Big 12: James Hanna

Checking in on the Big 12 at the combine

February, 27, 2012
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The NFL combine went down over the weekend, and we had a few of our NFL folk on-site to relay the results.

Here's a look at how the notable Big 12 talents did:

Quarterbacks

Robert Griffin III, Baylor
  • 40-yard dash: 4.41 seconds (fastest among QBs)
Running backs

Terrance Ganaway, Baylor
  • 40-yard dash: 4.67 seconds

Fozzy Whittaker, Texas
  • 225-pound bench press: 20 reps (T-12 among running backs)
Receivers

Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
  • 40-yard dash: DNP
  • 225-pound bench press: 14 reps
Kendall Wright, Baylor
  • 40-yard dash: 4.61 seconds
Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
  • 225-pound bench press: 21 reps (second among receivers)
Offensive linemen

Philip Blake, Baylor
  • 40-yard dash: 5.25 seconds (11th among linemen)
Donald Stephenson, Oklahoma
  • 40-yard dash: 4.94 seconds (best among linemen)
Tight ends

James Hanna, Oklahoma
  • 40-yard dash: 4.49 seconds (best among tight ends)
  • 225-pound bench press: 24 reps (fourth among tight ends)

Defenders will take the field today and Tuesday. Here's the full schedule.

A few thoughts on these numbers:
  • I'd like to be wowed by RG3's 40 time, the fastest among QBs ever at the combine since Michael Vick, but I'm really not. Was there any doubt he'd run a time like that? Other than Vick, was any quarterback anywhere close to Griffin's speed? No. It's amazing, yes. But surprising? No. He's a freak athlete whose mind is just as sharp as his body. We haven't seen a quarterback with his combination of speed and throwing acumen. He didn't throw at the combine, but he'll do so at his pro day in Waco on March 21.
  • The bench press numbers for Blackmon (14) and Broyles (21) were eye-popping. There's lots of reasons for it: Broyles' arms are shorter and with his torn ACL, I'm sure he's worked on his upper body almost exclusively in recent months. However, Blackmon's one of the most "football strong" receivers I've ever seen. It'll be interesting to see what Broyles looks like when he comes back. All he can do now is prove to NFL teams his knee is healing.
  • A 4.61 40 time for Kendall Wright? What's that about? I would have placed him around the 4.4 range, right next to RG3. I have to think Wright ran an awful time or had some kind of ailment. He's run by a ton of DBs this year for 1,662 receiving yards, and tons of deep balls from RG3. I'm shocked to see a time that slow.

Big 12 recruiting needs in 2012

January, 24, 2012
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Signing day is coming fast. Next Wednesday, the next round of players will sign up for their respective programs and start what could be storied careers.

Here's what each team across the Big 12 needs. You'll find Texas A&M and Mizzou on the SEC blog and West Virginia on the Big East Blog.

BAYLOR

Quarterback: This one's pretty simple. Robert Griffin III is taking his talents to the NFL early. Nick Florence is waiting to take over, and the Bears have Bryce Petty behind him, but more reinforcements at quarterback are needed. Dual-threat quarterbacks, ideally.

Defensive tackle: Baylor already was one of the nation's worst teams (102nd nationally) at stopping the run. Now it'll need to replace both its interior linemen, Nicolas Jean-Baptiste and Tracy Robertson.

Offensive linemen: Baylor's offensive line, meanwhile, has been solid. It loses junior college transfer and two-year starter Robert T. Griffin, as well as All-Big 12 center Philip Blake. John Jones, a reserve guard, also has exhausted his eligibility.

IOWA STATE

Receiver: This has been a weak spot for the team for several years, and its top overall talent, Darius Reynolds, is gone. Darius Darks is, too. Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz will be the team's best weapons in 2012, but the pair of shifty slot guys will be seniors. This position needs reinforcements.

Defensive back: The DBs have been a quiet strength for ISU, especially in 2011. Cornerback Leonard Johnson and safety Ter'Ran Benton both have exhausted their eligibility, though, and defensive backs coach Bobby Elliott left for Notre Dame. You'll see plenty of new faces in the Cyclones' secondary next year.

Defensive line: Experienced starters Stephen Ruempolhamer and Jacob Lattimer are both gone, and Iowa State has struggled to stop the run consistently the past few seasons.

KANSAS

Quarterback: Kansas landed high-profile transfers Dayne Crist (Notre Dame) and Jake Heaps (BYU), but this is still a huge position of need. Last year's starter, Jordan Webb, left the team. Quinn Mecham is out of eligibility. Heaps is sitting out his NCAA-mandated year after transferring. Crist is the starter, but he badly needs a backup, especially if Brock Berglund's transfer appeal allows him to leave.

Wide receiver: Kansas lacks a big threat at this position. It needs a talent upgrade in a big way. Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay is joining the team, but he's no guarantee to a) be granted immediate eligibility or b) become an impact player.

Defensive tackle: Kansas is thin here, too. Richard Johnson, Patrick Dorsey and Michael Martinovich are gone, and Kansas couldn't stop much of anything on defense. Some push up front could help make everything look better. A late addition to the 2012 class from a junior college seems like a no-brainer. The Jayhawks need physically mature players to contribute immediately.

KANSAS STATE

Offensive line: K-State's offensive line was much better in 2011 and could be again in 2012. It needs help replacing All-Big 12 lineman Clyde Aufner, though. Starter Colten Freeze is also gone.

