Big 12: Eric Mensik

Oklahoma spring wrap

May, 6, 2011
5/06/11
8:00
AM ET
OKLAHOMA

2010 overall record: 12-2

2010 conference record: 6-2

Returning starters: Offense (8), Defense (7) P/K (2)

Top returners: QB Landry Jones, WR Ryan Broyles, LB Travis Lewis, S Tony Jefferson, WR Kenny Stills

Key losses: RB DeMarco Murray, DE Jeremy Beal, S Quinton Carter, S Jonathan Nelson, OL Eric Mensik, WR Cameron Kenney

2010 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: DeMarco Murray (1,224 yards)

Passing: Landry Jones* (4,718 yards)

Receiving: Ryan Broyles* (1,622 yards)

Tackles: Travis Lewis* (109)

Sacks: Jeremy Beal (8.5)

Interceptions: Jamell Fleming (5)

Three spring answers

1. Replacing Fleming. Jamell Fleming, the team’s top corner from a year ago, isn’t enrolled. Gabe Lynn slid in his starting spot opposite Demontre Hurst and did well, while the Sooners moved former corner Aaron Colvin to safety. Fleming’s status is still very much in flux, but Stoops played it coy when asked about the position in the future. He’s “confident” the Sooners will be OK. We’ll see if that means faith in Lynn or faith that Fleming gets reinstated.

2. Sooners shake off a major injury. Oklahoma’s starting right tackle, Jarvis Jones, went down with a knee injury early in spring camp and may miss a few games next year, but the Sooners may have found a solid replacement in converted tight end Lane Johnson. That’s a big help for an offensive line that struggled to get a push up front at times last season.

3. Future star in the making. Linebacker Corey Nelson turned heads throughout the spring for his play, prompting coach Bob Stoops to call him the best player on the defense. For now, he’s stuck behind three-year starter Travis Lewis, but Stoops vowed to find a way to get the sophomore on the field somehow.

Three fall questions

1. Road woes officially over? Oklahoma finished strong last season, winning four huge games away from Owen Field, including wins over top 25 foes Oklahoma State and Nebraska to win the Big 12 South and Big 12, respectively. Will that maturity carry over to 2011? We’ll find out quick. The Sooners travel to Florida State, a likely top 10 opponent, in the season’s first month.

2. Running back by committee? DeMarco Murray was the featured back in 2010 after spending much of his career splitting carries. This year, though, a committee approach could return for the Sooners. Roy Finch, Brennan Clay and incoming freshman Brandon Williams are likely to split duties, but will any other back crash the party? And how will those carries be distributed?

3. What to expect from the safeties? Jonathan Nelson and Quinton Carter were outstanding, but both safeties are gone. Aaron Colvin showed big potential as a new starter this spring, and Javon Harris looks likely to slide into the opposite safety spot. Nickel back Tony Jefferson is also working at a traditional safety spot periodically. How will they look in the thick of conference play?

Big 12 spring game recap: Oklahoma

April, 18, 2011
4/18/11
5:00
PM ET
What happened:

  • Landry Jones played sparingly and Ryan Broyles only fielded punts.
  • Drew Allen led the Red team to a 20-14 win by completing 16-of-29 passes for 179 yards and a 16-yard touchdown to Dejuan Miller.
  • Walk-on Dominique Whaley led all rushers with 65 yards on 10 carries.
  • New safety Aaron Colvin led all tacklers with eight stops and had an interception.
  • With the win, the Red team will enjoy a steak dinner, while the White team will deal with a dinner of hot dogs and baked beans.
What we learned:
  • Generally, we'll learn a lot less about the better and more established teams during their spring games, and Oklahoma fits that mold. Coach Bob Stoops said Whaley, a transfer from NAIA Langston University, is in the mix for running back, but let's not forget that FB Marshall Musil led the Sooners in rushing during last season's spring game. He had two carries for 11 yards last season. Stoops doesn't sound like he plans to give a heap of touches to any of his backs, which doesn't bode well for any big numbers, but together, Roy Finch, Brennan Clay and Brandon Williams should be pretty stout.
  • The last time Oklahoma was gunning for a national title, the preseason race for backup quarterback got relevant real quick. They'll be trying to avoid that this season, but Drew Allen looks like he's pulled ahead of Blake Bell for the spot, and inspired some confidence from the fans by a nice showing on Saturday. This won't be the last time you hear this, but Allen is, of course ... one play away.
  • Lane Johnson, a converted tight end, looks like he'll stick at right tackle, where the Sooners had a big hole when Jarvis Jones went down early in the spring with a torn patellar tendon. "It’s going to work out wonderfully for him, and for us. Actually he’s going to end up being a really special player there whether left or right," Stoops said. Oklahoma converted last season's starter, Eric Mensik from tight end to right tackle, so this is hardly new territory. Oklahoma needed someone to fill Jones' role, considering he's likely to miss a few games to start the season, and it looks like Johnson's filled that void.
  • Good to see Miller get back on the field and be effective after he missed the latter part of last season with a torn meniscus. He's a big receiver with a lot of potential, and he should be a nice part of a deep Oklahoma receiving corps. By all accounts, he had a fantastic spring.
They said it:

