Big 12: BYU Cougars

Considering its long history of Polynesian influence, it should come as no surprise that the Pac-12 led the way with 15 players named to the preseason watch list for the inaugural Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award.

Headlining the list is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, USC safety Su'a Cravens, Oregon State center Isaac Seumalo, Washington linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha and BYU linebacker Alani Fua.

The award was established by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class of members in January. That group of seven included Kurt Gouveia (BYU), Olin Kreutz (Washington), Kevin Mawae (LSU), Junior Seau (USC), Jack Thompson (Washington State), Herman Wedemeyer (Saint Mary's College) and Ken Niumatalolo (Navy/Hawaii).

The full breakdown of players on the watch list by conference is as follows: Pac-12 (15), Mountain West (12), Independents (4), American Athletic (1), Big 12 (1) and Sun Belt (1).

Here is the complete list (34 total):
Five finalists will be announced on Nov. 20 with the winner set to be named on Dec. 9.

Gill lands his biggest KU recruit so far

February, 1, 2010
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New Kansas coach Turner Gill has received his biggest recruiting commitment to date when four-star prospect Brandon Bourbon switched from Stanford to the Jayhawks.

Several Kansas newspapers reported that Bourbon changed his mind and ended a six-month commitment with the Cardinal after meeting with Gill and his staff.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder from Potosi, Mo., is the 18th commitment in Kansas' class.

Bourbon's decision is a huge get for Kansas, which lost two four-star recruits after the abrupt resignation of Mark Mangino. The loss of defensive end Geneo Grissom and junior college cornerback Dave Clark from Mangino's early commitments had left Gill scrambling.

The Lawrence Journal-World reported that Bourbon had also received offers from Notre Dame, Missouri, BYU and Kansas State.

Mailbag: Pelini is my post-bowl Big 12 Coach of Year

January, 29, 2010
1/29/10
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Happy Friday afternoon.

I wouldn’t think of jumping into the weekend without answering some of my better letters from this past week.

So here I go.

Steve Russell of Loveland, Colo., writes: Tim, quick question for you. If you were picking a conference coach of the year including the bowl games, who would you select?

Tim Griffin: After the regular season and conference championship game, I picked Mack Brown because of his 13-0 record. But including the bowl results, I would lean to Bo Pelini, with Brown closely followed by Paul Rhoads of Iowa State.

I think Pelini was able to get a lot out of a team that struggled offensively for much of the season. The Cornhuskers had one of the most imposing defenses in recent Big 12 history with Ndamukong Suh, Jared Crick, Prince Amukamara, Larry Asante, Phillip Dillard and Co. They had a 10-4 record, but the Cornhuskers were very close to a couple of more wins. With a fortunate break or two, the Cornhuskers could have ended up winning the Iowa State and Virginia Tech games during the regular season and the Big 12 championship game. They came legitimately close to a 13-1 record this season. Pelini deserves much of the credit for getting them into the championship game and for their victory over Arizona in the Holiday Bowl.

And as far as Rhoads, I think he did a masterful job with his team. The fact he was able to go to Nebraska and beat the Cornhuskers while starting a backup quarterback and running back while Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson were out of the lineup was one of the biggest upsets in the nation this past season. Capping the season with an Insight Bowl victory over Minnesota and finishing with a winning record completed a strong first season for the Cyclones.

Caleb from the Foothills of Colorado writes: Tim, I saw in your last mailbag that you weren't certain Colorado was nailed down as a conference member. Can you please elaborate on where you think they might be going and why? I can't see them in any other conference that makes geographical sense except the Mountain West and while the Buffs have been (sometimes painfully) bad for a few years now I don't think they deserve being relegated to the MWC.

Tim Griffin: Caleb, I was speaking from a gut feeling I have about Colorado in comparison with the rest of the conference. The Buffaloes program is nowhere near its level in football in the 1990s or even in the early stages of the Big 12. They obviously need a shot of enthusiasm. The report of the $50 million donation from boosters might produce that, but they clearly need a boost of some kind to jump into competition with schools like Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

I’ve always wondered if Colorado might be a better fit in the Pac-10 if that conference ever chose to expand. New Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott is said to be considering that. Maybe the Buffaloes might be a team he would look at.

And I’ve often thought that if the Mountain West ever got an automatic berth into the BCS if Colorado would be more competitive in that conference. Playing against schools like Colorado State, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and BYU would make geographic sense. But I don’t know if it would be palatable to Colorado fans after playing Big Eight and Big 12 opponents for all of these seasons.

