Big 12: Buffalo Bulls
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Happy Friday afternoon. Here are some of the better questions and e-mails that I received this week.
Brian Kimble of Beltsville, Md., writes: After seeing the preseason All-Big 12 list and looking back at several articles from you and other sources, it seems every time Oklahoma and Texas are compared position by position, player by player, it favors OU. Yet, most prognosticators (yourself included) pick Texas as the better team. What is your justification?
Tim Griffin: Brian, I give Texas a slight edge for a couple of reasons. First, I think Oklahoma's loss of four starters along the offensive line is huge. With only one starter returning, the Sooners will have their work cut out to fix that by Oct. 17 at the Cotton Bowl. And I, along with several other people I've talked to, believe that Texas is entering the season with a kind of a collective chip on its shoulder from how the 2008 season played out. The Longhorns' coaching staff is helping to feed that by at one time awarding the team an asterisk-influenced share of the Big 12 title in their team meeting room before taking it down. And I also think that Colt McCoy is driven to win a championship.
I think the difference between the two teams is very, very slight. But I favor the Longhorns by a hair for those reasons.
I do reserve the right to change my mind before game day. But if they were playing today, I would make the Longhorns a slight favorite, say by about a field goal.
Drew Kappel of Orange County, Calif., writes: Hey Tim, I was shocked to see that "The Catch", the Kordell Stewart-to-Michael Westbrook pass in the famous "Miracle in Michigan" was not on your Big 12 greatest moments. Did I miss something? I was waiting for that every week and I just assumed it would be number 1, and then I was shocked when it wasn't. That is one of the most famous moments in Big 12 history as far as many Buff fans are concerned.
Tim Griffin: Drew, I limited my choices to moments during the history of the Big 12. The "Michigan Miracle," which I agree was one of the greatest plays in college football history, took place on Sept. 24, 1994 - a little more than two years before the first Big 12 game was played in 1996.
But it was a great play and definitely would have merited some kind of inclusion if I had allowed all plays in the history of each Big 12 school to be included.
But it was tough enough narrowing my choice to 25 with those in Big 12 history. I couldn't have imagined how difficult it would have been if I had to cull through every school's football history looking for memories.
Maybe I'll do that next summer.
Spencer from Oklahoma writes: Tim, I'm a fan of yours and enjoy reading your blog, including the latest entry regarding 100-yard receivers and rushers and 300-yard passers. I noticed something from that study, and I wondered what you thought of this.
I saw that Sam Bradford had 13 games of 300 yards. However, there were only two instances of receivers at Oklahoma having 100-yard games. One belonged to Ryan Broyles, the other to Jermaine Gresham. I found this astonishing.
The other QB to have 13 300-yard games was Kansas' Todd Reesing. However, notice the instances of 100-yard receivers for the Jayhawks. They have 15!! Dezmon Briscoe had seven, Kerry Meier had five and three others had one 100-yard game apiece.
Is this surprising that Oklahoma has only had two receivers with a single 100-yard game among its receivers, despite the passing numbers put up by Bradford? And does this speak to the versatility of Bradford using all his outlets? What are your thoughts?
Tim Griffin: My list includes only players who are returning for the 2009 season. What it might speak to even more than anything were the losses that the Sooners endured with the departure of Juaquin Iglesias and Manny Johnson. Iglesias had seven career 100-yard receiving games, including three last season. Johnson had three career 100-yard receiving games, including two last season.
But I've noticed that Bradford has matured, he seems to be less likely to focus on one receiver. I think that results in a wider inclusion of many receivers into his offense rather than one or two. And that results in the fewer number of 100-yard receivers around the Oklahoma program.
That being said, I look for Broyles to really emerge as a deep threat this season if he can stay healthy. And Adron "Pooh" Tennell looked ready to produce after a strong season. And I think both can develop into consistent big-yardage receivers if they grab enough passes.
Tim from New York City writes: I have a question that has Big 12 (actually Big 8) ties regarding a coach outside of the conference. Given Turner Gill's recent success at and brief turnaround of one of Division I's ultimate projects at Buffalo, is it a long shot to believe that he may make a return to his former conference? If so, what teams would make a good fit for him?
Tim Griffin: Turner Gill has done a masterful job in rebuilding Buffalo after leading the Bulls to the Mid-American Conference championship and the International Bowl last season.
That strong job obviously has to have caught the attention of his old coach, Tom Osborne, which would make some think that Nebraska would be a place he might end up as a head coach. For that to happen, Bo Pelini would have to go on to another job. I think Gill might need a tad more more seasoning at Buffalo. And I don't see any interest in Pelini pursuing any other jobs at this time.
Another job that will come open probably pretty soon will be Kansas State, where there's no indication that Bill Snyder is in the head coaching position for the long term. Maybe Snyder, who turns 70 on Oct. 7, will stay at his old school for two or three years. It would be interesting if Gill would be attracted to Kansas State and if the Wildcats would be attracted to him.
I think the job that would make sense to him would be at TCU in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. Obviously, Gary Patterson would have to being going somewhere and I don't know how much interest Patterson has in pursuing other jobs at this time.
But I personally think that TCU might be the best non-BCS job in the country. And it might be better than some jobs in the Big 12. The reason I consider this job so highly include its proximity to the fertile Texas recruiting area, the developing facilities at the school, the school's winning tradition and its conference affiliation.
