Big 12: Eric Crouch

Our list of the top 10 Big 12 players ever generated as much response from you all as anything we've ever done. I really appreciate all of it. Many of you agreed with the list. Plenty of you didn't. That's pretty natural. It was an absolutely brutal list to put together. Tons of talented guys have a case to be on it, and might be on your list. I wouldn't necessarily disagree. Still, I only had room for 10. Here's an extensive list of all the guys who I also think have a strong case for inclusion. They're the players who just missed my all-time top 10. In no particular order, here they are:

Eric Crouch, QB, Nebraska: In 2001, won the Heisman Trophy, Davey O'Brien Trophy, Camp Award and was the Big 12's Offensive Player of the Year. Finished his career with 4,481 passing yards and 3,434 rushing yards and accounted for 84 touchdowns.

Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: Won the Biletnikoff Award in 2010 and 2011, and was the Big 12's Offensive Player of the Year in 2011. Finished his three-year career with 252 catches, 3,564 receiving yards and 41 total touchdowns.

Grant Wistrom, DL, Nebraska: Won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1996 and 1997. Won the Lombardi Award in 1997 and helped Nebraska go 49-2 during his career. Finished with 58.5 tackles for loss and 26.5 sacks.

Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech: The first-ever two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver. He was a unanimous All-American in both seasons and finished his career with 231 catches for 3,127 yards and 41 touchdowns.

Troy Davis, RB, Iowa State: Finished second in the Heisman voting in 1996 and fifth in 1995. Topped 2,000 yards rushing in both seasons and scored 37 touchdowns. He was the Big 12's Offensive Player of the Year in 1996.

Darren Sproles, RB, Kansas State: Rushed for 1,986 yards in K-State's Big 12 title season in 2003. Finished his four-year career with just under 5,000 rushing yards. Scored 44 touchdowns in his final three seasons and was fifth in Heisman voting in 2003. Also returned a punt for a touchdown in 2003 and averaged more than 27 yards on kick returns.

Dat Nguyen, LB, Texas A&M: Won All-Big 12 first-team honors three times, and was the league's Defensive Player of the Year in 1998, leading the Wrecking Crew to Texas A&M's only Big 12 title. Won the Bednarik Award and Lombardi Award that season. Made 51 consecutive starts and finished his career with 517 tackles, the only player in A&M history to lead the Aggies in tackles for four seasons.

Cedric Benson, RB, Texas: Won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's best running back in 2004 and was a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection. His 5,540 career rushing yards are second all-time at Texas to only Ricky Williams.

Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri: Led Missouri to two Big 12 Championship games and helped the Tigers reach BCS No. 1 in 2007. Finished his career as the school's all-time leader in total offense. Threw for 12,515 yards and 101 touchdowns in three years as a starter. Finished fourth in Heisman voting in 2007.

Tommie Harris, DT, Oklahoma: One of the greatest freshmen in Big 12 history. Won the Lombardi Award in 2003 and earned All-Big 12 and All-American first team honors in 2002 and 2003.

Derrick Johnson, LB, Texas: Made the All-Big 12 first team three times and finished his career with 458 tackles, 69 tackles for loss, 11 forced fumbles (nine in 2004) and nine interceptions. Won the Butkus Award and Nagurski Trophy in 2004.

Michael Bishop, QB, Kansas State: Became a starter at K-State after a junior college national title. Finished second in the 1998 Heisman voting to Ricky Williams and helped K-State to an undefeated regular season. Was 22-3 as a starter and accounted for 5,715 yards of total offense and 59 total touchdowns.

Mailbag: Dark horse, best seasons, Klein

June, 6, 2012
6/06/12
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I'll be out the rest of this week, so let's get our Mailbag going right now.

You can still share your favorite moments from the greatest seasons in Big 12 history here, though. I'll run those later this week.

On to your mail!

Zack O. in Bryan, Texas, wrote: Ubbs, I'm not ready to leave you yet so I continue to read the Big 12 blog while also staying up to date in the SEC. I liked your top individual seasons and you most definitely had some tough decisions. I noticed my Aggies didn't make the cut. After a quick moment of pouting I realized that they haven't been that outstanding individually; however, I would put Von Miller in 2010 right up there with anyone.

David Ubben: Thanks for the kind words, Zack. I'd disagree with you on Von Miller. For one, 2010 wasn't even his best season. I'd lean toward 2009. Even though A&M's defense was awful that year, Miller was a terror, and led the nation in sacks. Miller was a terror down the stretch in 2010, but he was much more productive in 2009 and he was slowed by an injury early in 2010. Could you really put a pass-rushing specialist who ranked 11th nationally in sacks in a pass-happy league among the best seasons in league history?

I was pretty surprised that the Aggies didn't have a player on my just missed list, but Dat Nguyen was probably the closest to making it.


Lee Barden in Katy, Texas, wrote: What are the milestone dates to watch for this summer (in the coming months)? e.g. BCS discussions of playoffs, ACC drop-dead date for notice (before buy-out price tag increases to 25mm)? I'm figuring any movement will happen after playoffs are determined and before the price increase...

DU: First off, there's no ACC drop-dead date to my knowledge. The Big 12 waited to bring in West Virginia and TCU until the fall, and they're joining the following summer. Also, the ACC voted unanimously to up its buyout to $20 million last year, but I haven't heard anything about it getting hiked to $25 million.

You're right about the second part, though. I highly, highly doubt any movement will happen until after this playoff stuff is settled, and the format can be pitched to TV networks. There's a lot of hope that the BCS meetings around June 20 will produce some very serious results. I'd keep an eye on the month or so that follows if you're watching for Big 12 expansion.


Brett in Kansas City wrote: Ubbs, what are you thinking, I can see why Collin Klein got left off the list of top 5 individule preformances but how did he miss out on the just missed out list?

DU: Here's my thing about Collin Klein's 2011 season (Hang on while I put on a helmet and get a running head start from the torch-bearing purple hordes): It's a little silly to just look at his 27 touchdowns and say, "WOW! One of the best seasons ever!" He put up similar numbers to Eric Crouch during Crouch's Heisman season in 2001, but Crouch ran for 26 fewer yards on 114 fewer carries. Klein's touchdown numbers were eye-popping, but anyone who watched K-State saw that any time the Wildcats were close to sniffing the end zone, it was all Klein all the time. That's not a bad thing. It paid off. These weren't long, game-breaking runs though. Most often, they were sneaks and short runs that most players could make.

Klein had a great year and K-State played a great schedule. His durability was amazing, but I'd probably put his season just outside the "just missed list." After all, I had Klein at No. 7 in the Big 12 this year, and didn't hear all that many complaints.


Derek in Phoenix wrote: Not even a mention for Dominique Whaley to go plus 1k in 2012? You're gonna be wrong on that call, Ubben.