My point was that if the Big 12 becomes serious about making the jump into Utah by adding either BYU or Utah at some point, they need to be sure that Colorado is on board for the duration. The move that direction doesn’t make much sense if the Buffaloes aren't committed.

Roger Stringfellow of Katy, Texas, writes: Tim, I read your post earlier today about Dat Nguyen returning to Texas A&M. What do you are his legitimate chances of returning to Aggieland? And do you think that Mike Sherman is smart enough to make this hire?

Tim Griffin: I think that Dat Nguyen would bring cache to Sherman’s coaching staff unlike many hires he could make. Nguyen legitimately is the most decorated Aggie football player of the last 40 years.

But you have to remember that Sherman is facing huge pressure after going 10-15 in his first two seasons at A&M. Hiring Tim DeRuyter from Air Force was a bold, popular move among most A&M fans. But I’m wondering if DeRuyter and Sherman believe they can gamble on a new coach with little true coaching experience and none in college football by hiring Nguyen.

To me, the hiring is a no-brainer. Getting Nguyen back in the program would be huge for Sherman and his staff. But if they believe they only have a one- or two-season window to turn things around, I can understand why they might opt for a new defensive coach with more experience.

Michael Hengel of Pine Bluff, Ark., writes: Hey, Tim, thank you for the nice column on Freddie Steinmark. Seeing his name in the headline of your piece brought back a flood of memories -- even before reading the feature, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I confess that I had not thought about his great story in years. What an inspiration.

Tim Griffin: Michael, thanks to you and everybody else who wrote to me to comment on my piece on what would have been Steinmark’s 61st birthday earlier this week. He’s still an iconic figure in Texas football history. But his story needs to be shared with more people who might have forgotten about him, or never heard of his inspiring life.

David Macrander of Omaha, Neb., writes: Tim, What do you think the chances are of all three of the major recruits Nebraska is after end up signing with them on signing day? If not all of them, how many (if any) do you think will sign with the Huskers?

Tim Griffin: Out of the three players remaining, I’ll rank the chances of them coming like this. I think the Cornhuskers’ best hopes come with attracting Owamagbe Odighizuwa because of their success with Ndamukong Suh. Odighizuwa saw what Bo Pelini’s staff did with another raw but talented defensive line prospect from Oregon in Suh. I’ve heard that really resonates with him. After that, I think their chances are next best with Corey Cooper, who likely sees that the Cornhuskers need immediate help at safety and likely could use him in the 2010 season if he develops quickly.

Quarterback Brion Carnes obviously has some family history with the Cornhuskers, considering he’s the cousin of legendary Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier. But I’m wondering if Jamal Turner’s announcement last night that he’s coming in the Class of 2011 will have any effect. Also, I know that Carnes is close with Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggert, who is a former quarterback at Manatee High School in Bradenton, Fla., where Carnes played.

So I’d rank Odighizuwa first, Cooper second and Carnes third in terms of their chances at arriving at Nebraska. Getting one player from that group would be a big late surge for Pelini. Two would be huge and a hat trick of all three players might be beyond even his most optimistic hopes. It will be interesting to see how many late recruiting commitments the Cornhuskers will get.

Thanks again for all of the good questions this week. Enjoy the Senior Bowl and I’ll check back with you again next week with another batch.

Texas announces future home games with UTEP, BYU

January, 26, 2010
1/26/10
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Texas made an upcoming scheduling addition on Tuesday, adding home football games with BYU and UTEP for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

The Longhorns will host BYU on Sept. 10, 2011, and UTEP on Sept. 8, 2012.

Additionally, Texas also confirmed the annual game with Texas A&M will be played on Thanksgiving night for the next two years.

Texas and BYU played a home-and-home series in 1987 and 1988 with the Cougars winning both games. The Longhorns and UTEP have played four previous times with the Longhorns winning all four games.

The announcement completes the Longhorns' schedules for the next two seasons. Here's a look at the upcoming schedules.

