Big 12: Joe Cox
Here’s a look at how the Bulldogs made it happen, giving the Southeastern Conference a victory in the first of three bowl games against the Big 12:
How the game was won: Georgia blew the game open by scoring on five of its first drives in the second half. The first four of those came on possessions of 40, 24, 35 and 28 yards as the Bulldogs took advantage of good field position after a multitude of A&M mistakes in the third quarter.
Turning point: After A&M was stopped on fourth down, trailing 17-14 early in the third quarter, a high center snap over the head of A&M punter Ryan Epperson went for a loss of 24 yards. Georgia scored three plays later on a 24-yard pass from Joe Cox to Aron White and the rout was on.
Stat of the game: A&M special teams errors directly led to 24 points for Georgia in the game. It helped the Bulldogs claim the 10th Southeastern Conference bowl victory in the last 13 games against Big 12 teams, dating to 2003.
Player of the game: Brandon Boykin set a Southeastern Conference record by bringing back an 81-yard kickoff return for a touchdown – his record-breaking third TD return of the season. He finished with 107 yards on two returns, but his TD return ignited the slumbering Bulldogs.
What Georgia learned: The Bulldogs’ makeshift defensive coaching staff could get players ready to play. Georgia produced interceptions on back-to-back drives for the first time this season to spark the third-quarter turnaround.
What Texas A&M learned: The Aggies’ special teams need a lot of work during the off-season. A&M dominated the game offensively, but was behind because of its frequent problems returning kicks and punting. It can’t afford to do that against good teams – from outside the conference and inside the Big 12.
Who to watch: Jerrod Johnson. After having the finest statistical season in history by a Texas A&M quarterback, Johnson will be looking for a capper that could catapult him into early 2010 Heisman contention. When he’s most effective, the Aggies mix running plays as well as his passing to take advantage of Johnson’s arm and deep threats like Uzoma Nwachukwu and Jeff Fuller. He could be poised for a huge game against a suspect Georgia secondary that could be struggling without three assistants who were fired after the end of the season. In A&M's six wins and the loss to Texas, Johnson completed 72 percent of his passes. He'll have to be on for Texas A&M to succeed against the Bulldogs.
What to watch: Texas A&M’s ability to stop Georgia’s running game. The Aggies ranked last in the Big 12 in total defense and twice gave up 60 points this season. Although Joe Cox and D.J. Green will present a sizable challenge through the air, the Aggies can’t be playing behind the sticks against the Bulldogs’ rapidly improving running game. Washaun Ealey and Caleb King produced 349 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ season-ending upset against Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs averaged 217 yards rushing during the final six games, after averaging 97.1 in the first six, and will test the Aggies in the trenches from the opening snap.
Why watch: Sure, the battle between the Bulldogs and the Aggies appears to be one of the weakest of all of the bowl games. But the offensive styles of both teams should ensure a high-scoring game that still should be entertaining to watch. And the first of three bowl battles between the Big 12 and the Southeastern conferences always provides bragging rights between proud supporters of both leagues.
Prediction: Even with the uncertainty in Georgia’s defensive coaching staff, the Bulldogs should have enough firepower to win a wild game. The Aggies will have their moments but can’t be counted to consistently stop Georgia’s running game. Look for the Bulldogs to control the clock and claim a narrow 45-38 victory.
But as we get ready for those eight games, it's clear that several key players need to step up with big games in order to help their team's winning hopes.
Here's my list of 12 players or groups who need to have big games to bolster their team's bowl hopes.
- Texas quarterback Colt McCoy: His Heisman hopes sank after his nine-sack, three-interception performance in the Big 12 title game. But he has bigger aspirations if he can finish his career by leading his team to the national championship against Alabama in the Citi BCS National Championship Game.
- Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams: He could become the fourth starter at center for Oklahoma this season if Brian Lepak doesn't respond to treatment before the Sooners' Brut Sun Bowl game against Stanford. Williams has become one of college football's best offensive linemen at tackle and looked good in practice earlier this season at center. He'll face a big test against massive 315-pound Stanford nose tackle Ekom Udofi if he plays at center in the bowl game.
- Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter: After struggling with a nagging foot injury most of the season, Hunter has been diagnosed at "close to 100 percent" by Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. The Cowboys had a strong running game and led the conference in rushing but still missed a true breakaway threat without Hunter in the lineup. His return will provide an infusion of speed that could be important for their hopes against Mississippi in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
- Texas guards Michael Huey and Charlie Tanner and center Chris Hall: After their struggles against Ndamukong Suh in the Big 12 championship game, this trio will really be under the gun against Alabama All-American tackle Terrence Cody and All-American middle linebacker Rolando McClain. They must play better than they did against Nebraska if they have any hopes of bringing the national title home to Austin.
- Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson: After gamely trying to play against Oklahoma on a sprained ankle, Robinson says that he's healthy for Mississippi in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. Robinson's injury and a sputtering attack helped explain the Cowboys' difficulties in a 27-0 loss that ultimately cost them a shot at a BCS at-large berth. Robinson must run the offense better against a similarly strong Mississippi defensive front if the Cowboys are to pull off an upset victory.
- Texas Tech running back Baron Batch: Batch is one of the Red Raiders' most consistent receivers and top rushing threats. He'll be critically important in the Valero Alamo Bowl as he goes up against Michigan State All-Big Ten linebacker Greg Jones. Michigan State is being universally dismissed because of their suspension-wracked roster. All of that will make Jones and the defense eager to become involved early. Batch will be tested to keep Jones and the Spartans away from starting quarterback Taylor Potts.
- Missouri's defensive front: The grouping of defensive ends Aldon Smith and Brian Coulter, tackle Dominique Hamilton and nose tackle Jaron Baston played very well down the stretch as they allowed only 52.4 yards rushing per game during a strong 4-1 finish. But the Tigers' defensive front will be facing a huge challenge in stopping Navy's unique run-based offense in the Texas Bowl. The Midshipmen rank fourth nationally in rushing and are keyed by quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who averages 85.5 rushing yards per game and ranks second nationally with 24 rushing touchdowns. Keeping Navy in check will be a big challenge for the Tigers, particularly the defensive front.
- Iowa State cornerback Ter'ran Benton: The suspension of Kennard Banks will thrust Benton into the starting lineup for the Cyclones in the Insight Bowl against Minnesota. Benton is recovering after breaking his left leg Oct. 24 against Nebraska and missing the final four games of the season. Top Minnesota receiver Eric Decker is injured and will miss the bowl game, but Troy Stoudermire and Brandon Green will no doubt test Banks early and often in the Dec. 31 game.
- Iowa State running back Alexander Robinson: When Robinson is an effective ball-carrying threat, the Cyclones have a much better chance at winning. That's why it will be important to get him going early against a Minnesota defense that tends to wear down if it plays too much. Robinson's running will be an important part in trying to do just that.
- Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones: When he was on, Jones was one of the most effective passers in the Big 12, torching Tulsa for six touchdown passes, Texas A&M for five touchdown passes and Kansas State for four. But he also struggled with five interceptions against Nebraska. He'll need a big game against a similarly streaky Stanford team that ranked 95th in pass efficiency defense, 105th in pass defense and allowed 15 touchdowns in its last five games.
- Texas A&M safety Jordan Pugh: He'll be important in coordinating work in a secondary that features two sophomores and a freshman in the starting lineup. After A&M's struggles in a 49-39 loss to Texas in the regular-season finale, the group will be facing a similarly high-powered offensive threat from Georgia. Joe Cox and A.J. Green no doubt saw the Aggies' struggles against Texas and will be intent on duplicating them in the Independence Bowl. It will be important for Pugh to keep his young teammates focused -- particularly if they struggle early.
- Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee: His struggles running the Nebraska offense were apparent in the Cornhuskers' loss to Texas where they produced only five first downs and amassed only 105 yards in the game. The offense must perk up against Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl and Lee will be most under the gun to make it happen. He showed flashes of a passing touch earlier in the season, but the Cornhuskers relied on a run-heavy game down the stretch to win the North Division. A couple of well-timed passes from Lee early in the game against the Wildcats could open up the Nebraska offense for the rest of the game.
Obviously, these games aren't quite as prevalent as bracket sheets during the NCAA men's tournament, but they assuredly are growing. I know I have several offers and have to get my sheets ready by Saturday's games.
