Big 12: Jake Sharp

Lunch links: Bizarre Big 12 history

July, 7, 2011
7/07/11
12:00
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Back in Dallas (for a bit, anyway) and the blog is back to full speed. Did you miss me?

Lunch links: Behind the scenes of draft prep

January, 19, 2011
1/19/11
12:30
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Yo, who's the grillmaster, dog?

Lunch links: Longhorns coach ambitious

January, 7, 2011
1/07/11
12:00
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Would you mind if I listen to my book on tape? I'm kind of a bookworm. It's the novelization of the movie "Precious" based on the book "Push" by Sapphire.

Surprises on Kansas' new depth chart

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
3:00
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Coach Turner Gill released his first depth chart, and though it's early, he's made good on his promise to give players a head start. Here's a few thoughts:

  • Toben Opurum? Nowhere to be found. He was banged up this spring and wasn't full available, but thinking back on my trip this spring, I can't say I'm shocked to see senior Angus Quigley and freshman DeShaun Sands above him. I went to Lawrence with every intention of writing about Opurum, but I asked Gill about how Opurum would fit into the new offense, and if he felt comfortable relying on him as a power runner for carries to help break in a new quarterback. His answer on April 12: "He’s in the hunt. He’s in there at this point. He’s definitely in the hunt. He’s gotten a little banged up, but it's good to see we have some competition at the position. There is no clear-cut guy, but there’s nothing clear cut at any position at this point in time, at running back or wherever. We’re going to keep this thing competitive. We do have some competitiveness at the running back spot and a lot of different areas." Opurum was the team's leading rusher from a season ago and even with senior Jake Sharp on the team, he's still my bet to lead the team in rushing again, but look for plenty of Jayhawks running backs to get touches this season, including incoming freshman Brandon Bourbon.
  • Kale Pick and Jordan Webb are listed as co-No.1 quarterbacks with, for what it's worth, Pick's name is listed first. That might be alphabetical or it might be that Pick has a slight edge, but they're the only two players sharing a position on the chart. That's a little surprising, but my guess is Gill is spurning the "Embrace Leader Position" button over the summer in favor of the "Spur Improvement Via Competition" button. Both good options, but Gill talked about competition at positions a lot all spring. It doesn't look like that's changing.
  • The team's leading tackler from 2009, linebacker Drew Dudley, is listed as a second-teamer, but he was playing through a shoulder injury throughout the entire spring. He was able to participate in pass skeleton drills and other team work, but was held out of contact. My guess is he'll be right back at starter once he's healthy next fall. Junior Steven Johnson is starting at strongside linebacker, senior Justin Springer is starting at middle linebacker and sophomore Huldon Tharp is starting at weakside linebacker. Defensive coordinator Carl Torbush sees linebacker as one of his more surprising positions in terms of depth, so look for at least a couple more guys to slide into the rotation like junior Chea Peterman, who isn't listed on the depth chart.
  • Freshman Christian Matthews began the spring as a quarterback, but moved to receiver late in the 15 workouts. His performance was good enough to earn him a second-team receiver nod. That's pretty impressive, but he did make a nice game-winning catch in the spring game.
  • Junior fullback Steven Foster is behind Justin Puthoff on the chart. Foster came to Kansas as the nation's No. 4 fullback. Puthoff is a walk-on still lacking a headshot. Not exactly an endorsement of Foster's skills, but Gill isn't kidding around when he says everyone got a fresh start. We'll find out in the fall if Puthoff was that impressive, or if Gill just wanted Foster to have to stare at that all summer.

Kansas spring wrap

May, 6, 2010
5/06/10
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2009 overall record: 5-7

2009 conference record: 1-7

Returning starters: Offense (7), Defense (7) P/K (2)

Top returners: RB Toben Opurum, OL Brad Thorson, OL Jeremiah Hatch, LB Drew Dudley, WR Johnathan Wilson, LB Huldon Tharp, DE Jake Laptad

Key losses: WR Dezmon Briscoe, QB Todd Reesing, WR Kerry Meier, S Darrell Stuckey, RB Jake Sharp, S Justin Thornton, Coach Mark Mangino

2009 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Toben Opurum* (554 yards)

Passing: Todd Reesing (3,616 yards)

Receiving: Dezmon Briscoe (1,337 yards)

Tackles: Darrell Stuckey (93)

Sacks: Jake Laptad* (6.5)

Interceptions: Ryan Murphy* (2)

Three spring answers

1. This is how we do things. Coach Turner Gill set the tone for his program early, speaking out about his curse-free zone at practices and other team functions. That goes for coaches and players. Practices are slightly uptempo, and Gill gave each position a fresh start. Everyone wanted to know how Gill would run his program when spring began, and he gave a good look in his first 15 practices.