2010

Sept. 4 at Rice (at Reliant Stadium)

Sept. 11 Wyoming

Sept. 18 at Texas Tech

Sept. 25 UCLA

Oct. 2 Oklahoma (at Dallas)

Oct. 16 at Nebraska

Oct. 23 Iowa State

Oct. 30 Baylor

Nov. 6 at Kansas State

Nov. 13 Oklahoma State

Nov. 20 Florida Atlantic

Nov. 25 Texas A&M

2011

Sept. 3 Rice

Sept. 10 BYU

Sept. 17 at UCLA

Sept. 24 UCF

Oct. 8 Oklahoma (at Dallas)

Oct. 15 Nebraska

Oct. 22 at Iowa State

Oct. 29 at Baylor

Nov. 5 Kansas State

Nov. 12 at Oklahoma State

Nov. 19 Texas Tech

Nov. 24 at Texas A&M

Note: All home games are listed in bold.

The announcement of the game against BYU is particularly noticeable. Texas hasn't faced many teams from outside conferences since a series against Ohio State in 2005 and 2006. BYU won't be as daunting as the Buckeyes, but still represents a step in the right direction towards a more challenging schedule for the Longhorns.

Big 12 mailbag: Why Colt McCoy will excel in the NFL

January, 26, 2010
1/26/10
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Here are some Tuesday contributions from my favorite people, my readers.

Anil Rao of West Lafayette, Ind., writes: Tim, I wonder with the strong season and career that Colt McCoy has had at Texas without the benefit of a dominate running game why do many not see him succeeding at the next level? Thanks and keep up the good work on an amazing blog!

Tim Griffin: Anil, thanks for the kind words. I also wonder what McCoy could have done with a more consistent running game. In 2008, there was no doubt that he was Texas’ most consistent running threat. He likely would have been that player last year if the Longhorns’ coaches had used him more in that role.

I think it will be interesting to see what he accomplishes at the next level. After watching him play for four seasons, I’ve seen him come back better each season from the previous one. I also think he will be driven by perceived slights if his draft status doesn’t match what he might think it should be.

The pro scouts that I talk to say the best comparison in his football makeup is Drew Brees, who was similarly doubted coming out of college. McCoy is bigger and stronger than Brees, which I think makes his chances a little better to play well at the next level.

I think McCoy's underrated arm, his leadership and his moxie as a player will help him succeed at the next level. I think somebody picking late in the first day of the draft will be picking up a steal if they pick McCoy.


Curtis from Lincoln, Neb., writes: This is moderately old news, but it was said after the Holiday Bowl that Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee injured his wrist and later his elbow early last season, leading to his sub-par performances and the one-game starting spot for the talented but raw freshman, Cody Green. Lee later rebounded for a respectable showing in the Holiday Bowl, and has had surgery to repair it.

So, with this in mind, who do you think is going to win the quarterback battle at Nebraska? Will it be Lee or Green?

Tim Griffin: Lee’s injury woes kind of put his late-season struggles in some perspective. But I was always waiting for Green to really jump out and impress me when he got a chance to play last season. I didn’t see that late in the season -- in fact, it seemed like he regressed as the season continued and he started playing the tougher defenses in the Big 12.

It will be interesting to see how Lee rebounds after getting a chance to recover from his surgery. I think he’ll go into spring practice as the favorite, but Green will have the opportunity to win the job with a big performance.

But that being said, I look for Lee to win the job and be Nebraska’s opening game starter on Sept. 4 against Western Kentucky. Green will play some next year. And I think the Wildcat that Shawn Watson dusted off during the Holiday Bowl could really be a huge weapon with Rex Burkhead and Green as the tailback in that offense. Look for that plan next season.


Chase Gosselin from Trujillo, Peru, writes: Should Missouri join the Big Ten, would the Big 12 have a shot at convincing BYU or Utah to replace the Tigers? In addition to maintaining conference alignment, either of these universities would bring another quality team to the Big XII, expand the conference's geographical television reach, supply strong fan bases (particularly BYU with LaVell Edwards Stadium), and provide another non-BCS conference team with a chance to earn some serious money.

Tim Griffin: Chase, I agree that both would be good long-term additions if the Big 12 should ever have a vacancy. One thing that would be important would be to nail down Colorado as a significant conference member. It would look unwieldy if either of the Utah schools was added without the Buffaloes remaining in place.

But in terms of facilities, strength in other sports and football tradition, either the Utes or the Cougars would be a nice addition for the Big 12.

Dan Beebe would prefer not to worry about that, however. I think he’d like to keep Missouri in place, if he could.


Davey Jones writes: Is your comment system working today, Tim? You had some interesting blogposts that I and others would like to have been able to comment on. What’s the problem?

