Big 12: Dan McCarney

Stats that matter: North Texas-Texas

August, 27, 2014
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Are you ready for some numbers? It's time once again for our weekly stat digs, in which we team with ESPN Stats and Info to find the numbers that matter most for the Longhorns and their next opponent. Here are the stats to remember going into Texas’ season opener against North Texas (7 p.m. CT, Longhorn Network).

No. 1: 101.6

Charlie Strong admitted on the Big 12 coaches' teleconference Monday there's one number he cares about (after the final score) when he's handed the postgame stat sheet: Rushing yards allowed.

His defense at Louisville led FBS in run defense last season, allowing just 81.5 yards per game. Texas gave up an average of 183.1 rushing yards per game a year ago. You better believe Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford intend to close that 101.6-yard gap as much as possible in 2014.

In the past four years, only one Big 12 defense has given up fewer than 100 rushing yards per game: The 2011 Longhorns, who held teams to 96.2 yards per game on the ground.

For what it's worth, and maybe not much, Georgia's defense did hold North Texas to 7 total rushing yards on 25 attempts last year.

No. 2: 123

We know very little about North Texas starting quarterback Josh Greer, a juco transfer who spent 2012 at UAB and 2013 at Navarro College. He's seen as a guy who has some similar traits to the successful guy he replaces, Derek Thompson, and he was a 63.5-percent passer at Navarro. He's a bit of an unknown otherwise.

But we do know he'll be protected by an offensive line that, on paper, looks impressive with 123 career starts among the five starters. Cyril Lemon, a first-team All-CUSA guard last year, moves from right tackle and has 37 career starts. He's one of four senior starters along with Mason Y'Barbo (37 starts), Antonio Johnson (34) and Shawn McKinney (2).

Texas players think they have the best defensive line in the Big 12, if not the nation. Those boasts will be put to the test Saturday as they try to rattle a QB making his first college start.

No. 3: 434

When you talk about David Ash's best games as Texas' starting quarterback, his 2013 season opener against New Mexico State doesn't usually get brought up. But in his only compete game of that injury-wrecked season, Ash accounted for 434 total yards (343 passing, 91 rushing) and offered an appealing glimpse of what he might've been able to do had he stayed healthy.

Texas struggled to get rolling until late in the second quarter, but Ash got the offense to open up from there. He threw for four touchdowns, busted off a 55-yard touchdown scramble and showed poise in the second half to guide an offense that put up a school-record 715 total yards.

North Texas should be a better foe than NMSU, which went on to finish 2-10 with the fourth-worst scoring defense in the country. But will we see a version of Ash that's as good or better than the one that showed up in last year's opener?

Three more to remember

Eight: The number of kicks North Texas blocked last season, most in FBS. Four were blocked punts. Against Georgia last year, UNT blocked a punt for TD and also returned a kickoff for a TD.

Two: North Texas coach Dan McCarney coached the defensive line on Strong's Florida defenses for two seasons, in 2008 and 2009.

35-21: The score of North Texas' last game against a Big 12 program, a loss at Kansas State in 2012. UNT is 7-57 all-time against the Big 12 but 0-9 in the past decade.

Successful coaches forced out: Big 12

August, 16, 2013
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In the eyes of some critics, Mack Brown is sitting on a seat far warmer than he realizes.

ESPN Insider's Phil Steele says Brown is the No. 1 coach on the hot seat entering 2013, and there is a faction of the Texas fan base that agrees and believes Brown’s best days are behind him. But if history tells us anything about canning coaches, the grass isn’t always greener.

Brown’s contract runs through 2020, and he isn’t looking to retire any time soon. He’s 27 victories away from becoming the winningest coach in school history. Will he reach that milestone?

A look at the recent history of successful Big 12 coaches being shown the door reminds us that a new hire brings no guarantees of success. And there might not be a better example of that than the man considered the league’s best coach today.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesWill Mack Brown get a chance to become the all-time winningest coach at Texas?
Coach on the bubble: Mack Brown, Texas

Big 12 precedents: Bill Snyder, Kansas State; Dan McCarney, Iowa State; Chuck Reedy, Baylor

Bill Snyder, 170-85-1 at Kansas State

Prior to his arrival: The list of coaches who came before Snyder is a long one, but the last to win more games than he lost at Kansas State left in 1934 after one season. Snyder’s predecessor, Stan Parrish, coached the Wildcats for 33 games and won two. The team was mockingly called “Futility U” before Snyder’s debut, and had lost more games than any program in college football history.

Why he resigned: The white-haired wizard was everything to Kansas State and achieved the most improbable rebuilding job college football has ever seen. But there reached a point in time, even after four Big 12 North titles, where KSU was ready to move on, in 2005. Leadership thought that after consecutive losing seasons, Snyder’s heart just wasn’t in it to go another season, even if he was hesitant to surrender the throne.

