Big 12: Iowa Hawkeyes
RICE 25, KANSAS 24: Kansas surrendered a 24-13 lead to the Owls at home on Saturday, after Rice's Chris Boswell kicked a 45-yard field goal as the final horn sounded.
Missed field goals and a critical interception of Dayne Crist doomed KU, which looked to have control of the game entering the fourth quarter. Bryce Callahan intercepted Crist after the Owls had cut the lead to 24-22 with a 7-play, 93-yard drive on their previous possession.
Desperately needing a stop, KU couldn't get one in the final five minutes as Rice drove 26 yards to give Boswell the opportunity to kick the game winner.
As disappointing as the loss was for the Jayhawks, remember the names Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox. Pierson, a sophomore, finished with 19 carries for 120 yards while Cox had 15 carries for 79 yards in the loss. While the pair was going against a Rice defense that allowed 343 rushing yards to UCLA in its season opener, they each sent the message that they plan to be contributors on the Jayhawks offense even when James Sims returns from his three-game suspension against Northern Illinois on Sept. 22.
IOWA STATE 9, IOWA 6: The Baltimore Ravens would have been proud.
The Cyclones' defense stepped up when it mattered after both defenses dominated this in-state rivalry game. Neither team seemed to find a consistent rhythm on offense throughout the game.
Protecting a 3-point lead, ISU forced Iowa punts on back-to-back possessions early in the fourth quarter then -- helped by dropped passes by Hawkeye receivers -- forced a turnover on downs with 3:02 remaining in the game. They sealed the deal when Jake Knott intercepted James Vandenburg's pass with the Hawkeyes driving in the final two minutes.
ISU had some success through the air, recording 241 passing yards, but struggled to capitalize when it mattered, going 2-of-5 in the red zone including a critical interception late in the fourth quarter. The Cyclones’ defensive effort should bring a smile to the face of Paul Rhoads as A.J. Klein and company buckled down in the final quarter despite being put in difficult positions.
The Cyclones dominated the first half, spending the majority of the 30 minutes on the Iowa side of the field. Yet, ISU held a six-point lead at halftime, an early sign that the defense might have to shoulder the load.
Iowa State at Iowa (3:30 ET, Big Ten Network): Cyclone quarterback Steele Jantz is looking for another memorable performance (and victory) against Iowa after passing for 279 yards and four touchdowns during a 44-41 triple-overtime thriller in 2011. After accounting for three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) in last week’s season-opening 38-23 win over Tulsa, Jantz could continue to insert his name into the conversation when Big 12’s top quarterbacks are discussed with another productive Saturday in Iowa City.
Rice at Kansas (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Network): The Jayhawks will look to continue to dominate this series... well, ok, they’re just 1-0 and yet they’re still aiming to remain undefeated against the Owls. That sound you hear is KU running backs Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox -- who recorded over 100 rushing yards each against South Dakota State last week -- licking their chops. The duo will face an Owl defense that allowed an eye-popping 343 rushing yards against UCLA in Week 1.
Either way, my name is Brandon Chatmon. I'll be helping out on the Big 12 blog today with our main man David Ubben in Manhattan, Kan., for the Wildcats' battle with The U. Follow me on Twitter @bchatmon and I'll have plenty of Big 12 updates throughout the day.
Enough about me, let's jump straight into football.
- Miami (Fla.) at No. 21 Kansas State, noon ET, FX
- Iowa State at Iowa, 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
- Rice at Kansas, 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net
- Grambling State at No. 20 TCU, 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net
- Texas Tech at Texas State, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN3/WatchESPN
- Florida A&M at No. 5 Oklahoma, 7 p.m. ET, PPV
- New Mexico at No. 17 Texas, 8 p.m. ET, Longhorn Network
- No. 18 Oklahoma State at Arizona, 10:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
- Manhattan, Kan. -- Sunny skies, game-time temperature of 67 degrees, north and northwest winds at 5 mph
- Iowa City, Iowa -- Sunny skies, game-time temperature of 72 degrees, northwest winds at 11 mph
- Lawrence, Kan. -- Sunny skies, game-time temperature of 76 degrees, north and northwest winds at 8 mph
- Fort Worth, Texas -- Partly sunny skies, game-time temperature of 84 degrees, north winds at 16 mph
- San Marcos, Texas -- Partly sunny skies, game-time temperature of 83 degrees, north and northeast winds at 13 mph
- Norman, Okla. -- Partly sunny skies, game-time temperature of 78 degrees, north winds at 10 mph
- Austin, Texas -- Partly cloudy skies, game-time temperature of 78 degress, north and northeast winds at 10 mph.
- Tucson, Ariz. -- Cloudy skies, game-time temperature of 83 degrees, southeast winds at 9 mph.
In case you missed it, Ubben's coverage this week should have you primed and ready for kickoff:
1. The headless Aggies. A team playing in a bowl after firing its coach is a bit of a rarity, but that's where the Aggies are as they prepare to face Northwestern on Dec. 31 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. Defensive coordinator and interim head coach Tim DeRuyter is leaving to become the coach at Fresno State. Former coach Mike Sherman served as their offensive coordinator, too, and it'll be interesting to see what Texas A&M looks like without him. Cyrus Gray is questionable, but Northwestern's defense is a lot different than Texas'. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill should be able to win this game, but will Texas A&M look like it's playing for anything, and will it show it has fixed the second-half woes?
2. Oklahoma State on the big stage. Oklahoma State has played in a lot of big games over the past two years, but the two biggest -- Oklahoma in both years -- were played in its home stadium. The Cowboys never played in a Big 12 title setting and never played in a huge neutral-site game against a team suited to beat them. The Jan. 2 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, opposite Stanford, will be all new for the Cowboys. Will the team look the same after a week unlike anything it has experienced before?
3. Sooners stopping a swoon? Oklahoma finished the season with two losses in its final three games and now will be without Jaz Reynolds in the Dec. 30 Insight Bowl against Iowa. Landry Jones will be missing his No. 1 and No. 3 receivers, and the Hawkeyes' offense will take on a defense that struggled late in the year against Baylor and Oklahoma State. Iowa is closer to Iowa State -- Oklahoma's only victory in the final three games -- but the Sooners had better show up in this one, or this season will get even more forgettable.
