Big 12: Eric Hagg

What a difference a play makes

July, 27, 2011
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DALLAS -- One play could have changed the entire Big 12 landscape in 2010. Iowa State took a Taylor Martinez-less Nebraska team into overtime and scored what looked like a game-tying touchdown … until the Cyclones faked the extra point.

Paul Rhoads
Kevin Jairaj/US PresswirePaul Rhoads and Iowa State were a play away from making noise in 2010.
Reserve punter Daniel Kuehl had a wide-open Collin Franklin, the Cyclones' leading receiver, in the back of the end zone, but short-armed the pass on a wind-swept November day in Ames, allowing Nebraska's Eric Hagg to come down with a game-clinching interception.

"It's a call that I relive and a play I relive every week," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. "There's not a week that goes by that I don't think about the play and what it could have created for our football team and our football program."

And not just for the Cyclones, who would have been bowl-eligible with the win. It also would have put Iowa State in the Big 12 North Division drivers' seat and sent Nebraska to the Big Ten without so much as a share of the Big 12 North title. Instead, Missouri would have represented the conference against Oklahoma.

Rhoads, though, has repeatedly emphasized he'd do it all over again.

"And as the game went along, it was a play I studied and certainly was there," he said. "That's the name of the game, when it's a play like that, the final play of a game or the first play of the game, you have to execute to be successful."

Iowa State was playing with a limping quarterback, a limping top receiver and a center in Ben Lamaak who left the game twice with an injury. One play was the best way to decide it.

The Cyclones lost a game on that day, but Rhoads, perhaps the Big 12's most underrated coach, earned a whole new legion of fans with the gutsy call gone wrong.

"The fallout was positive," Rhoads said. "If anything, from players to fans to most people I talked to they thought it was a right call -- gutsy call, but the right call -- and would have given us an opportunity to really springboard our program, I feel."

Mailbag: Big 12/UT Networks, best '11 games

June, 17, 2011
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Good set of questions this week. Nice work, folks. Still time to make your presence known in the next one.

Justin in Forney, Texas asked: DU, Can you expound on your thoughts behind every school in the Big 12 having a network like Texas? Texas has a 14 billion dollar revenue, system wide. A&M, OU and Missouri could possibly have a network. I don't see your Iowa States and K States having a network. Maybe I'm wrong. Your thoughts?

David Ubben: I got a couple emails on this when I said last week I expected "the other nine teams in the Big 12 to form their own network."

Not nine separate networks, though. I meant one new Big 12 Network eventually, so they can reap the benefits of those third-tier rights without having to shoulder the start-up and operation costs, or trying to chase down a partner to make sure the network gets on a cable package.

Oklahoma is the only school that's seriously talked about forming their own network, but they seem to be doing a lot of backtracking since starting up the conversation last summer and saying they wanted to have their own network within a year or so.

I'm not sure I ever see Oklahoma making it happen. My guess is they take the safer route and package their rights along with the rest of the Big 12 for one big network with the remaining nine teams other than Texas.


T.R. in Montgomery, Texas asked: Any truth to the A&M vs SMU move to Sunday rumors? Will the NFL CBA talks factor in to the potential move? I am a firm believer that High School football was made for Friday, College football for Saturday, and NFL for Sunday. What are your thoughts?

DU: If by rumors you mean an official announcement, then yes, there's something to them. That's done. The NFL doesn't have anything to do with it. College football always starts a week earlier, and usually puts a couple games on Sunday the first weekend. Last year, Texas Tech hosted SMU. That was actually the first game I went to last season.

I like the Sunday opener. It gave me -- and fans of the team -- a chance to sit back on Saturday and watch the opening weekend of games before heading out to a stadium the next day. Plus, SMU is a pretty good team. A&M won't lose, but that's hardly a laugher opponent.


Colin in San Diego, Calif. asked: Hey Ubbs, not a Big 12 fan, but I like to use the mailbag columns as a way to keep up with what the fans of the other schools/conferences are wondering.My question for you, if I were to take a road trip out to catch a Big 12 game, which game (this year) would be worth the gas money? Excluding the Oklahoma-Texas game of course, which I think is clear number one because I could go to the Texas State Fair too.

DU: Yeah, the State Fair of Texas on Red River Saturday should be any casual college football fan's first stop in the Big 12. But this year, you ought to head down to College Station for the Sept. 24 game against Oklahoma State.

One, that should be one of the top three games in the Big 12 all year.

Two, you'll get an in-person introduction to the insanity that is all the absurdly complex Aggie Yells.