The aftermath: In came Ron Prince, the 36-year-old Virginia offensive coordinator who had no ties to the KSU program. His best season was his first, and after consecutive 5-7 seasons, he was fired in November 2008 -- after agreeing four months earlier to a contract extension through 2012. Snyder heroically returned, and you know the rest.

Some believe Brown, 61, is getting old. Snyder was 66 when he was ousted. He was named 2012 Big 12 Coach of the Year at age 73 and got a new five-year deal this past offseason.

Dan McCarney, 56-85 at Iowa State

Prior to his arrival: No, the track record of McCarney at Iowa State is not even close to what Brown has achieved at Texas. But no coach won more games at ISU than McCarney, who enjoyed five winning seasons in six years (2000-2005) and nearly won the Big 12 North outright twice. His predecessor, Jim Walden, retired after going 0-10-1 in 1994 and finished his ISU tenure with a record of 28-57-3. No Cyclones coach had won a conference title since 1912.

Why he resigned: McCarney led the Cyclones to five bowl games, but the 2006 season went downhill and he stepped down. At the time he announced his decision, ISU was 0-6 in Big 12 play.

The aftermath: Iowa State got as sexy a hire as it could have hoped in Texas defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. Then, after going 5-19 in two seasons, he bailed on the Cyclones for the Auburn job. Paul Rhoads has done a respectable job in Ames, with three bowl games in four seasons. McCarney is entering his third year as head coach at North Texas. His record there isn’t great (9-15), but the Mean Green at least appreciate that they’ve got a good coach.

Chuck Reedy, 23-22 at Baylor

Prior to his arrival: Yes, this is a bit of an obscure choice. Baylor had a solid, competitive program during the 21-year tenure of the great Grant Teaff and enjoyed winning records in eight seasons of his final decade in charge. When he retired, BU offensive coordinator Reedy was promoted to the head gig.

Why he was fired: Replacing Teaff wasn’t easy. The Baylor administration wasn’t happy with some aspects of Reedy’s coaching style, including recruiting high-risk players who were unlikely to qualify. But what sealed his fate was going 1-7 in conference play in the Big 12’s inaugural year and losing four straight to end the 1996 season with a 4-7 record.

The aftermath: Baylor didn’t know it was signing up for a decade of futility when it canned Reedy. His replacement, Dave Roberts, went 4-18. The three coaches that came after Reedy went a combined 30-94 and finished last in the Big 12 South eight straight years. Art Briles has led an impressive rebuild, but he inherited enough of a mess that it took five years to get his career mark at Baylor above .500 (32-30).

I know what you’re thinking. We’ve left out three coaching departures that are considered some of the biggest in recent Big 12 history: Barry Switzer, Mark Mangino and Mike Leach.

Considering Switzer resigned amid a flurry of scandal and NCAA probation, and Mangino and Leach departed after allegations of player abuse, they’re not all that applicable to Brown or any current Big 12 coaches. But in the cases of Kansas and Texas Tech, who enjoyed unparalleled rises under Mangino and Leach, respectively, and haven’t been the same since, it’s another reminder that you never know what you’ll get when you let a successful coach go.
Hey, I see you Big 12 fans with your recency bias.

"Kansas! Turner Gill's team last season was the worst in the history of the Big 12!"

Yes, those Jayhawks were one of only six teams in Big 12 history to go winless in conference play, and this year's Jayhawks have a chance to make it seven if they don't beat West Virginia on Saturday.

The 2011 team lost six games by at least 30 points and the historically bad defense gave up at least 59 points on four separate occasions. However, those same Jayhawks led a 10-win Baylor team led by Heisman winner Robert Griffin III by 21 points early in the fourth quarter and ran up a 20-point lead on Texas Tech early in the season. They also lost to Iowa State by only three points and beat the MAC champion, Northern Illinois.

Still, I hate to break it to you. Do the research, and you'll find that KU team was probably the best winless team in Big 12 history. Not exactly an accomplishment that will do much except get the coach fired, but on ESPN.com today, we're taking a look at some of the worst teams in the history of the game. Here's how I'd rank the worst teams in the history of the Big 12:

1. 1999 Baylor (1-10, 0-8 Big 12)
Coach: Kevin Steele
Win: 23-10 vs. North Texas
Lowlights: The Bears were in Year 1 of Steele's four-year tenure that peaked with a three-win campaign in 2002. I give these Bears my seal of approval as the worst team in Big 12 history. They lost to Boston College and UNLV in nonconference, and the closest they got to any Big 12 team all season was 20 points, and even that game was in the season finale against Oklahoma State. Along the way, they suffered losses of 62-0 (Texas), 37-0 (Colorado) and 48-7 (Nebraska).

