Big 12: Jimmy Jackson
|P Photo/L.G. Patterson|
|Derrick Washington leads the nation with 12 touchdowns, scoring at least two in each of Missouri's five victories so far this season.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Comparisons haven't come easily for Gary Pinkel as he's watched tailback Derrick Washington blossom into his team's top running threat.
The bruising 215-pound Washington is a tough between-the-tackles runner as evidenced by his current status as the nation's leading scorer. But he's also a versatile receiver with soft hands and enough speed to streak by most linebackers on pass patterns.
"He's very natural," Pinkel said. "He's a great kid with a great work ethic and I think it's instinct. People ask me, 'Who does he look like?' I think he's very unique. I don't know what he looks like. But all I know is that I like what I see."
After winning the starting tailback position during the spring, Washington envisioned helping his team. But he said he never imagined the kind of season he's produced in the Tigers' 5-0 start.
Washington leads the nation with 12 touchdowns, scoring at least two touchdowns in each of Missouri's five victories to start the season. He also ranks second in the Big 12 in rushing with 500 yards heading into Saturday's showdown against 5-0 Oklahoma State in Columbia, Mo.
"They told me earlier that I'm leading the nation in scoring and I didn't even know it," Washington said. "It's just crazy. I'm glad it's happening, but it's still unbelievable for me."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Bob Stoops turned 48 earlier this week. And while the Oklahoma coach is revered in the Sooner State, it wasn't a holiday or anything.
At least not that we know of.
Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel put his spin on Stoops' birthday in a unique way. He compared the career stages for other notable Oklahoma football coaches when they turned 48.
Barry Switzer's wishbone was struggling a little when he turned 48 in 1985 with Troy Aikman as his starting quarterback. Bud Wilkinson was in the middle of his run for the U.S. Senate in 1964. Chuck Fairbanks was trying to rebuild a struggling program at Colorado, well after his salad days at OU. Bennie Owen was getting ready for his 19th season as the Sooners' head coach. And Howard Schnellenberger was preparing for his fourth season as Miami's head coach, only 23 victories into his college head-coaching career.
With Stoops apparently excited about continued coaching at Oklahoma, it will be interesting to see what happens for him in the years after his 48th birthday.
Of a more immediate interest for him will be his team's trip to Washington to attack some nasty road karma. Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle writes that Stoops currently has a nation-best 20-game home winning streak at Owen Field. During that same time, the Sooners are a more pedestrian 12-9 on the road.
Those recent road woes have raised the stakes for Saturday's game at Husky Stadium.
"For me, this is the game of the year because this sets the tone for our future road games and sets the tone for our team," redshirt freshman LB Travis Lewis told the Chronicle. "It's easy playing in front of 85,000 who love you, but what about the 80,000 who hate you?"
It will make Saturday's game the biggest test for the Sooners so far this season. If Stoops can win, he would become the fourth OU coach to have won 100 games during their careers at the school, joining Wilkinson, Switzer and Owen.
Pretty select company, indeed.
Kind of like being included with these morning links:
- Lawrence Journal-World columnist Tom Keegan predicts that Kansas QB Todd Reesing will be the difference in the Jayhawks' key game with South Florida. But in order to win, Kansas must neutralize South Florida DE George Selvie, who has been dubbed "The Baddest Man in College Football."
- New Mexico State will have endured 35 practices before it finally opens the season Saturday against Nebraska.
- Teammates may kid Texas LB Roddrick Muckelroy about sounding like a squeaky mouse, but they love his production on the field.
- Injured Texas Tech CB L.A. Reed is expected to play Saturday night against SMU and could even start against the Mustangs.
- Nebraska has confirmed a three-year scheduling deal with Fresno State. The Cornhuskers will host the Bulldogs in 2011 and 2016 and visit Fresno in 2014.
- There's no quarterback controversy at Iowa State, where both Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates understand their roles. But perhaps the biggest reason for the Cyclones' 2-0 start has been their special teams.
- Missouri backup TB Jimmy Jackson is OK with his reserve role in the Tigers' backfield.
- Former Colorado coach Eddie Crowder, who died Tuesday at the age of 77, leaves an unmatched legacy at Colorado. Former Boulder Camera sports editor Dan Creedon writes about some of his favorite memories of Crowder.
- Baylor QB Robert Griffin isn't a normal 18-year-old college student, on or off the field.
- Increased attention to his schoolwork helped Kansas State CB Courtney Herndon grow up. He's on track to graduate after playing the game of his college career last week.
- State Fair of Texas officials are excited about changes around the Cotton Bowl and it has nothing to do with the introduction of chicken-fried bacon as a midway food staple. The Cotton Bowl's new seating configuration will expand capacity to 92,180 -- making it the ninth-largest stadium in the nation.
- Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is learning about the big adjustment from the NFL to college football.
- Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler said media members whiffed by placing no Oklahoma State players on the preseason all-conference team.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Missouri is entering the upcoming season with unprecedented publicity after winning the North Division last season. And to a man, the Tigers have adopted the mantra that they won't be satisfied unless they win the Big 12 championship.
The Tigers claimed the Big 12 North title, marred only by losses to Oklahoma midway through the season and in the conference championship game that killed their national title hopes. But they rebounded for a 38-7 blowout victory over Arkansas -- their first bowl victory on Jan. 1 or later since 1966 -- that has sent expectations soaring heading into the season.
Despite the return of most of their offensive weapons and 10 defensive starters, several critical questions remain that will keep Gary Pinkel concerned as the Tigers prepare for Saturday's pivotal rivalry game in St. Louis against Illinois.
1. What happens if Chase Daniel is injured? The Tigers have two other graduates of the EA Sports Elite 11 Camp behind Daniel in senior Chase Patton and freshman Blaine Gabbert. But the two backups have combined to throw 13 passes during their college career, making their experience lacking. Patton has been hobbled by a sore hamstring during training camp and Gabbert is still learning his way with the Tigers' offense.
2. Can Derrick Washington replace Tony Temple? The 220-pound Washington is a more effective inside runner than Temple and Jimmy Jackson and De'Vion Moore both are capable of becoming strong breakaway threats. But will the rotation replace what Temple brought to the team, capped by his record-breaking 281-yard effort against Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl?
3. Will a retooled offensive line adequately protect Daniel? Pinkel is taking a gamble by starting redshirt freshman LT Elvis Fisher, who will start his first college game by protecting Daniel's blind side Saturday night against All-Big Ten defensive end Will Davis of Illinois. But Fisher has been the talk of camp, developing so quickly the Tigers felt comfortable enough to switch Kurtis Gregory back to RG. C Tim Barnes will be the other new starter.
4. How will the Tigers' defensive push remain strong without NT Lorenzo Williams? Junior Jaron Baston will replace Williams, an All-Big 12 performer who led the team in sacks last season. Even more important was Williams' leadership to the defense, which will be sorely missed.
5. How will the new punter work out? Jake Harry was expected to win the job last season after arriving from Palomar Junior College, but never seriously challenged Adam Crossett after a struggling start. He switched his training regime and says he's ready to play, but remains a huge unknown until he receives some game experience.