Big 12: David Bailiff
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
After struggling through one of my worst weeks in recent history, I'm hoping for a turnaround in these picks.
Here they are.
Kansas 41, Duke 17: The Jayhawks have too many offensive weapons and an improved defense with a knack of making big plays. Jake Sharp and Toben Opurum provide an emerging 1-2 weapon at running back and Dezmon Briscoe will juice production in the passing game with Todd Reesing as he becomes more comfortable in the offense. Duke coach David Cutcliffe will likely alternate Sean Renfree and Thaddeus Lewis at quarterback. Both will likely struggle against an emerging Kansas defensive front that has produced nine sacks in its first two games.
Missouri 45, Furman 6: Look for the Tigers to jump on their FCS opponent quickly, hoping to make amends after last week’s closer-than-expected victory over Bowling Green. Blaine Gabbert regressed in his second start, but should be ready to show improvement this week. If they can find the edge exhibited against Illinois, this one won’t be close for very long.
Colorado 24, Wyoming 21: It can’t get any worse for Dan Hawkins and the Buffaloes, can it? If they lose this one, it will. Despite the struggles stopping big plays and operating the offense in losses against Colorado State and Toledo, the Buffaloes will rebound. Even though the Cowboys turned the heat up on Texas last week and Dave Christensen had his way against the Buffaloes when he was offensive coordinator at Missouri -- he outscored Colorado by a combined 113-10 margin last season -- it won’t be that easy this time. The Buffaloes will rebound and win a gritty game that won’t be very spectator friendly.
Oklahoma 38, Tulsa 17: Landry Jones makes his second career start against Tulsa, an underrated program under Todd Graham that will be itching to earn some national revenge against their “big brothers” from across the state. This should be a good matchup between the Golden Hurricane, who led the nation in total offense each of the past two seasons, and the salty Oklahoma defense. Sooners coaches are familiar with Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne, who they tried to recruit as a linebacker. Even without Sam Bradford, the Sooners still should have enough offense to win.
Virginia Tech 28, Nebraska 21: Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee will be looking to stop the Hokies’ 31-game home nonconference winning streak in his first career road start. There might be tougher first-game assignments in college football, but I don’t know of many. Lee leads the conference in pass efficiency, but will be stepping up in class when he faces the active Virginia Tech defense. Ryan Williams and fellow freshman David Wilson both rushed for more than 160 yards last week and the Hokies will be looking to set the tempo by using them. Still, the Cornhuskers might make this one closer than expected with a strong pass rush against Tyrod Taylor and if they can stay away from special-teams mistakes.
Baylor 31, Connecticut 21: The Bears will be gunning for their second straight conquest over an opponent from a BCS-affiliated conference against Connecticut, which beat them in Storrs last season. But this is a different Baylor team, which has had a bye week to settle down after an upset victory over Wake Forest in its opener. Backup quarterback Cody Endres steps in as Connecticut’s starter after Zach Frazer was hurt last week against North Carolina. One item to watch will be how Baylor’s young Canadian tackles Danny Watkins and Phillip Blake will handle Lindsay Witten, who leads the Big East in sacks.
Kent State 24, Iowa State 21: Paul Rhoads will try to halt the Cyclones’ nation-worst 17-game road losing streak. Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud will be trying to rebound after throwing four interceptions in the Cyclones’ 35-3 loss last week to Iowa. Freshman quarterback Spencer Keith will make his first career start for the Golden Flashes, who ranked 96th or worse in each of the four major offensive statistical categories. In the end, this one might be settled by which of two of the nation’s worst turnover margin teams -- Kent State is 94th and Iowa State is 108th -- does the better job of protecting the ball.
Texas A&M 38, Utah State 10: Texas A&M hopes to build on a strong opening-game performance against New Mexico where the offense and defense were both productive in a 41-6 victory. Jerrod Johnson looked more comfortable starting his second season as quarterback and the Aggies showed strong skill players. The defense, while still not at the “Wrecking Crew” standards of the past, had a strong effort with five sacks keyed by three from Von Miller. Utah State was challenging for Utah, but likely doesn’t have the firepower to stay close to the rejuvenated A&M attack for long in this game.
