Big 12: Eric Martin

Mailbag: A&M conspiracy, best mascots

September, 2, 2011
Thanks for all the emails, everyone. I'm in Waco, Texas, for tonight's game between TCU and Baylor, so I'll be checking in from Floyd Casey Stadium shortly.

I. Am. Excited. ESPN, 8 p.m. ET and right here on the blog all night. See you there.

Matt in Bemidji, Minn., asked: Dave, i'm a Husker fan up here in the Great White North. I miss reading your blog, i really enjoyed your coverage even when i disagreed with you (which wasn't often). As someone with a lot more information, especially the kind that is not biased towards any specific team, not like what i read on my own teams board, nationally does this whole A&M thing sort of vindicate the Huskers or does it make them look even worse for "breaking up the conferance?"

David Ubben: Thanks for the kind words, Matt. And I do think you're absolutely right. I didn't blame Nebraska for wanting to leave a year ago. It was clearly the right move.

This time around, though, there's no question they're looking smarter than ever. My biggest question? How long until Nebraska makes sure we all know about it?

Say what you will about the confidence in the future of the Big 12, but I thought R. Bowen Loftin said it well when he took questions in College Station awhile back.

Look at the SEC's track record. Look at the Big Ten's track record. Those conferences are forever. Maybe the Big 12 is. But nobody knows for sure and most believe it isn't.

All other variables aside, Nebraska and Texas A&M will get stability in their new homes.

Daniel in Santa Fe, N.M., asked: David, I'm a concerned Aggie fan in NM. I wanted to get your opinion on whether A&M will suffer the same fate as Nebraska did last year with what seemed to be an obvious bias in officiating.

DU: I think the actual sense of what Nebraska faced was a bit overstated.

Looking back on it, here's what I see: Was that Eric Martin suspension incorrect? No. Was it enforced more strictly than others across the league? I would say yes.

The bad calls in the A&M game last year were all judgment calls except for one: The roughing the passer penalty on Courtney Osborne when he hit Ryan Tannehill "late." That was an awful call, but really the only one that was indefensibly bad.

I just don't buy the whole conspiracy talk.

Will Big 12 officiating in Texas A&M games this season be watched? It absolutely will, and more closely than any other officiating in the league. Will that show evidence of a conspiracy? I'm saying no.

Mark in Corpus Christi, Texas, asked: Why can't we all get along? Let's go back to the days when the NCAA regulated the TV contracts. Maybe some of the mess could have been avoided.

DU: Your solution isn't the answer, but I really do hate what college football seems to have been reduced to. I discussed this at length in a podcast with SEC blogger Chris Low and columnist Ivan Maisel. Check it out.

Kyle in Fort Hood, Texas, asked: Why would any stable school (like BYU) want to join an obviously unstable, uncertain conference like the Big XII (-2-1)? The idea of luring in a big name school, like BYU or ND, seems a bit assuming since the true colors of how the conference operates have been exposes fairly well in the last few weeks. Especially with legitimate teams leaving two years in a row.

DU: It's a great question, but one I think has a reasonable answer. I've addressed it a bit in the past, but if the Big 12 wants to really convince big-time programs like BYU to come to the league, it has to offer some sort of concrete, contractual agreement that keeps teams in this league for a minimum of 10 years, and perhaps longer.

Eliminating that concern would make it a lot easier to coax the Cougars to come to the Big 12, which I believe the league has to do, or else it risks watching Oklahoma strongly consider a move to the Pac-12 and bring a few teams with it.

Additionally, you'll probably see some concerns about league stability go away if it can convince all 10 teams (or 12?) to sign and commit to the Big 12 long-term. I thought the Big 12 made a mistake in simply taking each school at its word last season, and the league is paying for that mistake now with Texas A&M's move to the SEC.

Mike P in Houston asked: Hey Ubbs, Is Jerrod Johnson's "Thank you Aggieland" one of a kind? I can't think of another athlete leaving a school with any gesture as grand as this one. Thanks for all your work with the Ags in the Big 12, we're going to miss you next year.

DU: Great video from Jerrod. We've seen his singing chops before, but it was nice of him to take the time out and thank the folks that gave him a lot. He gave them a whole lot, too.

Jerrod's a class act, though. It didn't surprise me.

Cowgirl in Tulsa asked: Ubbs: I know you've rated each team's uniforms and helmet logos, but have you ever made a list of your favorite Big 12 mascots? After ranking each player and team in 100 different categories, why don't you just have fun with this one?

DU: Ha, this will no doubt get me in trouble, but here goes. I'm only taking each team's best mascot. Teams have a few too many these days. Also, I miss Ralphie.

1. The Sooner Schooner, towed by Boomer and Sooner
2. The Masked Rider, Texas Tech (Big 12's best entrance, post-Nebraska Tunnel Walk)
3. Bevo, the Texas Longhorn (iconic)
4. Cy, the Cardinal. I've never known why the Iowa State Cyclones have a Cardinal mascot, but Cy looks good
5. Bruiser, the Baylor Bear
6. Reveille, the Texas A&M collie, who is cool, but collies have a very low ceiling on awesomeness
7. Big Jay the Kansas Jayhawk, who is solid
8. Truman the Tiger, who is a bit too cartoony
9. Pistol Pete, whose head is much too large and made of gross plastic with a five o'clock shadow
10. Willie the Wildcat, who, well, I have all kinds of genetic origin questions about.

Mailbag: Bears' title, Texas O, Sooner woes

April, 8, 2011
Thanks for all the questions. One of the better groups this week.