Tim Griffin: I was told that our production people have just gotten a solution to this problem only a few minutes ago.

Thanks for your patience in this and come back later to post any comments you think might be relevant to my posts and the ones of the other bloggers. We appreciate the feedback.


Adam Jacquez of Raleigh, N.C., writes: Hey Tim, in regards to your all-decade Big 12 team, I was wondering why you chose Chase Coffman over Jermaine Gresham. In my opinion, Gresham was a much better all-around player. If Gresham had played in 2009, would it have swayed in your choice of Coffman?

Tim Griffin: I based my choices on productivity and longevity. As such, I thought that Coffman was the choice over Gresham. During the 2008 season, Gresham was the more productive player, but I thought over the course of both players’ careers that Coffman was the better player and deserving of my selection.

But to answer your question, if Gresham had played in 2009 and had a similar season as the one he had the previous year, I would have definitely given him more consideration for the all-decade team. The fact he missed 2009 really hurt his chances.


J.L. from Marshall, Va., writes: Hey, Tim wasn't Mike Sherman hired by Texas A&M because he was known as a defensive wizard? If so, how will hiring another defensive wizard help A&M turn around their recent struggles.

Tim Griffin: J.L., Sherman’s background before becoming a head coach was as an offensive coach and particularly an offensive line coach. From 1983-96, he coached the offensive line at a variety of colleges, with a one-season break as the offensive coordinator at Holy Cross in 1988. He was the Green Bay Packers’ tight ends coach in 1997-98 before serving for one season as the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive coordinator.

Sherman then was Green Bay’s head coach from 2000-05 and served as assistant head coach for the Houston Texans in 2006 and as their offensive coordinator the following season before arriving at Texas A&M as the head coach in 2008.

I think the hiring of Tim DeRuyter as A&M’s new offensive coordinator was a wise move by Sherman. DeRuyter had much success coaching at the Air Force. It will be interesting to see if his strategy and techniques will work as he moves up in class and starts calling defenses against the more talented teams he will regularly face in the Big 12.


Christopher Luce from Columbus, Neb., writes: I was wondering if you had a quick list of Big 12 stadiums and their actual seating capacities? Mainly, because I don't want to do the math. Your list doesn’t have one included. Can you help me with the most up-to-date numbers you can find?

Tim Griffin: Christopher, your wish is my command. I went through the last home media notes sheet for every Big 12 team to get the listed seating capacity for their final 2009 home game. Here’s the list I was able to come up with.

Thanks again for all of the good letters and check back again Friday with the next edition of my mailbag.

2009 stacked with Big 12 moments to remember

January, 13, 2010
1/13/10
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The 2009 season in the Big 12 didn't turn out as planned because of the rash of injuries and suspensions that began before the season and continued through the final bowl game of the year.

