Big 12: Jake Locker

Bowl debate: Big 12 vs. Pac-12

December, 19, 2011
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The Pac-10 and Big 12 nearly got married last year, but only Colorado ended up eloping with the now-Pac-12.

You know: The conference that can count!

But the Pac-12, which has, yes, 12 teams, and the Big 12, which has 10 teams (though it's often hard to keep up with which ones), play each other in three bowl games this holiday season.

Joy to the world.

So it seemed like a good time for the Pac-12 and Big 12 bloggers -- Ted Miller and David Ubben -- to say howdy and discuss all the coming fun.

Ted Miller: Ah, David, the bowl season. Pure bliss. Unless you’re the Pac-12, which is expected to get a whipping from your conference over the holidays. We have three Pac-12-Big 12 bowl games with the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl between Stanford and Oklahoma State, the Valero Alamo with Baylor and Washington, and the Bridgepoint Education Holiday matching California and Texas. And the Big 12 is favored in all three!

Poor ole West Coast teams. What are we to do? It’s almost like the Big 12 is the SEC or something. Speaking of which, how are things with your Cowboys? Are they over not getting a shot at LSU for the national title? Are they excited about getting a shot at Andrew Luck and Stanford? We might as well start with that outstanding matchup in Glendale.

David Ubben: You know, I was actually a little surprised. I stuck around Stillwater for the BCS bowl selection show announcement, and the players took the news pretty well. They found out an hour before, but there wasn't a ton of down-in-the-dumpiness from the Pokes. When you've never been to this point before, it's a bit difficult to develop a sense of entitlement. If Oklahoma had OSU's record and was passed over by Alabama and sent to the Fiesta Bowl for the 17th time in the past six years, you might have had a different reaction.

But Oklahoma State's first trip to the BCS and first Big 12 title aren't being overlooked. These players are looking forward to this game. There's no doubt about that.

I know the Big 12 seems like the SEC, but I have a confession, Ted. I wasn't supposed to tell anybody, but I can't hold it in anymore. When the Big 12 began back in 1996 ... wow, I'm really going to do this ... then-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer graciously allowed the league to keep two of his teams. The league made a similar arrangement with the Big Eight a century ago, and the Southwest Conference around the same time. Missouri and Texas A&M are really wolves in sheep's clothing: SEC teams just pretending to be in other leagues. So, that might explain the Big 12's recent dominance.

These should all be fun games, though. I ranked two of the matchups among the top three in my bowl rankings.

As for the big one, they say you learn more by losing than by winning. Stanford got its first BCS win. How do you think that experience plays into this year's game? I hate to ruin the surprise, but Oklahoma State's a bit better than the Virginia Tech team Stanford beat last season. OSU's loss to Iowa State this season is bad, but it's nothing like the Hokies' loss to James Madison last season.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeQuarterback Andrew Luck leads Stanford into its second consecutive BCS bowl, this season against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Ted Miller: Not only is Oklahoma State better than Virginia Tech, it's still questionable whether this Stanford team is better than last year's. Since we're going all crazy and whispering about the SEC, there was a feeling out West that by the end of the 2010 season the Cardinal might not only be the best team in the Pac-12 but also in the nation. They were big and physical and quarterback Luck actually had a solid receiving corps with which to work. After a loss to Oregon in the fifth game, they didn't lose again until playing, er, Oregon in this year's 10th game. If we could go back in time and have the Cardinal play Auburn, I think Stanford would have won the national title.

But that's 2010. The difference this year is the season-ending knee injury to middle linebacker Shayne Skov, who was an All-American candidate, a slight step back on the offensive line and a lack of top-flight receivers. But if Oklahoma State fans are looking for something to worry about it is this: Stanford's running game.

The Pokes are bad against the run, and they haven't faced a team that is as physical and creative in the running game as Stanford. As much as folks talk about Luck's passing, it's his run checks that often ruin a defense's evening.

The Fiesta Bowl matchup looks like a great one, perhaps the best of the bowl season. But I’m excited to see Mr. Excitement Robert Griffin III in the Alamo Bowl against Washington. Of course, I’m not sure that the Huskies, their fans and embattled Huskies defensive coordinator Nick Holt are as thrilled. First, tell us about what Washington should be most worried about with Griffin. Then tell us about Baylor in general. Such as: Can the Bears stop anyone?

David Ubben: Nope. Not really.

Oklahoma State's defense unfairly gets a bad rap. Baylor's bad rap is earned. This is the same team that won five consecutive games late in the season -- but became the first team ever to win four consecutive in a single season while giving up 30 points in each.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Jerome Miron/US PresswireBaylor's Robert Griffin III will try to make it three straight bowl victories by Heisman Trophy winners.
Which, if you ask me, says plenty about both the defense and the power of RG3. They've got a lot of athletes on the defense, but when four of your top five tacklers are defensive backs, well, you need a guy like RG3 to go 9-3.

The man is a nightmare. Top to bottom, he's the most accurate passer in a quarterback-driven league. Then, you add in his athleticism, which he doesn't even really need to be extremely productive. It sets him apart, though, and forces defenses to account for it, and it buys him time in the pocket. How many guys break a 20-plus yard run before hitting a receiver for a game-winning 39-yard score to beat a team like Oklahoma for the first time?

How do you think Washington will try to slow him down? What has to happen for them to have some success?

Ted Miller: This game matches the 99th (Washington) and 109th (Baylor) scoring defenses. It has a 78-point over-under, the biggest of any bowl game. The offenses are going to score plenty, at least that's the conventional wisdom.

How does Washington stop RGIII? His name is Chris Polk. He's a running back. Baylor gives up 199 yards rushing per game. Polk right, left and up the middle is a good way to contain Griffin. The Huskies' best hope is to reduce Griffin's touches with ball control. It also needs to convert touchdowns, not field goals, in the redzone. The Huskies are pretty good at that, scoring 36 TDs in 45 visits to the red zone.

The Huskies also have a pretty good quarterback in Keith Price, who set a school record with 29 touchdown passes this year. He and a solid crew of receivers have prevented teams from ganging up against Polk. But Polk is the guy who burns the clock.

Should be a fun game. As should, by the way, the Holiday Bowl. David, Cal fans are still mad at Texas coach Mack Brown and his politicking the Longhorns into the Rose Bowl in 2004. Every team wants to win its bowl game, but the Old Blues really want to beat Brown.

Of course, neither team is what it was in 2004. Cal has an excuse. It's not a college football superpower. Sure you've been asked this before, but give me the CliffsNotes version of why the Longhorns have fallen so hard since playing for the national title in 2009.