4. A finale for RG3? At Baylor, 2011 has been unforgettable. The Bears already have nine wins, a third-place finish in the Big 12 and the school's first Heisman winner. Quarterback Robert Griffin III has become must-see TV, but the Valero Alamo Bowl against Washington on Dec. 29 might be the last time we see him in green and gold. There's no guarantee on either side, but what's Griffin got in store for the finale?
5. Did the Longhorns learn? Texas lamented its holidays at home last year, with players saying they never wanted to experience the feeling again. Several said they couldn't even watch the bowls. Well, the Longhorns are back. How much will they relish the Dec. 28 Holiday Bowl meeting with Cal? Texas should be back to health by then, and a big win in this game might produce big results next fall for a young offense that needs good vibes heading into the offseason.
Dec. 30, 1o p.m. ET (ESPN)
Iowa take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: Iowa football hasn’t had much go its way in the past 11 months aside from a dramatic victory against Missouri in the 2010 Insight Bowl. The Hawkeyes will return to Tempe, Ariz., later this month looking for another boost after an up-and-down 2011 campaign.
Kirk Ferentz’s teams typically save their best for the postseason, as Iowa is 6-3 in bowls during his tenure as coach, including victories in each of the past three years (2010 Insight, 2010 Orange, 2009 Outback). But extending the win streak will be tough against Oklahoma, the preseason No. 1 team. Both teams struggled down the stretch, each dropping two of the final three games.
Iowa is led by its big three on offense: receiver Marvin McNutt, running back Marcus Coker and quarterback James Vandenberg. Coker burst on the scene as a freshman at the 2010 Insight Bowl, setting an Iowa bowl record with 219 rushing yards. McNutt also has been fabulous, while Vandenberg struggled away from Kinnick Stadium but can put up big numbers.
The Hawkeyes' defense was in rebuilding mode for most of the season, as the NFL losses along the defensive line and at safety stung. Oklahoma isn’t nearly as dangerous on offense without star receiver Ryan Broyles, who is out for the season with a knee injury. But Iowa can’t let Landry Jones settle into a rhythm and must pressure the Sooners junior quarterback.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops faces his alma mater in Iowa, which goes up against the Sooners for just the second time after dropping a 1979 game in Norman.
Oklahoma State take from Big 12 blogger David Ubben: The "Chase For Eight" quickly went awry for the Sooners, who lost a 41-38 game at home to five-win Texas Tech. The Red Raiders didn't win again the rest of the season. The Sooners' defense fell to powerful offenses late in the season, too. Baylor bested the Sooners on a last-second touchdown from Robert Griffin III, and Oklahoma State receivers ran free in a Cowboys blowout.
Injuries played a huge role. That's undeniable, but this season, with the expectations that came with it, is nothing but a disappointment. The Sooners suffered two losses after losing Broyles and Dominique Whaley. Blake Bell's Tebow-esque "BellDozer" formation was pretty effective late in the season, but Oklahoma is bested only by Texas A&M as the Big 12's most disappointing team.
Dec. 28, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Missouri take by Big 12 blogger David Ubben: Missouri didn’t get passed over by the bowl committees this time. After three consecutive years of what the Tigers perceived as bowl snubs -- including the Insight Bowl taking 6-6 Iowa State over the 8-4 Tigers in 2009 -- Missouri got the nod from the folks at the Insight over Big 12 runner-up Nebraska.
That prevented a preview of the new Big Ten, and instead, the Tigers will take on Big Ten opponent Iowa. Missouri ended its season with a win over bordering Kansas, and will continue against its neighbors to the north, the Hawkeyes.
Midway through the season, Missouri looked like it might be making a beeline for the BCS, sitting at 7-1 and favored in its final four games. The Tigers stumbled, following a loss to Nebraska with another at Texas Tech, but rebounded to win its final three games and finish at 10-2 for the program’s third 10-win season in four years, bringing the program to its fourth such season ever.
Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi will provide a tough test for Missouri’s much-improved defense, coordinated by Dave Steckel.
Iowa take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: Bowl games often offer a chance for redemption, and the Insight Bowl certainly provides that opportunity for Iowa.
The Hawkeyes return to the state of Arizona, where on Sept. 18 they dropped the first of five games in a disappointing 2010 campaign. They also get a chance to send out a strong senior class with a victory after dropping three straight contests to end the regular season. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Iowa takes on Missouri, a team the Hawkeyes tried to schedule several years ago before an agreement fell apart.
There’s no love lost between Iowa fans and Missouri fans, and while most of Hawkeye Nation was hoping for a bowl matchup against a team from another bordering state, this contest still carries some intrigue. Iowa has won back-to-back bowl games (Orange, Outback) and coach Kirk Ferentz brings a 5-3 record in postseason play to the desert.
Although Iowa’s defense must contain Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the bigger concern for the Hawkeyes might be putting up points of their own. Missouri ranks sixth nationally in both fewest points allowed (15.2 ppg) and sacks (3.1 per game), and the Tigers will test an Iowa offensive line that has endured some ups and downs.
Stanzi had Heisman-like numbers through the first two months of the season before struggling in November. Like the rest of his Iowa teammates, Stanzi gets one final chance to get things right.
“Too much actually, it makes me want to stay in the house,” Clayborn told reporters when asked about the expectations on the Hawkeyes this season. “But it comes with being a Hawkeye football player. I mean we’re the only team in the state, as far as I know. And it comes with being us, I guess.”
But apparently he's forgotten about what he said helped spur the Hawkeyes to a 9-0 start. A special thanks to commenter branvon, who brought this recent story from colleague Adam Rittenberg back into play, in which Clayborn revisits Iowa's 35-3 win over Iowa State last season.
"We played like [expletive]," Clayborn said. "We weren't doing well on the pass rush. I was getting my [butt] kicked sometimes. I don't know what was wrong, but that was our turning point. We got together after that game and said we need to turn it around."
Though the final score was convincing, Iowa gave up 190 rushing yards, including 100 from Alexander Robinson. They also didn't record a sack and quarterback Austen Arnaud rushed for 56 yards on nine carries.
A week earlier, it took a blocked field goal to beat Northern Iowa. But if the on-field troubles weren't enough, the Hawkeyes had some talking to do.
Other than the final outcome, Iowa's linemen and defensive coordinator Norm Parker had little to be happy about.