That's probably going to be a night game, so I'd recommend you sneak into Yell Practice at Kyle Field at midnight the night before the game. Nothing else in college football like 20-30,000 fans coming out to stadium the night before a game for the most unique pep rally you'll ever see.


Tom in Iowa asked: Is Gene Chizik still the most hated man in Ames Iowa?

DU: He's probably up there. The players really felt betrayed when he left, and rightfully so. In the same breath, you can't blame Chizik for leaving. The price of going, as I'm sure he understood, was a locker room full of guys who probably wouldn't like you very much anymore.

It's worked out for both sides, though. Paul Rhoads is the right guy at ISU, and Chizik seems like he's done OK at his next stop, wherever that was. I highly doubt he has any regrets about leaving.

As for ISU fans, maybe they can move on to hating Nebraska safety Eric Hagg, who picked off that two-point conversion on a windy afternoon in Ames last year that kept ISU from a bowl game and stripped control of the Big 12 North from them.


Ryan Tannehill in College Station, Texas writes: How much you wanna make a bet I can throw a football over them mountains?... Yeah... Coach woulda put me in fourth game, we would've been Big 12 champions. No doubt. No doubt in my mind. Love the blog.

DU: E-mail of the week here. Someone's done the impossible: Make Napoleon Dynamite funny again. To your point? Maybe so. In hindsight, of course Tannehill should have replaced Jerrod Johnson earlier. But at the time? I probably would have made the switch at the same time Sherman did. Maybe a bit earlier, like sometime during the Missouri game.


Chris in Houston, Texas asked: Ubbs, I have sort of a problem. What am I going to watch on Saturday mornings now? Do I watch the new, all- Longhorn Gameday, or the same College Gameday I've come to know and love?

DU: Follow your heart, Chris.

As for me, if there's a big Texas game that week, I'll probably flip back and forth. I'll probably watch the first episode, too, just to see what it's like. Sounds like it'll be a lot of work, but it's a good idea. Any fan base would kill to have a GameDay show every week devoted solely to their team.


Don Bowers in Oklahoma City, Okla. asked: Love the blog and all of your insights in to the world of college football. Great stuff man. Do you think the Longhorn Network's abundant programming on Texas football could be used by other coaches in their game plan against the Longhorns? With programs like "Game Plan with Mack Brown" in which Mack gives "an inside look at game preparation and a breakdown of the keys to victory," could other Big 12 coaches gain any insight they might not otherwise have had going in to game day? When Texas announced it was going to have its spring game broadcast on national TV, several coaches in the Big 12 said they would be tuning in because it was just another opportunity for them to learn about the Texas program. Is the Longhorn Network another opportunity?

DU: This is a fascinating point, and one I'm probably most interested in once the Longhorn Network gets going. I talked extensively with Oklahoma DC Brent Venables about this during the spring, not just about Texas' spring game, but about the idea of coaches giving away too much in general.

His consensus: Yes, some are very bad about it. Some aren't. He declined to name names and I won't venture a guess either.

But this is a whole new level of exposure for Texas' program, and the onus for providing insightful, compelling content, while not giving away too much, lies completely on the Longhorns coaching staff.

Coaches generally know what they're going to get from opponents, but Venables isn't the only guy looking for/reading/watching anything to gain an edge.


Landry Jones in Norman, Okla. asked: You think mine and Whitney's son will be atop the ESPNU 150 class of 2031?

DU: Runner-up for e-mail of the week here, behind Texas A&M QB Uncle Rico from earlier.

And to your question: yes.


Ben in San Antonio, Texas asked: David, How is your schedule for 2011 determined when visiting and attending games?Do you get to choose or does the front office pick which game you will attend?

DU: It's an open conversation. Sometimes, it's obvious and we know a week or two ahead of time. But more often than not, we'll talk late Saturday night or on Sunday afternoon and decide what the biggest game in the Big 12 that week is, and start prepping for travel.

Wrapping up the Big 12's draft

May, 2, 2011
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The NFL draft has come and gone, and I hope you're all prepared for no more NFL anything for awhile. I know I'm not.

Anyway, here's how the Big 12 shook out over the weekend, with a few thoughts to follow.