Defensive line: Kansas State is bringing back about as many starters as anyone in the Big 12, but the biggest losses are along the defensive line. Kick-blocking specialist (five in 2011) Ralph Guidry is gone, along with tackle Ray Kibble. Juco transfer Jordan Voelker exploded onto the scene this year, but he's gone, too.

Defensive backs: Cornerback David Garrett leaves a huge hole behind. Tysyn Hartman may not be as talented as teammate Ty Zimmerman, but his experience leaves a big hole. Zimmerman will have to mentor a younger safety in the near future.

OKLAHOMA

Receiver: The Sooners are thin here in a big way. That was obvious late in the season when Ryan Broyles' storied college career ended a few weeks early with a knee injury. The team also lost Justin McCay (transfer) to Kansas. Jaz Reynolds and Kenny Stills are the likely top two targets, but they need help.

Tight end: This position inspired a bit of panic at the end of the season. Seniors James Hanna and Trent Ratterree are gone. Austin Haywood wasn't allowed back on the team, and two more tight ends left the team for various reasons. That left the Sooners suddenly without a scholarship player at the position returning in 2012.

Offensive line: Starting tackle Donald Stephenson must be replaced, as will guard Stephen Good, who moved in and out of the starting lineup throughout his career. The Sooners bring back a lot of talent and aren't dying for depth there, but those two will leave holes. Three more offensive line starters will be seniors in 2012.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Offensive line: The Cowboys need a whole lot of help here to fill in behind young players stepping into the starting lineup. Starters Levy Adcock, Nick Martinez and Grant Garner are gone. Backup center Casey LaBrue is gone, too. Those are two All-Big 12 linemen who leave big shoes to be filled.

Receiver: Justin Blackmon surprised no one by leaving a year early, and Josh Cooper leaves with perhaps the most underrated career of any receiver in school history. In OSU's offense, there's always room for depth here. Nine receivers had at least 19 catches in 2011. Blackmon and Cooper combined for 192, though.

Defensive ends: The pass rush was solid for Oklahoma State this year, but both starters, Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones, are gone. Replacing both is a necessity.

TEXAS

Receiver: Texas lacks a true game-changer at the position, though Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis may develop into that role in 2012. Former blue-chip recruit Darius White left for Missouri, too.

Quarterback: David Ash and Case McCoy didn't show a ton of potential at quarterback this year, though Ash may grow with an offseason to prepare as starter. Garrett Gilbert got a big chunk of the work in the spring, summer 7-on-7 and fall preseason camp. Even if Ash does grow, the Longhorns need reinforcements at the position.

Linebacker: Two senior impact players are gone. Texas is left trying to replace Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson, though Jordan Hicks may mature into a star in 2012.

TCU

Offensive line: TCU's offensive line is headed for some major turnover. OT Robert Deck, OG Kyle Dooley and OG Spencer Thompson are gone. Two more starters, OG Blaize Foltz and C James Fry, will be seniors in 2012.

Defensive linemen: TCU isn't losing a lot at this spot, but Ross Forrest and D.J. Yendrey will be seniors in 2012. The Horned Frogs would be well-served to prepare, and offer some depth next year.

Specialists: TCU will have to break in a pair of new starters on special teams next season. Kicker Ross Evans and punter Anson Kelton have exhausted their eligibility.

TEXAS TECH

Receiver: The Red Raiders' offense requires a lot of depth here. Tramain Swindall is the only loss at the position, but three more (Alex Torres, Cornelius Douglas, Darrin Moore) will be seniors. Douglas moved to cornerback this year after the team was racked with injury, but we'll see whether he moves back this offseason.

Offensive line: Tech has a huge need here. Four players won't be returning in 2012. Lonnie Edwards, Mickey Okafor and center Justin Keown must be replaced.

Defensive linemen: Tech's Donald Langley and Scott Smith are both out of eligibility, and juco transfer Leon Mackey will be a senior.

ESPN.com's All-Underrated Big 12 team

December, 13, 2011
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We unveiled our All-Big 12 team last week with lots of talent.

Time for a new take, with a little help from the Big Ten Blog: The All-Underrated team.

My criteria: The conference's most underrated player at each position. This is, of course, subjective. This isn't for the second-best player at each position. It's for the player who doesn't get enough respect. The only rule: He can't be on my All-Big 12 team.

Here goes:

OFFENSE

QB: James Franklin, Missouri
RB: Christine Michael, Texas A&M
RB: John Hubert, Kansas State
FB: Braden Wilson, Kansas State
WR: Ryan Swope, Texas A&M
WR: Tevin Reese, Baylor
WR: Josh Cooper, Oklahoma State
TE: James Hanna, Oklahoma
OL: Clyde Aufner, Kansas State
OL: Philip Blake, Baylor
OL: Austin Wuebbels, Missouri
OL: David Snow, Texas
OL: Lonnie Edwards, Texas Tech

DEFENSE

DE: Toben Opurum, Kansas
DT: Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, Baylor
DE: Meshak Williams, Kansas State
DE: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
LB: Steven Johnson, Kansas
LB: Elliot Coffey, Baylor
LB: Alex Elkins, Oklahoma State
CB: David Garrett, Kansas State
CB: Leonard Johnson, Iowa State
S: Terrance Bullitt, Texas Tech
S: Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State

SPECIALISTS

P: Trey Barrow, Missouri
PK: Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma
PR/KR: Jarvis West, Iowa State

Coach: Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

Landry Jones pressured, not sharp early

December, 3, 2011
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma State didn't come after Sooners quarterback Landry Jones in a big way on the opening drive. Jones, however, did have one ugly overthrow to the sidelines and forced another pass deep to James Hanna that was nearly intercepted and got Hanna drilled by Markelle Martin.