2. 2003 Iowa State (2-10, 0-8 Big 12)
Coach: Dan McCarney
Wins: Northern Iowa, Ohio
Lowlights: This was an oddly awful season sandwiched between four seven-win seasons for McCarney, the best coach in Iowa State history before Paul Rhoads arrived in 2009. ISU lost to Northern Illinois out of conference and had by far the worst finish of any team on this list. In its final five games, it scored seven points twice in blowout losses to KU and Mizzou, and was shut out by Nebraska and K-State. It did score 10 points in a 34-point loss to Colorado, though! ISU came within 21 points of only one Big 12 team that season, losing 40-19 to Texas.

3. 1997 Iowa State (1-10, 1-7 Big 12)
Coach: Dan McCarney
Win: 24-17 vs. Baylor
Lowlights: These Cyclones are the only team on this list with a conference win, but they're a team that deserved special consideration. They went winless in nonconference play with losses to Wyoming (46 points!!), Minnesota (34 points) and Iowa (43 points). They came within seven points in the season opener against Oklahoma State, but suffered a handful of humiliating losses, including a 77-14 beatdown against Nebraska. Missouri (24 points), Texas A&M (39 points) and Kansas State (25 points) all continued the parade.

4. 2002 Kansas (2-10, 0-8 Big 12)
Coach: Mark Mangino
Wins: Southwest Missouri State, Tulsa
Lowlights: This was the first season on the road to an eventual BCS bowl for Mangino. The former OU offensive coordinator had a tough start, getting blasted by Iowa State by 42 points to kick off the season. They also suffered losses to UNLV and Bowling Green. The Jayhawks came within three points of Baylor, but no other Big 12 game was decided by fewer than 24 points. They also suffered a 64-0 loss to K-State and a 45-7 loss to Nebraska.

5. 2007 Baylor (3-9, 0-8 Big 12)
Coach: Guy Morriss
Wins: Rice, Texas State, Buffalo
Lowlights: This was the final season for Morriss at Baylor, and the Bears didn't come within 20 points of winning a Big 12 game. BU kicked off the season with a 27-0 loss to TCU but suffered 31-point losses to Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma to close the year and the Morriss era, ushering in the Art Briles era in Waco. The Bears lost to BCS-bound KU by 48 points that year and suffered a 38-point loss to a Ron Prince-coached Kansas State team.

6. 2008 Iowa State (2-10, 0-8 Big 12)
Coach: Gene Chizik
Wins: South Dakota State, Kent State
Lowlights: Chizik parlayed his 5-19 career record into a head job at Auburn and a national title before being fired earlier this week after a winless season in SEC play. The Cyclones were bad, but far from hopeless. ISU lost its final 10 games, including a loss to UNLV, but also had three Big 12 losses decided by a single possession. It did lose games by 42 (Oklahoma State), 32 (Mizzou) and 28 (Nebraska and Baylor).

Big 12 predictions: Week 3

September, 13, 2012
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Time for another set of predictions after a rough time in Week 2.

Let's get it started.

Last week: 5-3 (.625)

Season record: 14-3 (.824)

No. 15 TCU 44, Kansas 17: If Kansas had looked impressive last week against Rice, this would have looked like a very dangerous game for Big 12 newbie TCU. But the Jayhawks lost, giving Rice its first-ever win over a Big 12 opponent. Inexcusable. TCU's defense still has a lot to prove, but KU won't be able to slow down TCU on the ground or through the air, even at home.

Oklahoma State 51, Louisiana-Lafayette 24: The Ragin' Cajuns will be an interesting test for Oklahoma State's defense, which suddenly is offering plenty of reason for doubt. The offense should be fine, though, as long as the receivers tighten up and help quarterback Wes Lunt out by not dropping passes. Lunt racked up 436 yards last week in his first road start, and only one of his three interceptions was his fault.

No. 8 West Virginia 61, James Madison 13: Another week, another 60-pointer. JMU will control the clock early and frustrate the Mountaineers, who will spend a lot of time in the end zone over the final three quarters.

Baylor 55, Sam Houston State 20: If Baylor turns it over, this game could get scary quickly. Sam Houston State is better than the average college football fan realizes. The problem? So is Baylor. It should be another huge night for quarterback Nick Florence.

No. 14 Kansas State 38, North Texas 13: Lance Dunbar cannot save you now, Mean Green. Coach Dan McCarney is a good fit in Denton, but K-State is playing ridiculously good football, and nobody on North Texas' front line will be able to stop the Wildcats' running game.

Texas Tech 51, New Mexico 14: New Mexico is not very good. The jury is still out on Texas Tech, which finishes up its cupcake platter with the Lobos, winners of one game a year ago. We should see a good performance here on both sides of the ball for Texas Tech. We still don't know anything about the Red Raiders. Suit up for Iowa State in two weeks.

Iowa State 38, Western Illinois 10: How long until all the FCS games are done? Running back Shontrelle Johnson will get back into the groove with another 100-yard outing.

