Big 12: Iowa State Hawkeyes
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Getting a head-coaching job is sometimes as much about timing as coaching skills or any other factor.
An intriguing story by Randy Peterson in Sunday's Des Moines Register reminded me of that when it mentioned several coaches with Big 12 backgrounds who likely were interested when the Iowa job opened up after the 1998 season following the retirement of legendary head coach Hayden Fry.
Former Iowa defensive back Bob Stoops may have been one of the most attractive potential candidates. His connection with Fry ran deeply from his career as a player and graduate assistant coach there before he became the nation's hottest assistant coach while working under Steve Spurrier at Florida.
Terry Allen was another coach whom Iowa might have been intrigued with when Fry left, despite his lack of personal history with the program. His father, Robert, was well-known in the program. Robert Allen was a champion swimmer with the Hawkeyes who later become an assistant football coach and head swimming coach at the school. His son had developed into a hot commodity after leading Northern Iowa to a 75-26 record as a head coach.
But the hottest candidate of them all might have been Bobby Elliott, a former Iowa player who had chosen to remain at his alma mater to work with Fry through the years as a trusted member of his staff. His father, Pete, had been a Iowa athletic director.
At the age of 45, Bobby Elliott was on the cusp of earning his shot as the Hawkeyes' head coach when an illness cost him a shot at the job.
When then-Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby was sorting through his candidates, Elliott informed him he couldn't take the job because he had been taking daily doses of chemotherapy to control a blood disorder called polycythemia vera. Bowlsby instead turned to then-NFL assistant Kirk Ferentz to fill the job.
Stoops decided to take a sure offer at Oklahoma, where John Blake had recruited the framework of a strong but underachieving team. With the addition of Stoops' coaching acumen, the Sooners claimed a national championship in less than two seasons.
Allen decided to take the Kansas job, which proved more daunting for him than expected. He was let go after posting a 20-33 record after five seasons.
After Elliott was cured, he became a respected defensive coordinator who ably served under Dan McCarney at Iowa State and Bill Snyder at Kansas State. He most recently served as a defensive coordinator under Chuck Long at San Diego State -- a staff that was let go after last season.
Peterson's masterful story relates Elliott's thoughts about coaching and how his illness profoundly shaped so many lives during another relapse of the serious blood disorder in 2001. The poignancy became even more significant as Elliott related his thoughts about facing death with his wife and two children.
Peterson received unmatched access to Elliott during that season. It was an arrangement that McCarney didn't know about.
He updated the story with a masterful lead, describing how Elliott arranged to have a rose bush delivered to his wife, Joey, on Mother's Day in 1999 as he was being treated for a bone marrow transplant on that day.
"It was the first thing I saw when I walked outdoors that morning," Joey Elliott recalled in the story. "He knows how much I love gardening, but not knowing what was going to transpire, he had a Mother's Day present arranged."
The story provided a lot of insight into the battling nature of Elliott as he dealt with a life-threatening illness and beat it twice. Even more interesting was how he dealt with knowing the illness denied him a shot at his dream job.
It made me wonder what might have been -- for Elliott, for Stoops, for Allen, for Ferentz, for Iowa State and for Kansas State.
And it also made me think about so many other coaches who aren't blessed with the right timing when they finally get their chance to be a college head coach.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Forget about yardage per play difference or third-down conversions or points scored. The best indicator of success in the Big 12 this season can be seen with a relatively simple statistic.
Look closely at sacks produced and determine that most of the teams that are at the top of the conference's statistics are at the top of the standings.
Here's a look at how the conference ranks in sacks and you'll see what I mean:
Four of the five best teams are at the top of the list and six of the top seven correlate with sacks and on-the-field performance.
The only exception is Oklahoma State, which is a little bit different because of its abilities running the ball. That proficiency has helped the Cowboys dominate time of possession which has helped them beat most of their lesser foes and also spring an upset at Missouri when the Tigers struggled with turnovers.
But Oklahoma State's lack of pass rush was magnified when the Cowboys played Texas Tech last week. If it had been a fight, it would have been stopped in the middle of the third quarter, considering the way that Graham Harrell was picking apart the beleaguered Cowboys defense.
And while I originally thought that Oklahoma State might be able to spring an upset over Oklahoma on Nov. 29 in the Bedlam Game in Stillwater, I'm not so sure today. If Oklahoma State doesn't get a better pass rush against Sam Bradford and that mammoth Oklahoma offensive line, we might see a similar result as the Texas Tech game -- even playing at T. Boone Pickens Stadium.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
For my regular readers, I've mentioned my respect for the work of baseball sabermetrician Bill James and some of the information he's able to glean by delving deeply into numbers.
While football isn't as statistically rich as baseball, there is still some information that you find if you are willing to dig deeply enough for it.