Once the Cowboys turned up the blitzes, they worked.

Jones took two huge shots and got planted into the turf and had no time to throw. The result: A three-and-out.

We're still scoreless in Stillwater, but the Cowboys defense has shown up early, and it's clear Jones has noticed. He's 2-of-7 for 11 yards, and Oklahoma State's gotten the best of him so far.

After completing his first two passes, his next five have been incomplete.

Sooners' third-quarter magic continues

November, 19, 2011
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WACO, Texas--Oklahoma's been dominant in the third quarter all season.

Two quick touchdowns against Baylor and that's continued. Oklahoma's taken a 24-17 lead in just 3:39 of game time in the second half.

Oklahoma has now outscored opponents 132-10 in the third quarter this season.

Landry Jones has been on the money so far, too. He hit James Hanna for a 54-yard gain on the half's opening drive and found Kenny Stills for a 31-yard gain on the second drive.

Those were sandwiched around a fourth-down stop in Baylor territory that ignited a huge celebration on the OU sidelines.

The Sooners looked like they missed receiver Ryan Broyles badly in the first half, which featured just one touchdown.

All of a sudden, that doesn't look like the case.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 6

October, 6, 2011
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Here's what I'm looking for in Saturday's first full slate of conference games.

1. Not what I'm eating. I suggest you do the same. Goodness. I love this weekend so, so much. I'll be at the fair on Friday and again on Saturday, and I will be consuming a whole lot of fried foods. It's all a part of one of the best weekends in college football, featuring two great teams and fans split at the 50-yard line cheering for either side. The Big 12 at its absolute best.

2. Texas' secondary vs. Oklahoma's passing game. Oklahoma will be chugging along at full strength with Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles, Kenny Stills, James Hanna, Trey Franks & Co. Texas' inexperienced corners will be charged with stopping them, and try to do it without safety Christian Scott, too. Can what may be the game's biggest underdogs make an impact?

[+] EnlargeMichael Lamothe
AP Photo/David J. PhillipThe Aggies have blown huge leads against Oklahoma State and Arkansas the past two weeks.
3. The Aggies ... after halftime. Good grief, A&M. You know the story by now. Texas A&M lost 17- and 18-point leads to Oklahoma State and Arkansas, respectively. All of a sudden, a possible top-5 ranking has turned into hanging onto a spot in the top 25. Texas A&M is better than Texas Tech. Can it prove it for 60 minutes?

4. Texas Tech ... before halftime. Tech, meanwhile, can't crack the top 25 despite being undefeated. The biggest reason has been unimpressive starts against Texas State and Kansas, in which the Jayhawks led 20-0 in the first quarter and Texas State led 10-9 at half. The Red Raiders also needed a clutch late drive to beat Nevada, 35-34. Any questions about the Red Raiders' legitimacy would be gone if they knock off A&M.

5. Some fight from Kansas. Nobody thinks the Jayhawks, 32-point underdogs at Oklahoma State, have a shot in this one. It's the largest gap facing a major-college underdog this weekend, and Kansas is taking on one of college football's best offenses with arguably the worst defense. But KU's offense is vastly underrated with a solid running game and an improving Jordan Webb at quarterback. Can it make things interesting?

6. Collin Klein's health. The big man is getting beat up lately. Can the Kansas State quarterback keep rolling through defenses? Klein has carried the ball 91 times this season, more than any ballcarrier in the Big 12.

7. Missouri's balance. Tigers quarterback James Franklin has carried the ball 72 times, a hefty number itself. Do the Tigers try to test Kansas State's much-improved front seven or look to pick apart the secondary and/or stretch the field? The easy answer is whichever is most effective, but which will that be?

8. Bounceback Bears. Baylor's offense was less than impressive late against Kansas State, but we'll see if the Bears get back to their blazing ways after being shut out in the fourth quarter of the loss.

9. Iowa State's decison-making. Steele Jantz has thrown seven interceptions, more than any quarterback in the Big 12. The Cyclones are last nationally in turnover margin. They can't continue to win putting up numbers like that. Ask Texas' 2010 team.

10. Darrin Moore? Texas A&M's secondary has given up 948 passing yards in two weeks, helping two schools break school records. That probably ends this week, but Texas Tech's big target may return after injuring his knee and ankle earlier this season. He was on an unbelievable pace before going down, and if he's back and effective, Tech's chances of springing the upset get a huge boost.

Mackey Award list features Big 12 snub

July, 7, 2011
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The Mackey Award, given annually to college football's top tight end, has released its watch list, and here are the Big 12 players who made it.
Egnew was a finalist last year, and Biere has the pieces to be a playmaker for the Jayhawks, but I smell a big snub.

Where's Oklahoma's James Hanna? You probably last saw him sprinting down the left sideline at Boone Pickens Stadium for an 82-yard touchdown that put the Big 12 South on ice for the Sooners, but he finished the year with 18 catches for 292 yards and seven touchdowns.