Here are my 10 most memorable moments of the Big 12 season. They aren't ranked in any specific order, but all played a huge part in the conference this season.
    [+] EnlargeColt
    Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesColt McCoy's injury in the BCS title game left fans wondering what could have been.
  • Colt McCoy's injury: When the senior Texas quarterback was lost for the game with a nerve injury to his throwing shoulder after five offensive snaps in the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama, the Longhorns' hopes were doomed. Even a strong and gutty relief performance by freshman backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert won't alter Texas fans from thinking what could have happened if McCoy had not been injured.
  • Sam Bradford's injuries: Oklahoma's hopes of a national championship were crushed after Bradford sprained an AC joint in his throwing shoulder shortly before halftime in the Sooners' season opener against BYU. Their dreams of a four-peat of consecutive Big 12 titles died when Bradford was reinjured early in the first quarter of its South Division showdown against Texas.
  • “I'm so proud to be your coach”: Without starting quarterback Austen Arnaud and top rusher Alexander Robinson, and with a sapping flu bug depleting his team, first-year Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads was overcome with emotion in the locker room following his team's 9-7 upset at Nebraska. His heartfelt reaction captured by an ISU film crew became an immediate YouTube sensation.
  • Sticks' dramatic comeback: With the Texas Tech program in limbo after Mike Leach's firing three days earlier, the Red Raiders fell behind underdog Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl. Interim coach Ruffin McNeill pulled Taylor Potts from the lineup and inserted backup Steven “Sticks” Sheffield at quarterback with 8:05 left to give his team a boost. Sheffield responded by hitting his first six passes and going 9-for-11 in the game to help direct the Red Raiders to a 41-31 victory. Potts earned Most Valuable Player honors in the game, but Sheffield saved the Red Raiders' victory.
  • Colt McCoy's "too early" Heisman moment: McCoy was presumed to have locked up the Heisman with a 65-yard touchdown run through the middle of the Texas A&M defense, helping spark a 49-39 victory over the Aggies. It punctuated an effort in which McCoy accounted for 479 yards and five touchdowns against A&M. That was, until …
  • "Big Suh" dominates Texas: Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh provided a game for the ages against Texas in the Big 12 title game before losing to the Longhorns, 13-12. Suh had a Big 12 title game record 4.5 sacks, and the Cornhuskers harassed McCoy into three interceptions and sacked him nine times. The big effort not only doomed McCoy's Heisman hopes, but undoubtedly sparked Suh's trip to the Heisman presentation at the same time.
  • Broyles slices through the Cowboys: Oklahoma wide receiver/punt returner Ryan Broyles punctuated a 209-yard punt return effort with an 87-yard scoring return to lead the Sooners' 27-0 victory over Oklahoma State, ending the Cowboys' hopes of making a trip to a BCS game. Broyles' 316 all-purpose yards were the third-best effort in school history.
  • Robert Griffin's injury: Baylor's worst fears were realized during the Bears' 68-13 victory over Northwestern State when their stellar sophomore quarterback suffered a season-ending knee injury. It killed their hopes of snapping a 15-season bowl drought -- tied for the longest among schools with automatic BCS bids -- just when promise under Coach Art Briles had never appeared brighter.
  • Danario's late-season explosion: Missouri wide receiver Danario Alexander progressed into the nation's most explosive receiver during the final half of the season. He nearly became the first player in college football history to notch back-to-back-to-back-to-back 200-yard receiving games. He finished with 214 yards against Baylor, 200 against Kansas State, 173 yards against Iowa State and 233 yards against Kansas in his final four regular-season games.
  • Hunter Lawrence's field goal: After it appeared Texas had mismanaged its way to losing the Big 12 title game, one second was put back on the clock. Hunter Lawrence took advantage on the reprieve with a 46-yard field goal that gave the Longhorns a 13-12 victory over Nebraska and a berth in the BCS title game. It was the first time in Lawrence's career -- dating back to pee-wee football -- that he had ever attempted a game-winning kick.

Bradford looks at BCS title game loss for inspiration

August, 11, 2009
8/11/09
6:42
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford hasn't had to look very far this summer for motivation.

Bradford said that he's watched the Sooners' BCS title game loss to Florida, and particularly the Sooners' struggles in the red zone to keep himself focused since the 24-14 loss.

The Sooners were turned away with no points inside the Florida 6-yard line, providing the difference in Oklahoma's title game loss. Coming into the bowl game, the Sooners had led the nation in red-zone efficiency.

"Yeah, I've watched the game and it's especially frustrating," Bradford said. "We were very good in the red zone all year and then to see us not execute all season is very frustrating. We can learn from it that if you want to win, you have to convert every time."

The loss was the Sooners' fifth-straight BCS bowl game loss and third-straight title game. That defeat has helped unify the Sooners as they prepare for the season.

"Any time you lose a national championship game, it will stick with you," Bradford said. "I think about it a lot. Anyone on this team who told you they didn't think about it would be lying to you."

The bowl game struggles have been an overriding concern for the Sooners in recent seasons. But coaches haven't taken as much of an in-your-face attitude as after the loss to West Virginia in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl when signs and quotes from Mountaineer players were prominently displayed in the Sooners' team workout area.

Even with the bowl struggles, Bradford said his team isn't concerned about that game until they come to it.

"Bowl games are our 13th or 14th game of the season," Bradford said. "We have a lot of things to think about before then. We have a tough opener down in Dallas against BYU and we need to be focused on that.

"Obviously, we are frustrated with everybody talking about us not being able to finish the season on a right note. But if we don't take care of business in the regular season, then we won't have a chance to win our bowl game."

Six Big 12 QBs on Davey O'Brien watch list

August, 3, 2009
8/03/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Big 12 has developed the reputation as the best conference in the nation for producing top quarterbacks in recent seasons.

That trend continued today when six Big 12 quarterbacks were named to the initial watch list for the Fort Worth-based Davey O'Brien Award.

