Head coach Tommy Tuberville left to become the head coach at Cincinnati.
- Offensive coordinator Neal Brown left to become the offensive coordinator at Kentucky on Mark Stoops' staff.
- Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury accepted an offer to replace Tuberville as Tech's head coach.
- Ex-Red Raiders Kevin Curtis and Eric Morris will join Kingsbury's staff. Curtis told reporters he will likely coach the cornerbacks. Morris' role on the staff is still undetermined. He previously coached inside receivers for Mike Leach at Washington State.
- Dana Holgorsen relieved cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts of his duties and moved co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson to defensive playcaller, replacing co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest as playcaller. DeForest is still on staff.
- Graduate assistant Andrew McGee (who led the Big 12 in interceptions at Oklahoma State in 2010, with five) will coach cornerbacks heading into the bowl game, but WVU will find a permanent replacement after the season.
I cast my ballot in the poll, and here's what it looked like. Here's the official poll. I should note, ballots were due before the Bobby Petrino scandal at Arkansas and before I made my spring practice rounds. I'd probably move WVU up a few spots, keep K-State where it is and move Arkansas down about 5-7 spots.
And here's how I voted. (actual ESPN poll ranking in parentheses).
1. USC (1)
2. Alabama (3)
3. LSU (2)
4. Oregon (4)
5. Georgia (6)
6. Oklahoma (5)
7. Arkansas (9)
8. Florida State (7)
9. Michigan State (12)
10. Kansas State (13)
11. West Virginia (11)
12. South Carolina (8)
13. Michigan (10)
14. TCU (14)
15. Stanford (15)
16. Oklahoma State (21)
17. Nebraska (17)
18. Wisconsin (16)
19. Ohio State (20)
20. Boise State (23)
21. Texas (22)
22. Clemson (18)
23. Notre Dame (24)
24. Louisville (NR)
25. Florida (25)
What's your ballot look like?
Really, though, it was a matter of time. Flirtations with A&M? An eventual breakup?
Mike Gundy loves Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State loves Mike Gundy.
They'll be together for eight years and Gundy will be paid among college football's top 10 coaches after agreeing to a contract extension and a big raise. As it should be.
That's what happens when one pays for the other's education and hires him as a 23-year-old assistant coach and 27-year-old offensive coordinator.
And that's what happens when a 44-year-old head coach (yes, he's a man) guides his alma mater to the two best seasons in school history in consecutive years.
These two belong together. Gundy, who hired agent Jimmy Sexton, grew uncomfortable as the process dragged on during his team's preparations for its Fiesta Bowl date with Stanford.
The Cowboys won to cap the first 12-win season in school history, which coincided with the school's first BCS appearance ever.
Uncomfortable or not, it shouldn't have come to this. "This," though is in the past and Gundy's gotten what's coming to him.
How many coaches have held the same job for seven years and had an equal or better record every season?
Not many, and Gundy's being paid like one. His deal reportedly averages out to about $3.75 million per year, up from $2.1 million this past season.
Kansas' Turner Gill and Texas A&M's Mike Sherman were paid more in 2011. They were both fired after the season. Now, only Texas' Mack Brown and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops are paid more in the Big 12.
Gundy was the 29th-highest paid coach nationally this season, according to USA Today's coaching salary study. His new raise puts him at sixth, ahead of guys like Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, Chip Kelly at Oregon and Bret Bielema at Wisconsin.
Gundy kicked off his career with a four-win season and two seven-win seasons. For some who saw those years, its hard to see Gundy, who first burst on the scene with his polarizing rant, as a coach who has ascended to the coaching elite.
But consider also: Gundy has as many BCS wins now as Petrino and Kelly, who both have earned reputations as offensive virtuosos. He has one more than Bielema, who is 0-2 in two Rose Bowl appearances.
He's developed offensive talent with the best of anyone in the country, sending stars like Dez Bryant, Kendall Hunter, Zac Robinson, Russell Okung and soon to be Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon to the NFL. On the way, he collected bushels-full of wins that Oklahoma State has never seen before.
This has been the best four-year period in the history of Oklahoma State football. Gundy is the biggest reason why.
This took too long. Why Oklahoma State wouldn't want to pay up for as long as possible, especially with more Big 12 money on the way, I have no idea.
But it's done now.
Oklahoma State paid up. Gundy is paid like one of college football's best coaches.
With a résumé like he's put together, with 41 wins, a Big 12 title, a BCS bowl win and a share of the Big 12 South all in the past four years, how else should he be paid?
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Arkansas punt returner Joe Adams made one quick cut between a wall of Kansas State defenders, and sprinted toward the sideline before turning upfield.
Around 40 or so yards later, Adams crossed the goal line and emphatically slammed the ball into the Cowboys Stadium turf.
The Hogs were rolling. They led by double digits. The red half of the 80,956 in attendance was going hog wild.
All that, and Arkansas' offense hadn't even recorded a first down yet on the way to its 29-16 victory over the Wildcats in Friday night's AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic.
So much for Snyderball.
"That's why it's a team game," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "Our defense gave us three points right off the bat. Special teams scored seven."
All season long, Kansas State's physical running offense plodded along to a ninth-place finish in total offense in the pass-happy Big 12 while an opportunistic defense and special teams waited for opponents to make mistakes.