First round (8)

Second round (2)
Third round (2)
Fourth round (6)
Fifth round (3)
Sixth round (1)
Seventh round (8)

Here's how the Big 12 teams ranked in terms of total draftees:

1. Nebraska - 7
2. Baylor - 4
2. Colorado - 4
2. Oklahoma - 4
2. Texas - 4
6. Missouri - 3
7. Kansas State -1
7. Oklahoma State - 1
7. Texas A&M - 1
7. Texas Tech - 1
11. Iowa State - 0
11. Kansas - 0

And the major conferences (counting where players actually played):

SEC - 38
Pac-12 - 33
Big 12 - 30
Big Ten - 29
ACC - 35
Big East - 22

  • Texas A&M had just one player drafted, but the Aggies will have plenty next year, including a handful of possible first-rounders. Cyrus Gray, Ryan Tannehill and Jeff Fuller could all go very early in 2012, depending on what happens between now and then.
  • [+] EnlargeJeremy Beal
    Matthew Emmons/US PresswireOklahoma defensive end Jeremy Beal was drafted in the seventh round by Denver.

  • Interesting that Miller went 245 selections before the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year, according to the media, Jeremy Beal. Also an interesting coincidence? The same team drafted both. I do think Beal will have a productive NFL career, and there's no denying what he did at Oklahoma, but the measurables were never quite there for Beal. What's not measurable? How difficult he is to block. That said, Miller was my vote for the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year.
  • Good to see some hard-working, perhaps under-respected guys get drafted. This was an important year for that, considering those left over won't be able to get into NFL minicamps until the lockout ends and won't be able to do anything to further their NFL careers besides work out on their own. I'll have a post later today on some of those snubs. There's no guarantee that late-drafted guys like Baron Batch, Scotty McKnight, Jay Finley or Eric Hagg will catch on in the the pros, but I'd be willing to guarantee they'll do everything in their power to maximize what opportunities they get.
  • One of the most interesting selections? Mikail Baker. He wasn't invited to the combine, and played just one full season on defense at Baylor after working as a kick returner and a cornerback in 2009 before a season-ending knee injury. You don't see that kind of impressive athleticism at Baylor traditionally.
  • Let the debate continue: Kendall Hunter vs. DeMarco Murray. Murray getting drafted 40-some spots earlier only intensified that discussion, if you ask me.
  • Also, what's more impressive from Art Briles? That Baylor had four picks, the most in school history since 1996? Or that despite those four picks, Baylor's returning an even better team than last season, when it ended a 16-year bowl drought?
  • Colorado's draft, meanwhile? Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Dan Hawkins' coaching job in Boulder.
  • Alex Henery didn't win the Lou Groza Award, but his fourth-round selection makes him the earliest kicker draft pick since 2006. Will that end the state of Nebraska's blood feud against respectable OSU kicker Dan Bailey, who did win the Lou Groza Award? I doubt it. (Save your emails. For the 100th time, I agree, Nebraska fans. Henery > Bailey.)
  • A few guys who went way lower than I thought they would. In order of my surprise level: Beal, Gabbert, Amukamara, Hagg, Hunter.
  • A few guys who went way higher than I thought, in the same order: Aldon Smith, Batch, Gachkar, Baker.

Ranking the Big 12's best players: No. 18

February, 24, 2011
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The official list of the Big 12's top 25 players is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we're revealing the list day by day here on the blog. Here's a refresher on my exact criteria.

[+] EnlargeEric Hagg
AP Photo/Dave WeaverNot only was Eric Hagg a valuable part of Nebraska's defense, he also returned a punt for a 95-yard touchdown during the 2010 season.
No. 18: Eric Hagg, DB, Nebraska

2010 numbers: Hagg made 49 tackles, including 41 solo and three tackles for loss. He intercepted five passes and his only punt return of the year went 95 yards for a touchdown against Texas. He also had a sack, broke up four passes and forced a fumble.

Most recent ranking: Hagg was unranked in our preseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Hagg: Hagg is a great example of the numbers not telling anything close to the story. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder plays the versatile Peso position for the Huskers' stingy pass defense that finished the season ranked No. 3 nationally. The hybrid linebacker/safety position was essential to the Peso defense's success. Hagg filled the void well, confusing quarterbacks and keeping Huskers opponents from completing more than half their passes. Only two other defenses nationally (TCU, Miami) were able to duplicate that feat. Nebraska had talent everywhere in the secondary, but Hagg was one of its best. He was always good for a big play, like the one he made against Texas or the interception he made to win the game against Iowa State.

The rest of the list:

Big 12 talent headed to the NFL combine

February, 4, 2011
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The NFL released its list of invitations to the scouting combine late this month, and plenty of Big 12 players should be taking part.