It wasn't much of a surprise that the Big 12's top two quarterbacks -- returning Heisman finalists Colt McCoy of Texas and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford made the list. Bradford is the returning Davey O'Brien winner from last season.

Other Big 12 quarterbacks who made the list include Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson, Kansas' Todd Reesing and Baylor's Robert Griffin.

The other Big 12 choice raised a few eyebrows. Texas Tech quarterback Taylor Potts was selected despite the fact he has thrown only 85 passes and never started a college game before. Members of the O'Brien's selection committee obviously feel comfortable that Potts will follow in the long line of quarterbacks for Tech coach Mike Leach who produce monster numbers once they get a chance to play.

The O'Brien Award has been presented to six previous Big 12 players since the conference began play in 1996. Big 12 winners included Kansas State's Michael Bishop in 1998, Nebraska's Eric Crouch in 2001, Oklahoma's Jason White in 2003 and 2004, Texas' Vince Youung in 2005 and Bradford last season.

Bradford will be looking to become the fourth back-to-back O'Brien Award winner. Others who have won the award in consecutive seasons were BYU's Ty Detmer in 1990-91, Florida's Danny Wuerffel in 1995-96 and White.

No other conference had more than four nominees on the watch list among the 33 players who were named.

This year's winner will be announced Dec. 10 as part of the Home Depot College Football Awards Show.

The Big 12's toughest nonconference games

July, 20, 2009
7/20/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Big 12's nonconference schedule is marked with several extremely difficult tests early. These are statement games for the conference as a whole. If Big 12 teams can win these games, it would grab a lot of national attention.

If not, the Big 12's national reputation could take an early hit that could have naysayers reminding us about the conference's bowl struggles last season against the SEC.

But here's a look at six games that will be the most difficult for Big 12 teams. These will be a little more difficult than those last week I listed as potential trap games.

1. Nebraska at Virginia Tech, Sept. 19: Bo Pelini's toughest nonconference road game to date. The Hokies are ranked no lower than 14th nationally in any preseason magazine I've seen yet and will be a tremendous challenge in Blacksburg. In order to win, the Cornhuskers will have to keep Virginia Tech's defense and special teams in check and hope for a break or two.

2. Georgia at Oklahoma State, Sept. 5: This game will arguably be the biggest nonconference game in Oklahoma State history. And even though the Cowboys likely will be favored and facing a Georgia team breaking in a new starting quarterback, it will still be a huge test to beat one of the Southeastern Conference's traditional power teams.

3. Iowa at Iowa State, Sept. 12: The Cyclones have won four of the last five games at home in the series, but Paul Rhoads' first big test against his cross-state rivals looms especially large. Particularly with the Hawkeyes expected by many to be the surprise team in the Big Ten this season.

4. Illinois vs. Missouri (at St. Louis), Sept. 5: This game was already going to be tough before Sean Weatherspoon started tweeting about squeezing "the pulp" out of Illinois quarterback Juice Williams. And bet that Ron Zook and the Fighting Illini haven't forgotten that the Tigers have won four straight games against them in the bragging-rights battle.

5. Oklahoma at Miami, Oct. 3: This rivalry was one to circle back in the mid-1980s when Barry Switzer and Jimmy Johnson were battling. It's still a good one and Randy Shannon will be looking for a statement victory that would grab attention for his program from across the nation. Bet that Shannon will remind his team about the 51-13 whipping it endured last season in Norman for a little inspiration before the game at Land Shark Stadium.

6. Baylor at Wake Forest, Sept. 5: Baylor should be much better than last season and the Demon Deacons should be a little down from last season. But Wake Forest still should be a challenge considering Jim Grobe's recent transformation of the Demon Deacons, who have posted a 14-5 home record in the last three seasons. Baylor's defense will have to play much better than last season, when it allowed scoring drives on Wake Forest's first three possessions in an eventual 41-13 loss in Waco.

And 10 others to watch:

Colorado at West Virginia, Oct. 1
Oklahoma at BYU (at Arlington), Sept. 5
Texas A&M vs. Arkansas (at Arlington), Oct. 3
Texas Tech at Houston, Sept. 26
Houston at Oklahoma State, Sept. 12
Kansas at UTEP, Sept. 12
Missouri at Nevada, Sept. 26
Connecticut at Baylor, Sept. 19
Southern Mississippi at Kansas, Sept. 26
Kansas State at UCLA, Sept. 19

Study: A&M has Big 12's most efficient athletic department

July, 10, 2009
7/10/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

A sports management study group at Texas A&M has come up with an interesting study, crunching numbers and analyzing the overall performance of athletic departments in terms of efficiency.

