Big 12: Darcel McBath
For the purposes of this post, I only included players who played their college ball in the Big 12. This kind of thing gets complicated, but I'm including former Big 12 teams and not TCU and West Virginia. These guys all actually played in the Big 12.
- Billy Bajema, TE, Oklahoma State
- Chykie Brown, CB, Texas
- Sam Koch, P, Nebraska
- Kelechi Osemele, OL, Iowa State
- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
- Justin Tucker, K, Texas
- Ryan McBean, DT, Oklahoma State (injured reserve)
- Reggie Stephens, C, Iowa State (practice squad)
- Tarell Brown, CB, Texas
- Perrish Cox, CB, Oklahoma State
- Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
- Leonard Davis, OG, Texas
- Tony Jerod-Eddie, DT, Texas A&M
- Darcel McBath, S, Texas Tech
- Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
- Justin Smith, DE, Missouri
- Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State (injured reserve)
To rank it by team:
T-1 .Texas - 4
T-1. Oklahoma State - 4
T-3. Iowa State - 2
T-3. Texas Tech - 2
T-3. Missouri - 2
T-6. Colorado - 1
T-6. Nebraska - 1
T-6. Texas A&M - 1
Tech was an underrated program on the field, qualifying for a bowl game in every season under Mike Leach.
In building his program, Leach was known for his love of pirates and Sherlock Holmes and many other things that had little to do with football. He was a breath of fresh air in the coaching fraternity.
When he was fired after the 2009 regular season, it was a national story because of its abrupt nature.
The Red Raiders claimed 85 victories during the decade, trailing only Oklahoma and Texas. All but one of those wins was earned by Leach, who was fired shortly before Tech’s Valero Alamo Bowl victory over Michigan State.
The Red Raiders certainly were the Big 12's most entertaining program with a high-powered offense and the quirky Leach in charge. And when they were at their very best, the Red Raiders had an underrated defense directed by Ruffin McNeill that accentuated the team’s offensive firepower.
Here’s a look at my selections for the top moments and players for Tech from the last decade.
QB: Graham Harrell
RB: Taurean Henderson
RB: Baron Batch
WR: Michael Crabtree
WR: Joel Filani
WR: Wes Welker
OL: Brandon Carter
OL: Rylan Reed
OL: Luis Vasquez
OL: Daniel Loper
C: Dylan Gandy
DL: Aaron Hunt
DL: Adell Duckett
DL Brandon Sharpe
DL: Brandon Williams
LB: Lawrence Flugence
LB: Mike Smith
LB: Marlon Williams
DB: Dwayne Slay
DB: Kevin Curtis
DB: Darcel McBath
DB: Jamar Wall
P: Alex Reyes
K: Alex Trlica
Ret: Wes Welker
Offensive player of the decade: WR Michael Crabtree. Despite playing only two seasons, he became the most productive receiver in Tech’s history. He was a two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award with 231 receptions and 41 TD grabs setting an NCAA record for two seasons of production.
Defensive player of the decade: S Kevin Curtis. A fiery, hard-hitting safety, Curtis was the most decorated and one of the most versatile defensive player of the decade for the Red Raiders. Curtis earned first-team All-Big 12 honors in 1999 and 2000 and second-team all-conference honors in 2001. He was a second-team All-American in 2000 while playing strong safety and a second-team All-America choice in 2001 after moving to free safety.
Coach of the decade: Mike Leach. He perhaps was the most influential coaching figure in Big 12 history as he helped push the conference from a stodgy run-based attack to one where cutting-edge passing attacks predominated. He also became a national figure because of his personality and his guest appearances on television shows as diverse as “Sixty Minutes” and “Friday Night Lights.”
Moment of the decade: Michael Crabtree’s late touchdown grab beats Texas in 2008. Graham Harrell’s 28-yard touchdown pass to Crabtree was one second left helped push Tech to an area it had never been before. It not only boosted them to a 39-33 triumph over Texas but also served as a national coming-out party for Leach, Crabtree and the rest of the Tech program. In the process, the Red Raiders earned an unprecedented share of the Big 12 South title that season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's a look at the key factor for each Big 12 team this season:
Baylor: The Bears need production from a retooled offensive line and particularly new starting tackles Danny Watkins and Phillip Blake. Their work will be critical to keep Robert Griffin protected and continue the strong running game that enabled Baylor to produce 200 or more rushing yards in four of the last five games in 2008.
Colorado: Somebody needs to step up and claim the starting quarterback job. Continually shuffling between Tyler Hansen and Cody Hawkins will rob the offense of its continuity and make both quarterbacks worry too much about their individual mistakes. Dan Hawkins should settle on one, and the quicker the better.
Iowa State: The Cyclones’ tackling techniques have been frustrating for an old-school defensive coach like Paul Rhoads. He’s broken them down to the basics to hope that they will learn his way. If they can use these fundamentals to start playing better defense, it’s the start of a massive rebuilding job.
Kansas: The Jayhawks lost three productive linebackers and will retool their defense by using more nickel coverages, seemingly conducive to shackling Big 12 aerial attacks. Will this new unit still be able be able to support a developing secondary and underrated defensive front?
Kansas State: The Wildcats’ offense won’t look anything like the explosive units that Bill Snyder was familiar with earlier in his coaching tenure. This group doesn’t have a lot of productivity or depth. A rash of injuries would be a crippler for this team and likely make Snyder wonder why ever re-entered coaching.
Missouri: Can new quarterback Blaine Gabbert help a rebuilding offense still be productive, despite the loss of several key producers who were the backbone of the Tigers' back-to-back division title teams?
Nebraska: How well will Zac Lee direct the offense? The Cornhuskers talk about his arm giving them the opportunity for more vertical strikes than when Joe Ganz was playing. Bo Pelini would just be satisfied with the same kind of consistent production that marked Ganz’s season-plus as starter.
Oklahoma: The offensive line has received some praise from Bob Stoops in the last few days because of its conditioning and versatility. The question remains if the four new starters are accomplished enough to keep the Sooners’ record-breaking offense humming, and more importantly, Sam Bradford safe from harm.
Oklahoma State: Bill Young has made a career out of cobbling together overachieving defenses. If he can get increased production from this unit that wore out late last season, he’ll cement his own legacy at his alma mater, as well as providing the Cowboys a chance for their first South title.