Oklahoma State 45, Rice 17: The Cowboys are intent on rebounding after last week’s disappointing home loss to Houston. They likely will play without Big 12 leading rusher Kendall Hunter, but backups Beau Johnson and Keith Toston averaged nearly 8 yards per carry against Houston. The Cowboys gave up more yardage in the first half last week than against Georgia in the previous week. They shouldn’t face much of a challenge from Rice, which is rebuilding from last season’s 10-win team. Coach David Bailiff alternated among three quarterbacks last week and could do the same against an Oklahoma State defense that will be intent on improvement this week.
Texas 54, Texas Tech 31: Even though they claim otherwise, rest assured the Longhorns have been awaiting this rematch ever since their 39-33 loss in Lubbock last season. They should have the upper hand in this one because their secondary is a year more experienced and this will be Texas Tech quarterback Taylor Potts’ first road game as a starter. The Longhorns looked lethargic in the first half last week at Wyoming, but blew the game by scoring 28 unanswered points in the second half. It won’t be that easy this week against Potts and the Red Raiders, but look for the Longhorns’ offense to produce similar late success.
UCLA 21, Kansas State 10: This one figures to be a low scoring game as the Wildcats have sputtered offensively and UCLA will be playing without starting quarterback Kevin Prince, who sustained a broken jaw late in the Bruins’ victory at Tennessee. Look for both teams to try to take control on the ground with UCLA employing Johnathan Franklin and Kansas State countering with Big 12 rushing leader Daniel Thomas. The Wildcats have also struggled mightily with special teams in their first two games and must improve for any upset hopes. But the UCLA defense is too formidable, winning this one as they pick up the slack for an offense missing Prince.
Last week: 7-3 (70 percent)
For the season: 16-6 (72.7 percent)
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are my Big 12 picks for this weekend.
Colorado 21, Toledo 20: This might be the biggest game of Dan Hawkins’ career after his team’s opening-game debacle against Colorado State. The Buffaloes need to get a ground game going -- remember that guy on the bench is Darrell Scott -- and do a better job of limiting big plays on defense. Toledo quarterback Aaron Opelt threw 67 passes in last week’s loss at Purdue, but will find it much tougher this week against the Buffaloes’ underrated secondary keyed by cornerback Jimmy Smith. I’m looking for the Buffaloes to do just enough to escape the Glass Bowl with a victory-- but it’s not going to be easy or pretty.
Iowa 21, Iowa State 17: The Cyclones have had much recent success against the Hawkeyes at Jack Trice Stadium, where they have won four of the last five in the series since 1999. The Hawkeyes struggled last week against Northern Iowa and were lucky to escape with a victory only after blocking field goals on the last two plays of the game. I look for replacement running back Adam Robinson to run with a little more confidence this week for the Hawkeyes. Don't be surprised if wily Iowa coordinator Norm Parker cooks up a defensive scheme that will handcuff the Cyclones’ emerging no-huddle offense. But it wouldn’t surprise me if the Cyclones were able to make this one close and maybe even eke out an upset victory.
Nebraska 41, Arkansas State 14: The Cornhuskers ran off a 49-3 victory over FAU and Bo Pelini wasn’t happy about his team’s defensive efforts. They’ll be facing another challenger from the Sun Belt in Arkansas State, who shouldn’t pose too many problems. I’ll be interested to see the continued development of future Cornhuskers like Rex Burkhead and Cody Green and see how the defense reacts after the scalding criticism of their coach. If Pelini gets mad after giving up three points, what's he going to do if they give up seven or 10 or 14 points this week?
Oklahoma State 45, Houston 34: Oklahoma State had a strong opening performance, including a salty defensive showing that stopped Georgia cold after the Bulldogs scored a touchdown on their opening possession. It will be interesting to see if that huge victory left the Cowboys with a hangover. It’s something they can’t afford, considering Houston’s high-powered offense keyed by Case Keenum. The Cougars had Oklahoma State on the ropes last season before the Cowboys blew the game open in the second half. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar kind of game on Saturday.