Here are my picks for Big 12 bowl games ranked one through eight in terms of my confidence in the results of the games. I'll have much more extensive previews before the games and I reserve my right to make a last-minute change, but here are my picks in place for Saturday's confidence-pick deadline.
8 points: Texas Tech over Michigan State, Valero Alamo Bowl. The Red Raiders are catching the Spartans at exactly the right time. And the fact that Michigan State is riddled with suspensions only makes the Red Raiders' opportunity to win that much greater. Tech's Taylor Potts should have a huge game against the Spartans' struggling secondary that ranks 96th in pass-efficiency defense and 103rd in pass defense.
7 points: Missouri over Navy, Texas Bowl. The Tigers played well late in the season when Blaine Gabbert was healthy. Danario Alexander was the Big 12's most explosive player down the stretch. And while the defense isn't their best quality, I like their chances of being able to stuff Navy's run-heavy offense. Missouri limited four of its last five opponents to 77 yards rushing or less and Dave Steckel's group will have a long time to prepare for the option.
6 points: Georgia over Texas A&M, Advocare V100 Independence Bowl. Which Aggies team will show up for this game? The one that nearly beat Texas or the one that was blown out by Oklahoma or Kansas State? I think that Joe Cox and A.J. Green will have a lot of success against the Aggies' struggling defense, providing they can effectively keep Von Miller out of the Georgia backfield.
5 points: Oklahoma over Stanford, Brut Sun Bowl. The Sooners are intent on turning around after losing five of their last six bowl games. Oklahoma gets a break because of Andrew Luck's iffy status for the Cardinal. Look for the Sooners' run defense to clamp down on Toby Gerhart and Ryan Broyles and Landry Jones to make enough big plays to win.
4 points: Mississippi over Oklahoma State, AT&T Cotton Bowl. How much will that blowout loss at Oklahoma in Bedlam harm the Cowboys' psyche? I'm thinking more than might be expected as underrated bowl game coach Houston Nutt will assuredly have the Rebels ready to play. Look for a game similar to last year's Cotton Bowl against Texas Tech where the Rebels win the game in the trenches.
3 points: Arizona over Nebraska, Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. Look for a defensive struggle between good buddies Mike Stoops and Bo Pelini. But with Nebraska's well-chronicled offensive struggles against better opponents, it might be more of the same for the Cornhuskers in the bowl game. This one should be tight, but look for Arizona quarterback Nick Foles to make enough big plays to give the Wildcats a narrow victory.
2 points: Iowa State over Minnesota, Insight Bowl. The Cyclones definitely are happy to move up this far in the bowl pecking order. That attitude, along with strong inside running by Alexander Robinson, might be enough to catapult them to a big effort over the Gophers. Minnesota has been to the Insight Bowl three times in the last four seasons and might be a little bored with another trip to the desert this time around.
1 point: Texas over Alabama, Citi BCS National Championship Game. The Longhorns are underdogs in this one, but I'm thinking they are going to be a little tired about pundits talking about how fortunate they are to be playing in this game. The Longhorns are actually a better match for the Crimson Tide than they would have been against Florida. Will Muschamp's expertise on Nick Saban and his system will be pivotal. And I think Texas' run defense will keep Mark Ingram bottled up and that Colt McCoy will outplay Greg McElroy for his fourth bowl victory.
That would produce a 5-3 bowl record for the Big 12 this time around. It might be a little optimistic, but I'm fairly confident the teams can play to my expected levels.
What about some of your picks? I'm curious what you believe is a legitimate record the Big 12 can achieve this season.
We've got some good games and others that might not be as appealing for those from outside the respective fan bases. Here's a look at how I rank the Big 12's eight bowl games this season.
I based my selections on importance, style of the two teams, coaching and starpower. Here are my rankings.
1. Citi BCS National Championship Game
Texas vs. Alabama
My take: The national title will be decided between two tradition-steeped programs with Heisman finalists Colt McCoy and Mark Ingram. Who could ask for more?
2. Brut Sun Bowl
Oklahoma vs. Stanford
My take: Even if Andrew Luck doesn't play, we'll have an intriguing battle between Toby Gerhart and the Sooners' defense. Toss in the Sooners' need for a bowl victory and this could be a good one.
3. Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
Nebraska vs. Arizona
My take: Two strong defenses will square off in this game. Throw in two fiery coaches like Mike Stoops and Bo Pelini and it should be an intriguing coaching matchup.
4. Advocare V100 Independence Bowl
Texas A&M vs. Georgia
My take: Sure, the Georgia staff has been blown up after the firing of Willie Martinez. But two high-powered offenses keyed by Jerrod Johnson and Joe Cox should result in a lot of points and passing yards.
5. Texas Bowl
Missouri vs. Navy
My take: The Tigers slid all the way into the bottom of the Big 12's pecking order, but this game still will be interesting. Danario Alexander and the potent Missouri passing game against Navy's option attack should be an interesting contrast of styles.
6. AT&T Cotton Bowl
Oklahoma State vs. Mississippi
My take: The Cowboys must rebound from their final-game struggles at Oklahoma, or they will face a difficult challenge against Jevan Snead and the Rebels.
7. Valero Alamo Bowl
Texas Tech vs. Michigan State
My take: Texas Tech's high-powered offense and underrated defense will be going against an undermanned Spartan team wracked by suspensions. I have no idea how either team will approach their trip to San Antonio.
8. Insight Bowl
Iowa State vs. Minnesota
My take: Insight Bowl officials jumped all over the Cyclones, hoping they will drive tickets for this battle of 6-6 programs. They better hope the Arizona golfing is good, because Minnesota's struggling offense produced no touchdowns in the last two games of the season.
1. Texas: The Longhorns earned their BCS championship game berth, but it wasn’t pretty. They struggled all night offensively against Nebraska and were lucky to escape Arlington with the Big 12 championship. The most immediate concern for this team will be the return of the running game and to find some kind of pass blocking after all of the struggles in the championship game. If Texas struggled against teams like Oklahoma and Nebraska, the same bodes for the game against Alabama. Colt McCoy’s Heisman hopes took a big hit. Fortunately for him, Ndamukong Suh will be wearing a coat and tie the next time he sees him rather than a football uniform.
2. Nebraska: It was amazing that the Cornhuskers were so close to the Big 12 title, considering all of their struggles on offense. But even after producing five first downs and 106 total yards against Texas, the Cornhuskers were close because of the play of their defense, particularly Suh. Some of the comments that the Pelini brothers made after the game that were reported in the Omaha World-Herald will only increase the intensity of next season’s game when Texas visits Nebraska. But after Saturday night, there’s no doubt that Bo Pelini has pushed the Cornhuskers program ahead faster than most expected. And the Holiday Bowl will be another way for the Cornhuskers to continue their growth.
3. Oklahoma State: A week after their demolition at the hands of Oklahoma, it will be interesting to see how the Cowboys respond to the start of Cotton Bowl preparations. The Cowboys will face a determined challenge in the trenches against Mississippi, which stunned Texas Tech last season. The Cowboys sure could use Donald Booker in a physical game like that -- and a healthy Zac Robinson.
4. Texas Tech: Mike Leach has never missed a bowl during his 10-year tenure with the Red Raiders. Tech is running into the bowl game in good shape with Steven Sheffield recovering from his foot injury and Taylor Potts coming off a strong finish. The Red Raiders also might end up catching a very winnable bowl game in the Alamo Bowl as they face a fractured Michigan State program that is being torn apart after a controversial series of suspensions. A win likely would enable the Red Raiders to crack the final Top 25, so a big effort is important in bowl preparations.
5. Missouri: It’s hard to believe that a team ranked this high will end up playing in the Big 12’s bowl game with the smallest payout. Actually, Gary Pinkel probably isn’t complaining too much. Navy’s one-dimensional offense shouldn’t pose that much of a problem to the Tigers. They get a shot to play in another Texas city for a bowl game -- it will be four different ones in four years in Houston -- but it will keep the Tigers as a prime topic of conversation in one of Texas’ most fertile recruiting areas. Even though the trip might not be as glamorous as a trip to Arizona, it will still be a bowl trip and a winnable one at that.
