Big 12: Citi BCS National Championship Game

Big 12 lunch links: Gundy won't give up play-calling duties at OSU

January, 15, 2010
1/15/10
12:45
PM ET
It's a getaway day from foggy Omaha to rainy San Antonio.

But before leaving for the airport, it's time to provide some tasty lunchtime links.

There's lots going on around the conference today.

Here are some of the major stories.

All-Big 12 bowl team dotted by seven Cornhuskers

January, 12, 2010
1/12/10
11:00
AM ET
It was a forgettable bowl season for much of the Big 12.

But there were still enough top producers to fill out a team of top performers from the conference's 4-4 bowl season.

Here's a look at my top performers:

OFFENSE

QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma: Passed for career-best 418 yards and added three passing TDs to direct Sooners’ Sun Bowl victory over Stanford.

RB Alexander Robinson, Iowa State: Rushed for 137 yards -- his sixth 100-yard game of the season -- to pace Cyclones’ victory over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl.

RB Baron Batch, Texas Tech: Rushed for 100 yards, scored two TDs and produced six receptions for 85 yards in Red Raiders’ comeback victory in the Alamo Bowl over Michigan State.

WR Jordan Shipley, Texas: Overcame slow start to produce 10 catches for 122 yards and two TDs against Alabama, becoming Texas’ leading career receiver.

WR Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma: Produced career-best totals of 13 receptions, 156 receiving yards and also matched career high with three TD receptions to help beat Stanford in the Sun Bowl.

TE Trent Ratterree, Oklahoma: Grabbed three receptions for 86 yards, including pivotal 38-yard catch that was Jones’ longest pass of game in Sun Bowl victory over Stanford.

OL Ricky Henry, Nebraska: Helped Cornhuskers dominate in the trenches in biggest Cornhuskers' bowl victory since 2000.

OL Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State: Dominant effort helped Cyclones claim first bowl victory since 2004 and only third bowl victory in school history.

OL Jacob Hickman, Nebraska: Cornhuskers’ center set the tone for easy victory over Arizona.

OL Brandon Carter, Texas Tech: Colorful lineman helped Tech roll up school bowl-record 31 first downs, 579 total yards against Michigan State.

OL Trent Williams, Oklahoma: All-American moved from tackle to center and didn’t miss a beat in the Sooners’ Sun Bowl triumph.

DEFENSE

DL Sergio Kindle, Texas: Had his best game of the season with eight tackles, 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for losses against Alabama.

DL Pierre Allen, Nebraska: Set the tone for Nebraska’s pass rush with two sacks, four tackles, forced a fumble and notched a quarterback hurry in the Cornhuskers’ shutout over Arizona -- first for a Big 12 team in a bowl game in conference history.

DL Christopher Lyle, Iowa State: Insight Bowl defensive MVP produced five tackles, including two for losses and one sack to lead Cyclones’ victory over Minnesota.

DL Rajon Henley, Texas Tech: Four tackles, four quarterback hurries, one sack against Michigan State.

LB Phillip Dillard, Nebraska: Produced team-high seven stops, broke up one pass in Cornhuskers’ shutout over Arizona.

LB Ryan Reynolds, Oklahoma: Produced 12 tackles (three solo, nine assists), two quarterback hurries and one tackle for loss against Stanford.

LB Andre Sexton, Oklahoma State: Produced 10 tackles, two interceptions and one tackle for a loss in Cotton Bowl loss to Mississippi.

DB Matt O’Hanlon, Nebraska: Earned Holiday Bowl defensive MVP honors with five stops, a 37-yard interception and a pass broken up against Arizona.

DB Ter’ran Benton, Iowa State: In his first game back after recovering from mid-season broken leg, notched five tackles and game-clinching fumble recovery in Cyclones’ Insight Bowl victory over Minnesota.

DB Jamar Wall, Texas Tech: Produced six tackles, broke up two passes and one interception against Michigan State.

DB Quinton Carter, Oklahoma: Notched eight stops (five tackles, three assists) and added an interception in Sun Bowl victory over Stanford.

SPECIALISTS

P Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State: Averaged 50.2 yards per punt on his eight punts, including four punts inside 20 in Cotton Bowl.

K Alex Henery, Nebraska: Converted all four field goals of 47, 50, 43 and 22 yards to set the Holiday Bowl record. His big night gave him a Nebraska single-season record of 24 for the season.

