Big 12: Grant Teaff
Today, a simple question: What would a program look like without the winningest coach in program history? Which coaches had the biggest impact?
Here's how it breaks down for each program in the Big 12 (all-time record in parentheses):
- Winningest coach: Grant Teaff: 128-105-6
- Wins without winningest coach: 396
- Winningest coach: Dan McCarney: 56-85
- Wins without winningest coach: 444
- Winningest coach: A.R. Kennedy: 52-9-4
- Wins without winningest coach: 520
- Winningest coach: Bill Snyder: 159-83-1
- Wins without winningest coach: 316
- Winningest coach: Barry Switzer: 157-29-4
- Wins without winningest coach: 664
- Winningest coach: Pat Jones: 62-60-3 (Mike Gundy needs three wins to tie Jones)
- Wins without winningest coach: 468
- Winningest coach: Darrell Royal: 167-47-5
- Wins without winningest coach: 691
- Winningest coach: Dutch Meyer: 109-79-13 (Gary Patterson is tied at 109-30.)
- Wins without winningest coach: 484
- Winningest coach: Mike Leach: 84-43
- Wins without winningest coach: 440
- Winningest coach: Don Nehlen: 149-93-4
- Wins without winningest coach: 552
That's a wide variance of wins. It's clear that no man means more to his school than Bill Snyder does to Kansas State. The program has a rather depressing .358 winning percentage if you remove Snyder's win from the equation. He took two seasons to get Kansas State from a perennial doormat to a team above .500. Snyder then went on a historic run that included a Big 12 title in 2003 and two BCS bowl bids.
Don't ever doubt why some consider what Snyder has done in Manhattan as the single greatest coaching job in the history of the game. Snyder's career win percentage at Kansas State is .656, almost double what the program's overall win percentage is. No other coach comes close to those numbers. There's a reason why many of the nation's coaches are often in awe of Snyder and why he is so respected.
The biggest surprise for me was the relative dominance of West Virginia compared to the rest of the Big 12. That .601 win percentage is behind only Texas and Oklahoma over the course of the program's history. And you wonder why folks are so excited about their entrance into the league?
Looking elsewhere, Texas Tech's decision to fire Mike Leach looks worse and worse while the Mike Gundy hire at Oklahoma State looks better and better. Gundy is three wins from passing Pat Jones as the school's biggest all-time winner. He did so in just 89 games while Jones needed 125 matches to reach 62 victories.
Conversely, how about the job Gary Patterson has done at TCU? Sure, the schedule is different, but he's suffered the same amount of losses as Gundy with 50 more wins. He's also reached 109 wins in 62 fewer games than Dutch Meyer.
We're living in the age of some great, great coaches in this league. History shows us that.
Former Texas A&M coaches Jackie Sherrill and R.C. Slocum plan to be in attendance at the Nov. 19 dinner, as well as Frank Broyles, Spike Dykes, Grant Teaff, Bill Yeoman and Bum Phillips.
Bellard coached Texas A&M to a 48-27 record in a little more than six seasons at Texas A&M in the 1970s, twice going 10-2.
For more information on how to attend, go to http://www.12thmankot.org.
Pickens is among a group of six new persons who have joined the board, including broadcasters Troy Aikman and Jim Nantz and former Tennessee coach Bill Battle.
The National Football Foundation has a deep connection with the Big 12. The group's president and chief executive officer is Steve Hatchell, the original commissioner of the Big 12. And other board members include Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne, Texas women's athletic director Chris Plonsky and former Baylor coach and current American Football Coaches Association executive director Grant Teaff.
It's a big honor for Pickens to be added to this group and will help expand Oklahoma State's national reach because of Pickens' influence in this blue-ribbon panel of sports leaders.
Baylor and Texas A&M have been longtime rivals, playing a 99-game series that predated their memberships in the Southwest Conference. Both joined the Big 12 together in the continuation of a bitter rivalry that has been played yearly since 1945.
It may not seem as heated now as in the past when Grant Teaff squared off with Jackie Sherrill or later, R.C. Slocum. Even the Guy Morriss-Dennis Franchione rivalry developed into a good one with some barbs thrown from both sides on both sides.
Saturday’s game will have some meaning unlike many recent Baylor-A&M games because both teams still have legitimate bowl hopes.
Baylor senior safety Jordan Lake grew up in a family where his father was a former Baylor student. Like all Baylor students, they reveled in the Bears’ 41-20 victory last season in Waco that ranked as their biggest triumph in the series since 1980. And they also delighted in the Bears' wild 35-34 overtime triumph in 2004 after A&M had thumped them in College Station by 63 points the year before.
“My dad always had a dislike for A&M,” Lake said. “From the beginning, I knew there was a rivalry tension there. And the way we’ve played the last couple of years has helped it rise to where it was back in the 1970s and 1980s.”
Mike Sherman and Art Briles appear to have a respectful relationship heading into Saturday’s game that will be played for some big stakes at Kyle Field.
Both teams have simmering postseason hopes heading into the game, although both have fallen dramatically in recent weeks.
Baylor (4-6) started the season strongly with an opening-game victory at Wake Forest. But the Bears lost their home opener to Connecticut and Robert Griffin went down with a season-ending knee injury the following week as the Bears have tailed off since then.
Their 47-14 loss to Texas last was their fifth in the last six games and actually seems closer than it really was. The Longhorns jumped to a 40-0 lead before Baylor scored two late touchdowns on the Texas backup defensive unit.
A&M (5-5) has faced similar recent struggles and bottomed out in their blowout 65-10 loss at Oklahoma.
The Aggies had enough problems against the Sooners in simply cleanly fielding punts or kicks. A&M fumbled or muffed five kicks to spark Oklahoma’s 42-10 halftime lead. That run of struggles enabled the Sooners to run off 51 straight points en route to the wide margin of victory.
It marked the second time this season that an opponent has hung at least 60 points on the Aggies and the third time that they have lost by at least four touchdowns.
“We’re fine,” senior safety Jordan Pugh said. “We just look at it as something that we’ve got to fix. We looked forward and moved on."
A victory would push the Aggies into their first bowl game under Sherman. But A&M players have simpler thoughts about Saturday’s game.
“It’s just important for us to win, period,” Pugh said. “Getting a bowl game would be fun, but winning is our major focus now.”
To gain bowl eligibility, the Bears would have to win their first game at Kyle Field since 1984 and then defeat Texas Tech next week at the new Dallas Cowboys’ Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Playing meaningful games in late November is new for a Baylor program that hasn’t gone bowling since 1994. But the Bears are excited about the challenges that will be facing them -- even if they are perceived to be a long shot to accomplish those goals.