No. 12 Texas 24, Ole Miss 13: U-G-L-Y. This one should be interesting and filled with three-and-outs. Ultimately, Texas' running game will be too much late. Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown should punish the Ole Miss front seven and control possession in the fourth quarter, not allowing Ole Miss to rally late.
We're looking at coaches this week on ESPN.com. It's a big subject, sure. In our blog network, we'll be breaking it down each day to smaller topics.

Today, a simple question: What would a program look like without the winningest coach in program history? Which coaches had the biggest impact?

Here's how it breaks down for each program in the Big 12 (all-time record in parentheses):

[+] EnlargeBill Snyder
Brett Davis/US PresswireKansas State's winning percentage plummets without Bill Snyder.
BAYLOR: 524-530-44 (.497)

  • Winningest coach: Grant Teaff: 128-105-6
  • Wins without winningest coach: 396
IOWA STATE: 500-594-24 (.458)

  • Winningest coach: Dan McCarney: 56-85
  • Wins without winningest coach: 444
KANSAS: 572-560-58 (.505)

  • Winningest coach: A.R. Kennedy: 52-9-4
  • Wins without winningest coach: 520
KANSAS STATE: 475-612-41 (.439)

  • Winningest coach: Bill Snyder: 159-83-1
  • Wins without winningest coach: 316
OKLAHOMA: 821-307-44 (.718)

  • Winningest coach: Barry Switzer: 157-29-4
  • Wins without winningest coach: 664
OKLAHOMA STATE: 530-523-47 (.503)

  • Winningest coach: Pat Jones: 62-60-3 (Mike Gundy needs three wins to tie Jones)
  • Wins without winningest coach: 468
TEXAS: 858-330-33 (.716)

  • Winningest coach: Darrell Royal: 167-47-5
  • Wins without winningest coach: 691
TCU: 593-514-57 (.534)

  • Winningest coach: Dutch Meyer: 109-79-13 (Gary Patterson is tied at 109-30.)
  • Wins without winningest coach: 484
TEXAS TECH: 524-405-32 (.562)

  • Winningest coach: Mike Leach: 84-43
  • Wins without winningest coach: 440
WEST VIRGINIA: 701-457-45 (.601)

  • Winningest coach: Don Nehlen: 149-93-4
  • Wins without winningest coach: 552

That's a wide variance of wins. It's clear that no man means more to his school than Bill Snyder does to Kansas State. The program has a rather depressing .358 winning percentage if you remove Snyder's win from the equation. He took two seasons to get Kansas State from a perennial doormat to a team above .500. Snyder then went on a historic run that included a Big 12 title in 2003 and two BCS bowl bids.

Don't ever doubt why some consider what Snyder has done in Manhattan as the single greatest coaching job in the history of the game. Snyder's career win percentage at Kansas State is .656, almost double what the program's overall win percentage is. No other coach comes close to those numbers. There's a reason why many of the nation's coaches are often in awe of Snyder and why he is so respected.

The biggest surprise for me was the relative dominance of West Virginia compared to the rest of the Big 12. That .601 win percentage is behind only Texas and Oklahoma over the course of the program's history. And you wonder why folks are so excited about their entrance into the league?

Looking elsewhere, Texas Tech's decision to fire Mike Leach looks worse and worse while the Mike Gundy hire at Oklahoma State looks better and better. Gundy is three wins from passing Pat Jones as the school's biggest all-time winner. He did so in just 89 games while Jones needed 125 matches to reach 62 victories.

Conversely, how about the job Gary Patterson has done at TCU? Sure, the schedule is different, but he's suffered the same amount of losses as Gundy with 50 more wins. He's also reached 109 wins in 62 fewer games than Dutch Meyer.

We're living in the age of some great, great coaches in this league. History shows us that.
Today is the next step in a new series on the Big 12 blog that we've never done before. I love predicting the standings from top to bottom, but we're going to do it week by week leading up to the season. The end goal is to offer my official prediction for each Big 12 team's record heading into the bowl games.

Remember, these are preseason predictions. We'll obviously still do week-to-week picks once the season arrives, and they may change between now and then. There are a lot of preseason practices and a whole lot of games between now and the end of the season.

There are always teams who disappoint and teams who surprise. But here's how I see the Big 12 shaking out in Week 3.

PREVIOUS PREDICTIONS
Baylor 47, Sam Houston State 17: The Bears won't put on a show in the first three quarters, but they take care of business against a pretty good FCS team (which is like a "pretty good Big East team." I kid.)

Iowa State 31, Western Illinois 10: Finally, ISU doesn't have a nailbiter. The Cyclones bounce back from a rivalry loss to Iowa to dispatch the FCS Leathernecks easily.

TCU 41, Kansas 17: Kansas coach Charlie Weis had his team practice kicking a game-winning field goal and reaching 3-0 in this game during an open practice in the spring. Not happening. TCU goes to Lawrence and debuts its first Big 12 game the right way. KU will improve this year, but it's not happening just yet.