Here's who got invitations:
That's a pretty solid (and lengthy) list. Add it up, and it's 36 players from 11 of 12 Big 12 schools, excluding Kansas. It's a little surprising that Missouri center Tim Barnes wasn't on the list. It's possible it was a mistake, but the first-team All-Big 12er and Rimington Trophy watch lister was named as one of the top centers in the draft last spring by Mel Kiper. Barnes had also earned some favorable reviews at the NFLPA Bowl this week.

It was good to see Aggies quarterback Jerrod Johnson get a shot to show scouts if he's regained any more strength in his arm, too.

Here's how it ranks by team, as well.

1. Nebraska - 9
2. Oklahoma State - 5
2. Texas - 5
4. Oklahoma - 4
5. Colorado - 3
5. Missouri - 3
7. Baylor - 2
7. Texas A&M - 2
9. Iowa State - 1
9. Kansas State - 1
9. Texas Tech - 1

Big 12 performances in the Senior Bowl

January, 31, 2011
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You've seen the Big 12 players in the Senior Bowl up close throughout their careers. You've heard how they measured up to the competition during the week.

There was no Jerrod Johnson in this game, a high-profile player who hadn't seen extended playing time for several weeks, so there's not much else to say, but here's how all of the Big 12 talent in the Senior Bowl did in Saturday's game.

Actual game performances aren't nearly as important as the week of practice that precedes it, so don't put much stock into these numbers as they relate to each player's overall draft stock. However, it's still interesting to see how they do while perhaps wearing their school's helmet for the final time.

Baylor:
  • Phil Taylor, DL - started, no stats.
  • Danny Watkins, OL - started.
Colorado:
  • Jalil Brown, DB - started, made three tackles.
  • Nate Solder, OL - started.
Nebraska:
  • Pierre Allen, DL - one tackle.
  • Eric Hagg, DB - one tackle.
  • Alex Henery, P - punted six times for an average of 42.8 yards and made an extra point. His longest punt went for 49 yards and one pinned the South team inside its 20-yard line.
  • Roy Helu Jr., RB - two carries for 3 yards.
  • Mike McNeill, TE - started, no stats.
  • Niles Paul, WR - caught one pass for 5 yards, returned a kick 29 yards. Also made a tackle.
Oklahoma:
  • Quinton Carter, DB - no stats.
  • Jeremy Beal, DL - made four tackles and one sack for minus-7 yards.
  • DeMarco Murray, RB - two carries, minus-4 yards.
Oklahoma State:
  • Kendall Hunter, RB - two carries, zero yards. One reception, 2 yards.
Texas:
  • Sam Acho, DL - Named MVP of the South team. Made three tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss and forced a fumble.
  • Curtis Brown, DB - started, made a tackle.
Texas A&M:
  • Von Miller, LB - started, named the game's defensive MVP. Four tackles on the day, including two tackles for loss.

Big 12 plays of the year: Did you see that?

January, 27, 2011
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We ran down the most bizarre plays of the year earlier this week. We've already tabbed the best in-game atmospheres, the best moments and best games of the year.

But what about the individual plays that shaped the Big 12 season in 2010? Some of these plays are on here because they were simply unbelievable. Others were great plays in big spots, lending it greater significance within a season. They're all very different, but with one thing in common: We won't forget them any time soon, especially the outstanding top few.

1. Brodrick Brown to Shaun Lewis. This one will go down in college football history. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones thought he'd lobbed a ball safely out of bounds on the right sideline against Oklahoma State. Brown skied for the discarded football, tapped it back inbounds to a waiting teammate, linebacker Shaun Lewis, who returned his second interception of the game 15 yards into Oklahoma territory.

2. Landry Jones' two long TDs in Bedlam. There's no point in separating the two passes. Each was equally big and equally needed for the Sooners. Both came with two-point leads. The Sooners were backed up into a 3rd-and-12 at their own 14-yard line with a rabid Boone Pickens Stadium crowd feeling good about the game's momentum and their chances at a South title. But Jones connected with Cameron Kenney over the middle, who slipped behind the defense for an 86-yard touchdown. Oklahoma State returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but Jones countered with another 76-yard touchdown over the top, down the left sideline to James Hanna to all but ice the game with under three minutes to play and give the Sooners a division title.

3. The Moe Miracle. Missouri's season looked headed for an early disaster, trailing San Diego State 24-20 with under a minute to play and 68 yards to go for a win. Tigers receiver T.J. Moe caught a short pass, made two Aztec defenders comically collide, and raced the rest of the way into the end zone for a season-saving touchdown that helped propel the Tigers to a 7-0 start.