David Ubben: Cal fans are still mad? Really? I'd suggest they get over themselves. What's anybody on that Cal team ever done anyway? It's not like the best player in the NFL missed out on a chance to play in the Rose Bowl. Now, if that were the case, we might have a problem. But honestly, I don't think Tim Tebow cares all that much about the Rose Bowl.

As for Texas' struggles?

The easy answer is quarterback play. Texas relied on Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley more than anyone realized. When they were gone, Texas couldn't run the ball, and quarterback Garrett Gilbert never made it happen. Two seasons later, the Longhorns still don't have a quarterback.

The other big answer last season was turnover margin. Gilbert threw 17 interceptions and the Longhorns were minus-12 in turnovers, which ranked 115th nationally.

They were still only 90th this year, and without solid quarterback play in a Big 12 dominated by passers, they scored five, 13 and 17 points in three of their five losses. Texas keeps people from moving the ball and runs the ball better this year, but without a solid passing game and a defense that changes games, it's tough to rack up wins in the Big 12.

It's been awhile since Cal was in the mix for the BCS, even as USC has fallen. Oregon answered the call and rose, but what has prevented Cal from winning the Pac-10 and Super Pac-10 since the Trojans' swoon?

Ted Miller: You mention quarterback play. Cal fans ... any thoughts? You mention Aaron Rodgers. Cal fans? Oh, well, that's not very nice during this festive time of the year.

Cal has become a solid defensive team, but it's lost its offensive mojo, and that can be traced to a drop in quarterback play since Rodgers departed. The latest Bears quarterback, Zach Maynard, started fairly well, stumbled, but then seemed to catch on late in the season. It's reasonable to believe the team that gets better quarterback play -- mistake-free quarterback play -- is going to win this game.

Nice to cover a conference where quarterback play matters, eh David?

Speaking of quarterback play and winning, let's wind it up. Our specific predictions aren't coming on these games until after Christmas. But we can handicap the Big 12-Pac-12 side of things. We have a three-game series this bowl seasons.

I say the Pac-12, underdogs in all three games, goes 1-2. What say you?

David Ubben: And to think, before the season, all I heard was the Pac-12 had surpassed the Big 12 in quarterback play. Did somebody petition the NCAA for another year of eligibility for Jake Locker and/or clone Matt Barkley? You West Coast folk are geniuses; I figured you'd find a way. We can't all be Stanford alums ...

Clearing out all the tumbleweeds here in middle America, I'll go out on a limb for the Big 12 in this one. Every matchup is a good one, and I don't think Cal has seen a defense like Texas' and Washington hasn't seen an offense like Baylor's. People forget that, yeah, RG3 is outstanding, but the Bears also have the league's leading receiver and leading rusher.

Stanford-OSU is a toss-up, but I'll go with a perfect sweep for the Big 12. The Cowboys haven't played poorly on the big stage yet, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt in this one, and they clean up for the Big 12 against what was almost its new conference this fall.

Oh, what could have been. Ubben and Miller on the same blog? Divided ultimately by a little thing we call the Rockies.

Mailbag: Recruiting, Gabbert, coddling?

May, 11, 2011
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Caesar in Limbo asked: Is there an increasing trend with coaches losing the battle against whining players? Leach, Mangino and I'm sure there's got to be more. Does a weak player just have to point their finger if they feel mistreated? Do these kids need therapy or a boot?! Why won't administrators back their coaches anymore? Could a coach from 20 years ago make it in today's "coddle" culture?

David Ubben: I don't know if I buy that. To some level, sure, we're more sensitive as a culture than ever before, but I also think those two situations are very different, and the issues with the players weren't the only reason Mangino and Leach were let go.

Mangino's was obviously a big part of it, but that controversy also hit in the middle of a seven-game losing streak to end the season, despite still having Todd Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier. Like I wrote yesterday, Mangino's coaching style, which I'll just call intense, doesn't come off as well if he's not winning games. Winning solves if not everything, something close to it. (This is the point when I glare in Columbus, Ohio's direction.) If Kansas won 10 games in 2009, does anyone think Mark Mangino would not still be the coach?

In Leach's case, it was pretty clear that he badly strained his relationship with his bosses during his contract negotiations prior to the 2009 season. That relationship between a coach and the administration often gets overlooked. Leach's wasn't good, and he gave the higher-ups a reason to fire him.

Bob Stoops has a fantastic relationship with his AD, Joe Castiglione and the university president, David Boren. If the Adam James situation happened to Stoops, would he still be around?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

These situations are a lot more complex than just a couple whiny, entitled kids getting coaches fired.


Mike in Oklahoma City, Okla., asked: Ubbs, do you think Tyler Gabbert leaving MU has anything to do with his brother's "slide" in the recent NFL draft due to the college system he played for? Do you think he will transfer to a pro style team in response to that?

DU: No, and that's not really the reason for his "slide," per se. The way I see his slide is one team saw Jake Locker as a better fit and better talent than Gabbert, which bumped him out of the top 5-7 where he was projected to go, down to No. 10. In the days leading up to the draft, I'd say it was pretty clear that Cam Newton was going to be the first quarterback taken.

Everyone had questions this year. Can Newton be a true NFL passer? Is Locker accurate enough? Can Gabbert be the same kind of passer after a dropback? I really doubt that had anything to do with Tyler Gabbert's decision.

And besides that, from the moment Blaine Gabbert stepped on Missouri's campus, he had NFL written all over him. Guys with big arms that are 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds tend to, at the very least, get drafted. Tyler Gabbert's career is just beginning, but at 6-foot and 190 pounds, he's going to be fighting uphill to get his chance at the NFL level.


Scott in College Station, Texas asked: David, When do the first 2012 ESPN recruit rankings come out? Thanks

DU: We released them last year around late May and early June, so I'd expect them then, but don't get too worried, Scott. I'm sure your Aggies will be well represented in our ESPNU150, unlike last year.

I'd be very, very surprised if Trey Williams wasn't on it. Matt Davis probably has a good shot, too. Maybe Davante Borque. Our recruiting guys handle that.


Preston in Dallas asked: If Texas has another bad year, and Texas A&M and Oklahoma St. continue to take the next step how do think this will effect recruiting in Texas?

DU: It would help a little bit, but it's going to take a lot of losing for Texas to not be back on top of the recruiting game. For one, players want to play for Mack Brown.