Texas: Vondrell McGee will get the first shot, but will somebody emerge as a featured ball carrier to help take some of the pressure from Colt McCoy? It’s asking a lot of McCoy to be his team’s leading rusher in two straight seasons.
Texas A&M: Whatever happened to the Wrecking Crew? The Aggies can’t afford the struggles that marked their defense last season. Joe Kines' unit must show immediate improvement, particularly in the trenches and in the secondary.
Texas Tech: How will the pass defense recover from the loss of key pass-rushers McKinner Dixon and Brandon Williams and starting safeties Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonnet? In the Big 12 South, that rebuilding job in those areas could come with some lethal consequences.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Let's throw open the mailbag on a Friday afternoon and see what you the readers are thinking and asking me about.
W. Dawson of Dallas writes: Tim, have you looked at Oklahoma State's schedule yet? How can they get away with having eight home games? I can't believe the Big 12 allowed this to happen, much less their competition. This is an incredible advantage, especially given the narrow margins that separate various Big 12 foes. Talk about running downhill before anyone else has snapped the ball.
Tim Griffin: Obviously, Mike Holder and Mike Gundy can do anything they want with their schedule. And it's a good home schedule with the four Big 12 games and home non-conference games against Georgia, Houston, Grambling and Rice. I guess the risk/reward is this. Most coaches want their team to face a non-conference challenge of some kind before they head into conference play. It doesn't have to be especially taxing - Texas going to Wyoming, Kansas to UTEP -- but most coaches believe that kind of experience is good before they head into conference play.
Obviously, Gundy doesn't think like that. The Cowboys will get a huge boost after playing four home games, but he won't know much about how ready his team will be to play on the road for their first trip to Texas A&M on Oct. 10. If I was coaching, I'd like a little more piece of mind before that first conference road game. And I bet Gundy will be thinking that way the week before the game.
Ocean from Kemah, Texas, writes: Tim, I'm very interested to hear if there has been any shift of momentum due to freshman Chris Whaley's arrival this summer. Also an update on the other Big 12's other freshman prospects would be greatly appreciated.
Tim Griffin: Whaley has struggled keeping up with the other Texas backs after reporting to training camp with an ankle injury that was aggravated playing basketball before he ever arrived. It set him back in his battle for playing time in a crowded Longhorn backfield.
From what I'm hearing, Fozzy Whittaker will be the leading candidate to have more of the carries in the Texas backfield. But he's got to remain healthy, which is something he hasn't been able to do so far. Then, look for veteran Vondrell McGee to have the next shot. Cody Johnson will also be there along with Tre' Newton and Whaley. I look for Whaley to get more playing time as he shows coaches he is more comfortable with his role in the offense and particularly in pass-protection schemes. We'll see that later, rather than sooner for the Longhorns.
And also, look for a post early next week where I'll break down the conference's leading freshman producers so far in training camps.
Mark M. from Arlington, Texas, writes: I know Baylor is pegged as your eighth team in the conference, but I think even that might be overrated! Why is no one talking about how incredible of a job Jason Smith did protecting Robert Griffin last year? Without his protection, combined with a very challenging non-conference schedule, I think Griffin takes a lot more hits and goes through a sophomore slump. I think they finish last in the Big 12 South as a result. Am I wrong?
Tim Griffin: Your scenario could very easily happen, although I do have the Bears winning six games and making a bowl trip. But I think that watching the Bears' left tackle position will be one of the most interesting positions in the conference.
Obviously, Smith was the best lineman in the conference last season, as evidenced by his No. 2 selection in the NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams. I've heard some great things about his replacement, muscular 6-foot-4, 315 pound former Canadian fireman Danny Watkins. But we won't know anything until he starts hooking up with players like Jeremy Beal, Sergio Kindle and all of the others.
Watkins' inexperience will be one of Baylor's biggest question marks. And one missed blitz assignment could end the Bears' season in a hurty. Coach Art Briles has to hope that Watkins is ready for the challenge.
But we'll see how he does. It might be the major factor if the Bears are able to go 6-6 and make that elusive bowl trip, or end up in the Big 12 cellar and you hint. The margin between the two is very slim - particularly with the balance in the Big 12.
Ross Jackman from Sioux Falls, S.D., writes: Tim, I saw the story you linked earlier this week about the conference's most underrated and overrated coaches from that guy in Lincoln. Who is your selection, as the most underrated head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator in the Big 12?
Tim Griffin: Ross, good question. For a head coach, I'll take Kansas' Mark Mangino, who quietly has taken the Jayhawks on their most successful, consistent run in school history. The Jayhawks made back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in school history the last two years and are poised for much more this season.
For my offensive coordinator, I'll take Nebraska's Shawn Watson. The work he did with Joe Ganz the last two seasons was simply phenomenal. Earlier work at Colorado with Gary Barnett's team was outstanding as well. Watson's past history is one of the reasons I think Zac Lee might be better than a lot of people expect for the Cornhuskers. I know he'll be ready, considering Watson's track record.
And for my most underrated defensive coordinator, I'll choose Texas Tech's Ruffin McNeill. The work he did with the Red Raiders to help develop their defense was a big reason the Red Raiders were able to forge a three-way tie for the South Division title last season. He'll have his work cut out trying to replace pass-rushing specialists like McKinner Dixon and Brandon Williams and safeties Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonnet, but I expect McNeill will have another strong unit again this season.
Mitch Nelson from Kansas City, Mo., writes: Tim, the Big 12 has four high-profile quarterbacks this year in Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Zac Robinson and Todd Reesing who will probably finish their college careers after this season. Can you break down who their possible replacements will be and which team has the best chance to not miss a step with a new quarterback next year?
Tim Griffin: I really am hesitant to pick which team has the best quarterback situation in the future because so many of these players don't have any game action. I'd like to reserve my decisions until I get to see some of the young kids play in a little bit of game action. But here's how I see those four schools in the future.
Oklahoma: The leader as far as experience would appear to be redshirt freshman Landry Jones, along with junior John Nimmo and Ben Sherrard. I've heard some good things about Drew Allen, a tall 6-foot-6 thrower from San Antonio Alamo Heights High School. But especially keep an eye out for Blake Bell of Wichita, Kan., a dual-threat thrower/runner who is one of the prizes of the Sooners' 2010 recruiting class. He will be the most heralded quarterback to enter the Oklahoma program since Rhett Bomar.