"I just didn't think they played as hard as they should have," Parker said. "On film, there didn't appear to be enough extra effort."
"We had a nice talk."
Safe to say, it wasn't G-rated. But whatever was said seemed to work.
What else is safe to say? Clayborn's comments won't leave the Cyclones bulletin board -- physical or mental -- until the two meet on Sept. 11.
1. Texas (14 starters back: 6 offensive, 7 defensive, 1 special teams). Garrett Gilbert got a head start on replacing Colt McCoy with his considerable playing time in the national title game, an invaluable learning experience for a young player. The Longhorns return most of the defense that improved in its second season under Will Muschamp. The biggest chores will be for offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who has to boost running game production and find a replacement for record-breaking wide receiver Jordan Shipley.
2. Nebraska (18 starters back: 8 offensive, 8 defensive, 2 special teams). Bo Pelini has the Cornhuskers positioned for a potential top-10 preseason ranking. Most of the offensive weapons will be back from a unit that sputtered down the stretch before breaking out in the Holiday Bowl victory. Quarterback Zac Lee will miss some of spring practice as he recovers from postseason surgery. Cody Green and Kody Spano will get most of the work until Lee returns. Nebraska coaches think the defense can be better this season, even without the up-the-middle strength of Ndamukong Suh, Phillip Dillard, Larry Asante and Matt O’Hanlon.
3. Oklahoma (15 starters back: 9 offensive, 4 defensive, 2 special teams). The Sooners overcame a debilitating run of injuries last season to finish with a flourish, knocking Oklahoma State out of a BCS game and winning the Sun Bowl in their final two games. Landry Jones will be infinitely better in his second season as a starter and Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray may be the best one-two receiving/running back combination in the conference. Bob Stoops will be facing a big renovation on defense where key players like Gerald McCoy and Dominique Franks left early for the NFL draft. Look for Travis Lewis to be the key to a defense that will need to improve by the time Big 12 play begins if the Sooners are to have any hope of claiming a seventh Big 12 title this season.
4. Missouri (19 starters back: 9 offensive, 9 defensive, 1 special teams). The Tigers will miss Danario Alexander and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who were arguably the best players at their positions in the conference last season. But Blaine Gabbert is back for a second season as starting quarterback and some talented recruits are expected to emerge on defense. A key for the Tigers’ success will be a more productive running game and consistency from the offensive line. Improvement on both will be critical for coordinator David Yost during the spring.
5. Texas Tech (15 starters back: 7 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). New coach Tommy Tuberville immediately will have to sort through a potentially difficult decision at quarterback between Taylor Potts and fan favorite Steven Sheffield. New coordinator James Willis hopes to install a 3-4 defense that should be a haven for athletic linebackers. But the group’s success will hinge on replacing Jamar Wall at cornerback and finding some pass-rushing threats to replace Brandon Sharpe, Richard Jones and Daniel Howard along the front.
6. Texas A&M (19 starters back: 8 offensive, 9 defensive, 2 special teams). With Jerrod Johnson, Jeff Fuller, Uzoma Nwachukwu and Christine Michael back, the Aggies shouldn’t have trouble scoring points, although the line needs to do a better job of protecting Johnson. But the Aggies’ success will depend on the returning starters quickly taking to new coordinator Tim DeRuyter’s teachings. The group was blistered for at least 35 points in seven games last season and allowed at least 30 points in two other games. So needless to say that even with nine starters back, DeRuyter has his work cut out.
7. Kansas (16 starters back: 7 offensive, 7 defensive, 2 special teams). New coach Turner Gill inherits an uncertain quarterback situation, but has the framework for a strong running attack with all of his starting linemen back, along with Toben Opurum and heralded back Brandon Bourbon as running threats. The Jayhawks will need to fill in for the loss of Darrell Stuckey in the secondary, but new coordinator Carl Torbush should find the elements for a blitzing, attacking defense among the returnees. But the biggest reason the Jayhawks might be bound for a bowl game in Gill’s first season is swapping Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma for Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Baylor in their cross-divisional schedule.
8. Iowa State (13 starters back: 8 offensive, 4 defensive, 1 special teams). Paul Rhoads returns most of the offensive weapons that led the Cyclones to the Insight Bowl, most notably quarterback Austen Arnaud and running back Alexander Robinson. But the team loses all of its starting linebackers; veteran coordinator Wally Burnham will be challenged to cobble together a serviceable unit. The Cyclones could actually be a better team in 2010 but post a worse record. A tougher schedule featuring nonconference games against Utah, Iowa and Northern Illinois and the addition of South Division powers Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech will make last season’s bowl trip much tougher to duplicate.
9. Oklahoma State (10 starters back: 4 offensive, 4 defensive, 2 special teams). The Cowboys must find replacements for key players like Zac Robinson, Keith Tosten, four offensive linemen (including Outland finalist Russell Okung) and six of their back seven on defense. New offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen finds an uncertain quarterback situation but will lean heavily on a healthy Kendall Hunter. A manageable nonconference schedule should have them in bowl contention, but this should be a step back from Mike Gundy’s last two teams.
10. Kansas State (15 starters back: 7 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). The Wildcats missed out on a bowl trip last season only because they scheduled two FCS teams, but they surprisingly challenged for the Big 12 North title up to their last game of the season. It might be tougher to do that this season, although Daniel Thomas will provide the foundation on offense. Carson Coffman has the inside track at quarterback, but keep an eye out for Oregon transfer Chris Harper at either that position or wide receiver. Players like Jeffrey Fitzgerald and John Houlik will be missed on defense, but all four starters are back in the secondary.
11. Colorado (16 starters back: 8 offensive, 7 defensive, 1 special teams). Dan Hawkins’ seat is the hottest in the Big 12 and arguably in college football after missing a bowl for a second straight season last year. Tyler Hansen returns as the starting quarterback, but the Buffaloes need to find some help in the backfield with only three scholarship backs in spring practice. The defense was young last season and should be improved, but will miss the leadership provided by Jeff Smart and Cha’pelle Brown. A bowl trip likely will be necessary to save Hawkins’ job and a tough nonconference schedule featuring games at California and against Hawaii and Georgia will prove troublesome even before Big 12 play begins.