But more than anything, you're battling Texas culture. Players grow up wanting to be Longhorns. That's just a fact. Not all of them, of course, but certainly a majority of kids in one of the richest recruiting banks in the country.

How many kids grow up in Texas dreaming of playing for Oklahoma State? Texas A&M?

They'll grow up, and some will realize that in their personal situation, maybe either school is a better fit or Texas doesn't want them, but there's no changing that Texas is the flagship program in the state. That's one recruiting advantage that takes a whole heck of a lot to negate.

Another losing season, or even 2-3 more isn't going to suddenly allow either school to consistently outrecruit Texas.

Mailbag: Best WRs, coaches and co-champs

March, 4, 2011
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Thanks once again for all the questions. Lots of good ones this week. I hope you all enjoy the weekend.

Aaron in Denver, Colo., asks: DU, what are the chances that Murray gets put in a slot receiver roll in the NFL? Would he really be better as a back? Also, I already voted for him to be on the cover of EA's NCAA Football 2012!

David Ubben: I don't think we'll ever see him moved to a full-time slot receiver, but his ability as a pass-catcher certainly boosts his draft stock. If you're paying X amount for a player, you want to make sure you're getting your money's worth. Not many backs are as talented in the passing game as Murray. Wherever he ends up, it would be a mistake for that team not to give him some time in the slot. In this era of the NFL, every team is going to have more than one capable back (or at least should), and putting Murray in the slot and a second running back in the backfield is a good way to get talent on the field. Lots of NFL teams do that.

And as for your voting, I'm sure he appreciates it. It looks like he's been campaigning pretty hard on Twitter.


GTCat in Tonganoxie, Kan., asks: If you had to already pick a big 12 player as the face of NEXT year's NCAA football video game cover, who would it be? Blackmon? Bryce Brown?

DU: Interesting question. If you want to talk raw credentials and talent, Blackmon is a good call, but a big part of the game is name recognition and helping sell the game. Nick Fairley had enough press in his only year on the field to get the recognition, but the others up for consideration are two four-year starters/contributors in Murray and Jake Locker and a Heisman winner in Mark Ingram.

So from a name recognition standpoint, a four-year player from a perennial power like Ryan Broyles at Oklahoma would probably be a good call.


Joe in Denver, Colo. asks: Brandon Weeden posted a picture of his Big 12 South Championship ring on Twitter this week. What are your thoughts on co-champions or even claiming division championships?

DU: I don't have a problem with what Weeden did, or others who showcase the hardware the conference gives out, but I hate that the conference gives out hardware to everyone with a share of the division title. This isn't junior high where there aren't any tiebreakers and everybody is a co-regional district area neighborhood champion. I watched a Big 12 championship game with two teams in it this year.

And by handing out the trophies, which sure, players earned, you put schools in awkward positions. If a school proclaims itself a division champion when it didn't play in the title game, they're going to catch flack from opposing fans and programs and have a mild PR problem. That's just the way it's going to be.

If they don't acknowledge or celebrate it, it's a bit of a slap in the face to both the conference and the players who helped earn the trophies and rings. It's nice for programs and players to be given recognition for their efforts during the year, but are you aware that the Big 12 handed out FIVE divisional champion trophies for football this year? Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M all got them. That's absurd.

So please, Big 12: Next year, just hand out one set of rings and one trophy for the team at the top of the heap.


Tyler in Eden Prairie, Minn. writes: What a dirty trick, Ubben. Well played, sir. Well played.

- All of Nebraska

DU: Just keeping the Huskers on their toes.


Hob Howell in Waco, Texas, asks: I believe that Robert Griffin III remains the key ingredient in the Bears hopes for more wins next season. However, the Bears return all 5 of their top recievers, and two of them have a chance at All-Conference seasons (Kendall Wright and Josh Gordon). Their depth at WR impresses me; do you think this could be one of the most explosive and talented WR corps in the conference, if not the nation?

DU: I definitely agree that Wright and Gordon have a great chance to be All-Big 12 players next season, but Baylor's receivers on the whole aren't quite on the level with what Texas A&M, Oklahoma State or Oklahoma will be putting on the field this year.


Nick in NE asks: David, Just a little heads-up that Eric Crouch of Nebraska was featured on a cover for a 2002 NCAA Football game. I believe it was the one by 2K Sports. All I remember is my wife had that game for her GameCube when I met her in college.

DU: A different game franchise, but good to know. She sounds like a keeper, by the way.


Gerry in Columbia, Mo., asks: With all the hype Blaine Gabbert has gotten heading into the NFL Draft, the big question everyone seems to be asking is how Missouri will replace him. I find it interesting that no one wants to talk about how Missouri will replace their five departing starters on defense, including three of four defensive backs. People forget that it was Missouri's 6th-ranked scoring defense that carried the team this year, rather than the offense, as is usually the case. Anyway, just wanted to know how you see Missouri's defense shaping up over the course of the spring.

DU: They may have some trouble, but I look at what Missouri did last year with so many injuries already in the secondary and at linebacker. I don't think you can say enough about what defensive coordinator Dave Steckel did to get those guys ready despite a revolving door at the second line of the defense especially. The Tigers even played without a likely first-round pick in DE Aldon Smith for a good percentage of the year, and when he returned, he wasn't quite himself.

Steckel's an experienced coach, but this is only this third year as a coordinator at the major college level, and in my opinion, he's already established himself as one of the best coordinators in the league. Last year was really, really impressive, and outside of Brent Venables and Tim DeRuyter, I'm not sure anyone's done a better job than Steckel as a defensive coordinator, shoring up a defense that had historically been a weakness for the Tigers. He'll get a big test this year, but like Missouri's offense did with Chase Daniel at quarterback, big picture, the defense turned a corner in 2010.


Baron in Lubbock, Texas, asks: DU, I'm sure you've had a chance to make it to every big 12 stadium this past season. Rank the best gameday atmospheres based on your experiences. Thanks!

DU: I get asked that a lot, but I've got you covered.


Jimmy in Haysville, Kan., asks: So, do you think if Norman was as "loud" as Nebraska or Texas A&M, OU could lose as many games at home as those teams do? I'm sure both of those teams would trade their loud crowds for OU's home record any day of the week.

DU: This came up in our chat this week, but here's the fact of the matter: It's not like Owen Field is a peaceful oasis on game day, but it's not Death Valley either. Could, just maybe, Oklahoma's record at home compared to the Aggies and Huskers have more to do with the fact that the Sooners have been a whole lot better than Texas A&M and Nebraska over the last decade?