RET Niles Paul, Nebraska: The Holiday Bowl offensive MVP amassed 94 yards in returns, including a 49-yard kickoff return and a 28-yard punt return. He also added four catches for 123 yards, including a clinching 74-yard TD grab from Zac Lee.

UT-Alabama racks up highest rating since 2006 BCS title game

January, 11, 2010
1/11/10
2:00
PM ET
It's not much of a surprise that a national championship game involving traditional powers Alabama and Texas would have wide spectator appeal.

Last week's game between the Crimson Tide and Longhorns was the most-viewed BCS title game since 2006. In that game, the Longhorns and USC played for the national championship.

An average of 19,730,000 households were tuned in, based on a 17.2 rating. Those numbers represent an increase of 9 percent over last year’s Oklahoma-Florida matchup (18,117,000 homes, 15.8 rating). The increase for viewers was 15 percent, from 26,778,000 people to 30,776,000.

The game generated ABC’s biggest Thursday night audience since Oct. 26, 1995, and was the biggest audience for any television network in nearly a year, since ABC’s presentation of the Academy Awards on Feb. 22, 2009.

Best and worst of the Big 12's bowl games

January, 11, 2010
1/11/10
1:00
PM ET
Here a look back at some of the highs and lows of the Big 12's bowl games.

Best game: In the grand scheme of things, Iowa State’s 14-13 triumph over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl was a matchup of two 6-6 teams. But the Cyclones’ pulsating victory still provided much excitement for the Cyclones. Alexander Robinson rushed for 137 yards in the victory that was settled by a late fumble recovery by ISU cornerback Ter’ran Benton, who was playing in his first game since breaking his leg on Oct. 24. Benton pounced on the turnover by Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray and the ISU did the rest with a clock-killing drive that provided an unexpected bowl victory for coach Paul Rhoads. Yes, that’s the same team that was expected to struggle to stay out of the North Division cellar before the season.

Best relief performance: Texas Tech starting quarterback Taylor Potts had a strong game in the Valero Alamo Bowl, but the Red Raiders needed a spark as they trailed Michigan State 31-27 early in the fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Steven Sheffield responded by completing his first six passes after relieving Potts, driving for two touchdowns to claim the victory. Potts earned the game’s most valuable player honors, but Sheffield finished by completing 9-for-11 passes for 88 yards as he directed the comeback.

Best use of bowl practice: Nebraska’s maligned offense showed some unexpected punch against Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson took advantage of bowl preparations to rebuild quarterback Zac Lee’s confidence and incorporate freshman Rex Burkhead into the Wildcat formation. The result was a 33-0 victory over the Wildcats with 223 yards of rushing -- most for the Cornhuskers since the first game of the season.

Best bow to youth: Injuries forced Oklahoma to employ freshmen defenders including defensive linemen David King, defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland and cornerback Demontre Hurst against Stanford in the Brut Sun Bowl. The trio came up big throughout the game to spark the Sooners’ 31-27 victory over the Cardinal. “The future’s bright,” Oklahoma defensive ends coach Chris Wilson understated to the Oklahoman after the game.

Most significant injury: Texas moved the ball smartly against Alabama, gaining 26 yards on five plays with Colt McCoy in charge. But McCoy went down with nerve damage to his right shoulder, the Longhorns’ offense unraveled during the rest of the half with backup Garrett Gilbert at quarterback. Alabama took advantage to charge a 24-6 halftime and take control of the Citi BCS National Championship Game.

Worst reaction to a defensive formation: Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green dared Missouri to run the ball by using an alignment with two down linemen. Even with Derrick Washington in the backfield, the Tigers could produce only 65 yards rushing as they repeatedly passed and sputtered in a 35-13 loss to the Midshipmen.

Worst finish: Mississippi’s defense took over down the stretch, forcing turnovers on the Cowboys’ final six turnovers. Zac Robinson’s offense contributed four interceptions and his team lost two fumbles as the Rebels claimed a 21-7 victory over Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.

Worst play call: Texas could have gone to halftime trailing by only 11 points. But Texas coach Mack Brown elected to have Garrett Gilbert attempt a seemingly safe shovel pass to D.J. Monroe. The ball was batted around and finally ended up in the arms of Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, who then stiff-armed Gilbert to the ground and pirouetted around Kyle Hix en route to a 28-yard touchdown return.