Texas: As far as promise goes, the Longhorns would appear to have it with Garrett Gilbert who I expect to play as a freshman and beat out Sherrod Harris for the backup role this season. And they also have two more quarterbacks coming in the 2010 recruiting class - Connor Wood of Second Baptist High School in Houston and Case McCoy, the 6-foot-2, 169-pound little brother of Colt McCoy.
Oklahoma State: I know that Gundy actually wasn't that disappointed with Zac Robinson's injury last week because it forced the action in the backu quarterback battle
between junior Alex Case and sophomore Brandon Weeden. Gundy told me he was a little angry that one of the two players hadn't jumped out and taken the backup role. Whoever wins that would appear to be in line to replace Robinson.
Weeden has a little bit more maturity because of his five-season career in minor-league baseball. But Cate has more game experience and comfort in the OSU offense. And the Cowboys also have a commitment from 2010 recruit Johnny Deaton of Sand Spring, Okla., who might be their long-term answer.
Kansas: I think the fact that redshirt freshman Kale Pick has won the backup job is significant here. First, it will enable Kerry Meier to move to wide receiver full time. It will also get Pick more snaps in practice and have him ready in the spring when the opportunity to replace Reesing will materialize for him.
Mangino is also high on a couple of freshmen quarterbacks he has in Christian Matthews, a taller, skinner thrower and Jordan Webb, who kind of looks like Reesing and followed his route by graduating early and reporting to college a semester early to boost his early assimilation into Ed Warinner's offense.
That's all the questions I have time for this week.
Thanks again and have a great weekend.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
All questions aren't settled during the course of spring practice as teams still have much work to upgrade their weaknesses heading into the season.
Obviously, some will receive a boost from incoming freshmen who will arrive later. But here's how each team's biggest liability shakes out heading into the summer.
Baylor: The Bears are desperately looking for help at offensive tackle after losing No. 2 overall draft pick Jason Smith and Dan Gay as their starters. Former Canadian firefighter Danny Watkins has established himself at Smith's old position protecting Robert Griffin's blind side. And on the right side, junior Chris Griesenbeck and redshirt freshmen Cameron Kaufhold are competing for the starting job with Tyler Junior College's Phillip Blake and Blinn College's Marquis Franklin set the arrive later this summer.
Colorado: Wide receiver has been a question mark for the Buffaloes throughout Dan Hawkins' coaching tenure. The Buffaloes return four scholarship wide receivers and had a chance to work out several new players with Scotty McKnight injured during the spring. Josh Smith and Markques Simas are the top playmakers coming out of the spring. Non-scholarship players like Jason Espinoza and Ryan Maxwell emerged, but the Buffaloes definitely need a big upgrade at the position from their arriving freshman class.
Iowa State: The Cyclones will be facing a big hole at left tackle, where two-year starter Doug Dedrick departs. It could be filled by Matt Hulbert, who started two games last season when Dedrick was hurt. Or it could be massive 354-pound junior Hayworth Hicks or freshman Brayden Burris at the position. Whoever emerges will face a huge challenge in filling Dedrick's experience as he protects the blind side of the Iowa State quarterbacks.
Kansas: Coach Mark Mangino will be facing a few huge rebuilding job at linebacker, where the Jayhawks lose key contributors Joe Mortensen, Mike Rivera and James Holt from last season. Mangino is talking about using a two-linebacker set as his base defense with fifth-year senior Jake Schermer and senior Arist Wright getting the starting jobs leaving spring practice. Sophomore Steven Johnson and converted running back Angus Quigley were competing for playing time during the spring and another boost is expected when junior linebacker Justin Springer, who is recovering from a torn ACL last season, returns in the fall.
Kansas State: Carson Coffman appeared to have claimed the starting job at quarterback -- at least for a few weeks -- after a strong effort during the latter stages of spring practice. But Coffman's late binge has to be tempered considering he is playing against the weak Kansas State secondary. So it's fair to say there are some lingering questions at the position. Coffman apparently has beaten back the challenge of challengers Collin Klein, Joseph Kassanavoid, Trey Scott and Milton McPeek. But the arrival of South Florida transfer Grant Gregory and heralded junior-college transfer Daniel Thomas will mean more competition in the summer.
Missouri: The Tigers will be facing a challenge of replacing NFL first-round draft pick Evander "Ziggy" Hood at defensive tackle to play opposite nose tackle Jaron Baston. Redshirt sophomore Terrell Resonno appeared to have claimed the job out of the spring, with Dominique Hamilton, Chris Earnhardt and converted linebacker George White perhaps earning their way into the rotation.
Nebraska: After the graduation of top receivers Todd Peterson and Nate Swift from last season, the Cornhuskers need to fill both positions. Leading returning receiver Menelik Holt appears to have a hammerlock on one position, but Niles Paul lost a chance to take a big step forward after missing the spring after he was suspended for driving under the influence. Antonio Bell was the biggest surprise, but converted I-back Marcus Mendoza, Chris Brooks, Wes Cammack and Curenski Gilleylen all showed flashes during the spring.
Oklahoma: There was concern before spring practice, considering the Sooners were replacing four-fifths of their starting offensive line with only Trent Williams back from last season's starters. And it got worse when Bob Stoops called out the young replacements because of their lack of diligence in their preseason conditioning. Williams emerged at left tackle with Brian Simmons and Stephen Good at guards, redshirt freshman Ben Habern at center and either LSU transfer Jarvis Jones or Cory Brandon at right tackle. The depth took a hit when center Jason Hannan left early in training camp and sophomore guard Alex Williams chose to leave after spring practice. The group struggled against the Sooners' talented defensive line, allowing Sam Bradford to be touch-sacked twice in three possessions in the spring game and produced only 27 rushing yards in 52 carries.
Oklahoma State: The loss of veteran center David Washington produced a huge hole in the center of the Cowboys' interior line. Andrew Lewis returns to his natural position, leaving Oklahoma State needing two new starters at guard. Noah Franklin and Jonathan Rush have staked claims to the starting positions with Anthony Morgan and Nick Martinez getting repetitions inside. This group needs to improve if it hopes to equal the standards of previous seasons, when the Cowboys led the Big 12 in rushing each of the last three seasons.