“A lot of people outside this locker room have written us off for awhile. When Griff went down, so did Baylor, they thought,” Baylor senior middle linebacker Joe Pawelek said. “We still have a shot to make this a special season. It starts with A&M this week. And we’re just looking to extend the season for one more week.”
The Aggies can make a bowl trip by winning one of their last two games. And obviously, the game against Baylor looks much more winnable than their remaining game against No. 3 Texas on Thanksgiving night.
“They all know that,” Sherman said about his team's bowl hopes. “I usually don’t make a big deal about the obvious. I think they know how important these games are.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's been a long time between bowl trips for Baylor.
The Bears' last bowl trip came in 1994 when they were defeated by Washington State in the Alamo Bowl. Current Baylor starting quarterback Robert Griffin was 4 years old when that game was played.
But excitement is rampant along the Brazos River and the Bears are ready to snap a bowl drought that is tied with Duke for the longest in schools in BCS-affiliated conferences.
Considering that Grant Teaff was coaching Baylor then and Steve Spurrier was directing the Blue Devils, it has been an extensive drought for both schools.
The Bears have their best hope this season and I'm thinking they squeak in. It will be critical for them to win at least one of their first two games against Wake Forest and Connecticut. They also need victories over Northwestern State and Kent State to enter Big 12 play at 3-1.
If Baylor does make that remarkable step, it will likely mean the Big 12 will be able to fill its full complement of bowls. It was unable to fill two bowls at the bottom of its list of partners. But that likely won't be the case this season if the Bears live up to their preseason hype.
Here's a look at how I predict the Big 12's bowl slots will be filled this season with a record nine teams making trips. The last two or three might be 6-6 teams, but there won't be much complaining from any of them.
Bowl bid: Possibly.
Best case: Robert Griffin electrifies the nation with stunning victories over Wake Forest and Connecticut to start the season and the Bears are already at six victories by mid-October. It makes them the feel-good story of the conference, places Art Briles in prime consideration for a couple of top jobs and pushes the Bears into the Alamo Bowl where they last went bowling in 1994.
Worst case: Offensive tackle Danny Watkins can't protect Griffin's blind side and the Bears stumble early with two-straight losses. Those pass-protection problems fester all season as the Bears revert to their losing ways and miss a bowl for another season.
Prediction: Texas Bowl.
Bowl bid: Possibly.
Best case: In a nod to soothsayers everywhere, the Buffaloes indeed live up to Dan Hawkins' preseason "prediction" and win 10 games, claiming a surprise Big 12 title game and ending up in the Holiday Bowl.
Worst case: The Buffaloes don't settle on either quarterback and tumble out of bowl contention for the third time in the last four seasons under Hawkins, making his seat extremely toasty this winter.
Prediction: Independence Bowl.
Best case: The Cyclones become the surprise story of the conference as Austen Arnaud immediately blossoms in Tom Herman's new offense. The defense shows steady improvement under Wally Burnham, providing a surprise trip to the casinos and crawfish boils at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.
Worst case: Paul Rhoads is a willing worker, but his new team just never jells with his philosophy. More road woes continue against Kent State as the Cyclones see their nation-worst road losing streak stretch to 22 games as they stay home from a bowl for a fourth-straight season.
Prediction: Home for the holidays.
Bowl bound: Count on it.
Best case: The Jayhawks find a couple of defensive reincarnations of Aqib Talib to help them spring a couple of upsets over South Division powers. Confidence gleaned from those games helps them surprise the South Divison champion in the Big 12 title game and send Mark Mangino and his team skipping into their second BCS bowl in three seasons -- this time to the Fiesta Bowl.
Worst case: Todd Reesing struggles behind a retooled offensive line and the Jayhawks' offense isn't nearly as potent as expected. Without a high-powered scoring team, the Kansas defense is exposed as posers, falling to the Insight.com Bowl for the second-straight season.
Prediction: Sun Bowl.
Best case: Bill Snyder brings the magic back to Manhattan, picking up a couple of upset victories to restore some pride in the Kansas State program from early in the season. The Wildcats ride that momentum for a surprise trip to the Insight.com Bowl.
Worst case: A quarterback never emerges and a struggling pass defense regresses into a horrific unit against the Big 12's high-powered aerial attacks. Those defeats make Snyder wonder why he ever left retirement as the Wildcats finish out of a bowl trip for the fifth time in six seasons.
Prediction: Home for the holidays.
Bowl bid: Possibly.
Best case: Blaine Gabbert provides steady leadership as Derrick Washington becomes the most versatile back in the Big 12. The retooled defense emerges as the Tigers claim a surprise Big 12 North title and end up at the Cotton Bowl.
Worst case: The loss of Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman and both coordinators cause the wheels to fall off the Missouri program and they miss a bowl trip for the first time since 2004.
Prediction: Insight.com Bowl
Bowl bound: Count on it.
Best case: Zac Lee is a revelation at quarterback and the defense emerges in Bo Pelini's second season to push the Cornhuskers to a upset victory in the Big 12 title game and into the Fiesta Bowl.
Worst case: The hype for Lee is just that. The new quarterback struggles and the Cornhuskers' defense backslides all the way t
o the Texas Bowl.
Prediction: Holiday Bowl.
Bowl bound: Count on it.
Best case: The young offensive line jells and the defense plays better than expected as the Sooners earn another chance to play in the BCS title game -- restoring order in the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 17 along the way.
Worst case: The offensive front struggles to protect Sam Bradford and the defense isn't as good as expected, dropping the Sooners to their first visit to the Alamo Bowl.
Prediction: Fiesta Bowl.
Bowl bound: Count on it.
Best case: The offensive triplets exceed expectations as Bill Young cobbles together enough defense to enable the Cowboys to outduel Texas and Oklahoma for their first Big 12 championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
Worst case: The defense still can't match up with Oklahoma and Texas -- and some of the other teams in the South Division either. Those struggles send the Cowboys skidding all the way to the Insight.com Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., where they play second-fiddle to the Sooners who are playing up the road in the Fiesta Bowl.
Prediction: Cotton Bowl.
Bowl bound: Count on it
Best case: The Longhorns find a featured running back and enough push from the defensive front to make all of the BCS rankings meaningless en route back to another shot at the national title in Pasadena.
Worst case: Colt McCoy gets hurt, the running game struggles and the Longhorns keep playing dropsy with key turnovers chances for another season. Instead, Texas players fumble their way to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego where they munch fish tacos and feed the whales at Sea World for the fourth time in the last 10 years.