DU: That's probably my mistake, at least for not putting him on the "just missed" list. Whaley should be productive, but I see OU's backfield being too crowded and the offense again relying on Landry Jones for most of its production. Roy Finch was really good down the stretch and Brennan Clay could catch on. It seems like more of a committee approach, and coming off a serious injury, will Whaley quickly reclaim his spot in fall camp?

There's definitely reason to doubt it. I'd be surprised if he hit 1,000 yards this year, but he may get close and top around 800 yards.


Marcel in Austin, Texas, wrote: We all know that in 2012 there's about a good 4 teams that could win the Big 12. But who do you think, that not a lot of people are looking at right now has the best chance of being the dark horse and could possibly be in the title race. I'm thinking Baylor or Tech, thoughts?

DU: I'd say it's four, teetering on five. TCU is lending a whole lot of credence to folks who doubt it and its depth lately. That said, Oklahoma and Kansas State are absolutely contenders. Texas and Oklahoma State are knocking on the door behind them, too.

As a true dark horse, I like Baylor. They've got lots of unheard of guys, but guys who quietly have a lot of experience and won't be wowed by anything they see this year. Tech isn't a bad pick, and Baylor's defense is slightly less of a disaster entering this season. At least Baylor isn't learning a new system.

Beyond the true dark horses (OSU, Texas), I like Baylor's chances. The Bears learned how to win last year. We'll see if they keep it going this year.
Yesterday, I unveiled my list of the best Big 12 seasons of all-time, but there were plenty of seasons that got left out.

In no particular order, here are the best of the rest:

Colt McCoy, QB, Texas, 2008: McCoy carried the Longhorns to a BCS bowl win and a win over national title participant and Big 12 champion Oklahoma while throwing for 3,859 yards, 34 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Most impressive? He completed just under 77 percent of his passes. Crazy.

Jason White, QB, Oklahoma, 2003: White racked up 3,846 yards passing with 40 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions, and won the Heisman Trophy and Davey O'Brien Award. The Sooners went undefeated in the regular season, but lost in the Big 12 Championship and national title games.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor, 2011: Griffin did the unthinkable and brought a Heisman Trophy to Baylor, as well as a 10-win season. He threw for 4,293 yards, 37 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He also ran for 699 yards and completed 72.4 percent of his passes.

Darren Sproles, RB, Kansas State, 2003: Sproles led the nation with 1,986 yards and 16 touchdowns, leading K-State to its only Big 12 title with an upset of No. 1 Oklahoma, soundly beating the unbeatable Sooners, 35-7. Sproles ran for an eye-popping 235 yards and caught three passes for 88 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown.

Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State, 2010: Blackmon caught a touchdown pass and topped 100 yards in every game he played all season, winning the Biletnikoff Award (he'd do it again in 2011) and putting together the league's best individual season of 2010. He finished with 1,782 receiving yards, 111 catches and 20 touchdowns.

Graham Harrell, QB, Texas Tech, 2007: Harrell threw for a country mile and then some, topping 5,700 yards in Texas Tech's pass-happy offense (713 attempts in 2007) under Mike Leach and throwing 48 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions.

Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech, 2007: Tech had a more memorable season as a team in 2008, but Crabtree's first of two Biletnikoff-winning seasons was better. He finished with a Big 12-record 1,962 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns on 134 catches.

Eric Crouch, QB, Nebraska, 2001: Crouch carried the Huskers to the national title game in 2001 despite a Big 12 Championship Game loss, throwing for 18 touchdowns and running for 19 more. He rushed for 1,178 yards and threw for 1,115 to win the Heisman Trophy and Davey O'Brien Award.

Troy Davis, RB, Iowa State, 1996: Davis finished second in the Heisman voting after carrying the ball 402 times for 2,185 yards and winning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors in the league's inaugural season. That's not enough for you? It was his second consecutive 2,000-yard rushing season.

Roy Williams, S, Oklahoma, 2001: Williams is best known for his "Superman" play that sealed a Red River victory over Texas, but he had 12 tackles for losses and five interceptions that season. He also recovered two fumbles, returning one for a touchdown. Williams revitalized the safety position in the Big 12, bringing some bulk to the position and playing closer to the line of scrimmage. He earned the Nagurski Trophy and Thorpe Award that season.

Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri, 2007: Daniel took Missouri to the No. 1 ranking entering the Big 12 Championship Game and put Missouri football on the map. He finished with 4,306 yards, 33 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in the best season ever under Gary Pinkel. He also completed 68 percent of his passes and rushed for four scores.

Michael Bishop, QB, Kansas State, 1998: Bishop carried Kansas State to an undefeated regular season before losses in the Big 12 title game and Alamo Bowl. He threw for 2,844 yards, 23 touchdowns and four interceptions, while also running for 748 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Yards to Glory: Crouch ends OU streak

August, 2, 2011
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Monday we began a week-long project looking at the most famous touchdowns from 100+ yards down to one yard, and we'll be taking a look at each of the Big 12 entrants on the blog throughout the week.

You can see the full project here.

Every year, we talk about "Heisman moments" for the award's contenders, but Nebraska's Eric Crouch had one of the greatest of all-time, which gave him college football's greatest 63-yard touchdown ever.

Oct. 27, 2001: It's known in Huskers lore as Black 41 Flash Reverse Pass, the moment that personified Eric Crouch's Heisman campaign. The Sooners know it as the play that ended their 20-game winning streak that included the national championship in 2000. Leading 13-10 midway through the fourth quarter, Crouch pitched to Thunder Collins, who handed it off to receiver Mike Stuntz, a true freshman and a former high school quarterback. Stuntz hit Crouch 40 yards downfield, and he went untouched the rest of the way for the 63-yard touchdown that provided the 20-10 final score.

-- David Ubben

Mailbag: Preseason hype, recruiting, '04 title

June, 15, 2011
6/15/11
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Thanks for all the questions, everybody. Didn't get yours answered? Try again with a more interesting one.

Jon D in Davis, Calif., asks: Other than trying to pad his legacy or résumé, I cannot believe that Tuberville is being serious about his comments and the vacated 2004 title. Auburn should be the champ? Is he nuts? Was that not the same year that Auburn had the 90th-100th toughest schedule in the country? His comments make about as much sense as that hack that runs Ohio State and spews garbage out of his mouth "little sisters of the poor." We all saw how Wisconsin and the Big 10 handled that little sister TCU.

David Ubben: I can't believe people have a problem with him campaigning for it. As a lover of college football, I'd like to see it remain vacated if for no other reason than awarding it to someone else doesn't do very much and cheapens the title for the program that gets it.

But imagine if it was your school or in Tuberville's case, your team. Criticize the nonconference schedule all you'd like, it cost them a spot in the national championship. But the Tigers still made it through the SEC undefeated, and went 13-0 with five wins against top 15 teams. That's a national championship-caliber résumé. Tuberville's campaign is futile, but that doesn't mean it's misguided. I'd probably do the same thing if I were in his shoes.