Texas: The tight end was rarely used for the Longhorns after Blaine Irby dislocated his kneecap last season against Rice. He still wasn't ready to go during the spring as Greg Smith, Ahmard Howard, Ian Harris and D.J. Grant all got work. None of them emerged. And with Irby's return remaining iffy, it means the Longhorns again could reduce the use of the tight end and utilize four-receiver sets when they want to move the ball. Don't look for the Longhorns to use the tight end much unless this production improves.
Texas A&M: T
he Aggies were wracked with injuries during the spring as projected starters Lee Grimes, Kevin Matthews and Lucas Patterson were sidelined all spring as A&M was down to only nine healthy offensive linemen for some practices. It still doesn't excuse the lack of offensive production for A&M's starting unit, which produced only 9 yards rushing on 24 carries against Texas A&M's first-string defense. Coach Mike Sherman will be counting on immediate production from an impressive group of incoming freshman at fall practice, but it's fair to characterize the Aggies' offensive line as the team's biggest spring concern -- especially after allowing 39 sacks last season and ranking last in the conference in rushing yards per game.
Texas Tech: The loss of productive starters Daniel Charbonnet and Darcel McBath left a gaping hole at safety for the Red Raiders. Junior Franklin Mitchem earned the free safety position leaving spring practice and redshirt freshman Cody Davis emerged at strong safety. Jared Flannel, Brett Dewhurst and converted linebacker Julius Howard also got some snaps at safety. It will still be a challenge to combat the explosive Big 12 defenses with such an inexperienced group at the position.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Big 12 had its most productive draft in history in the first round, but failed to match those numbers in later rounds of the draft.
A record seven Big 12 players were selected in Saturday's first round, breaking the conference's previous record of six first-round draft selections in 2003.
But the Big 12 lagged throughout the rest of the draft, producing only 28 players in the seven rounds. That number was the lowest since 28 players were picked in 2007 and tied for the second lowest in conference history behind only the 24 selections in the 2000 draft.
Missouri led all Big 12 teams with six players selected and two chosen in the first round. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (19th pick, Philadelphia) and defensive tackle Evander "Ziggy" Hood (32nd pick, Pittsburgh) represented the first time Missouri has had two first-round selections in the first round since Morris Towns (11th pick, Houston) and Steve Pisarkiewicz (19th pick, St. Louis) were first-round choices in 1977.
The Tigers' six picks were even more remarkable considering they had only 15 players chosen in the previous 12 drafts of the Big 12 era starting in 1997.
Here's a look at how the Big 12 compared with the other conferences in first-round picks on Saturday.
First-round draft picks
- Southeastern: 8
- Big 12: 7
- Atlantic Coast: 5
- Pacific-10: 4
- Big Ten: 4
- Big East: 3
- Mid-American: 1
Here's a look at how the six BCS-affiliated conferences ranked in total draft picks in the 2009 draft.
- Southeastern: 37
- Atlantic Coast: 35
- Pacific-10: 32
- Big 12: 28
- Big Ten: 28
- Big East: 27
Also interesting were how traditional non-Big 12 power schools cleaned up early in the draft.
Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith was the first Big 12 player in the draft, taken with the second pick by St. Louis. It tied for the highest pick in Baylor school history, with Jack Wilson by the Cleveland Rams in 1942 and Adrian Burk by Baltimore in 1950. He also is tied with Leonard Davis for the highest pick in Big 12 history. Davis was selected with the second pick by Arizona in 2001.
Here are some other school-specific draft tidbits I came up with after watching most of the draft.
- Colorado linebacker Brad Jones was not invited to the NFL combine, but was still selected in the seventh round by Green Bay. He was Colorado's only pick -- the lowest total of players selected for Colorado since the Buffaloes were shut out in 2005.
- Iowa State was shut out for the first time since 2004.
- Despite making back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in school history, Kansas was shut out in the draft. It marked the third time in four seasons (2006 and 2007) that Kansas did not have a player drafted. Since 1999, Kansas has been shut out in six of those 11 drafts.
- Josh Freeman of Kansas State was the Wildcats first first-round selection since Terence Newman was picked with the fifth pick of the first round by Dallas in 2003. He was only the fifth first round draft pick in school history, joining Newman, Chris Canty (1997), Clarence Scott (1971) and Veryl Switzer (1954). Freeman was the only KSU player selected, making it the fewest Wildcats picked in the draft since one player was picked in both 2005 and 2006.
- Missouri's six players selected in the draft were their most in a single draft since seven Tigers were picked in 1981.
- Nebraska maintains its lead among Big 12 programs after having three players picked, boosting the Cornhuskers' total to 62 since 1997. But the Cornhuskers' three selections matched 2008 and 2000 as the fewest Nebraska players chosen in the Big 12 era.
- Most surprisingly, the Cornhuskers haven't had a first-day selection in the last two drafts and haven't had a player picked higher than the fifth round in either draft. The last time that happened in successive drafts was in 1969 and 1970.
- The biggest Big 12 surprise in the draft might have been Oklahoma guard George "Duke" Robinson, who was projected early as a potential second-round pick but lasted until the 27th pick in the fifth round when he was picked by Carolina. Robinson struggled with an arm injury that limited his work at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. And he also missed parts of two games due to violations of team rules.
- The Sooners had five players selected in the draft, ranking only behind Missouri among Big 12 teams.
- Tight end Brandon Pettigrew of Oklahoma State (20th pick, Detroit) was the Cowboys' first first-round draft pick since Rashaun Woods was picked in the first round by San Francisco in 2004. Pettigrew was the highest OSU tight end picked in the first round since Reuben Gant was picked by Buffalo in 1974. And Pettigrew was the lone Cowboy selected in the draft after OSU had been shut out in the 2008 draft.
- Brian Orakpo of Texas was the Longhorns' first first-round draft pick since 2007, but gives the Longhorns a Big 12-best 15 first-round draft picks during the history of the conference.
- I was a little suprised that Texas wide receiver Quan Cosby didn't make a roster somewhere because of his productivity. I can only think that teams might have been scared away by his age, as Cosby turned 26 in December. His college career was pushed back four seasons by his minor-league career with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It wouldn't surprise me if he made an NFL roster because of his character and his productivity -- both as a receiver and a kick returner.