12. Baylor (14 starters back: 6 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). The Bears’ hopes of stopping the conference’s longest bowl drought will hinge largely on the health of Robert Griffin, who is recovering from knee surgery that forced him to miss the final nine games of the 2009 season. New offensive lineman “Big” Robert Griffin will have to protect his quarterback if coach Art Briles has any hope of making a bowl trip. Jay Finley and Kendall Wright are underrated offensive threats, but the Bears will miss key defensive leaders like Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake who were stalwarts for several years.
I couldn’t jump into the recruiting hubbub, however, without taking care of some Tuesday afternoon correspondence.
Richard Sylvester from Houston writes: Tim, love your blog. Thanks for all of the diligent hard work you’re cranking out day after day. I read it every morning and throughout the day.
My question is whether you’ve been reading an excellent set of posts from Frank the Tank’s Slant about a potential move by Texas to the Big Ten. It lays out several well-researched reasons why the ultimate big fish out there – bigger than Missouri, bigger than Syracuse and way bigger than Notre Dame – is Texas.
Could you envision a scenario where the Longhorns would ever leave the Big 12 behind and jump to the Big Ten?
Tim Griffin; I have been reading Frank’s interesting posts on the subject. And he raises some interesting points about how much money the Longhorns could ultimately make by joining the Big Ten in one of his most recent missives.
Obviously, the Big Ten is one of the most tradition-rich conferences in the nation, if not the most. Adding Texas would give them, like Frank writes the ultimate free agent in terms of college sports.
Texas matches the research qualities that members of the Big Ten’s academia would demand when a new conference partner would be added.
And it would deliver a huge potential market for the fledgling Big Ten cable television network if the state of Texas would be added. Some estimates are that the population for the states in the Big 12 would account for more than 90 million people if Texas was added to the Big Ten.
It would also conservatively mean the Longhorns would make at least $10 million in new athletic revenue because of the new revenue sources the Big Ten’s whopping television network provides, compared with the Big 12's current deal.
But whether they would leave the traditional rivals from the Southwest Conference and the new ones from the Big 12 is debatable. The travel costs would be huge in all sports and the Longhorns would be jumping into a cauldron of potential new opponents like Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Iowa among others.
Texas would have to agree to a revenue sharing deal in place in the Big Ten that is different from the Big 12’s where the teams that appear in the most television games and make the most NCAA basketball tournament appearances earn more money.
And remember how the Texas Legislature became involved with news leaked that Texas was leaving for the Big 12 Conference. It basically paved the way for Baylor and Texas Tech to tag along with Texas and Texas A&M. It would be interesting to see what would happen if Texas announced it wanted to go to the Big Ten by itself.
The Big 12 has been good for Texas. Virtually every sports program is at a level where the Longhorns can legitimately contend for a national championship. It has an intriguing mix of local and regional rivals.
It makes for some fanciful thinking and has a lot of interesting points to think about Texas leaving the Big 12. But I just don’t see it happening – at least at this time -- because of so many obstacles that would exist in the move.
Meni of Manchester, N.H., writes: In regards to the link you had yesterday about the Oklahoma players who were likely first-round selections in the Class of 2011, the guy in College Football News listed Travis Lewis, DeMarco Murray, Quinton Carter and Dominique Franks on his list. I thought Franks declared for the NFL draft, didn’t he?
Tim Griffin: Meni, you are correct. Franks declared for the draft shortly before the deadline. Most draft analysts have him going in the third or fourth round. He’s a very determined player and I think his speed should help him make an NFL squad as a special-teams player, making him an intriguing sleeper pick.
Steve Sutton from Ozona, Texas, writes: Tim: Interesting story about players who exceeded recruiting expectations, showing how uncertain the recruiting process is. I was wondering if you might elaborate on some of the more celebrated misses during the time of your survey.
Tim Griffin: Steve, I hope I was able to showcase how inexact recruiting can actually be. But I think the player in the most celebrated Big 12 player in recent seasons who has failed to live up to expectations was Colorado running back Darrell Scott, who was the No. 2 running back in the nation in 2008 and had an 89 ranking by ESPNU. He played with the Buffaloes during his freshman season before leaving the team midway through the season in 2009. His next playing situation is unknown at this time.
Of course, the player ranked ahead of him at running back has been a bust as well. Jermie Calhoun of Oklahoma was the No. 1 running back in the 2008 class, but redshirted and then gained only 220 yards and scored a touchdown in his redshirt season. Calhoun had trouble getting a chance at playing time behind Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray last season. It will be interesting if he develops and gets more of a chance for a playing time in 2010 after Brown’s graduation.
Another player who hasn’t lived up to expectations has been Texas defensive end Eddie Jones, who had an 88 ranking and was the No. 2 defensive end in the nation in the 2006 class. He hasn’t started a game at Texas in his first three seasons, although he showed some flashes as a situational pass rusher with five sacks and seven tackles for losses in 2009.
Pete from Omaha, Neb., writes: Tim, great blog, I love reading every day. I noticed that ESPN Sports Nation did a poll that asked if recruiting or game planning was more important for a coach to succeed. The vote showed that most fans think recruiting is more important.
But I disagree.
Bill Callahan and Charlie Weis were great recruiters, but did they ultimately succeed? What about John Blake? Nope. Game planning is what wins. Take Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern, Bo Pelini at Nebraska and Kirk Ferentz at Iowa. All of them are good recruiters, but they never attract top-five classes. Yet they have their programs at a consistent level. What’s your take on the issue?
Tim Griffin: Pete, you raise an interesting question. I think you ultimately have to have a combination of both, but I would lean to game planning as being just as important as recruiting in developing a contending program.
Like you mentioned, coaches like Pelini and Ferentz get good players, but they take them to high competitive levels thanks to their teaching and game planning.
The old recruiting adage has always described college football as “not being about the Xs and Os, but about the Jimmys and the Joes.”
But I think that’s changing as there’s more parity across the nation. When good coaches get good players, that’s when programs the foundations for really good programs start being built.
Cecil Wilson of Plano, Texas, writes: With recruiting coming to an end, I just noticed that Texas did not get a commitment from a tight end. Looking at the Longhorns’ roster, they have several, but I have not seen or heard of any of them, except for Blaine Irby. What do you think the Horns will do about this position in the upcoming season? With a new quarterback, either Garrett Gilbert or Case McCoy, they are going to need all the options they can have. Thank you for all your hard work. Hook 'Em.
