Big 12: Christine Michael

A closer look: AT&T Cotton Bowl

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
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As the bowl season approaches, we're going to be looking a little closer at each game. We'll go down the Big 12 bowl schedule in chronological order.

No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2, 8-1 Big 12) vs. No. 9 Texas A&M (10-2, 6-2 SEC)

Where: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas

When: Friday, Jan. 4, 8 p.m. ET

TV: FOX

About Oklahoma: The Sooners began the year with some national-title aspirations, but those quickly came to an end with a mistake-filled September loss at home to Kansas State. A midseason loss to Notre Dame made it clear that Oklahoma was not an elite team in 2012, but the eight-game winning streak in Big 12 play after the K-State loss made it clear that the Sooners were a very, very good team -- and a Big 12 champion. The Sooners became part of the first-ever shared Big 12 title and celebrated with a season-ending win at TCU. The final three games of the year (West Virginia, Oklahoma State, TCU) were all decided in the final minute or on the final play, and the Cotton Bowl could very well make it four.

About Texas A&M: While Oklahoma underachieved a bit, the Aggies were one of the nation's biggest overachievers. Last year's team began in the top 10 and fell to 6-6 while losing five games with leads of at least nine points. Year 1 under Kevin Sumlin will forever be remembered as the year the legend of Johnny Manziel was born. The redshirt freshman quarterback burst onto the scene with a strong outing in a season-opening loss to Florida but truly broke out with a memorable performance in a road upset of No. 1 Alabama. The Aggies' defense matured under Mark Snyder, but Texas A&M was one of the nation's hottest teams to close the season.

Sooners to watch: Landry Jones will be making his 50th and final start of his career in the Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium, the same place where his career began after an injury to Sam Bradford in the 2009 season opener against BYU. He's the NCAA's No. 3 all-time passer and leads the Big 12 in passing yards per game entering the bowl game. He's thrown 29 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions and got to know transfer receivers Jalen Saunders and Justin Brown well this season. Kenny Stills led the team with 897 yards on 75 catches, but keep an eye on leading tackler Tony Jefferson at safety and shutdown corner Aaron Colvin on defense.

Aggies to watch: Surely you know about Manziel by now, but keep an eye on his favorite targets, Mike Evans and Ryan Swope. Evans is a big physical presence at 6-foot-5, 218 pounds, while Swope uses his breakaway speed to work the slot. Defensive end Damontre Moore's 20 tackles for loss would have led the Big 12, and was third in the SEC. He was also the Aggies' leading tackler, with 80 stops. Keep an eye on the Aggies' underrated running back duo, too, Ben Malena and Christine Michael. They combined for almost 1,200 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Did you know? Oklahoma is 11-2 against Texas A&M under Bob Stoops, but the Aggies knocked off the Sooners in 2010 in College Station as part of their six-game winning streak to close the regular season. Manziel will be the third Heisman finalist Oklahoma has gone up against this season, but the Sooners are 0-2 against the first two, Kansas State QB Collin Klein and Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o. Oklahoma leads the all-time series between these two, 19-11, but will meet for the first time in the Cotton Bowl. Oklahoma hasn't played in the Cotton Bowl since 2002, when it beat Arkansas, 10-3.

More on the Big 12 Bowls:

Chat: Defenses, developing Ash, Holgorsen

March, 27, 2012
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Thanks for all the questions today. Here's the full transcript from our Tuesday chat.

If you want to reach me with more questions or comments, here's where you can do it.

Orange Power (Columbus, OH): Ubben, Looks like Oklahoma State is going to have a pretty good combo at RB next year. Do you think they should warrant as much hype as the Gray-Michael combo last year? And also, how many wacky run game possibilities are available now with Randle, Smith, and Sims (not to mention sweeps to WR's like Stewart or Moore)?

David Ubben: No, not quite. For one, OSU's offense isn't as physical and doesn't blow people off the ball like Texas A&M's did at times. Plus, Gray and Michael were, at least for now, better than Randle was. Randle is a better pass-catcher, but he can't match the physicality of A&M's backs. Smith is good, but not on that level. Either way, the duo is probably the best in the league this year.