- Although Texas A&M's Stephen McGee said he was disappointed with his placement as the first player chosen in the fourth round by Dallas, he still made history as the highest drafted Texas A&M quarterback of the modern NFL draft era and only the fifth A&M quarterback selected in an NFL draft during that period. Others included Reggie McNeal (sixth round, 2006), Bucky Richardson (eighth round, 1992), Gary Kubiak (eighth round, 1983) and Edd Hargett (16th round, 1969).
- Michael Crabtree made history as the first first-round draft selection of the Mike Leach era at Texas Tech. He was picked 10th in the first round by San Francisco. He was the highest Tech player selected in a draft since Donny Anderson was picked with the seventh pick in the first round by Green Bay in 1965.
- Crabtree and defensive back Darcel McBath (second round, Denver) were the first Red Raiders picked on the first day in Leach's coaching tenure. And along with guard Louis Vasquez (third round, San Diego) it was the first time in school history that the Red Raiders had a player picked in the first round, second round and third round picked in the same draft.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's fitting and somewhat understandable that the NFL draft will have a distinctly Big 12 tinge Saturday as the early part of the first round plays out.
Keep an eye for Big 12 players to be very conspicuous in ESPN's broadcast of the draft. Four Big 12 players have been invited to watch the proceedings from the "Green Room" for Saturday's first day of the draft.
Baylor tackle Jason Smith, Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree, Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman and Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo all will be at Radio City Music Hall in New York City for the draft.
Smith, Crabtree and Orakpo all could be taken among the draft's 10 or 15 picks. But Freeman, who could go as high as the middle of the first round or drop to the second round, could provide the most compelling drama of the draft's broadcast. Does anybody remember Brady Quinn or Aaron Rodgers in recent years?
The draft undoubtedly will showcase the Big 12's collection of talent that was continually highlighted last season.
Most mock drafts expect the Big 12 will have five or six first-round draft picks. Likely players to be selected include Orakpo, Smith, Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew, Freeman and Crabtree.
Look for the Big 12's burgeoning reputation as being on the cutting edge in terms of passing to be showcased this weekend. Most mock drafts have Crabtree and Maclin ranked as the top two receivers available. And Pettigrew is the top tight end on most draft boards.
If six Big 12 players are selected in the first round, it would match the league's previous high of six first-round selections set in 2003.
The most interesting potential selection will be Smith, a lightly-regarded recruit after a high-school career as a tight end. He blossomed after adding nearly 80 pounds of muscle over his college career.
Smith will become the Bears' first first-round draft selection since defensive tackle Daryl Gardener was picked by the Miami Dolphins in 1996.
Most prognosticators expect Smith will be picked among the first three picks in the draft. That would be the earliest a Baylor player has been chosen since quarterback Adrian Burk was the second pick in the draft by Baltimore in 1950.
The exposure for the Baylor program will be immense, according to Baylor coach Art Briles.
"We could get the smartest marketers in Texas and ask them how we could best market Baylor University, and they couldn't come up with a better scenario than what's going to happen Saturday in New York," Briles said. "Jason is a great person, and it's been nothing but positive for Baylor. We just have to take that and continue to climb as a football program."
Freeman is poised to become only the second quarterback in Big 12 history to be selected in the first round. He would join Vince Young, who was picked third by Tennessee in the 2006 draft.
Freeman also would be Kansas State's first first-round pick since Terence Newman was picked fifth in the first round by Dallas in 2003. He will also become the Wildcats' highest-selected quarterback, bettering the previous selection of Lynn Dickey, who was picked with the fourth pick in the third round by Green Bay in 1971.
Freeman's size (6-6, 250 pounds) and his rocket arm are his two biggest attributes, despite his lack of extended success in college. His abilities were clear to Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and OSU coaches.
"The first time we saw Josh, because of his size, stature, the way he carried himself, and then his arm strength, we knew he had a chance to play," Gundy said. "He's just kind of arrived nationally -- people are just now starting to find out about him -- but we knew in our staff room that we was going to be first-round pick.
"You just don't find guys that are 6-6, 250, that can throw it and are as accurate as he is, and he's seemed to be very durable. We were impressed with him from day one."
Crabtree will become Tech's first first-round draft selection of the Big 12 era and the Red Raiders' first first-round pick since Gabe Rivera was picked with the 21st pick by Pittsburgh in 1983.
He will become the highest-selected Texas Tech wide receiver since Dave Parks was the first pick of the 1964 draft by San Francisco and the first one of Mike Leach's players to be picked on the first day of the draft.
Orakpo is poised to continue Texas' recent development as a factory for first-round selections.
Despite missing out last season, the Longhorns produced eight first-round picks in the previous four seasons and 13 over Mack Brown's coaching tenure.
In the process, Orakpo is hoping to counter-balance the so-called "Texas factor" that several analysts have mentioned this week to explain why some Longhorns have been disappointments once they started their NFL careers.
Brown angrily refuted those charges earlier this week.
"People can be more critical of us because we've had as many, or more, than anybody else in the draft," Brown told the Austin American-Statesman. "I don't really pay attention to (that), and I talk to enough general managers, coaches and scouts to know they don't either."
Maclin will become the first Missouri player selected in the first round since Justin Smith was picked by Cincinnati with the fourth pick of the draft in 2001. And Maclin also is poised to become the first Missouri wide receiver ever taken in the first round.
Here's my unofficial pegging of Big 12 draft status during the weekend draft.
Sure first-round picks: Baylor OT Jason Smith, Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree, Texas DE Brian Orakpo, Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin,
Likely first-round picks: Kansas State QB Josh Freeman
Maybe first-round picks: Missouri DT Evander "Ziggy" Hood, Oklahoma State TE Brandon Pettigrew
Likely picks inside the first five rounds: Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee, Texas Tech S Darcel McBath, Texas Tech DE Brandon Williams, Texas DT Roy Miller, Texas A&M RB Michael Goodson, Texas A&M DE Mi
chael Bennett, Oklahoma S-LB Nic Harris, Texas Tech G Louis Vasquez, Nebraska DE Zach Potter, Nebraska T Lydon Murtha.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It wouldn't be a Friday without some letters from the readers. Here are some I got this week.
Brandon from Ames, Iowa, writes: Tim, I'll be a Cyclone fan until I die no matter how bad we get, but is there going to be any hope for a good season this year? Rhoads is making us hopeful, but what should we consider a successful season given our current condition?
