Big 12: Central Michigan Chippewas

Five games to fear in the Big 12

July, 13, 2009
7/13/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

There are several obvious games that are already noticeable that should carry an extra bit of trepidation for Big 12 teams as they prepare for the upcoming season. Even with Big 12 teams likely to be solidly favored in these games, here are five games that should come with a warning label considering the opponent and the circumstances of the game.

North Dakota State at Iowa State, Sept. 3: Craig Bohl will have the Bison fired up for their game in Ames. And he knows a little bit about beating the Cyclones, considering his history as a defensive coordinator at Nebraska.

This game has all the marking of one to worry about for the Cyclones. It's Paul Rhoads' first game as a head coach. The Bison have been tough in other road games at FCS teams in recent seasons, losing by three points at Wyoming last season, beating Minnesota and Central Michigan on the road in 2007 and losing by one point at Minnesota and beating Ball State on the road in 2006. Even with the talent disparity, this game might be closer than expected.

Rhoads should ask Colorado coach Dan Hawkins how much losing to an FCS team in your first game at a Big 12 school can ruin your first season. That 2006 opening-game loss to Montana State was a particularly bad start for Hawkins' coaching tenure there.

Houston at Oklahoma State, Sept. 12: This game is coming at a tricky time for Oklahoma State, which will be coming back for a second game after a huge emotional opener against Georgia the week before. The Cougars will have 5,000-yard passer Case Keenum along with 1,000-yard rusher Bryce Beall and 1,000-yard receiver Tyron Carrier among a group of 15 returning starters.

And not only do the Cougars return a lot of experience, but they also have a modicum of confidence against OSU. Houston led the Cowboys last season, 16-7, late in the first half before the Cowboys' offense blitzed them for four touchdowns in a span of barely 7½ minutes. If Houston can do a better job defensively this season, it could make Mike Gundy sweat against the preseason Conference USA West Division's favorites.

Kansas at UTEP, Sept. 12: The trip to the Sun Bowl might be a little more harrowing than expected for the Jayhawks.

UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe threw for 33 touchdown passes and 3,274 yards last season. The Miners also surround him with 14 other returning starters. If Vittatoe can stay protected, he might be able to singe the Jayhawks' questionable linebacking corps and perhaps win a shootout. Stranger things have happened -- particularly playing in front of what should be a sellout crowd at the Sun Bowl.

And here's a statistic to keep in mind before the game: The Jayhawks have lost their last three true nonconference road games and haven't claimed a nonconference road game since winning at Wyoming in 2003. Their trip to El Paso won't be a picnic.

Wyoming at Colorado, Sept. 19: On paper, this looks like a game the Buffaloes should easily win. But a couple of trends might prove to benefit new Wyoming coach Dave Christensen, who will be playing his first road game.

Christensen was the offensive coordinator of a Missouri team that beat Colorado by a combined margin of 113-10 over the past two seasons, including a 58-0 victory last season. He won't have Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin or Chase Coffman in this game, but he still has confidence of being successful against Colorado's defense.

The Cowboys won at Tennessee last season so they aren't intimidated by hostile road environments. They have 17 starters back, including eight defensive players who will be facing Colorado's defense with some confidence after strong play late last season.

Colorado has a history of struggling as a big favorite in previous nonconference home games, winning by seven against Eastern Washington last season and losing at home to Montana State in Hawkins' first game in 2006. The signs point to this being a game where the Buffaloes potentially could struggle.

Missouri at Nevada, Sept. 25: This Friday night game will set up nicely for veteran Nevada coach Chris Ault and the Wolf Pack, who will showcase their program on national television in this game.

Nevada has the explosive Pistol offense keyed by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the returning Western Athletic Conference player of the year who will be looking to make a national name for himself with a big performance. Also back are 2008 WAC leading rusher Vai Taua and 2007 leading rusher Luke Lippincott, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in the second game last year. And they'll be facing a retooled Missouri defense.