Worst officiating call: With about nine minutes remaining in a tie game, Oklahoma State had the ball on the Ole Miss 19-yard line and appeared poised to claim the lead. Ole Miss defensive tackle Jerrell Powe looked to have obviously jumped offsides on a snap as he charged past center Andrew Lewis before the snap was completed. Feeling that he had a free play, Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson threw to the end zone, where he was intercepted by Ole Miss free safety Kendrick Lewis in the end zone. Robinson begged to have the call overturned, but the officials didn’t do it. The Cowboys unraveled from that point in the game.

Worst special teams: Texas A&M’s struggles on special teams were the biggest reason the Aggies dropped a 44-20 loss to Georgia in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl. The Bulldogs blocked a field-goal attempt, returned a kick for a touchdown and blocked a punt in the first half. The Aggies capped the debacle by snapping the ball over A&M punter Ryan Epperson's head in the third quarter, leading to another Georgia touchdown. The special-teams meltdown was the major reason the Aggies dropped their 11th game in their last 13 bowl games.

Big 12 lunch links: How much help did Stoops give Saban?

January, 4, 2010
1/04/10
12:15
PM ET
Even amongst all of the hype of the national championship game, news still is percolating across the Big 12.

We wouldn't think of short-changing the conference -- or its fans -- of a daily lunchtime fix.

Big 12 lunch links: Not much support for Longhorns' BCS chances

December, 29, 2009
12/29/09
1:17
PM ET
It's cold and either rainy or snowy across most of the Midlands this afternoon.

What a perfect way to get out of your post-Christmas blahs than some Big 12 lunch links?

You'll thank me for it later, trust me.

Twelve players on the spot during the bowls

December, 23, 2009
12/23/09
3:41
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The Big 12’s bowl games will start on Monday when Texas A&M and Georgia square off in the Advocare V100 Independence Bowl.

But as we get ready for those eight games, it's clear that several key players need to step up with big games in order to help their team's winning hopes.