Any Oklahoma fan with a shred of self-awareness would willingly admit that the Sooners' remarkable current winning streak at home (36 games) and record under Bob Stoops (72-2) has a lot more to do with the teams Stoops is fielding every year than the fans making it a wholly intimidating atmosphere for opposing teams. They'll get up for big games like Texas Tech in 2008, but the atmosphere for pedestrian conference games like Colorado or Kansas State isn't anywhere close to where it can be. With the exception of this year against Florida State, when fans really sensed the winning streak could be on the line, they don't provide an elite atmosphere consistently. When they do, like in the Florida State and Tech games, the team responds. Clearly.

Sooner could be 'NCAA Football' cover boy

March, 3, 2011
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Any fans want former Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray on the cover of "NCAA Football 12"?

NCAA Football 12
EA SportsVote for me!
EA Sports announced four possible cover athletes this week, and Murray is one of them.

He'll have to beat out Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley and Washington quarterback Jake Locker to earn a spot on the game.

Voters will have to do so on Facebook.

Voting runs through April 4, and the winner will be announced on April 19. The game is traditionally released in mid-July.

Texas' Brian Orakpo was on the cover of the PlayStation 2 version of the 2010 game, and Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree was on the XBox 360 version of the same game.

Before that, the only other Big 12 players to land on the cover were Texas running back Ricky Williams in 2000 and Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier in 1997, back in the days of Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis.

Ranking the Big 12's best players: No. 15

March, 1, 2011
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The official list of the Big 12's top 25 players is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we're revealing the list day by day here on the blog. Here's a refresher on my exact criteria.

[+] EnlargeNebraska's Alfonzo Dennard
AP Photo/Dave WeaverNebraska's Alfonzo Dennard intercepted four passes last season.
No. 15: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska

2010 numbers: Dennard made 30 tackles, intercepted four passes and returned one for a touchdown. He also forced a fumble and broke up seven passes.

Most recent ranking: Dennard was unranked in our preseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Dennard: Admittedly, I'm a little higher on Dennard than others who cover the conference, considering I gave him the second cornerback slot on my All-Big 12 first team. He had to settle for second-team on the media and coaches' All-Big 12 teams.

That said, this isn't about numbers. Dennard, next to his teammate, Prince Amukamara, is the Big 12's second-best shutdown corner. Squeezing a ball into receivers covered by Dennard is extremely difficult: Ask Jake Locker. Want to know why Dennard didn't make a tackle against Washington in the Huskers' 56-21 win? Locker completed only 4-of-20 passes and one of those 20 made it into Dennard's hands. He promptly returned it 31 yards for a score.

He was one of the Big 12's breakout stars in 2010, but still didn't quite get enough respect nationally because he lined up across from Amukamara. Even still, there are at least a few people who cover Nebraska football for a living who would agree that there's definitely a debate about who Nebraska's best cornerback in 2010 was.

Perhaps the scariest thing about Dennard is he's still going to get better. He has decent size for a corner (5-10, 195), but he'll have a great shot at being an All-American as a senior in 2011 in the Big Ten.

The rest of the list:
The Big 12 bowl season is over, and we weighed in on what was an overall disappointment on Wednesday. There were plenty of good moments to come with the bad, though.

Here's the best and worst of the Big 12 bowls after the 2010 season:

[+] EnlargeRyan Broyles
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesRyan Broyles had 170 yards on 13 catches against the Huskies in the Fiesta Bowl.
Best player: Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma. Broyles caught 13 passes for the second consecutive bowl game, racked up 170 yards and scored a touchdown in Oklahoma's 48-20 win over Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl.

Best team performance: Oklahoma. The Sooners shut down Connecticut running back Jordan Todman early in the game and poured it on with plenty of offense late in the game. With their win over Connecticut, the Sooners also ended a five-game BCS bowl game skid.

Best offensive play: Broyles. Up 34-20 and on Connecticut's six-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, Broyle's caught a high pass from Landry Jones on the right side of the end zone. He jumped out of bounds to make the catch, but unbelievably reached a foot back and tapped the red paint in Oklahoma's end zone for the score on his final catch of the night.

Best defensive play: Coryell Judie, DB, Texas A&M. On LSU's opening drive, Tigers quarterback Jordan Jefferson tried to loft a ball down the right sideline for a score, but Judie flew up from a zone underneath the receiver and snagged an interception with one hand to keep the Tigers off the board early.

Worst play: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri. The Tigers looked in complete control late in the fourth quarter, driving deep in Iowa territory with a 24-20 lead. Gabbert rolled to his left, and tried to loft a pass across his body to receiver Wes Kemp. He under threw it, Iowa's Micah Hyde intercepted it and returned the pick 72 yards for the final score, 27-24.

Worst team performance: Nebraska. Few gave Washington a chance after Taylor Martinez and the Huskers stomped the Huskies in Seattle 56-21 in September. The Huskies entered as two-touchdown underdogs, and outdid the Huskers in about every way possible, running the ball well and throwing the ball efficiently with Jake Locker.

Most harmless salute: Adrian Hilburn, WR, Kansas State. With his team trailing by eight in the final minutes of the Pinstripe Bowl, Hilburn caught a short pass and took it 30 yards into the end zone, setting up a possible game-tying two-point conversion. But after the score, he flashed a salute to some Kansas State fans in the stands. An official told Hilburn "Wrong choice, buddy." and tossed a flag that cost the Wildcats 15 yards. Carson Coffman's long pass for the conversion fell incomplete and K-State lost.

Second-most harmless salute: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State. Blackmon gave one to Philadelphia Eagles' receiver/punt returner DeSean Jackson. After toasting an Arizona defender for an easy 71-yard score, Blackmon cut across the goal line, delaying his touchdown that opened the game's scoring. He wasn't flagged, but he did catch a cheap shot from a Wildcats defender later in the game, presumably for the premature celebration.

Best unsung hero: Dan Bailey, K/P, Oklahoma State. Bailey was forced into punting duty because Quinn Sharp was academically ineligible. All five of his punts were solid, and he pinned one inside the 20-yard line. He also hit all three of his field goals, two of which came from beyond 40 yards and another that was from 50.

Best out-of-nowhere performance: Hilburn. The senior receiver had a career-high 84 yards with his 30-yard score. His five catches were the most receptions he's had in a game in all but one match during his two-year stint as a Wildcat. His salute got plenty of attention, but it overshadowed a game in which he was K-State's leading receiver and made one of the biggest plays of their season.