The Wolf Pack still remember a gadget pass for a touchdown by Missouri wide receiver Tommy Saunders when they were behind 45-17 midway through the third quarter of a game they eventually lost 69-17 in Columbia last season. Could revenge spur a better effort at home? It will be interesting to see if the Wolf Pack can similarly make the Tigers sweat in a game played at high altitude at Reno.

ISU's Capello set for TV showcase in Big 33 game

June, 19, 2009
6/19/09
7:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Heralded incoming Iowa State freshman quarterback James Capello will have a chance to show his talents to a wide television audience Saturday night when he appears for the Pennsylvania team in the annual PNC Big 33 Football Classic.

The annual game will pit the best graduating high-school talent from Pennsylvania against those players from Ohio in a game from Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pa.

Capello was attracted to Iowa State from Lebanon, Pa., by Paul Rhoads, who was Pittsburgh's defensive coordinator for several years. He helped convince Capello to accept the Cyclones' offer over those from Bowling Green and Central Michigan, among others.

It will be interesting to see Capello, who was ranked as the top high school quarterback in the state of Pennsylvania last year after a strong career at Lebanon High School. He was the Pennsylvania class 3A player of the year and a first-team all-state selection as a senior. Capello passed for 2,963 yards and 31 touchdowns and also rushed for 770 yards and nine touchdowns as he led his team to a 7-5 record and the first playoff berth in school history.    

With Austen Arnaud and Jerome Tiller in front of him, Capello likely will redshirt this season with the Cyclones. But it still will be interesting to see him perform against an Ohio roster that is stocked with future Big Ten players.

Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be televised live by the NFL Network.   

Four Big 12 players rank among top nine in TD responsibility

May, 27, 2009
5/27/09
7:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

A long time ago when I was growing up, I always waited for the Street & Smith baseball yearbook to turn up at the magazine section of my neighborhood drug store.

Back in those pre-internet days, this book was the personal bible for all things about major league baseball for me and my friends.

The book had two must-have items that I waited for every year. One were the neat diagrams of major league parks with the longest home runs in history mapped out.

And the other item I couldn't wait to see were the career lists among baseball players -- both active and retired.

We couldn't find that information at the drop of a keystroke. I think that's what helped developed my interest in numbers and sports.

And it also gave me an extreme appreciation for similar career lists, like the one that the NCAA compiles for active football players.

After the defections of several players, four of the top nine current career players in terms of touchdowns responsibility are among Big 12 quarterbacks who will be back for the 2009 season. No other conference has more than two players among the list of top 10 players on the list.

As you can see, Texas' Colt McCoy ranks third in career touchdowns responsibility with 102, followed by Oklahoma's Sam Bradford in fourth place. Kansas' Todd Reesing is in sixth place and Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson ranks in ninth place.

Here's a look at the current statistics.

Player Games TDR TDP TTD Plays Plays/TD TD/G
Tim Tebow, Florida 41 43 67 110 1156 10.51 2.68
Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan 39 32 74 106 1795 16.93 2.72
Colt McCoy, Texas 39 17 85 102 1493 14.64 2.62
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma 28 5 86 91 897 9.86 3.25
Tim Hiller, Western Michigan 32 4 76 80 1219 15.24 2.50
Todd Reesing, Kansas 29 9 68 77 1196 15.53 2.66
Case Keenum, Houston 26 16 58 74 665 8.99 2.85
Matt Grothe, South Florida 39 23 47 70 1611 23.01 1.79
Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State 33 18 51 69 1013 14.68 2.09
Max Hall, BYU 26 5 61 66 1090 16.52 2.54

Legend: G, games; TDR, rushing touchdowns; TDP, touchdown passes; TTD, total touchdowns; PLAYS, offensive plays; Plays/TD, plays per touchdown; TD/G, touchdowns per game.