Tim Griffin: The tight end hasn’t been a position of much relevancy for the Longhorns since Jermichael Finley left after the 2007 season. Irby was injured early in the 2008 season and didn’t play last season.
That left the Longhorns utilizing four-receiver sets in many occasions for many occasions. Greg Smith, a 260-pounder was the primary blocking tight end for most of the season. He was backed up by Ahmard Howard. Wide receiver Dan Buckner emerged at the flex tight end spot early in the season, but struggled getting the ball late in the season and has elected to transfer to Arizona.
The status of Irby is unknown at this time as he recovers from his injury. I look for D.J. Grant to have the best shot of emerging during spring practice. Grant was declared academically ineligible at the start of the season, but should be ready to go.
The tight end position will be of vital importance as Gilbert uses it for checkdown receptions. The question will be who will ultimately be catching passes from that position.
Thanks again for all of the good questions this week. I’ll check back again on Friday.
And Texas, as always seems to be the case, has nearly finished its recruiting with another solid haul of players among the top teams in the nation.
There's a reason for this, detailed in the Lincoln Journal Star earlier this week.
It seems Baylor, Nebraska and Texas are among only 12 schools nationally to have the same coaching staff in place for a third straight season heading into the 2010 campaign.
Continuity speaks volumes in the competitive world of college football recruiting. Having coaches in place for a number of years enables them to foster relationships with high school coaches that result in better recruiting over time.
You can definitely see that taking place this season with the Cornhuskers, Bears and Longhorns.
Here are the teams that have had the same full-time coaches in place since the start of the 2008 season, according to the Journal Star. I also listed their 2009 records and conference records.
1. Baylor (4-8, 1-7 in the Big 12 last season)
2. Indiana (4-8, 1-7 Big Ten)
3. Iowa (11-2, 6-2 Big Ten)
4. Navy (10-4)
5. Nebraska (10-4, 6-2 Big 12 runner-up)
6. North Carolina State (5-7, 2-6 ACC)
7. Penn State (11-2, 6-2 Big Ten)
8. Texas (13-1, 8-0 Big 12 champion)
9. UAB (5-7, 4-4 in Conference USA)
10. Vanderbilt (2-10, 0-8 SEC)
11. Virginia Tech (10-3, 6-2 ACC)
12. Wake Forest (5-7, 3-5 ACC)
Not all of these programs have experienced consistent recent success. But the Big 12 teams appear headed in that direction after a successful recruiting effort again this season. Staff continuity is one of the biggest reasons.
Here are a some that I’ve received over the last couple of days.
Austin from Arlington, Va., writes: Hey Tim, enjoy reading the blog, thanks for your reporting. I was interested in one of your comments today, when you mention you prefer the college version to the pros. I'm with you, but I was curious to hear you expand on that a little. What aspects of the game (excluding outside the game stuff like recruiting) make the college game a better version for you? Thanks again, keep up the good work!
Tim Griffin: I just think the college game lends itself more to the fans. You don’t have greedy owners threatening to move colleges at the drop of the hat if they aren’t satisfied with their stadium deal. I love the pageantry of a Saturday afternoon game. There’s color involved when you hit a college campus hours before a game you just don’t see in and around NFL stadiums. I’ve covered the NFL for many years, and it always seems too antiseptic for my tastes.
I also like the college game more. I think it skews a little bit more towards offense, which I like. I love the fact the clock stops after a first down, giving teams more plays over the course of a game. I hate the fact that television has made the NFL into a three-hour, 20-minute window with commercials after every kickoff.
I also will take recruiting over the NFL draft any day. And give me the college version of overtime where both teams have the opportunity to have the ball before a game is settled.
In my opinion, it’s really quite clear why the college game is better than the pro version.
Nate from Seattle, Wash., writes: Tim, love the blog, please keep the content coming during the offseason. That being said, on your "crystal ball" piece, in which you looked in to the Big 12's future, you got one thing terribly wrong. Bo Pelini is not interested in the LSU job. It has been mentioned before, but several reports have stated that his wife hated Baton Rouge and Bo wasn't a big fan of the area either. Ohio State may be an issue some day, but LSU? No.
Tim Griffin: Nate, thanks for the kind words. But I’ve heard from sources that Pelini wasn’t that all that happy with his experience in Ohio State, either. I just think that when some school from the Southeastern Conference waves a huge multi-million contract in front of Pelini, likely sometime in the future, he’ll have to think about it. And he left on great terms in the administration and among LSU fans. Not saying that would be enough to persuade his wife to start liking boudin and beignets, but a paycheck with a lot of zeroes at the end has a way of doing some not-so-subtle convincing.
Thomas from Columbia, Mo., writes: Tim, I liked your crystal ball predictions but was a little disappointed that nothing more about Missouri came from your thoughts. I was hoping that the Big 10 blogger would comment on Mizzou, but that didn't happen. If Missouri does not leave the Big 12, what are your predictions for the Tigers through 2020? And if they do go to the Big 10, where do you think they would end up? Will they fit in with a heavy offense, and annually limited defense? Will they flop or soar in the Big 10?
Tim Griffin: I would think it would be a little harder for Missouri to compete in the Big Ten on a consistent basis than the Big 12. The reason why is because I think the Big Ten is deeper top to bottom than the Big 12. The Big 12 has more dominant teams at the top like Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, but there are still some teams that Missouri enjoys a natural advantage over.
I think they would be on a more even basis in the Big Ten. Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Iowa would replace their big rivals in the Big 12. But I think they would be challenged on a consistent basis with teams like Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan State and others in the Big Ten as well.
Another possible problem if they were to ever leave the Big 12 would be that Missouri’s developing recruiting presence in Texas would gradually dry up. The Tigers and Gary Pinkel are entrenched in the state and have done a nice job of picking up under-recruited players like Chase Daniel, Sean Weatherspoon, Stryker Sulak and Ziggy Hood from Texas high schools and developing them once they spend a few seasons in the program.
I don’t think Missouri would be quite as effective recruiting Texas if they ever left the Big 12, because I don’t know how excited Texas players like I mentioned would be to play against Big Ten schools rather than Big 12 schools. Those Texas players are excited about an occasional trip back to Texas where friends and family could watch them play.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the Tigers. And like I predicted in my piece earlier today, it wouldn’t surprise me if they decide to move if they get the opportunity.