Prediction: BCS National Championship Game.
Texas A&M Aggies
Bowl bid: Possibly.
Best case: Jerrod Johnson plays so well at quarterback that Ryan Tannehill moves back to wide receiver full time. The Aggies respond to defensive coordinator Joe Kines' defense with vast improvement through the season, stunning Texas in the regular-season finale to push them into the Alamo Bowl.
Worst case: A leaky offensive line can't open holes or pass block and the Aggies' defense struggles against all Big 12 quarterbacks in another season that finishes without a bowl.
Prediction: Home for the holidays.
Bowl bid: Count on it.
Best case: Taylor Potts exceeds all expectations and the Red Raiders defense plays so well that some start accusing the school of being a "defense-first" program. The Red Raiders don't win the Big 12 South, but they revisit the location of Mike Leach's biggest bowl victory at the Holiday Bowl.
Worst case: The Red Raiders miss Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree more than expected and skid out of bowl contention for the first time under Leach.
Prediction: Alamo Bowl.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's time to unveil my preseason power rankings, which is a pretty good indicator that the season is fast approaching.
Unlike some of my coaching friends, I'm all about releasing these every week. Maybe Grant Teaff and my friends at the American Football Coaches Association could learn something about transparency in polling.
As far as the rankings, there's been little movement since May. I've boosted Baylor up a notch because Robert Griffin appears ready to direct the Bears back to a bowl game. Colorado is down because deep threats are becoming sparse in the Buffaloes' offense. And in the Big 12, you can never have enough deep threats.
Other than that, I still like Texas over Oklahoma by a smidge -- although the lack of a tight end or quick improvement from the Sooners' offensive line could cause those to change.
And in the North, I'm picking Nebraska over Kansas because of Ndamukong Suh, a better running game and the Cornhuskers' easier cross-division schedule. But it's not a great margin.
So read and remember these picks and check back in December when I'll take stock of how I did.
1. Texas: The Longhorns have long memories about what happened last season when the BCS standings kept them out of the Big 12 title game. If a running game can be cobbled together and Will Muschamp can work his magic on the defensive front, the Longhorns might not have to worry about polls this season.
2. Oklahoma: Bob Stoops has built the nation's quietest dynasty with an unprecedented three straight Big 12 championships. He's got a good shot at four straight if his young offensive line jells and that pesky recent problem at the Cotton Bowl with Texas can be taken care of.
3. Oklahoma State: No team in the conference is as balanced and explosive as the Cowboys, but the defense is another story. If veteran coordinator Bill Young can coax enough improvement from the defense, the Cowboys might shock their way to their first Big 12 title and BCS bowl game.
4. Nebraska: Last year's late finish has Cornhusker fans believing the magic is back with Bo Pelini. But breaking in a new quarterback and trying to find some deep receiving threats will keep the Cornhuskers from dreaming about a Big 12 title -- at least for this season.
5. Kansas: The Jayhawks are loaded offensively and have enough defense to arguably make this Mark Mangino's best team. The only problem, however, is that a tough cross-division schedule will make Kansas play Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech. It might be enough to keep the best North team from playing in the championship game.
6. Texas Tech: Why is Mike Leach smiling so much these days? It's not just his new contract. The Red Raiders have an underrated defense and Leach doesn't think the loss of Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree will be as grievous as most outside the program believe. The Red Raiders are rebuilding, but Leach likes his new players.
7. Missouri: The Tigers are breaking in new coordinators and looking for replacements for Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman, Jeremy Maclin and Ziggy Hood. Gary Pinkel's recruiting has improved -- typified by new quarterback Blaine Gabbert -- but there are likely too many holes to think about a third straight trip to the Big 12 title game.
8. Baylor: Could this finally be the team to break the bowl drought? Art Briles is starting to get the pieces in place -- starting with Griffin at quarterback. But the schedule is unforgiving in the South Division and the Bears could be a little thin in the trenches to think about bowling just yet.
9. Colorado: Whether Dan Hawkins said his team would win 10 games or not isn't the point. The fact is that a deep collection of running backs, an improving offensive line, an underrated defense and the North Division's most favorable schedule could make the Buffaloes a surprise challenger. But there are still many questions -- starting with the quarterbacks on hand and the lack of a proven deep threat.
10. Texas A&M: Expectations are lower for the Aggies than any time in recent memory. These Aggies bear little resemblance to the consistent winners of the early Big 12 era, particularly on defense. Jerrod Johnson gives Mike Sherman a playmaker to start building his offense around, but winning in the South with this group might be an impossible task.
11. Kansas State: Speaking of reclamation projects, Bill Snyder might have stepped into a big one as he tries to return the Wildcats to their earlier dominance of his previous coaching tenure. It will be a long trek back as Snyder settles on a quarterback and tries to improve a porous defense.
12. Iowa State: Paul Rhoads knows the culture at Iowa State after growing up near Ames and previously working as an ISU assistant. He has quarterback Austen Arnaud back to run a retooled high-tempo offense. But Rhoads will face a monumental rebuilding job as he tries to stem a nation-worst 17-game road losing streak.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Today is a special summer day for football fans across Texas and the Southwest.
Today is the annual release date of Dave Campbell's Texas Football, which is the unquestionable college football magazine of record in these parts every year.
This magazine is special because it's the 50th anniversary edition. The first one was laid out on the kitchen table of former Waco Tribune-Herald sports editor Dave Campbell, who started it in 1960.
It's gotten much bigger than that over the years, being read by three generations of football fans over the years. Today, there's a Texas Football classic every year at the Alamodome and even an official Texas Football song.
I first learned about the magazine in the late 1960s when a friend of mine in fifth grade, Richard Jackson, moved to Memphis from Houston. Along with his neat Houston Astros hat that I always was envious of was his copy of Texas Football Magazine. The story and pictures of the guys from Texas, Baylor and Rice were so different than anything I came across in the Southeastern Conference. I wanted mine, too.
My dad occasionally traveled to Texas with his job and soon learned to look at the 7-Eleven on one of his trips to Dallas to see if he could score a copy of Dave Campbell for me.
Later, my family moved to Texas and I learned the excitement of visiting the newsstand in mid-June to pick up the Dave Campbell magazine, which was there to chronicle the demise of the Southwest Conference and the start of the Big 12.
The new one will officially be released today across the area. And the coverboy is Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who becomes the first individual player to be pictured since Texas wide receiver Roy Williams in 2003.
I picked up my copy and am already deeply into it. It takes me back to my childhood.