Kansas State 47, North Texas 20: Former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney is back taking on an old Big 8 foe, which makes for an intriguing story line, but not much of a football game. Lance Dunbar can't save you now, Mean Green. (K-State fans know what I'm talkin' about.)

Oklahoma State 41, Louisiana-Lafayette 24: Don't sleep on these Ragin' Cajuns. U-LaLa is a decent team who won nine games and beat a very good San Diego State team in the New Orleans Bowl last year. This defense picked off Brandon Weeden three times last year and led at halftime when these two teams met in the Bayou in 2010. This one won't be easy, but the Cowboys pull away late.

Texas 27, Ole Miss 10: Unless Texas is distracted by hoards of its mascot being grilled in The Grove outside the stadium, the Longhorns should take care of business in the Big 12's only matchup against the SEC in the regular season. That sounds sexier than it is. Texas is on its way back to national prominence. Ole Miss is restarting under new coach Hugh Freeze after a two-win 2011.

Texas Tech 47, New Mexico 17: We've been over this. New Mexico: Awful. FBS by name only, I'd say.

West Virginia 44, James Madison 17: Madison shocked eventual ACC champ Virginia Tech back in 2010, but these Mountaineers are better and won't make the mistakes the Hokies did just a week after a heartbreaking loss to Boise State. FCS is still FCS. Can we start conference play now?

BIG 12 STANDINGS (after Week 3)

1. Kansas State: 3-0
1. Oklahoma State: 3-0
1. Texas: 3-0
1. Texas Tech: 3-0
5. Oklahoma: 2-0
5. West Virginia: 2-0
5. Baylor: 2-0
5. TCU: 2-0
9. Kansas: 2-1
9. Iowa State: 2-1

Links: MU, A&M Big 12 post-exit regrets

February, 14, 2012
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I'm not one to hold grudges, Jeff. My father held grudges. I'll always hate him for that.

Fun facts for the Big 12 bowls

December, 28, 2011
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We've already downed one bowl game, but there's plenty left on the Big 12 slate. Here's a few fun facts and notes heading into those games, courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info.

We'll kick it off with some Texas-heavy facts, considering the Holiday Bowl kicks off shortly.
    [+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
    Jerome Miron/US PresswireBaylor's Robert Griffin III will try to make it three straight bowl victories by Heisman Trophy winners.
  • Texas will play its first game in the postseason since the 2010 BCS National Championship Game when it takes on Cal in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl.
  • The Longhorns have won five of their past six bowl games. The loss to Alabama in that game is the only loss in that stretch. Alabama (58) is also the only school with more bowl appearances than Texas' 50.
  • The only schools with more bowl wins than Texas since 1998: Utah and Georgia.
  • The Longhorns missed a bowl game for the first time since 1997 last year, but Cal is renewing a streak, too. They missed out last year for the first time since 2002.
  • This is Texas' fifth trip to the Holiday Bowl. Only BYU has played in this game more often, with 11 appearances.
  • Texas was allowing 15.8 points per game in its five previous games before Baylor scored 48 in the season finale. It was also giving up 1.9 yards per carry. Baylor averaged five.
  • The Longhorns threw five touchdown passes, completed 38.2 percent of their passes, had a pass efficiency of 87.5 and averaged 1.5 yards per play in the red zone. Each of those marks were last in the Big 12.
  • Texas is 3-10 in the past three seasons when it loses the turnover battle.
  • In seven wins this season, Texas has 21 rushing touchdowns.
  • In its five losses, Texas has two rushing touchdowns.
  • Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is facing his alma mater, Iowa, for the first time. The Sooners have played Iowa just once, winning in 1979.
  • Before last year, Oklahoma State and Stanford had a combined three 10-win seasons and no 11-win seasons. Both have won at least 11 games in each of the past two seasons.
  • Baylor is playing in bowl games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1991-92.
  • Dan McCarney is the only coach other than Paul Rhoads to win a bowl game at Iowa State.
  • After losing three consecutive bowl games, Heisman winners have won two consecutive bowls.
  • Even with a loss, No. 12 Baylor is likely to finish the season in the final AP poll for the first time since 1986.
  • If Iowa State beats Rutgers, it will win consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history.
  • Northwestern hasn't won a bowl game in five tries since the 1949 Rose Bowl. It faces Texas A&M in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, which has lost its past eight bowl games.
  • Baylor ranks outside the national top 100 in all major defensive stats (total defense, rush defense, pass defense, scoring defense). It ranks 95th in passing efficiency defense.
  • Iowa State is 6-6 with two three-game winning streaks, a four-game losing streak and a two-game losing streak. All six losses came to bowl teams.
  • Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill has completed just seven of his past 40 passes thrown 20 yards or more downfield, including 1-of-11 against Texas. He completed 12-of-21 to begin the season.

Lunch links: Nebraska vs. the Big 12

November, 29, 2010
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That's my No. 1 favorite food wrapped around my No. 3 favorite food. I'd go to a banquet in honor of those Somali pirates if they served bacon-wrapped shrimp.