2. Pick leads the way. Kale Pick was the only one of Kansas’ six quarterbacks with past experience and looked like the front-runner to win the job. He and Jordan Webb emerged as the front-runners in the final week of practice before Pick took a firm hold of the job with his performance in the spring game. He threw a pair of touchdowns, including a game-winner to Christian Matthews—who he also beat out for the job.

3. Linebackers ready to play. Kansas entered the spring with way more questions on defense than offense. The linebackers answered those early on. Defensive coordinator Carl Torbush feels like he has six or seven linebackers ready to see action in the Big 12, led by Drew Dudley, the Jayhawks leading returning tackler.

Three fall questions

1. Can Gill compete in the Big 12? Gill accomplished a remarkable turnaround at Buffalo, but Kansas isn’t looking to rebuild and get back to winning eight games, Gill’s previous career high for wins in a season. Gill hasn’t competed in the Big 12 since coaching Nebraska’s wide receivers in 2004. Kansas likely won’t compete for any serious titles in 2010, but can he take a step toward doing it in the future?

2. Are the wide receivers ready? Pick is replacing record-holding quarterback Todd Reesing, but he won’t have two NFL draft picks, Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier catching his passes. In their place, senior Johnathan Wilson and sophomore Bradley McDougald. McDougald has moved outside, but both will be counted on for major production this season.

3. Can Kansas find a defense? The Jayhawks finished 2009 on a seven-game losing streak, finishing at 1-7 in conference. During that span, they gave up an average of almost 36 points per game. With no major defensive stars taking the field this season, can Kansas find playmakers and make that number shrink? If they don’t, year one of the Turner Gill era won’t be much fun.

Saturday means spring practice in Lawrence

March, 25, 2010
3/25/10
4:30
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Kansas will begin spring practice on Saturday, officially bringing the Big 12's second new coach onto the practice field.

Turner Gill can finally get a closer look at the players he'll rely on to replace the offensive stars the Jayhawks lost from 2009.

Fifteen starters return, but among those lost are quarterback Todd Reesing, receivers Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier, and running back Jake Sharp. Safety Darrell Stuckey's departure also leaves a hole in the secondary Gill will have to replace.

Junior college quarterback Quinn Mecham has enrolled early and will compete with Kale Pick to replace Reesing. Whoever wins the job could have the advantage of playing behind an offensive line that returns all five starters.

Headlining that group is tackle Tanner Hawkinson, who was a Freshman All-American in 2009, as well as being named All-Big 12 honorable mention.

They'll be eager to improve on a poor performance in 2009. Kansas allowed 32 sacks last season, second most in the Big 12, and Jayhawks running backs averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, tied for ninth in the conference. In conference games, that number dropped to just 2.4 yards per carry, the second worst in the conference.

But the entire team will be ready to erase memories of a disappointing end to a season that began with promise. The Jayhawks won their first five games and reached No. 15 in the ESPN/USA Today poll before losing their final seven games and finishing last in the Big 12 North.

Dating back to Mark Gottfried in 1982, no Kansas head coach has had a winning record in his first season. Gill's opportunity at changing that begins this weekend.

Lunch links: Ex-OU LB ends silence on ruling

March, 10, 2010
3/10/10
12:30
PM ET

Big 12 North breakdown: Nebraska tough to unseat

March, 5, 2010
3/05/10
8:00
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Some of you have asked for it, and since it makes sense to do it early on, I’ll be breaking down the Big 12 over the next couple of days. Today, I’ll give my take on the North and South races. Tomorrow, I’ll put them together for my own pre-spring power rankings.

Update: My pre-spring power rankings will go up later this afternoon.

Here's how I see the North shaking out next fall:

1. Nebraska
The Huskers will do without the services of the House of Spears, but the Pelini brothers’ defense was hardly built around one player. Replacing linebacker Phillip Dillard and safeties Matt O’Hanlon and Larry Asante won’t be easy, but the Nebraska defense should still be stout.