Justin Hancock in Chengdu, China, asks: Hi David,Thanks as always for your dedication to the blog. You've been my favorite way to keep up on my Ags and the rest of "the Ten" for quite a while now. Looking outside of Aggieland for a moment, what's the word coming out of Waco concerning the Bears and new DC, Phil Bennett? Do you see his addition to their staff bringing about results similar to those of DeRuyter in College Station? Seems like the Bears with a strengthened defense would be a good dark horse pick for conference title contender.

David Ubben: I really think that's a good comparison. The folks at Baylor were tentative about it, but comparing A&M in 2009 and Baylor in 2010 are pretty accurate. The biggest critique of both teams? They didn't beat anybody. A&M's best win was over Texas Tech, but Arkansas and Oklahoma blew it out, Texas beat it at home and Georgia blew it out in the bowl game. Kansas State also blew that team out and the Aggies lost at Colorado.

Well, guess what? They were way better in 2010 and beat a ton of good teams. Two in the top 10 in fact. They won nine games and were one nightmarish night in Stillwater away from winning the Big 12 South outright and playing for a league title.

Last year people wanted to crack on Baylor for getting worked over by TCU, Oklahoma, A&M and Oklahoma State as well as Illinois in the bowl game and not beating anyone better than seven-win Kansas State. That's fair, but there's a precedent for the Bears to have a big year in 2011.

How did A&M beat those two top-10 teams? With dominant defensive performances, not because of offense, which both teams had plenty of when they went to second-tier bowl games. A&M held Nebraska without a touchdown, shut out Oklahoma in the first half and had three goal-line stands. Baylor has the athletes to have a good defense, just like A&M did in 2009. I feel confident about that. But Bennett has to do what Tim DeRuyter did at A&M this year.

It wouldn't shock me at all if Baylor was a major factor in the Big 12 title race, but if that happens, it won't be because of anything the offense does. The defense has to be the one to give the offense opportunities.

Khaled in Austin, Texas, writes: Everyone needs to stop putting too much stock into Case McCoy's performance in the Texas spring game, right? It's just a scrimmage!

DU: I don't know, I think most people have been pretty measured about it. Anyone with some sense about them understands that a) it was a scrimmage and b) he didn't look fantastic, though his numbers were very good. At this point, I'm not sure what to think of the Texas quarterbacks, but outside of a half in that national title game for Gilbert, I don't see a ton of upside in the immediate future for any of the three Texas QBs. The receivers aren't helping that.

Alex in Duncanville, Texas, asks: After watching the TEXAS spring game, are you excited to watch the Harsin/Applewhite offense next season? I understand there will be growing pains, but it should be fun to watch.

DU: I definitely agree with that. It's going to be fun. Long-term, the Bryan Harsin hire was great. I like what Mack Brown wants to bring to Texas, and getting ahead of the curve and using the physical advantages (i.e., bigger offensive linemen) that Texas can have over the rest of the league is a good idea. We got a good look at the trick plays in the spring game, but there's no doubt Texas will have a handful of special deliveries for Oklahoma in Red River.

Jon in CoMo asked: With the new scheduling format of the Big XII, it is very hard to see developing programs such as Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor, or Texas Tech get off the ground as easily as the could have in the old Big XII. What do you think about the possibilities of these programs, will they ever rise? or forever be bottom dwellers?

DU: I don't know that it's fair to call all those teams bottom-dwellers. Kansas won an Orange Bowl in 2008 and Texas Tech was in the top five in 2008 and still has the longest bowl streak of any team in the Big 12.

I do think it'll be harder for those teams to win a Big 12 title (having a better record than Texas and Oklahoma in any given year is harder than beating them for 60 minutes), but I like their chances to eventually get into a BCS bowl game in the second slot for the league. The divisions made it easier for a North team to win a Big 12 title, but the problem is, even if you're really good, a loss in the Big 12 title game could mean being relegated to a lower-tier bowl game. A good example is Missouri in 2007 losing as the No. 1 team and being sent to the Cotton Bowl, rather than the BCS. It'll be harder for North teams to have to see every team from the South every year, but I don't see it having a huge effect on Kansas or Iowa State trying to build a program.

Jason in Oklahoma asks: How good will Oklahoma State's running game be this year without Hunter?

DU: It should be fine. Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith complement each other well with Randle being a pretty explosive, elusive back who can catch the ball out of the backfield or line up in the slot. Smith is a bigger back who is better suited to handle things between the tackles. Oklahoma State's offense will have both of them on the field plenty of times. Plus, with an offensive line bringing back all five starters, it should be a good situation for both of them to get opportunities against defenses who also have plenty to worry about in the passing game with Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. I wouldn't worry much about OSU's running game next year.

Ben in Norman asks: Have the Sooners completely overcome their road woes or are they prone to collapse under pressure (cue David Bowie) at Florida State like they did last year at Mizzou and A&M?

DU: That's an interesting question. I talked to Travis Lewis about that on Thursday actually, and he said the team was pretty motivated by so many people doubting them late in the season and used that for a huge fuel boost. I'm definitely in that group. I picked them to win a close game at Baylor and lose to Oklahoma State. The Sooners blew Baylor out and beat the Cowboys in Stillwater to win the Big 12 South. Well, nobody's expecting Oklahoma to blow out the Noles, but I'd hardly say people are doubting Oklahoma this time around. How will the Sooners respond this time around? Well, that's why we play the games. I won't be picking that game until we know who exactly will be on the field for the Sooners.

Mike Gundy in Stillwater asks: Where's all the coverage from when you came and watched our practice? One article, half article at that. I thought we were best buds.