Dan from Texas writes: Hey Tim, read the blog every day, keep up the good work. I was wondering with the recent success of the Flexbone/Triple Option run by Georgia Tech, and the military academies, do you see more teams hiring coaches that run that system? Are you surprised more schools haven't given it a shot?
Tim Griffin: Dan, I don’t see the triple option really taking off as a mainstream offense at many schools. The military academies recruit to that kind of offense because they have tradition in place in running them and coaches who are confident in playing that offense.
But it’s a big change for most coaches to go to that kind of offense. They worry that the offense doesn’t provide an opportunity to come back in games if they were to fall behind by a couple of touchdowns. It’s not attractive to many of today’s recruits who have been weaned on the excitement of pass-and-catch football. Also, it’s the kind of offense that places your quarterback in jeopardy of being injured on almost every running play if he carries the ball. Most coaches add all that up and see that the flexbone or the option provides much risk when compared with other offensive philosophies.
While the option has a place in college football, I just don’t see it getting a lot of acceptance by most coaches when other offensive avenues are available.
Julio Ramirez from Corpus Christi, Texas, writes: Tim, were you surprised that Mack Brown had such a quick hook with Dan Buckner when he decided to leave school last week?
Tim Griffin: I was stunned that Buckner elected to transfer as quickly as he did. I don’t suspect he was particularly happy with his shrinking role in the offense at the end of the season. I don’t know if the arrest necessarily triggered that or not. But Mack Brown’s statement when he was released mentioned that Buckner’s family was convinced he would be cleared once he goes through the legal process.
Buckner will be getting a fresh start at Arizona starting in 2011. It’s a rare move from a Brown-coached school to one directed by a Stoops brother. But in Arizona’s offense, I think that Buckner could flourish. I think he saw what former Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski was able to do and likely thinks he could produce similar numbers with an opportunity to play for Mike Stoops’ team.
Charles Urich from Dallas writes: From your story about the hiring of Tim DeRuyter yesterday: "But duplicating that success against the offensive firepower in the Big 12 will be a different challenge? Particularly with the personnel the Aggies currently have." Tim, I'm curious to know what you meant by this statement. Are you saying the 4-star athletes we have in this new recruiting class on defense are lesser than what the Air Force Academy had? Are you saying that with the defense we had last year that almost beat Texas and beat Tech is a challenge to work with?
Tim Griffin: The Aggies do have some defensive talent, but in regards to the Texas game you were speaking of, I believe the Longhorns did gash the Aggies for 597 yards and 49 points in that game, didn’t they? The Aggies allowed more than 44 points in five games last season, including two in the sixties. They allowed 640 yards to Oklahoma, 520 yards to Texas Tech and even 521 yards and 31 first downs to Utah State, a team that went 4-8 this season.
DeRuyter will find himself with better defensive players, but he’ll be facing better offensive players, too. It’s a double-edged sword that will make turning around the Aggies’ defense a lot more of a challenge than his previous work at the Air Force.
Thanks again for all of your good questions this week. I’ll check back again on Tuesday.
Saturday's broadcast of Texas Tech's 41-31 victory over Michigan State earned the highest rating in ESPN bowl history. The game earned a 5.6 rating, translating to about 5,553,630 households that watched the game.
Valero Alamo Bowl officials announced that the game will finish as the No. 7 highest-rated game among all bowls shown so far this season, trailing only the five BCS bowl games and the Capital One Bowl.
“Our hats go off to the leadership and strength of character of the coaches and players from Texas Tech and Michigan State,” said Derrick Fox, the president and CEO of the Valero Alamo Bowl. "It’s gratifying that fans across the nation again tuned into the Valero Alamo Bowl and delivered tremendous exposure for the City of San Antonio and our game sponsors.”
The San Antonio-based bowl has now produced three of the top six most-watched bowl games in ESPN history. The 2010 game holds the top spot with the 2006 Alamo Bowl (Texas vs. Iowa) as second all-time and the 2005 MasterCard Alamo Bowl (Nebraska vs. Michigan) as sixth.
Those numbers show that Leach's contentious breakup with Texas Tech was widely watched and interesting to the nation.
Now, the next question will be whether his replacement proves to be as interesting to the nation.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's a group of the best letters I received this week. Thanks again to all who contributed.
Matt from Orlando, Fla., writes: Tim, I love your blogs, especially during the off season reading them religiously. My question is, a few months ago you gave Nebraska the edge over Kansas. Yes you said you reserve the right to change your mind which is totally understandable. But I find it funny how you change your mind on Nebraska winning the North and saying that Kansas will all because of one player leaving Nebraska.
Yes, Quentin Castille was a big feature in Nebraska's offense. However, one player should not make or break a team. Don't count out Roy Helu Jr., who happens to be our STARTING RB. Plus our nasty defensive line that kept pressure on Kansas QB Todd Reesing (who couldn't handle it last year). Could you tell me why one player leaving made you change your mind on a great prediction?
Tim Griffin: I figured I would be answering this question, considering I got it in one form or another from about 40 people this week. Heck, one of my favorite members of the media in Omaha compared me to John Kerry earlier this week because of my late change.
Let me first say that my edge for Nebraska over Kansas wasn't ever that large to start with. I favored Nebraska as much for Kansas' tough cross-divisional schedule as anything else. It's going to be a bear for the Jayhawks to win any of those three games against Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. It still will.
But I also think Castille's dismissal will affect the way that Nebraska plays offense. With Castille and Helu, they had the best combination of backs in the North Division. They would be able to dictate the tempo for the Cornhuskers. It would take off pressure from an iffy passing game led by untested junior-college transfer Zac Lee.
Also, Helu is bigger and stronger this season. But he also appears to be more susceptible to muscle pulls - he's already missed a few days of fall practice - and the depth at the position has contracted with Castille's dismissal. They have only other back with college experience as a running back in Marcus Mendoza.