As for the offense, last season’s home loss to Iowa State in which the Huskers had more turnovers (8) than points (7) would suggest the only way to go is up.

To repeat in the North, the Huskers must defend Memorial Stadium, where they’ll get to face Missouri and Texas.

2. Missouri
Missouri returns 18 starters, including junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who threw for 3,593 yards and 24 touchdowns as a sophomore.

He’ll need support from still-maturing senior corners Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland, who gave up 427 yards passing to Baylor freshman quarterback Nick Florence (almost 200 more yards than he had in any other game last season) in an ugly home loss to the Bears, negating Gabbert’s career high of 468 yards.

For Missouri, taking back the North will mean surviving a difficult early conference schedule, which opens with Colorado but then forces the Tigers to play at Texas A&M before hosting Oklahoma. The next week, they travel to Lincoln for another showdown with Nebraska that would give the winner the inside track at a North title.

3. Kansas State
The Wildcats busted in their bowl-or-bust game against Nebraska to close out last season, but will try and rebound with a run at the North title. They’ll miss Brandon Banks’ kick returns, but Daniel Thomas (1,265 yards in 2009) wouldn’t mind getting his number called almost 250 times again like he did last season. For Kansas State, the earlier the uncertainty ends at quarterback, the better. Three candidates enter spring with a chance to start.

4. Kansas
The personnel behind Kansas’ missing offensive firepower last season is gone. Kansas standouts QB Todd Reesing, receivers Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier and running back Jake Sharp won’t return, and new coach Turner Gill will try to patch back together a team that finished last season on a seven-game losing streak after winning its conference opener against Iowa State.

Sophomore running back Toben Opurum provides a nice foundation for Gill’s new offense after playing well when Sharp sat out or was slowed with injuries.

5. Iowa State
Paul Rhoads’ team showed progress in 2009, finishing the season with a win over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl for the program’s first winning season since 2005. He’ll try to improve on that with only four defensive starters returning this season.

Quarterback Austen Arnaud and running back Alexander Robinson return, but on the Cyclones’ schedule, so do Oklahoma and Texas. They’ll also face Utah, Iowa and Northern Illinois in nonconference games. Returning to a bowl for a second consecutive season won’t be easy.

6. Colorado
The Buffaloes didn’t earn much respect around the conference after giving up 54 points to Toledo in an early-season loss in 2009. They finished with three close losses at Iowa State and Oklahoma State before finishing the season with a home loss to North champ Nebraska.

If Colorado wants to dig itself out of the North basement, it’ll need Tyler Hansen to play like he did in the first half of a win over Kansas in Hansen’s first start, when the Buffaloes charged to a 24-3 second-quarter lead behind two Hansen touchdowns.

Mailbag: Scott still could help Buffaloes

February, 9, 2010
2/09/10
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If it’s Tuesday, it must be a day for a reader’s mailbag.

Here are some of the better offerings from the last several days.

Victor Romero from Boulder, Colo., writes: Hey Tim, If Darrell Scott were to come back to the Buffs, I think the Boulder community would rejoice and might actually soften its "Fire Dan Hawkins" stance a little bit, as it could be seen as Hawk getting Scott into the program twice.

I still think the kid could be a special back, and if he's eligible next season should get 15-20 carries per game. The fact that he wasn't is the biggest reason he wanted to transfer. I think he sees Demetrius Sumler's transfer as the opportunity to get those carries that Hawkins kept from him. What do you think?

Tim Griffin: Victor, you raise a very interesting point. Obviously Rodney “Speedy” Stewart will be the Buffaloes’ No. 1 back coming into the season. But there are still a lot of carries for another back. Scott averaged 7. 9 carries in 2008 as a freshman and saw those numbers drop to 4.6 carries per game in an injury-riddled 2009 before he quit the team.

I agree that Scott could be a productive back if he’s healthy and used correctly. But I don’t see him as a player who could withstand 25 to 30 carries per game.

It will be interesting to see if he returns to the Colorado program. There has been limited interest from other schools. That might lead me to believe that the best place for him is Colorado -- if he and Hawkins can put their differences behind them.


Brad Williamson of Killeen, Texas, writes: Tim, I claim to not get confused about things, but when I do become confused, I make it a point to do my research to find the answer myself. However, there have been a few blog postings you've put on here that I will freely admit I am at a loss on. You have mentioned how Eric Morris and Graham Harrell have been hired by Houston and (I believe) Oklahoma State as assistant coaches.