Biggest fade into Bolivian: Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska. David finished the Big 12 season with four double-digit tackle performances in five games to lead the league by 19 stops. But against a Washington team bent on running the ball, he made just seven stops, and one for a loss. Those seven tackles were the fewest David made since he notched five against Washington earlier this season.

Worst break: Michael Hodges, LB, Texas A&M. The Aggies senior linebacker, leader and leading tackler was playing his last game after earning his spot the previous year as a former walk-on. But with a 10-0 lead, Hodges sprained an ACL and couldn't return. After his injury, A&M was outscored 41-14.

Best atmosphere: Cotton Bowl. Two of the country's best fan bases made themselves known, packing Cowboys Stadium and staying loud for most of the game. Texas A&M and LSU sold out the game just days after the matchup was announced, and brought their excitement to JerryWorld.
Blaine Gabbert made the right decision by declaring for the NFL draft. ESPN's Scouts, Inc. has Gabbert as the No. 20 overall prospect in April's draft, and Gabbert received a first-round grade from the NFL draft advisory committee after he submitted his paperwork.

For every Jake Locker and Jevan Snead, there's a Sam Bradford: There's nothing wrong with sticking around another year if you're projected as a first-rounder, and the risk of injury is somewhat overrated.

[+] EnlargeBlaine Gabbert
Scott Rovak/US PresswireBlaine Gabbert is leaving Missouri to enter the NFL draft.
Gabbert is a bit different. In Missouri's spread offense, he wouldn't have been much further along as an NFL prospect this time next year, and his size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) and arm strength (ridiculous) are exactly what NFL teams want in a prospective future starter. His capability to make NFL reads and develop footwork on dropbacks wouldn't have been much further along, and for a guy with a promising future looming like Gabbert, he might as well get a head start. Now was the time.

The lack of an elite receiver like Jeremy Maclin or Danario Alexander kept Gabbert from posting jaw-dropping numbers in 2010, but he played well and notched Missouri's fourth 10-win season in school history. To Gabbert's credit, he didn't force very many plays this year, and did what he needed to do for Missouri to win games. Missouri notched 10 wins because of it.

Gabbert is a competitive guy, and he'd surely like to achieve more than he did -- he never played in a Big 12 Championship or won a bowl game -- but he still had a great career and will go down as one of the best quarterbacks in Tigers history. He'll lack the legacy of Heisman finalist and three-year starter Chase Daniel, but don't be surprised if Gabbert is better in the NFL than in college. He's an Academic All-Big 12 performer and a smart, coachable player who made clear strides for all three of his seasons at Missouri. I'd expect that to continue in the NFL.

For the Tigers, things get a bit complicated.

The knee-jerk reaction for some will write off Missouri as a Big 12 contender in 2011, but that's not necessarily what should happen. It'll be tough for Missouri to win, but they bring back plenty of talent, especially on defense and in a more experienced receiving corps with a stable of young running backs who all got experience this year. Talk about replacing starters all you'd like, but Oklahoma State lost a "franchise" quarterback in Zac Robinson and played a first-year quarterback in Brandon Weeden who had not made a start in nine years. His last start was in high school. That worked out pretty well for them. I'd say 11 wins is a pretty good season.

Replacing Gabbert will be crucial for Missouri not just in 2011, but in retaining its stability as a winner in the Big 12. Tommy Tuberville said it last week at the TicketCity Bowl: In the SEC, you win with running backs and defense. In the Big 12, you win with quarterbacks. That's exactly how Missouri has done it.

In the last four years, Oklahoma is the only team with more Big 12 wins than Missouri.

Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Chase Daniel, Zac Robinson, Graham Harrell, Todd Reesing -- the bar has been set high in this league, even in just the most recent few years.

And for Missouri, any hope they have of being a legitimate Big 12 contender hinges on the guy who steps in for Gabbert. And unlike Daniel and Gabbert were, choosing the next starting quarterback won't be a formality this spring.

James Franklin played more than any of Missouri's other young quarterbacks, but he was used mostly as a runner. He was a miniature version of Brad Smith, at the risk of Missourian heresy.

He has the arm strength, but his decision making ability is a question mark. His coaches probably have only a bit more information from what they've seen in practices. That's what Missouri has to figure out when spring practice kicks off in a couple months.

The true freshman threw all of 14 passes in 2010. That's not much of a sample size.

I'd expect a fierce competition between Franklin and Gabbert's younger brother, freshman Tyler Gabbert, as well as redshirt freshman Ashton Glaser.

Franklin's experience, however limited, gives him the edge. And the Tigers have a few proven playmakers in receiver T.J. Moe, tight end Michael Egnew and receivers Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson.

Franklin's legs produced a valuable change of pace, especially in the red zone. He ran 23 times for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

But those legs won't win him the job in 2011. He has to prove it as a passer. Maybe he's Missouri's most accurate passer. Maybe it's the younger Gabbert or Glaser.

We'll find out soon. It should be an interesting spring in Columbia.

Holiday Bowl: Three keys for Nebraska

December, 29, 2010
12/29/10
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1. Make life easy for Taylor Martinez. Martinez has completed just 58 percent of his passes in 2010 and struggled to complete passes and get comfortable in the pocket, especially against Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game. If the Huskers can get him some easy completions early on three-step-drop slants to a sure-handed guy such as the underutilized Mike McNeill or on screens to running backs Rex Burkhead and Roy Helu Jr., they can help get Martinez comfortable. The loss to Oklahoma made it clear that Nebraska will struggle if the passing game consists of Martinez dropping back deep and relying on receivers such as Brandon Kinnie to get open and make big plays down the field. If the Huskers can manage an early lead and be afforded the luxury of passing only when they want to -- see the early season Huskers -- this gets a lot simpler.

2. Inflict déjà vu on Jake Locker. Hit him early with a variety of blitzes. Force him into mistakes. I'd be shocked if Locker has another unthinkable 4-for-20 day like he did in September, but the only quarterback who had what could be considered legitimate success against Nebraska's secondary was Oklahoma's Landry Jones. Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill all had below-average outings at best, and all three should be among the Big 12's best passers in 2011.