Here's my list of 12 players or groups who need to have big games to bolster their team's bowl hopes.
  • Texas quarterback Colt McCoy: His Heisman hopes sank after his nine-sack, three-interception performance in the Big 12 title game. But he has bigger aspirations if he can finish his career by leading his team to the national championship against Alabama in the Citi BCS National Championship Game.
  • Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams: He could become the fourth starter at center for Oklahoma this season if Brian Lepak doesn't respond to treatment before the Sooners' Brut Sun Bowl game against Stanford. Williams has become one of college football's best offensive linemen at tackle and looked good in practice earlier this season at center. He'll face a big test against massive 315-pound Stanford nose tackle Ekom Udofi if he plays at center in the bowl game.
  • Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter: After struggling with a nagging foot injury most of the season, Hunter has been diagnosed at "close to 100 percent" by Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. The Cowboys had a strong running game and led the conference in rushing but still missed a true breakaway threat without Hunter in the lineup. His return will provide an infusion of speed that could be important for their hopes against Mississippi in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
  • Texas guards Michael Huey and Charlie Tanner and center Chris Hall: After their struggles against Ndamukong Suh in the Big 12 championship game, this trio will really be under the gun against Alabama All-American tackle Terrence Cody and All-American middle linebacker Rolando McClain. They must play better than they did against Nebraska if they have any hopes of bringing the national title home to Austin.
  • Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson: After gamely trying to play against Oklahoma on a sprained ankle, Robinson says that he's healthy for Mississippi in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Robinson's injury and a sputtering attack helped explain the Cowboys' difficulties in a 27-0 loss that ultimately cost them a shot at a BCS at-large berth. Robinson must run the offense better against a similarly strong Mississippi defensive front if the Cowboys are to pull off an upset victory.
  • Texas Tech running back Baron Batch: Batch is one of the Red Raiders' most consistent receivers and top rushing threats. He'll be critically important in the Valero Alamo Bowl as he goes up against Michigan State All-Big Ten linebacker Greg Jones. Michigan State is being universally dismissed because of their suspension-wracked roster. All of that will make Jones and the defense eager to become involved early. Batch will be tested to keep Jones and the Spartans away from starting quarterback Taylor Potts.
  • Missouri's defensive front: The grouping of defensive ends Aldon Smith and Brian Coulter, tackle Dominique Hamilton and nose tackle Jaron Baston played very well down the stretch as they allowed only 52.4 yards rushing per game during a strong 4-1 finish. But the Tigers' defensive front will be facing a huge challenge in stopping Navy's unique run-based offense in the Texas Bowl. The Midshipmen rank fourth nationally in rushing and are keyed by quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who averages 85.5 rushing yards per game and ranks second nationally with 24 rushing touchdowns. Keeping Navy in check will be a big challenge for the Tigers, particularly the defensive front.
  • Iowa State cornerback Ter'ran Benton: The suspension of Kennard Banks will thrust Benton into the starting lineup for the Cyclones in the Insight Bowl against Minnesota. Benton is recovering after breaking his left leg Oct. 24 against Nebraska and missing the final four games of the season. Top Minnesota receiver Eric Decker is injured and will miss the bowl game, but Troy Stoudermire and Brandon Green will no doubt test Banks early and often in the Dec. 31 game.
  • Iowa State running back Alexander Robinson: When Robinson is an effective ball-carrying threat, the Cyclones have a much better chance at winning. That's why it will be important to get him going early against a Minnesota defense that tends to wear down if it plays too much. Robinson's running will be an important part in trying to do just that.
  • Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones: When he was on, Jones was one of the most effective passers in the Big 12, torching Tulsa for six touchdown passes, Texas A&M for five touchdown passes and Kansas State for four. But he also struggled with five interceptions against Nebraska. He'll need a big game against a similarly streaky Stanford team that ranked 95th in pass efficiency defense, 105th in pass defense and allowed 15 touchdowns in its last five games.
  • Texas A&M safety Jordan Pugh: He'll be important in coordinating work in a secondary that features two sophomores and a freshman in the starting lineup. After A&M's struggles in a 49-39 loss to Texas in the regular-season finale, the group will be facing a similarly high-powered offensive threat from Georgia. Joe Cox and A.J. Green no doubt saw the Aggies' struggles against Texas and will be intent on duplicating them in the Independence Bowl. It will be important for Pugh to keep his young teammates focused -- particularly if they struggle early.
  • Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee: His struggles running the Nebraska offense were apparent in the Cornhuskers' loss to Texas where they produced only five first downs and amassed only 105 yards in the game. The offense must perk up against Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl and Lee will be most under the gun to make it happen. He showed flashes of a passing touch earlier in the season, but the Cornhuskers relied on a run-heavy game down the stretch to win the North Division. A couple of well-timed passes from Lee early in the game against the Wildcats could open up the Nebraska offense for the rest of the game.

Big 12 mailbag: Brown hyperbolizing a tad

December, 22, 2009
12/22/09
5:34
PM ET
My holiday mail is stacking up, but I wouldn't think of heading into the holidays without answering a few letters from my readers this afternoon.

Jason from Sioux Falls, S.D. writes: Mack Brown recently said of Alabama: "Coaches are dealing with Alabama. We're not able to sleep," Brown said. "They've got three (Nebraska All-American defensive tackle Ndamukong) Suhs up front. That's the problem." That is as ridiculous of a statement as I have read in some time. Alabama is a great team with an outstanding defensive line, but they do not have three players on that line that will win the Lombardi, the Outland and be the number one prospect on both Kiper and McShay's boards. They do not have one player the quality of Suh, let alone three.

Tim Griffin: Brown took a little poetic license as he prepares his team for what likely will be its toughest challenge of the season. I can understand his usage of Suh as a reinforcing point -- particularly after the Longhorns’ recent struggles against the Cornhuskers.

But like you said, I don’t know if Alabama necessarily has the talent across the defensive front to match at least Suh. Even if Brown is making the Crimson Tide sound significantly better heading into the Citi BCS National Championship Game.


Bruce M. Jackson of Houston writes: I know I'm a bit late getting into this discussion I was out of the country the past couple of weeks, but as someone who follows the south more closely than the north. I have a general question for you, Tim.