Rhoads taking next step after big debut

April, 16, 2010
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AMES, Iowa -- Paul Rhoads’ eyes are wandering. Not like the coach before him at Iowa State, but they’re wandering. He rushes to finish his sentence, slyly watching -- out of the corner of his eye -- a group of young linebackers run through a half-speed drill focused on taking angles and wrapping up ballcarriers.

“Are you driving? Do you have a plane to catch or anything?” he asks me. “Can you give me three minutes? I’ll be done in three minutes.”

Rhoads jogs a few yards over to his linebackers, throws his hat down to mark an angle for the drill, and gets back to coaching some extra work after practice. Two hours isn’t enough for Rhoads, even if it’s only April.

“Nice rep right there, nice rep!” he yells. “That’s what we want!”

[+] EnlargePaul Rhoads
David Purdy/Getty ImagesIowa State's Paul Rhoads will proudly lead the Cyclones for a second season.
Second halves of interviews can wait. It’s always time to coach.

A year ago, Rhoads was just Coach No. 3 for some of his players. Gene Chizik spent two seasons in Ames after Dan McCarney stepped down, but split for Auburn with just five wins on his resume.

“They’d been betrayed; they felt that way. There was bitterness. There was anger,” Rhoads said. “You go in having to earn their trust and credibility.”

Rhoads began by telling his players he was proud to be their coach, a refrain he repeated in the locker room after a season-defining upset of Nebraska and pleaded with them to trust him blindly. He believed those that did could be part of something special, and quickly, so did his team.

“Right when we got here, we saw Coach Rhoads, knew he was an Iowa guy and knew he wanted to be here,” senior quarterback Austen Arnaud said. “Everything about him was positive.”

A first-time head coach in his home state, Rhoads received that blind trust, and squashed any lingering doubts with a seven-win season in year one.

“When you’re coaching a kid on a field for 30 minutes and you’re drilling him and you’re wearing him out, and then you can turn around and show him game film or 11-on-11 film where that exact drill came into play and allowed him to be successful, then you’ve got your kids right here in the palm of your hand,” Rhoads said. “Because they trust you and they believe in what you’re giving them.”

Rhoads knows progress when he sees it, and he’s seen it this spring. But Iowa State has one of the conference’s toughest schedules, with games at Texas and Oklahoma and matchups with Northern Illinois, Iowa and Utah in its non-conference.

Rhoads believes the Cyclones could be better in 2010 and still win fewer games.

“He’s not going to lie to you,” said running back Alexander Robinson. “What you see is what you get with him, and he’s always positive.”

No one in the Iowa State program is settling for fewer wins. There’s only one way to one-up a schedule Rhoads says he’s embraced, and isn’t hiding from: Get even better. There’s plenty of room between the Cyclones and their ceiling.

“We had a winning season by one game. Otherwise, we were average,” Arnaud said. “We have to know we were average last year and be better, because you don’t want to be average. You want to be great.”

Last season’s win over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl legitimized Iowa State’s program, Rhoads says. But it’s only a step in the direction of an eventual goal -- a championship. The step the Cyclones are taking right now happens on the practice field.

“We have a team that’s upbeat about what we’re doing, that believes in what we’re doing, and that comes to work with a little bit of an extra bounce in their step,” Rhoads said. “We capitalize on that.”

Rhoads has the trust of his team. His depth chart is significantly less shallow than a season ago. He knows where he wants to go.

His eyes won’t be leaving that target anytime soon.

Watson, Wilson, McCarney among those who applied for USF job

January, 28, 2010
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The South Florida job eventually claimed by Skip Holtz prompted wide interest among current and former Big 12 coaches.

The Tampa Tribune reported that a variety of coaches had interest in the position created when Jim Leavitt was fired on Jan. 8.

Among the more notable applicants included Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, former Iowa State coach and current Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney and former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator and current Southern Mississippi coach Larry Fedora.

Another candidate was Nebraska football consultant Joe Moglia, a former chairman at TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation and a former defensive coordinator at Dartmouth.

The interest in the Bulls job isn't unexpected. Many coaches see it as a potential coaching gold mine because of its facilities, location and conference affiliation. It's not a surprise that some of the top Big 12 coordinators and other coaches were intrigued by the school and its possibilities.

Ranking the Big 12's programs of the decade

January, 21, 2010
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The arrival of Mack Brown and Bob Stoops late in the 1990s helped rejuvenate dormant programs at Texas and Oklahoma. By the end of the following decade, both traditional powers were clearly the Big 12's top two programs and among the nation’s best.

The return of Bo Pelini to Nebraska helped the Cornhuskers close the decade strongly and claim a spot just below the Big 12's "Big Two." Texas Tech has been among the nation's most consistent teams of the decade. North teams like Colorado, Kansas State and Missouri all popped up to make at least two appearances in the Big 12 title game.