However, both of those players played last year and are currently still on the roster for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL. I bleed Red and Black and like to follow the pro careers of former Tech players, but I was wondering if you know how this works. Are both players still playing for Saskatchewan and on staff with the schools, or have they given up their roster spots? I know most people don't care about the CFL, but I was just curious, and it gives me an opportunity to type Saskatchewan a few times. Thanks for your blog!

Tim Griffin: Both Morris and Harrell have given up their professional football careers to start coaching careers with Oklahoma State and Houston.

Both had a chance to play a little in the CFL, but have decided that starting a coaching career is their best path to future employment. I think it's a wise choice for Morris and Harrell.

And I know all about Saskatchewan and Taylor Field. I was in Regina on a windy day back in 1995 when the Baltimore Stallions became the only American team to win the Grey Cup by beating Doug Flutie and the Calgary Stampeders. It remains one of the most vivid memories of my reporting career.


Jon from Topeka, Kan., writes: Do you see more kids signing up and playing soccer in Nebraska than ever before, because of Ndamukong Suh? And where do you think Neb will finish out next season? Can they be a top 5 team?

Tim Griffin: Maybe those kids have seen the value of playing soccer because of Suh, or maybe the multipurpose kicking talents Alex Henery developed before beginning his football career. Both are role models for what soccer players can later accomplish if they decide to play football.

And as far as Nebraska next season, I think the Cornhuskers will be the team to beat in the Big 12 North, but top five might be a little optimistic. I’ll say they will be a top 12-15 team and finish up with a 10-2 record. That should be good enough to get them back in the Big 12 championship game for a second straight season.


Josh Saunders from Tampa, Fla., writes: Tim, in last week’s mailbag, you stated that "Nebraska desperately needs those big-time receivers to consistently challenge Texas and Oklahoma." Correct me if I'm wrong, but Nebraska beat Oklahoma and had Texas beat until the officials (rightly or wrongly) put one second back on the clock. And they did this with an injury-plagued offense that was the worst statistically at NU in almost 40 years. What gives?

Tim Griffin: I hope you noticed that the key word in my answer is “consistently.” Before last season’s victory in Lincoln, the Sooners had won the last four games in the Nebraska series. Texas’ victory in the 2009 Big 12 championship game is the Longhorns’ fifth straight against Nebraska. During the Big 12 era, Texas has won eight of its last nine games against the Cornhuskers with the only loss coming in the 1999 Big 12 title game.

I still think the Cornhuskers need more offensive firepower to compete against the very best teams in the Big 12 -- which in the last decade has been Texas and Oklahoma. Both those teams have the offensive pop to make big plays on a consistent basis. The Cornhuskers need a couple of playmakers to get closer to both of them. That’s still the biggest deficiency I see in Nebraska as the Cornhuskers prepare for the 2010 season.


Ryan S. Williams of Keller, Texas, writes: Hey Tim, thanks for the updates in this college football downtime. I'm a longtime Kansas fan and I'm hoping you could give your opinion on the KU running game this upcoming season. Do you think Toben Opurum will be the lead back with a few doses of Brandon Bourbon or do you think it will be a legitimate two-back system?

Personally I feel like KU should use a lot more of a ground game this season. Thanks for your input and keep it coming.

Tim Griffin: I look for the Jayhawks to run more of a balanced offense this season, along the lines of the one that Chuck Long ran when he was at Oklahoma and at San Diego State. In both situations, Long tried to run the ball to set up the pass.

I know Jake Sharp will be gone from next season’s team, but the Jayhawks return all five starting offensive linemen and their starting tight end. I think a running game also would relieve some of the pressure on the Kansas quarterback -- whether it’s Kale Pick or Quinn Mecham -- as they try to get acclimated to running Long’s offense.

Look for Opurum to get the first shot at becoming the Jayhawks’ featured back. But it wouldn’t surprise me to see Bourbon get more and more carries as the season progresses.

Thanks again for the consistently good questions. I appreciate them all.

Weatherspoon's critical error costs Tigers

November, 28, 2009
11/28/09
6:07
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Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has earned a legacy as one of the greatest players in the history of his school.