Earlier this season, the Wildcats won four consecutive games as an underdog while also being outgained.
This time, against Arkansas, Kansas State made the mistakes it had collected from opponents all year long.
"We got off to an awfully bad start and really couldn't overcome the damage that we did," said K-State's 72-year-old coaching savant, Bill Snyder, "and most of it was pretty obvious."
Yeah, it was.
On the game's second possession, Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette slipped into the backfield and stripped Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein from behind, but Arkansas' offense couldn't capitalize on the great field position and settled for a 26-yard field goal.
The Wildcats fielded an Arkansas' punt on the next possession at the 3-yard line, getting stuffed at the 4 and tightening up an offense that was bothered by dropped passes for much of the first half.
A predictable three-and-out followed to set up Adams' key return.
"It obviously made a major difference. How did I like it? I didn't like it a bit," Snyder said. "But, you know, we knew he's a talented player. We knew that he could make you miss him. We knew they were probably tired of me talking about being able to contain Joe Adams and not let him bounce the ball outside. Sure enough, he bounced it outside.
"But he's a very, very talented player. That's not the first time he's done that."
In fact, it was the fifth time — and fourth this season, an SEC single-season record. That was highlighted by a work of art against Tennessee in which Adams made approximately 52 tacklers miss on the way to an impossible return that might be the greatest highlight of the 2011 season.
"It was another one of those where you just go, 'Wow!" Petrino said. "You could see when he made the catch he had in mind what he was going to do. ... Joe showed great acceleration, made another spectacular play for us."
Kansas State's special-teams wizardry was muted. Ralph Guidry blocked his fifth kick of the year. Nigel Malone scooped up the extra point and ran it back for two points, but it wasn't enough. The Wildcats' answer for Adams, kick returner Tyler Lockett, dressed but didn't play after suffering a lacerated kidney this season. He ran back two kicks for scores and emerged as the Big 12's most dangerous special-teams player. He could only watch as Adams did to his team what he'd done to so many others in 2011.
"The difference in the game was how well we played on defense and the field position we were able to give our offense," Petrino said.
Kansas State's running game was mostly unproductive foot-shuffling that got it nowhere. The Wildcats carried the ball 40 times for just 86 yards and gave up six sacks.
Like so many other games this season, the Wildcats were outgained. This time, it was 345-260. Unlike so many other games this season, Kansas State couldn't find a way to win. Early mistakes made sure it hardly had a chance. It climbed back to 19-16 before Arkansas' offense, the best in the SEC, started to click.
"This game was about we need to stop this run, stop this quarterback. We tightened them up," Petrino said. "Once it became third down, (our defensive ends) widened out and teed off, made huge plays for us, the turnover early and the sacks."
The mistakes were too much. On an off-night for Kansas State's offense, it had far from enough.
Kansas State and Arkansas left Dallas with a pair of memorable double-digit-victory seasons, but Arkansas, as the three SEC teams in this game before it, will look back fondly on the finale.
"We really wanted to get them 11 wins," said Petrino, who has won 21 games in the past two seasons, giving Arkansas its first 11-win season since 1977 and third in program history. "Make sure that everybody remembered this football team."
Arkansans will. And so will Kansas State.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Arkansas proved it was the better team on Friday night with a performance solid enough to keep Kansas State at an arm's length for most of the night.
Time for some analysis. Plenty more on the way tonight.
How the game was won: Neither team brought its A game, but Arkansas' defense played one of its best games of the season and the Kansas State offense didn't do enough to chase down the Hogs, who jumped out to a 19-0 second-quarter lead, and a late third-quarter score helped put the game out of reach before Kansas State's Anthony Cantele missed a 43-yard kick with 6:36 to play.
Turning point: Kansas State took the momentum with 16 consecutive points to get within 19-16 less than four minutes into the second half, but the Hogs' Tyler Wilson put together a huge drive, going 58 yards in 11 plays to put the lead back to 26-16. He capped it with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Cobi Hamilton and completed 5 of 7 passes for 60 yards on the drive, thanks to penalties.
Stat of the game: Kansas State rushed 40 times for 86 yards. That average of just over 2 yards per carry isn't good enough for K-State's run-oriented offense to have a chance. Credit Arkansas' defense on that one.
Second-guessing: Kansas State's decision to punt to Joe Adams. He was dangerous more in the first half, but he broke a 51-yard return for a score to put Arkansas up 10-0. Kansas State should have known better or avoided him more deliberately. You don't need to look far to see why.
What it means: Arkansas becomes the fourth consecutive SEC team to win the Cotton Bowl and grabs the third 11-win season in school history and first since 1977, a year after making the school's first BCS bowl. Coach Bobby Petrino has the Hogs rolling. They'll come back in 2012 with plenty of potential to chase after an SEC title. Wilson loses three of his top four receivers, but he proved his worth as a quarterback this season.
Kansas State finished with 10 victories, its first double-digit win season since winning the Big 12 in 2003. The Wildcats' pluckiness ran out in this one, and they couldn't earn a seventh win as an underdog this season.
Record performance: Collin Klein became the Big 12's single-season leader for rushing touchdowns with a 6-yard run in the third quarter for his 27th of the season, tying Texas' Ricky Williams.