Matt (Okc,Ok): OU's new DC said he is going to simplify things on defense. Why do new coaches come in and say we are going to simplify what the defense, so the players can react better and not have to think so much? If complexity of scheme is the cause of the problem, why do coordinators make the same mistakes by making it so complicated? Or is it just coach speak that "simplifying" is the answer to our poor defense?

David Ubben: It depends on the situation. That's not always the case. The more complex the scheme is, the more confusing it is for offenses. The older and more experienced your defense is, the easier it is to make things complex. I think sometimes DCs overestimate what their players are capable of. It's an easy mistake. They see a lot of good things in practice. That's not always the case, but the best defenses are ones that can do complex things like disguise coverages perfectly and make a QB confused about where pressure will be coming from.

Tony (Richmond, CA): Which road game will be tougher, WVU or TCU? Do the recruiting implications in Texas make the Horned Frogs matchup more important regardless of the outome of either game?

David Ubben: Definitely WVU. TCU's going to have a nice stadium, but the WVU folk are known for being loud and providing a crazy atmosphere. Just ask LSU last year.

Jman (Amarillo, TX): At the University of Texas, how well do you think David Ash will compete as an elite QB or do you even see him as an elite.

David Ubben: For one, I still think it's early to make any true distinction. Ash simply didn't get enough reps in the spring or preseason camp to get used to the game. Then, suddenly, he was playing a ton. That's obviously changed this year. I don't think I see him as an elite guy, but we could see some huge improvement this year. Ultimately, he's the guy who decides Texas' fate this year between 7-8 wins and 10-11.

Trey (Texas): What are the odds that OU has a better overall defensive ranking at the end of next season, than Texas?

David Ubben: Not impossible, but it's going to be really, really hard for anybody to top Texas' defense next year. OU's got the best shot, with TCU, K-State and OSU behind them.

wvirishref (West Virginia): What will be the take on Dana coming back as a head coach for the game in Stillwater?

David Ubben: He'll be fine. There are no hard feelings in Stillwater. He revitalized the offense for its best year ever (until this year) and took a really, really good job at a good program. That's how the game is played. He'll be welcomed back.

BigDroot (middle of nowhere oklahoma): Are you buying or selling OU as preseason Big 12 #1?

David Ubben: Buying, but only by a bit. OU is the most experienced and most consistent team in the league next year, but there's a chunk of 4-5 teams right behind them that could definitely win the league. OU was a huge favorite last year and didn't get it done, aided by injuries a bit. OU is the best team coming into this year, but TCU, WVU, K-State, OSU and Texas are right there behind them, capable of winning.

The best players who just missed the top 25

March, 13, 2012
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Our top 25 has come and gone, but we're taking a deeper look at the list throughout the day on the blog.

As we do with every list, here are the guys who were probably good enough to be on the top 25, but didn't make the cut. After all, there's only so much room.

These are listed in no particular order.

Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas: Broke up 15 passes and picked off two passes, returning one for a touchdown. Also forced a fumble and of his 54 tackles, seven were for losses.

James Franklin, QB, Missouri: Threw for 2,865 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Also rushed for 981 yards and 15 touchdowns on 217 carries.

Leonard Johnson, CB, Iowa State: Made 71 tackles and broke up eight passes. Also made two tackles for loss and forced a fumble.

Steven Johnson, LB, Kansas: Led the Big 12 with 119 tackles. Made six tackles for loss and had an interception. Broke up two passes and forced two fumbles.

Keenan Robinson, LB, Texas: Second on the team with 98 tackles. Made 8.5 tackles for loss and had one sack. Broke up seven passes and forced two fumbles.

Jeremiah Hatch, OL, Kansas: Bounced back from a scary injury against Oklahoma and played well enough to earn a second-team All-Big 12 nod.

LaAdrian Waddle, OL, Texas Tech: Was the most outstanding member of the Texas Tech offensive line, which finished sixth in the Big 12 in total offense.

David Garrett, CB, Kansas State: Picked off two passes and returned one for a touchdown. Made 88 tackles and had 6.5 tackles for loss. Also broke up two passes.

Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State: Made 74 tackles and broke up 11 passes. Made five tackles for loss and forced two fumbles.

Gabe Ikard, OL, Oklahoma: Was the most outstanding member of the Sooners' offensive line, which paved the way for more than 512 yards per game, third-most in the Big 12.

Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M: Missed the final three games of the season, but averaged more than six yards per carry and finished eighth in the Big 12 with 899 yards and eight touchdowns on 149 carries.

Luke Joeckel, OL, Texas A&M: Improved as a second-year starter at tackle, has the most upside of any player on the Aggies' line, which helped produce the Big 12's No. 4 offense.

Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas: Third in the Big 12 with 17 tackles for loss. Had eight sacks and broke up three passes. Made 63 tackles.

Clyde Aufner, OL, Kansas State: Aufner helped Kansas State roll to the No. 5 rushing offense in the Big 12 and lead the Big 12 with 606 carries. Earned first-team All-Big 12 honors from the coaches.

Jamie Blatnick, DE, Oklahoma State: Made eight sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. Recovered two fumbles, made 50 tackles and had an interception. Forced a fumble and broke up seven passes.
Our countdown of the Big 12's top-25 players continues today. The official list is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we're revealing a new member of the list every day.

Here's a quick rundown on my criteria for this list.

No. 23: Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M

2011 numbers: Carried the ball 198 times for 1,045 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also caught 31 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns.

Most recent ranking: Gray was ranked No. 9 in our preseason list of the top 25 players.

Making the case for Gray: Texas A&M needed Gray, and once again, Gray stepped up, despite missing the final two games of the season with an injury. Christine Michael suffered a torn ACL, and in the two games after the injury, Gray rushed 39 times for 312 yards and five touchdowns, his best portion of the season. The Big 12's leading returning rusher predictably split carries with Michael early in the season, but answered the call when he inherited the load for the Aggies.

A stress fracture in his shoulder kept him out of a painful loss to Texas and a bowl win over Northwestern, but he rushed for 90 yards in seven games and topped 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season. Well done, sir.

Season report card: Texas A&M Aggies

January, 27, 2012
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We're offering up grades for each team in the Big 12 after their seasons conclude, so here's a look at how the 7-6 Texas A&M Aggies graded out in 2011.

More report cards:
OFFENSE: The past two seasons, Texas A&M has had as much, if not more, offensive talent than any team in the Big 12 to begin the season. Yet, it never quite works out. Last season, Jerrod Johnson's shoulder was the biggest problem with an early-season swoon. This season, the late-game collapses didn't have a single culprit, but injuries to Jeff Fuller, Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray certainly didn't help.

Those weren't the biggest problems, though. Too often in the second half of crucial games the Aggies' offense sputtered. Every loss was something different it seemed. After scoring 20 points in the first half against Oklahoma State, it managed just seven in the second. A week later, a 35-point first half was followed by a three-point second half in a loss to Arkansas.

Ryan Tannehill's decision making, especially in those infamous second halves, was poor, and resulted in 15 interceptions for the season. Mike Sherman's play calling didn't help much, running the ball just six times in the second half of the OSU loss that started it all, despite rolling over OSU's defense in the first half.

The Aggies had a lot of firepower. That's hard to ignore. They finished fourth in the Big 12 (seventh nationally) in total offense and 11th nationally in scoring offense, with just under 40 points a game.

But it's impossible to ignore that when that firepower was needed most, it was mostly a dud. With the Aggies, you have to grade on a curve, considering the amount of talent on the field and the depth of offense in the Big 12.

GRADE: D+

DEFENSE: The loss of Von Miller was bigger than maybe anyone could have imagined. The Aggies' Wrecking Crew wasn't so fearsome this season, possessing a powerful pass rush, but doing so by bringing lots of blitzes.

The Aggies had 51 sacks in 2011, five more than any team in the nation. However, they gave up more than 275 passing yards a game, more than all but 11 teams in college football. When opponents passed on the Aggies, it seemed like it was always going to be a big play for at least one team.

