Big 12: Butch Davis
More fresh faces:
Will Smith, LB: Smith's about to become the fresh prince of Texas Tech's defensive backfield. The juco transfer walked into the spring and before it was even over, had already secured a starting spot at middle linebacker. The 6-foot-3, 224-pounder showed up in West Texas via California and racked up 13 tackles for loss during his undefeated season in junior college last year. You never know how guys will handle the transition, but expect Smith to do well and fit in as a major piece that Tech's defense needed badly.
Delvon Simmons, DT: Simmons' growth is paramount to Texas Tech's improvement on defense. He didn't start last year, but made an impact with 13 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss in the rotation. It's easy to see why the 6-foot-5, 290-pounder was a super recruit who signed with North Carolina, but later decided he wanted out. Butch Davis' loss was Tommy Tuberville's gain. After a solid freshman year, it's time for Simmons to move into a starring role. He'll start at nose tackle for Art Kaufman's new 4-3 defense, but the Pennsylvania native should inspire plenty of excitement around Lubbock.
Le'Raven Clark, OG: The former high school All-American redshirted last season but will be the team's starting guard to start the season, despite no playing experience. Texas Tech's offensive line is pretty underrated and has big talents in tackle LaAdrian Waddle and center Deveric Gallington, both seniors. They ought to help the young guys along, but the biggest task for everybody on the line is staying healthy.
A mid-level bowl game on a rainy day in a location few consider a vacation spot led to a small crowd. But Missouri looked like it wanted to be in Shreveport, La., on Monday afternoon, dominating this game, and earning a solid win in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl over North Carolina, 41-24.
How the game was won: Missouri was the aggressor from the start, pounding North Carolina with a relentless running game and hitting simple throws when necessary. The Tigers scored on all five of their first-half drives and raced to a 31-10 halftime lead. Missouri forced a pair of first-half turnovers after allowing a touchdown on the opening drive. The rout was on early.
Turning point: North Carolina turned the ball over on consecutive snaps and when it looked up, Missouri led, 31-7. Giovani Bernard fumbled near midfield and Missouri marched 40 yards for a touchdown. Bryn Renner threw a perfect pass to Dwight Jones, but a hit jostled loose the ball, which ended up rolling off Jones' back and into Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden's hands. Missouri used seven plays to go 59 yards for a score and a 31-7 lead.
Stat of the game: Missouri's running game really couldn't be stopped in the first half. The Tigers outrushed North Carolina, 192-13. Bernard, an All-ACC first-teamer, had just 12 yards on eight carries in the half. The Tigers finished with 337 rushing yards -- just the third time this season the Tigers topped 300 yards on the ground. They did it against UNC, who entered Monday's game with the nation's No. 14 rush defense, allowing just more than 106 yards rushing per game this season.
Player of the game: Franklin. Missouri's sophomore quarterback was at his best, utilizing his underrated arm and great legs, and helping the Tigers keep solid balance. He finished with 142 yards rushing and 132 yards passing, accounting for three touchdowns.
Worst omen: Truman the Tiger. Mizzou's mascot shattered the crystal Independence Bowl trophy just hours before the game, but bowl officials told media at the game they hustled to find a replacement trophy from a "local jeweler." Missouri isn't expected to be forced to foot the bill for the trophy, which cost a "couple thousand bucks, at least," but the omen didn't seem to bother the Tigers in the bowl win.
Stat of the game II: Truman the Tiger fumbles: 1. Missouri Tiger fumbles: 0.
Unsung hero of the game: Missouri's offensive line. North Carolina's defense is littered with NFL talent, highlighted by defensive end Quinton Coples. The Tigers O-line blew them off the ball from the start, clearing huge holes and giving Franklin tons of time to throw.
Best call: Missouri gave up a 22-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive, but came back with a trick play you know it was itching to unleash. Facing a second-and-4 on the UNC 40, Franklin flicked a pass to his right, back to former high school quarterback and the team's leading receiver, T.J. Moe. He flung it downfield to a wide-open Wes Kemp for a 40-yard, game-tying touchdown. The trickery worked to perfection, and the execution was perfect, too.
What it means: Missouri will head to the SEC with some good momentum off a pretty average season. The day in Shreveport finished with an S-E-C chant from the Tigers fans who made the trip. The Tigers will face a huge challenge in a new conference next year, while North Carolina begins a brand-new era in the ACC. Interim coach Everett Withers is headed to Ohio State as a co-defensive coordinator, and former Southern Miss coach (and Oklahoma State offensive coordinator) Larry Fedora will now take over in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have constantly underachieved under Butch Davis with lots of NFL talent, and Fedora will try to change that.