Coaches have always told me that one of the the most important qualities that a top team can do is to consistently convert third-down plays and stopping an opponent on third down.
It got me to thinking that you could come up with a statistic if you compared the difference between the offensive and defensive third-down numbers. And I wondered if my theorem would correlate when judging the relative success of a team.
Here's how the Big 12 looks through games of last week. And my idea holds up as the seven teams that are most likely in my opinion to make a bowl trip rank in the top seven places
Team Off. Third Down % Def. Third Down % Diff W-L
Texas Tech 56.3 32.5 +23.8 9-0
Texas 55.9 37.7 +18.2 8-1
Oklahoma 46.4 30.0 +16.4 8-1
Kansas 52.0 40.2 +11.8 6-3
Oklahoma State 46.7 35.2 +11.5 8-1
Nebraska 49.2 38.1 +11.1 5-4
Missouri 52.1 42.0 +10.1 7-2
Kansas State 43.0 44.1 -1.1 4-5
Texas A&M 50.4 52.4 -2.0 4-5
Colorado 37.4 39.8 -2.4 4-5
Iowa State 35.4 46.3 -10.9 2-7
Baylor 34.3 48.9 -14.6 3-6
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are a few tidbits, notes and quotes from around the conference that I've collected over the past week. Enjoy them.
WHO'S HOT AND NOT
Oklahoma running back Chris Brown, who is averaging 108.6 yards per game and 7.95 yards per carry in his last three games. And he's doing it while splitting time with DeMarco Murray in the Sooners' backfield platoon.
Texas wide receiver Malcolm Williams, who produced 182 yards on four receptions in his most substantial playing time last week against Texas Tech. Williams also downed a punt at the Texas Tech 1 and contributed two special-teams tackles.
Texas Tech's offensive line, which allowed only one sack combined in the first seven games of the season, but two sacks in each of its last two games.
Colorado's pass rush, which notched four sacks on 31 Texas A&M passing attempts last week. The Buffaloes had produced four sacks in their previous three games, a span of 115 passing attempts.
Colorado's sputtering offense. The Buffaloes have scored 31 points in five Big 12 games.
Nebraska linebacker Tyler Wortman, who produced 11 tackles against Oklahoma. Wortman had seven tackles combined in the first eight games of the season.
Kansas cornerback Chris Harris, a key performer last season for the Jayhawks. He's been beaten out by Justin Thornton and converted wide receiver Daymond Patterson for the starting cornerback positions. Harris is listed as a backup free safety behind starter Phillip Strozier.
Kansas State walk-on linebacker Alex Hrebec, who notched a team-high nine tackles after drawing a start against the Jayhawks.
Kansas State kick returner/wide receiver Deon Murphy, who vowed to "take one to the crib" for a touchdown against Kansas. He didn't come close, producing only 60 all-purpose yards against the Jayhawks.
Missouri DE Brian Coulter, who produced six tackles and 1 ½ sacks for theTigers vs. Baylor in his first career start.
Kansas WR Kerry Meier, who produced a season-low three receptions last week against Kansas State.
Missouri WR Tommy Saunders, who produced seven receptions for a career-best 109 yards against Baylor last week.
Texas Tech's special teams. The Red Raiders have had nine kicks blocked this season - five extra points, three field goals and a punt. That total is the most of any team in the country.
Here are a few quotes that kept reporters titillated across the Big 12 this week.
"Oklahoma State is now the biggest game in the history of this year," Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, describing his team's approach to the Cowboys after beating No. 1 Texas last week.
"I don't believe in moral victories, but we showed that we come to play every day," Baylor freshman quarterback Robert Griffin told the Waco Tribune-Herald after the Bears' near-miss against Missouri last week.
"I'm 47, I still haven't made man," Leach on Mike Gundy's infamous "I'm a man. I'm 40" tirade.
"No, I don't wish I didn't say it. I mean, I'm confident. I'm that dude. That's just me. If anybody doesn't like it . . . oh, well." Kansas State wide receiver Deon Murphy told the Topeka Capital-Journal after his pre-game comments backfired after calling out Kansas before last week's game.
"Crab made an unbelievable catch, and not only did he make an unbelievable catch, he made an unbelievable run after that and got into the zone and got us a win." Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell, on Michael Crabtree's game-winning catch against Texas.
"That's crazy that they would drop. It surprises me, but all they can do is take care of their business," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, after seeing Oklahoma drop from fourth to sixth in the BCS standings despite beating his Cornhusker team by 34 points last week.
"At least when they come crying wondering why they're not playing, they'll know why. It's pretty simple to see." - Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops to the Lincoln Journal-Star after his reserve defense has allowed late touchdowns against Kansas, Kansas State and Nebraska in its last three games.