DU: I was really surprised at how many OSU fans sent similar emails in the past couple days. Patience, folks, patience. It'll be a little bit longer. At no point in my spring tour have I posted all the stories from my visits that quickly. I've got plenty. They'll be up soon.

Corrine Meyerson in Stillwater, Okla., writes: Hey there! I read a while back that you had blogged about Andrew Hudson and the illegal block that resulted in a pretty bad concussion. I caught up with him and did a pretty big feature on his journey and where he is today. When he arrived at OSU, he first had a broken back, then dislocated his finger, then got a concussion before the Texas Tech game and that last concussion against Nebraska is what finally kept him from playing again. But now he's throwing discus for OSU. I just thought you may find the story interesting and put the link in your lunch links. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this!!

DU: Good stuff there. I actually hadn't heard anything about Hudson after the concussion and didn't know about his injury history. Sounds like he had a much more difficult time than anyone realized after the injury.

Like I said when it happened, the Eric Martin hit wasn't malicious, but it was illegal, and too often, the stories of the players impacted most by these kinds of hits get swallowed up by coverage of the punishments given to the players inflicting them. I'd encourage you guys to check that story out.

Nebraska: Perhaps even more interesting

February, 9, 2011
Chronicling 12 months in a few hundred words is never easy. I tried yesterday, when I laid out a case for Nebraska as college football's most interesting program.

We still missed out on a few incidents that made headlines.Thanks for all the e-mails. You folks are sharp and don't forget much.

A few that were overlooked:

July 2010: Nebraska releases a video promoting its new website,, but the tagline at the end of the video reads, "Wear Red. Be Loud. Beat Texas." That raised plenty of interest, but Nebraska maintained it picks a game each year to emphasized. Later, the video is taken down and re-done without "Beat Texas" at the end.

Oct. 16, 2010: Nebraska receiver Niles Paul dropped a pair of touchdown passes in a 20-13 loss to Texas and tells the Associated Press that Nebraska fans yelled at him as he walked to his car from the stadium, and flooded his Facebook with so many negative messages he chose to deactivate it.

Oct. 28, 2010: Linebacker Eric Martin, an enforcer on the special teams, is suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Oklahoma State's Andrew Hudson during a Niles Paul's kickoff return for a touchdown in a 51-41 Nebraska win. The rule that allows suspensions was instituted before the season, but Martin was the only player suspended by the Big 12 for a hit all season.

Nov. 3, 2010: A hit that looked like helmet-to-helmet contact on Blaine Gabbert from Nebraska safety Courtney Osborne is sent for review to Big 12 offices by Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. No action is taken.

Nov. 20, 2010: ESPN cameras catch Texas A&M defensive lineman Tony Jerod-Eddie jabbing or poking at the back of Nebraska lineman Ben Cotton's legs, near the groin area. Video of the incident hits YouTube before the game even ends, and Jerod-Eddie is reprimanded by not suspended by Aggies coach Mike Sherman. Cotton, asked about the incident, says Jerod-Eddie was simply trying to find the ball. If his tongue wasn't in his cheek, it should have been.

Dec. 10, 2010: With the Miami job vacant and rumors of Pelini as a candidate swirling, he issues a statement saying he has no plans to leave Lincoln. Personally, I didn't think this would ever happen, and nothing really came of it, so it's not surprising I forgot it. But still, it was big news in college football for obvious reasons.

An already crazy year might have been even crazier for the Huskers, no?
ARLINGTON, Texas -- I'm back in the press box from some time down on the field and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe's pregame press conference. Both teams have finished warm-ups, and we're only a few minutes away from kickoff. The crowd looks pretty close to 50-50, and with the ends and roof of Cowboys Stadium closed, it's already pretty loud.

Here's a few quick notes:
  • I'd expect Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez to start, but he's definitely still favoring his right ankle, however slight. Additionally, he's wearing two different kinds of cleats. It looked like the left cleat might be offering some additional support for his turf toe.
  • Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray didn't look too bothered by a knee injury that left his status in doubt this week. He didn't do much full-speed work in pregame, but his movement looked normal.
  • Beebe's press conference offered little of note. He mentioned he did have some additional security for tonight's game, but nothing "significant." As for the talk of the Big 12 championship returning, don't hold your breath. Beebe noted that the coaches have been nearly unanimous in opposition of the game for the duration of its existence, and said he'd be surprised if that changed. I'd agree with him on that point.
  • He was asked about talks of conspiracy and the Eric Martin suspension, but didn't say anything we haven't heard before. Namely, that the notion of a conspiracy is silly and they don't spare any expenses when it comes to the integrity of officiating. On Martin's suspension and the lack of suspension of Texas A&M's Tony Jerod-Eddie after an ugly incident in a pile, Beebe cited the desire of the league to remove hits like Martin's from football.
  • On his no-show in Lincoln this year, Beebe noted that he didn't hand out any of the five divisional trophies this year, and hasn't been able to do it on several occasions for various reasons, most often tiebreakers. He also brought up that he delivered Nebraska's trophy last year, but did not do so for Texas.
  • He also stressed, once again, that the portion of Huskers fans sending hateful messages to him and other Big 12 officials is a small one, but did note that former Huskers star Ed Stewart, a Big 12 employee, received several as well.

That's all for pregame. I'll be blogging throughout tonight's game, but I'll be chatting right here, too. So come hang out for tonight's game.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 12

November, 21, 2010
We'll see Nebraska play angry the rest of its season. Generally, I'm not a fan of dwelling on officiating after a game. It accomplishes very little and wastes plenty of breath, a bit like screaming at a brick wall. An apology is the best you can expect from anyone who'll listen, which is a select few.

I'll make a brief exception here.