Patterson currently has an easier road to the BCS in his own conference than he would if the Horned Frogs were playing in the Big 12. And I think he knows it.
But I would also think the chance to return home for Gill would be attractive if the opportunity to accept the TCU job if it ever materialized for him.
Rick Yarbrough from Tripoli, Libya, writes: Football over here is with a round ball and guys in shorts. I'm gonna miss the fall afternoons watching the Longhorns running up and down the field. With a Sunday - Thursday work week and 7 hours time difference, I'm looking to you to keep us up to speed on the Longhorns. Keep up the great work. I'll be catching your blog.
Tim Griffin: Rick, thanks for your work. Please check the blog often during the upcoming season for some updates of home on a pretty regular basis. It should be an interesting season.
And boy, do I envy your days off. You should be able to catch almost every college football game from everywhere, depending on the satellites.
Larry Soper writes: Tim: Nice article on Taylor Potts on ESPN.com earlier this week. Could you please tell me what the Texas Tech receivers look like for Potts with Michael Crabtree gone?
Tim Griffin: Obviously, the loss of two-time Biletnikoff winner will be a big one for Texas Tech. But I think the Red Raiders actually will be more balanced this season without one player commanding most of the catches like Crabtree has done for the last two seasons. I look for Detron Lewis to step up in the featured role with a chance to catch 90-100 balls if he can stay healthy. But I've always liked Edward Britton, who I think could really blossom if he matures in his role in the offense. I think the same could be true for Tremain Swindall as well. And I know that Mike Leach has always raved about Lyle Leong and Adam James as they have played in his system.
I wouldn't look for one player to catch most of the passes for Tech this season. But it will be interesting to see who Potts gravitates to as his receiver. We'll see that as the season plays out for the Red Raiders.
Tom Bates from Oklahoma City writes: Hey, Tim, I know media day is coming up for you. I wonder if you would list your favorite three players and three coaches in the Big 12 to talk with. And maybe give a reason why you find those guys to be the best interviews.
Tim Griffin: As far as players go, this would be my list. 1. Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri - Always has something interesting to say. 2. Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma - I can see why Sooner players have gravitated to him since his arrival. He's a leader and his words command respect. 3. Kerry Meier, Kansas - Polished and well spoken. He could have a career behind the microphone after his playing days are over.
As far as coaches, this is how I would rank them: 1. Texas Tech coach Mike Leach - You never know what know what he's going to say. And that's the beauty of him. 2. Baylor coach Art Briles - Still has enough small-town Texas high-school football coach in him to always have some interesting comments. 3. Colorado coach Dan Hawkins - I never had heard the word "conflama" before I met the Hawk. But it's grown in my vocabulary since being around him to describe the combination of conflict and drama.
I also loved his comment on taking his wife to an Abba concert during the 2007 season. "You stay married for 25 years by making sacrifices."
We could all learn from that attitude, I guess.
Have a good weekend. I'll catch up with you on Monday from the Big 12 media days in Irving, Texas. Thanks again for all of the good questions and please keep them coming.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Web site Coacheshotseat.com is one of my must reads every day. They always have an interesting spin on various college football topics and a lot of original content.
One post this afternoon was particularly interesting. The Web site ranks the 22 hirings of new FBS head coaches since the end of last season.
Here's a list of hirings of all new Division I head coaches. The ones that are highlighted have Big 12 connections.
1. Dave Christensen, Wyoming
2. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
3. Rich Ellerson, Army
4. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
5. Brady Hoke, San Diego State
6. Steve Sarkisian, Washington
7. Doug Marrone, Syracuse
8. Danny Hope, Purdue
9. Mike Locksley, New Mexico
10. Ron English, Eastern Michigan
11. Mike Haywood, Miami (OH)
12. DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State
13. Chip Kelly, Oregon
14. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State
15. Gene Chizik, Auburn
16. Gary Anderson, Utah State
17. Frank Spaziani, Boston College
18. Tim Beckman, Toledo
19. Stan Parrish, Ball State
20. Dave Clawson, Bowling Green
21. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
22. Lane Kiffin, Tennessee
It's particularly interesting to look at the difference between former Missouri coordinator Dave Christensen and former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Tim Beckman.
They believe that Christensen's success bringing his version of the spread to Wyoming will pump new life into the Mountain West Conference. And they compare that to the largely unknown Beckman, who will be challenged to succeed in the balanced Mid-American Conference.
The switch from Gene Chizik to Paul Rhoads appears to be a wash, as Rhoads' hiring is ranked No. 14 while Chizik checks in at No. 15.
But the most interesting comments to me were how the Web site viewed Bill Snyder replacing Ron Prince at Kansas State.
21. Bill Snyder for Ron Prince at Kansas State
"We could have gone either way on the firing of Ron Prince, but bringing Bill Snyder back to Kansas State? No, we cannot understand that move by KSU. OK...Bill Snyder was a great football coach, but that was in another time and another place. Snyder put up some great seasons at K-State, but in his last two years, which happened to correspond to the rise of Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Missouri in the Big 12, Snyder went 4-7 in 2004 and 5-6 in 2005. There is a reason that Bill Snyder was fired after the 2005 season and that reason has not changed and we believe K-State will regret hiring Snyder because he will not move the football program forward in what has become a much tougher Big 12. Instead of Bill Snyder, we would have hired Buffalo's Turner Gill, Oklahoma's Brent Venables, Illinois Mike Locksley, Missouri's Dave Christensen or even Dennis Franchione over bringing back Bill Snyder and we believe Kansas State will regret this coaching move."
