Big 12: Darren Lewis
"Hey, is that guy still around?"
Even with two fewer teams, it's hard to keep track. Our next series, which we did last year, too, takes a look at two key players for every team in the league that are taking their talents elsewhere, returning to campus, or arriving to try and write a legacy of their own.
So really, this series isn't so much for the fans of the teams in the posts, but more for everyone else. It wouldn't be a bad idea to bookmark this series.
Next up: Texas A&M
Von Miller, LB
Miller will go down as not only one of the best Aggies of all-time, but one of the most beloved. Throughout the draft process (which concluded with him being drafted No. 2 overall), he gave credit to his coaches and teammates and talked extensively about how much he loved Texas A&M and his time there. He led the Big 12 in sacks the past two seasons, and led the nation in 2009. As the lynchpin of the Aggies' 3-4 scheme in 2010, he spent more time in coverage, but his combination of size (6-foot-4, 255 pounds) and speed (4.4 40-yard dash) is found almost nowhere. No player was more integral in the return of the Wrecking Crew in 2010. And to top it all off, at the end of his introductory news conference with the Denver Broncos, he gave a "Gig 'em."
Michael Hodges, LB
Hodges came to Texas A&M as a walk-on. He didn't play at all in 2008, but coordinator Joe Kines gave him a shot in 2009, and Hodges rewarded him with an All-Big 12 honorable mention season after starting nine games in his first real season on the field. Last year, as a senior, Hodges emerged as one of the defense's leaders and led the team with 115 tackles. Hodges missed most of his last game, the Cotton Bowl, with a knee injury, and the Wrecking Crew suffered in his absence. Hodges wasn't blessed with the measurables of his teammate, Miller, but he made the most of what he had and always seemed to be around the ball. Fans admire that, and like Miller, he'll go down as one of the most beloved Aggies of all-time, too.
Jeff Fuller, WR
Fuller took some time after the Aggies bowl game to make his decision, but his decision to stay has further amped up the anticipation in College Station for what could be a special year this fall. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder is one of the Big 12's best red zone targets, and just finished the first 1,000-yard receiving season in school history, adding 12 touchdowns, too. He'll further etch his name into the record books in 2011, and there's no reason to believe he won't have the second 1,000-yard receiving season in school history. Fuller wants to refine his route running and become a better run-after-catch threat, making himself a more complete receiver, and he should be better than ever next year.
Cyrus Gray, RB
Entering last year, Gray was largely considered the lesser half of the Aggies' stellar running back duo. Not anymore. After Christine Michael went down with a broken leg, Gray uncorked one of the greatest stretches by any running back in Texas A&M history. He rushed for 100 yards in seven consecutive games, the first time any Aggie had done that since Darren Lewis had a 10-game streak in 1988. Gray brings his seven-game streak into 2011, which boasts big games against defenses like LSU, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas.
Johnny Manziel, QB
Could Manziel be the next Ryan Tannehill? He enrolled early, impressed coaches and did the same with fans when he completed 8 of 9 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns. He'll be in a three-man race this fall to back up Tannehill, but Manziel has nice wheels, too. He rushed for 1,674 yards as a senior in high school, and if he doesn't win the backup job, could he find his way on the field as a receiver? We'll find out this fall.
Brandon Alexander, DE
Alexander committed to Texas A&M days before signing day, despite strong interest from Texas and a late visit to Arkansas, and was one of the Aggies' top recruits. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Brenham, Texas, native was one of the best defensive ends in the country and gives Texas A&M a possible top-flight pass-rusher in a quarterbacks' league that demands teams have them.
Click here for more from The Revolving Door.
How the game was won: LSU ran all over Texas A&M's defense for 60 minutes, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill tossed three interceptions, equaling his total from the past six games of Texas A&M's season, when he moved from receiver to starting quarterback. The Tigers easily topped 250 yards on the ground, and hit on a pair of deep balls for touchdowns.
Turning point: Michael Hodges' injury. It was hardly the only reason why the Aggies couldn't stuff the run, but Texas A&M lost its leading tackler and middle linebacker to a right knee injury early in the game, and never regained the physical defensive play it became known for during its six-game winning streak.
Stat of the game: LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson threw three touchdown passes. The Tigers had thrown seven touchdown passes in 12 games this season entering the Cotton Bowl.
Player of the game: Terrence Toliver, WR, LSU. The 6-foot-5, 203-pound senior went out in style, hauling in three touchdown catches to tie an LSU bowl record, including a pair of deep balls over the middle for 41- and 42-yard touchdowns.