[+] EnlargeBo Pelini
Brett Davis/US PresswireBo Pelini was less than pleased with the officiating in Saturday's loss to Texas A&M.
There were a few questionable flags, and the roughing the passer penalty that kept Texas A&M's game-winning drive alive was an indefensible bad call. Courtney Osborne made a clean hit on Ryan Tannehill on time and below the helmet. I know Nebraska fans are also angry about the flag Ben Cotton received, but you're naive if you think that worse doesn't happen under piles every Saturday. I don't blame Cotton for retaliating, but let's not act like he's the first and only player to ever have an opponent's hand in an uncomfortable place. The cameras just caught this one. That said, the flag discrepancy (16-2, in favor of Texas A&M) doesn't tell the whole story. Both pass interference calls and the PI that officials initially flagged on Texas A&M but later waved off were the right calls, and Nebraska was flagged for just one holding penalty, football's most subjective penalty. The vast majority of the Huskers' other penalties were personal fouls, false starts or illegal procedures. Those are mental errors, not conspiring flag-tossers with a mandate from league headquarters in (gasp!) Texas.

Nebraska got the short end of this one, no doubt. It happens. Most of the close calls went the way of the Aggies. The Huskers have a right to be angry. But they also have to realize they didn't play well enough to win; good penalties, bad penalties, injuries or otherwise. All three happen in every game, and Nebraska couldn't overcome them. A mature team puts this loss behind it, and goes out and captures the goals in front of it, big goals like the Big 12 title which is still very much in Nebraska's grasp. We'll find out how mature this team is over the next two weeks (or maybe one, if it loses to Colorado.)

The Huskers were already playing with a bit of an us-against-the-world edge after the suspension of Eric Martin earlier in the year, and that will only intensify now. Also, I got in touch with my buddy over at the Big Ten blog, Adam Rittenberg, and after checking with Jim Delany & Co. at the league office in Chicago, we can report that in almost a century of Big Ten football, no call has ever been missed. So take heed, Huskers. Upon your exit to the Big Ten, you'll finally be out from underneath the tyrannical thumb of human error.

We've still got some interesting division races. Oklahoma won to stay alive, and Nebraska lost to keep Missouri alive, which means both divisions are up for grabs in the season's final weekend. That should be some solid drama. Nebraska will head back home to face a rolling Colorado team brimming with confidence and a new coach. Oklahoma State will host Oklahoma in Stillwater for a Bedlam with the most on the line for both teams in a long time. I'd expect Nebraska and Oklahoma State to hold serve at home, but would it surprise me if either went down? Not entirely.

Oklahoma's road problems don't extend to Waco. The Sooners got it done in a big way against Baylor, notching their first convincing road victory of the season with a 53-24 win. The offensive execution was there, even after an interception on Oklahoma's first drive, which is a good sign of some mental toughness. The defense held long enough for the Sooners to rack up a 53-10 lead before the Bears added a couple fourth-quarter garbage-time scores, and it forced a safety, scored a touchdown and forced three turnovers. That'll get it done. But at the end of the day, Oklahoma isn't going to impress anyone by stretching its record to 20-0 all-time against the Bears. The true test comes Saturday in Stillwater against the Big 12's most consistent team, Oklahoma State, in one of the program's biggest games ever.

Colorado is playing its best football of the season. Where did this come from? Beating Iowa State at home is one thing. Out-powering a physical Kansas State team is another. That's exactly what Colorado did, jumping out to a second-half lead on the back of Rodney Stewart and riding him to the finish line while Carson Coffman and the Wildcats had to sling it to play catch-up. Colorado is putting it all together under Brian Cabral, and now faces a monumental task, heading to Lincoln with bowl eligibility on the line for the Buffs, and the Big 12 North at stake for the Huskers.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 10

November, 4, 2010
I'll be in Stillwater on Saturday checking out a big South battle between Oklahoma State and Baylor, but I'll have my eye on every game as usual. Here's what I'm watching:

1. The scoreboard at Boone Pickens Stadium. You saw it in my pick this morning, there's going to be a lot of points on the board this Saturday, featuring some of the best skill-position talent in the league. Oklahoma State's triplets -- quarterback Brandon Weeden, running back Kendall Hunter and receiver Justin Blackmon -- go head-to-head with Robert Griffin III, Jay Finley and Kendall Wright.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden and Kendall Hunter
John Rieger/US PresswireOklahoma State's Brandon Weeden (3) and Kendall Hunter (24) -- along with receiver Justin Blackmon -- have been tough to stop this season.
2. Big hits. This should be something to keep an eye on for the rest of the season, really. I had it on last week's what to watch, but I'm interested to see if receivers over the middle go unjacked-up, or if there's any noticeable difference with how defenders hit. Oklahoma safety Quinton Carter, one of the league's hardest hitters, says his style is changing because of the crackdown. Nebraska's defense says it won't change the way it plays after linebacker Eric Martin was suspended. Courtney Osborne's hit on Blaine Gabbert (clean in my book) went unpunished after Missouri's Gary Pinkel sent it to the league for review in hopes of educating his players on which hits were legal and which hits weren’t.

3. Texas' defense. It completely shut down the league's best rushing offense earlier in the season in a marquee 20-13 victory at Nebraska. Now, it takes on the Big 12's No. 2 rushing team, Kansas State, in Manhattan. What's in store for running backs Daniel Thomas and William Powell?