I just don't get the idea that new Kansas coach Turner Gill is some sure-fire can't miss program builder. Here is a coach who is 10 games under .500 and plays in the “can't walk and chew gum division” of the MAC. Yeah, last year was a great story and all, but they still went 8-6 and had to go to overtime to get three of those wins and get another in an extremely fluky play. I know Buffalo is near the bottom of 1A schools but it’s not like the difference between Buffalo and Bowling Green (I guess the best job in MAC East) is as great as the difference between KU and Nebraska. Again, I’m not saying that Gill will fail, but there is nothing as of yet to indicate that KU will be the best or second to best team in the North 5 years from now (which will more than likely still be determined by your cross-division schedule).

Tim Griffin: Bruce, I saw enough things in Gill’s short tenure at Buffalo that led me to believe he would be successful with a program with more advantages. I always look at a coach’s record in close games as indicative of his success he’ll have with equal talent. And as far down as Buffalo was when he accepted the job leads me to believe he’ll do well at Kansas where his facilities and talent should be in the middle of the North Division – if not better.

I like his chances with the Jayhawks, particularly because of his existing recruiting ties in Texas and the new facilities at Kansas.


Craig Coldren of San Antonio writes: Tim, thanks to you and all the ESPN experts for making Texas the underdog in the BCS title game. Shades of '05.

Tim Griffin: Craig, I haven’t officially made my pick yet. But something tells me that Mack Brown, Will Muschamp, Colt McCoy and all the rest of the Longhorns share your sentiments.


Jeff Campbell of Shakopee, Minn., writes: Tim, with all the players that Texas and Oklahoma are losing after this year we could have a new conference winner. Who is your early pick to win the Big 12 in 2010? What do you think are the chances of Missouri or Nebraska breaking the South's streak and winning the conference?

Tim Griffin: I think the difference between the two conferences will be slimmer than in the past. And I would be surprised if we have any undefeated teams in the conference.

But even though Oklahoma and Texas will be coming back to the pack, I don’t see Nebraska or Missouri having enough to jump past the Texas/Oklahoma logjam at the top. The loss of Suh, along with the questionable Nebraska offense down the stretch, makes me a little dubious about the Cornhuskers’ Big 12 title hopes. And Missouri will be losing Danario Alexander and Sean Weatherspoon – arguably their two most important players.

Also don't discount Texas Tech and Texas A&M, who I think could contend for the Big 12 South with a few breaks next season.

With that being considered, I look for the South team to make it seven straight titles when the Big 12 title game is played in early December 2010.


Bryan of Houston writes: Tim, what are the rules on medical hardships? I just saw Oklahoma linebacker Ryan Reynolds’ appeal was denied. It seems with missing two full seasons and most of third with major knee injuries and then a couple of more games this year he'd get one no problem.

Tim Griffin: Actually, a “medical hardship” isn’t an official NCAA term, but a generic one used when a student-athlete is injured after participating in a limited amount of competition during a particularly academic year. They then could qualify for a medical hardship waiver granted by the NCAA.

Here’s what the NCAA has to say about it:

If a student-athlete suffers a season-ending injury or illness after competing in a limited amount of competition during a particular academic year, he/she may qualify for a medical hardship waiver which would allow him/her an additional season of competition during the five-year period of eligibility. To qualify for a medical hardship:

(a) the student-athlete’s injury or illness must occur in one of the four seasons of intercollegiate competition or subsequent to the first day of classes in the student-athlete’s senior year in high school;

(b) the injury or illness must occur prior to the completion of the first half of the playing season that concludes with the NCAA championship in that sport and must result in incapacity to compete for the remainder of that playing season; and

(c) the injury or illness must occur when the student-athlete has not participated in more than two contests/dates of competition or 30% of the institution’s scheduled contests/dates of competition in his/her sport (whichever number is greater). The number is rounded up.

Obviously, Oklahoma held out hope that Reynolds would have been granted an extra season for last season, when he was injured in his sixth game. He played what would be his senior season this year with hopes that one more would be received. There was none, so his college career will be over after the Brut Sun Bowl against Stanford.

That's all the time I have this week. Seasons greetings and we'll have more letters early next week.

Scott will be back for BCS title game

December, 21, 2009
12/21/09
7:33
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas sophomore safety Christian Scott has regained his academic eligibility and will play in the Jan. 7 Citi BCS National Championship Game.