Record performance II: Adams' first-half punt return was his fourth on the season, giving him the SEC single-season for punt return touchdowns. He has five for his career.
Arkansas running back Knile Davis and Kansas State receiver/kick returner Tyler Lockett were both dressed for the game and went through warmups.
Davis mostly worked with the second team.
Davis suffered a broken ankle in preseason, and coach Bobby Petrino ruled him out, noting that he still had a screw in his ankle from the original surgery. That's now gone, but Davis hasn't been fully removed from the lineup.
Keep an eye on that.
Lockett, meanwhile, suffered a lacerated kidney earlier this season and was considered out for the season, but he's wearing his No. 16 uniform and joined the team for warm-ups.
Lockett emerged this season as Kansas State's biggest home-run hitter on offense and special teams, where he took two kicks back for scores and became the Big 12's best return man.
Davis led Arkansas in rushing last year with 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns, but he hasn't played this season.
Face the facts. It doesn't have the three-letter stamp of approval or the $17 million payout. It doesn't have the shiny logo in the end zone.
It has everything else -- at least, everything else that counts from folks not getting a cut of the bowl money.
The Cotton Bowl isn't a BCS bowl. Yet. But it's the closest thing to it.
It has two top 10 teams. Two BCS bowls can't say that. It's played in an 80,000-seat, shiny new venue that's widely considered the best football stadium in the country. It might very well be filled to the brim on Friday night, as it was in last year's game between Texas A&M and LSU.
We know one BCS bowl definitely can't say that. Tuesday night's Sugar Bowl attracted just 64,512 fans, the third-lowest total in the past 72 years.
It also matches up two teams from college football's two best conferences, the SEC and the Big 12, in the only bowl pairing those leagues.
Should it be in the BCS?
"I only have one answer that I can make here, right? It has to be yes," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder joked on Wednesday.
Joking or not, Snyder says the bowl deserves the designation.
"From the bottom of my heart, I certainly think so," he said. "I think the Cotton Bowl Classic is a bowl deserving to be in the upper echelon of all the bowls throughout the country."
Could that change? The Cotton Bowl hasn't been shy about its desire to be officially designated as one of college football's upper echelon bowls.
Moving out of the stadium for which your game is named and into a primetime slot says plenty. Bowl chairman Tommy Bain said more last year.
"We're really preparing now for 2012 to position ourselves to make a compelling argument that we should be in the mix at the top of the college football landscape," he told the Dallas Morning News.
Well, here it is. Argument made. And it's a strong one.
The BCS exists in its current form until 2014, but the Cotton Bowl's best hope might be the BCS deciding to do away with a rotating national championship game that serves as a second game in the same stadium a week after a BCS bowl.
Instead of the double duty, the Cotton Bowl could become the fifth game. That, however, could renew rifts in conference ties, particularly the Big Ten and Pac-12's deep relationship with the Rose Bowl that was consistently broken before the advent of the additional BCS game in 2007.
The logistics are shaky. The game has to find a place, and there's not a clear one now. But there's no question: Top to bottom, the Cotton Bowl has done its part.
Five years ago, Arkansas played Missouri in this game shortly after the Hogs hired Bobby Petrino. It made an impact on him then, even with its morning kickoff and old home.
"At that time I was kind of surprised that it wasn’t in the BCS," he said. "Certainly we will see what happens here in the near future. Something always changes. That is one thing about college football, there is always going to be something that changes. The way we have been treated here and the move to Cowboys Stadium, I certainly think it will be."
It's not up to Petrino, though. It's not up to the Big 12, either, who would love to welcome a BCS bowl inside its footprint. If you let the ACC and Big East share the Orange Bowl, it joins the Big Ten as the only major conference without a BCS game on its home turf. The Big 12 would love that to change.
Change is slow in the world of college football. And for now, the Cotton Bowl is left at its mercy.
Outside of a top-10 ranking, the first time the Cotton Bowl has hosted such a matchup in 18 years, there's one big similarity: Neither would have been here without Texas A&M.
Hogs coach Bobby Petrino made that clear.
"We came into halftime and we were down 18 points, but our team rallied together. Our leadership really showed up," Petrino said.
Arkansas rallied from the 35-17 deficit at halftime to win 42-38 in the final minutes.
"There have been times in my career when you come in at halftime and you are down like that and people want to point fingers and put blame on somebody else. But it was all positive," Petrino said. "You had [receiver] Jarius Wright telling the offense we needed to find a way to rally and get the ball in the end zone. We had our defensive coaches doing a great job of making adjustments. To be able to really bring out the competitive spirit that our team showed from that point on, I think carried us throughout the season."
Kansas State, meanwhile, rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final six minutes to force overtime in Manhattan against the Aggies. Four overtimes later, the Wildcats stood tall, as 53-50 victors in what was arguably the best game in Big 12 history.
After two consecutive losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the Wildcats needed a win badly. They got it.
"It was a great comeback," Bill Snyder said. "It really solidified the direction that we were going at that time."
Snyder pointed at a dramatic road win over Miami that featured a goal-line stand in the final seconds as the turning point for K-State's season, but the importance of the A&M win was clear.