The only problem is that I wonder why I couldn't pick up a Grape Slurpee to drink with it like I used to back in the day.
A list of the cover boys in the magazine's history exhibits a unique history of football in the southwest. Here's a list of the players who have graced the cover of the magazine over the years.
1960: Texas RB Jack Collins
1961: Baylor RB Ronnie Bull
1962: TCU QB Sonny Gibbs
1963: Texas coach Darrell Royal and DT Scott Appleton
1964: Baylor coach John Bridgers and WR Lawrence Elkins
1965: Texas Tech RB Donny Anderson
1966: SMU NG John LaGrone, Baylor DT Greg Pipes, Texas DT Diron Talbert
1967: Texas A&M T Maurice "Mo" Moorman
1968: Texas A&M QB Edd Hargett
1969: Texas QB James Street
1970: Texas RB Steve Worster
1971: Texas Tech QB Charles Napper
1972: Texas A&M LB Brad Dusek
1973: Texas LB Glen Gaspard
1974: Texas coach Darrell Royal
1975: Baylor coach Grant Teaff
1976: Houston coach Bill Yeoman
1977: Texas Tech QB Rodney Allison
1978: Texas A&M K Tony Franklin and Texas K/P Russell Erxleben
1979: Texas DT Steve McMichael
1980: Baylor LB Mike Singletary and Texas A&M QB Mike Mosley
1981: Baylor RB Walter Abercrombie and SMU RB Craig James
1982: Texas A&M QB Gary Kubiak
1983: SMU QB Lance McIlhenny
1984: Texas A&M DE Ray Childress
1985: TCU coach Jim Wacker and TCU RB Kenneth Davis
1986: Texas A&M coach Jackie Sherrill
1987: Texas QB Bret Stafford and Texas coach David McWilliams
1988: Texas RB Eric Metcalf and Texas A&M LB John Roper
1989: Houston coach Jack Pardee and SMU coach Forrest Gregg
1990: Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes
1991: Houston QB David Klingler
1992: Rice RB Trevor Cobb
1993: Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum
1994: Texas QB Shea Morenz
1995: A collage of Southwest Conference historical figures including Texas RB Earl Campbell, Houston coach Bill Yeoman, Baylor LB Mike Singletary, TCU QB Sammy Baugh, Texas coach Fred Akers, Texas coach Darrell Royal and SMU RB Doak Walker.
1996: Baylor coach Chuck Ready, Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes, Texas coach John Mackovic and Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum
1997: Texas QB James Brown and Texas RB Ricky Williams
1998: Texas A&M LB Dat Nguyen, Texas RB Ricky Williams and Texas coach Mack Brown
1999: Texas coach Mack Brown and TCU coach Dennis Franchione. Note: Alternative cover for those magazines sold outside the state featured Dallas Cowboys QB Troy Aikman
2000: Midland Robert E. Lee H.S. RB Cedric Benson
2001: Texas QB Chris Simms, TCU QB Casey Printers, Texas A&M QB Mark Farris and Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury
2002: Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury, Celina H.S. coach G.A. Moore, Dallas Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith and Baytown Lee H.S. QB Drew Tate.
2003: Texas WR Roy Williams
2004: Texas Tech DE Adell Duckett, TCU S Marvin Godbolt, Houston QB Kevin Kolb, North Texas RB Patrick Cobb
2005: Texas QB Vince Young and Texas A&M QB Reggie McNeal
2006: Former Texas RB Earl Campbell, Mansfield Summit H.S. QB John Chiles, Texarkana Texas H.S. QB Ryan Mallett and Gilmer H.S. QB G.J. Kinne
2007: Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee, Texas QB Colt McCoy and TCU DE Tommy Blake
2008: Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell and Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree
2009: Texas QB Colt McCoy
Source: ESPN.com research
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The realization came a few years ago, early one morning in the Lubbock airport, when I thought nobody could have cared what I was doing.
After a long night of covering Texas Tech, I was scheduled on the first flight back home the following morning. But before I left, I knew I had to take care of something.
As I went to a bank of pay telephones back in those pre-cellular phone days, I mumbled off my list of 25 teams to the Associated Press desker in New York City. I usually tried to get my vote in by 9 a.m. -- always settling on them the night before but always looking at them one more time the following morning before I submitted them.
The teams tumbled out in my order for the week. After I finished, I tried to relax for a couple of minutes before my flight left until an elderly man tapped me on my shoulder.
"Excuse me, sir," the man said. "I think you had Michigan ranked too high this week. And West Virginia, they were way too low."
How the fellow passenger had determined I was a voter, I had no idea. But he -- as do most college football fans at that time of the year -- had his own idea how the polls should be voted. And fans don't hesitate to tell you about it, either, in person or by e-mail.
That idea infused me with the thought of how important some considered my vote. As such, I knew the kind of diligence the poll deserved if I was voting.
And the idea that my vote was being made public each week made me take even more care in trying to get things right in my mind. Because, I knew I would hear something if it was skewed.
This is why I think the American Football Coaches Association's decision to keep their final votes private is so wrong.
Horribly wrong, in fact.
Not making the votes public robs the poll of its greatest attribute -- its credibility. When that is stripped away, the poll loses its relevance.
AFCA executive director Grant Teaff argues differently.
"Why do you think they have voting booths," Teaff told the Tulsa World. "Why do you think they have curtains around voting booths? Experts believe that's the truest way of getting the purest vote. That's what coaches are after."
Teaff is wrong in his thinking. Horribly wrong, in fact.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Texas coach Mack Brown still hasn't made up his mind whether he wants to vote again in the USA Today coaches' poll.
Brown said after last season he might drop out of the group of 61 coaches who cast weekly votes for the American Football Coaches Association.
"I haven't been asked, and I haven't made a decision," Brown said on the Big 12 media teleconference. "I'm on the AFCA board of trustees, so since the American Football Coaches are the ones that support the USA Today coaches' poll, obviously I want to talk to coach Teaff (AFCA executive director Grant Teaff) and different people before I make a final decision."
Brown was a critic after several recent controversies, most notably when Oklahoma was boosted in front of Texas to compete in the Big 12 championship game despite the Longhorns defeating the Sooners earlier in the season.
But after the Longhorns lost to Texas Tech and the South Division finished in an unprecedented three-way tie, the final Bowl Championship Series standings were used with Oklahoma placing ahead of Texas in the final regular-season poll.
The Sooners then claimed their third straight Big 12 title after beating Missouri in the title game. They then lost to Florida in the BCS national championship game.
Texas finished third in the final USA Today coaches' poll and Oklahoma finished fifth.