Biere, meanwhile, had 19 catches for 228 yards and four scores.

Hanna's seven touchdowns were tied for third-most among tight ends nationally and were two more than even Egnew, who was a finalist for the award in 2010. Of course, Egnew also caught 90 passes for 762 yards, the most among tight ends, but you see the point.

Hanna isn't excluded from winning the award if he has a breakout 2011 season, but he deserved a bit of preseason recognition.

The last Big 12 player to take home the award was Missouri's Chase Coffman in 2008. Hanna would be the first player from his school to win the award since its inception in 2000. The same is true for Biere -- the Jayhawks have never had a Mackey Award winner.

Egnew has a great shot to be a finalist once again as a huge piece to Missouri's passing game, and if the Tigers find a deep threat in their offense this year to stretch the field, he might become an even more valuable part of the offense as a safety blanket for a first-time starter, James Franklin.

John Mackey, for whom the award is named, was the second tight end ever inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, and died on Wednesday.
It was a factor in putting Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden over Landry Jones on list of the Big 12's best players of 2010, and it's been a topic of conversation since Jones took over as the Sooners' starting quarterback last season: Just how valuable are the short throws to Jones and the Sooners' offensive success?

This email nearly made it in last week's Mailbag, but I saved it for its own post and did a little homework.

Matt in Norman wrote: "In the debate between Weeden and Jones, you keep bringing up the fact that jones through lots of swing passes to murray and broyles. But you bring no statistics. We all know he did, but was it really enough to be used in your argument? At least have some statistics to compare the two. You work at ESPN, use your resources."

Well, Matt, ask and you shall receive. (See chart at right). Unfortunately, because they had a pair of untelevised games, the statistics for Oklahoma State were unavailable, but ESPN Stats and Info was able to put together Jones' statistics for throws at or behind the line of scrimmage.

We'll have to keep the Weeden/Jones comparisons set aside for now, but it's pretty obvious how important the short passing game is to the Sooners.

Jones finished with 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns on 405-of-617 passing, more attempts and more completions than any player in college football.

But like I've said, those numbers are inflated. Screens -- but really, more so swing passes -- are an extension of the run game, more reflective of receivers' blocking skill than Jones' passing skill. That's not to say Jones doesn't make throws that hit his receivers in stride to keep the play flowing, but it is to say his gaudy numbers come with plenty of help from other places.

Of Jones' total production, here's how much came on passes behind the line of scrimmage:

  • Attempts: 27.4 percent
  • Completions: 35.1 percent
  • Yards: 19.1 percent
  • Touchdowns: 13.2 percent
  • Interceptions: 16.7 percent
[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Scott Rovak/US PresswireMany of the completions by Oklahoma's Landry Jones come on short throws to his playmakers.
It was pretty clear that Oklahoma had two outstanding playmakers in DeMarco Murray and Ryan Broyles who could make a whole lot happen with the ball in their hands. Jones is clearly an excellent passer, but Oklahoma's offense was built around getting them the ball. Broyles is clearly a more viable downfield threat, but both are extremely hard to bring down in the open field.

Here's how their production broke down from passes behind or at the line of scrimmage:

Ryan Broyles

  • Receptions: 39 percent
  • Yardage: 21.3 percent
DeMarco Murray

  • Receptions: 72 percent
  • Yardage: 63 percent

That's a huge chunk, especially from Murray, whose solid rushing totals (1,253 yards) are boosted when you consider how many of his receiving yards (373 of 594) came on catches behind or at the line of scrimmage.

He's gone now, so it'll be interesting to see how Oklahoma proceeds without him. Considering how little we've seen of them, I can't speak to Oklahoma's returning running backs' receiving talents, but it's a safe bet that none of them will be as skilled as Murray.

It'll be fascinating to see this season how Jones develops as a junior without Murray. I'd expect Broyles' touches and targets to go up a bit, but Oklahoma's offense would be well-served to find another running back who can leak out of the backfield to catch those short passes. With Murray gone, the opportunity is there.

Just like last season, Jones' stat line would be the biggest benefactor.
Here's what you missed over the weekend:

Sooners down another DB

Oklahoma announced safety Marcus Trice would be transferring, which usually wouldn't cause much of a ripple considering Trice played primarily special teams and didn't crack the depth chart last season, eventually being moved to receiver.

But as a freshman, Trice worked as a backup safety and looked ready to become a major contributor again as a sophomore. He didn't, and rumors swirled that he turned in defensive backs coach Willie Martinez for asking in a voicemail for an explanation of why Trice missed a voluntary workout, which is a secondary violation of NCAA rules. The violation forced Oklahoma to sit out a week during this offseason.

Reached by the Tulsa World, however, Trice denied the rumors.

"It wasn't me," Trice told the paper, "but I don't and won't throw anyone else under the bus."

He cited a desire for playing time, something that didn't look like it was coming any time soon at Oklahoma, a school Trice said he grew up dreaming of playing for.

A source at Oklahoma also told the paper that Trice wasn't in bad graces with the coaches. Oklahoma won't be hurt much by his departure, with Javon Harris, Sam Proctor or perhaps nickel back Tony Jefferson looking well prepared to take over for the Sooners' departed safeties, Quinton Carter and Jonathan Nelson. But it's certainly an interesting case, more so than a routine transfer.

The Sooners did get some good news, however.