I would criticique Coacheshotseat.com for saying that Snyder was fired after the 2005 season. He actually resigned. But I'm still intrigued by their comments.
It will be interesting to see how Snyder's return to KSU plays out. Either it will be a home run or a colossal flop.
I'm betting that Snyder's work ethic and his return of a veteran group of coaches familiar with the KSU program will work and work to ensure the program's success.
But even that might not be enough, considering the Big 12's strength.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Remember all the controversy that was sparked by Mike Leach's contract stalemate immediately after Texas Tech's season ended?
Leach finally emerged from his self-imposed media blackout, telling the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Dwain Price that he has "no idea" if his contract stalemate with the school will be settled by the Red Raiders' Jan. 2 bowl game against Mississippi.
Leach directed the Red Raiders to an 11-1 record and a share of the Big 12 South Division title this season. Shortly after the regular season ended, the Raiders extended Leach's two-year contract to five years with a $12.1 million contract offer that he has yet to sign.
"It's a work in progress," Leach told the Star-Telegram.
It will be interesting to watch how quickly Leach's contract will be settled. Until then, here are some lunchtime links from across the conference to chew on with your lunch.
- Dave Sittler of the Tulsa World writes that legendary former NFL talent scout Gil Brandt has advised Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford to stay in school for at least one more year rather than declare for the NFL draft.
- Katie Fretland of the Omaha World-Herald does an outstanding job on the sad story of former Iowa State running back Stevie Hicks, who committed suicide after having difficulty adjusting to life after the cheering stopped.
- Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen will return to coach Florida's offense for one more game against Oklahoma in the BCS title game, Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald reports.
- Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman is preparing to solicit opinions from the NFL's College Advisory Committee before deciding whether to declare for the draft, according to the Kansas City Star's Jeffrey Martin.
- St. Louis Rams line coach Steve Loney, a former Iowa State player and three-time former Cyclone assistant, may be interested in returning as the Cyclones' head coach, the Ames Tribune's Bobby Le Gesse reports. That interest is coming after top candidate Turner Gill has dropped off the Cyclones' wish list after signing a contract extension at Buffalo.
- Top kicking prospect Zach Grossnickle would fill a huge potential void for Colorado as a combination kicker/punter, the Boulder Camera's Kyle Ringo reports.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
With no bowl games on the Big 12's bowl horizon until the Dec. 29 Valero Alamo Bowl, the biggest story bouncing around the conference will continue to be who Jamie Pollard hires at Iowa State to replace Gene Chizik.
I expect that hiring to be made sooner, rather than later. Which means that should command most of the conference's attention until after Christmas.
Here's are some of the stories that people are talking about around the conference today.
- Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel writes that current Buffalo and former Nebraska assistant coach and player Turner Gill can afford to be choosy about future jobs. And with that being the case, Shatel writes that Auburn and Iowa State probably aren't the right fit for Gill.
- Martin Manley of the Kansas City Star's blog "Upon Further Review" notes that the only two sophomores in Heisman history to win the trophy have come in the last two seasons with Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Florida's Tim Tebow.
- Sean Keeler of the Des Moines Register writes that Iowa State should say no to the hot young coordinator in favor of a proven college head coach. And Keeler also blogged that former coach Gene Chizik never really understood the culture of Iowa when he was coaching there.
- Colorado coach Dan Hawkins predicted at the Buffaloes' season-ending football banquet that his team would win 10 games next season, according to the Rocky Mountain News' B.G. Brooks.
- John Maher of the Austin American-Statesman detects little buzz in Columbus for the Jan. 5 Fiesta Bowl against Texas. How down is demand for the game? Maher writes that tickets will go on sale to the general public for the bowl game on Wednesday -- a rarity for Buckeye fans.
- Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle opines that Michigan transfer running back Sam McGuffie would be an ideal fit for Texas A&M's struggling ground game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It really shouldn't be a surprise that Gene Chizik is leaving Iowa State. The biggest shock, however, is that it came when it did.
Barely a month after he professed his love for pork tenderloins, Ashton Kutcher, the State Fair of Iowa and everything else from the Tall Corn State, Chizik is headed back to his old stomping grounds in the Southeastern Conference.
It's surprising he's receiving the opportunity. But I wouldn't be shocked if he Chizik thrives once he gets there -- even as competitive as the Southeastern Conference's West Division has been.
The former Auburn and Texas defensive coordinator was the hottest of all assistant coaches when he arrived in Ames two seasons ago. Nineteen losses in 24 games since then have dimmed much of that glimmer.
But I'm betting that these two seasons have taught Chizik many huge lessons. He learned from Mack Brown to categorize all of his thoughts -- good and bad -- on index cards. I bet he's compiled a slew of things not to do during his two seasons with the Cyclones.
He gets a fresh lease on life at Auburn. I'm betting he's a better head coach today than he was when he greeted Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard when he accepted the Cyclones' head coaching job.
The biggest question will be who Pollard turns to replace Chizik. The hottest candidate is Buffalo coach Turner Gill, who obviously would be on the radar at Nebraska if he enjoys any kind of success with the Cyclones.