But he just made a critical mistake that helped Kansas score a touchdown instead of a field goal, boosting the Jayhawks' lead to 28-19.

Missouri appeared to have forced Kansas to settle for a 29-yard field goal. But Weatherspoon's personal foul enabled the drive to stay alive with an automatic first down.

Todd Reesing and Kerry Meier hooked up on a 2-yard TD pass three plays later to extend the Jayhawks' lead to nine points.

Meier has accounted for 10 catches already, while Dezmon Briscoe has nine receptions and Jake Sharp has seven. That trio has accounted for most of Kansas' air-heavy offensive attack.

What we learned in the Big 12, Week 11

November, 15, 2009
11/15/09
12:09
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Here are some items that struck me while watching Big 12 games on Saturday.

Iowa State’s defensive resiliency has been stunning: Coach Paul Rhoads has helped the Cyclones respond after being gashed for 69 points in back-to-back losses to Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. The Cyclones rebounded to limit Colorado to its season-low in points and put them into bowl eligibility for the first time since 2005. ISU limited the sputtering Buffaloes to three points on three trips inside the 10-yard line. The Cyclones might not have talent to match many Big 12 teams, but they play exceedingly hard. With a team coached by Rhoads, you wouldn’t expect anything else.

Where do the Jayhawks go from here? Todd Reesing talked after the game Saturday about being part of “the transformation of Kansas football.” Hopefully for the Jayhawks, their struggles during his senior season won’t be a step back to the Kansas program before he arrived. But it’s not a good sign. The Jayhawks were a preseason North favorite. Instead, they have dropped five-straight games in a season where the North is clearly down from previous levels. And they have to win against either surging Texas or improving Missouri simply to make a bowl appearance. Mark Mangino will have his work cut out to keep the program moving forward -- particularly after the loss of key players of the transformation like Reesing, Kerry Meier, Jake Sharp and Darrell Stuckey after this season.

"Sooner Magic" appears to be turning around. Don't look now but Oklahoma’s blowout home victory over Texas A&M might have provided the Sooners with confidence heading into their final two games and could earn them the conference’s No. 2 bowl bid. With Texas Tech quarterback Steven Sheffield struggling with an obvious foot injury in the second half of the Red Raiders’ loss to Oklahoma State, the Red Raiders don’t look as daunting heading into Saturday’s game in Lubbock. And if Oklahoma can win that game, their chances will improve against Oklahoma State in the Bedlam Game the following week at home with Zac Robinson dinged up with an apparent concussion. Maybe we shouldn’t count Bob Stoops’ team out quickly with a schedule that appears to be providing some good fortune after so much bad luck earlier in the season.

Zac Robinson's health will determine Oklahoma State's BCS hopes: The biggest reason for Oklahoma State’s second-half transformation against Texas Tech was the stellar play of Robinson, who ran without abandon behind a beefy offensive line. It’s what the Cowboys need to be successful and conceivably could catapult them into the first BCS bowl appearance in school history. Losses by teams in front of them like USC, Arizona, Houston, Utah and Miami will provide the Cowboys with a chance to improve in the polls later Sunday. But in order to finish the season strong with hopes for that elusive BCS berth, Robinson has to be recovered from his concussion and productive for the Cowboys’ season-ending games against Colorado and Oklahoma.

Texas’ defense could face bigger-than-expected tests during the next two weeks: Fiery Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp was upset about his team allowing two window-dressing touchdowns against Baylor. But the Longhorns played exceptionally well early against the Bears -- particularly considering starting middle linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy was held out with a knee injury. The Longhorns lead the nation in rushing defense and total defense. They are the nation’s only team to rank in the top seven in total defense, rush defense, pass efficiency defense, scoring defense and turnover margin in the NCAA’s most recent statistics. And they will have a good chance to fine-tune for the Big 12 championship game and beyond when facing Kansas and Texas A&M in the next two weeks.

Remember, the Longhorns were carved up for 420 passing yards and three touchdowns by Texas Tech’s Taylor Potts. They have competed against injury-weakened offenses from Oklahoma and Oklahoma State earlier in the season and have faced backup quarterbacks the last two weeks against UCF and Baylor. Reesing and Jerrod Johnson will provide them with a beneficial challenge in their last two regular-season games.

KSU takes improbable 10-7 halftime lead

November, 7, 2009
11/07/09
2:20
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Grant Gregory struggled much of the first half, but ended it on a high note.