Texas 45, Wyoming 7: The Longhorns’ toughest nonconference road game shouldn’t pose too many problems, even with injuries on the offensive line and other personnel losses in the secondary. I’ll be interested to see how alternating Wyoming quarterbacks Robert Benjamin and Austyn Carta-Samuels attack a Texas defense that allowed more points in an opening game last week in 10 years. It will also be noteworthy to watch Texas’ running backs and see if Vondrell McGee still is the featured back after his fumble problems last week. Despite playing at high elevation, the Longhorns should have no worries.
Kansas 44, UTEP 35: Kansas ran the ball strongly last week against Northern Colorado and should be able to do the same against the Miners. But it wouldn’t surprise me if UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe and some underrated offensive weapons make the Jayhawks sweat their way through their visit to the Sun Bowl. In the end, Dezmon Briscoe will make enough plays as a receiver and maybe as a kick returner to extend the Miners’ 16-game losing streak against Big 12 teams.
Missouri 34, Bowling Green 14: What can Blaine Gabbert do for an encore? His auspicious start has been the talk of the “Show-Me” State this week after a breakthrough performance against Illinois. I was just as impressed by the Tigers’ “Scorpion” defensive front which made Illinois quarterback Juice Williams miserable. The Missouri defense will be tested by Bowling Green’s talented pass-and-catch duo of Tyler Sheehan and Freddie Barnes. The Falcons beat Missouri in each of Gary Pinkel’s first two seasons at Missouri, including his first game there in 2001. But that’s a long time ago.
Oklahoma 34, Idaho State 0: Landry Jones gets his first start at quarterback as he replaces Sam Bradford. I look for Bob Stoops to have a conservative approach this week designed to build confidence for Jones over the next several games. There won’t be anything fancy as the Sooners will lean on a running game that needs to help restore assurance in an offensive line that struggled last week. Idaho State dropped a 50-3 outing at Arizona State last week in a game where Bengal quarterbacks threw four interceptions. It might be more of the same as the Sooners’ defense will be charged to pick up its performance with all of the lingering questions on offense.
Texas Tech 41, Rice 17: Taylor Potts didn’t have the best of college career starts, throwing three interceptions last week against North Dakota. I look for improvement from him and the Tech running attack as they meet rebuilding Rice. Owls coach David Bailiff is still struggling to find a quarterback and I expect both John Shepherd and Nick Fanuzzi to get an opportunity to play. But it won’t nearly be enough as the Red Raiders should cruise into the Texas game with a better performance than their first game.
Kansas State 31, Louisiana-Lafayette 24: Carson Coffman should have a better performance in his second game and the Kansas State special teams will be improved in a tougher-than-expected battle at Cajun Field. The Ragin’ Cajuns have a couple of nice offensive weapons in quarterback Chris Masson and running back Undrea Sails. If they get rolling, it could be a long night in the bayou for the Wildcats. I’m also a little concerned about how Kansas State’s lack of depth affects them at both offensive line and defensive line during what should be a hot, humid night. But in the end, Kansas State running backs Daniel Thomas and Keithen Valentine will provide enough offense for the Wildcats to escape Louisiana with a tough victory.
Last week: 9-3 (75.0 percent)
Season: 9-3 (75.0 percent)
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Rice offensive coordinator Tom Herman has been hired by new Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads as the Cyclones' new offensive coordinator.
In two seasons working with David Bailiff at Rice, Herman's offense broke nearly 50 school records with the Owls. In the process, Herman helped the Owls match their school record with 10 victories this season and notch a 38-14 victory over Western Michigan in the Texas Bowl -- the school's first bowl victory since 1954.
"I am elated to have the opportunity to coach in one of the nation's best conferences, represent an outstanding academic institution like Iowa State University and work for a head coach with the reputation of Paul (Rhoads)," Herman said. "Now, it's time to finish off the recruiting season with a flourish and then start teaching."
As a team, the Owls ranked in the top 10 nationally last fall for passing offense (5th at 327.8), scoring offense (tied for 8th at 41.6) and total offense (10th at 472.3). Rice was seventh nationally in first downs (309) and 12th in third-down conversion percentage (49.4 percent). Herman-led offenses broke Rice school records for points and touchdowns in a season both years there.
