Big 12: Hugh Freeze

Big 12 signing day superlatives

February, 8, 2013
2/08/13
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With signing day in the rearview mirror, it's time to pass out some awards for the Big 12's recruiting efforts.

Biggest winner on signing day: Baylor coach Art Briles -- Briles is capitalizing on the Bears' on-field success with some huge signees who have Baylor turning some heads. Hometown blue-chip prospect Andrew Billings gave the Bears a huge late boost on the defensive line, a position of need, and the Bears' class finished just outside the national top 25. It's Briles' best class in terms of ranking, with six four-star prospects, four of whom will be playing defense. The two offensive four-stars are both top-five nationally at their positions -- No. 3 WR Robbie Rhodes and No. 5 dual-threat QB Chris Johnson.

Best closer: Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury -- The Red Raiders' class was shredded by the transition from Tommy Tuberville and lost its top commit, Devin Lauderdale. Kingsbury got Lauderdale back and pulled in a class of 24 players after sitting at just 11 players in the middle of January. It's not going to turn a lot of heads, but Tech landed four players with at least four stars.

Biggest surprise: Kansas' strong class -- As it turns out, Kansas coach Charlie Weis knows how to shop around playing time. Great shots at immediate starting positions seem to be a very valuable recruiting bait for junior college players, and Weis had a bunch to offer. You don't have to be coming off a huge season to recruit well. Weis landed five of the top 100 junior college prospects in the country, highlighted by No. 3 Marquel Combs and No. 74 Rodriguez Coleman, a receiver. We saw what Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze did in selling big-time recruits the chance to be on the ground floor of building a program. On a smaller scale, Weis did that with this class.

Who flipped/Biggest loss -- For the past year, Texas had counted on A'Shawn Robinson -- one of the nation's best defensive tackles and a native of Arlington, Texas -- as part of its recruiting class. In the months before signing day, rumors swirled that he was wavering. Finally, he made it official days before signing day, and on Wednesday, he signed with Alabama after a man in an elephant suit delivered his letter of intent. Points for creativity, but the loss was another strike for Texas on the defensive line. Strike one came when the Horns lost DE Daeshon Hall earlier in the recruiting season, and the day before signing day, Texas hit strike three when it lost Billings (see above).

Kansas State also was fired up about getting a commitment from juco linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, a 6-foot-5, 224-pounder at a Kansas junior college. Bill Snyder lost him on signing day, though, when Campbell elected to sign with Minnesota. That left a hole at a position of need for the Wildcats.

The Ultimate Big 12 Road Trip: Week 3

April, 2, 2012
4/02/12
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I've been inspired by the boys at the Big Ten Blog, and this should be a fun walk through each week in the new-look Big 12 next season. I'll pick one game a week during the season that I'd attend if it were entirely up to me. I don't make the call, and things change as games are played of course, but right now, this is how it'd look if it were up to me. I'll include road nonconference games, too.
Here's the Week 3 slate in the Big 12:
  • Baylor vs. Sam Houston State
  • Iowa State vs. Western Illinois
  • Kansas vs. TCU
  • Kansas State vs. North Texas
  • Oklahoma State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
  • Texas at Ole Miss
  • Texas Tech vs. New Mexico
  • West Virginia vs. James Madison (in Landover, Md.)
My pick: Texas at Ole Miss

I mean, this is a no-brainer, right? I grew up in Arkansas, which is sort of SEC country, but the nearest road venue was six hours away, so I've never been to a game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. That means I've never been outside of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, also known as The Grove, the most hallowed tailgating ground in college football. Sign me up for that. Our SEC blogger, Edward Aschoff, hails from Oxford, so I'm sure he could hook me up with a few tips to score some grub, and where to make the most of my time.

Oh yeah, and there's a game, too.

Texas believes its on the way back up. Maybe it is. A convincing win over what should be the worst team in the SEC West, even one with a first-year head coach in Hugh Freeze, would be a good sign the Longhorns are fit to win 10 games or more. It'll also be the first reasonable test for what will likely be David Ash at quarterback. The Longhorns host Wyoming and New Mexico before traveling to SEC country, but even with the Rebels' likely struggles, Texas can prove a little something with a big performance. Even last year, thrashing a mediocre UCLA team let people know Texas wouldn't be headed to another 5-7 season.

The real tests for Texas will come when the Longhorns face real offenses in the Big 12, but we'll learn a little bit about Texas on September 15. I'd like to be able to see it.
DALLAS — Arkansas and Kansas State will play on Friday night in a game that's got every bit the worth of a BCS game. Along with Monday night's Fiesta Bowl and the Allstate BCS Championship Game, it's the only matchup with two teams ranked in the single digits.

It'll be played in primetime, on national television, inside America's greatest football palace, Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

You can't ask for much more. Kansas State and Arkansas have a combined four losses, and both of K-State's came via top 10 teams. The two teams that beat the Hogs are playing for the national title.

Best of all, it matches up what's clearly college football's two best conferences: The Big 12 and the SEC.

Unfortunately for fans of the game and both leagues, it's only the second time all season that teams from those leagues will play.

And this game, despite looking like one of high quality, won't settle anything between the Big 12 and SEC.

The battle for the nation's top conference is owned by the SEC at the top. LSU and Alabama stated strong cases as the nation's two best teams. The Big 12, though, is a deeper league with higher quality teams in the bottom two thirds.

The league rivalry isn't just about who's best. It's about styles.

To oversimplify: The Big 12 is offense. The SEC is defense.

So when Kansas State and Arkansas are the representatives of the two leagues, we have a problem.

In this game, the rivalry's root is irrelevant.

Kansas State ranks ninth (!) in the Big 12 in total offense. They rely on a grinding offense that focuses on possession and minimizing mistakes, not a high-flying passing game like Oklahoma State, Oklahoma or Baylor. It's meant success this year on the back of Collin Klein, who rushed for 26 touchdowns and carried the Wildcats to 10 wins and a second-place finish in the Big 12. It worked. It meant wins.

But it wasn't what you normally see out of the Big 12.

Arkansas, meanwhile? The Hogs rank ninth in the SEC in total defense, but lead the league in total offense behind Tyler Wilson and one of the nation's best corps of receivers.

Maybe these two should have switched leagues for 2011.

Arkansas racked up 2,000 more passing yards than rushing yards, compared to Kansas State, whose rushing attack outpaced the passing game by over 500 yards.

These are two very good teams.

They are not two teams that personify what the Big 12 and SEC rivalry is about.

Arkansas took part in the only other Big 12-SEC matchup this season, beating Texas A&M in Cowboys Stadium, 42-38, and erasing a 35-17 halftime deficit to do so.

That's a conference game next year when Texas A&M joins the SEC.

The on-field chances for these two leagues to meet have dwindled. Texas plays at Ole Miss next season, but that's hardly a battle of titans. Texas is on its way up after an eight-win season. Ole Miss will be breaking in new head coach Hugh Freeze after a two-win season in 2011.

All we have left is the Cotton Bowl.

It's a great game, but unfortunately, it's not enough this year. More regular-season matchups between the two leagues might settle this, but for now, we're left to what is essentially chance each year in Dallas, an opportunity to meet and decide annually which is better. The Big 12's been unable to crack the national title game the past two seasons while the SEC has racked up six consecutive national championships.

Two teams that have had success as the antithesis of their leagues will meet in this year's Cotton Bowl.

It could be a classic.

But it won't tell us much about which league is better.

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