The Wildcats wouldn't lose again during the regular season, closing the year with close wins over Texas and Iowa State to notch the program's first 10-win season since 2003.
Considering the season began with a fourth-quarter comeback, it's easy to see why Snyder thinks this year's team "has probably come as far as any football team we’ve had up to this point in time."
The Aggies also helped Arkansas reach a 10-win season, preventing a second consecutive loss after Alabama knocked off the Hogs in Tuscaloosa. It even made a big impact on Snyder.
"Watching the tape of the A&M/Arkansas ballgame really gave me a truly dramatic and startling understanding of what Arkansas football was really all about," Snyder said.
Friday, when the two teams meet with matching top 10 rankings and 10-2 records, he'll see for himself, too.
Jan. 6, 8 p.m. (FOX)
Kansas State take from Big 12 blogger David Ubben: Kansas State does it ugly. All the time, every time. But it does it. The Cats are college football's biggest overachievers, and they do it on the back of Collin Klein, who has dragged defenders on his 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame for 1,099 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns. By the way, he's the quarterback. Never mind his wonky delivery. He's gotten better and more accurate as the season has gone on, and somehow has stayed healthy. He just might be the toughest player in college football, and if you're watching K-State's offense, he's probably the guy with the ball in his hand.
Bill Snyder deserves the national coach of the year nod, and the Wildcats have had a defensive renaissance under coordinator Chris Cosh in 2011. This is the same team that gave up more than 3,000 rushing yards last year. Well, sort of. It's not quite the same team. Linebacker Arthur Brown doesn't miss very many tackles and he's one of the Big 12's speediest linebackers. Cornerback Nigel Malone picked off seven passes this year for an All-Big 12 caliber season.
Arkansas take from SEC blogger Edward Aschoff: Before the season, it looked as if coach Bobby Petrino was equipped with his best, most complete team since his arrival in Fayetteville. The defense was easily the best he had, and while quarterback Ryan Mallett was gone, Tyler Wilson appeared to be just as talented, and with their wealth at wide receiver, it didn’t look like the Razorbacks would miss a beat in the passing game. Not to mention Arkansas had one of the SEC’s best in running back Knile Davis.
But days before the season began, the Hogs were dealt a crushing blow when Davis went down with a season-ending ankle injury. With Davis sidelined, the Arkansas offense became more one-dimensional as it searched for a consistent running back. Injuries then took hold of the defense and the Hogs found themselves outmanned in a huge game with Alabama, losing 38-14. The Razorbacks then struggled to get going in the first half of games after that. The slow starts nearly cost them at Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, but things changed during their homecoming game with South Carolina.
The Hogs jumped out quickly against the Gamecocks and never looked back. Starting with that 44-28 win, the Razorbacks won their first three games in November by a combined score of 137-52. Arkansas had an opportunity to shake up the BCS and sneak into the national championship, but fell 41-17 to No. 1 LSU in its season finale. Still, Arkansas had another fine year under Petrino, getting to 10 wins and finishing first in the SEC in total offense (445.8 yards per game).
Stoops was mentioned among the favorites if Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley needed to find a permanent replacement for Meyer.
But when Meyer told reporters Sunday in New Orleans he would like to still coach the Gators, it will mean he'll have to keep his list of replacements unchecked.
Along with Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, Boise State coach Chris Petersen and maybe even former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan or Arizona coach Mike Stoops, the Oklahoma coach would have been a likely candidate to be interviewed for the Gators' head coaching position.
Stoops is familiar with the program after serving as defensive coordinator for three seasons under Steve Spurrier from 1996 until he was hired by the Sooners in 1998 to replace John Blake.
The Oklahoma coach still keeps his condominium in Crescent Beach, Fla., and visits there often with his family.
But Meyer's leave of absence quashes any need for an immediate replacement to coach the Gators.
Sooner fans can be thankful for that announcement.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
ARLINGTON, Texas – As his slump-ridden team fell into another early hole Saturday night, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino was a little worried.
Considering his team had three successive three and outs and produced zero yards on their first nine snaps, Petrino believed his first trip to the Dallas Cowboys Stadium could end up being a long, frustrating night.
|Ronald Martinez/Getty Images|
|Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett rebounded nicely after struggling in the past few games.|
Fortunately for Petrino, quarterback Ryan Mallett was ready. The 6-foot-7 quarterback hooked up with Joe Adams on a 67-yard pass on the first play after those three stalled drives. Three plays later, the Razorbacks scored their first touchdown. And that score sparked an avalanche of 30 consecutive points that boosted the Razorbacks to a convincing 47-19 victory over Texas A&M.
In the process, the Razorbacks were able to blot out bad memories from back-to-back losses to Georgia and Alabama in the last two weeks.
Arkansas likely won't be a contender for the SEC West Division title, but the rebound performance showed the Razorbacks are still a legitimate threat for a bowl trip if they can build on their Saturday night effort.
"I think this helps our confidence a lot,” Petrino said. "We were talking about being a team and taking care of each other and playing together and not hurting ourselves. I think we grew up a little bit tonight."
Petrino said that Mallett showed him during the week that he was intent to bounce back after his struggles at Alabama, where he completed only 12 of 35 passes.