"I couldn't be more excited to have a coach of Tom's caliber joining my staff at Iowa State," Rhoads said. "The staggering numbers that his offense put up at Rice are indicative of his abilities. But, beyond his coaching expertise, I believe his recruiting ties in Texas, familiarity with the Big 12 and his innovative approach to moving the football and scoring points matches my vision for Iowa State football."
Herman, 33, had earlier worked as offensive coordinator at Texas State with Bailiff and four years as an assistant at Sam Houston State. He graduated from college at California Lutheran, where he was an all-conference wide receiver.
Before starting coaching, Herman worked in television and radio as a sports production assistant in Oxnard, Calif., and in Los Angeles as a highlight coordinator at FOX Sports.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It would seem that being relegated to a pay-per-view telecast would be college football's version of playing in Siberia. Less attention compared to national games on the major networks seemingly would make this an unattractive solution.
But excitement about the arrival of new Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is helping to disprove that line of thinking. The Omaha World-Herald reported that Nebraska notched impressive pay-per-view numbers in its first three telecasts, helping the school make more money than if those games had been carried by a national television network.
School officials estimate that Nebraska's first three games have generated more than $1 million in their telecasts produced in cooperation with Fox Sports Network.
"FSN has also done games with Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, and the Nebraska games we have done have performed well in comparison with those schools," Geoff Goldman, FSN Midwest's media relations manager, told the Lincoln Journal Star.
So maybe there is a method there. Hire a vibrant new coach and play a bunch of nobodies from schools outside BCS conferences. And then sit back and rake in the cash.
I wish my budgeting was that simple.
Here are some of the other stories around the conference generating some hot sports opinion this morning.
- Kansas State fell victim to some of its old problems in a 38-29 loss to Louisville Wednesday night. The Kansas City Star's Jason Whitlock said that QB Josh Freeman didn't live up to being one of the Big 12's best quarterbacks. Freeman wasn't ready -- literally and figuratively -- for his prime-time opportunity.
- Colorado is girding for a tough challenge when West Virignia visits tonight, a game that could be a watershed moment for Coach Dan Hawkins' program. It will be the start of a brutal six-game swing for the Buffaloes that includes games against five ranked foes.
- Massachusetts players defended only nine passes in their entire game last week against James Madison. They may face that many in the first series Saturday against Texas Tech. And poor route-running was blamed by Texas Tech assistant coach Lincoln Riley as the major reason the Red Raiders dropped eight passes against SMU.
- Baylor has repeatedly benefitted from field-position advantage during their recent two-game winning streak.
- Cotton Bowl officials showed off their $57 million package of renovations, which will result in at least 16,000 more fans attending the Texas-Oklahoma game next month.
- Oklahoman columnist John Rohde spins forward to a potential Oklahoma-USC national championship game at the Orange Bowl. The Sooners will have to play at least the next four weeks without injured DT DeMarcus Granger, and perhaps much more.
- An underrated element in Oklahoma State's early success has been its strong punting. The Cowboys lead the nation in net punting and six of their eight kicks have been downed inside the opposing team's 20-yard line. They haven't needed much punting with the emergence of WR Dez Bryant into one of the nation's most productive players.
- Texas has already blocked three kicks in its first two games after producing none last season. Freshman DB Aaron Williams has been a key ingredient, blocking two against UTEP.
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Jimmy Burch details the Big 12's biggest early surprises this season. Hurricane Ike has resulted in some unique challenges for Rice this week. Coach David Bailiff has been sleeping with his family in his office after the storm ripped through his home.
- Texas A&M DE Michael Bennett is emerging out of the ample shadow of his younger brother, former A&M standout TE Martellus Bennett.
- Kansas City Star beat writer Mike DeArmond's scientific experiment in his weekly vlog might be the best comparison to Missouri's prolific offense. And the Columbia Tribune's Dave Matter says the Tigers should be in good shape Saturday as long as Dick Jauron's Buffalo Bills don't show up in the place of Turner Gill's team.
- Nebraska's defense has struggled during its bye week with a mental hangover after facing so many spread passing offenses, defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said.