Big 12: Gary Barnett

Ranking the Big 12's programs of the decade

January, 21, 2010
The arrival of Mack Brown and Bob Stoops late in the 1990s helped rejuvenate dormant programs at Texas and Oklahoma. By the end of the following decade, both traditional powers were clearly the Big 12's top two programs and among the nation’s best.

The return of Bo Pelini to Nebraska helped the Cornhuskers close the decade strongly and claim a spot just below the Big 12's "Big Two." Texas Tech has been among the nation's most consistent teams of the decade. North teams like Colorado, Kansas State and Missouri all popped up to make at least two appearances in the Big 12 title game.

But Oklahoma and Texas have been the Big 12's behemoths during the recent decade. Here's how I rank the programs ranked based on their accomplishments in the last decade.

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners earn a slight edge over Texas despite the same number of victories in the decade because Bob Stoops took them to six Big 12 titles. The earlier teams depended more on defense, while Stoops’ more recent squads have been offensive juggernauts to reflect the overall change in the Big 12.

2. Texas: A victory in the BCS title game earlier this month might have catapulted Texas into the top slot. Mack Brown has pushed his program into parity with Oklahoma after struggling with the Sooner dynasty built by Stoops earlier in the decade.

3. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers withstood more tumult in the last decade than in any era since Bob Devaney turned the program in 1962. Even with two coaching changes, Bo Pelini has the Cornhuskers steered to the top of the North Division and poised for much more heading into the new decade.

4. Texas Tech: Mike Leach took the Red Raiders to an 84-43 record during the decade, with another victory added by Ruffin McNeill in the Valero Alamo Bowl for third place among Big 12 teams in victories. They fall behind Nebraska because they still have never advanced to the Big 12 title game or claimed a BCS bowl berth. That will be Tommy Tuberville’s task to change the culture and break that ceiling for the program.

5. Kansas State: The program was at its best during the early part of the decade when Bill Snyder took the Wildcats to the last title by a North Division team in 2003. The program dipped under Ron Prince, but could be poised to make another step forward after confounding prognosticators by remaining in the North Division title hunt until the last game in 2009.

6. Missouri: Gary Pinkel has the program humming with two title-game berths, strong incoming talent and a reputation as the conference’s foremost developers of unheralded recruiting talent. Pinkel's growth has been strong, but he still needs to take them another step where they start winning conference championships and appearing in BCS bowl games.

7. Oklahoma State: The infusion of T. Boone Pickens’ money has helped make the Cowboys’ facilities as good as most in college football. That growth has helped pick up recruiting as Mike Gundy’s program has made a bowl trip in four of his five years coaching the Cowboys.

8. Colorado: Gary Barnett had the Buffaloes as the North Division’s most consistent program with four championship game appearances in five seasons, including the 2001 Big 12 title. They haven’t been nearly as successful since Dan Hawkins took over with one bowl trip, no bowl victories or trips to the championship game.

9. Texas A&M: The Aggies still have the elements that could return them to prominence with rich tradition, strong facilities and an ideal recruiting location. But it’s tougher for them to challenge in the South Division with Oklahoma and Texas at the highest levels in recent history and growing programs at Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and even Baylor.

10. Kansas: Mark Mangino has awakened football interest here, but it will be up to Turner Gill to build on that growth. The North Division looks open, but Gill will be challenged to match Mangino’s achievements early in his coaching tenure without an immediate replacement for Todd Reesing at quarterback.

11. Iowa State: Dan McCarney's turnaround of this program in the early part of the decade is one of the more underrated building projects in recent college football history after taking the Cyclones to five bowls in the first six seasons of the decade. Included in that run were two near-misses where the Cyclones legitimately could have made a championship-game appearance with more consistent kicking. Athletic director Jamie Pollard went for the sizzle when he hired Gene Chizik to replace McCarney. He now appears to have found a McCarney clone with steady Paul Rhoads in charge.

12. Baylor: The last decade will be marked by an incredible series of building projects at Baylor, but still no bowl game. The Bears appeared poised in 2009 before Robert Griffin's unfortunate season-ending knee injury. Art Briles turned down a couple of intriguing possibilities to remain at Baylor and try to stem the bowl drought, currently at 15 seasons and counting.

Ranking the Big 12's top coaches of the decade

January, 21, 2010
Only two coaches who started the decade coaching in the Big 12 were still in their jobs at the end of it.

Bob Stoops has helped turned Oklahoma into a consistent national power and Mack Brown has done the same with Texas. Both won national championships during the decade and also took their team to bowl games each season.

Their stability and staying power are the major reasons the Longhorns and Sooners have dominated the Big 12 during the decade.

The rest of the conference wasn't quite as fortunate.

Doug Benc/Getty ImagesBob Stoops won three straight Big 12 titles from 2006-08.
Here's my list of the top-10 coaches of the past decade in the Big 12.

1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: Stoops and Brown have the same number of victories (110) during the decade. Texas actually has a better winning percentage. But Stoops gets the nod because of his consistent coaching excellence with six Big 12 titles over the decade, a national championship in 2000 and an unprecedented three-peat of conference championships from 2006-08.

2. Mack Brown, Texas: Brown had the best winning percentage and is tied for the most wins with Stoops during the decade. He's won two Big 12 titles in three trips to the championship game. Most importantly for his job security, he's turned around his slump in the Red River Rivalry after an earlier five-game losing streak to Stoops. Texas has won four of the last five games against the Sooners as Brown has boosted his program to arguably its highest point in history.

3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State: People forget how dominant the Wildcats were in the early part of the decade, when they won at least 11 games in three of the first four seasons. That run was punctuated by the 2003 Big 12 championship team that was memorable in that Snyder overcame an early-season three-game losing streak. Snyder came back rejuvenated and appears to be ready to continue his career after taking the Wildcats into unexpected North Division title contention in 2009. And he's headed to College Football Hall of Fame after his career ends.

4. Mike Leach, Texas Tech: Before his abrupt firing before the Valero Alamo Bowl last month, Leach had taken the Red Raiders to a bowl game every season in his career there. The Red Raiders never advanced above the Cotton Bowl in the Big 12’s pecking order and earned a share of one South Division title. But he sure made things interesting when he was coaching, and was the main figure in the Big 12's transformation into a cutting-edge passing conference.

5. Gary Barnett, Colorado: At the time of his firing, he had taken the Buffaloes to four Big 12 title games in five seasons, including the 2001 championship. Colorado has made one bowl trip since Barnett’s demise. I'm still surprised he hasn't gotten another opportunity after his dismissal.

6. Gary Pinkel, Missouri: After a slow start, he’s averaged nine wins over the last five seasons, and twice taken the Tigers to the Big 12 title game. In the process, his players have said the death of former player Aaron O’Neal has helped transform him into a more caring, compassionate leader -- a marked contrast from some of the recent events in coaching at other schools in the conference and beyond.

7. Mark Mangino, Kansas: Made history by taking the Jayhawks to back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in school history, including a 12-1 season in 2007 that earned him national coach of the year honors. The seven-game losing streak at the end of the 2009 season doomed his program's chances and led to his resignation.

8. Bo Pelini, Nebraska: In two-plus seasons with Nebraska, he’s already won three bowl games and taken the Cornhuskers to the Big 12 title game. More importantly, he’s reawakened the passion of Nebraska fans with a crowd-pleasing defensive style.

9. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: Has led Oklahoma State to the exact same winning percentage -- .571 -- as his predecessor, Les Miles. Gundy gets the edge because he’s claimed two bowl victories while Miles won one. Both whiffed in every game against Texas.

10. Dan McCarney, Iowa State: Before he was fired after the 2006 season, McCarney had turned around fortunes for the long-struggling Cyclones program. In the process, he won the 2000 Insight Bowl -- the school’s first bowl victory -- among a run of five bowl trips in six seasons. And he might have taken the Cyclones to their elusive first division championship if they had a more reliable kicker.

Colorado's all-decade team

January, 19, 2010
Colorado started the decade as one of the North Division's dominant teams, earning bowl berths in five of the first six seasons of the decade.

The Buffaloes have fallen on hard times recently, but they still have provided many outstanding players during the decade.

Here are my choices for Colorado's all-decade team.