"A game like this will boost your confidence to come out and play 10 times better than we did against Alabama,” said Mallett, who finished with 271 yards and four touchdown passes against a beleaguered A&M secondary. "When we were at Alabama, we didn't have the right juice. We had the right juice here and that's what got us the victory.”
Mallett was understandably contrite last week. But he was able to put aside his own struggles to help his team steamroll to the victory.
His effectiveness at isolating running backs against slower A&M linebackers was particularly noteworthy, as it produced eight of his 17 completions to those backs.
But as big as the turnaround in Mallett's performance was, the Arkansas defense stepping up after being blistered for six touchdowns of at least 40 yards in the last two games was equally of note.
It led Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson to snatch an inspirational page from Howard Beale from the classic movie "Network.”
"I'm as mad as hell and I'm not taking it anymore,” Robinson said. "That's exactly how we felt. We were tired of it. It wasn't like us. We were going to play like we're capable of playing.”
The Aggies were limited to nine points during the rest of the game after A&M jumped to an early 10-0 lead. The quick Razorback defensive front put repeated pressure on Jerrod Johnson, who came into the game third in total offense and 11th in passing efficiency.
Funny thing, however. Playing the Razorbacks was a little different than playing the tissue-soft group of UAB, Utah State and New Mexico that A&M faced to start the season.
The game turned on a critical 14-point swing late in the second quarter with A&M poised to reclaim the lead deep in Arkansas territory. As Johnson was scrambling, he was hit by Arkansas' Tenarius Wright who dislodged the ball. Arkansas outside linebacker Jerry Franklin picked up the fumble -- A&M's first turnover of the season -- and raced untouched for an 85-yard touchdown return.
Arkansas had a 21-10 lead and never looked back from there.
Franklin, a converted high school tight end, flashed a healthy dose of speed on the play.
"It was a huge play for us,” Franklin said. "Our offensive guys were happy to know we had their back. It had been about two years since I scored a touchdown and it felt great."
But as excited as he was about the score, Franklin was more excited about his defense's performance when it most needed it. Together, the Razorbacks helped turn this old rivalry between Southwest Conference foes into a mundane game in the second half when many Aggie fans had already left for the exits.
"We were frustrated the last two weeks because we had given up way too many big plays,” Franklin said. "That made us want to come out and play well tonight. And that's what we did. All of us came together when we really needed it.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Something tells me a calculator might be necessary tonight to keep track of points and yards when Texas A&M and Arkansas meet.
I'll be curious to see how last week's loss to Alabama affects Arkansas' offense.
The Razorbacks ranked No. 2 in the nation coming into last week's game averaging 538 yards and 44.5 points per game. But they were stoned by the Crimson Tide in a 35-7 loss as they were limited to 254 yards and 3.8 yards per snap.
It had to be a major break in the confidence in coach Bobby Petrino's offense. And it will be interesting to see what it will mean to the Razorbacks.
Texas A&M's defense has played well, but hasn't been tested by any offense nearly as proficient as Arkansas' attack keyed by quarterback Ryan Mallett. It will be a huge challenge for the Aggies -- and one that it will be facing on a weekly basis once Big 12 play begins.
The Aggies' fast start offensively hasn't been surprising, considering their early opponents. New Mexico, Utah State and UAB won't be confused for college football's power elite.
That soft schedule has enabled the Aggies to be the only team in the FBS to rank among the top seven teams in rushing, passing, scoring and total offense.
Arkansas' defense will be a step up for those Aggies, but the Razorbacks have had troubles of their own in the last two games. They've allowed an average of 43.5 points per game to Georgia and Alabama and have been singed for six touchdowns of 40 or more yards during those games.
First team to 40 points tonight I think will win. And it wouldn't surprise me if both teams get close in what figures to be a shootout.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are some of the more interesting letters I received from readers this week. Thanks for the good questions and keep them coming. I'll try to answer as many as I can each Friday afternoon.
Trent from Denver writes: Tim, I love your blog and read it daily. Great coverage of the best conference in college football! I've particularly enjoyed yours and the other ESPN college football writers' recent posts about the decline in marquee non-conference scheduling over the past 30 years.
With the strength of the major BCS conferences (especially the Big 12), a team can, and likely will, play for a national championship this season despite scheduling a bunch of non-conference patsies (See, e.g., Longhorns, Texas), which provides little to no incentive for scheduling a tough non-conference game. I don't think teams necessarily need to schedule two or three tough non-conference games each season, but I wish more teams would follow my Cornhuskers' approach and at least schedule one good non-conference game each season. Why don't more teams do this?
Tim Griffin: First of all, thanks for the compliments. I think you bring up a valid point, although it seems like some coaches have decided to completely blow off the nonconference part of the schedule. Some coaches obviously believe they can make up for any deficiencies in their nonconference schedules by the strength of their conference schedule.
Maybe playing in the South Division provides Mack Brown and Texas that kind of confidence. I don't know and I can't answer that for him.
But I do think it will be very interesting to gauge Brown's thoughts about his nonconference schedule on Nov. 7. That's the day the Longhorns host Central Florida. On the same day, Oklahoma will be traveling to Nebraska, Ohio State will visit Penn State, LSU travels to Alabama and USC visits Arizona State. Which team will be getting the least BCS bounce on that date?