"I feel like we can be great. We can be one of the best secondaries in the country, but right now we still have a lot of improvement, a lot of things to work on. So I can’t talk about the positives right now because we still have some negatives to correct." -- Oklahoma safety Aaron Colvin.

More Big 12 spring game recaps:

2010 Big 12 All-Bowl team

January, 14, 2011
1/14/11
11:00
AM ET
We've spent the week wrapping up the bowls, and now that it's Friday, here's our Big 12 bowl team comprised of players who got it done individually in their bowl games.

Plenty of guys got snubbed, particularly at receiver (Sorry, Lyle Leong, Cameron Kenney and Kendall Wright!), but without further ado, here it is.

OFFENSE

QB: Landry Jones, Oklahoma

Jones shook off an early pick-six and threw for three touchdowns and 429 yards on 34-of-49 passing in Oklahoma's 48-20 win over Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl. It was his second consecutive 400-yard passing game in a bowl.

RB: Daniel Thomas, Kansas State

Thomas scored three touchdowns against Syracuse, and finished with 90 yards on 22 carries in the Wildcats 36-34 loss to the Orange in the Pinstripe Bowl.

RB: Eric Stephens, Texas Tech

Stephens ran for a season-high 126 yards on 14 carries and caught five passes. His 86-yard touchdown run helped push Texas Tech to a 45-38 win over Northwestern in the TicketCity Bowl.

WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma

Broyles caught 13 passes for 170 yards--his second consecutive bowl game with 13 receptions--and had a highlight-reel catch for his lone touchdown on his final catch of the night.

WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

Blackmon opened the game with a 71-yard touchdown catch on the Cowboys opening drive, and finished with nine catches for 117 yards and a second touchdown in OSU's 36-10 win over Arizona in the Alamo Bowl.

WR: T.J. Moe, Missouri

Moe helped quarterback Blaine Gabbert top 400 yards against a porous Iowa zone defense, finishing with a 15 catches for 152 yards, both career highs.

OL: Zach Kendall, Kansas State

Kendall helped pave the way for Kansas State's offense, which threw for 258 yards and ran for 121 more against Syracuse.

OL: Tim Barnes, Missouri

Barnes was solid as usual, getting Gabbert in rhythm with solid snaps and giving the quarterback plenty of time to throw for a season-high 434 yards.

OL: Eric Mensik, Oklahoma

Oklahoma rolled up 524 yards of offense in the Fiesta Bowl, and Mensik was one of the big guys up front who helped it happen.

OL: Lonnie Edwards, Texas Tech

Texas Tech ran the ball with uncharacteristic effectiveness, especially late in the game with a lead, and Edwards gets the nod for helping the Red Raiders run for 183 yards and throw for 369 more.

OL: Elvis Fisher, Missouri

Fisher completely eliminated Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn from the game, and because of it, the Tigers offense rolled for 512 yards against the Hawkeyes.

DEFENSE

DL: Phil Taylor, Baylor

Taylor made 10 tackles in the middle of Baylor's defense responsible for slowing down Illinois' rushing offense.

DL: Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma

Beal plugged up holes for Connecticut's Jordan Todman, who averaged under a yard per carry at halftime, and finished with six tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

DL: Jared Crick, Nebraska

Crick made seven tackles--all solo--for the Huskers in their 19-7 loss to Washington in the Holiday Bowl.

DL: Richetti Jones, Oklahoma State

Jones made five tackles, including 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss, against Arizona's Air Raid passing attack.

LB: Von Miller, Texas A&M

Miller made nine tackles, a sack and three tackles for loss against LSU in the Aggies' 41-24 loss in the Cotton Bowl.

LB: Travis Lewis, Oklahoma

Lewis was responsible for slowing Todman, and finished with 10 tackles--all solo--and a pair of pass breakups to lead the team.

LB: Orie Lemon, Oklahoma State

Lemon led the Cowboys with 14 tackles against Arizona.