QB: Joel Klatt

RB: Chris Brown

RB: Bobby Purify

WR: Scotty McKnight

WR: Derek McCoy

TE: Daniel Graham

OL: Brian Daniels

OL: Andre Gurode

OL: Victor Rogers

OL: Justin Bates

C: Wayne Lucier


DL: Abraham Wright

DL: Tyler Brayton

DL: George Hypolite

DL: Justin Bannan

LB: Jordon Dizon

LB: Sean Tufts

LB: Jeff Smart

DB: Michael Lewis

DB: Terrence Wheatley

DB: Jimmy Smith

DB: Donald Strickland

P: Mark Mariscal

K: Mason Crosby

KR: Jeremy Bloom

Offensive player of the decade: Chris Brown. He was the key player on Colorado’s Big 12 championship team in 2001 and was even better the following season before injuries derailed his Heisman hopes.

Defensive player of the decade: Jordon Dizon. Colorado’s only consensus All-American defensive player of the decade also was the Big 12’s defensive player of the year in 2007 after a four-year career as a starter for the Buffaloes.

Coach of the decade: Gary Barnett. Even with his unseemly departure, Barnett still coached Colorado to its only Big 12 championship and took the Buffaloes to four Big 12 title games in a five-season period. They haven't been back since.

Moment of the decade: Colorado stuns Texas for 2001 Big 12 title. The Buffaloes’ 39-37 victory was sparked by 182 yards rushing and three touchdowns by Brown, pushing them to their only Big 12 football championship and lone BCS bowl appearance of this decade.

Big 12 flourishes during its first full decade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exactly how long will former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione be out of the coaching game?

Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman thinks it might not be that much longer.

That link and others top our daily offerings from across the conference.

Big 12 spectators guide, Week 6

October, 7, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Here’s a quick spectator’s guide for this weekend’s games. A ranking of four stars indicates absolutely, positively must-see football. Three-star games are definitely worth an extensive investment in time, although you can be forgiven if you turn the station during commercial breaks or make a queso break for a few minutes. Two-star games bear a quick glimpse or two for occasional score updates, but little more. And one-star games mean you might be better off taking care of some honey-dos around the house.

Check out this list and plan your Saturday schedule accordingly. All times are for Saturday games unless otherwise noted.

Four-star game

Nebraska at Missouri (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET Thursday): This one should be an intriguing matchup between two teams that will be in the hunt for the North Division's championship at the end of the season. We'll have the matchup between young quarterbacks Zac Lee of Nebraska and Blaine Gabbert of Missouri, who almost attended Nebraska before opting to stay in his home state. Two aggressive defenses will be on display with Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon able to show their stuff to a national audience. This one could hinge on expected nasty weather, which might give the Cornhuskers an edge because of their ground game keyed by Big 12 rushing leader Roy Helu Jr. Oh, and one other thing: These two teams don't like each other -- particularly after Missouri's recent 93-23 margin of victory the past two seasons.

Three-star game

Oklahoma State at Texas A&M (noon): I know, I know. This one doesn't seem to be that attractive, does it? I think it does if you look closely for a couple of key reasons. If Oklahoma State is really, truly a South Division contender, the Cowboys need to take care of business in hostile road games like this one at Kyle Field. OSU is untested on the road after playing its first four games at home. It needs a good showing in this game to prove the early hype is legitimate. OSU has shown at times it deserves it -- like during the Georgia game. But the loss to Houston exhibited many of the questions that have dogged the program in the past. This game will be interesting for the Aggies because they assuredly can't play as badly as they did last week against Arkansas, can they? After a strong 10-minute spurt to start the game, the Aggies collapsed under the Razorbacks' avalanche of points. A&M's collection of offensive talent could prove troublesome to Oklahoma State, particularly if injuries continue to dog the Cowboys and they can get Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael going in the running game. This game might turn out being more entertaining than we think, particularly if the Aggies can take advantage of the crowd to build some early momentum and confidence.

Two-star games

Iowa State at Kansas (12:30 p.m.): This matchup last season turned out to be one of the most entertaining games of the season as Iowa State jumped to a 20-0 halftime lead before Kansas stormed back for a wild 35-33 victory. I wouldn't expect this one to be nearly as close as the Jayhawks are intent on proving they are legitimate North Division challengers. Their opening Big 12 test won't be nearly as daunting as either Nebraska or Missouri will face this week, but it will be interesting to see how Kansas plays coming off a bye. Its defense struggled early against Southern Mississippi before sealing the comeback with a strong fourth-quarter outing. It'll need to continue that defensive momentum against Austen Arnaud and Co. Both teams' top rushing threats -- Iowa State's Alexander Robinson and Kansas' Jake Sharp -- have been dinged up. Both likely will play in what should be an interesting matchup.

Baylor at Oklahoma (ABC, 3:30 p.m.): This game could hinge on the play of backup quarterbacks as Baylor will start third-stringer Nick Florence or second-stringer Blake Szymanski in place of Robert Griffin. The Sooners might end up playing Landry Jones, although Sam Bradford was making noise about playing early in the week. If Bradford plays, it boosts interest in this game immeasurably. The Sooners have won all 17 previous games in this series and desperately need a victory on Saturday to boost confidence going into the game against Texas next week. They need to build some confidence in their running game and also look for some productive receivers who can stretch defenses. Baylor played well under Florence last week, but will be challenged by an Oklahoma defense still stinging from late collapses in a pair of one-point losses to BYU and Miami. In the Sooners' last 10 losses, on four occasions they've dropped the game by one point. I wouldn't expect that to be a concern Saturday afternoon.

Kansas State at Texas Tech (7 p.m.): Mike Leach could start his first backup quarterback in his history with the program if Taylor Potts is idled after last week's concussion. If he can't play, Steven "Sticks" Sheffield will return to lead the Red Raiders, who also will have starting guard Brandon Carter back in the lineup. The Tech line draws much confidence from Carter's presence and really missed him last week, as seen by the five sacks allowed. They will be facing an underrated Kansas State defense that ranks among the top 40 in all four major defensive statistical categories -- rush defense, pass defense, total defense and scoring defense. For good measure, the Wildcats rank No. 7 nationally in pass defense and will test whoever starts at quarterback for the Red Raiders. The Wildcats will dictate the tempo of the game with starting quarterback Grant Gregory. KSU ranks third nationally in time of possession, averaging 35 minutes, 29 seconds per game. Look for wily KSU coach Bill Snyder to try to keep the ball away from Tech's offense. It will be his best chance at an upset.

Colorado at Texas (ESPN, 7:15 p.m.): This one could get ugly quickly as the Longhorns look for a final tune-up before the Oklahoma game next week. They run into a struggling Colorado program that ranks 102nd or lower in six national statistical categories, including total defense, pass efficiency defense, rushing defense and rushing. After a week off, Colt McCoy will be intent on a quicker start than in his first four games this season. Texas' surging offense should roll up some huge numbers considering it leads the nation in scoring, ranks fourth in total offense and ninth in passing. Mack Brown hasn't forgotten about losing the 2001 Big 12 title game to Gary Barnett and the Buffaloes. Since then, the Longhorns have won all four games in the series by an average margin of 35 points, rolling up 31, 42, 70 and 38 points.

Big 12 mailbag: Should KU be worried about offensive line slump?

September, 30, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Here's an early dose of letters from readers across the blogosphere.

Steve Josephson from Lenexa, Kan., writes: Tim, I hope you got a chance to watch Kansas play the last couple of weeks. I’m a little afraid watching the pressure that Todd Reesing has faced in those games, particularly against Southern Mississippi.

Should I be concerned about the struggles that we saw early in the game against the Golden Eagles? Or should I be happier the defense got it together in the end and we finally won the game in the end?

Tim Griffin: Steve, a win is a win, so you can never discount getting a victory no matter how ugly it might appear.

I was most impressed with the way Kansas earned the victory last week after some early struggles against the Southern Mississippi offense. The fact they held them scoreless over their final four drives ultimately paved the way for the victory.

But I was also concerned by Reesing's susceptibility for sacks. The Jayhawks gave up five to Southern Mississippi and have yielded seven in their first four games, which ranks ahead of only Colorado and Kansas State in the Big 12.

I think some of that is due to not having Jake Sharp in the lineup, who is more familiar with blitz pickups than his replacement Toben Opurum.

But if Kansas is having trouble with defenses like Southern Mississippi and Duke, it probably doesn’t bode well when they start facing teams like Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska once Big 12 play begins.

Ken Smith from Houston writes: Tim, I have a couple of questions to ask. It’s plain to me that Carson Coffman can’t lead Kansas State. Why don’t you think that Bill Snyder doesn’t start Grant Gregory at quarterback? I know Snyder is a great coach, but it doesn’t seem like he makes good decisions. What is your prediction for the rest of the year? And also how will Brandon Banks finish out?