4. Texas Tech's receivers. Jacoby Franks and last year's leader, Alex Torres, are out. They the are Red Raiders' Nos. 3 and 4 targets. Franks is gone for the year, and Torres could be too, but arthroscopic surgery earlier this week provided hope he could return in a few weeks. Those who will be playing, namely seniors Lyle Leong and Detron Lewis, will need to play well to keep up with Missouri's offense. Younger players like Austin Zouzalik and Tramain Swindall have to elevate their play.

5. Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert actually played pretty well for what was available last week, running when he needed to and throwing without any real misses on the rare occasion when a receiver was open. This week should be much easier against a Texas Tech secondary that is the worst in the league and one of the worst in the nation. Is he due for a big week? His targets will be back open, and he won't get hit nearly as much. The Red Raiders gave up 449 yards to Ryan Tannehill, 274 yards to Cody Hawkins and 356 to Brandon Weeden in the past three weeks. Not a sparkling résumé.

6. Oklahoma on the road. Bob Stoops says it's not a real problem. The Sooners' win-loss margin at home is 22.7 points higher than away from Owen Field, by far the highest of any other elite program. This year, the Sooners have a loss to Missouri and a two-point win over Cincinnati, the last-place team in the Big East at 3-5, on their record. Texas A&M is a renewed team with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. Is an upset in store?

7. Tannehill's next test. Like we mentioned above, Texas Tech's secondary ranks last in the league, giving up 45 more yards per game through the air than any other team. That ranks 119 out of 120 teams nationally. Oklahoma isn't way, way better (sixth in Big 12, No. 83 nationally), but they'll be tougher than Texas Tech. What does Tannehill have in store for his encore after a school-record 449 yards and four touchdowns in his first start last week?

8. Quarterback controversies. Texas Tech has reopened the competition between Steven Sheffield and Taylor Potts, and hasn't officially announced a starter. Kansas' top two passers may be back this week, but their status is in doubt as No. 3 Quinn Mecham hopes to make his second career start. Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman hasn't explicitly said Tannehill will start on Saturday, but it would be hard to imagine he wouldn't after last week. Keep an eye on how all this shakes out on Saturday.

9. Kansas climbing. The Jayhawks led at halftime last week at Iowa State. Now, they host the next-worst team in the league, Colorado, the Big 12's only other 0-4 team. There's no doubt this is the best chance for either team to get their first -- and maybe only -- conference win of the year.

10. Huskers taking care of the ball. I'm not 100 percent sure, but I think the definition of a football nightmare is finishing a game with more turnovers than points. That's what Nebraska did last year, turning the ball over eight times in a 9-7 home loss to an Iowa State team missing its two best players, running back Alexander Robinson and quarterback Austen Arnaud. They'll face a full-strength Iowa State team in Ames on Saturday for control of the North. The Huskers have an incredible 26 fumbles in eight games, but have lost only nine of them. What are the odds history repeats itself?

Pelini 'sick' and 'tired' of talking dirty hits

November, 3, 2010
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel submitted a hit by Nebraska safety Courtney Osborne for league review earlier in the week, putting the Huskers at the center of the debate over illegal hits for a second consecutive week.

Pinkel later clarified that his review request was more self-educational than an accusatory complaint, but after Nebraska linebacker and special teams contributor Eric Martin sat our Saturday's game, Pelini admitted on Tuesday he's sick of discussing the legality of hits.

"It just seems like I was sick of it three weeks ago. Obviously, nobody wants anybody to get hurt," Pelini said. "I think they just blew it up so much. I just don't like that it seems like the NFL dictates so many things now. I'm a little bit tired of that."

Pelini contended that Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert ducked into a helmet-to-helmet hit by Osborne in the fourth quarter of Nebraska's 31-17 win, and still frames from the game appeared to support Pelini's assertion.

"Officials try to do a good job of talking about intent," Pelini said. "I think every situation is a bit different, and it has gotten to the point where it is hard for officials to call it. It's a difficult thing. There is such an emphasis on it, and it is so blown up. It is damned if you do and damned if you don't for the officials. I kind of feel for those guys at times. And really everybody involved in the decision and enforcing it and what the media has done with the whole issue. It's not an easy thing right now. It's hard to coach."

The Big 12 announced its suspension of Martin on Wednesday last week, but notified Nebraska in search of contention earlier in the week. Pelini said Tuesday he had yet to hear from the league on any disciplinary action toward Osborne, whose hit had Gabbert slow to get up, and caused a fumble that was ruled dead on the field.

"We don't teach anybody to do that. I don't think anybody is out there intentionally doing it. I really don't. I think sometimes things happen in the emotion of the game, but I don't think anybody is out there intentionally trying to hurt anyone," Pelini said. "It's a physical sport and things happen fast. It's not an easy thing, and it is something we are all working through together. Coaches, officials, conference officials, everybody. Players alike, everybody is working through this together and it's not an easy thing. It takes time. Like I said, you just have to keep educating people on it."

Education is the first step, but finding full-fledged solutions to resolving the debate over hits -- illegal or otherwise -- isn't a simple exercise.

"I think they are trying to handle it the right way. I mean, I think the intent is there. It's not an easy thing for anybody involved," Pelini said. "Things happen in the sport and they happen fast. It isn't easy to call or easy on people setting the rules. It isn't easy to coach or for the players. It is going to take time."

Talking suspensions, big points and big games

November, 2, 2010
Once again, an enjoyable chat earlier today. Here's the full transcript.

And a few highlights:

Andrew in San Diego asked: Hey Dave, saw your piece on the Baylor wide receivers. What amazes me is that they are all sophmores or younger with the exception on Kendall Wright. They will all be back next year, RGIII will be too and the defense will be better. Its gonna be one crazy offense. How legit do you think the Bears will be next year???