3. Stuff the run, especially early. Washington actually ran the ball pretty effectively against Nebraska, especially early in that game, and if Nebraska's front seven can slow that down and make the Huskies a one-dimensional offense, forcing Locker into a bad day will be quite a bit easier. The game got lopsided quickly in the second half and prevented Washington from sticking to the running game. Washington still managed 175 yards on 39 carries for an average of 4.5 yards per carry, and the Huskies will try to recreate what worked against a tough defense that has, at times, been susceptible to the run. If Washington does that, the Huskies could make a game of it. If not, expect another Nebraska blowout.
No, Washington isn't joining the Big Ten or Big 12. It just seems a bit like it to the Huskers. Nebraska will play its second of three meetings with the Huskies in a 12-month span on Wednesday night. The Huskers made the trek to Seattle in September and beat the Huskies 56-21 behind a 383-yard rushing day that saw Roy Helu Jr., Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead all top 100 yards. Good luck finding a team who loses with those kind of numbers. Nebraska didn't come close. So what about this time?

WHO TO WATCH: Washington quarterback Jake Locker. Locker's descent down the 2011 draft board began with nothing less than a nightmare outing against Nebraska's secondary, which finished the season as one of the nation's most fearsome. Cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Alfonzo Dennard are both certified lockdown defenders, and Locker managed to complete just 4-of-20 passes against the Huskers. After 13 games, they're one of just three defenses in the country who prevented opposing quarterbacks from completing more than 50 percent of their passes. Along the way, they ruined an impressive number of impressive passers' days. So what happens this time? There isn't a lot of reason to believe a banged-up Locker will do much better, but you never know. If he has a day like he did back in Seattle in September, this one will be over early. If he learns from those experiences and looks like the prototype NFL quarterback most pegged him to be, it might be closer than the two-touchdown line set on the rematch.

WHAT TO WATCH: Martinez's mobility. The freshman quarterback began the season as one of college football's most electric talents, but since a career-high 241-yard, four-touchdown rushing night in a lopsided road win against Kansas State on Oct. 7, Martinez hasn't reached the end zone and has run for more than 100 yards just once. He suffered an ankle injury against Missouri and never looked as fast or elusive as he did during nonconference play or against Kansas State. He should, in theory, be near 100 percent when the Huskers take the field, but there's no guarantee. His play against Washington will establish plenty of momentum -- good or bad -- heading into 2011.

WHY WATCH: The snide comments are a little too easy with this one. "We've already seen this episode. Late December is when reruns air, right? etc, etc." September's rout aside, these are two different teams than the ones that met back in Seattle. Martinez didn't quite make the progress as a passer as coaches hoped he would, but he could have another special performance in store with a month to prepare. The same goes for Locker, who'll get his second swing at the Blackshirts. Nebraska played pretty average football down the stretch after playing the part of national title contender early in the year. The Huskers lost two of their three final games and struggled on offense against Texas A&M and Oklahoma, both losses and Martinez's last two starts. After being blown out by three ranked teams in the middle of the season, the Huskies closed with three wins, including two on the road in conference play.

PREDICTION: Nebraska 34, Washington 13. Locker does well with an early set of scripted plays via coach and playcaller Steve Sarkisian, but the Blackshirts take over once the game hits a more natural flow.

Big 12's future, bowl upsets, All-Star game

December, 21, 2010
12/21/10
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Couldn't get to today's chat? Here's what you missed. A few highlights:

MJ in Oklahoma City asked: Hey Dave...I may be looking too far ahead, but who is your favorite to win the new look Big 12 next year?

David Ubben: Well, right now, it's pretty clear that Oklahoma will enter the season as the favorite. Plenty of football to play. Texas A&M, Missouri, Oklahoma State, and maybe Texas Tech or Texas could be in play as well.


Jim in Grand Junction, Colo., asked: David - with the Big 12 leading the nation in boring bowl games, which would be the biggest upset and have the worst consequences? UConn beating Oklahoma, Washington beating Nebraska? Is either even a remote possibility?

DU: Yeah, those are the two. Both are definitely "possible." Nebraska's offense isn't what it was the last time the two teams played, and we still have no idea what to expect out of Taylor Martinez in the bowl game. We'll see, but a bad performance from him could mean a low-scoring game, and Jake Locker will be better than he was in September. As for Oklahoma, they've had issues stopping the run, and if UConn gets Jordan Todman going and keeps Oklahoma's offense off the field, an upset is certainly within reason. That said, I wouldn't bet on either to lose, but it's still possible.


Chris in Dallas asked: Now that all of the games are over (minus bowls), what has been the best atmosphere you've been around at a game this season?

DU: Definitely Nebraska at Texas A&M, followed by Oklahoma at Missouri. A couple of other good ones were Florida State at Oklahoma and Missouri at Nebraska -- in the first quarter, anyway.


Wyatt at Big 12 asked: Now that you have you have determined who would be in your north vs south game, whose jerseys would you use? stadium? coach?

DU: Ha, interesting question. Gotta play it at Cowboys Stadium. Give me Bo Pelini (with an offensive coordinator) vs. Bob Stoops. And give the South those Texas all-whites and the North can wear Missouri's black jerseys with gold pants. Solid combos right there.

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl

December, 5, 2010
12/05/10
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Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-3) vs. Washington Huskies (6-6)

Dec. 30, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Nebraska take by Big 12 blogger David Ubben: If it seems like you've seen this movie before, it's because you have. Nebraska went up to Seattle this September and ran all over the Huskies, beating Washington 56-21. The Huskers racked up 383 rushing yards, including an 80-yard touchdown run by Taylor Martinez on the first play of the second half.

Even more impressive than the Huskers rush offense was its pass defense. The last time the Blackshirts crossed paths with Jake Locker, it cost the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft a big chunk of change. His 4-for-20 performance with a pair of interceptions -- one was returned for a touchdown -- started the beginning of a disappointing season for Locker.

He'll be ready to have a different result this time around. But after being burnt for more than 300 yards by Oklahoma's Landry Jones in the Big 12 Championship, Bo Pelini's defense will be ready to make sure Locker has similar results to the September meeting. After all, they're not short on NFL talent themselves. Cornerbacks Alfonzo Dennard and Prince Amukamara will be playing at the next level, and Amukamara could be a top five pick in 2011.

The Huskers came close to a BCS bid for the second consecutive season, but a midseason injury to Martinez brought Nebraska's offense back down to earth. He'll have plenty of time to heal for this one, and the freshman might look like his early-season self if separate injuries to both feet are nonfactors by late December.


Washington take by Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller: Washington used a late surge to earn bowl eligibility in a season that was all over the place in terms of emotions.

Over the first half of the season, the Huskies alternated winning and losing, disappointment and satisfaction. A poor performance at BYU was followed by a strong effort versus Syracuse. The Huskies then were blown out by Nebraska, only to beat USC in their next game. A loss to Arizona State was followed by a double-overtime win over Oregon State. That inconsistency was frustrating, but not as frustrating as what followed: three consecutive blowout defeats to Arizona, Stanford and Oregon. It was clear the Huskies weren't ready for primetime.