The AFCA requires its poll to award its No. 1 vote to the winner of the BCS title game. Brown wanted to vote the Longhorns as the top team after his team beat Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
The results made Brown question whether he wanted to participate in the poll again.
"I just think we -- all of us in college football -- need to continue to look at what's best for trying to crown a champion. And I was concerned after some of the things I've seen for the last six years, and they popped up again last year," Brown said. "As a voter, I want to make sure I know all the rules, because I thought I did and I got confused a little bit last year on some things that popped up, and I want to make sure that I feel like that the system is such that I want to be part of it.
"And if it's not, it's no big deal to anybody other than to me and to the University of Texas. It's a decision I'll have to make based on where I feel like we're going."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It wouldn't be a Friday without some letters from the readers. Here are some I got this week.
Brandon from Ames, Iowa, writes: Tim, I'll be a Cyclone fan until I die no matter how bad we get, but is there going to be any hope for a good season this year? Rhoads is making us hopeful, but what should we consider a successful season given our current condition?
Tim Griffin: Brandon, I've been impressed during the times I've talked with Paul Rhoads since he's taken the job. He seems very positive and upbeat and realizes how daunting the job will be. I see a lot of similarities between him and his coaching mentor, Dan McCarney, who hired Rhoads at Iowa State earlier in his coaching career.
I was also impressed by his two hires for coordinators. Both Tom Herman and Wally Burnham are both very respected in the business and will help him tremendously.
But the Cyclones' talent is at the bottom of the North Division and it will be a big challenge for them to escape the cellar in Rhoads' first season. I think a more realistic goal would be for them to win a game or two more than last season's 2-10 record that ended with 10 straight losses. Anything more than that, in my opinion, will be extremely difficult to accomplish.
Austin from Houston writes: Tim, I noticed in your March 13 mailbag that you mentioned Oklahoma hasn't lost at home since 2001. Did you forget that they lost to the mighty TCU Horned Frogs 17-10 on September 3, 2005? I know that all of the Sooner fans as well as Bob Stoops remember that day. On a different note, although we are roughly seven months away from the game, who is your "way too early" pick for the Texas/OU game?
Tim Griffin: Austin, thanks for the catch. I meant to say the Sooners hadn't lost a conference game since 2001. I do remember the TCU game -- I was there that day. The Horned Frogs were able to dominate the Sooners at Owen Field. I had never seen that happen before with Bob Stoops coaching. And I haven't seen it since, either.
As far as my Red River Rivalry pick, if you asked me today, I would have to go with the Longhorns, but just barely. I'll reserve the right to make my final pick the week before the game.
Texas obviously will be smarting after failing to make the Big 12 championship game despite beating the Sooners last season in the celebrated three-way tie for the South Division championship. They couldn't ask for more inspiration coming into the game than that whole scenario.
But one thing that struck me when talking with Oklahoma players last week in Norman was the defense's confidence. The Sooners have nine starters back on their defensive unit, missing only safeties Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes. The Sooners seem comfortable that their defense will be much improved from last season. I thought the Sooners had a great defensive effort against Missouri in the Big 12 game and a good one in the loss to Florida in the Bowl Championship Series title game. Oklahoma's defense wasn't to blame for the Sooners losing that game.
So I think the Sooners' defense will be a little better than most people think this season. It should make for a great matchup at the Cotton Bowl.
Can we play tomorrow?
Robert Holmes from Norman, Okla., writes: Tim, if you were starting a Big 12 team of all the players who are coming back for the 2009 season, who would you pick first?
Tim Griffin: Great question and one that bears a more detailed answer. I'm going to start a daily post on Tuesday where I will count down the 40 most valuable players in the Big 12. I'll have a player a day culminating on May 2, which also coincidentally is the day of the Kansas State spring game -- the last one in the conference.
So start watching for that next week.
Brandon from Poteet, Texas, writes: Tim, I saw where you were at Baylor yesterday. How do you gauge the Bears' mindset coming into the upcoming season? Is a bowl berth a real possibility? And where did you end up eating on your way home? I would have advised George's if I was you.
Tim Griffin: The Bears seem to be a confident bunch. From interviews with new defensive tackle Phil Taylor to safety Jordan Lake and defensive coordinator Brian Norwood and coach Art Briles, to newcomers like offensive tackle Danny Watkins, I could detect a different attitude from previous seasons. Those players and coaches flatly tell you they will be playing in a bowl game. And it appears that it will be a shock for them if they aren't bowling somewhere in December.
That being the case, the Bears will face a typically difficult South Division schedule. They absolutely must win three games in the nonconference schedule. And a key swing game at Texas A&M on Nov. 21 will be huge for them.
Baylor's 41-21 victory over the Aggies last season in Waco was a convincing one. But remember that the Bears have produced 10 losses and a tie in their last 11 trips to Kyle Field. The last time Baylor won in College Station was on Oct. 20, 1984, when Grant Teaff's team claimed a 20-16 triumph. As of today, that's a string of 8,917 days and counting.
That's a huge gap and won't be easily snapped.
And as far as my meal in Waco, I didn't really have much time after spending a couple of hours finishing my work and getting a late start back home. I hopped right in the car and made it back home in time to eat one of my wife's delicious leftover pulled-pork sandwiches while I switched between President Obama's appearance on Jay Leno and the final minutes of the Illinois-Western Kentucky game late last week.
Maybe next time for George's.
Steve Woodson from Garden City, Kan., writes: Hey Tim. Great blog. I wouldn't think of starting my day without reading it. I've got a quick question for you. Which team would you anticipate to be the "surprise team" in the Big 12 this season? And which team do you expect will take the biggest step backwards from last season.
Tim Griffin: Steve, thanks for the compliments. I think that Colorado is nicely situated with some diminished expectations outside the program after last season's struggles.
I know that coach Dan Hawkins predicted his team would go 10-2 this season, which would be a surprise to almost anybody outside the Colorado program. But I do think if the Buffaloes can stay healthy and have a quarterback to emerge that they've got a great shot to make it back to a bowl game and might even be able to climb into North Division title contention with a few breaks along the way.
And as far as the program I expect to take the biggest step back, I would nominate Texas Tech. Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree will be missed, obviously. But so will players like Brandon Williams, Louis Vasquez, Daniel Charbonnet, Darcel McBath, Shannon Woods and Rylan Reed. That's a big chunk of talent that had a huge p
art in the Red Raiders' South Division tri-championship team last season to replace at one time.
I still expect the Red Raiders to contend for a bowl appearance as I would peg them about fourth in the Big 12 South behind Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. But I think seven or eight wins is a more likely victory total for them this season rather than last year's 11-2 mark.