Early in the season, the Aggies went 22 quarters without a turnover and finished the season minus-nine in turnover margin, forcing a Big 12-low 15 turnovers. That's unacceptable, and the coverage struggles in the secondary made the defense look hopeless at times, letting five quarterbacks set career highs for pass yardage throughout the season, including 510 yards to Arkansas' Tyler Wilson.

The Aggies were a fun team to watch, but defensively, were too often a mess.

GRADE: D

OVERALL: Well, its coach was fired, so you know this grade won't be a good one. Give the Aggies this, at least: They beat Texas at something. The Aggies were a far bigger disappointment this season than Texas in 2010, when the Longhorns went 5-7.

That was a young team with no proven offense. The Aggies were loaded on both sides of the ball, even without Miller. The pieces were there to win the Big 12 and maybe even the national championship. You don't lead by double digits in 12 of 13 games in the Big 12 without having tons and tons of talent. The Aggies had it.

They finished with seven wins, and only one (Baylor) was impressive. The second-half meltdowns were too much, and led to Sherman's firing after snatching the title of the Big 12's most disappointing team, and having an argument as the nation's biggest disappointment after starting the season in the top 10.

The losses piled up and ended with one final indignity: a loss to Texas that should never have happened. The program will have to live with that loss for decades at least, and perhaps forever. It'll go down as the most painful night in one of the most painful seasons in school history, and the defining moment in a season that Texas A&M would love to forget.

GRADE: F
We're continuing our look at the postseason rankings for each position in the Big 12. Here's a look back at where the running backs ranked in the preseason.

In this position, unlike quarterback, depth is a major, major factor in these rankings.

1. Texas A&M

The Aggies had the two most talented backs, and despite injuries to both, proved it through an otherwise frustrating 2011. Christine Michael suffered a torn ACL, but still managed 899 yards on just 149 carries. Cyrus Gray injured his shoulder late in the season, but secured his second consecutive 1,000-yard season and ranked third in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 198 times. This duo should have easily surpassed 1,000 yards, but even when they were injured, Ben Malena played well in the final two games.

[+] EnlargeChristine Michael
AP Photo/Brandon WadeChristine Michael averaged 6 yards per carry before a torn ACL ended his season.
2. Missouri

Mizzou dealt with injuries, too, first to Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore. Cue Henry Josey. Josey became the best back in the Big 12 this year before suffering a major knee injury that included torn ligaments. He may not be back in 2012. His 1,168 yards were third most in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 145 times. Lawrence finished 12th with 566 yards.

3. Oklahoma State

Joseph Randle stole the show this year, rushing for 24 scores and ranking second in the Big 12 with 1,216 yards. Only Collin Klein ran for more touchdowns and Terrance Ganaway was the only player with more yardage. Still, Jeremy Smith had averaged more than 7 yards a carry, and he'd be able to start for anyone else in the league. Herschel Sims showed promise, too, with 242 yards on 31 carries.

4. Baylor

Ganaway led the Big 12 in rushing with huge performances late in the season, including a 200-yard, five-touchdown game in his final outing as a college athlete in the Alamo Bowl. He averaged more than 6 yards on his 250 carries and had 330 more yards than any other back in the league. Jarred Salubi added 331 yards, too.

5. Texas

Texas' Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron were banged-up late in the season, but Fozzy Whittaker played well until suffering a torn ACL against Missouri, too. Scatback D.J. Monroe was effective in the passing game as well. Four running backs topped 300 yards and Brown led the team with 742 yards, despite missing three games and having his carries limited early in the season.

6. Oklahoma

Oklahoma got great contributions from walk-on Dominique Whaley early on, and he proved to be the team's most effective runner and best runner between the tackles. He fractured his ankle in midseason, and finished with just 627 yards to lead the team. Roy Finch emerged late in the seasons after a quiet first half and added 605 yards.

7. Kansas

KU's James Sims led the team in rushing again with 727 yards. Darrian Miller was excellent, too, with 559 yards, though he was dismissed after the season. Freshmen Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon have plenty of promise, both averaging more than 5.5 yards a carry in 2011. The bad news: All their carries were limited by an awful defense that limited KU's chances to run the ball.