CB: Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma

Fleming made seven tackles and had a tackle for loss, but made a huge play when he intercepted a pass and returned it 55 yards for a score against the Huskies in the Fiesta Bowl.

CB: Kevin Rutland, Missouri

Rutland helped slow Iowa's passing attack led by Ricky Stanzi, making seven tackles, breaking up a pair of passes and returning an interception 25 yards.

S: Byron Landor, Baylor

Landor led the Bears with 12 tackles, and had a sack and another assist on a tackle for loss.

S: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State

Martin made just four stops, but swung the game on his 62-yard interception for a score, and broke up a pair of passes in the win over Arizona.

SPECIALISTS

P: Matt Grabner, Missouri

Grabner helped Missouri win the field position battle with a pair of punts inside the 20-yard line, a 55-yard punt and a Big 12 bowl-best average of 42 yards on his four punts.

K: Dan Bailey, Oklahoma State

Bailey made three field goals longer than 40 yards, and was flawless on his five punts after being forced into duty by a suspension.

KR: Coryell Judie, Texas A&M

Judie broke the Big 12's longest kick return on the opening kickoff of the Cotton Bowl, breaking a 69-yarder to set up a game-oepning touchdown and finished with 197 yards on seven returns.

PR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma

Broyles returned five punts for 92 yards, and had the longest return of the Big 12 bowl season, a 57-yarder against the Huskies.

The Big 12 North versus Big 12 South

December, 20, 2010
12/20/10
4:10
PM ET
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?

Stoops limits media access to Sooners

November, 16, 2010
11/16/10
11:30
AM ET
Oklahoma has lost its past two games on the road, and heads to Waco this week for another on Saturday against Baylor.

During the week, only five players were allowed to speak with the media: Senior defensive end Jeremy Beal, junior receiver Ryan Broyles, senior running back DeMarco Murray, junior linebacker Travis Lewis and senior offensive tackle Eric Mensik.

"Sometimes, there's too many guys talking," Stoops told reporters on Monday. "Just what I decided to do. I don't need to explain it. That's just how we're going to do it."

Most notable among the absent: Quarterback Landry Jones.

"He's got enough to do,” Stoops said "He's busy. Got class. He's working. He's got a lot to do. He's only a sophomore, there's other times we haven't always had our quarterback available."

What Stoops is tiptoeing around is the perception that he's doing this as an adjustment for his team's road struggles, and a team that would meet a barrage of similar questions about those struggles during the week.

He declined to confirm or deny if he would be making any other changes to the team's routine during the week. "If there is, I'm not talking about them," he said.

Oklahoma spring wrap

May, 6, 2010
5/06/10
8:00
AM ET
2009 overall record: 8-5

2009 conference record: 5-3

Returning starters: Offense (9), Defense(4) P/K (2)

Top returners: QB Landry Jones, RB DeMarco Murray, LB Travis Lewis, S Quinton Carter, WR Ryan Broyles, DE Jeremy Beal, DE Frank Alexander

Key losses: DT Gerald McCoy, OL Trent Williams, QB Sam Bradford, RB Chris Brown, DE Auston English, OL Brian Simmons, OL Brody Eldridge


2009 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Chris Brown (774 yards)

Passing: Landry Jones* (3,198 yards)

Receiving: Ryan Broyles* (1,120 yards)

Tackles: Travis Lewis* (108)

Sacks: Jeremy Beal* (11)

Interceptions: Brian Jackson (4)

Three spring answers

1. O-line no longer offensive. Coach Bob Stoops tabbed his offensive and defensive lines as two of the most improved units on the team, a big difference from a year ago when Stoops called out his offensive linemen for not working hard enough. Part of the problem last season was injuries, and right guard Eric Mensik was lost for six weeks with an MCL injury, but even without their three best blockers from a season ago, the line is further ahead as a unit than they were last spring.

2. Young talent rising. Plenty of young players didn’t get on the field in 2009, for various reasons, whether it be injury, more experienced talent, or still being in high school. But linebackers Tom Wort and Ronnell Lewis, along with cornerback Demontre Hurst and receiver Kenny Stills could be big parts of Oklahoma’s 2010 team. Lewis will help replace one of the linebacker positions vacated by Ryan Reynolds and Keenan Clayon, but moved around in the spring. Wort is a likely starter as well after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. Hurst will help replace one of the corner positions vacated by Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson. And Stills could start for a receiving corps that struggled in 2009.

3. Lewis takes the reins. Oklahoma’s defense won’t be short on talent, headlined by defensive ends Jeremy Beal and Frank Alexander. But junior linebacker Travis Lewis, the team’s leading tackler as a sophomore, is ready to take over as the voice of the team, talking plenty of trash before the spring game and backing it up with his play, helping his team pitch a shutout. Gerald McCoy was the heart of the defense last season. This year, it’s Travis Lewis.