Rob in St. Peters, Mo., asks: Why is aTm getting more preseason love than Missouri? Does nobody remember the beating that the Tigers gave them @ Kyle Field last season?

DU: Here's the thing: I've realized over time that fans have a very warped perception of a team based on how it played against them the previous year.

I saw A&M play in person four times last year, and watched their entire games on a few other occasions. I'll be clear about this: That was the worst performance the Aggies had last year by a wide, wide margin. It's the same reason why all my friends from Arkansas thought they were going to roll the Aggies in 2010. I disagreed then, too.

More than anything, the lack of an experienced QB is why Texas A&M is going to be favored by the posse of prognosticators this fall. But despite Missouri's solidness just about everywhere, I'd take the Aggies at just about every position other than defensive line. They're a solid team who, in the past, has shown some problems handling hype. We'll see how it ends up in 2011. Both are good teams, but A&M is just a bit better at almost every position. That pays off. I'm in the minority in thinking Missouri is a top 20 team, but I'd say A&M is a borderline top-10 team to kick off the season.

Edward in Austin, Texas, asks: Hey Ubbs...love the blog. It seems to me that talent doesn't necessarily translate from one level to the other; a lot of (if not, a substantial portion) of the time, highly-touted HS players don't do that well at the college level. And maybe as an extension of that, players that weren't highly sought after become superstars. I guess my question is, how much stock do you put in the ESPNU 150 rankings?It also seems the same is true for the next level. To recent memory, a couple of Heisman trophy winners (Matt Leinart and Eric Crouch) flopped in the NFL. Also you look at guys like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady...who were afterthoughts in their respective drafts. Am I being overly critical? Your thoughts?

DU: I'll nitpick a bit before I answer this question and point out that Manning was the No. 1 pick in the 1998 draft, but I get your question.

Obviously, the ESPNU 150 isn't the gospel, but it's still a good indicator of future success. Guys will hit and miss, and you can pick out plenty of All-Americans or Heisman winners who weren't top-flight recruits, but a good percentage of those All-Americans and Heisman winners? They were. It's no guarantee, but get more ESPNU 150 guys, and you're liable to have a better team. The simple truth is the chances of them turning out to be stars is much higher. Sure, there's a few two and three-star guys who become big time, but there's a whole lot more who don't. I'd be interested to see the percentage of guys who become starters after being five-star recruits vs. guys who become starters out of the three and two-star group. I'd bet good money the top guys are a lot higher.

John in Stillwater, Okla., asks: Why do you think recruits are decommitting from OSU? Are there any reasons to be alarmed?

DU: I assume you're talking about LB Dalton Santos and ATH Bralon Addison, a pair of former OSU commits who were ESPNU 150 guys. Santos reopened his recruitment and Addison did so briefly before committing to Texas A&M.

They were doing something right to get them to commit in the first place.

It's no cause for alarm. Nothing happened for them to jump ship. It's different for every guy. I don't really see a trend. The larger trend is Mike Gundy being in classes that are better and better, and you've seen that with OSU's recent rise, culminating in the first 11-win season in school history last year.

You never know what exactly causes high school kids to pick or not pick a school. When they do, it's a lot of the same comments about "family," etc, but it comes down to the best fit and what each individual player wants out of his college experience. Not every guy goes to the best school he possibly can go to. You have to consider playing time, helping a program rise, family connections, etc.

OSU's recruiting is fine.

Jared in College Station, Texas, asks: With all the hoopla around A&M's recruiting class, how much of a disappointment is it that they only have a few guys on the ESPNU150? (Especially since Texas has 7)

DU: I wouldn't get too wrapped up in it. I don't get out and watch or scout high school guys, so it's tough for me to say definitively. If a top recruit is playing a game on national TV, I'll usually DVR it and kind of half watch it while I work.

But, every indication about A&M's class is that the strength is in that second group. You only see three of them in the ESPN 150, but if it was the ESPN 350, I bet you'd see a ton more.

Cal Hardage in Chelsea, Okla., asks: All the talk about ESPNU 150 makes me wonder which coaches do more with less. Sure Texas (outside of 2010) wins, but they also bring in highly rated recruits. I'm not sure how you calculate it. Number of stars per win? Wins per star? Do you use only starters, two-deep, or entire team? I'm sure you can figure out a great way for it. Thanks!

DU: Yeah, you could probably break it down over time, but from a birds-eye view, I'd say it's pretty clear Missouri does the most with the least of any team in the Big 12. They don't haul in a lot of top-flight recruits, but they've won consistently in the last six years or so under Gary Pinkel, winning a share of the North three times and playing in the Big 12 title game twice. Texas Tech is probably a close second in that group.

Both teams always seem to find a lot of great players that weren't highly recruited. Sean Weatherspoon and Danario Alexander are two great examples of guys that not a lot of schools wanted but became stars at Mizzou.

Lunch links: Missouri's moving trip

June, 8, 2011
6/08/11
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Anybody here have any dirt on Bennett and Rittenberg? Just asking...

Mailbag: Best WRs, coaches and co-champs

March, 4, 2011
3/04/11
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Thanks once again for all the questions. Lots of good ones this week. I hope you all enjoy the weekend.

Aaron in Denver, Colo., asks: DU, what are the chances that Murray gets put in a slot receiver roll in the NFL? Would he really be better as a back? Also, I already voted for him to be on the cover of EA's NCAA Football 2012!

David Ubben: I don't think we'll ever see him moved to a full-time slot receiver, but his ability as a pass-catcher certainly boosts his draft stock. If you're paying X amount for a player, you want to make sure you're getting your money's worth. Not many backs are as talented in the passing game as Murray. Wherever he ends up, it would be a mistake for that team not to give him some time in the slot. In this era of the NFL, every team is going to have more than one capable back (or at least should), and putting Murray in the slot and a second running back in the backfield is a good way to get talent on the field. Lots of NFL teams do that.

And as for your voting, I'm sure he appreciates it. It looks like he's been campaigning pretty hard on Twitter.


GTCat in Tonganoxie, Kan., asks: If you had to already pick a big 12 player as the face of NEXT year's NCAA football video game cover, who would it be? Blackmon? Bryce Brown?

DU: Interesting question. If you want to talk raw credentials and talent, Blackmon is a good call, but a big part of the game is name recognition and helping sell the game. Nick Fairley had enough press in his only year on the field to get the recognition, but the others up for consideration are two four-year starters/contributors in Murray and Jake Locker and a Heisman winner in Mark Ingram.

So from a name recognition standpoint, a four-year player from a perennial power like Ryan Broyles at Oklahoma would probably be a good call.


Joe in Denver, Colo. asks: Brandon Weeden posted a picture of his Big 12 South Championship ring on Twitter this week. What are your thoughts on co-champions or even claiming division championships?