Tim Griffin: It’s obvious that Bill Snyder is in for a challenging rebuilding job at Kansas State after the first four games of the season. Let's be fair to Snyder, who didn’t recruit most of the players on this roster. And I think his place in the College Football Hall of Fame remains secure even after the first four games of his comeback.

Snyder did recruit Gregory from South Florida, but it’s also pretty obvious that Snyder feels more comfortable with Coffman as his starting quarterback. Coffman had a solid game against Tennessee Tech, completing 8-of-9 passes for 131 yards. Of course, that was against Tennessee Tech.

It will be interesting to see how the Wildcats approach the rest of the season. Their special-teams woes have been their biggest early concern. But I still expect the Wildcats to be able to win two or three games during the rest of the season. The “Farmageddon” game against Iowa State is a must if the Wildcats harbor any bowl hopes. They already have to effectively get to seven victories to qualify for a bowl game because they have two FCS opponents and can only count one of their wins for bowl purposes.

I’m still thinking that Snyder surprises a team in an upset. And Banks will be a big part of that. His plays in the kicking game were huge last week, but his three receptions for 90 yards arguably were just as important to rebuild his flagging confidence. He needs to be an active part of the Wildcats’ offense.

David Parker (Ogden, Utah) writes: Hey, Tim, do you add that Texas A&M's 38-30 win at home to a bottom dweller in the WAC (Utah St.) apart from "devouring" those two wins so far in this young season?

Tim Griffin: David, I’m not going to defend Texas A&M’s schedule because I really can’t. But the fact is that if they win the game this week against Arkansas along with earlier victories against Utah State, UAB and New Mexico, the Aggies will match their 2008 win total before conference play even begins. And with the injury to Robert Griffin, I think the Aggies have a solid shot to make a bowl game this season.

Most fans didn’t think they would get there this season. After their first three games -- no matter who they were playing -- it’s a promising start when compared to last season.

Want to know the clearest indicator of how things have changed around Aggieland? My friends who run the outstanding college football website had A&M coach Mike Sherman ranked among their top two or three favorites to be fired all summer. But after the Aggies’ three season-opening wins have dropped him to No. 13 this week.

Willie from Windsor, Colo., writes: If Colorado has another lackluster performance on Thursday Night in primetime to the whole nation, will Dan Hawkins survive the season and can the Kevin Sumlin era at CU begin?

Tim Griffin: Willie, my sources at Colorado are telling me it will be very hard for Hawkins to get fired this season because of Colorado’s cash-strapped condition in the athletic department. After paying off Gary Barnett’s big contract, they find it would be hard for the university’s heavy hitters to justify another big buyout to Hawkins. And that’s on top of the cost of hiring a new coach.

So I’m hearing that Hawkins is safe, unless things really bottom out during the rest of the season. Sumlin is a very attractive candidate and I would imagine he’ll have the pick of several attractive jobs that might come open at the end of the year. I’m curious if he would leave Houston after two years, or wait around for another year or two to claim what he would perceive to be a select job.

Robert Detwing from Bellevue, Wash., writes: Tim, now that the reality of Robert Griffin’s injury has set in, please give me, and the rest of the Baylor faithful, some reasons as to why we will still make a bowl this season.

Tim Griffin: Robert, I wish I could paint a rosier picture, but it’s going to be tough. Griffin’s injury will mean that Blake Szymanski inherits the starting job at quarterback. He still holds the school record in passing yards and hasn’t ever had the benefit of extensive playing in Art Briles’ system. He has the best offensive weapons in terms of receivers that Baylor has had in a long time. The Baylor defense is going to be salty with players like Joe Pawelek, Phil Taylor and Jordan Lake in place. But it’s still going to be a huge challenge in the Big 12 South.

I would have liked their chances better if they were sitting at 3-0 with a victory over Connecticut. Because without Griffin, I don’t know if I can see three conference bowl victories, along with a triumph over Kent State this week to get to six wins.

That’s all until Friday afternoon. Thanks for all of the great letters. We will catch up again later in the week.

Hawkins might be safe because of CU's cash-strapped budget

September, 14, 2009
Posted by's Tim Griffin

Despite a disappointing 0-2 start, Colorado coach Dan Hawkins' job might not be immediate jeopardy because of the lack of money in the school's athletic department.

The Boulder Camera reported it would cost nearly $3 million to buyout the remaining three years of Hawkins' contract. And that expense is on top of the cost of hiring a new coach.

Hawkins' contract contains a clause limiting the school's liability to $850,000 per contract year if it should terminate him without cause. Hawkins would have more than three years remaining if he was fired at any point this season. His current contract runs through Jan. 31, 2013.

The school's total liability could approach $3 million under the terms of the deal if any partial year was prorated in a buyout. If the buyout was limited to three years, it would cost CU no more than $2,550,000, the Camera reported.

Hawkins' job status was called into question after embarrassing losses to Colorado State and Toledo to start the season.

The Colorado athletic department remains in deep debt with most of an $8 million loan from the campus and the CU system in 2006 still to be paid off. Part of that debt was caused by the last coaching change when athletic director Mike Bohn fired Gary Barnett at the end of the 2005 season and hired Hawkins.

Colorado was heavily criticized for having to pay Barnett approximately $4 million when it fired him. The terms of Barnett's contract required the settlement.

The department would have to borrow money to buyout Hawkins and it would be hard-pressed to do so in the current economic climate in which state funding to the university system is being significantly trimmed and some Colorado employees and faculty members already have lost their jobs.

Even with pressure mounting on his team as it heads into Saturday's game against Wyoming, Hawkins is confident his team can start winning soon.

"You just have to do what you do better," Hawkins told the Camera. "That's the trick. I've been coaching a long time. I know a lot of coaches. I've had a lot of coaches call me going, 'Hawk, you're fine. You know what you're doing.' And guys that have lost five games in a row. You've just got to keep doing your deal.

"Eventually, you will have a game, and I told our guys this, it will pop at some point."

Coupled with two losses to finish the 2008 season, the Buffaloes currently have a four-game losing streak. That streak is tied for the seventh-longest streak in college football.

Here's a look at the schools across the nation with the longest current losing streaks after last week's games.

10 games: Western Kentucky, Tulane

7 games: Miami (Ohio)

6 games: New Mexico, Virginia

5 games: San Jose State

4 games: Western Michigan, UTEP, Colorado, Ball State

Big 12 mailbag: OSU playing 8 home games?

August, 21, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Let's throw open the mailbag on a Friday afternoon and see what you the readers are thinking and asking me about.

W. Dawson of Dallas writes: Tim, have you looked at Oklahoma State's schedule yet? How can they get away with having eight home games? I can't believe the Big 12 allowed this to happen, much less their competition. This is an incredible advantage, especially given the narrow margins that separate various Big 12 foes. Talk about running downhill before anyone else has snapped the ball.

Tim Griffin: Obviously, Mike Holder and Mike Gundy can do anything they want with their schedule. And it's a good home schedule with the four Big 12 games and home non-conference games against Georgia, Houston, Grambling and Rice. I guess the risk/reward is this. Most coaches want their team to face a non-conference challenge of some kind before they head into conference play. It doesn't have to be especially taxing - Texas going to Wyoming, Kansas to UTEP -- but most coaches believe that kind of experience is good before they head into conference play.

Obviously, Gundy doesn't think like that. The Cowboys will get a huge boost after playing four home games, but he won't know much about how ready his team will be to play on the road for their first trip to Texas A&M on Oct. 10. If I was coaching, I'd like a little more piece of mind before that first conference road game. And I bet Gundy will be thinking that way the week before the game.

Ocean from Kemah, Texas, writes: Tim, I'm very interested to hear if there has been any shift of momentum due to freshman Chris Whaley's arrival this summer. Also an update on the other Big 12's other freshman prospects would be greatly appreciated.

Tim Griffin: Whaley has struggled keeping up with the other Texas backs after reporting to training camp with an ankle injury that was aggravated playing basketball before he ever arrived. It set him back in his battle for playing time in a crowded Longhorn backfield.

From what I'm hearing, Fozzy Whittaker will be the leading candidate to have more of the carries in the Texas backfield. But he's got to remain healthy, which is something he hasn't been able to do so far. Then, look for veteran Vondrell McGee to have the next shot. Cody Johnson will also be there along with Tre' Newton and Whaley. I look for Whaley to get more playing time as he shows coaches he is more comfortable with his role in the offense and particularly in pass-protection schemes. We'll see that later, rather than sooner for the Longhorns.