Other potential candidates include Northern Iowa coach Mark Farley and maybe even a couple of blasts from the past like Gary Barnett, Glen Mason, Dennis Franchione or even Tommy Tubervile. A better choice might be somebody like legendary FBS coach Mel Tjeersdma from Northwest Missouri State, who would be infinitely more ready for the challenge than most of those those thirty-something coordinators out there.
But whoever arrives has to know about Iowa State's historic struggles in whatever conference it has been a member. The school has a limited recruiting base and facilities compared to almost every other Big 12 member.
The Cyclones had 17 non-winning seasons in a 19-year period before Dan McCarney took them to five bowl games during a span of six season from 2000-05. McCarney was let go after a 4-8 record in 2006.
But Chizik has been challenged in the Big 12 North Division, posting a 5-19 record in his two seasons at Iowa State, including a 2-14 record in conference play.
Iowa State has never notched an outright conference championship in the 117-season history of the program. The Cyclones shared Missouri Valley Championship titles as co-champions in 1911 and 1912.
The Big 12 North has never been seen as wide-open at the top. Top quarterbacks Chase Daniel and Joe Ganz are leaving Missouri and Nebraska, respectively. Todd Reesing will be the division's best quarterback, but the Jayhawks again will face an unyielding cross-division schedule that will feature games next season against Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech. Kansas State will be bringing back a legendary coach in Bill Snyder who needs to show he can be relevant in the new millennium. Colorado just needs to make it through a season without a slew of injuries for a change.
The Iowa State job will be an enticing one for the right candidate because it's in the Big 12. And the division does seem to be inviting for the right team.
It will be interesting to see who follows Chizik and how he will attack the school's unique challenges.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's hard to believe, but Texas Tech coach Mike Leach might be the most influential person in the Big 12's brief history.
Veteran Tulsa World columnist John Klein brings up that point this morning, and I think it's a good one.
Let's revisit the Big 12 when Leach arrived as a member of Bob Stoops' original coaching staff. Stoops remembered how much he hated preparing for Leach's passing offense when he was Florida's defensive coordinator and Leach was calling plays as Kentucky's offensive coordinator.
So he hired him. And the Big 12 hasn't been the same since.
Leach helped transform Josh Heupel from a journeyman junior college quarterback into a player who would win the national championship the following season with the Sooners.
By then, Leach had already been hired as Tech's head coach. Those with long memories will recall that Leach beat out Rich Rodriguez for the job.
His quirky coaching style helped transform a probation-ravaged program that had lost five games in each of its previous four seasons before he arrived. Since then, Leach has helped the Red Raiders make a bowl trip each of the eight seasons he's been coaching there. He hasn't won a Big 12 title or a South Division championship, but appears to have his best chance this season to do it.
The Big 12 hasn't been the same, either. The conference, once dominated by stodgy run-heavy, defensive-dominated philosophies, now is on the cutting edge offensively of what we see today.
If you check the NCAA's current team scoring averages, five of the nation's top six scoring teams and five of the nation's top 10 passing teams are from the Big 12. The conference will likely have three Heisman Trophy finalists this season and conceivably could have even more.
It took some time and a collection of quarterbacks to do it.
But Leach helped push it along more forcefully than anybody else in the conference's history. And he's made it fun for those of us who've watched it happen.
Here are some links to get you primed for tomorrow's games. Enjoy them.
- Jake Sharp's 181-yard effort against Kansas State last week revealed how to attack the Wildcats' defense, the Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond writes.
- Natalie England of the San Antonio Express-News writes about how about how Justin Tucker's unique rugby-style punting enabled Texas to dictate field position for much of the game last week against Texas Tech.
- Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star spells out the doomsday scenario for Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe - one team from the conference in the Bowl Championship Series. It could happen if Oregon State wins the Pac-10, leaving USC as an attractive BCS at-large team.
- The big-play offensive firepower of the current Oklahoma State team is reminiscent of the school's celebrated 1988 team. Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News reminds us that Barry Sanders was the running back on that team, Hart Lee Dykes was at wide receiver and, yes, Mike Gundy was its starting quarterback.
- The Topeka Capital-Journal's Tully Corcoran writes that Kansas players aren't intimidated as they face a 19-game losing streak at Nebraska that dates to 1968.
- Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star advises Turner Gill to listen if Kansas State should call him about the Wildcats' vacant coaching job.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Nebraska assistant athletic director for football Jeff Jamrog told a group of Nebraska fans Friday that the Cornhuskers' vaunted walk-on program provides "a big advantage" over rivals.
The Cornhuskers have received key contributions from several walk-on players, including freshman linebacker Matt Holt, who started against Texas Tech. Others include Brian Thorson, who turned down a scholarship offer from Turner Gill at Buffalo to walk on with the Cornhuskers.
Jamrog told the Omaha World-Herald that the Cornhuskers' way of doing things provides an edge over schools like Texas and Florida.
"[Nebraska linebackers coach] Mike Ekeler came back from LSU and said that it's unbelievable the difference between the walk-ons at LSU and the walk-ons Nebraska," Jamrog told the World-Herald at the school's weekly Big Red Breakfast. "I think that's critical...
"Don't get all caught up in the hype of recruiting. To me, the key to the whole deal is what happens when they step on Nebraska's campus. All that stuff before, the press clippings, this, that and the other doesn't mean anything...