Note: Lewis' total touchdowns include one TD reception. Source: NCAA, ESPN.com research

Big 12 claims three of top five active leaders in TD passes

April, 8, 2009
4/08/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Will offenses dominate again in the Big 12 next season as they did in 2008?

Perhaps the best reason I expect to see a similar onslaught of big numbers is by examining the NCAA's touchdown passes leaders for quarterbacks who will be returning in 2009. Three of the top five returnees are from the Big 12.

Here's a list of the top 10 active leaders in career touchdown passes who will be coming back for the 2009 season.

Top-10 active leaders in career TD passes
Name School TD passes Games Attempts TD/game TD%
Sam Bradford Oklahoma 86 28 824 3.07 10.44
Colt McCoy Texas 85 33 1175 2.58 7.23
Tim Hiller Western Michigan 76 32 1093 2.38 6.95
Dan LeFevour Central Michigan 74 39 1307 1.90 5.66
Todd Reesing Kansas 68 29 965 2.34 7.05
Tim Tebow Florida 67 41 681 1.63 9.84
Rusty Smith Florida Atlantic 62 38 1108 1.63 5.60
Max Hall BYU 61 26 973 2.35 6.27
Trevor Vittatoe UTEP 58 24 825 2.42 7.03
Case Keenum Houston 58 26 862 2.23 6.73
Note: Touchdown percentage is determined by touchdown passes per 100 attempts. Source: ESPN.com research

Bradford's blistering start in the first two seasons of his career leaves him only 52 touchdown passes from tying Graham Harrell's career FBS record of 138 touchdown passes. He could come close to breaking that record this season if he remains healthy. But a more likely scenario is that it might take him a little more than one season to break Harrell's career TD pass standard.

Would that be enough to convince him to return for a senior season in 2010? Probably not, although most observers were surprised to see him come back for his junior season.

So coming back for a senior season might not be a stretch for Bradford, either.

Particularly if he realizes his chance to make history.

Pelini still a pup compared to most bowl coaches

December, 17, 2008
12/17/08
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I feel a little remiss that we didn't celebrate Nebraska coach Bo Pelini's birthday last week in a suitable manner.

Pelini turned 41 on Saturday, a likely day for stoppage of mail and garbage delivery considering his early success with the Cornhuskers.

A rash of recent hirings of younger coaches has dropped Pelini to 13th among the youngest FBS head coaches. And his matchup with Clemson's Dabo Swinney in the Gator Bowl will be only the second time that Pelini has been older than his opposing coach. The only other time that happened was when he beat Ron Prince and Kansas State earlier this season.

And here's another way to place Pelini and Swinney's youth in perspective. Their combined ages at kickoff for the Jan. 1 game in Jacksonville will be 80 years, 1 month and 31 days. That total is far less than Penn State's Joe Paterno, who will be 82 years and 11 days old on that date.

Here's a look at the youngest FBS coaches in the nation. Coaches who have been hired since the end of the season to their new jobs are indicated with an asterisk.

Youth Movement
NameSchoolAgeBirthdateBowl berth
Lane Kiffin *Tennessee33May 9, 1975--
Pat FitzgeraldNorthwestern34Dec. 2, 1974Alamo
Steve Sarkisian*Washington34March 8, 1974--
Dan Mullen*Mississippi State36April 27, 1972--
David ElsonWestern Kentucky37Aug. 26, 1971--
Mario ChristobalFla. International38Sept. 9, 1970--
Bret BielemaWisconsin38Jan. 13, 1970Champs Sports
Mike Locksley*New Mexico38Dec. 25, 1969--
Dabo Swinney*Clemson39Nov. 20, 1969Gator
Al GoldenTemple39Aug. 4, 1969--
Derek DooleyLouisiana Tech40June 10, 1969Independence
Butch JonesCentral Michigan40Jan. 17, 1968Motor City
Bo PeliniNebraska41Dec. 13, 1967Gator

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