And also, look for a post early next week where I'll break down the conference's leading freshman producers so far in training camps.

Mark M. from Arlington, Texas, writes: I know Baylor is pegged as your eighth team in the conference, but I think even that might be overrated! Why is no one talking about how incredible of a job Jason Smith did protecting Robert Griffin last year? Without his protection, combined with a very challenging non-conference schedule, I think Griffin takes a lot more hits and goes through a sophomore slump. I think they finish last in the Big 12 South as a result. Am I wrong?

Tim Griffin: Your scenario could very easily happen, although I do have the Bears winning six games and making a bowl trip. But I think that watching the Bears' left tackle position will be one of the most interesting positions in the conference.

Obviously, Smith was the best lineman in the conference last season, as evidenced by his No. 2 selection in the NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams. I've heard some great things about his replacement, muscular 6-foot-4, 315 pound former Canadian fireman Danny Watkins. But we won't know anything until he starts hooking up with players like Jeremy Beal, Sergio Kindle and all of the others.  

Watkins' inexperience will be one of Baylor's biggest question marks. And one missed blitz assignment could end the Bears' season in a hurty. Coach Art Briles has to hope that Watkins is ready for the challenge.

But we'll see how he does. It might be the major factor if the Bears are able to go 6-6 and make that elusive bowl trip, or end up in the Big 12 cellar and you hint. The margin between the two is very slim - particularly with the balance in the Big 12.

Ross Jackman from Sioux Falls, S.D., writes: Tim, I saw the story you linked earlier this week about the conference's most underrated and overrated coaches from that guy in Lincoln. Who is your selection, as the most underrated head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator in the Big 12?

Tim Griffin: Ross, good question. For a head coach, I'll take Kansas' Mark Mangino, who quietly has taken the Jayhawks on their most successful, consistent run in school history. The Jayhawks made back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in school history the last two years and are poised for much more this season.

For my offensive coordinator, I'll take Nebraska's Shawn Watson. The work he did with Joe Ganz the last two seasons was simply phenomenal. Earlier work at Colorado with Gary Barnett's team was outstanding as well. Watson's past history is one of the reasons I think Zac Lee might be better than a lot of people expect for the Cornhuskers. I know he'll be ready, considering Watson's track record.

And for my most underrated defensive coordinator, I'll choose Texas Tech's Ruffin McNeill. The work he did with the Red Raiders to help develop their defense was a big reason the Red Raiders were able to forge a three-way tie for the South Division title last season. He'll have his work cut out trying to replace pass-rushing specialists like McKinner Dixon and Brandon Williams and safeties Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonnet, but I expect McNeill will have another strong unit again this season.

Mitch Nelson from Kansas City, Mo., writes: Tim, the Big 12 has four high-profile quarterbacks this year in Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Zac Robinson and Todd Reesing who will probably finish their college careers after this season. Can you break down who their possible replacements will be and which team has the best chance to not miss a step with a new quarterback next year?

Tim Griffin: I really am hesitant to pick which team has the best quarterback situation in the future because so many of these players don't have any game action. I'd like to reserve my decisions until I get to see some of the young kids play in a little bit of game action. But here's how I see those four schools in the future.

Oklahoma: The leader as far as experience would appear to be redshirt freshman Landry Jones, along with junior John Nimmo and Ben Sherrard. I've heard some good things about Drew Allen, a tall 6-foot-6 thrower from San Antonio Alamo Heights High School. But especially keep an eye out for Blake Bell of Wichita, Kan., a dual-threat thrower/runner who is one of the prizes of the Sooners' 2010 recruiting class. He will be the most heralded quarterback to enter the Oklahoma program since Rhett Bomar.

Texas: As far as promise goes, the Longhorns would appear to have it with Garrett Gilbert who I expect to play as a freshman and beat out Sherrod Harris for the backup role this season. And they also have two more quarterbacks coming in the 2010 recruiting class - Connor Wood of Second Baptist High School in Houston and Case McCoy, the 6-foot-2, 169-pound little brother of Colt McCoy.

Oklahoma State: I know that Gundy actually wasn't that disappointed with Zac Robinson's injury last week because it forced the action in the backu quarterback battle
between junior Alex Case and sophomore Brandon Weeden. Gundy told me he was a little angry that one of the two players hadn't jumped out and taken the backup role. Whoever wins that would appear to be in line to replace Robinson.

Weeden has a little bit more maturity because of his five-season career in minor-league baseball. But Cate has more game experience and comfort in the OSU offense. And the Cowboys also have a commitment from 2010 recruit Johnny Deaton of Sand Spring, Okla., who might be their long-term answer.

Kansas: I think the fact that redshirt freshman Kale Pick has won the backup job is significant here. First, it will enable Kerry Meier to move to wide receiver full time. It will also get Pick more snaps in practice and have him ready in the spring when the opportunity to replace Reesing will materialize for him.

Mangino is also high on a couple of freshmen quarterbacks he has in Christian Matthews, a taller, skinner thrower and Jordan Webb, who kind of looks like Reesing and followed his route by graduating early and reporting to college a semester early to boost his early assimilation into Ed Warinner's offense.

That's all the questions I have time for this week.

Thanks again and have a great weekend.

Mailbag: No Big 12 games at baseball fields

July, 31, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

If it's a Friday, it must be time to open some e-mails from my mailbag.

Shane Riley from Arapahoe, Neb., writes: I know the Big 12 hasn't jumped on the bandwagon yet, but what is up with college teams wanting to play games in major league baseball stadiums? Why does Army want to play at Yankee Stadium so bad and why are Illinois and Northwestern looking to play at Wrigley Field? And if the Big `12 did jump on the bandwagon what teams would want to play at a Big 12 area baseball venue?

Tim Griffin: Shane, that has been an interesting trend in recent weeks. I've heard through the grapevine that Dodger Stadium would be interested in staging some college games there. Those baseball stadiums are looking for new revenue sources and they are trying to attract college games as another way to fill seats and sell more concessions.

I'm a football traditionalist and the idea of football returning to Yankee Stadium would be cool. I've heard all of the great stories about games there in the 1940s and 1950s. The New York Giants really got their fans turned on when they started playing there.

But even with the "wow factor," I would doubt if any Big 12 teams really would seriously consider any upcoming games in baseball stadiums. And the reason is because in every city with a major league franchise in the Big 12's geographic footprint, there is also a new football stadium with all of the bells and whistles that is significantly bigger than the baseball stadium in the city.

For example, I don't think that any college team would give up the chance for 25,000 extra seats by moving a game from Reliant Stadium in Houston to Minute Maid Park. I certainly don't think that will be the case in Arlington, Texas, where the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium has every accoutrement known to mankind and is much bigger than the nearby baseball stadium. And I don't see it happening in St. Louis, Denver or Kansas City, either.

The football stadiums are simply too big and it would hard to visualize any college giving up a shot for extra tickets to play in a baseball stadium that wasn't constructed to allow football in the first place.

It would be neat to see the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis lined up for a football game, but I'm not expecting it. The chance to play at the Edward Jones Dome at America's Center just provides too many more seats in a climate-controlled setting to boot.

Willis from Raleigh, N.C., writes: OK, I'm a traditionalist and love the old rivalries that college football has every year. When most conferences started to expand (SEC, Big 8 to Big 12, ACC), they kept the traditional games playing every year (Georgia-Auburn, Tennessee-Alabama, OU-Texas, Florida State-Miami, etc) and other conferences kept their "big" games (Michigan-Ohio State, USC-UCLA, etc). I mean, what is college football without Ohio State playing Michigan every year? That said, what was the Big 12 thinking when it got rid of the Nebraska-Oklahoma game every year? I grew up watching that game in the 70's, 80's, and 90's and it was one of the greatest rivalries in college football. It's a shame that they play each other every four or five years like Bonow.

Tim Griffin: I've heard that the lack of a yearly Oklahoma-Nebraska game bemoaned since the first conference schedules were generated for the Big 12.

The rivalry was a great one, although truth be told, it had slipped a lot in the 1990s in the Big Eight as Nebraska turned the conference into a cakewalk shortly before the Big 12 started.

One way around it could be making that game a designated rivalry game each season, although it would put those Nebraska and Oklahoma at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the teams in their divisions because they would be facing one of the powers of the other division every season.

I'm betting that Bo Pelini and Bob Stoops wouldn't like that idea nearly as much as some of the traditionalists.  