Receiver Dejuan Miller's career picked up steam with strong outings in wins over Cincinnati (3 rec., 66 yards) and Texas (5 rec., 61 yards) before a knee injury ended his season. He's been cleared for action this spring, but won't compete in contact drills or play full speed.

Oklahoma's receiving corps already has two outstanding options in Biletnikoff Award finalist Ryan Broyles and sophomore Kenny Stills, who broke Broyles' freshman receiving record with 786 yards last year. Trey Franks came on late, as did tight end James Hanna and the Sooners signed a top receiver in Trey Metoyer in their 2011 class, but Miller returning to form could make them even deeper.


Two Cyclones arrested

Iowa State defensive end Jacob Lattimer and reserve tight end Ricky Howard were arrested over the weekend and suspended indefinitely.

Lattimer, 22, faces charges of assault on a peace officer and interference with official acts. Howard, 20, is suspected of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

Lattimer moved from linebacker to defensive end last season and appeared in all 12 games, making 6.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He also forced two fumbles.

Howard did not play last season.


Cowboys get punter back

Oklahoma State had to play without Ray Guy semifinalist and All-Big 12 punter Quinn Sharp in the Alamo Bowl. The game carried on without incident thanks to a solid performance from Lou Groza Award winner Dan Bailey's fill-in duties as kickoff specialist and punter, but the Cowboys won't have to worry about any hiccups in 2011.

The academic issues surrounding Sharp have been cleared up, and he's been reinstated to the team, taking part in offseason conditioning and preparing for spring practice, which begins today in Stillwater.

Barring any further changes, he should be ready to go for the season this fall. That's great news for a team with legitimate Big 12 title aspirations. You never miss specialists like Sharp until something goes horribly wrong. The Cowboys won't have to worry about that moving forward. Sharp will also compete this spring to replace his replacement in the bowl game, Bailey, as the Cowboys' placekicker.
Valentine's Day isn't all chocolate and kisses and hearts. Plenty of those hearts get broken. The same is true throughout any Big 12 season. Here's who left a few opposing fans in tears in 2010.

1. Landry Jones. Oklahoma State had him backed up deep in his own territory with a two-point lead and a deafening crowd behind him with less than three minutes to play. He'd already teased them with a pick-six earlier in the game. But Jones connected with Cameron Kenney for an 86-yard touchdown to put the Sooners up by nine points. He later hit James Hanna for a 76-yard score to ice the game after the Cowboys returned the ensuing kick for a score. That's cold.

2. Kenji Jackson. It looked like a fairly harmless hit at the time, one that happens countless times in any game. But late in the first half, the Missouri safety came up to the line of scrimmage and laid a solid hit on Taylor Martinez's lower body. Martinez stayed in the game to finish the half, but didn't play in the second half. Nebraska won, but Martinez's sprained ankle changed Nebraska's season, and he was never quite the same player after he hurt the ankle. Jackson's hit was the gift that kept on giving. If it didn't happen, who knows where Nebraska's season would have finished.

3. The Ames wind. I'll give Iowa State backup punter Daniel Kuehl the benefit of the doubt on this one. If the wind at Jack Trice Stadium hadn't been absolutely swirling, he probably could have completed the pass that would have meant the Cyclones beat Nebraska and Texas in the same season and would go to a bowl game. But the pass floated in the wind, and Nebraska's Eric Hagg intercepted the fake extra point to preserve the win. If it had been completed, it would have put the Cyclones in the driver's seat of the Big 12 North, too.

4. Officials in The Bronx. Adrian Hilburn made the catch, made a defender miss and sprinted 30 yards into the end zone to cut Syracuse's eight-point lead to two with less than a minute to play in their bowl game. He shook off a defender after scoring and saluted a group of K-State fans in the stands who made the trip from one Manhattan to the other for the week before the Pinstripe Bowl. "Wrong move, buddy," one official reportedly told Hilburn. He tossed a flag and the Wildcats' lengthy conversion was incomplete. The dagger!

5. Oklahoma State's defense against Texas A&M. What a cruel, cruel win. The defense struggled a bit and let the Aggies jump out to a 21-7 lead at the half. Then a sack and fumble returned for a touchdown put them up 35-21 in the fourth quarter against the Aggies, a stretch of 28 consecutive points. The defense allowed the Aggies to tie the game, but Shaun Lewis intercepted Jerrod Johnson -- his fifth turnover of the night -- and set up a game-winning field goal to beat the Aggies at the gun. If Texas A&M had beaten the Cowboys, it would have won the Big 12 South outright for its first division title since 1998. What a painful way to go down.

Big 12 plays of the year: Did you see that?

January, 27, 2011
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We ran down the most bizarre plays of the year earlier this week. We've already tabbed the best in-game atmospheres, the best moments and best games of the year.

But what about the individual plays that shaped the Big 12 season in 2010? Some of these plays are on here because they were simply unbelievable. Others were great plays in big spots, lending it greater significance within a season. They're all very different, but with one thing in common: We won't forget them any time soon, especially the outstanding top few.

1. Brodrick Brown to Shaun Lewis. This one will go down in college football history. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones thought he'd lobbed a ball safely out of bounds on the right sideline against Oklahoma State. Brown skied for the discarded football, tapped it back inbounds to a waiting teammate, linebacker Shaun Lewis, who returned his second interception of the game 15 yards into Oklahoma territory.