Record performance: Friday's crowd of 83,514 was the second-most in Cotton Bowl history, behind the 2009 game between Texas Tech and Ole Miss, the last Cotton Bowl game in the Cotton Bowl stadium.
Record performance II: Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray became the first Aggies running back since Darren Lewis in 1988 to rush for 100 yards in seven consecutive games.
What it means: Texas A&M's big finish to the regular season won't end with a bang, but they do finish 9-4 despite the loss. The Aggies won nine games for just the second time since 1998. The Big 12, meanwhile, finishes an underwhelming 3-5 in bowl games after a favorable draw. Of the five ranked Big 12 teams playing, Texas A&M was the only one matched up against a ranked opponent.
- LSU has won 10 of its past 13 bowl games.
- Texas A&M has lost its past four bowl games.
- LSU is 27-1 against teams outside the SEC under Les Miles, with the only loss coming to Penn State in last year's Capital One Bowl.
- Tonight's game is the renewal of a rivalry: It will be the 50th time Texas A&M and LSU have met. They played in 16 consecutive seasons from 1960-75 and for 10 consecutive seasons from 1986-95, but have only met in a bowl once, a 19-14 LSU win in the 1944 Orange Bowl. The Aggies and Tigers haven't played since the series was discontinued in 1995.
- Texas A&M's six game winning streak is its longest since 2004, and if it can make it seven, it will match a 1998 streak, a season that ended with Texas A&M's only Big 12 title.
- With 86 more yards, Cyrus Gray will become the second Aggie to amass 5,000 all-purpose yards. Darren Lewis is the only other Aggie to do it.
- Gray's streak of six consecutive games with at least 100 yards rushing is the longest since Lewis' 10 consecutive games in 1988.
- Receiver Jeff Fuller already holds the school record for single-season receiving yardage, but with 17 more yards, he'll be the first Aggies receiver to ever top 1,000 yards receiving.
- Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a former receiver, is believed to be the only player in FBS history with a 400-yard passing game and a 200-yard receiving game.
- Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez is the nation's leader in passing efficiency away from home. He has a rating of 204.9 on the road compared to 119.0 at home. He's thrown seven touchdowns to no interceptions on the road versus two touchdowns and four interceptions in home games.
- In road games, he's completing 72.2 percent of third-down passes, versus 48.6 percent at home.
- When Nebraska has thrown to receiver Niles Paul on third down, it's resulted in a completion on 81.3 percent of attempts, versus 48.1 percent for the rest of the team.
- Nebraska has won eight consecutive road games.
- Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon has at least 100 yards and a touchdown in nine consecutive games this year. The national record is 11, set by Aaron Turner of Pacific in 1991.
- Martinez needs just 43 rushing yards to become the third quarterback all-time to rush for 1,000 yards and throw for 1,000 more as a freshman. Missouri's Brad Smith and Kent State's Josh Cribbs are the only two others to accomplish the feat.
- Nebraska has played in College Station just three times prior to Saturday.
- Landry Jones has never played against Baylor. Oklahoma's 33-7 win in Norman was the only game last year Sam Bradford started and finished.
- Oklahoma opponents average 2.65 yards a punt return, which ranks No. 2 nationally.
- Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray is the first Texas A&M running back to top 100 yard in four consecutive games since 1993. No Aggies back has done it five consecutive games since Darren Lewis in 1990.
- The last time Texas A&M didn't throw a touchdown pass was a 2008 loss to Arkansas State, a streak of 34 games.
- With a win over Iowa State, Missouri could earn the program's third nine-win season in four years, but it would be just the sixth in the history of the program.
- A win would also make the 2010 senior class the all-time leaders in wins for any class ever at Missouri, with 39.
- Baylor is 5-70 all-time against South opponents, but swept its North slate this year with a 3-0 record to improve to 13-32 against the division.
- The Bears have come within single digits of Oklahoma just three times in 19 games.
- Last season was the first six-win conference season ever for Oklahoma State. A win over Kansas on Saturday would be the second.
- With 121 yards last week, receiver Paul Richardson became the first freshman in Colorado history with two 100-yard games.
- Kansas State's season closes with three road games, the second of which is Saturday in the conference season finale against Colorado.
- Texas receiver Mike Davis set a school record for freshmen with 43 catches after last week's game.
- Texas Tech and Weber State have never met.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I got a chance to watch College Football Live's recent two-day look at the traditions and greatest players and teams from Texas.
Here are the most recent results of the viewers and readers poll taken in conjunction with the visit, which is part of the program's state-by-state tour leading up to the season.