"There's been a lot of great football players that weren't heavily recruited."
Nebraska fans can only hope that coach Bo Pelini continues plugging these overachievers into his program.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are a few tidbits we gleaned after watching the Big 12 this week.
1. The only team that can stop Missouri is Missouri. The Tigers slogged through a sloppy 42-21 victory over Buffalo despite some immense individual heroics by QB Chase Daniel. Despite a record-breaking single-game performance by Daniel, the Bulls stayed close because of three Missouri fumbles, some costly penalties and even the first kickoff return for a touchdown that has been allowed in Gary Pinkel's Missouri coaching tenure. The Tigers can make those mistakes and still beat Buffalo. Doing it against Big 12 power teams will be a different story.
2. Texas A&M FB Jorvorskie Lane is the biggest 285-pound decoy in the conference. It's clear that the Aggies have little confidence in their short-yardage running abilities, despite the presence of Lane, who used to gobble up first downs like he would munch on postgame cheeseburgers. The main reason is a green offensive line with four new starters who got little push in a 41-23 loss against Miami -- or against anybody else earlier this season. The Aggies failed on a critical third-and-1 early in the third quarter against Miami when the game was still close, using Lane as a struggling lead blocker on the play. And later in the game, they opted to throw on a third-and-1 from the goal line rather than drive the ball like the old days.
3. Mark Mangino should be worried about Kansas' sputtering running attack. Despite playing against an FCS opponent in Sam Houston State that the Jayhawks should have dominated, Kansas produced only 161 yards and a 3.4 yard-per-carry average. Mangino hinted after the game that changes in the offensive line might be forthcoming. Something needs to be done, because the lack of consistency is run blocking is causing QB Todd Reesing to force plays. That can't continue when conference play begins.
4. Don't look now, but Texas is quietly developing some defensive confidence. The Longhorns made Rice QB Chase Clement miserable with seven sacks and five pass deflections. They even held the Owls scoreless after 11 chances after a first-and-goal from the Texas 2 on a drive that was extended twice by pass interference penalties. The Longhorns have allowed one second-half score in their first three games. That's a good sign from what was perceived to be the Longhorns' biggest weakness coming into the season.
5. Colorado is good now, but wait until next season. The Buffaloes had an impressive victory against West Virginia and could have a shot at another one against Florida State on Saturday. But I still worry about their pass defense, and that will be exposed once Big 12 begins. Their better hopes will come next season -- when Chase Daniel and Joe Ganz will be gone and Josh Freeman might have opted for a shot at some big bucks in the NFL draft. Colorado should have the North's most experienced collection of talent in place by then.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
A nice representative class this week on both offense and defense:
Missouri QB Chase Daniel -- Passed for a career-high 439 yards and set the Big 12 single-game record with 20 straight completions to lead the Tigers' 42-21 dismantling of Buffalo. Daniel completed 36 of 43 passes with two touchdowns.
Texas QB Colt McCoy -- Became Texas' career leader in touchdowns after throwing four in the Longhorns' 52-10 triumph over Rice. McCoy passed for 329 yards and added a team-high 83 yards rushing and another TD.
Texas Tech RB Shannon Woods -- Climbed out of Mike Leach's doghouse by rushing for 108 yards and three TDs and also added three receptions for 53 yards to lead the Red Raiders' 56-14 beat-down of Massachusetts.
Colorado RB Rodney Stewart -- Rushed for a game-high 166 yards on 28 carries to help boost the Buffaloes to a 17-14 overtime over West Virginia.
Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon -- Produced 20 tackles, including five solos to key Missouri's defensive effort against Buffalo. Weatherspoon produced three tackles for losses, broke up a pass and was credited with half a sack.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
There's a short turnaround time this morning as I'm rushing to hop into my car for my drive to College Station for this afternoon's Miami-Texas A&M game. Rather than miss the kickoff, let's get straight to the links.
- Former Kansas State RB Leon Patton is out of jail after posting $30,000 bond late Friday. Riley County Police Department spokesman Kurt Moldrup told the Wichita Eagle the case involves alleged injury after reportedly shaking a 2-month-old baby in July.
- Texas special teams coach Duane Akina has a special rewards system for Longhorns who block punts. It's worked as the Longhorns have blocked three punts in their first two games.
- Baylor players felt they gave one away in a tight 31-28 loss at Connecticut Friday night.
- What can Missouri QB Chase Daniel do to top his recent string of 13 straight scoring drives? How about trying to overcome Buffalo coach Turner Gill, who beat the Tigers three times as a starting quarterback while a member of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
- Six Kansas freshmen should play Saturday against Sam Houston State. They hope to juice production after the Jayhawks have been stymied with five field goal attempts inside the red zone in the last two weeks.
- Texas A&M players will be battling Miami's still-sizable mystique when the Hurricanes visit Kyle Field on Saturday.
- The San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger wonders if the Big 12 and SEC might be too strong for their own good.
- Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has been blistering Red Raider receivers all week after eight dropped passes last week against SMU.
- Iowa State is preparing for a big challenge of stopping UNLV quarterback Omar Clayton, a former fifth-string walk-on who has earned the Rebels starting job.
- Nice story this morning from the Lincoln Journal Star's Brian Christopherson and Anthony Roberts about how Nebraska offensive lineman Matt Slauson has overcome stuttering thanks to inspiration from his older brother.