David Ubben: No kidding. I hadn't fully comprehended all of that until I started looking at all of those guys. For whatever Baylor achieves this year, they should only duplicate or exceed it next year. The defense can only get better... I think. They got off to a nice start, but they've played pretty poorly for big stretches this year.

Allan in Stillwater asked: Who is poised to have a bigger passing game this weekend, Brandon Weeden or Robert Griffin III?

DU: Once a quarterback hits 400 yards, the rest is just gravy. I think Bud Wilkinson famously said that once. Maybe it was Tom Osborne.

Britt Fisher in Austin, Texas asked: Everyone is on the Baylor bandwagon, they still have the hardest part of the schedule to play to finish out the season. They could still lose 3 or even 4 games.

DU: They definitely could...but go back and read what you just wrote. Still remarkable.

Robo in Lincoln asked: Do you agree with Tom Shatels assessment "The Big 12 opened Pandora's Box with the suspension of Eric Martin last week" ?

DU: I do. I don't want the league to be looking over a handful of hits every week. Personally, I think suspensions should be reserved solely for dangerous, malicious and illegal hits. There's no doubt in my mind the NFL has heavily influenced this, but nobody in the Big 12 is making the kind of hits James Harrison and Brandon Meriweather made. None even in the same league, really.

Melissa in Nebraska asked: Speaking of Pandora's Box, does Nebraska lose another player to suspension this week? It would be a real shame if they did.

DU: Well, last week kind of came out of nowhere. Nobody was really talking about the play being reviewed. This week, it's the opposite. I'd be surprised if Osborne gets suspended. If he does, I'll be chiming in for sure. Absolutely should not be suspended for that hit.

Lunch links: Pandora's Box is wide open

November, 2, 2010
The day baseball season ends is always a good one. Apologies, diamond romantics. I don't hate America.

Welcome to Week 9

October, 30, 2010
Once again, six good conference games on the slate today, including four matchups against teams in the original Big 8, while the Texas teams battle it out down south.

I'll be heading out to Memorial Stadium in a bit for Nebraska's game against Missouri here in Lincoln, but here's a bit of pregame prep to catch you up on what you've missed this week.
Enjoy the games, everybody. As usual, I'll be blogging throughout the day's games, so keep coming back for plenty more all day.

Mailbag: Blackmon and Martin suspensions

October, 29, 2010
First off, I got a lot of e-mails covering a lot of different aspects of the Justin Blackmon suspension, but I'll just offer my general thoughts instead of answering 15 different questions:

My first big problem with all this is, it doesn't sound like enough people are differentiating between what Blackmon actually did and the "drunk driving" connotations that come with the initials "DUI." Blackmon traveled out of state on a game week. Not a great decision, but I highly doubt he's the only guy on the team to ever do that; it's my understanding that his trip was not explicitly in violation of team rules. Blackmon drank underage. Mistake, obviously, and illegal, but nothing uncommon to college or even college football teams. He waited until after 3 a.m. to make a 4.5-hour drive home. Definitely a bad decision, but not illegal on its own, minus the alcohol that was apparently in his system, although the exact wording of the police's statement leaves that up to interpretation. Making that drive at 92 mph, 32 miles above the speed limit, is both reckless and illegal.

But none of that equals "drunk driving." According to the police, there was a field sobriety test conducted and it found a "detectable" amount of alcohol on Blackmon. That adds up to a minor in possession charge in most states and a speeding ticket. I can think of at least three starting quarterbacks in football right now who have public intoxication charges on their records, a more serious charge, and that's just off the top of my head. It also includes at least one player who received serious Heisman buzz earlier in the year. Based on the police's actions, Blackmon was well below the legal limit, but in Texas, that's a DUI if you're under 21. If Blackmon was actually above the legal limit, I'm pretty certain he'd be facing a lot more than a three-digit fine.

Based on most of the e-mails I got throughout the week, it seems like not everyone understands that. I don't know Blackmon, but by all accounts, this is the first mistake by an otherwise upstanding student-athlete. My guess is, he didn't know the law in Texas, which is understandable, because before this week, I didn't either. And I live in Texas. I'm not going to defend any of the bad decisions, but I'll defend him against some of the e-mailers who wrote in claiming he got off too easy.

It was a series of decisions I'm sure he regrets, but he's taken his suspension, impressively took a few questions from the media only days after being arrested, and the team has moved on. I suggest everyone else do the same, and not do so with the notion of Blackmon as a "drunk driver." I'm not at all trying to excuse what he did; it was dangerous and against the law, but I got the sense this week that not enough people understood what he did.

This incident shouldn't have any effect on voters' minds if they're voting for the Heisman, Biletnikoff, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, or any other various awards Blackmon might be up for in December. Gundy (who handled the entire situation really, really well, by the way) made the right call in suspending him, but this one speed bump isn't significant enough to sully an otherwise remarkable season on the field.

Melissa in Lincoln, Neb., asks: What do you think about the suspension of Martin for Nebraska. Can the league really pick and choose which helmet to helmet gets a suspension?

David Ubben: There's some stuff you can debate on this and there's some you can't. First off, that hit was illegal. Period. I don't care if he "led with his shoulder" or not. It looks better from the angle from behind, but his helmet clearly hits Andrew Hudson's helmet first, and he followed through with his body and de-cleated him. You're in denial if you can't see the helmet-to-helmet contact on the replay from the angle the shows the hit from the front.

The suspension is certainly up for debate. I got plenty of questions on Twitter throughout the week and in my mailbag about why he got suspended and others with helmet-to-helmet hits didn't. My answer: I have no idea, because the people making those decisions haven't told us. I didn't expect the Big 12 to be very transparent about this, but it doesn't change the fact that I'd like them to be. A league spokesman explained some of the decision-making process to the Omaha World-Herald, but did not comment on the decision itself.