And actually, the gap between games isn't as bad as you wrote. With the Big 12's sliding schedule, the two old rivals meet twice every four seasons.

I know it's not like the days when Barry Switzer and Tom Osborne were roaming the sidelines, but it's the best we can do for now.

Jim Perry from Albuquerque, N.M., writes: About Bill Callahan, I liked a lot of things about his offense. It was one of the few that sent Michigan wondering what happened. Callahan had a lot of answers but still needed a hard-nosed defense. I liked that he had class when it came to dealing with unruly players. I still think Callahan could still do it at the collegiate level and I wish him the best.

Tim Griffin: I also wonder about some of the contentiousness that some hard-core Nebraska fans hold for the Callahan era. Sure, he tried to dismantle a lot of the tradition on which that storied program is steeped. But at the same time, he helped the Cornhuskers win a Big 12 North title as recently as 2006.

If Callahan had played more to the Nebraska tradition, it definitely would have helped him out -- along with maybe a choice of a different defensive coordinator than Kevin Cosgrove. If Callahan had embraced the image of Nebraska and played to it like Mack Brown did at Texas or Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, it might have helped him weather some of the storms that he eventually faced. Not all of them, but it might have bought him an extra season or two.

I think the majority of Cornhusker fans are more excited about the future now than they've been since early in the Frank Solich era. And it should only get brighter as Pelini starts getting better players.

Charles Seibert of Albuquerque, N.M. writes: A couple of weeks ago you had an e-mail in the mailbag basically saying "Mack Brown only has one conference championship? What do Longhorns fans see in him?" Your answer focused on Stoops' domination in that department. Here's the rest of the answer.

The Longhorn fans would love to have more Big 12 crowns, but we judge UT's football program on many criteria. The 'Horns under Mack have a national championship, a stellar win-loss record (having passed Nebraska, Ohio State and Notre Dame among others on the all-time lists), regular finishes in the top five and top 10 (and ahead of the hated Sooners), near-automatic bowl wins (including 3-0 in BCS bowls) and solid records against their traditional rivals. With all of that, who wouldn't be proud to have Mack Brown coaching their team?

Tim Griffin: Charles, I agree with you. Mack Brown has the Texas program going as well as any in the country. And like you listed, he has many accomplishments and has his program pointed to claim a few more before he hangs up his whistle.

But with all of those facts in place, Stoops still has claimed six Big 12 titles and Brown has one. I hear from Texas fans all the time about their three victories in the last four seasons over the Sooners, but they also privately grumble they are disappointed that the Longhorns still have made only one trip to the Big 12 title game during that span compared to three for the Sooners. 

That shows the strength of the South Division and the struggles that winning a division championship provides in each season. And for all of the accomplishments you listed, I still bet Mack Brown wishes he had more than one Big 12 title to show for it.

Steve Rodriguez of Sisson, Texas, writes: Tim, in reading your blog on a daily basis, I love your numbers and charts you come up with. I know of no other place I can find to get that kind of information with your spin on it. I wish you would share a weekly stat or tidbit in your mailbag or perhaps as a regular post that delv
es deeply into the numbers in the conference.

Tim Griffin: Steve, sounds like a great idea. And here's my tidbit for today. Or maybe I can "borrow" a term from the Tim Horton doughnut shops in Canada - thanks to my old CFL coverage I know about them - and provide a weekly "Timbit."

How about this one? During the course of the 13-season history of the Big 12 Conference, Bob Stoops has claimed six championship game victories. The most amazing fact is that no other coach has claimed more than one Big 12 title during that span. 

Here's a list of coaches and their titles

Bob Stoops -- 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008
John Mackovic -- 1996
Tom Osborne -- 1997
R.C. Slocum -- 1998
Frank Solich -- 1999
Gary Barnett -- 2001
Bill Snyder -- 2003
Mack Brown -- 2005

That list speaks about as well to Stoops' domination of the Big 12 as any I could find.

Wally Gonzales of San Antonio writes: Hey Tim, I was wondering if you had any information on the new linebacker group at KU. I am interested in Justin Springer, who is from my hometown of Los Fresnos, Texas. Also when Kansas plays UTEP, it will be the first time that Springer will play against his twin brother, Jeremy. It also gets even more interesting when Justin goes up against his best friend Eloy Atkinson who is also from Los Fresnos and is the center for UTEP. I'd love to hear some inside information about this game.

Tim Griffin: Wally, Justin Springer has a chance to step up at linebacker, which appears to be the biggest weakness for the Jayhawks coming into the season. But Springer was hobbled by a knee injury that he sustained last season against Kansas State that caused him to miss the Jayhawks' final four games last season.

Springer has prototypical size for football of the 1990s when you consider he's 6-foot-4 and 242 pounds. But Coach Mark Mangino has placed a premium on speed with his defense and will want his linebackers to move well in space. That has to be a concern for Springer, considering he's coming off knee surgery.

Mangino also has hinted he plans to go to a 4-2-5 defense this season as his base. And he mentioned earlier this week that Arist Wright and Angus Quigley have really looked good so far in spring practices.

Springer wasn't able to practice during the spring, but Mangino has said he expects him to be ready for preseason camp. His recovery will be one of the interesting stories to follow next month for the Jayhawks.

And I think the UTEP game might be more difficult for the Jayhawks then some might expect. If they can't get much pass rush against underrated UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe, it might be a long evening in the Sun Bowl for the Jayhawks. Along with the potential matchup between the Springer brothers from Los Fresnos.

Chris Leonard from Minneapolis, Minn., writes: Tim, I read your summary of the Sporting News' all-time top coaches list. I was glad to see Tom Osborne on there, but 34th? And ninth among the college football coaches mentioned? I couldn't believe it.

Some writers have said that he didn't belong among the top 10 college head coaches and others have written that he wasn't a sexy enough coach to put on a top-10 list because of his perceived lack of flamboyance and personality.

What's with all the disrespect for the guy with the second-highest winning percentage in the modern era of college football? No one's ever reached 250 wins faster!

Tim Griffin: I agree with you that Tom Osborne was one of the greatest coaches in football history. He might not have been as verbose as Bobby Bowden or have the longevity of Joe Paterno, but his teams were always ready and he did a great job at making Nebraska a consistent national power.

I think the most significant facts about Osborne are that he won a share of the national championship three times in his final four seasons of coaching and nearly had another one in the previous season. And he finished the final five seasons of his career with a 60-3 record. Those are flashy numbers, in anybody's book.

Thanks for all of the good questions and I'll be checking in again next week.

Have a good weekend.

Simms' turnover-binge boosts CU to title in No. 11 memory

June, 26, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

No. 11

When BCS meant "Boo Chris Simms"

Date: Dec. 1, 2001
Place: Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas
Score: Colorado 39, Texas 37

Texas had already won a Big 12 championship, but was looking for its first title under coach Mack Brown. Underdog Colorado was making its first trip to the Big 12 title game.

Shortly before the game, the Longhorns' stakes were raised when Tennessee stunned No. 2 Florida, seemingly providing an avenue for Texas to play in its first Bowl Championship Series title game.

But Chris Brown, Bobby Pesavento and Gary Barnett's underdog Buffaloes had other ideas.

After Cedric Benson scored on a 5-yard touchdown early in the first quarter, the Buffaloes charged back. Chris Brown scored a pair of touchdowns, sandwiched around a 39-yard field goal by Jeremy Flores that provided the Buffaloes a 16-7 lead.

Texas quarterback Chris Simms struggled through a miserable first half, throwing three interceptions and fumbling away another turnover in the first half before he was replaced by Major Applewhite. Those miscues prompted the wrath of fans, who booed him louder with each turnover.

His last interception typified Texas' luck in the game. Top lineman Mike Williams and Benson ran into each other trying to tackle Colorado safety Medford Moorer, who eluded them on a 64-yard touchdown. Both Williams and Benson were hurt for the rest of the game and Simms sustained a dislocated ring finger on his throwing hand on the play.  

Several Buffaloes mentioned after the game they were infuriated when they saw that Simms wearing patent leather shoes during his pregame warm-ups. They thought that action and a pregame television interview by Simms disrespected their team.

Applewhite provided a surge of momentum two plays after entering the game, hooking up with B.J. Johnson on a 79-yard touchdown pass which pulled the Longhorns within 29-17 at the half.

Brown added another 11-yard touchdown to start the second half and Applewhite led his first two second-half drives that led to field goals by Dusty Mangum, pulling Texas to 36-23.