Gregory's 31-yard touchdown pass to Lamark Brown with 20 seconds left boosted Kansas State to an improbable 10-7 halftime lead over Kansas.

Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing has struggled with turnovers in the first half, coughing the ball up twice and throwing one interception.

Even with the touchdown pass, Gregory was a pedestrian 6-for-13 passing with 55 yards in the first half.

The Wildcats have been able to move the ball consistently with tailback Daniel Thomas, who has accounted for a game-high 55 rushing yards.

Reesing appears to be hobbled with his groin injury. And leading Kansas running threat Jake Sharp was treated for a cut over his left eye that caused him to miss some of the second quarter.

I'm surprised that Kansas has still used Reesing in the running game. He just appears off in his running.

A better idea might be to emphasize the Kansas short passing game. We'll see if Mark Mangino does that in the second half.

Big 12 mailbag: How the Big 12 will shake out in 2010

October, 23, 2009
10/23/09
3:30
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

If it's Friday, it's time for a few letters from my mailbag.

Here are some of the best from this week.

Travis Broyles from Austin, Texas, writes: Big fan of your blog Tim. I understand the outcome of this season is still foggy, but I figure it might be a little fun to look ahead from this year. I'm curious to hear about how you think the Big 12 standings would look at the end of NEXT year. Of course, assume players who you feel will enter the draft will get drafted. Do you see a stand-out in Garrett Gilbert lead Texas to a conference championnship game, or the new upcoming of Sam Bradford, or maybe if Colorado or A&M are rising to power? I heard that Oklahoma will lose quite a few of their O-line again this year, and can't imagine their line getting much worse. Not to mention a potentially large void on the D-line and linebackers' position. So how will you rank them?

Tim Griffin: That’s an interesting question. I think Texas and Oklahoma will remain as the two most solid South contenders, although the Longhorns will lose a lot with Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley, Chris Hall and Roddrick Muckelroy all leaving. The Sooners will have Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray all back, so they should have some firepower. But their linebacking corps will be diminished and Gerald McCoy is a likely defection to the NFL draft. With both Texas Tech starting quarterbacks returning, I think the Red Raiders should be better and could challenge for the division. Texas A&M will be better too after having all those freshmen playing this year. Baylor should have Robert Griffin back, but they lose both Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake. And the biggest losses are at Oklahoma State, where Mike Gundy might have trouble keeping his team out of the cellar.

In the North, I like Nebraska, although I will be curious to watch how their quarterback plays down the stretch this year before I commit to it. But the return of key skill-position players will Roy Helu Jr. and Mike McNeill will help. Colorado returns most of their key players and should be up for a challenge along with Missouri, which will improve in its second season with Blaine Gabbert in control. I also look for improvement from Iowa State, which has played hard for Paul Rhoads in his first season and will have Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson back for 2010. Kansas is a question mark as they will lose Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier and Jake Sharp. The Jayhawks’ defense loses only Darrell Stuckey among its key contributors and should be better with more experience, but it will be a different kind of Kansas team than we’ve seen the last couple of years. Most importantly, they won't have to play Texas and Oklahoma next season. Kansas State will lose Grant Gregory, Brandon Banks and Jeff Fitzgerald among its key players and may be challenged to stay out of the basement.

So I would guess that Texas would be a slight favorite over Texas Tech and Oklahoma in the South. In the North, I’ll take Nebraska, followed closely by Colorado and Missouri.


Dan R. Van Dyke of Holdrege, Neb., writes: What was your point about Harrison Beck? According to the article he transferred from North Carolina State. No mention of being a Nebraska transfer.The kid got what he wanted. Starting quarterback. He did the same thing in high school, transferred until he got the quarterback job.A slow sports news day for you?? What relevance does Harrison Beck have for Nebraska or Nebraska have for Harrison Beck.I think both parties have moved on to the next day month, year. How long ago was Harrison Beck relevant to a Nebraska football program, if he ever was relevant in the first place?

Tim Griffin: The story that mentioned him as the starting quarterback for North Alabama under Terry Bowden was interesting. The fact his team is No. 1 in the nation while the Cornhuskers are sorting through a difficult quarterback situation is intriguing to me. And I’m sure that many Big 12 and Nebraska fans are interested in Beck and where he ended up, especially after all the ballyhoo of his recruitment by Bill Callahan.