Three fall questions

1. Can the Sooners stay healthy? The theme for last season was injuries everywhere for the Sooners. Stoops says confidently he isn’t changing a thing, and it’s the right move. But it won’t stop fans—and maybe a couple of coaches—from cringing every time a player goes down awkwardly. Injuries turned the Sooners from a national title contender into an eight-win team a year ago, and another year of getting beat up could add to the frustration.

2. How much better will Landry Jones be? Jones played well when forced into action early by Sam Bradford’s injured shoulder. He played poorly in games against Texas and Nebraska, but finished the season with a career-high 418 yards and three touchdowns against Stanford. Jones is loaded with potential, and Stoops is optimistic at how Jones will look after a full spring and fall as starter.

3. Do the Sooners have a kicker? Jimmy Stevens lost his job to walk-on Patrick O’Hara late last season, but the two combined were just 1-of-8 from beyond 40 yards last season. A rainy spring game did little to settle the spring debate, and a couple misses on reasonable kicks by whoever wins the job in the fall could lead to another switch.

Sooners not changing after injuries

April, 29, 2010
4/29/10
11:15
AM ET
The injuries for Oklahoma began before the season, when tight end Jermaine Gresham tore cartilage in his knee in practice and eventually underwent surgery that ended his season.

They continued early on, and the Sooners national title hopes ended before halftime of the season opener, when Sam Bradford injured his throwing shoulder and missed nearly the entire season after re-injuring the shoulder against Texas.

They continued throughout the season, even through the bowl game when defensive tackle Adrian Taylor suffered a gruesome broken leg and is still recovering, hoping to be back on the field by fall.

But Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is sending a stern message to anyone who thinks five losses in 2009 with a team that began the season ranked No. 3 means he'll change how he runs his program.

"I think its pretty evident that when you lose your Heisman Trophy quarterback and a first-round draft pick, All-American tight end and on and on and all the O-line injuries -- no, we haven’t changed anything," Stoops said. "We’ve got a pretty strong, proven method for winning Big 12 Championships and competing for national championships through 11 years."

Oklahoma only suffered one major injury this spring, losing right tackle Eric Mensik for 6-8 weeks with an MCL injury that won't require surgery. Guard Stephen Good suffered an ankle injury in the spring game and was carted off the field, but the injury was minor and should only keep him out of commission for a couple weeks.

Stoops held running back DeMarco Murray out of the spring game as a precaution, and limited the availability of Ryan Broyles, who still caught four passes for 69 yards in the game.

"Just because we got a rash of injuries in one season, we didn’t change a thing," Stoops said. "Had a great spring."

Lunch links: Cyclones coach mic'd up

April, 7, 2010
4/07/10
12:30
PM ET
No worries, Aggie fans. The A&M coverage is coming. Yes, I was actually in College Station on April 1. No, it was not an April Fool's joke.
  • Seahawks coach Pete Carroll shares a few thoughts on his visit to Austin last week for the Longhorns' Pro Day.

Big 12 position battles to watch

February, 12, 2010
2/12/10
10:00
AM ET
There will be plenty of turnover in the Big 12 this coming season.

Texas has to replace quarterback Colt McCoy and star receiver Jordan Shipley. Oklahoma loses 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham, who didn't play much at all last season, and Oklahoma State said goodbye to quarterback Zac Robinson and receiver Dez Bryant.

With spring practice right around the corner, here's a look at five position battles to watch in the Big 12 this spring:

1. Oklahoma State quarterback

Robinson leaves after breaking most of the school's passing records. He'll probably be replaced by 26-year-old junior Brandon Weeden, who was a second-round draft choice of the New York Yankees in the 2002 amateur baseball draft. Weeden played well at times last season, when he filled in while Robinson was hurt. If Weeden can grasp new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen's spread offense quickly, he should hold off heralded incoming freshman Nathan Sorensen during fall camp.

2. Texas defensive line

The bad news for Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp: star defensive end Sergio Kindle and tackle Lamarr Houston departed for the NFL draft. The good news: ends Sam Acho and Eddie Jones, who combined for 15 sacks in 2009, are both coming back. Jones might be the leading candidate to replace Kindle, but he'll have to hold off Russell Carter and promising sophomore Alex Okafor. Replacing Houston's productivity might be more problematic. Sophomore Calvin Howell, who had four tackles and one sack in 2009, was the No. 2 tackle at season's end.