Record performance: North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner broke Chris Keldorf's school record, set in 1996, for touchdown passes with his 24th of the season on the opening drive. That ball was caught by Dwight Jones, his 12th of the season, which tied Hakeem Nicks' school record set back in 2008.
Record performance II: Missouri's 31 first-half points were a Mizzou bowl record, and also an Independence Bowl record. The Tigers made it look easy.
Dec. 26, 5:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Missouri take by Big 12 blogger David Ubben: Missouri is headed to the SEC next season, and went out quietly in Big 12 play. The Tigers roll with dual-threat quarterback James Franklin, but are still trying to find their offense after losing Henry Josey, the Big 12's leading rusher at the time, to a serious knee injury. He started the season No. 3 on the depth chart. It's been up to Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore to pick up the slack.
The Tigers' defense had high hopes coming into the season, and it's been good after some early-season struggles, but perhaps not as good as expected. The defensive line hasn't dominated as most expected, but the Tigers played well enough to win four of their final five games to rescue a rough start against a brutal schedule. Mizzou may have the best five losses of any team in the country: Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Arizona State. Not a bad one in the bunch, and all four but Oklahoma State came on the road. Mizzou is better than its record suggests, and will get a chance to prove it in the postseason.
North Carolina take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: The entire season could have unraveled for UNC, considering former coach Butch Davis was fired just days before summer practices began, but interim coach Everett Withers kept the program on track for its fourth straight bowl appearance.
North Carolina has faced Missouri twice, losing both times, but has not played the Tigers since 1976. North Carolina started the season 5-1, but fizzled down the stretch against better competition. The Tar Heels lost four of their past six games, including a fifth-straight loss to rival NC State. Individually, though, it has been an impressive season for a few Tar Heels. Tailback Giovani Bernard rushed for a UNC freshman record 1,222 yards and became the first Tar Heel since 1997 to run for more than 1,000 yards.
Receiver Dwight Jones set a school record with 79 receptions and has 11 touchdown catches, which is just one shy of the single-season record. And quarterback Bryn Renner enters the bowl game tied for the school record with 23 touchdown passes. Defensively, Carolina is led by defensive end Quinton Coples and linebacker Zach Brown. Coples ranks fourth among active college players with 24 career sacks. Brown led the Tar Heels with 91 tackles, including 11.5 for losses and 5.5 sacks.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
While Colorado strength coach Jeff Pittman's comments weren't nearly as widely reported as Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin's blast at Florida, I imagine that his recent remarks for Colorado fans probably caught some notice around other Big 12 teams.
Pittman appeared at a post-signing day recruiting wrapup for Colorado fans and was excited about his team's recent progress at conditioning. And like Kiffin, he played to his crowd.
But in the process, Pittman probably raised the hackles of a few Big 12 foes.
"The last two weeks have been the best two weeks I've had here by far," Pitman told the group in a story reported by the Boulder Camera's Kyle Ringo. "I'm definitely excited. I think we're going to road-grade some people next year."
Here are some other stories from around the Big 12 today.
- The San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger writes that Mack Brown is always going to hear about Texas-based recruits who were snubbed in recruiting by the Longhorns.
- Alabama recruit Dre Kirkpatrick explains to the New York Times' Thayer Evans that a woman at a gas station helped convince him to attend Alabama over Texas.
- Tulsa World columnist John Klein catches up with former Oklahoma coach John Blake, now the top recruiter at North Carolina on Butch Davis' staff.
- Texas will be charging $95 for a single-game ticket against Texas Tech in 2009 -- the highest ticket price the school has ever charged for one game, John Maher of the Austin American-Statesman reports.
- DeMarco Cobbs, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound wide receiver from Tulsa Central High School and a prime Oklahoma target, is ranked as the No. 1 prospect of the 2010 recruiting class by the Sporting News' Brian McLaughlin.
- Former Texas A&M offensive coordinator Les Koenning and defensive coordinator Carl Torbush have resurfaced in the same roles on Dan Mullen's new staff at Mississippi State, Kyle Veazey of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports.
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
Final Illinois 18 Louisiana Tech 35 Final Rutgers 40 North Carolina 21 Final North Carolina State 34 UCF 27
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 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