John Vail from Denver writes: I have been watching OU football since I was a freshman there in '67 and I don't think your conclusions are too good. Colorado will beat Nebraska and then Oklahoma will lose to the Cornhuskers? Not likely. Keep this e-mail until the end of the season. Oklahoma will win all the rest of its games. Tech will be the only close game for the Sooners.

Tim Griffin: John, we’ve just saved it for posterity. I still think the Sooners could struggle winning all three of their road games against Texas Tech, Kansas and Nebraska without Sam Bradford. We’ll see how they play over the next few weeks. Bob Stoops has thrived in similar situations in the past. Let’s see what he can do this time.


Marty Murray of Dayton, Texas, writes: I saw your prediction of Texas 38, Missouri 24.I have just one question and a comment. I'm not trying to be confrontational or condescending, but how did you come up with that score? I can see UT only scoring 38 because I'm still not convinced they know why they are underperforming on offense, but I'm a little perplexed at the 24 you are giving Mizzou. The most this defense has given up this year is 24 to Tech and 10 of those points came directly off of turnovers giving Tech a very short field, and to be honest, Mizzou's offense is not even in the same zip code as Tech's offense. I'm really curious to know why you think they can score 24 points on UT's defense when OU could only muster 13 and that was primarily because of two big plays. Inquiring minds want to know! I appreciate your comments and your blog.

Tim Griffin: This will be Texas’ most difficult road game to date. I think their defense will be tested a little by Blaine Gabbert and Danario Alexander. And I think the Missouri defense might be energized by playing at home. So I’m expecting a competitive game. Add it together and it wouldn’t surprise me that the Tigers score more points against Texas, although I’m still looking for the Longhorns to score a lot more and keep their winning streak alive tomorrow night.


Bobby Klare from Lubbock, Texas, writes: Assume something crazy happens, and OSU picks up the upset against UT. After that, OSU loses to Texas Tech in a close game. Who do you think would go on to play for the Big 12 championship? It's hard to think that Texas would fall below Tech, but Tech will be coming off two big wins against ranked teams (presumably), and with the way last season turned out, it certainly seems possible. Can they advance past Texas into the championship game?

Tim Griffin: If as you say, the Big 12 South ends up in a three-way tie with all teams with one loss, it’s the same deal as last year where the final BCS standings would be used to determine the divisional participant in the title game as long as their losses among themselves. And with Texas with one season loss and Texas Tech and Oklahoma State both with two (one conference loss and another non-conference loss), I’d like the Longhorns chances to be ahead in the final ranking. Their loss would have conceivably come on Oct. 31, so it would presumably given them the month of November to finish the season strongly and boost their poll numbers after losing as you predict to OSU. I think the fact that Tech still hasn’t cracked the BCS poll makes it unlikely that it could soar past Texas and Oklahoma State in the final standings unless something really strange happens. And OSU would get a nice bounce from beating Texas, but would likely drop back when they would lose to Tech, as you mentioned.

In the end, I think Texas’ lack of a nonconference loss would keep them ahead of the other teams and result in a higher ranking.

Thanks again for all of the great letters. We’ll answer some more next week.

Second-half outlook: Kansas

October, 21, 2009
10/21/09
12:22
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Record: 5-1

Remaining schedule: Oklahoma, at Texas Tech, at Kansas State, Nebraska, at Texas, Missouri (at Kansas City)

The Jayhawks looked to be the top challenger in the North before recent defensive struggles. They barely escaped against Iowa State and fell at Colorado when turnovers and sacks caught up with them on offense. Getting running back Jake Sharp will help a struggling running game that produced minus-8 yards against Colorado and is averaging 50.5 yards per game in Big 12 play. Some kind of running game will be important to balance the productions of Todd Reesing and his deep receiving corps. Maybe it was the level of competition, but their defensive struggles really didn’t manifest themselves until they started playing conference opponents. And if that defense was challenged by Iowa State and Colorado, it doesn't bode well for when the Jayhawks will meet high-powered offensive teams like Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas over the next few weeks. Mark Mangino changed out three of his starters in the secondary last week and needs the new players to produce immediately. The key to the Jayhawks will be getting a chance at their first Big 12 title game appearance will be getting an upset or two over those North teams and beating Nebraska on Nov. 14.