It might seem a little dubious that Texas A&M leads Big 12 schools in a study produced by an A&M-affiliated group, but facts are facts.  

The way the school's Laboratory for the Study of Intercollegiate Athletics (LSIA) figured this out is by analyzing the number of national and conference championships won compared to the athletic budgets of the competing schools.

In a way, this is an "everyman" version of the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup, which clearly benefits those schools with the biggest budgets and who compete in the most sports.

Not surprisingly, the LSIA list is heavily stacked with non-BCS schools at the top of the list. The first 10 schools include (in order): Utah State, Kent State, Louisiana Tech, Akron, BYU, Utah, Boise State, Tulsa, Miami (Ohio) and SMU. Oregon, at 11th, is the highest-ranked school from a BCS-affiliated conference.

Maryland at 14th is next, followed by Texas A&M at 15th. The Aggies have won three NCAA championships in the last two months -- winning national championships in men's golf, men's track and field and women's track and field.  

The timing of this study is curious, particularly considering the recent cutbacks in the A&M athletic administrative staff that were announced last week. The Aggies' athletic department recently slashed 17 positions to help trim $4.5 million from its budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year. That's only part of a $16 million debt the athletic department will have to repay back to the university beginning in November.

No other Big 12 teams are ranked in the top 25 in the final LSIA standings. Oklahoma State is ranked 28th and Baylor is 34th.

Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne is facing some difficult financial decisions as he attempts to balance his budget. But at least in one determination, he can take some solace in seeing his programs are getting some recognition for accomplishments done in an efficient manner.

There was no way for Perlman to reason with BCS foes

July, 8, 2009
7/08/09
1:05
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman was in the uncomfortable position of trying to argue against one of the most difficult and cunning forces in all of public speaking Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

Namely, how do you reason with a grandstanding politician who is shamelessly pandering to his electorate back home?

Such was the challenge for Perlman as he tried to answer the pointed questions of U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, who should have been wearing a Utah sweatshirt as he spoke with BCS proponents at the Senate Judiciary subcommittee's hearing.

Obviously, the current system has been good to Perlman and other Big 12 schools. The conference has a guaranteed berth to the BCS and often has landed a spot in the national championship game. Sometimes, Big 12 teams have qualified for that game when it could be argued there are more worthy teams outside the BCS' convoluted and arcane mathematical formula.

But like their other brethren from BCS-affiliated conferences, if any teams would deserve those breaks it would be the teams from the biggest conferences. The reason is because of the week-in, week-out scheduling gauntlet these teams consistently face in their conferences.

Central to Perlman's argument is that teams like Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Florida and Ohio State routinely face a tougher schedule than schools like Utah, Boise State or Hawaii.

And he's right.

(Read full post)

Big 12 lunch links: Nebraska fandom spreads around the world

June, 24, 2009
6/24/09
1:06
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The dedication and zeal of Nebraska fans rank among the strongest in all of college football.

Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal-Star has a great story this morning about the Cornhuskers' support from fans scattered around the world.

My favorite part was an anecdote from Nebraska graduate Tim Pendrell, who shared the story of watching the 2006 Nebraska-Texas game with friends at the Shao Yuan dorms at Peking University as he took part in a Nebraska-sponsored study-abroad program.

While watching that tight game, Pendrell's new friends were shouting, "Husker jia you, Husker jia you, Husker jia you," which is Chinese for "go team."

Hopefully, Pendrell's friends got a good appreciation for Big 12 football while watching that game. And if so, do I have some links for them today.

Arlington facility provides huge revenue to Big 12 teams

June, 22, 2009
6/22/09
7:43
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Dallas Cowboys officials are intent on making the new stadium in Arlington, Texas, one of the key centers for college football games in the nation.

As such, they are providing deep revenue streams that will enable college teams to reap vast profits by playing in the new facility.

Gary Jacobson of The Dallas Morning News had an interesting story about some of the contract provisions from some of the college games that will be played in the stadium in the next several seasons, after copies of the contracts were obtained by his newspaper through open records requests.