DU: I don't have a problem with what Weeden did, or others who showcase the hardware the conference gives out, but I hate that the conference gives out hardware to everyone with a share of the division title. This isn't junior high where there aren't any tiebreakers and everybody is a co-regional district area neighborhood champion. I watched a Big 12 championship game with two teams in it this year.

And by handing out the trophies, which sure, players earned, you put schools in awkward positions. If a school proclaims itself a division champion when it didn't play in the title game, they're going to catch flack from opposing fans and programs and have a mild PR problem. That's just the way it's going to be.

If they don't acknowledge or celebrate it, it's a bit of a slap in the face to both the conference and the players who helped earn the trophies and rings. It's nice for programs and players to be given recognition for their efforts during the year, but are you aware that the Big 12 handed out FIVE divisional champion trophies for football this year? Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M all got them. That's absurd.

So please, Big 12: Next year, just hand out one set of rings and one trophy for the team at the top of the heap.


Tyler in Eden Prairie, Minn. writes: What a dirty trick, Ubben. Well played, sir. Well played.

- All of Nebraska

DU: Just keeping the Huskers on their toes.


Hob Howell in Waco, Texas, asks: I believe that Robert Griffin III remains the key ingredient in the Bears hopes for more wins next season. However, the Bears return all 5 of their top recievers, and two of them have a chance at All-Conference seasons (Kendall Wright and Josh Gordon). Their depth at WR impresses me; do you think this could be one of the most explosive and talented WR corps in the conference, if not the nation?

DU: I definitely agree that Wright and Gordon have a great chance to be All-Big 12 players next season, but Baylor's receivers on the whole aren't quite on the level with what Texas A&M, Oklahoma State or Oklahoma will be putting on the field this year.


Nick in NE asks: David, Just a little heads-up that Eric Crouch of Nebraska was featured on a cover for a 2002 NCAA Football game. I believe it was the one by 2K Sports. All I remember is my wife had that game for her GameCube when I met her in college.

DU: A different game franchise, but good to know. She sounds like a keeper, by the way.


Gerry in Columbia, Mo., asks: With all the hype Blaine Gabbert has gotten heading into the NFL Draft, the big question everyone seems to be asking is how Missouri will replace him. I find it interesting that no one wants to talk about how Missouri will replace their five departing starters on defense, including three of four defensive backs. People forget that it was Missouri's 6th-ranked scoring defense that carried the team this year, rather than the offense, as is usually the case. Anyway, just wanted to know how you see Missouri's defense shaping up over the course of the spring.

DU: They may have some trouble, but I look at what Missouri did last year with so many injuries already in the secondary and at linebacker. I don't think you can say enough about what defensive coordinator Dave Steckel did to get those guys ready despite a revolving door at the second line of the defense especially. The Tigers even played without a likely first-round pick in DE Aldon Smith for a good percentage of the year, and when he returned, he wasn't quite himself.

Steckel's an experienced coach, but this is only this third year as a coordinator at the major college level, and in my opinion, he's already established himself as one of the best coordinators in the league. Last year was really, really impressive, and outside of Brent Venables and Tim DeRuyter, I'm not sure anyone's done a better job than Steckel as a defensive coordinator, shoring up a defense that had historically been a weakness for the Tigers. He'll get a big test this year, but like Missouri's offense did with Chase Daniel at quarterback, big picture, the defense turned a corner in 2010.


Baron in Lubbock, Texas, asks: DU, I'm sure you've had a chance to make it to every big 12 stadium this past season. Rank the best gameday atmospheres based on your experiences. Thanks!

DU: I get asked that a lot, but I've got you covered.


Jimmy in Haysville, Kan., asks: So, do you think if Norman was as "loud" as Nebraska or Texas A&M, OU could lose as many games at home as those teams do? I'm sure both of those teams would trade their loud crowds for OU's home record any day of the week.

DU: This came up in our chat this week, but here's the fact of the matter: It's not like Owen Field is a peaceful oasis on game day, but it's not Death Valley either. Could, just maybe, Oklahoma's record at home compared to the Aggies and Huskers have more to do with the fact that the Sooners have been a whole lot better than Texas A&M and Nebraska over the last decade?

Any Oklahoma fan with a shred of self-awareness would willingly admit that the Sooners' remarkable current winning streak at home (36 games) and record under Bob Stoops (72-2) has a lot more to do with the teams Stoops is fielding every year than the fans making it a wholly intimidating atmosphere for opposing teams. They'll get up for big games like Texas Tech in 2008, but the atmosphere for pedestrian conference games like Colorado or Kansas State isn't anywhere close to where it can be. With the exception of this year against Florida State, when fans really sensed the winning streak could be on the line, they don't provide an elite atmosphere consistently. When they do, like in the Florida State and Tech games, the team responds. Clearly.

Nebraska's all-decade team

January, 20, 2010
1/20/10
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It was an eventful decade at Nebraska where two abrupt coaching changes took place after having only one – and no firings of head coaches – in the previous 38 seasons.

All of the Cornhuskers’ coaches experienced success in their own way over the decade. With Bill Callahan and Bo Pelini, Nebraska was the only Big 12 school to make championship game appearances in the 2000’s with different coaches. And Frank Solich, the Cornhuskers’ first coach of the decade, took them to a national championship game in 2001.

In 2001 Eric Crouch claimed the first of the Big 12’s three Heisman trophies in the decade. And Ndamukong Suh had a great case for one in 2009.

Pelini has the Cornhuskers pointed in the right direction after only two seasons. But here are my choices for the Cornhuskers' best players and brightest moments.

OFFENSE

QB: Eric Crouch

RB: Correll Buckhalter

RB: Cory Ross

WR: Nate Swift

WR: Maurice Purify

TE: Tracey Wistrom

OL: Russ Hochstein

OL: Toniu Fonoti

OL: Richie Incognito

OL: Matt Slauson

C: Dominic Raiola

DEFENSE

DL: Adam Carriker

DL: Ndamukong Suh

DL: Jared Crick

DL: Kyle Vanden Bosch

LB: Carlos Polk

LB: Demorrio Williams

LB: Barrett Ruud

DB: Keyuo Craver

DB: Josh Bullocks

DB: Prince Amukamara

DB: Daniel Bullocks

P: Kyle Larson

K: Alex Henery

Ret: DeJuan Groce

Offensive player of the decade: QB Eric Crouch. Received playing time early in his career as a receiver, but eventually became the most athletic quarterback to win the Heisman this decade. He finished as Nebraska’s career leader in total offense and total offense touchdowns.

Defensive player of the decade: DT Ndamukong Suh. His unique blend of athleticism gave him a skill set unlike those for many defensive tackles. Before his career was finished, Suh left with a legitimate claim as the greatest Blackshirt in history.

Coach of the decade: Bo Pelini. All three Nebraska coaches experienced success in different ways. Pelini gets the nod for his 20-8 record as a head coach and three bowl victories, including one as interim coach in 2003.