8. Kansas State

K-State's rushing attack centered around Klein, but John Hubert, a slippery back from Waco, Texas, had a good year. Hubert was seventh in the Big 12 with 970 yards. Bryce Brown offered basically nothing to K-State, and beyond Klein and Hubert, the Wildcats were pretty thin. Additionally, without Klein, would Hubert have duplicated his success?

9. Texas Tech

An awful knee injury derailed Eric Stephens' likely 1,000-yard season, and the rest of Texas Tech's backfield got banged-up, too. Stephens will probably return in 2012 from his dislocated knee, and finished with 565 yards, 17th in the Big 12. Aaron Crawford and DeAndre Washington both topped 300 yards.

10. Iowa State

ISU lost Shontrelle Johnson for the season early on, but James White filled in well. He finished with 743 yards, which ranked ninth in the Big 12. Jeff Woody had 380 yards and provided quality carries late, including the game-winning touchdown against Oklahoma State.

Preseason vs. Postseason All-Big 12 team

December, 14, 2011
12/14/11
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It's always fun looking back on what we thought in the preseason, and today, we'll take another look.

Here's who made the postseason team.

How did our All-Big 12 preseason team stack up at season's end?

OFFENSE

QB: Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
  • Led the Big 12 with 4,328 passing yards and threw 34 touchdown passes. Only the postseason All-Big 12 QB, Robert Griffin III, had more. He was named the second-team All-Big 12 QB by both the coaches and media.
RB: Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M
  • Gray was sidelined late in the season with a stress fracture in his shoulder, but rushed for 1,045 yards and 12 touchdowns, his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. That ranked fifth in the Big 12, and Gray earned second-team All-Big 12 honors by the coaches and media.
RB: Christine Michael, Texas A&M
  • Michael tore his ACL against Oklahoma, derailing another likely 1,000-yard season. He still rushed for 899 yards and averaged better than six yards per carry.
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
  • Blackmon won his second consecutive Biletnikoff Award and earned unanimous All-Big 12 first-team honors after catching 113 passes for 1,336 yards and 15 touchdowns.
WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
  • Broyles caught 83 passes for 1,157 yards before tearing his ACL in the ninth game of the season. He still cracked the coaches' first team and my first team, but was relegated to second team by the media.
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri
  • Egnew kept on keeping on, leading all Big 12 tight ends with 47 catches for 484 yards and three touchdowns, earning unanimous All-Big 12 first-team honors.
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State
  • Adcock cracked a few All-American teams and earned unanimous All-Big 12 first-team honors.
OL: Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
  • Osemele landed on SI.com's All-American team and earned unanimous first-team honors.
C: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State
  • Garner cracked SI.com's All-American team and landed on the media's first team, but was pushed to the second team by Baylor's Philip Blake on the coaches All-Big 12 teams.
OL: Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
  • Taylor didn't crack any All-Big 12 postseason first teams.
OL: Elvis Fisher, Missouri
  • Fisher suffered a ruptured patellar tendon before the season and didn't play, and is waiting on an NCAA waiver for a sixth year of eligibility.
We'll take a look at the defense later today.

ESPN.com's All-Underrated Big 12 team

December, 13, 2011
12/13/11
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We unveiled our All-Big 12 team last week with lots of talent.

Time for a new take, with a little help from the Big Ten Blog: The All-Underrated team.

My criteria: The conference's most underrated player at each position. This is, of course, subjective. This isn't for the second-best player at each position. It's for the player who doesn't get enough respect. The only rule: He can't be on my All-Big 12 team.

Here goes:

OFFENSE

QB: James Franklin, Missouri
RB: Christine Michael, Texas A&M
RB: John Hubert, Kansas State
FB: Braden Wilson, Kansas State
WR: Ryan Swope, Texas A&M
WR: Tevin Reese, Baylor
WR: Josh Cooper, Oklahoma State
TE: James Hanna, Oklahoma
OL: Clyde Aufner, Kansas State
OL: Philip Blake, Baylor
OL: Austin Wuebbels, Missouri
OL: David Snow, Texas
OL: Lonnie Edwards, Texas Tech

DEFENSE

DE: Toben Opurum, Kansas
DT: Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, Baylor
DE: Meshak Williams, Kansas State
DE: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
LB: Steven Johnson, Kansas
LB: Elliot Coffey, Baylor
LB: Alex Elkins, Oklahoma State
CB: David Garrett, Kansas State
CB: Leonard Johnson, Iowa State
S: Terrance Bullitt, Texas Tech
S: Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State

SPECIALISTS

P: Trey Barrow, Missouri
PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma
PR/KR: Jarvis West, Iowa State

Coach: Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

The Big 12's most disappointing team?