The chief problem was the play of both lines -- both were frequently overwhelmed. While Locker was suffering through an injury-riddled, disappointing season, the Huskies were mostly solid on offense. The defense was just terrible.

But then the schedule softened up, and the Huskies ran off three consecutive wins to reach 6-6 and earn bowl eligibility. The big question is: Are they improved enough to stay on the field with Nebraska, which crushed them on Sept. 18? Washington wants redemption for that loss, but it might not be able to keep up with the Cornhuskers.

NU secondary ready to see Jones again

December, 1, 2010
12/01/10
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Nebraska's secondary won't see the same Landry Jones on Saturday, but Jones won't see the same Nebraska secondary, either.

"Last year when we played him, he was a young quarterback just learning the system and everything," defensive back DeJon Gomes said. "One of the biggest things we took away from that game is he’s a competitor and he’s going to do the best he can to get his team into a situation to win."

And one more thing.

[+] EnlargePrince Amukamara
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesPrince Amukamara and the Nebraska secondary have had success against Oklahoma in the past.
"He also likes throwing the ball. That’s good for our secondary," Gomes said.

No kidding. Jones has racked up 527 pass attempts in 2010, in part because of Oklahoma's hurry-up offense and in part because he's found more success as a sophomore passer.

No quarterback in the Big 12 has more than 500, and Dominique Davis at East Carolina is the only quarterback in America with more attempts than Oklahoma's Jones.

The Blackshirts picked off Jones five times in Lincoln in 2009 -- including three by departed safety Matt O'Hanlon -- though Huskers coach Bo Pelini tossed a wet blanket on talk of that game having any relevance over a year later.

"It's a different time, different place, different offense, new challenges," Pelini said. "The furthest thing from my mind is what happened in that game last year."

What does matter is what's happened this year. Nebraska has put together the No. 2 pass defense in the country, allowing just 144 yards a game. Jones averages almost 330 a game, good for No. 3 nationally.

"It’s going to be an exciting game, especially with them having one of the top offenses in the country and us priding ourself on defense," Gomes said. "It’ll be a fun one to watch."

If history repeats itself, it'll be a lot more fun for Huskers fans than Oklahoma fans when it comes to passing the ball. On the way to that No. 2 ranking, the Nebraska secondary has ruined the days of a handful of good quarterbacks. A sampling:
Only Iowa State's Austen Arnaud, Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill at Texas A&M managed decent days against the secondary. Part of Weeden's success was in finding receiver Justin Blackmon, one of the nation's best, for 135 of his 283 yards and both touchdowns. Only Tannehill got a victory with his success, however moderate (19-29, 172 yards).

Jones has another of the nation's best receivers, Ryan Broyles, to throw to, but even Broyles could only manage eight catches for 74 yards in 2009, one of his lowest outputs of the season while healthy.

"They have a trigger man who can get the ball to everybody," Pelini said of Jones. "They stretch the field on you. It's a good challenge for us."

It could be an even bigger challenge for Jones.

Mailbag: Baylor's rise, UT=Yankees, odd rules

November, 5, 2010
11/05/10
3:30
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Thanks for all the questions once again this week, everybody. All good stuff.

Jack in Artesia, N.M., asks: David, what's your nominee for the "What Were You Thinking?!" moment of the year in the Big 12?

David Ubben: First things first, I know exactly one thing about Artesia, and that's that Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones hails from the town of just over 10,000. I sense a new Big 12 fan in our midst.

But to your question: How about my pick of Texas to win the Big 12 South this spring? You get used to the Longhorns' new talent a seizing the spotlight every time it's needed, but it seems like the valuable time in the spring that could have been spent developing Garrett Gilbert and his receivers in a replica of the spread attack under Colt McCoy was wasted on an attempt to develop the downhill running game that's been nothing short of a failure this year, a failure that's defined Texas' season.

What was I thinking when I picked Texas to finish five spots higher in the division than the Baylor Bears?


Mike in Wichita, Kan., asks: David could you explain to me why Missouri got the ball at the beginning of the Nebraska game and at half time? Being a Nebraska fan I dont get why they didnt get the ball.

DU: Interesting story here. I don't believe I'd ever seen that happen in a game, but it was an accident, and Bo Pelini was not happy. He explained after the game. Rather than say "defer" for the second half, one of his captains said "kick."

"For me, the day started pretty bad,” Pelini said after the win over Missouri. "Fortunately, the 24-point first quarter kind of offset my pain. That was what I was greeted with when I walked onto the sideline today was that we were going to kick off to start both halves.

"I take responsibility for that because, obviously, I didn’t give good instructions."

This game never ceases to surprise. That could have been a huge, huge mistake if the game had been tighter.


Joe in Omaha asks: Is it wrong for me to find so much joy in Texas still fighting for bowl eligibility?

DU: No, and I don't think you're alone. Texas is in a lot of ways analogous to the Yankees, especially these days. Recruiting rankings tell us they have more talent than anyone else in the country, but people in general like seeing the plucky underdog roll over the dark overlord (Baylor vs. Texas anyone?), and you're seeing a little bit of that this year. Any fan base would obviously love to have the kind of talent that Texas gets almost every year, but when fans of other teams see themselves above Texas in the rankings and standings, it feeds the self-satisfied perception that maybe they're doing things the right way, versus Texas, who isn't. This year, there's probably some truth to that.

There's no doubt that with the recruiting inertia in Austin under Mack Brown, signing a boatload of top recruits is pretty easy these days for Texas, the flagship program of one of the country's deepest recruiting bases. Getting the right kind of players, players who don't feel entitled and know they still have a lot to prove is more difficult. For all the scrapping some programs have to do, Texas can basically pick who they want. Sometimes you pick wrong, and that talent doesn't develop like you think it might. Why can't the biggest and best offensive linemen in Texas be dominant run blockers? I'm sure Mack Brown would like the the answer to that question, too. I can't speak for every lineman's high school program, but my guess is the rise of 7-on-7 (i.e., spread offenses in general across the state) in Texas has definitely had some effect on the Longhorns' run blocking struggles.

Colt McCoy was a three-star recruit. Jordan Shipley was the 18th best receiver in his class. Everyone should know it well by now: Recruiting stars don't tell the whole story.

There's no doubt this year has been humbling for everyone inside the program, but I think you'll see them rebound next year, and maybe take another look at the way they recruit -- or at least treat recruits and young players -- to avoid this from happening again.