Moment of the decade: Eric Crouch’s throwback pass reception in 2001. Not only did Mike Stuntz’ 63-yard touchdown pass to Crouch wrap up a huge 20-10 victory over No. 2 Oklahoma, but it also provided a highlight that helped catapult Crouch to the Heisman Trophy.

Big 12 mailbag: Will Blackshirts be good in 2010 again?

January, 19, 2010
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I received a slew of comments about some of my early choices for my All-Decade teams across the conference. Hopefully, that will prove as popular during the rest of the week for the rest of the Big 12 teams as they are released.

Here's a representative example of some of the other missives I've received over the last few days.

Mike Heuertz of Iowa writes: Tim, even with Ndamukong Suh leaving Nebraska, as well as a couple other key defensive players, do you think the Blackshirts will be better next season? And what do you think Nebraska's record will be?

Tim Griffin: I talked with several Nebraska fans during my swing through the state last week who seemed almost giddy about the Cornhuskers’ chances next season.

That being said, the loss of Suh will be huge. I think he can be considered the arguably greatest defensive player in the history of the program. The Cornhuskers also will lose Barry Turner, Phillip Dillard, Larry Asante and the heart, grit and talent provided by Matt O’Hanlon.

Now I can see players like Prince Amukamara, Will Compton, Sean Fisher and Jared Crick getting a lot better gaining experience playing Bo Pelini’s defense. But it might be a little wishful thinking to hope for much improvement from this season -- considering the Cornhuskers’ big defensive personnel losses.

As far as their record, I would expect them to be one of the powers of the Big 12. They have a tricky game at Washington which will earn them a lot of national notoriety if they can win. Texas will be coming to Lincoln, as will Colorado and Missouri. A road game at Oklahoma State doesn’t look as daunting as it could be with the Cowboys breaking in a new quarterback. But an underrated challenge for the Cornhuskers might wait at Texas A&M with Jerrod Johnson and all of A&M’s strong returning offensive weapons back for next season.

Looking at that schedule, I’ll pick the Cornhuskers to go 10-2 and finish as the Big 12 North champion. Considering their returning talent and their schedule, I think that’s a relatively conservative pick.

But as far as next year's team being better than the 2009 version of the Blackshirts, that might be wishing for a little bit much -- even for the Pelinis.


Chris Henson from Salt Lake City, Utah, writes: Tim, a quick addition to the Texas A&M-Oklahoma State tidbit. The Red, White, and Blue Out in 2001 was organized by a group of students first and foremost as a fundraiser for the victims of 9/11. I appreciate you noting this event as it really shows what Texas A&M is all about.

Tim Griffin: Chris, thanks for the clarification. Like you wrote, it was truly an emotional event. There’s a picture of the stadium that is still hung in the press box at Kyle Field of the stadium bedecked for that game. It still gives me goose bumps when I see it.


Travis from Seattle writes: Tim, the players of the decade category has created quite a stir, with many saying, "...well how could X player be off the list." For the most part I agree with your list if you look at it being, who were great players, AND who did the most to influence their team's success, (thus why Graham Harrell is off, being a plug-and-play quarterback in that system although he did do a fine job).

But I propose a different category. Who were the best ATHLETES of the decade? And how about the best competitors, the ones who did everything to try to win. What are your thoughts?

Tim Griffin: You raise a good point about my list earlier being an all-around grouping of all qualities. As far as the best athletes of the decade in the Big 12 from the last decade, in no specific order I would include Ndamukong Suh, Eric Crouch, Robert Griffin, Chris Brown, Vince Young, Seneca Wallace, Dez Bryant, Dezmon Briscoe, Darren Sproles, Danario Alexander (before and after his injury), Brad Smith, Jeremy Maclin, Adrian Peterson, Brian Orakpo, Michael Huff, Earl Thomas, Reggie McNeal, Robert Ferguson, Sammy Davis and Michael Crabtree.

And among the top competitors I’ve seen include Stephen McGee, Crabtree, Colt McCoy, Roy Miller, Joe Pawelek, Jordan Lake, George Hypolite, Todd Reesing, Chase Daniel, Sean Weatherspoon, Matt O’Hanlon, Suh, Josh Fields, Brian Iwuh, Darrell Stuckey, Steven Sheffield, Wes Welker and Kliff Kingsbury. There are many others, but those are just some of the names that come to me off the top of my head. And the fact that Suh and Crabtree made both of those lists is pretty indicative of how exceptional they really were.


Fred Dodge of Annapolis, Md., writes: Tim, in reference to your top 10 jobs in college football. You have a good list, BUT the one caveat that I think goes with this list or any list is context. Most of these are still the "right-guy-for-the-right-place" jobs -- as are coaches. Being a Husker, I lean toward Bo Pelini and Nebraska as my first examples. Bo would not be a good fit for many of these jobs...I just can't see Bo fitting at USC or Florida for example; but I also can't see Lane Kiffin or Pete Carroll being successful in Lincoln. And in my opinion there are only a few guys who can shape a program around their personality. Nick Saban could coach anywhere, Urban Meyer probably could, and Jim Tressel could in most places. But I have a difficult time seeing Mack Brown outside the southeast or southwest and Bo Pelini outside the midwest. All of these guys could still coach, but I think they would struggle in fan support -- and so they would also in recruiting.

Tim Griffin: You make an interesting point, although I think that Pelini would work in more places than you might suspect. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool football coach and would succeed at most traditional powers, although I think his style best suits him at Nebraska. But I could see him being successful in the Southeastern Conference, in the Big Ten or even at Notre Dame. Anywhere they have a deep appreciation for football, I can see Pelini working out.

I think coaches like Bob Stoops, Saban, Meyer and Tressel would work most places. I also think you might include some underrated coaches out there like Mike Riley of Oregon State, Gary Patterson of TCU, Jeff Tedford of California and Chris Peterson of Boise State would be adaptable at almost any job in the country. But it does seem that the smart coaches are the ones who pick places where they are comfortable and have the best chance for success.


Kyle Zander of Fort Hood, Texas, writes: Will Chris Whaley and Desean Hales get playing time for Texas in 2010? I played against Hales in high school and the kid is the real deal, Texas needs to get him involved as soon as possible. And Whaley could help, too.

Tim Griffin: Texas needs to find some help for its running game. Whaley was hurt when he reported to practice last summer and never regained his form. If he’s willing to rededicate himself, there likely is a chance for him to earn some playing time this spring. He needs to have a big spring to get there.

Sales is in a similar situation. The Longhorns have wide receiving talent in players like senior-to-be John Chiles and James Kirkendoll. Malcolm Williams is a big strong receiver who will emerge in coming seasons and should be the team’s featured receiver in 2010. But there are catches – plenty of them -- available for Hales if he can force himself into the mix.