Tim Griffin: Brandon, I've been impressed during the times I've talked with Paul Rhoads since he's taken the job. He seems very positive and upbeat and realizes how daunting the job will be. I see a lot of similarities between him and his coaching mentor, Dan McCarney, who hired Rhoads at Iowa State earlier in his coaching career.
I was also impressed by his two hires for coordinators. Both Tom Herman and Wally Burnham are both very respected in the business and will help him tremendously.
But the Cyclones' talent is at the bottom of the North Division and it will be a big challenge for them to escape the cellar in Rhoads' first season. I think a more realistic goal would be for them to win a game or two more than last season's 2-10 record that ended with 10 straight losses. Anything more than that, in my opinion, will be extremely difficult to accomplish.
Austin from Houston writes: Tim, I noticed in your March 13 mailbag that you mentioned Oklahoma hasn't lost at home since 2001. Did you forget that they lost to the mighty TCU Horned Frogs 17-10 on September 3, 2005? I know that all of the Sooner fans as well as Bob Stoops remember that day. On a different note, although we are roughly seven months away from the game, who is your "way too early" pick for the Texas/OU game?
Tim Griffin: Austin, thanks for the catch. I meant to say the Sooners hadn't lost a conference game since 2001. I do remember the TCU game -- I was there that day. The Horned Frogs were able to dominate the Sooners at Owen Field. I had never seen that happen before with Bob Stoops coaching. And I haven't seen it since, either.
As far as my Red River Rivalry pick, if you asked me today, I would have to go with the Longhorns, but just barely. I'll reserve the right to make my final pick the week before the game.
Texas obviously will be smarting after failing to make the Big 12 championship game despite beating the Sooners last season in the celebrated three-way tie for the South Division championship. They couldn't ask for more inspiration coming into the game than that whole scenario.
But one thing that struck me when talking with Oklahoma players last week in Norman was the defense's confidence. The Sooners have nine starters back on their defensive unit, missing only safeties Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes. The Sooners seem comfortable that their defense will be much improved from last season. I thought the Sooners had a great defensive effort against Missouri in the Big 12 game and a good one in the loss to Florida in the Bowl Championship Series title game. Oklahoma's defense wasn't to blame for the Sooners losing that game.
So I think the Sooners' defense will be a little better than most people think this season. It should make for a great matchup at the Cotton Bowl.
Can we play tomorrow?
Robert Holmes from Norman, Okla., writes: Tim, if you were starting a Big 12 team of all the players who are coming back for the 2009 season, who would you pick first?
Tim Griffin: Great question and one that bears a more detailed answer. I'm going to start a daily post on Tuesday where I will count down the 40 most valuable players in the Big 12. I'll have a player a day culminating on May 2, which also coincidentally is the day of the Kansas State spring game -- the last one in the conference.
So start watching for that next week.
Brandon from Poteet, Texas, writes: Tim, I saw where you were at Baylor yesterday. How do you gauge the Bears' mindset coming into the upcoming season? Is a bowl berth a real possibility? And where did you end up eating on your way home? I would have advised George's if I was you.
Tim Griffin: The Bears seem to be a confident bunch. From interviews with new defensive tackle Phil Taylor to safety Jordan Lake and defensive coordinator Brian Norwood and coach Art Briles, to newcomers like offensive tackle Danny Watkins, I could detect a different attitude from previous seasons. Those players and coaches flatly tell you they will be playing in a bowl game. And it appears that it will be a shock for them if they aren't bowling somewhere in December.
That being the case, the Bears will face a typically difficult South Division schedule. They absolutely must win three games in the nonconference schedule. And a key swing game at Texas A&M on Nov. 21 will be huge for them.
Baylor's 41-21 victory over the Aggies last season in Waco was a convincing one. But remember that the Bears have produced 10 losses and a tie in their last 11 trips to Kyle Field. The last time Baylor won in College Station was on Oct. 20, 1984, when Grant Teaff's team claimed a 20-16 triumph. As of today, that's a string of 8,917 days and counting.
That's a huge gap and won't be easily snapped.
And as far as my meal in Waco, I didn't really have much time after spending a couple of hours finishing my work and getting a late start back home. I hopped right in the car and made it back home in time to eat one of my wife's delicious leftover pulled-pork sandwiches while I switched between President Obama's appearance on Jay Leno and the final minutes of the Illinois-Western Kentucky game late last week.
Maybe next time for George's.
Steve Woodson from Garden City, Kan., writes: Hey Tim. Great blog. I wouldn't think of starting my day without reading it. I've got a quick question for you. Which team would you anticipate to be the "surprise team" in the Big 12 this season? And which team do you expect will take the biggest step backwards from last season.
Tim Griffin: Steve, thanks for the compliments. I think that Colorado is nicely situated with some diminished expectations outside the program after last season's struggles.
I know that coach Dan Hawkins predicted his team would go 10-2 this season, which would be a surprise to almost anybody outside the Colorado program. But I do think if the Buffaloes can stay healthy and have a quarterback to emerge that they've got a great shot to make it back to a bowl game and might even be able to climb into North Division title contention with a few breaks along the way.
And as far as the program I expect to take the biggest step back, I would nominate Texas Tech. Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree will be missed, obviously. But so will players like Brandon Williams, Louis Vasquez, Daniel Charbonnet, Darcel McBath, Shannon Woods and Rylan Reed. That's a big chunk of talent that had a huge p
art in the Red Raiders' South Division tri-championship team last season to replace at one time.
I still expect the Red Raiders to contend for a bowl appearance as I would peg them about fourth in the Big 12 South behind Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. But I think seven or eight wins is a more likely victory total for them this season rather than last year's 11-2 mark.
Jackson from Telluride, Colo., writes: Which off-season coaching moves to do you think will prove to be the most important in the Big 12 this season?
Tim Griffin: I'll actually nominate three. Obviously, the hiring of Bill Young as Oklahoma State's new defensive coordinator has huge ramifications. Mike Gundy is counting on him to be able to fashion together enough improvement to push the Cowboys into contention. That will be a tall order for him, even with all of his past success at previous stops.
I'm also very curious how the new staff of Bill Snyder works together at Kansas State. I think the hiring of Vic Koenning was a huge get for Snyder. I'm also intrigued to see how Dana Dimel and Del Miller will work together again as co-offensive coordinators. Both have worked with Snyder before. Are there any changes in their coaching since they lasted coached there? We'll see.