3. Oklahoma offensive line

The Sooners were banged up on the offensive line last season, which contributed to their unexpected slide to 8-5. Now, OU coach Bob Stoops has to replace left tackle Trent Williams, right guard Brian Simmons and center/tight end Brody Eldridge. Will the Sooners stick with their starting tackles against Stanford in the Sun Bowl? Converted tight end Eric Mensik and rising senior Cory Brandon started against the Cardinal. Junior Jarvis Jones, who split time between guard and tackle last season, is recovering from a broken heel and might not be ready for the start of spring practice. Junior Donald Stephenson, who was suspended all of last season, might be the wild card. Junior Stephen Good and senior Tavaris Jeffries have to get better in the interior line if OU is going to improve up front in 2010.

4. Kansas quarterback

Todd Reesing, who broke about every passing mark in the Kansas record book, is gone after starting the last three seasons. Sophomore Cale Pick might remind new coach Turner Gill of his playing days at Nebraska. Pick averaged 11.9 yards per rushing attempt in seven games last season, while throwing only five passes. Pick will have to hold off junior college transfer Quinn Mecham, who enrolled in classes in January. Mecham threw for 3,091 yards with 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions at Snow College in Utah last season.

5. Nebraska defensive line

How do you replace one of the best defensive tackles in school history? That's the dilemma Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini will face when his team opens spring practice. All-American Ndumakong Suh is gone, along with senior defensive end Barry Turner. The good news for Nebraska is that it played several young players on the defensive line last season. Starting tackle Jared Crick had 9.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss and was a star in his own right. Sophomore Baker Steinkuhler and junior Terrence Moore will battle for the other tackle spot. Sophomore Cameron Meredith, who had five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in limited time last season, is the top candidate to replace Turner on the edge.

Is center a jinxed position at Oklahoma this season?

December, 21, 2009
12/21/09
5:07
PM ET
Brian Lepak's injury will keep yet another Oklahoma center out of action.

But the most surprising element of the story will be his replacement.

Senior All-America tackle Trent Williams will slide from left tackle into the starting position at center after Lepak sustained a sprained knee in bowl practice that will keep him out of the Sooners' Dec. 31 Sun Bowl against Stanford.

Earlier this season, Ben Habern and Brody Eldridge started at center for the Sooners.

"I'm done counting them," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops told reporters about the many injuries at the position this season. "Too many."

Williams worked there during summer practice and showed strong intuitive abilities at the position. But Sooners coaches preferred to keep him at tackle where he was one of the best players in the nation.

The Sooners will start the same tackle rotation in the bowl game as in their 27-0 victory over Oklahoma State in their final regular season game. Williams missed that game with a concussion suffered earlier that week, with Cory Brandon starting at Williams' left tackle and converted tight end Eric Mensik starting on the right side. That group helped the Sooners produce 143 yards rushing against an OSU defense that came into the game ranked fourth nationally against the run.

And while it's not an ideal situation against the Cardinal, Williams is one of the Big 12's most versatile athletes along the offensive line. Look for him to thrive at his new position as he's been able to do most of his college career.

Sooners aim to end TCU's success in Norman

September, 27, 2008
9/27/08
6:25
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

NORMAN, Okla. -- Greetings from Owen Field, where TCU will attempt to keep up its surprising recent winning ways over the Sooners.

  

The Horned Frogs don't figure to be intimidated by any kind of aura about playing at Owen Field. They've won four of their last five games in Norman, including the shocking opener from the 2005 season. Several key Oklahoma players are still around from that game.

Oklahoma has much to play for tonight. Their performance will be judged against the winner of the Georgia/Alabama game to determine the No. 1 position when the polls are released.

The Sooners haven't been No. 1 since Mike Stoops left the program to become the head coach at Arizona. It's been fashionable in many circles to say that Bob Stoops has never been able to return the program to that level since then, particularly from national sources who don't realize the domination the Sooners have had in the Big 12. So it would be an important accomplishment for Bob Stoops if his team could rise to that level.

But TCU would be able to show something to the country with an upset. The Horned Frogs cracked the Top 25 and could continue a march to the first BCS bowl berth in school history with a win tonight.

TCU is a much better program than in 2005, at least in terms of personnel, because TCU coach Gary Patterson has been attracting better athletes into his program. The best example of that is along the defensive front. Many teams would have taken a step back after losing key producers like Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz. So what has Patterson done? Just plug in guys like 2008 starters Jerry Hughes and Matt Panfil.

A hot night is expected with temperatures expected to be around 90 degrees at kickoff. Here are some things I'm interesting in watching from the (thankfully) air-conditioned press box tonight.

(Read full post)

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