Brett Stamm from Keller, Texas, writes: Tim, love the blog! Keep up the good work! Has Mike Sherman, or will Mike Sherman, or why will Mike Sherman not, consider Dat Nguyen for defensive coordinator? Talk about a guy who has done an outstanding job in his current position and would bring some instant credibility with players and recruits in a program that has pretty much let a proud defensive tradition die with questionable and mediocre hires. This is a guy who was the face of and exemplified the "Wrecking Crew" tradition for four years! Your thoughts?

Tim Griffin: Brett, Dat Nguyen has been a key member of Wade Phillips’ staff as an assistant linebacker coach and defensive quality control assistant with the Dallas Cowboys. But I would suspect that Sherman probably would like for Nguyen to have a little more seasoning and experience calling defenses before he would give him the responsibility of serving as the Aggies’ defensive coordinator.

In a way, Nguyen reminds me a little of Major Applewhite as they develop in their coaching careers. It won’t surprise me if both become successful coordinators and eventually outstanding head coaches. But they need more experience to get there.

Nguyen seems like a natural to join the A&M coaching staff in the future. But I think it might be a stretch to see him as the Aggies’ defensive coordinator at this stage of his career.

That’s all the time I have for today. Thanks again for all of the good questions and keep the letters and e-mails coming. I’ll check back again on Friday.

Big 12 moments of the decade

January, 19, 2010
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An array of memorable moments from the past decade in the Big 12 still resonate. Here are some of the most unforgettable to me.

  • 1. Vince Young's game-winning touchdown in the 2006 Rose Bowl: Anyone who was there or saw it will never forget Young's 8-yard touchdown run with 19 seconds left that led Texas to a 41-38 triumph over USC and the 2005 national championship.
  • 2. Michael Crabtree's last-second grab stuns Texas: Crabtree's game-winning 28-yard catch with one second left did more than merely wrap up the biggest victory in Texas Tech history, a 39-33 win over Texas. It heralded a national coming-out party for Crabtree and the rest of the Tech program, setting the stage for the wild three-way South Division tie in 2008.
  • 3. Superman's leap: Roy Williams' dramatic blitz forced Chris Simms to throw an interception to Teddy Lehman, who returned it for the game-winning touchdown in Oklahoma's 14-3 triumph over Texas in 2001.
  • 4. Torrance Marshall's theft saves the season: Texas A&M was driving, but Marshall's 41-yard fourth-quarter interception return provided a game-winning touchdown and a 35-31 triumph over the Aggies at Kyle Field. The big play preserved Oklahoma's victory in the Sooners' toughest challenge en route to the 2000 national championship.
  • 5. Eric Crouch's catch cements Heisman bid, beats Oklahoma: Crouch's 63-yard TD reception on a throwback pass from freshman receiver Mike Stuntz was Crouch's signature moment on his path to the 2001 Heisman Trophy and sparked a 20-10 triumph over Oklahoma.
  • 6. Darren Sproles sparks Kansas State's stunning 2003 Big 12 title game upset: Darren Sproles rushed for 235 yards -- the most gained against an Oklahoma defense ever to that point -- and Ell Roberson added four touchdown passes to help Kansas State claim its first Big 12 title in a 35-7 upset over No. 1 Oklahoma.
  • 7. Hunter Lawrence's kick pushes Texas into national title game: Despite a sputtering performance by Colt McCoy that included nine sacks and three interceptions, Texas held on for a 13-12 victory over Nebraska in the 2009 title game on a 46-yard field goal by Hunter Lawrence on the final play of the game. Lawrence's game-winning kick came only after McCoy nearly squandered the opportunity by throwing the ball out of bounds on the previous play as the clock originally appeared to have expired. Officials put time back on the clock, setting the stage for Lawrence's heroics.
  • 8. Chris Brown gashes the Cornhuskers: Colorado running back Chris Brown ripped Nebraska for 198 yards and six touchdowns, boosting the Buffaloes to a wild 62-36 victory over Nebraska that snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Cornhuskers. Brown's big game sent the Buffaloes to the 2001 Big 12 title game, which they won the following week against Texas.
  • 9. Postgame clash of the titans: Oklahoma State's 49-45 victory over Texas Tech in 2007 produced one of the most memorable games in Big 12 history. The teams compiled 94 points, 62 first downs and 1,328 yards. But all of the action on the field was upstaged in a wild postgame battle of soundbites when Mike Leach questioned the toughness of his defense and Mike Gundy berated an Oklahoma City columnist who he felt had unfairly portrayed quarterback Bobby Reid.
  • 10. Kyle Field's nod to patriotism: Texas A&M's 21-7 victory over Oklahoma State wasn't what was so memorable. It was that the Aggies fans decked out Kyle Field in red, white and blue in the first game after the 9/11 attacks on the country in 2001. Thousands of fans transformed the old stadium into a patriotic rainbow in a memory that endures to this day.

Vince Young is top Big 12 star of decade

January, 19, 2010
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The Big 12 has had more top three finishers in the Heisman Trophy voting in the last decade than any conference.

And although the Big 12 had three Heisman winners during that time, the three most memorable players of the decade didn’t claim college football’s top individual award.

Here's a look at the top 10 players of the last decade in the Big 12.

Vince Young
Chris Carlson/AP PhotoVince Young finished with a 30-2 record, 6,040 passing yards and 3,127 rushing yards.
1. Vince Young, Texas: Transcendent talent who capped his career by scoring the game-winning touchdown to lead his team to the national championship. Finished his career with a 30-2 record, 6,040 passing yards and 3,127 rushing yards.

2. Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma: Likely would have had a chance for a Heisman if he had stayed for a senior season or not had his junior season marred by injuries. Still finished with 4,045 yards to finish within 73 yards within Billy Sims’ school career record.

3. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska: Destined to go down in history as the greatest Blackshirt of all time. Capped his career by winning the Lombardi, Bednarik and Nagurski Awards, finished fourth in the Heisman and became the first defensive player to win the Associated Press’ player of the year.

4. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma: First quarterback to direct his team to back-to-back Big 12 titles, capped by winning the Heisman Trophy as a redshirt sophomore in 2008. Injured early in his junior season, he still finished his college career with 88 touchdown passes against 16 interceptions.

5. Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech: Claimed back-to-back Biletnikoff awards as the most dominant and productive receiver of his era. Won the award in his second season despite being hobbled by a sprained ankle that limited his productivity.

6. Roy Williams, Oklahoma: Dominant and productive safety who was so good that Bob Stoops created a position, “the Roy,” to showcase his talents. Claimed the Nagurski and Thorpe Awards and was a unanimous All-American in his final college season.

7. Derrick Johnson, Texas: Two-time All-American earned the Butkus and Nagurski Awards in his senior season, capping a career as one of the most illustrious defensive players in Texas history.

8. Eric Crouch, Nebraska: Multi-talented runner/passer cemented his Heisman Trophy in 2001 with his pass-catching abilities against Oklahoma. That big effort helped catapult the Cornhuskers into the national championship game as a senior. Finished his career as the leading rusher quarterback and leader in total offense in Nebraska history.