Scott was academically ineligible for the first semester and missed the regular season. But Texas coach Mack Brown said Scott has met NCAA standards and will contribute on special teams.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder has worked with the Texas scout team this season while he got his grades in order. He played in 13 games in 2008, notching 15 tackles, breaking up three passes, forcing a fumble and recovering a fumble. He was one of ESPN.com's top 150 national prospects coming into college.

Brown said his athleticism will allow him to play on most of the Longhorns' special teams, including as gunner on punt coverage teams because of his speed.

"I would say he would play on all of them, although he won't be on the extra point or field goal teams," Brown said. "Everything else he could do."

And Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp left open the chance he could crack the defensive rotation if he has strong practices leading up to the title game.

"Duane Akina and Will Muschamp are looking to see if he can get involved because he's such a good player," Brown said. "So that's still to be determined."

Longhorns intrigued by unusual underdog role against Alabama

December, 21, 2009
12/21/09
6:00
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AUSTIN, Texas -- The struggles of Texas' offensive line against Nebraska's dominant front is one of the biggest reasons why the Longhorns are an early underdog to the Crimson Tide.

The Longhorns offensive front struggled to keep Ndamukong Suh out of their backfield as the Cornhuskers racked up nine sacks, including 4.5 by the Cornhuskers' All-American defensive tackle.

Those problems likely don't bode well against Alabama, whose defensive front is keyed by massive 6-foot-5, 354-pound defensive tackle Terrence Cody.

"We're happy to be in this game," Texas senior tackle Adam Ulatoski said. "It's really exciting to be there. That's what we're focusing on."

Texas coach Mack Brown has thrown open competition at all positions heading into bowl practice, which he said could lead to some positional turnover for the bowl game. That was the main reason that he declined to release a depth chart, saying one would be ready after the remainder of the Longhorns' bowl practices in Austin.

"We didn't play as well on defense as we would have liked against Texas A&M and we didn't play as well offensively against Nebraska," Brown said. "We didn't finish as strongly as we would have liked. We're being hard on the guys and having tough physical drills. We're changing the depth chart daily and we'll present it when we got out there."

Despite the line's struggles against Nebraska, Longhorns players have put those struggles behind hem.

"We've moved on and we're working on this game," Ulatoski said. "We're worried about ourselves so we continue to get better. But we don't have to have a lot of motivation when you are playing for a national championship. Our goal is to go out there and play our best and win the game."

Texas center Chris Hall said he embraces the role of being an underdog against the No. 1 Crimson Tide.

"That's OK," Hall said. "That's not a problem. And if we were favored, it wouldn't be a problem either. It's two great football teams for sure. We'll have our hands full and it will be a fun one to play in."

But Texas defensive end Sergio Kindle said that placing any labels on his team would be overstated before the game began.

"It really doesn't matter," Kindle said. "Underdog, overdog, we just come to play."

My Big 12 confidence picks

December, 17, 2009
12/17/09
10:42
AM ET
Many of you have written to me over the last several days asking me about my bowl picks for various confidence pools.

Obviously, these games aren't quite as prevalent as bracket sheets during the NCAA men's tournament, but they assuredly are growing. I know I have several offers and have to get my sheets ready by Saturday's games.

Here are my picks for Big 12 bowl games ranked one through eight in terms of my confidence in the results of the games. I'll have much more extensive previews before the games and I reserve my right to make a last-minute change, but here are my picks in place for Saturday's confidence-pick deadline.

8 points: Texas Tech over Michigan State, Valero Alamo Bowl. The Red Raiders are catching the Spartans at exactly the right time. And the fact that Michigan State is riddled with suspensions only makes the Red Raiders' opportunity to win that much greater. Tech's Taylor Potts should have a huge game against the Spartans' struggling secondary that ranks 96th in pass-efficiency defense and 103rd in pass defense.

7 points: Missouri over Navy, Texas Bowl. The Tigers played well late in the season when Blaine Gabbert was healthy. Danario Alexander was the Big 12's most explosive player down the stretch. And while the defense isn't their best quality, I like their chances of being able to stuff Navy's run-heavy offense. Missouri limited four of its last five opponents to 77 yards rushing or less and Dave Steckel's group will have a long time to prepare for the option.

6 points: Georgia over Texas A&M, Advocare V100 Independence Bowl. Which Aggies team will show up for this game? The one that nearly beat Texas or the one that was blown out by Oklahoma or Kansas State? I think that Joe Cox and A.J. Green will have a lot of success against the Aggies' struggling defense, providing they can effectively keep Von Miller out of the Georgia backfield.