Colorado was poised to put the game away when Barnett made what he confessed after the game was a bad mistake. Third-string quarterback Robert Hodge's pass from punt formation was intercepted by Roderick Babers, who returned in 54 yards for a touchdown, trimming Colorado's lead to six with 9:10 left.

Barnett was saved from criticism when the Buffaloes added Flores' clinching 43-yard field goal with 1:58 left, capping a 51-yard drive that consumed 7 minutes, 12 seconds.

Applewhite hooked up with Johnson on a 1-yard touchdown pass with 37 seconds left, but it was too late. The Buffaloes escaped with a 39-37 victory and their first conference championship since winning the Big Eight in 1991.

Factoids to note: Colorado's impressive victory continued a five-game winning streak that had included a blowout victory over Nebraska the previous week. Chris Brown rushed for 182 yards on 33 carries and scored three touchdowns. It gave him nine touchdowns in his last two games ... Applewhite completed 15 of 25 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions ... Texas came into the game ranked second nationally in scoring defense (11.4 points per game) and yards allowed (227.3 per game) but were trampled by Colorado's ground-based attack ... Simms' four turnovers led to 22 Colorado points. Coming into the game, Simms had thrown 16 touchdown passes and two interceptions in his previous six games ... The victory enabled Colorado a measure of revenge after losing earlier in the season to the Longhorns at Austin, 41-7. 

They said it, part I: "When we left the hotel today, I told them we are a team of destiny. No one is playing with more heart right now." Colorado coach Gary Barnett on his team's resiliency in notching the upset.

They said it, part II: "I was stunned with what happened to me. We had a chance to go to the Rose Bowl. I don't know what happened." Texas quarterback Chris Simms, in explaining his struggles to the Associated Press.

They said it, part III: "We wanted to intimidate him. We wanted to hit him so often that he'd feel we were coming even when we weren't. I think it worked pretty well. We did cause him to throw some bad balls," Colorado safety Michael Lewis, who told the New York Times about his defense's plans to rough up Simms.

The upshot: The victory boosted Colorado into its first and only BCS bowl berth in history, where the Buffaloes lost, 38-16, to Oregon. The Buffaloes ended the season 10-3 with a No. 9 finish in the final Associated Press poll. It was Colorado's highest end-of-season finish since placing eighth in 1996.

Texas' loss dropped them to the Holiday Bowl. Before the game, Texas coach Mack Brown announced on a Web site interview -- extremely rare for its time -- that Applewhite would be his starter in the bowl game. 

Applewhite produced when he got a chance as a starter. He capped his Texas career by passing for a career-best 473 yards to lead the Longhorns to a dramatic 47-43 comeback victory over Washington. The Longhorns overcame a 19-point deficit late in the third quarter as Applewhite led what at the time was the largest rally in school history. The Longhorns finished the season 11-2 and No. 5 nationally in the AP poll, their highest finish since 1983.

The countdown:

12. A Buffalo stampede: Six Brown TDs lead CU to first Big 12 title game.
13. Run, Ricky, run. Ricky Williams breaks career rushing record.
14. Wild game, wilder post-game rants when Gundy and Leach meet in 2007.
15. Rout 66: No, that score wasn't a typo.
16. KSU finally slays the Cornhuskers.
17. Kingsbury and Long hook up in a passing duel for the ages.
18. Henery and Suh make Colorado blue.
19. Stunning OSU rally leads to Stoops' first home loss.
20. It's never over for Texas Tech until it's over.
21. Reesing to Meier. Again and again.
22. A Texas-sized comeback -- Texas over Oklahoma State in 2004.
23. A Border War unlike any of the rest -- Missouri over Kansas in 2007.
24. Seneca Wallace's wild TD run vs. Texas Tech in 2001.
25. Baylor's "So Much for Taking a Knee" against UNLV in 1999.

CU gashes Nebraska for 380 rushing yards in No. 12 memory

June, 25, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

No. 12

A Buffalo stampede: Brown's six-touchdown binge boosts CU into its first championship game

Date: Nov. 23, 2001
Place: Folsom Field, Boulder, Colo.
Score: Colorado 62, Nebraska 36

Colorado came into the 2001 regular-season finale with a marked lack of success against old nemesis Nebraska. The Buffaloes had lost their last nine games in the series against the Cornhuskers coming into that game.

But Gary Barnett's team turned the tables by pulverizing the Cornhuskers' "Blackshirt" defense for 380 rushing yards and 582 total yards in a dramatic upset that was punctuated by delirious Colorado fans ripping a goalpost down in exultation.

The best way to shake those previous disappointments would be to get out to a fast start. But Colorado outdid itself by jumping to three early touchdowns in less than six minutes at the start of the game en route to a 28-3 lead after one quarter.

Bobby Purify started the avalanche with a 39-yard touchdown run less than three minutes into the game.

After Nebraska's Dahrann Diedrick fumbled on the Cornhuskers' next possession, Colorado wasted little time. Quarterback Bobby Pesavento hooked up with tight end Daniel Graham on a 21-yard touchdown only 20 seconds after the first score for a 14-0 lead.

Colorado forced a change of possession and another long pass from Pesavento to Graham set up Pesavento's 1-yard keeper and a 21-0 lead.

Bullish Colorado tailback Chris Brown then got involved in a big way. Brown added touchdown runs of 12, 1 and 36 yards before halftime to extend Colorado's lead to 42-23 by the break.

The Cornhuskers looked poised to re-enter the game after Eric Crouch's 6-yard touchdown run pulled them within 42-30 early in the third quarter.

But Brown added Colorado's knockout punch by scoring three-straight touchdowns to put the game away during a period of only 189 seconds early in the fourth quarter.

His 1-yard plunge capped a 93-yard drive to extend Colorado's lead to 49-30.

Safety Michael Lewis intercepted Crouch several plays later, leading to a 13-yard touchdown gallop by Brown.

And after another interception by Colorado linebacker Joey Johnson, Brown added his school-record sixth rushing touchdown of the game on an 8-yard scoring run with 9:41 left in the game.

Crouch produced a 7-yard touchdown run with 7:14 to finish the scoring but it was too late. The Buffaloes claimed the victory that catapulted them into the Big 12 title game for the first time in school history.

Factoids to note: Brown rushed for 198 yards on 24 carries and Purify added 154 rushing yards. Pesavento chipped in with 202 passing yards on only nine completions ... At the time, it was the most points ever scored against Nebraska, topping their previous total of 61 scored by Minnesota in 1945 ... The loss snapped a 13-game winning streak for the Cornhuskers coming into the game. Nebraska had been the No. 1 team in the BCS poll for the previous four weeks ... Crouch rushed for 168 yards and passed for 198 yards to set Nebraska's total offense record, but was victimized by two critical fourth-quarter interceptions ... Pesavento was starting for the Buffaloes only because starter Craig Ochs had been injured earlier in the season ... Colorado produced 223 rushing and 415 total yards in the first half. ... Colorado had lost the previous five games in the Nebraska series before the 2001 blowout by a combined 15 points ... The two teams combined for 1134 yards -- 582 by Colorado and 552 for Nebraska.

They said it, part I: "With the way the offensive line and Dan Graham were blocking, it was easy. The holes were huge. We weren't getting touched until we were 10 yards down the field," Colorado's Chris Brown on the way he was able to rip through the Nebraska defense.

They said it, part II: "You never think it will go like this, obviously. But once in a while, it all works. Sixty-two points is almost too overwhelming for me. It's going to take a while to sink in," Colorado coach Gary Barnett on the underdog Buffaloes' blowout victory.

They said it, part III: "We really had a big dream. But those are over with now. This is going to be a tough one to swallow," Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch on a loss that seemingly ended the Cornhuskers' national title hopes. But more on that later.

The upshot: The Buffaloes wild victory pushed them into the Big 12 title game the following week in Irving, Texas, where they notched another upset victory over Texas to claim the first and only Big 12 football title in Colorado school history.

Colorado's 39-37 conquest knocked Texas out of the national title hunt and catapulted Nebraska back into the national title game. The Cornhuskers then were hammered by Miami, 37-14, to finish an 11-2 season that left them No. 8 in the final Associated Press media poll.

The Colorado loss was thought to have diminished Crouch's Heisman chances, but a loss by Florida's Rex Grossman against Tennessee the following week resuscitated them. Crouch then won the Heisman in a close 62-vote margin over Grossman, who finished second.