4. Aggies build a wall on the goal line. The Sooners got inside Texas A&M's 5-yard line three times -- twice to the 1-yard line and twice in the fourth quarter -- and left without points. Considering the Aggies won by 14, there's no understating the importance of each stop. Really, this is 12 plays, but they were 12 that changed the season and validated the Aggies second-half surge with the first of two top 10 wins. Kyle Field was rocking, and the defense left the field to "Wrecking Crew" chants for the first time in a long while.

5. Gahn McGaffie turns Faurot Field into a madhouse. Columbia, Mo., was buzzing for one of the biggest games of the Gary Pinkel era. No. 1 Oklahoma was in town, it was homecoming, and a record crowd of 18,000 showed up to ESPN's pregame show, "College GameDay." A sold-out crowd showed up to Memorial Stadium and perhaps believed it could beat Oklahoma for the first time under Gary Pinkel, but a little help would be nice to let the fans really believe. The first time the ball was in play, McGaffie provided that help. McGaffie returned the opening kick 86 yards for a touchdown, helping turn the crowd into one of the best of the year, and spurring the Tigers to a 36-27 win over Oklahoma on a night the city of Columbia won't forget any time soon.

Honorable mention: Oklahoma State kicker Dan Bailey boots a 40-yard field goal to beat Texas A&M at the buzzer; Eric Hagg returns a pooch punt 95 yards for a touchdown in the final minutes against Texas; Josh Gordon catches a short pass and takes it 94 yards for a touchdown against Kansas; DeMarco Murray tiptoes along the sideline before front-flipping into the end zone for a 20-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown against Texas.

Husker DB Hagg a late Senior Bowl addition

January, 24, 2011
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The Senior Bowl isn't until Saturday, but practices this week will be televised on NFL Network and there will be plenty of Big 12 talent taking part.

Nebraska's Eric Hagg was added to the roster on Sunday, but here's another quick look at the now 18 players from across the league who will be on the field on Saturday.

The Huskers' six participants are the most of any team this year.

Baylor: Phil Taylor, DL; Danny Watkins, OL

Colorado: Jalil Brown, DB; Nate Solder, OL

Kansas State: Daniel Thomas, RB

Nebraska: Pierre Allen, DL; Eric Hagg, DB; Alex Henery, P; Roy Helu Jr., RB; Mike McNeill, TE; Niles Paul, WR

Oklahoma: Quinton Carter, DB; Jeremy Beal, DL; DeMarco Murray, RB

Oklahoma State: Kendall Hunter, RB

Texas: Sam Acho, DL; Curtis Brown, DB

Texas A&M: Von Miller, LB

Fans weigh in on favorite atmospheres

January, 21, 2011
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Despite my best efforts, I can't be everywhere. But dry your tears, Big 12 fans, because you can be. Not any specific individual, of course, but as a collective. Anyway, I (rather idiotically) digress.

I made my rounds during the season, and named my top five atmospheres of the season.

Then, I asked you. What'd I miss? Who needs to remember a game you won't forget? We got some good responses, but here are a few of the best.

Brian in Lincoln writes: Love the blog. One of the best "in game atmosphere" was at Ames, Iowa for the Iowa St/Nebraska game. As a husker fan, there were more ups and downs than any other game. And the Cyclone fans were amped in hope of a major upset. It was crazy. When Hagg broke up the 2 pt try in overtime, it was absolutely silent. From the cyclone fans at least...

My take: I imagine that's a very different, but equally charged-up feeling, to have a crowd be going absolutely insane on the biggest play of the game and then just go silent like they disappeared. You hear it the best, outside of some groans, on long interception returns from road teams, and maybe not so much on game-winning plays like Eric Hagg had. It would have been pretty cool to be at Jack Trice Stadium for that one, though.


mhb in Kansas City, Mo., writes: MU vs Illinois is like a pre-season Bowl game. The crowd is split 50/50 on the 50 yd lines. There are Spirit Rallies on the Fri. before as well as the tailgate parties downtown across the street from the Edwards Dome..The Tigers won every one of the games. Some were close; some not. But each year featured a Tiger's coming out party. Someone unexpected had an awesome game..Too bad the Illini canceled the series.

My take: That's definitely true. I've been to the Arch Rivalry (as I've said before, best rivalry name in college football, played in the shadow of the Arch in St. Louis) a couple times, and it's an incredibly underrated atmosphere. Especially since it's the season opener and it's been awhile since you've seen college football, it's always a little disarming when it gets really loud in the pregame, which it always does, and again on the first big play. Illinois generally being an underwhelming team under Ron Zook kind of saps a lot of the respect out of the rivalry, but there have been some great games in that rivalry in the past few years.