2. Landry Jones' two long TDs in Bedlam. There's no point in separating the two passes. Each was equally big and equally needed for the Sooners. Both came with two-point leads. The Sooners were backed up into a 3rd-and-12 at their own 14-yard line with a rabid Boone Pickens Stadium crowd feeling good about the game's momentum and their chances at a South title. But Jones connected with Cameron Kenney over the middle, who slipped behind the defense for an 86-yard touchdown. Oklahoma State returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but Jones countered with another 76-yard touchdown over the top, down the left sideline to James Hanna to all but ice the game with under three minutes to play and give the Sooners a division title.

3. The Moe Miracle. Missouri's season looked headed for an early disaster, trailing San Diego State 24-20 with under a minute to play and 68 yards to go for a win. Tigers receiver T.J. Moe caught a short pass, made two Aztec defenders comically collide, and raced the rest of the way into the end zone for a season-saving touchdown that helped propel the Tigers to a 7-0 start.

4. Aggies build a wall on the goal line. The Sooners got inside Texas A&M's 5-yard line three times -- twice to the 1-yard line and twice in the fourth quarter -- and left without points. Considering the Aggies won by 14, there's no understating the importance of each stop. Really, this is 12 plays, but they were 12 that changed the season and validated the Aggies second-half surge with the first of two top 10 wins. Kyle Field was rocking, and the defense left the field to "Wrecking Crew" chants for the first time in a long while.

5. Gahn McGaffie turns Faurot Field into a madhouse. Columbia, Mo., was buzzing for one of the biggest games of the Gary Pinkel era. No. 1 Oklahoma was in town, it was homecoming, and a record crowd of 18,000 showed up to ESPN's pregame show, "College GameDay." A sold-out crowd showed up to Memorial Stadium and perhaps believed it could beat Oklahoma for the first time under Gary Pinkel, but a little help would be nice to let the fans really believe. The first time the ball was in play, McGaffie provided that help. McGaffie returned the opening kick 86 yards for a touchdown, helping turn the crowd into one of the best of the year, and spurring the Tigers to a 36-27 win over Oklahoma on a night the city of Columbia won't forget any time soon.

Honorable mention: Oklahoma State kicker Dan Bailey boots a 40-yard field goal to beat Texas A&M at the buzzer; Eric Hagg returns a pooch punt 95 yards for a touchdown in the final minutes against Texas; Josh Gordon catches a short pass and takes it 94 yards for a touchdown against Kansas; DeMarco Murray tiptoes along the sideline before front-flipping into the end zone for a 20-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown against Texas.

Fans weigh in with favorite 2010 moments

January, 19, 2011
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You saw my top moments and my top games on Tuesday. Then I turned it over to you guys. Plenty of good stuff. Here's what you had to say:

A hint: One game was a recurring theme.

Dan in St. Louis writes: Dave, Don't know you could leave Mizzou-Oklahoma off your best moments or best games list. It was the best college gameday turnout EVER followed by one of the best games of the season, and the post-game antics were nothing short of ridiculous. The overhead shots of a field filled with black and gold were part of every college football montage throughout the season. You can't put the Moe Miracle on your list but not this game. You just can't.

Andrew in St. Louis writes: For your top ten moments of the year, absent was anything from the Mizzou-Oklahoma game on October 23rd. One that sticks out to me is the Gahn McGaffie taking the opening kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown. It was an electrifying moment for the crowd, and it led Missouri to a huge victory over the top team in the country.

Spencer in Columbia, Mo., writes: No doubt about it, OU vs. Mizzou for the 99th edition of true Homecoming!!! Largest College Gameday crowd ever, McGaffey's return on the opening kickoff, Jackson's TD catch in the fourth to seal it, rushing Faurot and carrying the goalpost to Harpo's!!!!

Josh in Kansas City writes: David, how in the world do you not put the Oklahoma-Missouri game in either your top 10 moments or top 5 games of 2010? No. 1 in the country is upset, record-breaking crowd at College Gameday, and huge leap forward for the Missouri football team?! Not to mention one heck of a game to watch! I wouldn't expect it to be number 1, but to not have an appearance in crazy!

My take: The people have spoken. The McGaffie kick return is the one moment that sticks out from that game, so it probably deserved a spot on the list. It took an already amped crowd to the next level and really made it clear early on: Missouri could win that game. And it did. The main reason I left it off the list of games is because the game itself didn't have a great finish, which most of the others on the list did. It probably deserved a spot on the moments list, but the losses to Nebraska and Texas Tech kind of eliminated Missouri's chances to have a special season, so the game sort of stands alone as a singular moment, rather than a moment that marked a turning point in a season. If you look at the other moments on the list, they each fit that criteria, minus the tip drill at Bedlam, which was just an unbelievable play.


Moving on...

Curtis in Washington, D.C., writes: I'd have to group the back-and-forth 92 seconds of the Bedlam Game as my "moment". It's been a long time since I yelled "YES!" and "NO!" so many times at the top of my lungs in short succession. It wasn't until OU stopped the kick returner after the Hanna TD catch that I calmed down enough to sit down and take a breath.

My take: I hear you, Curtis. As a writer who had to rewrite quite a bit of copy after every single one of those plays, I mostly just yelled (read: thought), "NO!" but it doesn't take a ton of perspective to see how fantastic that finish was.