Jim Jzar from Grand Junction, Colo., writes: Tim: Isn't it pretty chicken of Colorado to restrict Josh Smith's transfer to only USC? He also listed Arizona State as a school that offered the program he wanted. This isn't like a coach commiting to a school then accepting another job: this is a young man who chose a school, then did better than he had expected in his vocation/hobby (rap music) and decided he should try to develop that. It's a big loss for Colorado, sure, but why should they prevent him from doing the best for himself, his family and his changing life circumstance?
Tim Griffin: I don't know why Mike Bohn and the Colorado program have limited Smith only to USC rather than Arizona State. Obviously, it would be more difficult for Smith to crack the rotation with the Trojans than the Sun Devils. But I still think that Smith's abilities in special teams would make him an attractive addition wherever he might end up.
I'm also a big believer in taking the high road if a player should decide to transfer for whatever reason. Because there's always going to be a bunch of players who watch your actions in how you react to somebody leaving. Taking the high road, I believe, makes a program more attractive to the next group of players who come along.
Andrew from Dallas writes: Hey, Tim, in regards to that story by John P. Lopez you posted from Texags.com. Texas A&M's problems are not due to its academic majors. This is the classic Notre Dame excuse. Their problem is: Mack Brown, Bob Stoops, Nick Saban/Les Miles, Mike Leach, Gary Patterson, Les Miles/Mike Gundy, Houston Nutt/Bobby Petrino, Art Briles, Kevin Sumlin, and soon to be June Jones > Dennis Franchione/Mike Sherman It is that simple.
Tim Griffin: You raise an interesting point. I do think that all of the across-the-board construction projects that Bill Byrne has implemented for many of the other sports than football has been a major reason why the Aggies have enjoyed all of the recent success in many other sports.
But I also think that many A&M fans discount all of that success because the Aggies have been struggling in football. It's been particularly pyrrhic success as the Aggies' rivals all around them -- Texas, Oklahoma, LSU and now even Baylor and Texas Tech -- have appeared to lap them in football.
And the biggest reason for success in a college football program is coaching. I'm not saying that Mike Sherman is lacking in any coaching acumen. But he better get things turned around in the right direction, considering all of the success that the rest of the South Division has enjoyed.
Ryan Jones from Stillwater, Okla., writes: Hey Tim, I'm a student at Oklahoma State and I was wondering what you think about the Cowboys' home opener against Georgia this next season getting College Game Day? It is no doubt one if not the biggest games of the opening weekend of the football season and it is also the grand re-opening of Boone Pickens Stadium, it's going to be a huge night. Both teams are going to be in top 15. Is that enough to bring Herby and Corso back to Eskimo Joes?
Tim Griffin: Ryan, I think the OSU-Georgia game ranks among the two best games of the opening weekend along with the Virginia Tech-Alabama game in Atlanta.
Both games will be intriguing. I think the Georgia-OSU game might have more national star power because it should involve higher-ranked teams. But the Virginia Tech-Alabama gets a little extra boost after the Crimson Tide's NCAA penalties earlier this week. So it might be the more attractive game.
I'm just glad I don't have to make the decision on where they go. Because I think both games should be attractive.
James D. from Houston writes: Hey, Tim. Thanks for making this football waiting period less painful. Anyway, I saw a previous question about matching up Texas' D-line vs. OU's O-line and was wondering if you could switch it and share you thoughts on Texas' O-line vs. OU's D-line. Both seem like they're going to be very strong and wanted to get your take.
Tim Griffin: James, I don't think the Texas' offensive line vs. Oklahoma defensive line will be nearly as important as the other side of the ball because of the team's weaknesses in that area.
The Texas offense vs. Oklahoma defense will be a battle of strength vs. strength. And for that reason, I think the team that has the most success on the other side of the ball will end up winning the game.
Special teams could be critical, too. You could argue that Texas won the game last year on special teams because of the return by Jordan Shipley that pumped life into a sagging Texas team after the Longhorns had fallen behind early. But I think the Texas offensive line will be tested by Oklahoma's depth along the defensive line. Arguably, the depth of Oklahoma's front seven might be the biggest strength on the Sooners' team.
Marcus Geiger writes: I just read where Coach Dan Hawkins is going to have 3,200 football campers this summer. It's the largest in history, while keeping a reasonable 10-1 coach to player ratio. How does that compare with other schools in the Big12 and can you tell us how these camps effect recruiting?
Tim Griffin: Several stories have been written in the last several days about similar booming business in the camp business at places like Missouri and Baylor. I don't think I've seen anybody match the Buffaloes' total
Obviously, the more campers who are attracted to camp provide schools with a way to sell the their school. So getting the word out to as many potential players as possible is a big positive for a school and program. Even if only a handful of players materialize from those camps, the public relations benefits for a school are immense.
Jack Bates from Oklahoma City writes: Tim, absolutely love the blog. I know you know football and have been traveling across the Big 12 area for a long time. Quick question for you. If you had one last meal anywhere in the Big 12 area, which restaurant would you choose?