"The snowball started rolling on us, and we didn't do anything to get it stopped," Pelini, after Oklahoma jumped to an early 35-0 lead over his team last week.
"That's going to teach him as a running back, you're never, ever going to be healthy. And once he realizes that, he'll be fine. He'll realize it this weekend." Colorado assistant coach Darian Hagan, who told the Rocky Mountain News that freshman Darrell Scott will have to adjust to the physical nature of college football.
"All we did was score too quickly. And then, two great players made a great play at the end," Texas coach Mack Brown, on Texas Tech's wild comeback last week.
254 - Yards needed by Nebraska wide receiver Nate Swift to break Johnny Rodgers' career receiving yardage record of 2,479.
THE BIG 12 - IN FACTOIDS
- Baylor has lost 17 straight games in which they trailed at the half.
- Each of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops' four previous games against Texas A&M have been decided by seven points or less.
- Oklahoma State will become only the second team in history to face three top-three teams in true road games in one season. The Cowboys beat No. 3 Missouri and then lost to No. 1 Texas before playing No. 3 Texas Tech on Saturday. The only other team to face such a gauntlet was the 1969 TCU team, which lost games at No. 1 Ohio State, No. 3 Arkansas and No.
2 Texas.The Horned Frogs lost those games by a combined 155-13 margin.
- Robert Griffin is the first player in Baylor history to rush for 10 TDs and pass for 10 TDs in same season.
- Nebraska free safety Ricky Thenarse's interception snapped an interception drought that had stretched nearly six complete games for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers failed to produce an interception during a stretch of 142 opposing pass attempts - a period of 357 minutes, 42 seconds.
- Kansas State has allowed two of its last three opponents to post season-high rushing totals - Colorado (247) and Kansas (280). And Oklahoma's 275-yard effort missed beating the Sooners' best mark by only one yard.
- Texas Tech is off to a 5-0 start in conference play for the first time since 1953, when the Red Raiders were members of the Border Conference.
- Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant needs three more touchdown receptions to match OSU's single-season TD reception record of 17 set by Rashaun Woods in 2002.
- Baylor went 4-for-4 on fourth downs last week against Missouri. The Bears were 5-for-13 on third-down conversions.
- Kansas State has allowed at least 50 points in a game three times this season - most since 1988.
- Iowa State has forced three punts in the last two games. The Cyclones have forced four punts or fewer in four of their last five games and in six of nine games this season.
- Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman has created 13 turnovers in his three games against Kansas.
- Missouri tailback Derrick Washington failed to score a touchdown in last week's game for the first time this season.
BY THE NUMBERS, PART I
Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing has struggled in recent games after a hot start. He's averaging only 158 yards passing in his last two games, compared to an average of 331.7 yards per game in his first seven categories.
Here's an indication of how Reesing's production has dropped during the last two games.
Att. Comp. Int. Yds TD Pass Eff. rating W-L
First seven games 280 195 5 2322 17 155.77 5-2
Last two games 49 30 4 316 3 119.27 1-1
BY THE NUMBERS, PART II
Texas Tech will be facing a huge challenge of facing a top-10 team the week after beating the No. 1 team in the country. Only once since 1965 has a team been able to beat a No. 1 team and then beat a top-10 team the following week.
That team was the 1984 Oklahoma team, which was coached by Barry Switzer and featured current Texas coach Mack Brown as its offensive coordinator.
Here's a look at how teams fared the following week against a top-10 foe after beating a No. 1 team in their previous game (since 1965).
Team No. 1 team Score Next week (opponent/rank) Score
1993 Boston College @Notre Dame 41-39 West Virginia (No. 5) L, 14-17
1990 Michigan State @Michigan 28-27 @Illinois (No. 8) L, 13-15
1984 Oklahoma @Nebraska 17-7 Oklahoma State (No. 3) W, 24-14
1982 Notre Dame @Pittsburgh 31-16 Penn State (No. 5) L, 14-24
1981 Wisconsin Michigan 21-14 UCLA (No. 9) L, 13-31
Source: ESPN Stats & Information Department
BY THE NUMBERS, PART III
Michael Crabtree's dramatic game-winning touchdown pass did more than merely keep Texas Tech's BCS national title hopes alive. It also extended Crabtree's string of consecutive games with a touchdown reception to 12 games - with barely a second to spare.
Here's a list of the top consecutive touchdown reception streaks in college football history.
Years Player School Consecutive TD catch games
2002-03 Larry Fitzgerald Pittsburgh 18
2005-06 Jarett Dillard Rice 15
2001-02 Charles Rogers Michigan State 14
1990-91 Desmond Howard Michigan 13
1997 Randy Moss Marshall 13
2007-08 Michael Crabtree Texas Tech 12
1990-91 Aaron Turner Pacific 12
Source: ESPN Stats & Information Department