Kyle in Columbia, Mo., asks: Is both Mizzou and Tech wearing the camo jerseys this weekend sponsoring the Wounded Warrior Project? If not, Mizzou should come out in the Beast Mode jerseys...those were sick

DU: My understanding is that only Tech will be wearing the camo jerseys. Here's a look at what they'll be playing in.

Not a terrible look, in my opinion. And yeah, Missouri's Nike Pro Combat jerseys last year were fantastic, particularly the helmets. The sheen-less domes on them and the ones Virginia Tech wore in its game against Boise State looked pretty sharp.


Joseph in Waco, Texas, asks: Is there a better basketball/football combo than Baylor in the Big 12 right now? Oh and just for fun. Art Briles or Scott Drew. Whose task was more difficult? And, whose rebuilding job is more impressive?

DU: Wow, you're absolutely right. The Bears have to be No. 1 right now if you combine the sports. Atop the Big 12 South in football, ranked No. 21. Ranked 14th and 16th in the hoops preseason polls. Nobody else is even in both polls.

As for your second question, I'll go with Briles by a landslide. One transcendent player can transform a basketball program (see: Beasley, Michael). Baylor did it with three or four really good ones. They had the offense with LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter, but when they plugged Ekpe Udoh in the paint, the Bears elevated to an elite team without a real weakness.

Football takes a whole lot more. Robert Griffin III gets the headlines, but there are plenty of great quarterbacks on bad teams (see: Locker, Jake). There's a lot more moving parts, a lot more development involved.

As for the rebuilding effort, I'd go with Drew. For all of Baylor's football failures, it never had a murder investigation on its hands, in addition to self-imposed sanctions that, if you remember, prevented Baylor from playing nonconference games in the 2005-06 season.

Big 12 Stock Watch: Week 4

September, 22, 2010
9/22/10
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Here are a few things on the rise, and a few other things that have been on the down low to start the season.

We'll start with a changing of the guard as the Big 12's resident sack master.

Rising: Brian Duncan

The Texas Tech linebacker is still tied for the national sack lead after notching five in three games. Duncan did not record a single sack in all of 2009.

Falling: Von Miller

The Texas A&M linebacker led the nation in sacks last season with 17. But through three games, he's battled an ankle injury and has just six tackles. Through three games last year, Miller had eight sacks.

Rising: Receptions

Four players in the Big 12 rank among the national top 7, and all have at least 24 catches in three games. Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles leads the group with 31 catches, ahead of Missouri's T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew, who have 30 and 29 catches, respectively. Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon has 24 catches, but is the nation's leader in receiving yards (431) and touchdowns (8). Texas Tech's Lyle Leong has the second-most touchdown receptions, with six.

Falling: Oklahoma State passing records

The Cowboys broke single-game records for passing yards (574) and touchdowns (8) last week, headlined by Brandon Weeden's six touchdowns and more than 400 yards. Weeden, a junior, leads the nation in touchdown passes and is second to only Ryan Mallett in yardage, with 975 yards. If he keeps at this pace, he could come close to his coach's career record in just two seasons. Mike Gundy holds the career passing yardage lead at 7,997 yards and 49 touchdowns.

Rising: Secondaries

Nebraska may have single-handedly cost Jake Locker millions of dollars over the weekend, and five Big 12 teams (Kansas State, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma) rank in the top 14 in passes defended. The top three national leaders in pass breakups (Texas Tech's Jarvis Phillips, Kansas State's Terrance Sweeney and Oklahoma's Jamell Fleming) are all from the Big 12. Phillips is also the national leader in interceptions, with four, and returned one for a touchdown against Texas.

Nebraska, Texas Tech and Missouri all rank in the national top five in interceptions.

Falling: Prudent decisions and precision passing

Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson's four third-quarter interceptions against Florida International last week were more than 82 other FBS quarterbacks have thrown all season.

Big 12 predictions: Week 3

September, 16, 2010
9/16/10
9:00
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I'm headed to Lubbock this weekend for the second time in three weeks for Texas Tech's game against the Longhorns.

Here's how I see Week 3 shaking out:

Last week: 11-1 (.916)

Overall: 22-2 (.916)

FRIDAY

Southern Miss 20, Kansas 17 : I've still got not idea what to expect from the Jayhawks, but they'll find things a little bit harder on the road with a freshman quarterback and running back. The defense continues to play well.

SATURDAY

Kansas State 31, Iowa State 24: This one's pretty simple. Iowa State's defensive line hasn't shown much so far this year and a broken leg to starting middle linebacker Matt Tau'fo'ou doesn't sound like something that'll help them have their best performance against the best running game they've faced so far.

No. 8 Nebraska 24, Washington 13: Jake Locker is quite good. He won't look like it on Saturday, between getting chased around by Pierre Allen and Jared Crick and trying to fit his passes around cornerback Prince Amukamara and safety DeJon Gomes. Taylor Martinez struggles in the passing game, but tops 100 yards rushing again and the Blackshirts play well enough to win.

No. 7 Oklahoma 41, Air Force 20: The Sooners haven't had to leave home yet, but they'd be able to beat Air Force about anywhere. The Falcons are a good team, just not good enough to win in Norman. The triple option looks good early, but Oklahoma keys in on it for the final three quarters.


Colorado 27, Hawaii 20: For now, I'll take Tyler Hansen at his word and buy that Colorado isn't the team that showed up at Berkeley. The Buffaloes don't do it pretty, but make enough plays to win. If Colorado can't win this one, they might not win many more the rest of the season.

No. 4 TCU 34, Baylor 24: The 21-point spread for this game just seems too high. I wouldn't be surprised if Baylor pulled the upset, but TCU has superior talent and depth. If Robert Griffin gets loose early, he'll at the very least make it close at the end.

Missouri 47, San Diego State 17: Don't worry about style points, Tigers. Win convincingly against a team in the bottom half of the Mountain West, post a nice score, and the pollsters will reward you as others lose. Ryan Lindley's 300-yard games come to an end at Faurot Field.

Oklahoma State 51, Tulsa 34: This thing could turn into a shootout like last week, but Oklahoma State's defense would appreciate getting put into simpler situations after last week's turnovers helped keep Troy in the game.

Texas A&M 51, Florida International 10: Scrimmage No. 3 is over by halftime. The Aggies get 12 days off before it gets real.

No. 6 Texas 28, Texas Tech 24: I'll explain my pick in detail in a video later today.

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