- Nebraska takes a break Saturday, kind of the calm before the storm. The Cornhuskers next three opponents are a combined 8-1 in a gauntlet that will include Virginia Tech and nationally ranked foes Missouri and Texas Tech.
- The Oklahoman breaks down the five best in-state players from the state not named Sam Bradford.
- Oklahoman columnist John Rohde provides instructions for how fans can cope with a Saturday without games involving Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
- Colorado WR Josh Smith and RB Darrell Scott are bracing for an emotional return to Florida next week. Scott grew up rooting for next week's opponent, the Florida State Seminoles.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are 10 items to watch for across the Big 12 this weekend.
1. Chase Daniel's offensive surge: Missouri has scored on its last 13 possessions over the last two games with Daniel directing the offense. They should have another easy game Saturday against Buffalo, but can Daniel keep his amazing offensive production going? His Heisman candidacy is improving with each performance.
2. Texas A&M's starting quarterback: Stephen McGee's streak of 29 straight starts as Texas A&M's quarterback is in jeopardy after he sustained a sprained right shoulder in the Aggies' most recent game at New Mexico. Will he be ready to go Saturday against Miami? Or will Coach Mike Sherman instead opt for talented backup Jerrod Johnson, who passed for three touchdowns to direct the Aggies' first victory of the season after McGee's injury?
3. Texas' young secondary against Rice's sophisticated passing offense: Freshman safeties Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon made it through unscathed against UTEP. But they'll be taking a big step forward when facing Rice QB Chase Clement and the Owls' talented and underrated receivers James Casey and Jarrett Dillard.
4. Any lingering reaction from Miami's beat-down over Texas A&M last season: Dennis Franchione's program is gone for the Aggies. The Aggies will have a chance Saturday to blot away memories from one of the recent humiliations in school history stemming from last season's disappointing loss at the Orange Bowl. And new A&M coach Mike Sherman can regain some of his lost luster after his season-opening loss against Arkansas State with an upset on Saturday.
5. How will Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree react to the pointed criticism of Mike Leach? Harrell passed for 418 yards and five touchdowns and Crabtree won AT&T national Player of the Week honors after grabbing eight receptions for 164 yards and three TDs last week after a 43-7 victory over SMU. And Leach still wasn't happy. What will they do for an encore against a leaky Massachusetts defense that has allowed an average of 47 points per game in its last two games?
6. Iowa State's Vegas vacation: Gene Chizik says the Cyclones will bunk far away from the Strip in preparation for Saturday's game against UNLV. Will staying away from the bright lights of the casinos help them snap a 12-game road losing streak, including the last six games with Chizik?
7. Robert Griffin's encore: After breaking the Big 12 single-game rushing-average record last week against Washington State in only his second career start, the freshman Baylor quarterback now steps up in class against an underrated Connecticut defense in a national television contest. A big effort could be huge statement for Art Briles' rebuilding efforts.
8. Rhett Bomar's return to the Big 12: The former Oklahoma quarterback transferred to Sam Houston State after washing out with the Sooners. Bomar led the Sooners to a 19-3 victory over Kansas in his last game against them in 2005. Will he be as productive against a much improved Jayhawks team -- with a much diminished team in terms of talent around him?
9. Texas' running game: The Longhorns have struggled at times running the ball. But the emergence of Fozzy Whittaker might have given them a breakaway threat. He should have a lot of opportunities against Rice, which has been gashed for an average of 317.4 rushing yards per game in its seven games against Mack Brown's Texas teams.
10. Missouri's retooled secondary: Starting FS William Moore isn't expected to play Saturday against Buffalo after reinjuring his right foot last week. Converted CB Del Howard will start in his place. Howard will be challenged by Buffalo WR Naaman Roosevelt, who made headlines last week with his game-winning, final-play TD catch against Temple.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Big 12 will be on display the next two nights as underdogs against two powerful Big East foes. After losing two games in six days to the Big East, the conference is looking for a quick turnaround.
Here are my picks:
West Virginia 33, Colorado 28: The Mountaineers have too much offensive firepower in this one, even with Colorado fans planning a "Blackout" and West Virginia offensive linemen worrying about Boulder's altitude in game preparation this week. The Buffaloes are still a little young to prevail, but will pick up some important lessons that could help them later in Big 12 play.
Connecticut 42, Baylor 17: The quick development of Baylor freshman QB Robert Griffin has given this game a little bit more sizzle than it might have had a couple of weeks ago. Baylor will be looking for its first road victory at a BCS opponent since 1996. But look for the Huskies to dominate inside because of the tough running of Donald Brown, cruising to their ninth-straight victory and second straight 4-0 start.
Missouri 57, Buffalo 20: The Bulls will be looking for their first 3-1 start since 1996. It won't happen here, however, because Missouri's potent offense is cruising, even if Gary Pinkel is claiming he can't find the off switch. The Tigers lead the nation with an average of 57.7 points per game and 10 yards per snap. It might just be a moral victory for Buffalo to keep Missouri from scoring every time they get the ball, considering that QB Chase Daniel has led Missouri on 13 straight scoring possessions over the last two games.