December, 8, 2011
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On Monday, I pegged Texas A&M as the Big 12's biggest disappointment after a season that began with Big 12 title hopes and a top 10 ranking and ended with a 6-6 record and the firing of coach Mike Sherman.

That prompted a few e-mails from you, though, which expressed a different sentiment.

Mike in Red Oak wrote: David- You have said several times that A&M was the biggest disappointment. I would say being ranked #1 in the nation at the first of the year like OU was and ending the season in the Insight Bowl playing Iowa is pretty disappointing. True?

It's an interesting point, and certainly debatable. Oklahoma had to deal with more impactful injuries, though Texas A&M lost Christine Michael against Oklahoma and Cyrus Gray didn't play against Texas. Jeff Fuller played most of the season, but was slowed by a few injuries himself. Coryell Judie, one of the league's pre-emanate playmakers in the special teams and one of its best corners, missed a lot of time with a hamstring injury.

But what about the Sooners? The loss of Ryan Broyles late in the season was costly, and Oklahoma lost two of its three final games, including a blowout loss to Oklahoma State. For all of Texas A&M's losses, Oklahoma was the only team to beat it by more than one score.

Oklahoma embraced the high expectations before the season, though. The self-declared "Chase for Eight" will end in Arizona, though, and not for the Fiesta Bowl, where the Sooners played last year.

Which team was more disappointing, though?

Oklahoma? Or Texas A&M?

Season recap: Texas A&M

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
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TEXAS A&M AGGIES

Record: 6-6 (4-5)

Through all the rough moments for the Aggies in 2011, the lasting image will be the ecstatic Longhorns sideline emptying onto Kyle Field to chase down Justin Tucker, who kicked a game-winning field goal to beat A&M in the final iteration of the Lone Star Showdown. Texas might come to College Station again at some point before the end of the world, but with an ending like that, it could be awhile. The Aggies are headed to the SEC, but did it with one of the most disappointing seasons in school history, which resulted in coach Mike Sherman's postseason firing.

By now, the numbers are well known. The Aggies were good enough to lead 11 games by double digits and bad enough to lose six of those games. It was truly maddening. Texas A&M was so, so much better than 6-6, and stocked with as much talent as any team in the Big 12, and maybe the country. Why were there so many second-half meltdowns? Sherman and everyone else involved never figured it out, and the Aggies will try and bring in a coach to fix it.

Offensive MVP: Ryan Swope, wide receiver. This is a bit of an upset, but the only other option is going with Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael as a shared option. Both could be replaced by the other and missed key games, but Swope was consistent most of the year, and played his best in conference games. He finished with a team-high 81 catches for 1,102 yards with 11 touchdowns. He was one of only four Big 12 receivers to top 1,000 yards receiving. Even with his year, the former high school running back might be the most underrated player in the Big 12. Without him, Texas A&M's passing game wouldn't have been functional, and without that, what happens to the running game?

Defensive MVP: Sean Porter, linebacker. Porter's production slowed a bit late in the season, though he did notch 2.5 tackles for loss against Texas. Even still, he had one of the best years of any defender in the Big 12. He led the team with 16 tackles for loss and had 8.5 sacks. He finished with 73 tackles.

Turning point: The loss to Oklahoma State. That's the game that started it all and was the first of many blown leads. The 20-3 halftime lead was gone before the end of the third quarter, and the 30-29 loss cost them control of the Big 12. That didn't matter long, of course. A&M blew another lead to Arkansas a week later, but the three-game losing streak to Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas State officially made the 2011 season a wash.