Two weeks ago, Kansas Isiah Barfield definitely hit Kansas State's Tramaine Thompson helmet-to-helmet. He wasn't suspended. Oklahoma safety Quinton Carter got flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit in this weekend's game against Missouri and he wasn't suspended, though that hit was from behind, if my memory serves correctly.

Why is Martin suspended? Maybe the Big 12 has a good reason. There's no doubt in my mind the NFL's recent focus on helmet-to-helmet hits played a huge factor. But based on the concise release they sent to the media, there are plenty of other hits that qualify under the criteria stated by the league. He's the first player in the almost two-year history of the rule to be suspended because of a hit, but there's no way he's the first to make a helmet-to-helmet hit like that in that span. It wasn't a "cheap shot" and he wasn't intentionally trying to hit Hudson in the head, even though he definitely did hit him in the head.

I just wish we knew what the difference was.

I'm not going to rip the Big 12's decision on this, but I'm not going to defend it, either. It's an illegal hit. I feel strongly about that. They're within their right to suspend Martin if they see fit. But there's a lot of illegal hits happening. Not everybody is getting suspended. Why? I have no idea, and if the Big 12 had planned on issuing an explanation, we'd have heard it by now.

Don Bowers in Oklahoma City, Okla., asks: Is this one of the questions you are going to pick for your totally awesome blog so I can brag to my friends how cool it is to get a question on here?

DU: Nope.

Joe in Waco, Texas asks: If Baylor can pull off the win this weekend, (I know, Texas will be playing with a purpose and Baylor hasn't won 3 straight all year) could it be the game that finally puts RG3 on the same stage as T-Magic and Newton?

DU: You bring up an interesting point. First off, Robert Griffin III is pretty clearly a better overall quarterback (Note: As a runner, I'd go with T-Magic) at this point than Taylor Martinez, but let's take a look at Griffin's numbers vs. Newton's.

  • Griffin: 180-270 (66.7 percent), 2,373 yards, 18 TD, 4 INT. Rating: 159.53
  • Newton: 90-138 (65.2 percent), 1,364 yards, 13 TD, 5 INT. Rating: 172.08
  • Griffin: 76 car, 374 yards (5.1 avg). 6 TD
  • Newton: 157 car, 1,077 yards (6.9 avg). 14 TD

It's pretty obvious that while Griffin is a great player, the impact of what Newton is doing this year is greater than what Griffin has done, and Newton is doing it for an undefeated, No. 1 team against an SEC schedule featuring a handful of ranked teams.

Griffin is a great player who's near the top of my ballot for Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, but there's a reason why all 15 of our ESPN Heisman Watch first-place votes went to Newton. Tell the SEC linebackers Newton is trucking on a regular basis that the 250-pounder is all hype.

Wyatt in Nebraska asks: Which big 12 players do you think would make the best body guards?

DU: Apparently I might need a couple after picking against the Huskers this week. I've got calls placed in to Colorado's Nate Solder (6-foot-9, 310 pounds) and Baylor's Robert T. Griffin (6-foot-6, 330 pounds) to tag along with me to Lincoln this weekend.

Barry in Houston asks: David,I just wanted your opinion on the act of tearing down goalposts. I ask because it seems that there is somewhat of a double standard that goes on here in particular, Texas Tech was known for a few years for rushing the field and tearing down goalposts, this got them labeled 'classless clowns' in the media. It even got to the point where law enforcement was brought into home games to keep it from happening. I remember reading several articles in the Houston area about how atrocious this behavior was and how it had no place in college football. The other day I was on here and the Mizzou 'tradition' of tearing down the goalposts and marching them through town was depicted as some sort of magical experience that every college football fan should experience. How is there such a difference in the schools actions? Why are they perceived so differently? Just wondering about your thoughts here.

DU: There's a time and place for it. I think you're overreacting on the "classless clowns" comment that I bet few people have any memory of. Texas Tech doesn't have that reputation for field-storming as far as I know. There's a time to rush the field. Beating a team with one win is not it (ahem, Colorado), unless you haven't won a game in more than a year. Qualifying for a bowl game for the first time in 15 years is definitely appropriate. Beating a No. 1 team, especially the same team that your program hasn't beaten in more than a decade, the same team that beat you to keep you out of the national title game is an appropriate time to do it. Anybody who criticizes the actual act is an oversensitive curmudgeon who needs to lighten up. There are definitely times to do it. Missouri and Baylor took advantage of their opportunities.

Video: Friday Four Downs

October, 29, 2010

David Ubben looks at the Big 12’s top storylines.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 9

October, 28, 2010
Here's what I'm keeping an eye on this weekend:

1. Oklahoma State's offense. They won't have suspended receiver Justin Blackmon, who's been the major driving force behind the passing game for the entire season, and leads the nation in receiving yards and touchdowns. How many more touches will that provide for running back Kendall Hunter, and can Josh Cooper step up as the primary remaining target for the Cowboys? I probably would have picked OSU to win this one by at least three touchdowns with Blackmon, and I still think it'll win convincingly, but Blackmon's absence is a big wildcard for the offense.

[+] EnlargeKendall Hunter
AP Photo, John A. BowersmithWith Justin Blackmon out on Saturday, Kendall Hunter may need to play a bigger role in Oklahoma State's offense.
2. Big hits. Clips of players easing up or doing things out of character filled NFL postgame shows last Sunday. Will Nebraska linebacker Eric Martin's suspension have any similar effects this week?