9. Jason White, Oklahoma: Surrounded by a bevy of top talent, led the Sooners to the national championship game in back to back seasons and claimed the Heisman Trophy Award as a junior in 2003. Claimed back-to-back Davey O’Brien Awards, finishing his career with 8,012 passing yards and 81 touchdowns.

10. Colt McCoy, Texas: The winningest quarterback in college football history, finishing his career with an NCAA record 45 wins. He finished with virtually every passing record in school history winning the Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year, Maxwell Award, Davey O’Brien Award, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm and Manning Award in a hard-luck senior season capped by an injury that didn’t allow him to complete the national championship game.

Big 12 flourishes during its first full decade

January, 18, 2010
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The Big 12 fulfilled its promise and then some during the most recent decade.

Two national championships and five other trips to the BCS title game proved that the conference had earned its rightful position among the nation’s best in its first full decade of play.

How its teams did it was most interesting. The conference was transformed from its run-heavy roots from the Big Eight and Southwest conference beginnings into a cutting-edge passing league where high-powered aerial attacks captured the nation’s attention.

Young
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireVince Young led Texas to a national championship.
In 2000, the Big 12 had only five teams ranked among the top 54 teams in passing and none higher than 11th. By 2008, the conference had five teams ranked among the top eight passing teams in the nation and 10 among the nation’s top 38.

Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach deserves much of the credit for transforming the Big 12 from a ground-based conference to one where passing predominated. Leach helped convert Oklahoma when he arrived in 1999 as Bob Stoops’ offensive coordinator into the upcoming decade. After a season there, Leach continued his offensive mastery at Texas Tech, where he led the Red Raiders to a bowl game in every season of the decade before he was fired after the 2009 regular season.

That cost him a chance to become a coach who made it through his job during the entire decade. Only Stoops and Texas' Mack Brown remained at their jobs during the aughts -- understandable because of the enviable national programs both developed during the decade.

Stoops claimed six Big 12 titles and Brown won two championships to help account for a title tilt to the South Division as the decade progressed. In the first eight seasons of the conference, the Big 12 alternated between the South and North Division in titles. But since 2004, the Big 12’s title has been won by the South Division champion in every season.

The South has dominated in cross-division games, notching a 13-5 record in the most recent regular season. That continued a trend that has seen the South win the seasonal series against the North in seven of the last eight seasons.

Some of that has been because of the turnover at North programs. Nebraska went from playing for a national championship in 2001 under Frank Solich to seeing the former Cornhusker legend fired less than two seasons later. The Bill Callahan era represented a step backward from that, but Bo Pelini has the Cornhuskers pointed back to national prominence after only two seasons.

Colorado claimed four North titles in a five-season span, but let Gary Barnett go after the last of those championship-game losses. The Buffaloes haven’t been back to the title game since.

And Bill Snyder, the last North coach to win a Big 12 championship, returned to prowl the sideline at Kansas State last season, restarting his career after a three-season sabbatical.

The conference’s star power was best shown in 2008 when Sam Bradford claimed the Heisman Trophy and the conference produced an unprecedented four of the top five Heisman finishers that season. Bradford was one of three Big 12 Heisman winners during the decade joining Eric Crouch in 2001 and Jason White in 2003.

The Big 12’s transition to an offensive juggernaut has helped capture the attention of the NFL. The conference notched a record seven first-round picks in the 2009 draft and likely will produce even more in the upcoming draft.

Kevin Weiberg resigned in 2007 to assume a position helping start the Big Ten’s cable television network. He was replaced by assistant Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, who immediately inherited the challenge of trying to unify a conference where an uneven revenue sharing plan has been a point of controversy since the conference began. It remains the conference’s biggest trigger point -- as it has since the creation of the conference.

The conference has fallen behind the Southeastern Conference and the Big Ten in its national exposure, lagging behind those conferences as they have settled their immediate television concerns.

That proposition will be Beebe’s biggest upcoming challenge into the current decade. A quick and equitable resolution will be a key factor in the Big 12’s potential for growth in upcoming years.

Big 12 mailbag: Stoops, Brown seem set for now

December, 29, 2009
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We're getting ready for more bowl games tomorrow night involving Big 12 teams.

But we can't start them unless we sift through our mailbag for some of the weekend's better letters.

Jason from Wichita, Kan., writes: Hey Tim, I love the blog...it has become my primary source of Big 12 football information. I was wondering your thoughts as to why every time a major coaching position in college or NFL positions come open, Bob Stoops is inevitably listed as the number one candidate and Mack Brown is never mentioned. Is this because most of the college football world (fans and the media) view Texas as more of a destination job than Oklahoma? With both receiving comparable pay, the only other difference I see is their ages.

Tim Griffin: Jason, first thanks for the compliment. I’ve always been interested in how Stoops seems to be mentioned or portrayed as the more desirable coach as far as other openings, while Brown seems to be permanently affixed to Texas. The point you made about their ages is a good point. Brown is 58 and Stoops is 49. Most would assume that Stoops has at least one more move after never serving as a head coach at another school. Brown has done it before at places like Appalachian State, Tulane and North Carolina before arriving at Texas.

The last time I can remember Brown being mentioned in connection with a job came when his good friend Red McCombs was looking for a head coach of the Minnesota Vikings after the 2001 season. McCombs instead hired Mike Tice at that time and sold the team to Zygi Wilf and five partners in 2005.

The point you made about both Texas and Oklahoma being destination college football jobs is correct. I would include both in the top six or seven jobs in college football -- particularly with the strong support that they receive from Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione.

I think it would take a special job to get either Stoops or Brown to leave their current jobs. And this will give us a chance to savor their rivalry in the Big 12 for at least another few years.




Alex Headington from Iowa writes: Tim, the Big 12 North loses a lot of talent next season. Do you see Iowa State competing for the North title?

Tim Griffin: Even with the Cyclones’ improvement and bowl bid this season, their schedule gets much tougher in 2010. ISU trades Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M for Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Toss in non-conference foes like Northern Illinois and Utah and the Cyclones will be facing a rugged challenge.

Even with the return of players like Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson and a second season becoming familiar with Paul Rhoads' coaching style, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Cyclones with a better team in 2010 and a worse record.



Brett Cooper from Piedmont, Okla., writes: Hey, Tim. I’m wondering if you are reporting the Big 12 or promoting the SEC with that statistic you dredged up about the SEC’s 10-3 record over the Big 12 in the bowls?

Tim Griffin: Brett, you can’t alibi your way around facts. And the fact is that the Big 12 has struggled mightily against SEC teams since 2003 with 3-10 record.

The Big 12 started slowly Monday night when Texas A&M enabled Georgia to score 30 unanswered points to cruise to an easy victory.

It will be up to Oklahoma State and Texas to claim upsets to give the Big 12 some bragging rights, or else the SEC will boat race them again in this season's bowl games.