5 points: Oklahoma over Stanford, Brut Sun Bowl. The Sooners are intent on turning around after losing five of their last six bowl games. Oklahoma gets a break because of Andrew Luck's iffy status for the Cardinal. Look for the Sooners' run defense to clamp down on Toby Gerhart and Ryan Broyles and Landry Jones to make enough big plays to win.

4 points: Mississippi over Oklahoma State, AT&T Cotton Bowl. How much will that blowout loss at Oklahoma in Bedlam harm the Cowboys' psyche? I'm thinking more than might be expected as underrated bowl game coach Houston Nutt will assuredly have the Rebels ready to play. Look for a game similar to last year's Cotton Bowl against Texas Tech where the Rebels win the game in the trenches.

3 points: Arizona over Nebraska, Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. Look for a defensive struggle between good buddies Mike Stoops and Bo Pelini. But with Nebraska's well-chronicled offensive struggles against better opponents, it might be more of the same for the Cornhuskers in the bowl game. This one should be tight, but look for Arizona quarterback Nick Foles to make enough big plays to give the Wildcats a narrow victory.

2 points: Iowa State over Minnesota, Insight Bowl. The Cyclones definitely are happy to move up this far in the bowl pecking order. That attitude, along with strong inside running by Alexander Robinson, might be enough to catapult them to a big effort over the Gophers. Minnesota has been to the Insight Bowl three times in the last four seasons and might be a little bored with another trip to the desert this time around.

1 point: Texas over Alabama, Citi BCS National Championship Game. The Longhorns are underdogs in this one, but I'm thinking they are going to be a little tired about pundits talking about how fortunate they are to be playing in this game. The Longhorns are actually a better match for the Crimson Tide than they would have been against Florida. Will Muschamp's expertise on Nick Saban and his system will be pivotal. And I think Texas' run defense will keep Mark Ingram bottled up and that Colt McCoy will outplay Greg McElroy for his fourth bowl victory.

That would produce a 5-3 bowl record for the Big 12 this time around. It might be a little optimistic, but I'm fairly confident the teams can play to my expected levels.

What about some of your picks? I'm curious what you believe is a legitimate record the Big 12 can achieve this season.

It's the most wonderful time of the year for Big 12 bowl participants

December, 10, 2009
12/10/09
7:48
AM ET
It's time we check under the Christmas tree and see what Big 12 players fortunate enough to be making bowl trips will be receiving in gifts from their postseason activities.

As always, it looks like a good haul.

The NCAA allows each bowl to award up to $500 in gifts to 125 participants from each school. Those schools can and typically do purchase additional packages that they can distribute to participants beyond those at a school. Additionally, each school can provide players with gifts up to $350 from its own budget.

The Sports Business Journal reports that these gift packages provide a gift niche that is worth more $12 million in direct spending.

Here's the haul of gifts for each Big 12 school from a master list including all bowls.

Advocare V100 Independence Bowl (Texas A&M): Sony gift suite, Timely Watch Co. watch, New Era hat, football.

Pacific Life Holiday Bowl (Nebraska): Flo TV personal television (includes one year of service), Best Buy gift card, Tourneau watch, Sports Tek hooded sweatshirt, cap.

Brut Sun (Oklahoma): Sony gift suite, Timely Watch Co. watch, Majestic fleece pullover, VP Sports cap, Ogio Politan laptop pack, Brut hair dryer, coin.

Texas (Missouri): $300 Best Buy gift card, Fossil watch, Under Armour shirt and hat, Texas Bowl T-shirt, Under Armour backpack, belt buckle.

Insight (Iowa State): Sony gift suite, Fossil watch, hat, Ogio Bounty Hunter or Hermit laptop pack.

Valero Alamo Bowl (Texas Tech): 32-gig iPod Touch, Dr. Dre Monster Beats headphones, Fossil watch, Oakley Antix sunglasses, Shutt mini-helmet, panoramic photo.

Citi BCS National Championship (Texas): Sony gift suite with Trek and Garmin, Fossil watch, New Era 59Fifty hat, Ogio Politan laptop pack.