Miami 17, Texas A&M 7: Both teams have unsettled quarterback situations. Robert Marve and Jacory Harris have been alternating snaps for the Hurricanes. And the Aggies' starter is in flux as Stephen McGee is coming off a sprained shoulder after Jerrod Johnson's impressive relief work against New Mexico. Both teams have been offensively challenged, so look for points to be hard to come by. Even though A&M president and Miami native Elsa Murano has made beating "The U" a priority, the Aggies don't have enough firepower to do it.
Texas 48, Rice 17: The Longhorns will be looking for their 10th straight victory and 37th in the last 38 games against Rice since 1966. Look for the Longhorns to try and emphasize their running attack and their physical advantage in the trenches. Rice QB Chase Clement and WR James Casey, who is tied for first nationally in per-game receptions, could give the young Texas secondary some problems. But not that many.
Texas Tech 61, Massachusetts 10: Tech coach Mike Leach called out his quarterbacks and receivers this week -- and by inference QB Graham Harrell and WR Michael Crabtree -- for lack of production after beating SMU last week. Look for an inspired offense from the Red Raiders with a lot of points and yardage against the FCS Minutemen. Massachusetts QB Liam Coen has thrown 75 career touchdown passes, but will be challenged by a Tech defense that picked off five passes last week.
Kansas 45, Sam Houston State 10: After a disappointing defeat last week at South Florida, the Jayhawks are hoping to rebound and rebuild confidence in their running game at the same time. Sam Houston State hasn't played since beating East Central, 58-14, on Aug. 28. The Jayhawks will be looking for defensive improvement after failing to produce a turnover and allowing 31 straight points at one juncture last week. And they'll be challenged by Sam Houston State QB Rhett Bomar, who formerly played at Oklahoma and beat the Jayhawks while playing there.
UNLV 24, Iowa State 22: The Rebels enter this game brimming with confidence after their stunning overtime victory at Arizona State last week. It's helped them post a winning record for the first time since 2003 after failing to win more than two games in any of the last four seasons. The Cyclones are trying to bounce back after failing to score a touchdown in a loss at archrival Iowa. Iowa State remains the Big 12's most opportunistic team, but will need some big plays to win in the desert and snap Gene Chizik's 12-game road losing streak.
My pick last night: 0-1 (0 percent)
My picks for the season: 31-2 (93.9 percent)
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are a few items to watch for around the Big 12 this week
1. Expect a more balanced Colorado offensive attack against West Virginia with the return of TE Riar Geer, who missed the last two games with a sprained knee. His return will give the Buffaloes an intermediate receiving threat important against West Virginia's 3-3-5 defense. Don't be surprised if it also boosts the confidence of QB Cody Hawkins, who will have his favorite target from last season returning.
2. Despite being overshadowed by linebacking mates Joe Mortensen and Mike Rivera, Kansas LB James Holt is being used as the team's top blitzer in new coordinator Clint Bowen's schemes. Holt responded with a game-high 13 tackles, a sack and forced two fumbles while thriving in his new role against South Florida.
3. Junior-college transfer RB Keithen Valentine will get the majority of playing time against Louisville and not just because of his rushing abilities. Kansas State coaches think the 5-foot-8, 197-pound Valentine is the best antidote they have for Louisville's blitz tendencies.
4. Don't be surprised if Missouri opts to bench S William Moore for this week's game against Buffalo. Moore, the Tigers' inspirational leader and best defensive back, tweaked his injured ankle against Nevada. The Tigers would like to have him as near to 100 percent as possible for the start of conference play Oct. 4 at Nebraska.
5. Iowa State QB Austen Arnaud got all the snaps except for three series against Iowa. Despite that imbalance, Iowa State coach Gene Chizik remains committed to a two-quarterback system where Phillip Bates will see some playing time in every game. Chizik likes to use his quarterbacks depending on feel. He expects to use both this week against UNLV.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
There's a reason why Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is easily the most quotable coach in the Big 12.
Leach was sizzling on Monday while talking about a variety of subjects in several media sessions.
He started on the Big 12's weekly teleconference by describing how his team rode out a storm that dumped buckets of water at Jones AT&T Stadium before last Saturday's game against SMU. "We ought to do a commercial for Field Turf," Leach said.
Later in the call, Leach had a well-reasoned take why his program has never developed an NFL starting quarterback and why NFL coaches might be looking for the wrong qualities in a quarterback.
"Those guys may think they are really good coaches or whatever, but they are not going to make a guy accurate. Name one guy the NFL has ever made accurate," Leach said. "They don't make any of them accurate.
But he was only getting started. While talking with his local media in Lubbock a couple of hours later, Leach lit into his quarterbacks and wide receivers for their inconsistent play. That blast was notable because his two best players are QB Graham Harrell, the defending Baugh Award trophy winner, and WR Michael Crabtree, who set virtually every national freshman record en route to winning the Biletnikoff Award last season.
Leach's comments were telling, but not surprising from those who have been around him over the years.
The Red Raiders lead the nation in passing, rank second in total offense and are 15th in scoring, but those statistics mask what Leach feels is struggling play. And if it continues, Leach told the reporters, the Red Raiders are in "for a long year."
Harrell was blasted even though he threw five touchdowns and passed for 418 yards in an impressive 43-7 victory over SMU. And Crabtree was blistered despite catching eight receptions for 164 yards, including three touchdowns.