Hunter in College Station, TX writes: A&M vs Oklahoma had almost as great of an atmosphere as the Nebraska game

My take: I heard that, actually. What say you, Aggies? That was the first time the fans revived the "Wrec-king Crew!" chant this season, wasn't it?


Kolton (On the road) writes: Best game day atmosphere was in Lawrence at the K-State @ ku game. It was a blast to hear all the K-State fans in Memorial Stadium cheering, chanting and singing along with the K-State marching band after the ku fans fled the building. It was magical... too bad history is still waiting, beakers!

My take: Ha, maybe so, Kolton. But from my living room, that Thursday nighter almost put me to sleep. Two less-than-riveting styles from the middle of the Big 12 North, playing to a 59-7 final? No, thanks.


Dan Huston in Lincoln, Neb., writes: I can tell you the worst atmosphere by far was Kansas @ Nebraska. The croud was as flat as I've ever seen it. Nebraska got up early and it was obvious very early in the game KU had no chance of moving the ball on the blackshirts. This was the first "cold" game of the year and husker fans were looking ahead to the A&M game, and still disappointed from the Texas loss, it was a very eerie feeling. Pelini even called out the fans in the media and expressed how disappointed he was in the croud. Or maybe this was all out of respect for Turner? Hhmmmmm???

My take: Yeah, I kind of felt for both sides of that whole situation. For one, it had to be at least a little awkward for Nebraska fans. I imagine they weren't exactly fired up about cheering against Turner Gill. On the other hand, there are only seven days out of 365 on the calendar that Huskers fans can convene at Memorial Stadium. I don't blame Pelini for being disappointed in the crowd and calling them out after the game. That said, from what I saw of the game, it looked like the most nap-inducing game plan of the year, so really everyone was set up to be a little unhappy afterward: Pelini, Nebraska fans and Turner Gill. At least we won't be playing that one again any time soon.

Which Big 12 team had the most pro talent?

December, 22, 2010
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Pro Football Weekly compiled its 2010 All-American team, but did so with a twist. It gathered input from NFL evaluators, and put the team together based on draft value, pure talent and performance.

Georgia had the nation's most team members, with five, but here's who made the team from the Big 12:
So, there you have it. The Big 12 team with the most "pro" All-Americans? Nebraska, who tied for second-most nationally.

Nebraska -- 3

Oklahoma State -- 2

Oklahoma -- 1

Missouri -- 1

Colorado -- 1

Texas A&M -- 1

Lunch links: YouTube star is born

December, 21, 2010
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Milk and lutefisk? Santa doesn't get cookies in Minnesota?

Yeah, that's just what Santa needs at 3 a.m. when he's battling a snowstorm over the Rockies: a sugar crash. No, Santa needs protein.

The Big 12 North versus Big 12 South

December, 20, 2010
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Like it or not, the Big 12 will be without divisions after 2010, no matter how many legends or leaders made their mark in the league's short history as a two-part conference.

Over that history, the South has been dominant with a pair of national powers, Texas and Oklahoma who were consistently racking up big win totals over the last decade while the North has, more often than not, sent a significantly less impressive team to the title game. That's measurable in plenty of ways, but I'll settle for the 11-4 advantage in the championship game and a 13-4 advantage in BCS bowl game appearances.

But what about this year? The South is clearly the deeper division when you talk total teams, but then I got this e-mail, which got me wondering:

John in Omaha, Neb., wrote: Bored at work, thought I'd give you a blog topic idea. If you had to pick two all star teams, one made entirely of B12 north players at each position and then a B12 south all star team at each position and then had them play a game. Who would win and who would be the players. Off the top of my head I'd say the south would but I bet it's pretty close once you break it down player by player.

My interest was piqued. We know what the All-Big 12 team looks like, but what if you broke it down by division? For reference, my All-Big 12 team had 11 players from the North and 15 from the South.