And I'm also very interested to see the work of new Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Yost and defensive coordinator Dave Steckel. Both have been with Gary Pinkel since the beginning at Missouri. But both also represent changes that have come to the program after former offensive coordinator Dave Christensen left for the head coaching job at Wyoming and former defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus left to become the Cleveland Browns' linebackers coach.
Pinkel had never had a change in his coaching staff in the first eight years at Missouri. I'm curious to see how the recent switches will alter the Tigers and Pinkel's schematics, if any.
That's all for this week. Check back next week for more correspondence and keep the questions and answers coming. I appreciate it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
When I was a little kid, one element among my favorites of going to a football game was collecting a game program. I loved nothing better than to scan rosters and check the heights and weights of players as I looked at them through my father's binoculars.
It led me to collecting many programs that probably still are around my parents' house somewhere. I guess I just wanted to add to the clutter of my bedroom.
If I had known then what I know now, I might not have been so diligent about all of the effort. Little boys don't know those heights and weights for their football heroes aren't always correct.
The best way to analyze the discrepancy is by comparing the heights and weights of some of the Big 12 players who attended the recent NFL combine and compare them with what they were listed at during their college careers.
The before is their listed height and weight during last season. The after is what they were measured over the weekend by the NFL.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's the official list of 41 Big 12 players who have been invited to the NFL combine Feb. 18 through Feb. 24 in Indianapolis.
Oklahoma led all Big 12 teams with eight players invited to the combine, followed by Texas, Missouri and Nebraska with six players each and Texas Tech with five players.
All Big 12 schools were represented with the exception of Colorado, Iowa State and Kansas.
All players are expected to attend with the exception of Texas wide receiver Jordan Shipley, who was granted an extra season of eligibility and will remain in college. Shipley recently underwent shoulder surgery and will not be able to participate when spring practice begins for the Longhorns later this week.
NFL officials have calculated that players invited to the NFL combine typically are drafted 64 percent of the time. So these players would appear to have the best chance of being picked among eligible players from the Big 12.
Here's a list of invited players listed by their schools.
Baylor: T Dan Gay, T Jason Smith.
Iowa State: None.
Kansas State: QB Josh Freeman, DE-LB Ian Campbell.
Nebraska: LB Cody Glenn, RB Marlon Lucky, T Lydon Murtha, DE Zach Potter, G Matt Slauson, WR Nathan Swift.
Oklahoma: C Jon Cooper, S Nic Harris, S Lendy Holmes, WR Juaquan Iglesias, WR Manuel Johnson, T Phil Loadholt, G Duke Robinson, G Brandon Walker.
Oklahoma State: P Matt Fodge, TE Brandon Pettigrew.
Texas A&M: DE Michael Bennett, P Justin Brantly, RB Michael Goodson, QB Stephen McGee.
* Note: Shipley has elected to stay for a sixth season of eligibility with Texas. He will be available for the 2010 draft.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Fans who live in Texas like I do know what a special day it is for football fans each June when Dave Campbell's Texas Football finally hits magazine stands and bookstores. And for the past two years, the publishers of DCTF have also produced a neat winter wrap-up of the previous season that is hitting newsstands today across the Southwest.
With several big stories in Texas football at the end of the season, the magazine's staff had many choices for inclusion on its annual postseason All-Texas team. Here's a look at their award winners and selected players, with Big 12 players highlighted in bold.
Dave Campbell Texas Football 2008 First-Team Offense
- QB - Colt McCoy, Texas
- RB - Bryce Beall, Houston
- RB - Baron Batch, Texas Tech
- WR - Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
- WR - Jarrett Dillard, Rice
- WR - Jordan Shipley, Texas
- TE - James Casey, Rice
- OL - Jason Smith, Baylor
- OL - Chris Hall, Texas
- OL - Blake Schlueter, TCU
- OL - Louis Vasquez, Texas Tech
- OL - Robby Felix, UTEP
- DL - Phillip Hunt, Houston
- DL - Jerry Hughes, TCU
- DL - Brian Orakpo, Texas
- DL - Brandon Williams, Texas Tech
- LB - Joe Pawelek, Baylor
- LB - Jason Phillips, TCU
- LB - Sergio Kindle, Texas
- DB - Darcel McBath, Texas Tech
- DB - Jordan Lake, Baylor
- DB - Kenneth Fontenette, Houston
- DB - Stephen Hodge, TCU
- K - Jose Martinez, UTEP
- P - Justin Brantly, Texas A&M
- RET - Jordan Shipley, Texas
- QB - Chase Clement, Rice
- RB - Jay Finley, Baylor
- RB - Cam Montgomery, North Texas
- WR - Jimmy Young, TCU
- WR - Casey Fitzgerald, North Texas
- WR - Emmanuel Sanders, SMU
- TE - Mark Hafner, Houston
- OL - Sebastian Vollmer, Houston
- OL - David Berken, Rice
- OL - Adam Ulatoski, Texas
- OL - Marshall Newhouse, TCU
- OL - Rylan Reed, Texas Tech
- DL - Youri Yenga, SMU
- DL - Roy Miller, Texas
- DL - McKinner Dixon, Texas Tech
- DL - Cody Moore, TCU
- LB - Adam Vincent, UTEP
- LB - Robert Henson, TCU
- LB - Brian Duncan, Texas Tech
- DB - Daniel Charbonnet, Texas Tech
- DB - Andrew Sendejo, Rice
- DB - Steven Coleman, TCU
- DB - Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith, UTEP
- K - Thomas Morstead, SMU
- P - Thurman Spencer, North Texas
- RET - Jeremy Kerley, TCU
Speciality 2008 winners
- Player of the Year - Colt McCoy, Texas
- Defensive Player of the Year - Brian Orakpo, Texas
- Best passer - Graham Harrell, Texas Tech
- Best runner - Bryce Beall, Houston
- Best lineman - Jason Smith, Baylor
- Best receiver - Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
- Best lineman - Jerry Hughes, TCU
- Best linebacker - Joe Pawelek, Baylor
- Best defensive back - Darcel McBath, Texas Tech
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
After unprecedented success last season, Mike Leach will be facing the biggest rebuilding job of his coaching tenure at Texas Tech.
The Red Raiders notched a share of their first South Division title and posted an 11-2 record that tied for the school's single-season record for victories. But Leach will be facing the challenge of replacing many of the key components from that team.