Tim Griffin: Bill, you raise a good question and I'm going to hesitate to answer with just one of my favorites. Instead, I'll limit it to my favorite few places. I'll go with Misty's in Lincoln for a juicy steak; George's in Waco for chicken-fried chicken, veggies and hot rolls; Hut's in Austin for burgers and world-class onion rings; the Cattleman's Restaurant in your town for steak and calf fries (don't knock them until you try them) and of course the holy trinity in Kansas City of Stroud's, Arthur Bryant's and Winsteads.
All of them are my favorites. I could live well eating my last meal at any of them. It's making me hungry just thinking of them.
Thanks again for all of the good questions again this week. I promise I'll check back again next week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Big 12 teams should be seldom tested before conference play begins as most teams again are opting to compete with a pillow-soft slate of opponents.
Here's the toughest and weakest of the Big 12 nonconference schedules:
1. Oklahoma: BYU (at Arlington, Texas), Idaho State, Tulsa, at Miami
The Sooners deserve props for adding the BYU game late. The nationally televised game should showcase Oklahoma's defense as it thwarts Max Hall and Harvey Unga for the Cougars. Idaho State is a bad Division I-AA team that went 1-11 last season. Tulsa and Miami both went to bowl games last season. The Golden Hurricane will be breaking in a new quarterback and a new coordinator -- not a good recipe for success for a road team at Owen Field. And although the game against Miami brings back memories of Jimmy Johnson vs. Barry Switzer, the fact is that the Hurricanes could be worn out by the time Oklahoma visits. Miami starts the season with a meat-grinder schedule of Florida State, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech before the Sooners visit.
2. Colorado: Colorado State, at Toledo, Wyoming, at West Virginia
Coach Dan Hawkins has this team pegged for good things in the conference. The Buffaloes will be tested by four FBS opponents, including two on the road. The rivalry game against Colorado State should be decided in the trenches and the Buffaloes' offensive line will be a load for the Rams. The Toledo game might be trickier than expected considering the Buffaloes will be playing this one only five days after the Colorado State game. But Colorado still should have the talent to prevail. Something tells me that Hawkins will remember that new Wyoming coach Dave Christensen's offense hung 113 points against his defense the last two seasons when he was at Missouri. And the West Virginia trip will be a challenge, although new Mountaineers quarterback Jarrett Brown is largely untested.
3. Missouri: Illinois (at St. Louis), Bowling Green, Furman, at Nevada
The Tigers' inexperienced defense will get a huge challenge in the opener against Illinois' pass-and-catch tandem of Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn. They'll be facing another experienced quarterback in three-year Bowling Green starter Tyler Sheehan, but the Falcons' defense will be breaking in two new cornerbacks. Furman has a talented quarterback in Jordan Sorrells, but the Paladin's defense shouldn't be able to match Missouri. The trip to Nevada might be a hornet's nest. The Wolf Pack have made four straight bowl trips, multi-purpose quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the Western Athletic Conference's last two leading rushers. And, oh, yeah, the Wolf Pack probably still remember that 69-17 beatdown to the Tigers last season in Columbia.
4. Nebraska: Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State, at Virginia Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette
No truth to the rumor that the Cornhuskers are gunning for the September version of the Sun Belt championship. Their road game at Virginia Tech is the toughest game that any Big 12 team will play this season. But Bo Pelini will have two games to get his defense ready for Tyrod Taylor and Co. Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger made his career name by beating the Cornhuskers in the 1984 Orange Bowl while at Miami. He won't be nearly as successful this time around. Arkansas State stunned Texas A&M last season, but the Red Wolves will be utilizing a new offensive line this season. And Louisiana-Lafayette's offense is very young and the Cornhuskers will be catching them the week after they have met up with LSU.
5. Oklahoma State: Georgia, Houston, Rice, Grambling
Four home games make for an ideal schedule for the Cowboys to make some national noise. The Georgia game will be arguably the biggest home nonconference game in school history. But the Cowboys grab a break as the Bulldogs try to break in new quarterback Joe Cox. Houston will have Case Keenum and a high-powered offensive attack, but the Cowboys blistered the Cougars for 56 points last year and could score more this season. Rice won't be as good this season after losing most of its offensive firepower. And Grambling has a great football history and an even better band.
6. Baylor: at Wake Forest, Connecticut, Northwestern State, Kent State
The nonconference schedule could determine whether the Bears can snap that long bowl drought. And it won't be an easy one considering that Baylor is the only Big 12 team with two opponents from "Big Six" conferences. The Wake Forest opener will be a huge test, but Robert Griffin might be able to feast on a depleted Demon Deacon defense that lost four starters to the NFL draft. The Bears nearly beat Connecticut last season on the road and the Huskies lose their starting quarterback and top rusher from that team. New coach Bradley Dale Peveto will bring new ideas for Northwestern State, but the Bears have a big edge. And Kent State will be breaking in a new quarterback for a team that has won only 19 games in the last five seasons under Doug Martin.
7. Kansas: Northern Colorado, at UTEP, Duke, Southern Mississippi
The Jayhawks should be able to name their margin against Northern Colorado in the opener. The trip to the Sun Bowl against UTEP the following week might be a different matter. UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe could be a challenge, although the Jayhawks should have enough firepower to outscore them. A Kansas-Duke game would be a made-for-national television delight in basketball. Football, however, is a different story. And Southern Mississippi might be poised to challenge for the Conference USA title and might be a chore with leading conference rusher Damion Fletcher and all of its starting secondary back to challenge Todd Reesing and Dezmon Briscoe.