But Oklahoma and Texas have been the Big 12's behemoths during the recent decade. Here's how I rank the programs ranked based on their accomplishments in the last decade.

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners earn a slight edge over Texas despite the same number of victories in the decade because Bob Stoops took them to six Big 12 titles. The earlier teams depended more on defense, while Stoops’ more recent squads have been offensive juggernauts to reflect the overall change in the Big 12.

2. Texas: A victory in the BCS title game earlier this month might have catapulted Texas into the top slot. Mack Brown has pushed his program into parity with Oklahoma after struggling with the Sooner dynasty built by Stoops earlier in the decade.

3. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers withstood more tumult in the last decade than in any era since Bob Devaney turned the program in 1962. Even with two coaching changes, Bo Pelini has the Cornhuskers steered to the top of the North Division and poised for much more heading into the new decade.

4. Texas Tech: Mike Leach took the Red Raiders to an 84-43 record during the decade, with another victory added by Ruffin McNeill in the Valero Alamo Bowl for third place among Big 12 teams in victories. They fall behind Nebraska because they still have never advanced to the Big 12 title game or claimed a BCS bowl berth. That will be Tommy Tuberville’s task to change the culture and break that ceiling for the program.

5. Kansas State: The program was at its best during the early part of the decade when Bill Snyder took the Wildcats to the last title by a North Division team in 2003. The program dipped under Ron Prince, but could be poised to make another step forward after confounding prognosticators by remaining in the North Division title hunt until the last game in 2009.

6. Missouri: Gary Pinkel has the program humming with two title-game berths, strong incoming talent and a reputation as the conference’s foremost developers of unheralded recruiting talent. Pinkel's growth has been strong, but he still needs to take them another step where they start winning conference championships and appearing in BCS bowl games.

7. Oklahoma State: The infusion of T. Boone Pickens’ money has helped make the Cowboys’ facilities as good as most in college football. That growth has helped pick up recruiting as Mike Gundy’s program has made a bowl trip in four of his five years coaching the Cowboys.

8. Colorado: Gary Barnett had the Buffaloes as the North Division’s most consistent program with four championship game appearances in five seasons, including the 2001 Big 12 title. They haven’t been nearly as successful since Dan Hawkins took over with one bowl trip, no bowl victories or trips to the championship game.

9. Texas A&M: The Aggies still have the elements that could return them to prominence with rich tradition, strong facilities and an ideal recruiting location. But it’s tougher for them to challenge in the South Division with Oklahoma and Texas at the highest levels in recent history and growing programs at Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and even Baylor.

10. Kansas: Mark Mangino has awakened football interest here, but it will be up to Turner Gill to build on that growth. The North Division looks open, but Gill will be challenged to match Mangino’s achievements early in his coaching tenure without an immediate replacement for Todd Reesing at quarterback.

11. Iowa State: Dan McCarney's turnaround of this program in the early part of the decade is one of the more underrated building projects in recent college football history after taking the Cyclones to five bowls in the first six seasons of the decade. Included in that run were two near-misses where the Cyclones legitimately could have made a championship-game appearance with more consistent kicking. Athletic director Jamie Pollard went for the sizzle when he hired Gene Chizik to replace McCarney. He now appears to have found a McCarney clone with steady Paul Rhoads in charge.

12. Baylor: The last decade will be marked by an incredible series of building projects at Baylor, but still no bowl game. The Bears appeared poised in 2009 before Robert Griffin's unfortunate season-ending knee injury. Art Briles turned down a couple of intriguing possibilities to remain at Baylor and try to stem the bowl drought, currently at 15 seasons and counting.

Ranking the Big 12's top coaches of the decade

January, 21, 2010
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Only two coaches who started the decade coaching in the Big 12 were still in their jobs at the end of it.

Bob Stoops has helped turned Oklahoma into a consistent national power and Mack Brown has done the same with Texas. Both won national championships during the decade and also took their team to bowl games each season.

Their stability and staying power are the major reasons the Longhorns and Sooners have dominated the Big 12 during the decade.

The rest of the conference wasn't quite as fortunate.

Stoops
Doug Benc/Getty ImagesBob Stoops won three straight Big 12 titles from 2006-08.
Here's my list of the top-10 coaches of the past decade in the Big 12.

1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: Stoops and Brown have the same number of victories (110) during the decade. Texas actually has a better winning percentage. But Stoops gets the nod because of his consistent coaching excellence with six Big 12 titles over the decade, a national championship in 2000 and an unprecedented three-peat of conference championships from 2006-08.

2. Mack Brown, Texas: Brown had the best winning percentage and is tied for the most wins with Stoops during the decade. He's won two Big 12 titles in three trips to the championship game. Most importantly for his job security, he's turned around his slump in the Red River Rivalry after an earlier five-game losing streak to Stoops. Texas has won four of the last five games against the Sooners as Brown has boosted his program to arguably its highest point in history.