What’s next: They'll be walking into the SEC West with a yet-t0-be-determined coach and lots of new faces. The first year in the SEC could be rough. Tannehill is gone, Gray is gone, Jeff Fuller is gone after an underwhelming senior season and four of the top eight tacklers are gone. That's a whole lot of production. A new quarterback, likely Jameill Showers, will have to adjust to much tougher defenses in a new league. The Aggies will rely on a very experienced offensive line and power back, Michael.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 13

November, 23, 2011
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Here's what I'm watching in the Big 12 this week:

1. Cyrus Gray's status. Mike Sherman said that what trainers originally thought was a bruised shoulder was a stress fracture and that Gray would be day to day. Without Christine Michael, that would be a huge loss. Gray alone is worth 7-8 points in this game. If A&M can't run the ball, it will be forced to play into the Longhorns' biggest strength: pass defense. If Gray doesn't play, this game's a near toss-up.

2. Texas' quarterback shuffle. We're in late November, and Texas still has quarterback problems. It looks like Case McCoy will get the start, but will he finish? Texas A&M's pass defense is vulnerable, but the Aggies have punished opposing quarterbacks this season. McCoy seemed to have chemistry with Jaxon Shipley this season, but Shipley seems unlikely to play.

[+] EnlargeBob Stoops
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezOklahoma head coach Bob Stoops will have his hands full keeping his team motivated this week.
3. Oklahoma's resolve. The Sooners still have to win to keep their Big 12 title hopes alive. Iowa State proved it's capable of a lot last week when it beat an OSU team that is better than OU, all things considered. Without a national title on the table, this will be a test for Oklahoma's motivation.

4. RG3's Heisman chances. Texas Tech's defense doesn't scare too many folks, and Robert Griffin III racked up almost 600 yards against a solid Oklahoma defense last week. That propelled him into Heisman contender status, if not the favorite, and we'll see what he's got in store for an encore. A week before the OU upset, the Bears almost lost to KU.

5. Iowa State's defensive revival. The Cyclones gave up huge points in their first four lopsided conference losses. They're 3-0 since and bowl eligible with Jared Barnett at quarterback. The defense gave up seven points to Texas Tech, 10 to Kansas and held an OSU offense to 24 points in regulation, tied for the fewest of any team in the past 22 games. It's also the fewest points OSU has scored with Justin Blackmon in the lineup. Can Iowa State continue that level of play against Oklahoma?

6. Kansas' desperation. A win against Mizzou would make a 3-9 season about as bright as a 3-9 season could possibly look, but the Jayhawks were close before taking a bunch of steps backward against Texas A&M last week. Missouri isn't blowing very many teams out this season. We'll see if the Jayhawks make a game of it before Mizzou heads to the SEC.

7. Missouri's reaction. Gary Pinkel will be back on the sidelines this week after watching last week's win against Texas Tech from his condo in Lake of the Ozarks. He'll return to the team on Thursday and take his team to Saturday's game in Kansas City. What's his team's reaction? Will we see an awkward performance, or an inspired one as good as we've seen all season.

8. Bounce back for Darrin Moore? Moore's been banged up all season, but he looked amazing against Missouri last week. He's as physically gifted as any receiver in the Big 12 (yes, even Blackmon), but we'll see how well he can harness it and turn it into production. Baylor's secondary will have a big task.

Clash with Texas gets a bit dicey for A&M

November, 21, 2011
11/21/11
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With Christine Michael injured last season, Cyrus Gray birthed a handful of classic moments. None were greater than the group he collected in last year's game against Texas.

An 84-yard touchdown run tied the game early before a 48-yard score helped push momentum and the game onto A&M's side for good, eliminating Texas from bowl contention in the process. His 223 yards that night are still a career high.

Michael's down again -- a torn ACL this time -- but the Aggies might be without Gray, too. He watched the second half of Saturday's 61-7 win over Kansas in street clothes as a precautionary measure with what Texas A&M thought was a bruised shoulder.

Coach Mike Sherman announced on Monday that further tests actually revealed a stress fracture. Gray is "day-to-day" but Sherman said if Gray's health doesn't improve, he'll be held out. For now, his arm is in a sling.

Losing Gray and Michael would obviously be huge loss. Gray's already topped 1,000 yards for the second season, and Michael would have done the same if he hadn't suffered a broken leg and torn ACL in consecutive seasons.