Here are my picks, when broken down by division:

Big 12 South

OFFENSE
QB: Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State
RB: Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State; DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State; Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
TE/FB: Bryant Ward, Oklahoma State
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State; Danny Watkins, Baylor; Eric Mensik, Oklahoma; Matt Allen, Texas A&M, Lonnie Edwards, Texas Tech

DEFENSE
DL: Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma; Lucas Patterson, Texas A&M; Colby Whitlock, Texas Tech; Sam Acho, Texas
LB: Von Miller, Texas A&M; Orie Lemon, Oklahoma State; Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
CB: Andrew McGee, Oklahoma State; Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma
S: Quinton Carter, Oklahoma; Byron Landor, Baylor

SPECIALISTS:
K: Dan Bailey, Oklahoma State
P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
KR: Coryell Judie, Texas A&M
PR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma

Big 12 North

OFFENSE
QB: Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
RB: Rodney Stewart, Colorado, Daniel Thomas, Kansas State
WR: T.J. Moe, Missouri; Scotty McKnight, Colorado
TE/FB: Michael Egnew, Missouri
OL: Nate Solder, Colorado; Ricky Henry, Nebraska; Tim Barnes, Missouri; Zach Kendall, Kansas State, Ben Lamaak, Iowa State

DEFENSE
DL: Jared Crick, Nebraska; Aldon Smith, Missouri; Brad Madison, Missouri; Pierre Allen, Nebraska
LB: Lavonte David, Nebraska; Andrew Gachkar, Missouri; Jake Knott, Iowa State
CB: Prince Amukamara, Nebraska; Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska
S: Eric Hagg, Nebraska; Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State

SPECIALISTS:
K: Alex Henery, Nebraska
P: Alex Henery, Nebraska
KR: William Powell, Kansas State
PR: Niles Paul, Nebraska

So, there are my teams. I'll offer some further observations, plus my pick in a post Tuesday. But for now ... who you got?

Big 12 has impressive AP All-American haul

December, 14, 2010
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The Associated Press released its All-American teams on Tuesday afternoon, and nine of the 25 members of the first team are from the Big 12.

Here's who made the cut.

FIRST TEAM
SECOND TEAM
  • Dan Bailey, K, Oklahoma State
  • Jeremy Beal, DE, Oklahoma
  • Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska
  • Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska

THIRD TEAM
  • Sam Acho, DE, Texas
  • Eric Hagg, S, Nebraska

Here's a look at the full teams.

Nebraska Cornhuskers season recap

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
9:30
AM ET
Once again, the Huskers were so, so close. Not quite as close as last year, but Nebraska's late stumbles will leave a bitter taste in the Huskers mouths heading into a yawn-worthy rematch with Washington in the Holiday Bowl.

Through five games, Nebraska was looking the part of national championship contender, with Taylor Martinez spearheading a dynamic running offense to complement a defense once again looked dominant, especially against the pass.

That ended with a shocking home loss to Texas. That was the week after a very public beating of Kansas State that featured 241 rushing yards from Martinez which injected him into the Heisman discussion along with frontrunner Denard Robinson. Whoops.

Nebraska added a couple quality wins in the weeks that followed -- at home against Missouri and on the road against Oklahoma State -- but a late loss to Texas A&M proved this wouldn't be the Huskers year just yet. Questionable penalties and ugly incidents during and after the game marred the night, but a loss is a loss. Thanks to a clinching win over Colorado in the season finale and a big play by Eric Hagg in overtime against Iowa State, the Huskers were still able to win the North for the second consecutive season.

Nebraska is most definitely back by Bo Pelini's definition -- they won't play anyone anywhere they can't beat -- but without offensive balance to go along with a defense that gives up very little, it'll be hard to beat those elite teams with consistency.

Offensive MVP: Taylor Martinez, QB. Injuries and passing inconsistency aside, Martinez gives Nebraska's offense a game-breaking aspect that was missing for all of 2009. The best defenses Nebraska faced this season -- Texas, Missouri, Texas A&M and Oklahoma -- all reined in the speedy freshman, but unless he's turning the ball over, Martinez makes it hard for inferior teams to upset the Huskers.

Defensive MVP: Eric Hagg, DB/LB. I'll go with the coaches' pick on this one, even if cornerback Prince Amukamara and linebacker Lavonte David collect the awards and recognition elsewhere. Hagg holds together Nebraska's defense from the versatile Peso position, a hybrid safety/linebacker, and gives the offense speed and power from the position. Players with his strength and speed are rare, and 38 of his 46 tackles were solo stops. Consider this, also: If he hadn't been in position to intercept the pass on a fake extra point in overtime against Iowa State, Nebraska doesn't go to the Big 12 title game.

Turning point: Taylor Martinez's ankle injury. Martinez had to sit out the second half against Missouri, and really never looked the same after. He re-aggravated the injury when he had his foot stepped on as he tried to make a move against Texas A&M, and the injury had a negative influence on his passing mechanics as well. If he stays healthy all year, my guess is Nebraska is 12-1 and headed to the Fiesta Bowl.