As anybody who reads this blog on a regular basis knows, I have a lot of respect for the job that Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson does. He was able to put together an explosive offense in Colorado for the Buffaloes' 2001 Big 12 championship that was remarkably like this Nebraska team. He had journeyman quarterbacks in Bobby Pesavento and Craig Ochs, a three-pronged rushing attack in Chris Brown, Bobby Purify and Cortlen Johnson and a stud tight end (to borrow a description from Bo Pelini) in Daniel Graham. The Cornhuskers were similar when Helu and Castille were both on the roster and the five-headed monster they have a tight end probably comes close to matching what Graham meant to the Buffaloes.
But this conference is a lot different in 2009 than it was in 2001. You're going to need to score points in bunches to win. And I think the Cornhuskers need some help at wide receiver to be more explosive to boost the contributions of Menelik Holt, Niles Paul and the rest.
The Cornhusker defense will be just as fearsome as before. Their defensive line might be the conference's best this side of Oklahoma. But losing Castille will tweak how they are able to play offense. And it will make things more difficult for Watson to control games with his young inexperienced quarterback and his lack of explosive playmakers at wide receiver.
It might only mean one game during the course of the season. But as close as I figure the North to be, the Cornhuskers will need that game at the end of the season.
Jamie Cabela of Midland, Texas, writes: Tim, quick question for you. Who is going to be your surprise player in the Big 12 this season?
Tim Griffin: I'll actually go with two of them. My first will be Markques Simas of Colorado, once he is eligible. I think he's got a great opportunity to become a top receiver immediately for the Buffaloes. And my other choice will Missouri freshman tailback Kendial Lawrence. I've heard some good things about him, even if he is third-string on the Tigers' roster. Look for him to contribute for the Tigers as the season goes on.
Jim from Grand Junction, Colo., writes: Ignoring the good, competitive games for a minute, which of the "cupcakes" has a chance to pull off an upset against the Big 12 teams in the first two weeks of the season? Any at all? Thanks for your insight.
Tim Griffin: Jim, I don't know exactly what your definition of a cupcake would be, but I'm going to presume you mean a school from outside the BCS-affiliated conferences.
If that's the case, don't look for anything in the first week of the season. But it wouldn't surprise me if two Big 12 teams have troubles in the second week of the season in road games.
I think Kansas State might be tested at Louisiana-Lafayette. I saw a Texas A&M team lose there in 1996 and weird things can happen down at "The Swamp" for unintiated teams that aren't prepared. Also keep an eye on Kansas' trip to UTEP on the same date. The Jayhawks have lost three-straight non-conference regular-season road games. They haven't won a non-conference road game during the regular season since beating Wyoming in 2003. And I think UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe might provide the Kansas defense with some problems.
Matt Strohm from Parkersburg, Iowa, writes: Tim, with the start of the season only eight days away, I was wondering if you would rank all the Big 12 schools in terms of team entrances.
Tim Griffin: Matt, I don't think I can do justice to them all, but I'll give you a few of my favorites.
Let me say that I'm not usually all that enraptured by the cookie-cutter entrances around college football these days. It reminds me of something you might see in the NBA.
But there's still something about the Nebraska Tunnel Walk that gets me pumped up, although the ones used at the end of the Callahan tenure were pretty lame. I also like the "Running of the Bulls" in Austin for Texas games and the "There's Only One Oklahoma " video that plays at Owen Field before Sooner games.
But for sheer intimidation factor, my all-time favorite still has to be the old-school Iowa entrance when the Hawkeyes used to take the field in a slow walk while holding hands when they were coached by Hayden Fry. I could only imagine what that would look like for an opposing team on the other side of the field.
David L. Stoudt writes: I'm glad that the Pac-10 officials have deemed "San Antonio a marvelous post-season destination and the Valero Alamo Bowl as one of the nation's elite bowl games."
But I'm wondering did anyone consider asking the fans where they'd rather go. We love heading south to San Diego every year for a fantastic bowl matchup. Who in Hades wants to go to San Antonio in December?
I think this is a huge mistake in judgment and we won't b
e attending those games, regardless of who's playing.
Tim Griffin: I'm also curious about how this affiliation switch will change the dynamics of the Big 12's bowls.
It sounds like the Holiday Bowl's matchup basically will be switching to San Antonio and the Valero Alamo Bowl. Those Holiday Bowls have always been exciting, high-offense games. I think the Pac-10/Big 12 matchup is a good one because both conferences have reputations for offensive football. You see those kind of games in bowls anyway, but I think this makes it even more attractive with those two conferences involved.
It's going to be interesting because the Pac-10 always had a homefield advantage in San Diego. This will switch over when the game moves to the Alamo City.
I realize I'm probably the wrong person to ask about this, but I suggest coming to San Antonio before you make any snap judgments. But I suggest that you take a walk through Southtown. Try the carne guisada tacos with cheese at Taco Haven once or sip a margarita at Rio Rio Cantina on the Riverwalk and tell me that San Antonio isn't a good place for a bowl game.
I'll bet you'll come back with a different answer.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's the player, school or coach that "done you wrong" once upon a time -- or maybe even repeatedly.
These figures resonate through the years for rival schools, providing an enemy that serves as a unifying element for hatred from fans of a rival school.
Here's a list of Big 12 villains over the years, both historic and present. Take a good look at the grouping and see if you have any recommendations of players or coaches I might have missed.
I'd be curious to see if any coaches or players spark greater antagonism than the ones I've selected.
Current villain: Texas coach Mack Brown, who's gone 11-0 against them with no signs of stopping.
All-time villain: Former Baylor coach Kevin Steele. His decision to try to ram in a statement touchdown against UNLV in 1999 blew up in his face like an exploding cigar when Darrell Bush fumbled and Kevin Thomas raced 99 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the game. That play snatched a sure victory from the Bears, making Steele and the Bears the laughingstock of college football. His program never recovered from that moment.
Current villain: Wyoming coach Dave Christensen, who piled up 106 straight points against the Buffaloes in the last two seasons while offensive coordinator at Missouri, beating them by a combined 113-10 margin. The Buffaloes will have a chance for payback this season when Christensen brings a less-talented Wyoming team to Boulder.
All-time villain: Nebraska coach Tom Osborne directed the Cornhuskers to a career record of 21-3-1 against the Buffaloes during his coaching stint from 1973-97.
Iowa State Cyclones
Current villain: Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing has thrown seven career TDs against the Cyclones and beaten them twice, including last season's dramatic 35-33 comeback victory.