Nebraska defensive coordinator Craig Bohl wasn't as fortunate. The late losses by big scores in 2001 and a defensive collapse the following season led to his ouster at the end of the 2002 regular season.

It can also be argued that Nebraska coach Frank Solich never recovered from the Colorado loss and resulting loss in the national title game at the end of the 2001 season. He was fired after Nebraska won its regular-season finale in 2003.

Colorado made its only BCS bowl appearance after that 2001 triumph over Nebraska. But the Buffaloes' late-season success unraveled in a 38-16 loss to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl, concluding a 10-3 season that saw them finish the season No. 9 in the final AP poll.

The countdown:
13. Run, Ricky, run. Ricky Williams breaks career rushing record.
14. Wild game, wilder post-game rants when Gundy and Leach meet in 2007.
15. Rout 66: No, that score wasn't a typo.
16. KSU finally slays the Cornhuskers.
17. Kingsbury and Long hook up in a passing duel for the ages.
18. Henery and Suh make Colorado blue.
19. Stunning OSU rally leads to Stoops' first home loss.
20. It's never over for Texas Tech until it's over.
21. Reesing to Meier. Again and again.
22. A Texas-sized comeback -- Texas over Oklahoma State in 2004.
23. A Border War unlike any of the
-- Missouri over Kansas in 2007.
24. Seneca Wallace's wild TD run vs. Texas Tech in 2001.
25. Baylor's "So Much for Taking a Knee" against UNLV in 1999.

Judging Big 12 coaches by conference records

May, 6, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Who was it that said necessity is the mother of invention?

They must have had a pretty good handle on football statistics, because I wracked my brain twice in the last week looking for a specific set of figures that I thought any upstanding conference would compile as part of a basic statistical package.

Surprise for me, I guess.

I wanted to find out the overall conference records of every coach in the history of the Big 12. These records are a strong tool to comparatively analyze coaches, I think.

All of the games are against Division I teams (unlike overall records). And the games are typically between coaches who typically get a chance to coach against each other on more than one occasion, providing a chance to make adjustments over the years as they learn more about their opponents' tendencies.

That's why I found these statistics -- compiled by me during the second half of a boring Cleveland-Atlanta basketball game last night -- to be so fascinating.

Here are my Big 12 conference won-loss figures. Records are for conference games, conference championship games and overall conference records.

Records of all coaches in Big 12 history
Name/School Conf. game W-L Pct. Conf. title game W-L Pct. Overall conf. W-L Pct.
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma 67-13 .838 6-1 .857 73-14 .839
Mack Brown, Texas 72-16 .818 1-2 .333 73-18 .802
Bill Snyder, Kansas State 53-27 .663 1-2 .333 54-29 .651
Mike Leach, Texas Tech 42-30 .583 0-0 .000 42-30 .583
R.C. Slocum, Texas A&M 34-22 .607 1-1 .500 35-23 .603
Gary Barnett, Colorado 34-22 .607 1-3 .250 35-25 .583
Frank Solich, Nebraska 33-15 .688 1-0 1.000 34-15 .694
Gary Pinkel, Missouri 32-32 .500 0-2 .000 32-34 .485
Dan McCarney, Iowa State 26-62 .295 0-0 .000 26-62 .295
Mark Mangino, Kansas 22-34 .393 0-0 .000 22-34 .393
Spike Dykes, Texas Tech 19-13 .594 0-0 .000 19-13 .594
Dennis Franchione, Texas A&M 19-21 .475 0-0 .000 19-21 .475
Tom Osborne, Nebraska 16-0 1.000 1-1 .500 17-1 .944
Les Miles, Oklahoma State 16-16 .500 0-0 .000 16-16 .500
Larry Smith, Missouri 16-24 .400 0-0 .000 16-24 .400
Bill Callahan, Nebraska 15-17 .469 0-1 .000 15-18 .455
Rick Neuheisel, Colorado 14-10 .583 0-0 .000 14-10 .583
Bob Simmons, Oklahoma State 14-26 .350 0-0 .000 14-26 .350
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State 13-19 .406 0-0 .000 13-19 .406
Terry Allen, Kansas 10-30 .250 0-0 .000 10-30 .250
John Mackovic, Texas 8-8 .500 1-0 1.000 9-8 .529
Ron Prince, Kansas State 9-15 .375 0-0 .000 9-15 .375
Dan Hawkins, Colorado 8-16 .333 0-0 .000 8-16 .333
John Blake, Oklahoma 8-16 .333 0-0 .000 8-16 .333
Guy Morriss, Baylor 7-33 .175 0-0 .000 7-33 .175
Bo Pelini, Nebraska 5-3 .625 0-0 .000 5-3 .625
Art Briles, Baylor 2-6 .250 0-0 .000 2-6 .250
Glen Mason, Kansas 2-6 .250 0-0 .000 2-6 .250
Mike Sherman, Texas A&M 2-6 .250 0-0 .000 2-6 .250
Gene Chizik, Iowa State 2-14 .125 0-0 .000 2-14 .125
Dave Roberts, Baylor 2-14 .125 0-0 .000 2-14 .125
Chuck Reedy, Baylor 1-7 .125 0-0 .000 1-7 .125
Kevin Steele, Baylor 1-31 .031 0-0 .000 1-31 .031

Note: Active coaches are in yellow. Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads will be in his first season as a head coach in the conference.

The numbers provide some interesting factoids.

  • I think these figures indicate that the two most underrated coaches in Big 12 coaching history are R.C. Slocum and Frank Solich.

Texas A&M has never had a Big 12 coach with a career winning percentage above .500 other than Slocum, who remains the only A&M coach to take his team to a Big 12 title game and win a conference football championship.

Solich ranks fourth in career conference winning percentage, trailing only Hall of Famer Tom Osborne and future Hall of Famers Bob Stoops and Mack Brown.

  • Here's a strike against the Bill Callahan era at Nebraska. Callahan is the only Nebraska coach since the start of the Big 12 era to have a below .500 career conference record.
  • Another underrated figure from the early days of the conference was Texas Tech's Spike Dykes, who compiled an impressive 19-13 conference record in the first four seasons in the conference. The Red Raiders have had one below .500 record during the 13-season history of the conference.
  • Want an indication of the Baylor program over the years? The three coaches who directed Baylor before Art Briles piloted the Bears to a combined 11-85 conference record, for a winning percentage of .115. That's an average of less than a victory per season.

Briles was 2-6 in his first season with Baylor last season -- more than doubling the school's average in conference victories during its previous history.

  • Bo Pelini's fast 5-3 start last season makes him one of only seven Big 12 coaches with a career winning percentage in conference games of more than .600.
  • Mack Brown leads the Big 12 with 91 conference games -- 88 regular-season games and three titles. Dan McCarney of Iowa State is second with 88 regular-season Big 12 games.   

Big 12 teams are green with envy for opponents

March, 17, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

St. Patrick's Day is a time to celebrate all things green, including the best of college football rivalries.

It's understandable that many Big 12 teams have developed fierce enmity for their conference rivals over the years -- and even more for some than others.

Here's a look at what makes the supporters of each school green with envy all days, but especially on St. Patrick's Day.

Baylor: There have been no bowl trips for the Bears since 1994 -- the longest streak in the Big 12 and one of the longest of any school in a BCS conference. Even though they made the cut into the Big 12, it peeves Baylor fans of TCU's success in recent years. The Horned Frogs have developed into a top-10 program with 10 bowl appearances, four straight bowl victories and two straight victories over Baylor since the Big 12 was formed.

Colorado: The Buffaloes haven't been a factor in the Big 12 North since Gary Barnett was fired after the 2005 championship game loss to Texas. And it has to gall their most ardent supporters even more that Nebraska appears to have turned the corner as the North Division's likely favorite with a strong coach like Bo Pelini in place for the future.

Iowa State: The Cyclones have to look outside the conference because they have been the whipping boys for the rest of the Big 12 since Dan McCarney left. Cyclone fans can't be happy that Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz appears to have weathered a recent downturn and has the Hawkeyes pointed back in the right direction.

Kansas: It can't make Jayhawk fans happy that the first time the Jayhawks have made back-to-back bowl trips in school history, arch-rival Missouri won the Big 12 North championship in both of those seasons. Even a victory over the Tigers in the muck at Arrowhead Stadium last season didn't help take the sting for Jayhawks of seeing the Tigers again play for the conference championship.