The duty would likely fall on the shoulders of unproven sophomore Ben Malena and freshman Will Randolph, who tossed his redshirt aside in his first game action on Saturday, the 11th game of Texas A&M's season. Malena has 19 carries for 99 yards this season.

Sherman didn't seem concerned on Saturday. Is leaving Gray's status in doubt a bit of gamesmanship from College Station?

Could be.

Sherman described his status as "doubtful" before upgrading him to "questionable" and then "probable" in a matter of seconds at the Aggies' weekly press gathering.

Don't expect much more injury news out of Aggieland before Thursday night's rivalry finale in what should be a heated game that's had its intensity livened with the Aggies' impending exit to the SEC and Texas' refusal to continue to the rivalry.

When they take the field, though, we'll find out for sure. The taste in Texas A&M's mouth when it leaves the Big 12 may depend on it.

RB Cyrus Gray's day ends with an injury

November, 19, 2011
11/19/11
2:38
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Could be a costly win for Texas A&M, even if it's easy.

The Aggies lead, 61-0, late in the third quarter, but Cyrus Gray emerged from the locker room after halftime without pads and wearing only a warmup suit.

He's out with an undisclosed injury, and will be re-evaluated after the game, according to a sideline report. Texas A&M officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Dustin Harris continued his big day returning punts with a 72-yard return to put the Aggies up 61, but the Gray injury would be huge if it's serious.

Texas A&M is already playing without Christine Michael, who was the team's leading rusher when he tore his ACL against Oklahoma.

Ben Malena is the Aggies' third back, but the league's best 1-2 punch at running back is down for now.

With Texas waiting next week in what may be the final Lone Star Showdown for a long time, there will be some nervous moments ahead for the Aggies.

Malena has 32 yards and a touchdown on eight carries today.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill's took a seat in the third quarter because of the big lead, and Jameill Showers has gotten the nod in mop-up duty.

Lunch links: Mizzou and Texas recruiting

November, 18, 2011
11/18/11
12:00
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Who cares about letters? The only good font is the Sopranos' one, where the "r" is a pistol.
The Big 12 has been hampered by injuries in recent weeks. Missouri running back Henry Josey, the Big 12's leading rusher, was the latest to fall. He tore his ACL, MCL and patellar tendon — a situation serious enough to put his 2012 season in question.

Texas running back Fozzy Whittaker, who scored nine touchdowns this year, also went down with a torn ACL in Saturday's victory over Missouri.

Two weeks ago, Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles and Texas A&M running back Christine Michael suffered torn ACLs and will miss the remainder of the season. K-State receiver/kick returner Tyler Lockett is out for the season with a lacerated kidney.

Oklahoma running back Dominique Whaley suffered a fractured ankle and Iowa State running back Shontrelle Johnson injured his neck early in the season while he was still the Cyclones' leading rusher. Texas Tech running back Eric Stephens' likely 1,000-yard season, the first in Lubbock since Ricky Williams in 1998, ended on a dislocated knee suffered in a loss to Texas A&M.

That said, there's still plenty of big talent still standing around the injury-riddled league.

Who's the most irreplaceable?

Is it Heisman contender Brandon Weeden, who leads the league in passing yards and has dished out a league-leading 31 touchdown passes at the helm of Oklahoma State's explosive offense?

Is it do-everything quarterback Robert Griffin III at Baylor, who engineered a dramatic 21-point comeback against Kansas last week to put the Bears into the postseason for the second consecutive season after a 16-year drought?

What about OSU receiver Justin Blackmon? He's likely the biggest talent in Stillwater, and the only game he missed in the past two seasons was the one time the Cowboys were held under 30 points, a 24-14 victory over Kansas State last October.

What about the nation's leader in rushing touchdowns, K-State quarterback Collin Klein? With Josey down, he's now the Big 12's leading rusher, and only two players in the FBS have more carries.

Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones is the last man standing at OU, playing without his leading receiver, Broyles, and leading rusher, Whaley. What would happen to the Sooners if he went down?

So, who's the most irreplaceable? Vote in our poll.

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