Note: AT&T Cotton Bowl officials did not make their information available. Gift suites are arranged as private events where game participants and often bowl VIPs are given an order form and allowed to select gifts up to a value that is determined by each specific bowl, not exceeding the NCAA’s limit of $500 per bowl game.

Source: Sports Business Journal.

How I rank the Big 12's upcoming bowls

December, 7, 2009
12/07/09
6:26
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The array of Big 12 bowl treats over the next month will feature a little of everything.

We've got some good games and others that might not be as appealing for those from outside the respective fan bases. Here's a look at how I rank the Big 12's eight bowl games this season.

I based my selections on importance, style of the two teams, coaching and starpower. Here are my rankings.

1. Citi BCS National Championship Game

Texas vs. Alabama

My take: The national title will be decided between two tradition-steeped programs with Heisman finalists Colt McCoy and Mark Ingram. Who could ask for more?

2. Brut Sun Bowl

Oklahoma vs. Stanford

My take: Even if Andrew Luck doesn't play, we'll have an intriguing battle between Toby Gerhart and the Sooners' defense. Toss in the Sooners' need for a bowl victory and this could be a good one.

3. Pacific Life Holiday Bowl

Nebraska vs. Arizona

My take: Two strong defenses will square off in this game. Throw in two fiery coaches like Mike Stoops and Bo Pelini and it should be an intriguing coaching matchup.

4. Advocare V100 Independence Bowl

Texas A&M vs. Georgia

My take: Sure, the Georgia staff has been blown up after the firing of Willie Martinez. But two high-powered offenses keyed by Jerrod Johnson and Joe Cox should result in a lot of points and passing yards.

5. Texas Bowl

Missouri vs. Navy

My take: The Tigers slid all the way into the bottom of the Big 12's pecking order, but this game still will be interesting. Danario Alexander and the potent Missouri passing game against Navy's option attack should be an interesting contrast of styles.

6. AT&T Cotton Bowl

Oklahoma State vs. Mississippi

My take: The Cowboys must rebound from their final-game struggles at Oklahoma, or they will face a difficult challenge against Jevan Snead and the Rebels.

7. Valero Alamo Bowl

Texas Tech vs. Michigan State

My take: Texas Tech's high-powered offense and underrated defense will be going against an undermanned Spartan team wracked by suspensions. I have no idea how either team will approach their trip to San Antonio.

8. Insight Bowl

Iowa State vs. Minnesota

My take: Insight Bowl officials jumped all over the Cyclones, hoping they will drive tickets for this battle of 6-6 programs. They better hope the Arizona golfing is good, because Minnesota's struggling offense produced no touchdowns in the last two games of the season.

Big 12 television bowl schedule features eight games

December, 7, 2009
12/07/09
4:37
PM ET
Several readers have asked for a handy television schedule of the Big 12's upcoming bowl games.

Here's a list with all of the dates, times and networks, along with who will be the home team in the game. All times are ET.
  • Citi BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 7, 8 p.m. ET, FOX Sports, Pasadena, Calif. -- Texas (13-0) vs. Alabama (13-0). Alabama will be the home team.
  • AT&T Cotton Bowl, Jan. 2, 2 p.m., FOX Sports, Arlington, Texas -- Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. Mississippi (8-4). Mississippi will be the home team.
  • Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, Dec. 30, 8 p.m., ESPN, San Diego -- Nebraska (9-4) vs. Arizona (8-4). Nebraska will be the home team.
  • Valero Alamo Bowl, Jan. 2, 9 p.m., ESPN, San Antonio – Texas Tech (8-4) vs. Michigan State (6-6). Texas Tech will be the home team.
  • Brut Sun Bowl, Dec. 31, 2 p.m., CBS, El Paso, Texas -- Oklahoma (7-5) vs. Stanford (8-4). Stanford will be the home team.
  • Insight Bowl, Dec. 31, 6 p.m., NFL Network, Tempe, Ariz. – Iowa State (6-6) vs. Minnesota (6-6). Iowa State will be the home team.
  • Advocare V100 Independence Bowl, Dec. 28, 5 p.m., ESPN, Shreveport, La. -- Texas A&M (6-6) vs. Georgia (7-5). Georgia will be the home team.
  • Texas Bowl, Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m., ESPN, Houston -- Missouri (8-4) vs. Navy (8-4) - Missouri will be the home team.

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