Jackson from Telluride, Colo., writes: Which off-season coaching moves to do you think will prove to be the most important in the Big 12 this season?
Tim Griffin: I'll actually nominate three. Obviously, the hiring of Bill Young as Oklahoma State's new defensive coordinator has huge ramifications. Mike Gundy is counting on him to be able to fashion together enough improvement to push the Cowboys into contention. That will be a tall order for him, even with all of his past success at previous stops.
I'm also very curious how the new staff of Bill Snyder works together at Kansas State. I think the hiring of Vic Koenning was a huge get for Snyder. I'm also intrigued to see how Dana Dimel and Del Miller will work together again as co-offensive coordinators. Both have worked with Snyder before. Are there any changes in their coaching since they lasted coached there? We'll see.
And I'm also very interested to see the work of new Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Yost and defensive coordinator Dave Steckel. Both have been with Gary Pinkel since the beginning at Missouri. But both also represent changes that have come to the program after former offensive coordinator Dave Christensen left for the head coaching job at Wyoming and former defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus left to become the Cleveland Browns' linebackers coach.
Pinkel had never had a change in his coaching staff in the first eight years at Missouri. I'm curious to see how the recent switches will alter the Tigers and Pinkel's schematics, if any.
That's all for this week. Check back next week for more correspondence and keep the questions and answers coming. I appreciate it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I absolutely love the idea that ESPN.com is kicking around this month of a sports version of Mount Rushmore immortalizing the iconic figures of each state.
And it made me think about a similar idea for each Big 12 football program. What if each school had a Mount Rushmore model dedicated to it? Who would deserve to be on the side of the mountain?
I jotted down my ideas for each school and will roll them out today.
First is Baylor.
The Bears have struggled more than any program in the brief history of the Big 12. But the school still has a storied tradition that lends itself to four fine candidates if it ever decided to construct a Baylor-themed Mount Rushmore. I'm thinking a good location might be along the banks of the Brazos River, not too far from Baylor Ballpark or the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in Waco.
Here are my nominations.
- Grant Teaff -- Not just because his worm-eating trick might have been the most notable and inspirational ploy in school history. He's also the best coach the Bears have ever had, too.
- Mike Singletary -- How big was his legacy at the school? Baylor started awarding the Mike Singletary Award for its top senior player as soon as he graduated.
- Barton "Botchey" Koch -- Old-schoolers still remember him as the first Southwest Conference player to ever make an All-American team.
- Thomas Everett -- College Hall of Fame member who earned the Thorpe Award as a senior in 1986.
I'm not doubting that Robert Griffin could play himself onto Baylor's Rushmore if the Bears could ever make a bowl game. Maybe even Art Briles or Joe Pawelek, too. Anybody else out there I'm missing?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Happy Monday. Here are some fresh links to get your through the weekend leftovers that were probably brought from home.
- Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads says he's "in no hurry" to hire a defensive coordinator, Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler reports.
- New Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young is talking about planting trees, signaling the 62-year-old veteran coach is thinking about staying at his new school longer than some other stops, the Oklahoman's Scott Wright writes. Wright also notes that Young is determined to have the Cowboys playing a fast, physical defense.
- David Flores of the San Antonio Express-News reports that former Baylor coach Grant Teaff and former Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum are serving as unofficial advisers to Texas-San Antonio athletic director Lynn Hickey as she searches for the school's first football coach.
- Mike Huguenin of Rivals.com predicts that Colorado will crack the top 25 next season.
- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is expected to delineate the exact roles of the new members of his staff sometime after National Signing Day next week, the Oklahoman's Scott Wright reports.
- Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star and hundreds of the newspaper's readers are wondering why Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz didn't get invited to any postseason all-star games or the NFL combine.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
My recent lists were meant as more than mere filler serving up a little anticipation before the season begins. Readers take these things pretty seriously, so I figured I might give some of my rationale behind a few of my more controversial recent blog posts.
Here goes in another mailbag:
Rock from Olathe, Kan. writes: Tim, are you smoking something? How in the wide, wide world of football could you ever imagine that Baylor is a better job than Kansas State. I'm interested to hear your answer.
Tim Griffin: I've been pilloried across the Sunflower State for my recent post ranking the Big 12 coaching jobs. Again, as I clearly stated early in my missive, it was strictly my opinion. Remember, the thesis of my piece was what job would be attractive for me as a young coach starting my career.
I think, and still believe, that recruiting is the biggest facet in college football. I hate to sound like some of those coaches I've heard over the years, but haven't you heard "It's not about the Xs and the Os as much as the Jimmys and the Joes"?
Baylor is located in one of the fertile areas of the nation, even with its many recent struggles. Kansas State must go out of state or depend on junior-college additions. I think that's the biggest factor that boosts the Baylor job over Kansas State to me.
Also, I think the Baylor facilities are a tad better than those at Kansas State. The facilities that will open later this year at Waco are state-of-the-art. Kansas State's are a little older. The two stadiums are comparable.
It's also been shown in recent years that Baylor's financial commitment to football is stronger than Kansas State's. Art Briles got a contract of more than $1.8 million per year to take the job at Baylor. Ron Prince needed two years before he got past $1 million. And Kansas State has previously struggled keeping up with other Big 12 teams in terms of keeping assistant coaches because of salaries. I've heard that is supposed to change. But we'll see.
Obviously, past success provides a huge advantage for Kansas State. But the days that Bill Snyder first starting turning around the program are more than 15 years ago. And it will be tough for Kansas State to climb back into contention in the North Division.
If I was a young coach, it might be more attractive for me to turn around a downtrodden program than one that's had previous success. That's probably why there's a statue of Grant Teaff outside of Floyd Casey Stadium and he never took his team to a bowl higher than the Cotton Bowl. And he's very much alive to enjoy the notoriety, too.
Here's another way to judge the difference in the programs and the perceptions they have among coaches. The last two coaches to be hired at Baylor were a head coach from the nation's strongest conference (Guy Morriss, Kentucky) and another head coach who had developed one of the nation's top non-BCS programs (Art Briles, Houston). Kansas State hired an offensive coordinator from an ACC school (Ron Prince, Virginia). It looks like head coaches in the business might see some appeal in Baylor -- or at least those two -- for many of the same reasons I've mentioned.
But again, it was the difference between 10th and 11th in the conference. And in my opinion, it was very slim. But I had to pick one and I chose Baylor.
Lindsay from Oklahoma writes: Everyone is talking about the Sooner offense...what do you think about the Sooner D?