8. Texas A&M: New Mexico, Utah State, UAB, Arkansas (at Arlington, Texas)
The Aggies desperately need to build confidence and collect a few victories before the South Division gauntlet begins. After last season's opening-game loss against Arkansas State, expect coach Mike Sherman to have the Aggies focused for all of the games. They catch new New Mexico coach Mike Locksley with an uncertain quarterback in the Lobos' opener. Utah State is universally picked to finish last in the Western Athletic Conference. UAB will be rebuilding its defense and likely won't pose many problems for Jerrod Johnson. But the game against Arkansas at
the new Dallas Cowboys' stadium will be a challenge for A&M's defense. The Razorbacks should be much improved in Bobby Petrino's second season. Fans are paying premium prices and expect big things from both teams. The Aggies may catch a break considering the Razorbacks will play SEC contenders Georgia and Alabama in their previous two weeks.
9. Texas Tech: North Dakota, Rice, at Houston, New Mexico
Mike Leach's nonconference schedule won't be as bad as last season's trip to the pastry wagon, but not by much. North Dakota is transitioning into FCS status this season after ranking 137th among the 148 Division II passing teams last season. Sounds like target practice for Taylor Potts, doesn't it? Rice won't be nearly as tough as last season without James Casey, Jarrett Dillard and Chase Clement gone. The trip to Houston will be Tech's biggest challenge and Case Keenum will test Tech's rebuilt secondary in the first battle between the old Southwest Conference rivals since 1995. And New Mexico will have had several weeks to work under Locksley's system, making them a tougher challenge for the Red Raiders in early October.
10. Texas: Louisiana-Monroe, at Wyoming, UTEP, Central Florida
The Longhorns had a couple of game against Utah and Arkansas fall through in their planning. But don't expect the Longhorns to get that much sympathy for a group of opponents that won't give them much BCS bounce. Louisiana-Monroe will be breaking in a retooled offense with a new quarterback. The road trip to Wyoming doesn't resonate like some the Longhorns have made to places like Ohio State and Arkansas in recent seasons. The Cowboys will be breaking in a new quarterback, too. UTEP could contend for the Conference USA West title, but the Miners are a different team on the road. And the Nov. 7 game against Central Florida will bring the nation's worst offensive team from last season into Austin.
11. Iowa State: North Dakota State, Iowa, at Kent State, Army
Paul Rhoads doesn't want any surprises early in his first season and his nonconference schedule. North Dakota State has posed problems to FBS teams like Minnesota in the past. Iowa doesn't have Shonn Greene back, but has almost everybody else back on a stout defense that will challenge the Cyclones. Mighty mite 5-foot-5, 170-pound tailback Eugene Jarvis will test ISU's defense and the trip to Kent State won't be a gimme. And new Army coach Rich Ellerson will bring 6-10, 283-pound wide receiver Ali Villanueva along with starting quarterback Chip Bowden from a team that won three games last season.
12. Kansas State: Massachusetts, at Louisiana-Lafayette, at UCLA, Tennessee Tech
The schedule doesn't provide as many gooey treats as some that Bill Snyder's teams have feasted on in the past, but it's still nothing to write home about. Massachusetts is a contender in the CAA, which is the toughest top-to-bottom FCS conference in the nation. Louisiana-Lafayette will have to replace a lot of offensive talent, but can be troublesome at Cajun Field. UCLA struggled offensively last year and will be breaking in a new quarterback with four new offensive linemen. KSU might be able to compete in that one better than most might think. And Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown, older brother of Texas coach Mack Brown, returns a talented pass-and-catch combination of Lee Sweeney and Tim Benford. KSU still should roll, however.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
That cha-ching you hear in the distance is probably coming from Central Texas, where a colossal amount of business and traffic could be approaching this weekend around the Austin area.
More than 98,000 fans are expected at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium for the Longhorns' game against Arkansas on Saturday afternoon. And more than 60,000 others are expected at the same time at Zilker Park for the wildly popular Austin City Limits Music Festival.
The Austin American-Statesman writes today that the convergence is giving some fans a tough choice. Do they watch Mack Brown and Bobby Petrino square off when a once-in-a-lifetime concert beckons with top performing acts like John Fogerty, Allison Krause and Robert Plant?
The Arkansas-Texas game was pushed back two weeks because of Hurricane Ike. It's placed hotel rooms at a premium and even forced the Razorbacks to relocate for their preparations at Bastrop -- 30 miles away -- after their original hotel in suburban Round Rock was not available. And spillover rooms in San Marcos are tough to come by because Texas State is having Parents' Weekend on Saturday for the Bobcats' game against Southern Utah.
Fans who regularly attend Texas games already know about traffic.
Something tells me they better plan to start arriving at dawn on Saturday -- if not even earlier -- just to beat the rush and find one of those elusive parking spots near the stadium.
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
Final Marshall 52 Northern Illinois 23 Final Navy 17 San Diego State 16
Final Central Michigan 48 Western Kentucky 49 Final Fresno State 6 Rice 30
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State