The results of the poll are up-to-date through noon ET on Wednesday. I'm also including my thoughts on the vote.
Which team is the best in state history?
- 1939 Texas A&M 41 percent
- 2005 Texas 28 percent
- 1938 TCU 27 percent
- 1982 SMU 2 percent
- 1969 Texas 2 percent
Ballots cast: 2,586 votes.
Right or wrong: Wrong.
My take: It's hard to believe there are too many teams better than the 2005 Texas team. It looks like a lot of voters have read Mickey Herskowitz's fine book about that A&M team, elevating them above the others because of the mystique of being the "greatest generation's greatest team."
Who is the best player to play college football at Texas?
- Earl Campbell 55 percent
- Vince Young 27 percent
- Ricky Williams 7 percent
- Bobby Layne 6 percent
- Tommy Nobis 5 percent
Ballots cast: 3,622 votes.
Right or wrong: Right.
My take: Hard to argue with "The Tyler Rose" as the best player in the history of the school.
Who is the best player to play college football at Texas A&M?
- John David Crow 49 percent
- Aaron Glenn 16 percent
- Lester Hayes 15 percent
- Darren Lewis 10 percent
- Johnny Holland 9 percent
Ballots cast: 3,378
Right or wrong: Right.
My take: The school's only Heisman Trophy winner always epitomized to me what an A&M player should be -- tough and determined. But I was surprised that Dat Nguyen, the greatest modern-day defensive player in school history, wasn't included on the list.
Who is the best college player at a school other than Texas or Texas A&M?
- LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU, 36 percent
- Eric Dickerson, SMU, 22 percent
- Sammy Baugh, TCU, 19 percent
- Doak Walker, SMU, 17 percent
- Davey O'Brien, TCU, 7 percent
Ballots cast: 3,742.
Right or wrong: Wrong.
My take: Even with recent familiarity from watching him, how could voters elevate Tomlinson above three iconic figures in Baugh, Walker and O'Brien who all have trophies named after them? My pick would be Walker, but you can't go wrong with either of the other players.
Which coach is the best in state history?
- Darrell Royal, Texas 33 percent
- R.C. Slocum, Texas A&M 30 percent
- Mack Brown, Texas 17 percent
- Dutch Meyer, TCU 11 percent
- Bill Yeoman, Houston 8 percent
Ballots cast: 4,055
Right or wrong: Right
My take: The homespun Royal didn't attend college in Texas, but got there as fast as he could after his playing career.
Missouri remains the last of the Big 12 states to be profiled. The show will examine "the Show-Me State" in detail on July 29.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
After struggling with injuries and trying to keep his weight in check, many wondered if massive Texas A&M running back Jorvorskie Lane would ever get back in the good graces of new coach Mike Sherman.
After the Aggies' 21-17 triumph over Army last week, it appears that Lane is back. After shedding more than 20 pounds from his preseason weight of 307, Lane salted the Aggies' victory away with six carries to finish the game.
Lane talked about his return with Dallas Morning News reporter Kate Hairopoulos and how excited he is to be back running the football. Lane needs only one more touchdown to tie the school record of 45 touchdowns set by Rodney Thomas and Darren Lewis.
"It felt good," Lane said. "That's what I'm going to do when I'm called upon to carry the ball. I'm going to put my team on my back and win."
Those words can't be good news to Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, who is well aware of what Lane has been able to do in recent seasons against the Cowboys.
Lane has feasted -- pardon the bad pun -- on the Cowboys over the years, scoring eight touchdowns in his previous three games against them.
As a freshman in 2005, he rushed for a career-best 139 yards and three touchdowns to spark the Aggies' 62-23 thumping of the Cowboys.
He made another huge play against the Cowboys State the following season, in addition to scoring two short TD plunges. With the Aggies trailing by seven points and facing a critical fourth-and-13 play with 1:33 remaining, Lane made a circus one-handed catch on a pass from Stephen McGee to keep the game-tying drive alive. The Aggies escaped with a 34-33 victory, winning the game in overtime on a missed extra point.
Lane saved his best for last season, scoring all three touchdowns that sparked A&M's 24-23 comeback victory.
The massive tailback ran for a pair of touchdowns and also added a 10-yard TD grab from McGee that ended up being the winning touchdown. He had earlier completed a 49-yard option pass to Kerry Franks that went to the OSU 1, setting up his own TD plunge on the next play.
"I thought (Lane) would have a Ph.D by now. He's been there forever," Gundy told the Tulsa World. "He's obviously a guy that can make some plays."
And has always left his mark on the Cowboys over the years.