It’s been that way since 1997 – the last time the Big 12 had a winning bowl record over the SEC. The only way the Big 12 can claim superiority is to win on the field, which is something its teams have had trouble accomplishing in the last few seasons against the SEC.



James from Dallas/Fort Worth writes: Hey Tim, quick question about the Independence Bowl - what was ever the final reasoning on why it was right for A&M to have not gotten time back after the spike at the end of the first half when ESPN2 clearly showed 0.5 of a second left? It may not have been a game-changer, but it certainly changed the mood and morale of the team after they were sure they had gotten themselves in field goal range in time. Officials reviewed the Colt McCoy time issue at the end of the Nebraska game. Why couldn’t they fix this one?

Tim Griffin: James, I have no real answer for you. The only differences I could see was that the Texas play ended a game and the Texas A&M play ended a half. Also, there was less than a second left, 0.3 seconds I believe.

The chance not to stop the clock happened when Ryan Tannehill battled for extra yardage after making the catch with nine seconds left. He should have gone down and allowed Jerrod Johnson to make a quick spike which would have left a couple of seconds on the clock. I think the Mountain West Conference crew might have given them the call in that situation. Instead, after Tannehill’s catch, the ball was respotted and the clock started immediately without giving the Aggies at least a half-second to re-set.

In the grand scheme of things, the play didn’t really matter that much. But it would have given A&M a shot of momentum to start the second half. And we don't really know how the game would have turned out if the Aggies had gotten the call there.

Justin Kalemkiarian of Minneapolis, Minn., writes: In preparation for the Holiday Bowl, plus being on my "lunch break,” I was a bit curious about Roy Helu Jr.'s statistics. According to ESPN, Helu has rushed for 2,151 yards through this year's Big 12 Championship game. In the pantheon of Husker running backs that puts him at no. 22 all-time, right between Tony Davis and Steve Taylor. With a 100-yard game he would vault into 17th place and pass such heroes as Doug DuBose and Jeff Kinney. If he were to rush for another 1,000 yards in his career he would end up at fifth all-time, just 2 yards behind Calvin Jones for fourth place. This blows my mind!

I think most people would be hard-pressed to name Nebraska's starting running back and would be even more shocked to find out that he has a legitimate shot at ending his career as the no. 3 rusher in the team's history (he needs 1,284 yards to pass Eric Crouch)! What are your thoughts on Helu's place among Cornhusker greats?

Tim Griffin: It’s hard to argue with statistics, although Helu does get a break because would have played in four seasons and basically started for about 3 ˝ of those seasons. But it does underscore the kind of numbers he has racked up during his career.

But considering the aggravating injuries that occurred at times in each of the last two seasons, it might be a big presumption to think that Helu will automatically be able to play through next season.

He’ll be an important element for the Cornhuskers – in Wednesday’s bowl game and into next season after Bo Pelini has hinted about moving to a more basic offensive attack.

And if he stays healthy and productive, Helu will go down in history as one of the greatest running backs in Nebraska’s storied history along with immortals like Mike Rozier, Ahman Green, Jones, Ken Clark and I.M. Hipp who rank as Nebraska's top five running back rushers of all time. All five of those players compiled their career totals in only three of playing time.

That's all the time for today. Keep the letters coming and I'll check back later this week.

Thanks again for all of the good correspondence.

I appreciate it.

Could Heisman slump be coming for Big 12?

December, 18, 2009
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The Big 12 has carved an enviable niche in Heisman Trophy balloting in its short history.

With Colt McCoy's third-place finish and Ndamukong Suh's fourth-place finish last week, the Big 12 has had a top-five finisher in 11 of its 14 seasons of existence.

Included in that mark are winners like Ricky Williams in 1998, Eric Crouch in 2001, Jason White in 2003 and Sam Bradford last season. Additionally, the conference has had six players who finished second and two others who were third.

Despite that history, the early prognosis doesn't look good for duplication by the Big 12 in 2010.

ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman has no Big 12 players among his 10 early Heisman favorites list, which is topped by Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State and Kellen Moore of Boise State. Among the players who barely missed his cut are Baylor's Robert Griffin and Texas A&M's Jerrod Johnson.

And the Heisman Pundit lists only two Big 12 players on its list of 17 early Heisman favorites (Johnson and Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray).

It looks like a bleak early season for the Big 12 in 2010 from a starpower standpoint. The conference will need someone to emerge to turn that around.

A candidate who wasn't listed but might be able to surprise is Missouri's Blaine Gabbert. Keep an eye on him.

Big 12 has had four Heisman winners

December, 11, 2009
12/11/09
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Colt McCoy and Ndamukong Suh are en route to New York City this morning. Both will be part of the Heisman Trophy activities Saturday night.

The Big 12 has featured four winners during its brief history: Ricky Williams of Texas (1998), Eric Crouch of Nebraska (2001), Jason White of Oklahoma (2003) and Sam Bradford of Oklahoma (2008).

The conference also has been involved in two of the three one-two finishes by a conference during that period.

Williams and Kansas State's Michael Bishop in 1998 and Bradford and McCoy account for two of the three instances that a specific conference had the first- and second-place finishers. The only other time it happened during that period was Tim Tebow of Florida and Darren McFadden of Arkansas in 2007.

Here's a look at how Big 12 players have placed since the conference was formed.

1996: Winner, Florida QB Danny Wuerffel; Iowa State RB Troy Davis, second; Texas Tech RB Byron Hanspard, sixth.

1997: Winner, Michigan DB/WR/KR Charles Woodson; Texas RB Ricky Williams, fifth.

1998: Winner, Texas RB Ricky Williams; Kansas State QB Michael Bishop, second.

1999: Winner, Wisconsin RB Ron Dayne; no Big 12 players among top 10 finishers.

2000: Winner, Florida State QB Chris Weinke; Oklahoma QB Josh Heupel, second.

2001: Winner, Nebraska QB Eric Crouch; Oklahoma S Roy Williams, seventh.

2002: Winner, USC QB Carson Palmer; Colorado RB Chris Brown, eighth; Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury, ninth; Oklahoma RB Quentin Griffin, 10th.

2003: Winner, Oklahoma QB Jason White; Kansas State RB Darren Sproles, fifth; Texas Tech QB B.J. Symons, 10th.

2004: Winner, USC QB Matt Leinart; Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson, second; Oklahoma QB Jason White, third; Texas RB Cedric Benson, sixth.

2005: Winner, USC RB Reggie Bush; Texas QB Vince Young, second.

2006: Winner, Ohio State QB Troy Smith; no Big 12 players among top 10 finishers.

2007: Winner, Florida QB Tim Tebow; Missouri QB Chase Daniel, fourth.

2008: Winner, Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford; Texas QB Colt McCoy, second; Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell, fourth; Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree, fifth.

Who knows? Maybe McCoy or Suh will become the fifth Big 12 Heisman winner.

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