3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State: People forget how dominant the Wildcats were in the early part of the decade, when they won at least 11 games in three of the first four seasons. That run was punctuated by the 2003 Big 12 championship team that was memorable in that Snyder overcame an early-season three-game losing streak. Snyder came back rejuvenated and appears to be ready to continue his career after taking the Wildcats into unexpected North Division title contention in 2009. And he's headed to College Football Hall of Fame after his career ends.

4. Mike Leach, Texas Tech: Before his abrupt firing before the Valero Alamo Bowl last month, Leach had taken the Red Raiders to a bowl game every season in his career there. The Red Raiders never advanced above the Cotton Bowl in the Big 12’s pecking order and earned a share of one South Division title. But he sure made things interesting when he was coaching, and was the main figure in the Big 12's transformation into a cutting-edge passing conference.

5. Gary Barnett, Colorado: At the time of his firing, he had taken the Buffaloes to four Big 12 title games in five seasons, including the 2001 championship. Colorado has made one bowl trip since Barnett’s demise. I'm still surprised he hasn't gotten another opportunity after his dismissal.

6. Gary Pinkel, Missouri: After a slow start, he’s averaged nine wins over the last five seasons, and twice taken the Tigers to the Big 12 title game. In the process, his players have said the death of former player Aaron O’Neal has helped transform him into a more caring, compassionate leader -- a marked contrast from some of the recent events in coaching at other schools in the conference and beyond.

7. Mark Mangino, Kansas: Made history by taking the Jayhawks to back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in school history, including a 12-1 season in 2007 that earned him national coach of the year honors. The seven-game losing streak at the end of the 2009 season doomed his program's chances and led to his resignation.

8. Bo Pelini, Nebraska: In two-plus seasons with Nebraska, he’s already won three bowl games and taken the Cornhuskers to the Big 12 title game. More importantly, he’s reawakened the passion of Nebraska fans with a crowd-pleasing defensive style.

9. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: Has led Oklahoma State to the exact same winning percentage -- .571 -- as his predecessor, Les Miles. Gundy gets the edge because he’s claimed two bowl victories while Miles won one. Both whiffed in every game against Texas.

10. Dan McCarney, Iowa State: Before he was fired after the 2006 season, McCarney had turned around fortunes for the long-struggling Cyclones program. In the process, he won the 2000 Insight Bowl -- the school’s first bowl victory -- among a run of five bowl trips in six seasons. And he might have taken the Cyclones to their elusive first division championship if they had a more reliable kicker.

Iowa State's team of the decade

January, 19, 2010
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Iowa State struggled after Dan McCarney was let go and before Paul Rhoads took the team to a bowl victory this season.

McCarney led the Cyclones to five bowl trips in the first six seasons of the decade. That record was as good as any team's in the North Division to that point.

Things didn't go as swimmingly for the Cyclones for the second half of the decade, although Rhoads' gutty underachievers were one of the biggest surprises in college football in 2009.

Here's a look at my all-decade team for Iowa State.

OFFENSE

QB: Seneca Wallace

RB: Alexander Robinson

RB: Ennis Haywood

WR: Todd Blythe

WR: Lane Danielson

TE: Mike Banks

OL: Reggie Stephens

OL: Cale Stubbe

OL: Bob Montgomery

OL: Aaron Brant

C: Ben Bruns

DEFENSE

DL: Nick Leaders

DL: Brent Curvey

DL: Jordan Carstens

DL: Reggie Haywood

LB: Alvin Bowen

LB: Tim Dobbins

LB: Jesse Smith

DB: LaMarcus Hicks

DB: Ellis Hobbs

DB: JaMaine Billups

DB: Leonard Johnson

P: Tony Yelk

K: Adam Benike

KR: J.J.Moses

Offensive player of the decade: QB Seneca Wallace. Fans remember his serpentine touchdown run against Texas Tech in 2002, but he also led the Cyclones to back-to-back bowl trips while setting the single-season school records for passing and total offense.

Defensive player of the decade: LB Alvin Bowen. A two-time team most valuable player, Bowen produced 155 tackles as a senior in 2006 to become All-Big 12 linebacker and one of the most productive players in ISU history.

Coach of the decade: Dan McCarney. When he was fired after the 2006 season, he had more wins, more bowl trips and more bowl victories than any coach in the school's history. And if he had a more consistent field goal kicker, McCarney might have won that elusive North Division championship that the Cyclones are still looking for.

Moment of the decade: Iowa State’s 37-29 victory over Pittsburgh in the 2000 Insight.com Bowl. Sage Rosenfels passed for 308 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cyclones to their first bowl victory in school history. It capped a 9-3 season that was the most victories by a Cyclone team since 1906.

Lunch links: Willis expected to be Tech D-coordinator

January, 13, 2010
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Considering what's going on at Tennessee the last day or so, it seems awfully tame around the Big 12, doesn't it?

But there are still some stories across the conference that are percolating.

Enjoy them.

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