Best-case scenario: The Jayhawks jump on an Oklahoma team that is still moping after its Texas loss and win the following week at Texas Tech as the Red Raiders struggle with a quarterback question. They then beat Kansas State and Nebraska and play Texas competitively in Austin, setting up a game at Arrowhead Stadium against Missouri where they can wrap up their first undisputed Big 12 title.

Worst-case scenario: The defensive problems that were apparent in the Jayhawks’ last two games continue dogging them throughout the rest of the season in a difficult finish. The Jayhawks could conceivably lose all six remaining games if those problems stretch out and the turnover bug that popped up against Colorado continues.

My prediction: Mid-level bowl. The Jayhawks will win two of their six remaining games, beating Kansas State and Nebraska. It will be enough to get them to a bowl game, but that wasn’t what Mangino was expecting after his team’s 5-0 start.

Big 12 predictions, Week 7

October, 15, 2009
10/15/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


I’m hoping for some better picks this week after going 5-1 last week.

Texas A&M stung me for the second straight week.

Here are my choices in the Big 12 this week:

Texas 31, Oklahoma 24: The Red River Rivalry will be hopping like usual. The Longhorns are coming off a disappointing offensive performance against Colorado where they did just enough before a blizzard of unconventional touchdowns put the game away. And Oklahoma will be back with Sam Bradford throwing again to a group of receivers who had the dropsies in the Sooners' victory over Baylor last week. The young Sooners receivers have to come through for them to have a chance. And they can’t allow the big special teams plays that marked last season and have given Texas an edge this season with D.J. Monroe and Jordan Shipley.

Nebraska 34, Texas Tech 17: The Red Raiders will bring their quarterback controversy into Lincoln against the resurgent Cornhuskers and their suddenly stout defense. But of greater concern for Bo Pelini is an improved offensive effort after his team’s streaky performance at Missouri. Roy Helu Jr. was banged up at the end of that game and backup Rex Burkhead is out with a foot injury. Steven Sheffield threw seven touchdown passes last week and Taylor Potts threw seven earlier in the season. The Red Raiders’ offense picked up a lift with Sheffield in charge, but will be tremendously challenged by Nebraska’s front four, keyed by emerging Heisman Trophy candidate Ndamukong Suh.

Kansas 31, Colorado 28: The Jayhawks showed a leaky defense last week against Iowa State and could get a sterner test from the Buffaloes than you might expect. The Jayhawks have the conference’s foremost pitch-and-catch trio in Todd Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier. And their offense could be even more potent and balanced if and when Jake Sharp returns to the lineup. New Colorado starting quarterback Tyler Hansen will try to pump some life into a struggling lineup that was limited to 127 yards last week by Texas. The Buffaloes should find things a little smoother against the Jayhawks, who have allowed an average of 32 points in their last two games.

Iowa State 27, Baylor 24: The winner of this game should see its bowl hopes push ahead. The Cyclones have come close in their last two games, dropping a one-point loss to Kansas State on a blocked extra point and a tight six-point defeat last week to Kansas when a potential game-winning pass slid through the hands of Darius Darks late in the game. This time, the Cyclones will take advantage of their home field against Baylor, which will decide between Nick Florence and Blake Szymanski at quarterback. Something’s got to give as the Cyclones have an 11-game Big 12 losing streak and the Bears have lost 12 straight road games. I think the Cyclones are due to win a game on their home field after their near-misses the last two weeks.

Texas A&M 34, Kansas State 21: The Aggies came close against Oklahoma State, but were undone by key defensive stops and their inability in the red zone. It should be a little easier against Kansas State, which is still reeling after its 52-point loss to Texas Tech last week. Jerrod Johnson and Uzoma Nwachukwu will be a challenge for a Kansas State pass defense that was blistered for eight touchdown passes by Texas Tech quarterbacks last week.

Oklahoma State 34, Missouri 31: The Cowboys can keep their unbeaten Big 12 record going this week, although their offensive firepower again figures to be depleted without Dez Bryant or Kendall Hunter. The Cowboys’ backups played well last week against Texas A&M and could be facing a Missouri team still reeling from its collapse against Nebraska in the rain last week. These games have always been entertaining with three of the last six going to overtime. This one should similarly be close, although I like the home team to win because of quarterback Zac Robinson.

Last week: 5-1 (83.3 percent)

Season: 43-13 (76.8 percent)

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