"What we've done, quite honestly, for 2 1/2 games I don't consider acceptable," Leach said. "I don't know at what point they think we arrived. This group of quarterbacks and receivers, we haven't done anything impressive. I don't think it's impressive at all other than some numbers inflated by some explosiveness and the efforts of others. As far as any steadiness, there's nothing impressive."
Hopefully, Leach doesn't have anything to say about these links.
- Welcome to the unofficial Big 12-Big East challenge this week, with both conferences getting increased national visibility this week with prime-time games on three nights leading up to Saturday.
- Oklahoma State's week off shouldn't hurt the Cowboys' surging momentum, according to coach Mike Gundy.
- Being No. 2 in both national polls is nice, but Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops dismisses the hype of his program's highest ranking in four seasons.
- Eighteen scholarship members of the Texas team had relatives who were impacted by Hurricane Ike. But none as much as offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who opened his Austin home for a houseful of relatives relocating from the Beaumont-Port Arthur area. And Texas coach Mack Brown offered to allow Rice to use the Longhorns' practice facilities preparing for their game on Saturday if they need them.
- WR Ryan Tannehill's iffy status is just as big a concern for Texas A&M as is QB Stephen McGee's condition for Saturday's game against Miami.
- Kansas State coach Ron Prince lives by the credo of coaching smart, not scared.
- Missouri S William Moore's aggravating foot injury has him considering sitting out this week against Buffalo.
- The Omaha World Herald's Tom Shatel says to look for an announcement soon of a series between Nebraska and Wyoming. The first game would be played at Invesco Field in Denver.
- Nebraska held New Mexico State scoreless on three of four drives inside the Cornhuskers' 3-yard line. That's coming after the Cornhuskers made only five of 61 red-zone stops last season.
- Colorado hopes to boost running game production against West Virginia.
- Iowa State coach Gene Chizik is concerned with his team's struggles in short-yardage situations.
- Topeka Capital-Journal reporter Tully Corcoran lists 10 reasons why Kansas' running game struggled mightily at South Florida.
- Baylor coach Art Briles told the student newspaper, The Lariat, that he was surprised Robert Griffin's 217-yard rushing effort against Washington State was a school record.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
That's right, I said this week. Because the Big 12 will have games scheduled four straight nights this week.
Ah, the nirvana of football on multiple nights. What a concept.
Here's the latest four-star viewer's guide for the games of the weekend. Plan your week and set your tape recorders and Tivos accordingly.
Like always, a ranking of four stars indicates must-see television, and maybe even a game tape to be savored by more devoted viewers. 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 painting the dining room or playing with the kids. All games will be played on Saturday, unless otherwise noted.
West Virginia at Colorado (Thursday, 8:30 p.m., ET, ESPN): The Mountaineers toyed with the Big 12's best team last year. Can they expect a repeat playing against the hungry Buffaloes -- especially at high altitude?
Kansas State at Louisville (Wednesday, 8 p.m., ESPN2): The Wildcats haven't played any BCS opponents so far. But this game could be a winnable one, particularly as Steve Kragthrope's tenure at Louisville has never looked shakier.
Baylor at Connecticut (Friday, 8 p.m., ESPN2): The nation will be introduced to Baylor QB Robert Griffin, who will hook up with the underrated 3-0 Huskies. Coach Randy Edsall's team ranks fifth nationally in rushing, eighth in scoring defense and 19th in rushing defense and might be better than last season's Meineke Car Care Bowl team.
Miami at Texas A&M (3:30 p.m., ABC-TV): This battle of once-potent nationally powers sounded better when it was announced than today. But A&M coach Mike Sherman has special impetus to win this game after preseason comments by his boss, A&M president Elsa Murano, a Miami native.
Buffalo at Missouri (Saturday, 2 p.m.): Sentimental trip back to the Big 12 for Buffalo coach Turner Gill, who tormented the Tigers during his playing career at Nebraska. Buffalo is coming off wild last-play victory over Temple. But they won't find accommodating hosts in the Tigers, who lead the nation in total offense and scoring and rank third in passing.
Rice at Texas (Saturday, 7 p.m.): Old Southwest Conference rivalry has been dominated in recent years by the Longhorns, who have won nine straight games and 37 of their last 38 against the Owls since 1966. This one shouldn't be close, although young Texas secondary will be tested by Rice's pitch-and-catch combination of QB Chase Clement and WR Jarett Dillard.
Iowa State at UNLV (Saturday, 9 p.m., MTN): Struggling Cyclones have got to have better red-zone production against Rebels, coming off impressive overtime victory at Arizona State. Rebels have cobbled together a 2-1 record despite not ranking above 75th nationally in any of the eight major team statistical categories.
Sam Houston State at Kansas (Saturday, 7 p.m. FCS): Lack of a running game doomed Kansas against South Florida. The Jayhawks will have a chance to work on that weakness against the Bearkats, who haven't played in more than three weeks since beating East Central on Aug. 28. Sam Houston QB Rhett Bomar returns to the Big 12 with a high-powered offense that leads FCS teams in scoring offense and turnover margin, is third in passing efficiency and fourth in rushing and total offense.
Massachusetts at Texas Tech (Saturday, 7 p.m.): Look for another offensive binge by the Red Raiders, who will be meeting their second FCS opponent so far this season. The Minutemen have struggled defensively, allowing 94 points in their last two games and rank 94th among the 109 FCS teams in scoring defense. This one could get really ugly.