All-time villain: Iowa coach Hayden Fry, whose homespun witticisms weren't that funny for Cyclone fans when he was winning 15 straight against them from 1983-97.
Current villain: Nebraska DT/FB Ndamukong Suh who beat the Jayhawks with a memorable offensive and defensive performance last season and is back for more in 2009.
All-time villain: Kansas State coach Bill Snyder beat the Jayhawks 12 of his last 13 seasons in his first coaching run, including a nine-season streak where he rolled up 41, 38, 48, 54, 50, 52, 40, 64 and 42 points in consecutive blowout victories.
Kansas State Wildcats
Current villain: Kansas running back Jake Sharp grew up only 61 miles from Manhattan in nearby Salina, but has abused them since arriving at college. He's tormented them with five career touchdowns, including four last season.
All-time villain: Texas A&M running back Sirr Parker, whose dramatic game-winning touchdown in overtime snuffed out the Wildcats' national-title hopes in 1998.
Current villain: Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford has beaten the Tigers in the Big 12 title game each of the last two seasons, ruining their hopes for a first Big 12 title.
All-time villain: Colorado coach and former Missouri grad and assistant Bill McCartney should have been magnanimous after getting a gift victory over the Tigers en route to a shared 1990 national title. Instead, he sparked hostility among his old friends by ripping Faurot Field's "treacherous" playing field.
Current villain: Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel talked a lot of smack and then backed it up by beating the Cornhuskers in each of the last two seasons. And after orchestrating a 52-17 victory in Lincoln last season, he raised the hackles of Cornhusker fans by complaining about Nebraska players spitting on him. He'll be gone this season, but definitely not forgotten among Cornhusker fans.
All-time villain: Oklahoma. Even though the rivalry was marked by immense respect on both sides -- imagine Barry Switzer doing Nebraska television commercials and endorsing Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Tom Osborne -- the Sooners' domination was a constant source of irritation for the Cornhuskers. Oklahoma claimed 16 straight from 1943-59 and beat Osborne in eight of his first nine games against them.
Current villain: Those pesky BCS bowls. The Sooners have lost five-straight BCS games, stripping coach Bob Stoops of much of his national stature that should have been gleaned from an unprecedented three-straight Big 12 titles.
All-time villain: Darrell Royal represented the ultimate turncoat to Sooner fans after starring at the school from 1946-49 as a record-setting quarterback and defensive back. His 12-7-1 career record against the Sooners included eight straight victories and 12 of his 14 games against them that made his old friends despise him.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Current villain: Texas coach Mack Brown, who has run off an 11-0 record against them. Worse, four of those victories were by four points or less, including the last two games.
All-time villain: Oklahoma. The cross-state rivals have turned the "Bedlam Series" into a one-sided affair with a 74-16-7 edge. Since Josh Fields orchestrated back-to-back upsets in 2001-02, Stoops hasn't called off the dogs in six-straight victories, exploding for 52, 38, 42, 27, 49 and 61 points.
Current villain: The Big 12's tiebreaker rules. Texas fans are still lamenting the national-title shot that got away last season, despite beating Big 12 title game participants Oklahoma and Missouri.
All-time villain: Jackie Sherrill. He beat them regularly at Texas A&M and continued his success at Mississippi State. Even worse, he fired up his team before that 1991 victory by castrating a bull and then crowed about it after his Texas-taming success. Even more than Barry Switzer, Longhorn fans hate Sherrill.
Texas A&M Aggies
Current villain: Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. He's beaten them seven of nine games, including four straight. And he's gigged them by mocking their traditions, their coaching, their quarterbacks, everything but "The Dixie Chicken."
All-time villain: Texas. All things burnt orange set off Aggie fans -- with good reason. Their team has been dominated by the Longhorns in the school's longest rivalry. And how much of a Texas fixation do the Aggies have? The second verse of the Aggie War Hymn is essentially all about Texas.
Current villain: Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. Nobody in the conference does a better job of rolling up points or handcuffing Tech's offense than his Tigers, who have averaged 47 points and won by an average of 26.3 points per game during recent three-game winning streak in the series.
All-time villain: Texas A&M. Aggie fans chap Red Raider followers by claiming the game isn't a rivalry. Mike Leach has made it seem one-sided in recent seasons. But look closely enough and you'll find it's not unusual to see the A&M logo a
dorning urinals in several bars in Lubbock. Isn't that the best sign of antipathy there is?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Even though practice is just starting, the lunchtime links are already in mid-season form.
Check out a few links from across the conference:
- The Austin American-Statesman's Kirk Bohls wonders if the new NCAA ejection rule may cause defenses to become more tentative.
- Baylor hopes to boost its pass rush with a young group of defensive ends after posting only 21 sacks last season, John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald reports.
- Former Kansas State coach Ron Prince is seeking $3 million in punitive damages in addition to his $3.2 million contract buyout negotiated after he left the school, the Topeka Capital-Journal's Austin Meek reports.
- The Oklahoman's John Helsley writes about Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant's potential as a Heisman Trophy candidate and his recovery from a disappointing Holiday Bowl loss that turned on his knee injury.
- Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera reports that finding a replacement for Josh Smith on kick returns is only one of the questions facing Colorado special teams coach Kent Riddle.
- Even after contentious contract renegotiations, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is back for more high-powered passing and hijinks, the Denver Post's John Henderson writes.
- Lawrence Journal-World blogger Johann Ross wonders if Bill Self and Mark Mangino is the best coaching combination for a major basketball/football program.
- Gary Pinkel tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Gerry Fraley that his team this season will be the fastest he's coached at Missouri.
- Nebraska I-back Quentin Castille tells the Lincoln Journal-Star's Steve Sipple that he's rejuvenated after returning home for several weeks during his team's summer workouts.
- Ryan Tannehill hopes to win Texas A&M's starting quarterback job, but he tells the Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News' Brent Zwerneman he wants to move back to receiver if he doesn't beat out Jerrod Johnson.
- Oklahoma middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds is 10 pounds lighter as he attempts a comeback from a devastating knee injury sustained last season, the Tulsa World's Guerin Emig reports.
- The Des Moines Register's Randy Peterson has an interesting chat on Iowa State football, including Paul Rhoads' troubles in picking out ripe melons and whether the Cyclones can stick with Iowa on Sept. 12.