Alexandra in Dallas writes: The Texas Tech-Missouri game was a pretty big deal for Tech fans. In the midst of a rebuilding year, Tech upsets #15 Missouri, while participating in the Wounded Warrior Project, during Homecoming. Easily the biggest win of the season, and the players waving the students on to the field after the game was the cherry on top. Just a special event all around.

My take: Definitely a huge win for Texas Tech. I particularly liked Taylor Potts' gesture after the win, giving a speech in honor of the Wounded Warrior Project, rather than answer questions about the game.


Wade in Fort Worth, Texas, writes: Top 10 moments of the season. Robert Griffin III taking a knee against Kansas State in a 47-42 victory making the Bears bowl eligible for the first time since they joined the Big 12. I know there are better teams, better plays, and better games, but ending a decade and a half of futility is quite an accomplishment.

My take: Certainly a worthy member of the list. But what about RG3 getting engaged a couple hours later? Where's that on your list, Wade?


Nick in Omaha, Neb., writes: Best moment, besides the remarkable Bedlam game, I would say it was Roy Helu Jr's 307 rushing yards against a great Mizzou team. 3 huge rushing breaks, with touchdowns on each. Best in my opinion.

My take: That first-quarter spurt certainly was glorious for the Huskers. What an unbelievable 15 minutes of football. Arguably the best of the year from any team in the Big 12.


Rob in Catania, Sicily (Navy) writes: As a die-hard Sooner, I am proud to say we won the most Big XII Championships and this last one could not have been any better. I respect Nebraska and their tradition and they played hard. I'm sad to see them leave, but what a way to end a rivalry! The game started at 3 A.M. for me and I had work the next day, but there is no excuse for missing the (potentially) last OU-Nebraska. Boomer Sooner!

My take: That's pretty impressive commitment right there.


Acee in Oklahoma writes: I may of skimmed through the lists a little quick, but I didn't see any mention of Roy Helu Jr's 300 yard rushing day versus Missouri. Wasn't that #1 in the Husker's rich history? What about the 13-12 rematch? How the Huskers hyped up their revenge game against a skidding Longhorn team with no offense, against the Blackshirt D in Memorial Stadium? All those ":01" and "10-16-10" shirts and hoopla. A lot of crow was ate that day.

My take: All good suggestions, but I posted this one for one main reason: Can someone explain to me people's obsession with using the phrase "eating crow?" It's not funny really at all. It's so overused that it's been stripped of its meaning, of which it had little to begin with anyway, but people stick with it. Anytime anyone is wrong about something, it's immediately the first phrase that pops up. Why? Can we get some originality or at least something new? It doesn't even have to be good, perhaps feeding someone a Shut-up Sandwich with Wrong Sauce. That's awful, and it's still better than "Eat some crow!"

Thanks. I'll leave my soap box to the next ranter now.


Keivan in Baltimore writes: Texas extending thier win streak in Lincoln. The Husker fans were gearing up for this game for 10 months and were ready to pounce on the worst Texas team in years, and simply couldn't get it done. Hook 'em.

My take: It didn't surprise me all that much at the time, but the further we got away from that game, the more unbelievable it got.


Gavin in Austin, Texas, writes: When Mack decided to clear house and start from scratch after our abysmal season. Beating Nebraska was a distant second, but amusing. That's all I got.

My take: Certainly all things Texas fans liked to see.

Top 10 moments of 2010 in the Big 12

January, 18, 2011
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It's a difficult task to narrow down a season into 10 moments. My definition of the "top" 10 is the 10 moments that we'll look back on from this season and remember them, good or bad. So, here goes.

1. A&M makes the switch. College football can be a cruel game. Texas A&M entered the season with the Big 12's Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, Jerrod Johnson, hoping to lead the Aggies to their first Big 12 title since 1998. But offseason surgery sapped the zip from his throwing shoulder and produced an ugly start to his season, leading the Aggies to switch to Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill set the school record for passing yards in his first start, a win over Texas Tech, and helped the Aggies finish the regular season with six consecutive wins and a berth in the Cotton Bowl.

2. Texas' loss to UCLA. The red flags were there. Texas looked uninspired in wins over Wyoming and Rice, but looked dominant on defense in a road win over Texas Tech. Then the cellar-dwelling Bruins and their Pistol offense came to town. The Longhorns got rolled 34-12 in their own stadium. The loss shocked just about everyone, but it was a sign of what was to come: a 5-7 season the Texas faithful would rather forget.

3. Don't call it a comeback. Actually, you could probably call it a comeback. It was no Cam Newton in the Iron Bowl, but Landry Jones helped rally Oklahoma from a 17-0 deficit to Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship to knock off the Huskers, 23-20. The win gave Oklahoma its seventh Big 12 title of the decade.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Martinez
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelTaylor Martinez's career night included 241 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
4. T-Magic runs wild. Kansas State packed Bill Snyder Family Stadium for a Thursday night game with its eyes on an upset of the undefeated Huskers. Taylor Martinez had other ideas. The Nebraska quarterback ran for 241 yards and five touchdowns, injecting himself into the Heisman race and making people think very seriously about Nebraska as a national title contender. Who would have thought Martinez would go the season's final nine games without a rushing touchdown after scoring 10 in the first four? Yes, K-State ended up finishing the season as the Big 12's worst defense, but Martinez put on a show and previewed what Nebraska fans hope is to come in the future.