Kansas State: The Wildcats have struggled through their worst stretch since before Bill Snyder arrived for the first time in 1989. It hasn't helped that their arch-rivals across the state at Kansas has made back-to-back bowl trips and won both bowl games in the past two seasons. It's even more irksome that former Kansas State assistant coach Mark Mangino has been directing the Jayhawks' recent success.

Missouri: The Tigers have claimed back-to-back division championships, but old Big Eight rival Oklahoma has been waiting each season to deny them a chance at the Big 12 title. Even worse, the Sooners have won those games by a combined margin of 100-38. And that's 19 victories for the Sooners in the last 20 games against Missouri.

Nebraska: The old proud Big Eight power hasn't been able to duplicate that success on a continual basis in the Big 12. It seems that schools like Texas and Oklahoma have always been standing in their way. The Cornhuskers seemed to lose a little mystique in the first Big 12 championship game when Texas upset them. And they never seemed to have recovered - particularly in recent years when football championships have been rarely savored by Cornhusker fans.   

Oklahoma: The recent losing streak in BCS games has taken some of the national appreciation away from the Sooners' recent unprecedented string of three straight Big 12 titles. But Boise State, West Virginia and Florida have kept the Sooners from duplicating their success on a national level. It's made those titles pyrrhic victories for Bob Stoops.

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys have never made a BCS bowl game or Big 12 championship during the conference's brief history. But Oklahoma has infuriated Cowboy fans by claiming six titles during the conference's 13-season history. It doesn't make for much fun in bragging rights for Bedlam when the Sooners have dominated the conference so significantly during that time.

Texas: Mack Brown has taken the Longhorns back into contention in the Big 12 title race after inheriting a program that was in shambles. But even with the top run in program history since the days of Darrell Royal, the Longhorns still have recorded only one Big 12 championship during his coaching span. Even worse, the Sooners have scoreboard, 6-1, in Big 12 football championships during the time that Brown and Bob Stoops have coached their programs.

Texas A&M: But it could be worse. The Aggies have been rendered a non-entity in recent seasons in the Big 12. And it's even more galling that arch-rival Texas has finished ahead of A&M each of the past 10 seasons.

Texas Tech: It didn't make Texas Tech fans very happy when they were left out of much of the discussion for the championship despite forging a three-way tie with Texas and Oklahoma for the South Division crown last season. It's made the rivalry with those two South rivals even more keen than before -- if that could be possible.

Tim's mailbag: Big 12's most underrated assistants considered

March, 13, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Here's a representative batch of letters and e-mails I got this week.

Steve Delaney from Wichita, Kan., writes: Hey, Tim, we always hear about Will Muschamp or Brent Venables as the top coordinators in college football. Do you have a Big 12 coordinator who you consider to be among the underrated gems in the country?

Tim Griffin: That's a great question. I think the best example of a coordinator who doesn't get the kind of national respect he probably deserves is Shawn Watson of Nebraska. He did a good job of orchestrating Colorado's offenses in the Gary Barnett era with a variety of journeyman quarterbacks like Robert Hodge and Bobby Pesavento. And he appeared to do the same thing with the Cornhuskers with Joe Ganz last season. It will be interesting how he handles the Cornhuskers' presumed lack of quarterbacking depth and proven production this season.

I also think Greg Davis at Texas does a consistently outstanding job for the Longhorns. I know it's been fashionable for many of the message board fans to knock him over the years. But look at the improvement and the change in Colt McCoy's game over the last several years to indicate how good Davis really is as an offensive coach.

Nick from Hastings, Neb., writes: What have you heard about the Cornhuskers' pro day? I'm kind of interested to know how Joe Ganz did considering he wasn't invited to the combine or any postseason all- star games.

Tim Griffin: The most notable news that came out of Nebraska's pro day were the shots that Ganz took at Patrick Witt, who announced last month he was leaving school.

But as far as on-the-field performance, Lydon Murtha again had good workouts, even though he only went through positional drills. The scouts I talked to love his combination of speed and size and expect him to be an underrated pick.

Matt Slauson had a nice time in the 40-yard dash, but lost some ground when he strained his pectoral muscle during his bench press.

Marlon Lucky had a fast initial 40-yard time, although he pulled a muscle on the second one.

And Ganz took the battery of tests for the assembled pro scouts. I think it's going to be interesting to see where he goes.

I know his measurable (height, weight and speed) don't measure with some of the other top available quarterbacks. But the leadership he showed with the Nebraska program -- best exhibited in his gutty performance against Clemson in the Gator Bowl -- were impressive to me. It will be interesting to see if an NFL team takes a chance on him with a draft pick , although I'm hearing it's more likely he'll end up being a free agent.

Steve Landis from Kansas City writes: Tim, I was interested in your recent study about homecourt advantage. Why do you think Oklahoma has been so strong at home over the years under Bob Stoops?

Tim Griffin: I know the Sooners haven't lost a home game since 2001. And they consistently have played better, with a better record, than any other Big 12 team. Probably the best reason is because they always seem to have some of the conference's very best players.

But here's an underrated reason why I think that Texas' and Oklahoma's home Big 12 records always seem better than everybody else's.

Namely, the Sooners never have to play Texas in Norman and the Longhorns don't face Oklahoma in Austin. I'm not saying that those teams would regularly win on their opponents' home fields. But I still think they would be the toughest Big 12 challenger on a consistent basis and both likely would have won there over the years.

So I'm wonder how much you can quantify Oklahoma's and Texas' home records with the fact that Texas never travels to Normal or Oklahoma to Austin. It's something I think needs to be considered when you look at extending winning streaks for both the Sooners and Longhorns.

Bobby from Fort Worth writes: Tim, do you see Oklahoma and Texas playing to see who represents the Big 12 in the national championship game? I don't see anyone beating either one of these teams. The only thing I'm worried about is if Florida and USC can run the table and get to the championship game if Oklahoma or Texas runs the table.

Tim Griffin: Bobby, I think the Sooners and Longhorns have the best chance to represent the Big 12 in a national title game. Oklahoma State obviously has a better collection of talent coming back and a favorable schedule. But I still don't know if the Cowboys have the defensive depth to contend with the Sooners and Longhorns.

As to your concerns about the Big 12 being left out if there were a multiteam logjam with undefeated teams, here's a little nugget to remember: A Big 12 team with an undefeated regular-season record has always ended up playing for the national championship in the BCS era. And I don't see that ending as long as the Big 12 South is as strong as it appears to be. I think the South's strength should catapult an undefeated winner into a BCS title game.

Stevie U. from Galveston, Texas, writes: Tim, an old Jayhawker, here. What do you think of Kansas' chances of finally bringing home a Big 12 North title after what you've seen in practice so far.

Tim Griffin: Steve, I haven't seen much, but I have kept up with the Jayhawks from afar. Everybody is questioning their linebackers after the departure of James Holt, Joe Mortensen and Mike Rivera from last year. And I think that remains a legitimate concern, particularly in a conference where offenses will be as predominant as the Big 12.

But I'm also a little taken aback at the move of starting left tackle Jeremiah Hatch to center and the apparent insertion of converted defensive end Tanner Hawkinson into the mix at left tackle.

I know that Kansas coach Mark Mangino has been among the most successful in plugging holes in the starting lineup with players from other positions.

But I still consider left tackle kind of a sacred spot. Whoever emerges there will be protecting quarterback Todd Reesing's blind spot. And Reesing will remain only an unblocked blitz away from a serious injury. So it will be interesting to see who finally emerges there. I think the development of the Kansas offensive line will be the Jayhawks' biggest offensive question heading into the season.

T. B. from Houston writes: Tim, you've criticized the Big 12's fifth tiebreaker for three-way ties a couple times recently. But each time you criticize it, you offer no alternative. Do you have any ideas regarding what may be a better system?

Tim Griffin: I like the SEC rule where a three-way tie is settled by taking the two highest-ranked teams in the BCS poll and then determining a winner by head-to-head results. I think this provides a fairer way to determine the winner. And it also gives the conference a shot at having its top team in terms of BCS with at least a head-to-head chance of playing for a national championship.

I know I've heard some Big 12 officials saying that it is very important to get the team with the highest BCS ranking to move forward. That might be true, but at least in a multiteam tie, the SEC's rule would provide some type of mechanism for a t
eam that might have beaten that team with the highest ranking to receive some credit for it.

But I'm guessing we won't have a three-way divisional tie like we had last season in the South for a long time.

And for that, I bet Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe would be greatly relieved.

Thanks again for all of the correspondence and keep them coming. I'll be glad to answer any and all questions.



Saturday, 12/27
Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12