What's next: Stability off the field in the Big Ten, but uncertainty on it. Nebraska's defense is built to shut down the spread offenses that are everywhere in the Big 12, but they'll need to recruit bigger players up front to have similar success in the Big Ten. For all of Eric Hagg's talent, 210-pound linebackers don't work against running backs like 255-pound John Clay. Offensively, Nebraska's offense should fit right in. Nebraska will still be unlike many of the teams in the Big Ten. It'll be interesting to see what aspects of that work to their advantage, and which work to their disadvantage. The Huskers should be faster than most teams in the Big Ten, but also smaller. You'll never hear a coach complain his team has too much speed.

Thoughts on the media's All-Big 12 team

December, 2, 2010
12/02/10
4:30
PM ET
If you missed it, here are the award winners and All-Big 12 teams that were released today.

For comparison -- and I'll reference these briefly -- here's how the coaches voted for awards and All-Big 12 teams this week.
  • I expected on Tuesday for the media to vote differently from the coaches on the Defensive Player of the Year, and that's what we got. That's not necessarily good or bad, but definitely not surprising. Playmakers like Jeremy Beal, Von Miller and Orie Lemon get more attention and awards than cornerbacks like Prince Amukamara who relegate opposing receivers to irrelevance on a weekly basis, even if he leads the nation in pass breakups. That said, Beal's award is well-deserved, but it's also a good move on the coaches' part to award Amukamara.
  • Alex Henery had taken on a bit of a Susan Lucci persona from the media after consistently being one of the nation's top kickers, but never making All-Big 12 first team. That ended today, and it was well-deserved. The Big 12 has some great kickers, but if I'm building a team, I'm taking Henery. All-Big 12 isn't a career award, but the guy's made 66-of-74 career kicks, and missed just one this year -- a blocked kick from beyond 50 yards. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini called Henery not making the coaches' first team "crazy" this week. Barring a Big 12 title-game meltdown, he'll likely end his career as the most accurate kicker in college football history.
  • It's good to see underpublicized guys get recognition as well. Amukamara earns the awards and NFL scouts' love, but word out of Nebraska all season was that Eric Hagg was the defense's most valuable piece. The versatile defensive back plays the hybrid linebacker/defensive back spot in the Huskers' Peso scheme, and players like him aren't too common. He made plenty of plays from that spot, including one of the biggest of Nebraska's season, intercepting the pass on a two-point conversion in overtime against Iowa State that, if completed, would have cost the Huskers the North.
  • Like Hagg, Byron Landor at Baylor didn't get a lot of ink this year, but I'm glad to see his efforts weren't ignored. The first-year starter followed in former Baylor star Jordan Lake's footsteps as one of the league's hardest hitters, and was fourth in the league with 115 tackles.
  • I wasn't one of the 20 panelists for the awards, and I would have voted for Mike Gundy as coach of the year, but Sherman is definitely deserving. He made the toughest call of any coach this season, benching the school's leader in total offense, and it paid off bigtime. He also had to play through losing his best running back, Christine Michael, and Cyrus Gray (who earned a second-team nod) came through for him. The offense played well behind an offensive line with three freshmen, and his defense was one of the most improved units in the conference. Sherman started the season mildly on the hot seat, but a six-game winning streak to close the season after starting 3-3 (with three losses to good teams) and landing in the Cotton Bowl has put that on the backburner for quite awhile. This was a big year for the Aggies, who look like they've turned a corner under Sherman. Keeping defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter must be a priority moving forward.
  • There were a lot more unanimous selections on the media's team: From OSU: WR Justin Blackmon, RB Kendall Hunter, OL Levy Adock, LB Orie Lemon; Nebraska: DT Jared Crick, LB Lavonte David. Others: Colorado OL Nate Solder, Texas A&M LB Von Miller and Texas DL Sam Acho.
  • I wrote extensively about Rodney Stewart not even earning honorable mention by the coaches. His spot on the media's second-team is well-deserved. I also mentioned Missouri linebacker Andrew Gachkar as a guy who perhaps deserved more than honorable mention, and I was surprised to see him on the first team, but he's one of the most underrated players across the league. On a stout Missouri defense mostly devoid of superstars, excluding Aldon Smith, Gachkar is the next-closest thing it has.
  • It's a little odd to see Oklahoma safety Quinton Carter earn All-America honors from the coaches, but not a first-team All-Big 12 nod from the media, but that's nothing new. Coaches and media have differing opinions. No breaking news there.

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