Big 12: Jacquizz Rodgers

A closer look: Valero Alamo Bowl

December, 14, 2012
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As the bowl season approaches, we're going to be looking a little closer at each game. We'll go down the Big 12 bowl schedule in chronological order.

VALERO ALAMO BOWL

Texas (8-4) vs. Oregon State (9-3)

Where: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas

When: Saturday, Dec. 29, 6:45 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

About Texas: No team in the Big 12 has been on a wilder ride this season than Texas. The Longhorns looked like they were back with a 4-0 start and hanging around the top 10. Then came a two-game losing streak capped by a beatdown in Red River. Everybody gave up on the Horns and more than a few fans were ready to be rid of Mack Brown. Then Texas won four consecutive games and revived its BCS and Big 12 title hopes. Then it got solidly beaten on its home field and nobody believed in Texas anymore. This wasn't the 10-win season or BCS bid Texas hoped for when the year began, but this team is built to win big next year if it gets more consistent play at quarterback. Can it start with a bowl win against a top-15 opponent?

About Oregon State: The Beavers feel Texas' pain when it comes to quarterback issues. A midseason injury sent Sean Mannion to the bench, but even when he returned, a four-interception outing against Washington had OSU turning back to Cody Vaz. The loss to Stanford, though, opened the door back for Mannion, who took back the starting spot after an ankle injury to Vaz and kept the job through a rout of Nicholls State in the season finale, rescheduled from earlier in the season. OSU began the season 6-0 and ascended to No. 7 in the polls, but the Beavers were brought back to earth with three losses in their final six games.

Longhorns to watch: Texas' defense was disappointing, but showed promise at times late in the season. When you're not watching the theatrics between Case McCoy and David Ash, keep an eye on defensive end Alex Okafor and safety Kenny Vaccaro. Vaccaro can lower the boom on anybody, and Okafor's remained productive, despite losing his partner in crime, Jackson Jeffcoat, for the season with a pectoral injury. Johnathan Gray led the Longhorns in rushing this season, but fellow backs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron should both be back healthy.

Beavers to watch: No, Jacquizz Rodgers is not still there. The spectacularly named running back Storm Woods is, though. The freshman rushed for more than 800 yards, but the biggest threat Texas will have to stop is receiver Markus Wheaton. Despite the revolving door of injuries and benchings at QB, he racked up 1,207 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Only USC's Marqise Lee, the Biletnikoff Award winner, had more of either this season in the Pac-12.

Did you know? Oregon State's only played a Big 12 team in a bowl game once, but it was a memorable one for the Corvallis Woodchuckers, and one the Big 12 would like to forget. Missouri held a two-touchdown lead with just over six minutes to go, but Oregon State rallied and appeared to tie the game in the final seconds. However, coach Mike Riley went for two and the win, and the Beavers got it to take home the Sun Bowl trophy back in 2006.

Why Lache Seastrunk left the Big 12 behind

January, 28, 2010
1/28/10
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At an earlier stage of my life, I spent almost two years living in Temple, Texas.

It's a nice town. Back then, it had a good mall and a great location. I was never more than an hour away from either Austin or Waco if I really wanted to do something.

But it's surprising to me that Lache Seastrunk, the most notable football prospect from that city in many years, has decided to foresake all of the schools of the Big 12. Instead, he will travel 1,661 miles away from home (according to the Web site How Far Is It) and play for Oregon.

I'm sure that Seastrunk was struck by all of the cool Nike-influenced uniforms the Ducks have. And he also probably saw a better chance of being a featured running back so far away from home than if he had stayed in the Big 12.

With the Big 12's developing reputation as a conference of passers and throwers, that's the way the school's recruiting philosophies have tilted.

We've seen first-round picks like Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree and Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman and Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew all selected from the conference last year. We should have more this season with Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant and Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham all likely to be picked in the first round in April.

Contrast to the conference's running backs. Most draft projections have Oklahoma's Chris Brown pegged as the Big 12's top running back. He's not expected to be picked during the first day of the draft.

Adrian Peterson was the last first-round running back picked from a Big 12 school, and that came in 2007.

So it's not surprising that Seastrunk has decided to pack his bags and head to Oregon when all of those factors are considered. I'm sure it was noted to him that Oregon's Jonathan Stewart was a first-round pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2008.

I also checked the Web site the Sports Librarian.com, which has already posted a group of favorites to win the Heisman in 2010.

No Big 12 players are listed among the site's top 12 contenders, and only Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert is included among seven potential candidates who could emerge as dark-horse contenders.

Included among the top 12 contenders for the 2010 Heisman are Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers and Oregon running back LaMichael James. It's also interesting to consider that Rodgers graduated from Lamar Consolidated High School in Richmond, Texas, and James is a product of Liberty-Eylau High School in Texarkana, Texas.

Like Seastrunk, both players would have been a natural fit at a Big 12 school. But they all decided to travel far away from home to play in offenses that they deemed more conducive to their running talents.

Sometimes, playing time in a run-friendly offense is a more important determiner for a running back recruit than all of the home-cooked meals he would receive by staying closer to home.

Could Heisman slump be coming for Big 12?

December, 18, 2009
12/18/09
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The Big 12 has carved an enviable niche in Heisman Trophy balloting in its short history.

With Colt McCoy's third-place finish and Ndamukong Suh's fourth-place finish last week, the Big 12 has had a top-five finisher in 11 of its 14 seasons of existence.

Included in that mark are winners like Ricky Williams in 1998, Eric Crouch in 2001, Jason White in 2003 and Sam Bradford last season. Additionally, the conference has had six players who finished second and two others who were third.

Despite that history, the early prognosis doesn't look good for duplication by the Big 12 in 2010.

ESPN.com's Bruce Feldman has no Big 12 players among his 10 early Heisman favorites list, which is topped by Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State and Kellen Moore of Boise State. Among the players who barely missed his cut are Baylor's Robert Griffin and Texas A&M's Jerrod Johnson.

And the Heisman Pundit lists only two Big 12 players on its list of 17 early Heisman favorites (Johnson and Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray).

It looks like a bleak early season for the Big 12 in 2010 from a starpower standpoint. The conference will need someone to emerge to turn that around.

A candidate who wasn't listed but might be able to surprise is Missouri's Blaine Gabbert. Keep an eye on him.

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