The Red Raiders lose seven starters from the offense, including record-breaking quarterback Graham Harrell and two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree.
The Red Raiders also lose the left side of their starting offensive line -- All-Big 12 tackle Rylan Reed and three-year starting guard Louis Vasquez -- along with underrated center Stephen Hamby and starting running back Shannon Woods. Senior starting guard Brandon Carter and starting tackle Marlon Winn both will be seniors next season, emphasizing the need for immediate help inside from this recruiting class.
Junior Taylor Potts is penciled in as Harrell's replacement at quarterback. Baron Batch should be Tech's next running threat and the Red Raiders have a slew of receivers who should be able to replace Crabtree's production -- at least in quantity.
But the Red Raiders' biggest aim will be an improvement of the defense's production. The unit appeared to wear down late in the season in disappointing performances against Oklahoma and Mississippi, games in which the Red Raiders were torched for an average of 56 points and 570 total yards per game.
And the departure of defensive end Brandon Williams, who led the Big 12 in sacks last season before declaring for the NFL draft, along with starting defensive end Jake Ratliff will definitely weaken the Red Raiders' pass rush.
Immediate help also will be needed at safety. The Red Raiders lose all four safeties from their two-deep roster, including starters Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonnet. Both McBath and Charbonnet ranked among the top 20 nationally in interceptions, providing some playmaking for a secondary that ranked 94th nationally in pass defense.
It will be interesting to see if Leach can capitalize on the success of his memorable 2008 season. But matching that season will be an immediate challenge for this recruiting class because of all the talent leaving the program.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
All right, admit it. You are going through college football withdrawal after seven days without a game.
If you are really missing college football, check out the Shrine East-West Shrine Game at 4 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2 from Houston's Robertson Stadium.
The Big 12 will be heavily represented. Below is a list of players and their uniform numbers if you want to give them a look on Saturday. You can find the rest of the roster on the Shrine Game web site.
East: Missouri QB Chase Daniel (No. 10), Nebraska RB Marlon Lucky (No. 20), Missouri DE Stryker Sulak (No. 38), Nebraska OL Matt Slauson (No. 75), Nebraska LS T.J. O'Leary (No. 82),
West: Oklahoma WR Manuel Johnson (No. 1), Texas DB Ryan Palmer (No. 2), Texas Tech DB Darcel McBath (No. 3), Texas A&M RB Jorvorskie Lane (No. 11), Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee (No. 12), Oklahoma State P Matt Fodge (No. 17), Oklahoma DB Lendy Holmes (No. 22), Oklahoma C Jon Cooper (No. 50), Texas Tech OL Louis Vasquez (No. 66), Baylor OL Dan Gay (No. 71), Texas OL Cedric Dockery (No. 73), Texas A&M DE Michael Bennett (No. 92), Texas DT Roy Miller (No. 98),
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It may have been a surprise to most of the country.
|Vladimir Cherry/US Presswire|
|Texas Tech didn't have any answers for Jevan Snead, who threw for a career-high 292 yards and three TDs in the Cotton Bowl.|
But Mississippi might have proved a point about Southeastern Conference domination and the fallacy of Big 12 defenses when it lined up and whipped Texas Tech in the trenches to claim a convincing 47-34 victory in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
And the score might not have done justice to just how overpowering the Rebels' performance was. After spotting Tech a 14-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game, the Rebels blew the game open by erupting for 38 of the next 45 points.
The 30,000 Mississippi fans who attended the final Cotton Bowl game were doing the singing at the end, serenading the Red Raiders with chants of "overrated" and "SEC! SEC!"
It would be hard to argue with them after Tech's uninspired bowl performance, which put a sour ending to a 11-2 season which began with 10 straight victories.
After the early struggles, Mississippi's underrated offense took control and kept the ball for most of the first half. It paid dividends in the second half when a gasping Tech defense down several starters in the secondary simply couldn't keep up with the Rebels.
Tech's struggles were understandable considering starting cornerback L.A. Reed didn't dress due to an arm injury. Darcel McBath was removed for much of the game because of a hamstring injury. And Jamar Wall left the field limping in the first half.
McBath snagged his seventh interception of the year (tied for most in the country) and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown, which boosted Tech's early lead to 14-0. But his replacement, Jordy Rowland, was blistered after McBath was hobbled.
It paved the way for elusive Dexter McCluster to have a career game with 98 rushing yards and a team-best 83 receiving yards. Quarterback Jevan Snead did the rest as the Rebels seemingly gained confidence after their early struggles to convert five third downs in the first half -- leading to three touchdown drives -- that shifted the game's momentum.
Harrell passed for a Cotton Bowl record 358 yards and four touchdowns, becoming the first player in college history to top 5,000 yards in two different seasons. And his touchdown binge enabled him to claim the FBS career record with 133 touchdown passes, jumping past Colt Brennan's previous record of 131.
But he also threw two interceptions caused by a relentless Mississippi blitzing defense. Rebels defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix repeatedly tormented Harrell with those blitzes, which came shooting through the Red Raiders' wide offensive splits.
The Rebels also did a strong job of tackling, keeping Tech from turning short passes into long gains. In fact, the longest Tech play of the game was a 44-yard scramble by Harrell on the last play of the first half that ended just short of the Mississippi end zone. Tech had only two passes of 20 yards or more.
That defensive pressure appeared to discombobulate the Red Raiders. That was best illustrated midway through the third quarter when Harrell unsuccessfully tried a quarterback sneak on a fourth-and-4 in Tech territory. The play came up more than two yards short after a rare Red Raiders defensive stand had given them some momentum.
Crabtree was hobbled by an ankle injury that plagued him for most of the second half. He produced three catches in the first half, but only one after that and finished with a career-low 30 receiving yards.
Tech's struggling performance casts doubt on the Big 12's credibility, despite record-breaking offenses which piled up yards and points all season. It will be up to BCS participants Texas and Oklahoma to reclaim some of that respect in the conference's remaining bowl games.
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
End 3rd Qtr 22 Utah 31 Colorado State 10 2:18 1st Qtr Western Michigan 3 Air Force 6 9:15 PM ET South Alabama Bowling Green
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6
6:00 PM ET Marshall Northern Illinois 9:30 PM ET Navy San Diego State
12:00 PM ET Central Michigan Western Kentucky 8:00 PM ET Fresno State Rice
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State