5. We got a tip drill. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones thought he'd thrown it away cleanly. Not so, said Brodrick Brown. The Oklahoma State corner skied for Jones' pass headed for the sideline, tipped it back inbounds to his teammate, linebacker Shaun Lewis, who caught it as one of Jones' three interceptions in the first half of the Big 12 South's deciding game.

6. Taylor Martinez's injury. Nebraska already had a loss on its record, but one harmless-looking hit late in the first half of a big win changed Nebraska's season. Martinez was running laterally looking for a crease in the defense when Missouri safety Kenji Jackson flew in from the secondary and laid a hit on his lower body. Martinez sat the entire second half, and later revealed he had a sprained ankle. The freshman quarterback was never the same, and aggravated the injury again in a loss to Texas A&M.

7. Saluting your fans is bad, mmmmk. Adrian Hilburn made one of the biggest plays of Kansas State's season, catching a short pass and taking it 30 yards for a possible game-tying score with his team down eight. But after scoring, he saluted a group of Kansas State fans in the stands, and the official tossed a flag for excessive celebration after telling Hilburn he'd made the "wrong choice, buddy." The 15-yard penalty moved the Wildcats back, and Carson Coffman's pass on the conversion fell incomplete. Kansas State lost by two.

8. Moe's miracle. Missouri's season already looked off the rails. Blaine Gabbert threw a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions. The Tigers trailed San Diego State 24-20 with a minute to play and 68 yards between them and the end zone. Don't worry about it, said T.J. Moe. The sophomore receiver caught a short pass, made two defenders slam into each other and sprinted for the game-winning score that helped Missouri jump out to a 7-0 start to its season. Teammate Carl Gettis told Moe in the end zone, "Thank you for saving our season."

9. Last five minutes of Bedlam. Bedlam lived up to its moniker with a crazy finish that ended with the Sooners on top. Four touchdowns were scored within 92 seconds in the game's final five minutes. Oklahoma State scored to get within two points with just over four minutes to play, but on 3rd-and-long, Landry Jones found Cameron Kenney over the middle for an 86-yard touchdown pass. The ensuing kickoff? Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert took it 89 yards to get back within two. But 17 seconds later, Jones found tight end James Hanna down the left sideline for a 76-yard touchdown that all but sealed the Sooners' win.

10. The Jayhawks win one for the ages. Kansas and Colorado were the Big 12's only teams still without a win in conference play. Something had to give. Few figured the Buffaloes 28-point lead would be what buckled. Colorado led 45-17 with just over 11 minutes to play, but the Jayhawks scored a frenzied 35 points to finish with a 52-45 win, their only conference win of the season. Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins never got to coach another game for Colorado after being fired following the loss.
One big mistake has made this somewhat of a game, but Oklahoma is getting it done on both sides of the ball and could run away with it in the second half.

Turning point: Oklahoma led 14-0 and had the ball near midfield, but Sooners quarterback Landry Jones was intercepted on a pass over the middle of the field by Dwayne Gratz, who returned the pick 46 yards for a touchdown to get the Huskies within seven. This would be a bona fide blowout if not for Jones' mistake.

Stat of the half: Just five yards of penalties have been doled out in the first half. Connecticut was flagged for an illegal substitution in the second quarter that turned a third-and-4 into a third-and-9, which the Huskies couldn't convert.

Stat of the half II: Connecticut's All-American back, Jordan Todman, picked up some momentum on Connecticut's final drive of the half, but he had just 14 yards on his first 11 carries while Oklahoma raced out to its early lead. Outside of a 19-yard run on the final drive, he has 15 yards on 13 carries. That's an impressive effort from Brent Venables' defense.

Best player in the half: Jones. His mistake aside, he's been fantastic. He completed his first 12 passes and finished the half 21 of 27 for 233 yards and a score to James Hanna.

Second guessing: Facing a fourth-and-1 on their opening drive, Connecticut punted the ball. Giving the Sooners the ball instead of trusting Connecticut's biggest strength, it's running game, sends a pretty poor message to your team, Oklahoma and fans on both sides. Of course, the Huskies were stuffed on a fourth-and-inches later in the first half, so maybe coach Randy Edsall knew what he was doing.

What Oklahoma needs to do: Prevent big plays and don't turn the ball over. The Sooners will need to do both to close this one out and produce the blowout everyone expected to see. Another big play early in the second half like Gratz's interception or a long Todman run could set a dangerous tone in the second half for the Sooners.

Sooners get exactly what they need

January, 1, 2011
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Oklahoma didn't score a touchdown until the second half in its 20-point loss to West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl in 2008. Against Boise State, the Broncos jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first eight minutes before eventually knocking off the Sooners.

No such slow start for the Sooners' offense -- or defense -- this time around.

Oklahoma forced the Huskies to punt in their own territory after just one first down, and then methodically marched 70 yards in nine plays for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead after the game's first five minutes.

The Sooners saw just one third down -- inside the 10-yard line -- and converted it for a touchdown.

Landry Jones hit James Hanna for the eight-yard score and he was 6-of-6 for 56 yards on the drive. DeMarco Murray also had three carries for 14 yards.

That's exactly the kind of start the Sooners needed, and if there's an upset to be seen here Saturday night, the Huskies will have to use a different formula than the Mountaineers and Broncos.

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