Some of the more notable findings included:

  • When Baylor meets Texas Tech on Nov. 28, no alcoholic beverages will be sold in the general concession areas, although it will be available in club areas and private boxes. At other college games at the facility, alcoholic beverages will be available throughout the facility.
  • The stadium rental fee for the Texas A&M-Arkansas game Oct. 3 and the Baylor-Texas Tech game will be $100. The schools will receive revenue from ticket sales and from team-specific merchandise sales and game-specific sponsorship deals.
  • Cowboys Stadium, L.P., controlled by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, staffs and manages the games at no cost to the teams, and gets revenue from parking, food, beverage and non-participant merchandise sales. Legends Hospitality Management, the food service provider at the stadium, is owned by the Cowboys, the New York Yankees and two investment firms.
  • The stadium partnership will also receive 1,000 club seats, among the best seats in the stadium, to each game at no cost.
  • In 2013, when Notre Dame plays Arizona State in Arlington, Notre Dame will be the host institution and be responsible for managing the game at its cost, according to a copy of ASU's contract for the game. Notre Dame's payment for the game was shielded because the school is a private institution and not subject to open records acts. Arizona State will be paid $1.4 million for the game and receive free use of two suites, according to its contract.
  • Oklahoma will receive $2.25 million and BYU about $1.5 million in fixed payments for their Sept. 5 game. Oklahoma's contract also specifies that it will receive 1,000 free tickets behind its bench and four free suites.
  • Texas A&M and Arkansas will evenly split the free use of 16 suites; Baylor and Texas Tech split the free use of 22 suites, six for administrative purposes, according to the contracts.
  • In another piece of correspondence to Texas Tech, the Cowboys guaranteed that gross revenue for eight of the school's suites would total at least $125,000.

The Cowboys have been very open about their plans to fill the facility with games other than NFL contests. Dallas executive vice president and chief operating officer Stephen Jones said earlier this year that the team hopes one day to schedule more college football games at the facility than NFL contests.

As those figures become known to other schools around the country, it won't be a surprise if it eventually fulfills those wishes.

Ranking the best and worst of Big 12 nonconference schedules

June, 10, 2009
6/10/09
12:01
PM ET

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.

Tags:

Barry Switzer, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mike Locksley, Miami Hurricanes, Illinois Fighting Illini, Jarrett Brown, BYU Cougars, Toledo Rockets, Harvey Unga, Colorado State Rams, Iowa Hawkeyes, Arrelious Benn, James Casey, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Tim Benford, Bill Snyder, Jordan Sorrells, Kent State Golden Flashes, Bradley Dale Peveto, Ali Villanueva, Baylor Bears, Wyoming Cowboys, Massachusetts Minutemen, Texas Longhorns, Doug Martin, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles, Connecticut Huskies, Juice Williams, Central Florida Knights, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Missouri Tigers, Rich Ellerson, Colorado Buffaloes, Bowling Green Falcons, Todd Reesing, Dave Christensen, Oklahoma Sooners, Georgia Bulldogs, Utah State Aggies, Chip Bowden, Dan Hawkins, Mike Leach, Robert Griffin, Duke Blue Demons, Kansas State Wildcats, Grambling Tigers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Florida State Seminoles, Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, Furman Paladins, Northwestern State Demons, LSU Tigers, Watson Brown, Colin Kaepernick, Paul Rhoads, Kansas Jayhawks, Damion Fletcher, Idaho State Vandals, Florida Atlantic Owls, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, West Virginia Mountaineers, Tyrod Taylor, Army Black Knights, North Dakota State Bison, Jerrod Johnson, Shonn Greene, Case Keenum, Lee Sweeney, Alabama Crimson Tide, Taylor Potts, Iowa State Cyclones, Trevor Vittatoe, Mack Brown, Schedule rank 061009, UCLA Bruins, Dezmon Briscoe, UTEP Miners, Bobby Petrino, Northern Colorado Bears, Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles, Houston Cougars, Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, Jimmy Johnson, Eugene Jarvis, Virginia Tech Hokies, North Dakota Fighting Sioux, Ohio State Buckeyes, Jarrett Dillard, Tyler Sheehan, UAB Blazers, Arkansas Razorbacks, Howard Schnellenberger, Chase Clement, Mike Sherman, Texas A&M Aggies

Big 12 lunch links: Brown returns from Middle East

June, 5, 2009
6/05/09
1:22
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Happy Friday.

Here are some Big 12 links to send you bouncing into the weekend.

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