3. Aldon Smith vs. Taylor Martinez. Smith did a great job spying Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase in the second half of Missouri's season opener. Martinez will be a whole different animal. He won't be able to do it alone, but if Smith can get in the backfield and muck up the Huskers' zone read, Missouri's defense could have a great day.

4. Texas. Broad, maybe, but what's this team look like against a team in Baylor that's very capable of beating the Longhorns this week? Longhorns coach Mack Brown called out his team and assistants during the week, and it'll be fascinating to see how they respond. Texas has already lost two games this year at home to teams that aren't as good as Baylor.

5. Texas A&M quarterbacks. Last week, Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill split 82 snaps equally, but Mike Sherman has been coy about who'll start on Saturday. Tannehill played well, but he did it against a bottom-feeding Kansas team. Will Sherman stick with Johnson against a more talented Texas Tech team?

6. Cody Hawkins. For the rest of the season, it's Hawkins' team. Tyler Hansen will miss the rest of the season with a ruptured spleen, so how does Hawkins begin the end of his career? He couldn't ask for a more difficult venue, trying to end Oklahoma's 34-game home winning streak, but Hawkins beat Sam Bradford and the Sooners in 2007, the last time he took on Oklahoma.

7. Huskers are no homebodies. Nebraska has had its two worst performances of the year at home, while unleashing two butt-whippings to Kansas State and Washington on the road, and beating Oklahoma State last week. Bo Pelini says he'll make a few tweaks to the routine this week, but what effect will they have?

8. D.J. Monroe. Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis seems like he's made a weekly routine out of lamenting his under-use of the speedy, versatile Monroe, who admits he doesn't have a solid grasp of the playbook, but his playmaking ability makes it seem like the only play he needs to memorize is the "Here, take the ball and run." He had just one carry last week, and used it to run for 10 yards. How many more 60-yard scores like he had against Oklahoma are left in him this season? Texas' anemic offense needs as many as it can get against one of the best offenses in the league, Baylor.

9. Kansas' string of futility. They couldn't do it against Texas A&M, but is this the week Kansas competes? They travel to play an Iowa State team riding high after beating Texas, but the Jayhawks, 0-3 in Big 12 play, have yet to lose a conference game by less than five touchdowns.

10. Ryan Broyles. He played with two gimpy ankles last week against Missouri, and still caught eight passes for 110 yards with a thick tape job over his right cleat against the Tigers. Broyles is racking up receptions, but he's been surpassed by Justin Blackmon as the league's best wideout. With Blackmon sidelined and Broyles' ankles on the mend, what's he got in store for the Buffs, with a tough matchup waiting at both corners?

OSU, Nebraska face player suspensions

October, 27, 2010
Oklahoma State and Nebraska will both be without suspended players on Saturday.

Oklahoma State announced a one-game suspension for receiver Justin Blackmon, currently the nation's leader in receiving yards and touchdowns. Blackmon attended Monday night's Dallas Cowboys game, and was pulled over by police doing 92 mph in a 60 mph zone just north of Dallas in Carrollton, Texas at 3:45 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

Police charged Blackmon, 20, with a misdemeanor DUI. In Texas, persons can be charged with a DUI for any amount of alcohol if they are under 21 and driving. An officer said Blackmon fell into that category.

"I made a mistake and I take full responsibility for it. I am embarrassed to be in this position. I am truly sorry. To my family, to my friends, and to Oklahoma State as a whole, I look forward to redeeming myself and proving to everybody that this isn't who I am. I am humbled by this experience and I will grow from it," Blackmon said in a statement, before briefly taking questions from reporters.

Blackmon declined to discuss where he got the tickets to Monday's game.

""I have apologized to my teammates for being a distraction and that I brought this on the team. I apologize to this program and to the school. I brought a lot of bad press to Oklahoma State and I am really sorry for that," Blackmon said.

Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said Blackmon spent Wednesday's practice on a stairmaster.

"I compiled all the information just like I do with any situation that happens outside of our football program," Gundy said. "I call it like it is and I make the decision. No one else makes that decision but me. I decide what the punishment will be depending on the situation and I think what took place once I gather all the information. There are no two that are alike. Sometimes the procedure outside of here based on the court system is involved, and sometimes it is not. We are always going to follow the law and in our opinion what he did deserves a suspension from this game."

No. 20 Oklahoma State plays at Kansas State on Saturday. Blackmon will not travel with the team.

Elsewhere, the Big 12 announced on Wednesday afternoon that Nebraska sophomore reserve linebacker Eric Martin would be suspended for an illegal hit in the Huskers' 51-41 win over Oklahoma State last week.
Nebraska kick returner Niles Paul returned a kick 100 yards for a score with 6:27 to play in the first quarter of the Cornhuskers' 51-41 win over Oklahoma State last week, but on the play, Martin made helmet-to-helmet contact on a block with Cowboys freshman defensive end Andrew Hudson.

Hudson was attended to for several minutes before being carted off the field.

"Mr. Martin committed a flagrant act of targeting an opponent with the crown of his helmet in violation of NCAA football rules," commissioner Dan Beebe said in a statement. "This dangerous hit is one that we in the football community are trying to remove from the game."

No penalty was assessed on the play, but Big 12 officials reviewed the game tape and issued a suspension in accordance with NCAA Football Rule 9-6-3, which states, "if subsequent review of a game by a conference reveals plays involving flagrant personal fouls that game officials did not call, the conference may impose sanctions prior to the next scheduled game."

No. 14 Nebraska hosts No. 6 Missouri on Saturday.

Lunch links: RG3's postgame proposal

October, 26, 2010