Tim Griffin: For a team that doesn't have many, I think the Sooners defense remains the biggest question for me. DE Auston English is back after having his appendix removed and I expect him to round into shape as the season progresses. A bigger loss could be LB Austin Box, who is out with a knee injury for several weeks. MLB Ryan Reynolds hasn't shown he can make it through a season without getting hurt. And I still think the Sooners will miss Reggie Smith and Curtis Lofton as the season progresses. Oklahoma still is the best team in the South and might be in the Big 12 as well. But in order to play up to their lofty BCS expectations -- and actually win a bowl game for a change -- the defense is going to have to gel.
Baby Tate writes: Thank you for posting my article of the 12 Surprise Whippings of College Football from the Bleacher Report. But I want to clarify why the Colorado-Nebraska game wasn't listed. My time period was 1965-2000. I'm pretty much an old timer and I prefer to write about periods with which I'm most familiar. My next article could be "How The JFK Tragedy Affected The Choice Of The Air Force Over The More Deserving Memphis State Tigers of Spook Murphy in 1963".
Tim Griffin: Sorry for the confusion on that, Baby. And I know a lot of my fellow Memphians have never gotten over that Spook couldn't take his Tigers to a bowl game after that 9-0-1 season in 1963. And the closest we ever got to bowling when I was in college was on those Thursday fraternity nights down at the local 10-pin lanes.
Rob from Nacogdoches, Texas writes: Tim, I've seen the Howard Schnellenberger video that you posted a couple of days ago. What's the one thing that sticks out most to you after watching it?
Tim Griffin: It's not the confidence that the veteran Florida Atlantic University coach obviously has for his team, his suspenders or the way he repeatedly flashes his Super Bowl and national championship rings at the camera as he rubs his hands. I'm thinking more about how well that comfortable orange chair he was sitting in would go in my study.
Caleb from El Reno writes: I recently read your ranking of the Big 12 quaterbacks. How do you put Daniel over Bradford? Bradford holds the advantage in size and athletic ability, not to mention Bradford handed Daniel his only two losses last year. It just doesn't make any sense to put one quarterback over another quarterback who beat him heads-up twice.
Tim Griffin: Except maybe if one of those quarterbacks had Curtis Lofton playing on his team and the other one didn't, it does.
Orlando writes: Bradford, give me a break. He's another ESPN creation. Passing efficiency is another way to hide the fact he gets his butt kicked away from Norman.
Tim Griffin: It's hard to argue with a record number of touchdown passes he threw last season as a freshman, isn't it? And although Bradford has one of the best offenses in the country surrounding him -- think Colt McCoy of Texas in 2006 -- he still is a pretty tough customer. I've seen him withstand some withering hits during his short career.
Gary in Pleasanton, Calif writes: Tim, It was nice hearing Kirk (ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit) mention something about Nebraska. There are a couple of coaches that are from the #1 and #2 teams last year that now with Nebraska. Could you maybe shed some light on why Nebraska never gets any press whether they are ranked or not?
Tim Griffin: Gary, I'm going to differ with you on that. I think Nebraska got a lot of publicity nationally when it was on its national title binge in the 1990s. And I think that it gets its share in the Big 12 as well. Maybe not to the levels of USC, Florida, Oklahoma or Texas, but the Cornhuskers haven't been to that BCS-level in recent years, either.
If Bo Pelini turns things around for the Cornhuskers, I can guarantee you'll hear a lot from national commentators. And it just won't be coming from his old college teammates like Herbstreit.
Adam writes: Tim, Love your blog! My question though: you ranked the top 10 big 12 offensive lineman, leaving out Oklahoma State. Are you aware OSU led the l
eauge in rushing, and gave up very few sacks (not sure where the lack of sacks ranks in the league). Last year our best lineman, Russ Okung, shut down the country's top defensive end (in terms of sacks) in the Independence Bowl. How can a unit, arguably strongest in the league, and a top linemen like Okung be missing from your listing? What is the criteria for your choices?
Tim Griffin: Looking back, I might have included Okung on the list and I gave careful consideration to David Washington, who missed my list because he was hurt most of last season. But I think the Oklahoma State line might be the collection of its parts without one or two standouts. I talked to some NFL scouts that I trust and also to others who follow the Big 12 closely. While not infallible, I think my choices were pretty close.
Jason writes: Tim I'd like to know how Travis Schneider of A&M has been looking. He switched from left to right tackle this year and you don't hear much about him, so what are you hearing?
Tim Griffin: I was impressed with Schneider on several plays I saw last week at Texas A&M's open practice -- amazing what a concept that is, isn't it? Schneider will be counted to help a green offensive line develop. He'll be the most important player in the unit because of his experience.
But one tip I have for him about notoriety -- he'll develop more of it with his blocks than his locks. Schneider has one of the most notable hairstyles I've seen this year. He needs to be a more aggressive player on the field this season.
Sean Arnold of Kearney, Neb., writes: Tim I'm surprised that none of the Nebraska kickers made your list of best special teams players in the conference. I understand that not every team could be represented but I thought at least our punter Dan Titchener would make it with his ability to drop the ball inside the 20 yard line. Oh well, still love your stuff. Go Big Red
Tim Griffin: Sean, I agree about Nebraska's total talent on special teams. But I couldn't see putting one of them in my top 10. Titchener is probably about the third best punter in the league, just below the two that I picked.
Guys, thanks for all of the letters and keep them coming. Game day is only five days away. I can't wait.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
As we continue our trip through the North Division, I figured today would be a good time to catch up with some of the correspondence that's piled up between preview stories and traveling across the highways of the Midwest, looking for the Big 12's next great player and a Runza Restaurant between stops.
Here a look at a few of the most recent missives directed my way.
Juan from Austin writes: Puhleeze! I've said it before and I'll say it again. How can you even think about mentioning Colt McCoy in the same breath as the others for Heisman consideration?
Tim Griffin: I still see what McCoy was able to do two seasons ago when he tied the NCAA freshman record for touchdown passes (which was broken last season by Oklahoma's Sam Bradford). McCoy showed me a new maturity when I talked to him in Kansas City last month at the Big 12's Media Days. He'll be asked to do more with an inexperienced group of skill-position players.
But remember something about how the Texas program shapes national perceptions. If McCoy has a big season and the Longhorns are in South Division contention, he'll get most of the credit for it. And as such, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he's a Heisman contender. Admittedly he's fifth of the "Big Five" Big 12 quarterbacks, but he still has a shot.
Willis from Overland Park, KS writes: The complete and ongoing lack of mention of Kansas State QB Josh Freeman is absurd. What kind of stats does a true sophomore like him have to put up to be considers as good as "cough, cough" Todd Reesing.
Tim Griffin: Willis, how about 12-1, which is the record that Reesing led the Jayhawks to last season, compared to KSU's 5-7 mark. That would be a start. And also how about Reesing's 33-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio last season, compared to Freeman's 18-11 ratio.
Dakota from San Antonio writes: Will Art Briles do the unthinkable and turn around a miserable Baylor program? And if so, when can we expect it to happen?
Tim Griffin: This is going to be the biggest challenge of Briles' coaching career -- one that obviously isn't for the faint-hearted. For Baylor to emerge as a bowl threat, they are going to have to schedule down a little. While playing games against Wake Forest and Connecticut will be good for the program's exposure, they are going to have do something in those games. Like Briles said earlier this summer, his team needs to provide a victory or two that makes people stop for a minute the following day as they are looking at their sports page or reading the computer.
For Baylor to ever become a consistent power, somebody in the South Division is going to have to step back. I just don't see it at this time with strong coaching and facility growth across the conference. If Briles can turn around the Bears, it will make what Grant Teaff did in the old Southwest Conference appear rather small.
The Chief from Savannah, Ga., writes - Tim, I love your blog. I really believe Texas A&M will beat Miami this season? Am I wrong?
Tim Griffin: I think that the Aggies have a great shot. Particularly with A&M president Elsa Murano telling new A&M coach Mike Sherman how much she'd love to see him beat her old hometown team. Nothing like a little pressure from your boss to keep you up late at night, working on diagramming some new plays or blocking schemes.
And it also won't hurt that the game is at Kyle Field and that Miami is a shell of the national contender it used to be.
Tony from Kansas writes: Tommie Frazier from Nebraska absolutely wouldn't lose. Why didn't you include him on your clutch list?
Tim Griffin: It's a good choice, but I was limited to players who had seen action in the Big 12. Or else, I could have included Ed Hargett, Bobby Layne or even Darrell Royal -- as a player or as a coach.
Steve from Duncanville writes: Hey Tim, I loved your story about how the Big 12 recruits so heavily in Texas. Is there any way you can break those figures down to show all of the different states that are included. Many thanks.
Tim Griffin: Steve, I'll be glad to do that. Thanks for the idea. Although it sounds vaguely like something a recruiting service would do, doesn't it?
Mr. Unknown writes: Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill didn't charge anything, his stats weren't that good, that is a myth started by Mike Leach. And how can Nolan Cromwell, the wide receiver coach for Mike Holmgren the last 8 or 9 years and Tom Rossley, Brett Favre's quarterback coach and offensive coordinator for seven years at Green Bay. How can those guys not be in the top five? Your list was ridiculous.
Tim Griffin: I think you're wrong on this. The Tech defense was noticeable better down the stretch, peaking in impressive victories over Oklahoma and Virginia in the Gator Bowl. And you have a point about Rossley, although Cromwell has never been a college coach before. I'll withhold my opinion about his work until he coaches a few games at this level. That's why I didn't include him on my list.
Shadowman from Kansas City writes: Now I know everyone in the Big 12 (especially the North) hates the Huskers. Does this mean that every site has to claim we will be horrible (losing season) for Pelini's first season? Marlon Lucky is returning for his senior year and some are mentioning him as a possible preseason Heisman candidate, Joe Ganz coming in with a bit of experience from the last season, a solid defensive line, and Pelini who has a tendency to work with kids to shut down the pass, how do we not have the chance to succeed and maybe challenge for the Big 12 North?
Tim Griffin: Lucky is going to be pushed to start this year by Roy Helu Jr. And that defensive line took a hit when top back Kevin Dixon was kicked off the team Monday for a violation of team rules.
I think Bo Pelini will have the Cornhuskers flying around the ball this season. But the talent he inherited leads me to believe he should be up for Coach of the Year honors if he can win eight or nine games with this team.
Roger from Sulphur, La., writes: Tim, if you're going to cover college sports in this manner, you should've stayed covering the Big 12. Please, what kind of BS is this? Granted, the Big 12 has some quality teams, but top to bottom - no comparison with the SEC.
Tim Griffin: Roger, I appreciate your sentiments, but I couldn't help but detect your hometown and wonder if it was tinged just a bit with a touch of hometown jambalaya. And I wonder if you noticed the Big 12 had five teams ranked in the top 14 in the USA Today coaches' poll last week.
But I agree with your sentiments about the SEC's up-and-down strength. I think the Big 12 is stronger at the top, but the SEC might have the nod when you include all 12 teams.
And please tell me that my colleague Chris Low didn't put you up to that.
That's all for this time. Keep the letters coming.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Teams use different forms of inspiration to help them get through the long practices of August.
According to the Oklahoman, Oklahoma State players are wearing thin rubber orange bracelets with lettering that reads "Big 12 Champs, Dec. 8, 2008."
Texas coach Mack Brown and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel have used similar forms of inspiration in recent years. OSU coach Mike Gundy wants his team talking about championships, despite the fact that the Cowboys have claimed only one conference crown since 1960 when it joined the Big Eight Conference. That was in 1976, when it shared a three-way title with Colorado and Oklahoma.
A championship this season might seems like an unfounded goal, considering the Cowboys lack of title success over the years. But Gundy doesn't mind.
"We don't talk enough around here about winning championships," Gundy told the Oklahoman. "I think that's something evolved over 50 years around here. Our players feel like they need to talk more about winning a championship."
But the Cowboys' drought is small potatoes compared to Iowa State, which hasn't won or shared a conference championship since claiming a share of the old Missouri Valley Conference title in 1912.
And even going to a bowl game is a struggle for some Big 12 teams -- an amazing consideration considering the proliferation of postseason contests in recent years. Baylor last made a bowl trip in 1994 and the Bears won their last bowl game in 1992. Putting that streak in context are two facts about the Bears' 20-15 triumph over Arizona in the Sun Bowl.
It was Grant Teaff's last game as Baylor's coach. And it came in the final days of George H. W. Bush's administration, less than two months after Bill Clinton ended his re-election hopes in the 1992 election.
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
12:00 PM ET 4 Oklahoma Tulsa 12:00 PM ET 20 Kansas State Iowa State 3:30 PM ET Missouri State Oklahoma State 7:00 PM ET Southeast Missouri State Kansas 7:30 PM ET BYU Texas 7:30 PM ET Towson West Virginia 7:30 PM ET Northwestern State 10 Baylor 11:00 PM ET Texas Tech UTEP