6. Oklahoma: The Sooners will be making their first visit to El Paso since 1993 with their trip to the Sun Bowl. It’s a big disappointment after all of the high expectations coming into the season. But the game against Stanford should be a challenging one. It will be a test for the Sooners to check Andrew Luck, Toby Gerhart and all of the Cardinal’s offensive weapons. But the opportunity to win after losing five of his last six bowl games should be something that will drive Bob Stoops and his team during the next several weeks.
7. Texas A&M: Expect one of the most entertaining bowl games when Texas A&M hooks up with Georgia in the Independence Bowl. With Joe Cox and Jerrod Johnson throwing passes and the relative struggles of both team’s pass defenses, the first team in the 50s might end up winning. It will be a good challenge for the Aggies -- particularly on defense -- as they try to stem a recent bowl tailspin that has seen them lose seven of their last eight bowl games since 1998.
8. Kansas State: No bowl game for the Wildcats, but Bill Snyder is hitting the junior-college recruiting trail in earnest as he tries to find playmakers who will fill in for departing seniors like Jeffrey Fitzgerald and Grant Gregory. The Wildcats came much closer to making a bowl trip this season than most expected before the season. Their inability to practice in December will be a huge impetus for Snyder to make sure he includes only one FCS team on his future schedules.
9. Iowa State: Cyclone fans have traditionally stepped up with the kind of interest that makes bowl directors take notice -- even pushing them ahead of teams like Missouri that had significantly better records and head-to-head victories over the Cyclones. Paul Rhoads won’t apologize for his trip to the Insight Bowl, or a chance at a winnable game against Minnesota. ISU will be looking to hand Minnesota its third straight Insight Bowl loss from a different Big 12 team. Considering the Gophers’ late-season offensive struggles, the Cyclones should have a good shot at their first bowl victory since 2004.
10. Kansas: After Mark Mangino’s “resignation” last week, Lew Perkins is looking for a new coach. That chore obviously overrides all other aspects of running the program. Perkins is under the gun a little bit, considering that recruiting can be started by the new coach as soon as he is hired. The coaching search at least will take some of the focus away from the seven-game losing streak that will keep the Jayhawks home for the holidays after a promising 5-0 start this season.
11. Colorado: Dan Hawkins is answering questions about his secret new e-mail address. That’s what happens when you talk about winning “10 games with no excuses” and end up not making a bowl game. But after Hawkins’ one-season reprieve, he’s probably not complaining too much.
12. Baylor: The Bears remain tied with Duke for the nation’s longest bowl drought at 15 seasons and counting. The key for Art Briles’ team to break it next season is getting Robert Griffin healthy and developing a defense that can stand up to the rigors it will face in the South Division next season.
Dec. 28, 5 p.m., (ESPN2)
One of the most intriguing and potentially entertaining games involving a Big 12 team will involve Texas A&M, whose offensive growth helped push them to their first bowl game under Mike Sherman.
The biggest reason was quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who threw for a school-record 3,217 yards and led the Big 12 with 28 touchdown passes against only six interceptions. The Aggies also have a lot of offensive weapons with emerging receivers Jeff Fuller and Uzoma Nwachukwu, Big 12 Freshman of the Year running back Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray. They will be facing a Georgia defense that struggled so much that it’s already led to the firing of coordinator of Willie Martinez and two other defensive assistants. The Bulldogs rank 30th nationally in total defense but were lit up for 23 touchdown passes and ranked 119th nationally in turnover margin after recovering only two fumbles all season.
Georgia quarterback Joe Cox and wide receiver A.J. Green are one of the SEC’s most productive passing duos and will be a difficult test for an A&M defense that allowed at least 47 points in four games and ranked last in the Big 12 in every major pass-defense statistic.
But with both offenses being so proficient, the first team to 50 points might win this game.
Happy Friday afternoon. Here are some of the better questions I received this week in my mailbag.
Roger Simmons from Kansas City, Mo., writes: Hey Tim, I enjoyed the speculation you started about a change in the Big 12’s divisional structure. I know you provided some reasons for the potential of a change.
Now, do you really think we’ll ever see an alteration?
Tim Griffin: Roger, truthfully, no. The league has too many good matchups of teams in the same divisions that would be lost if there ever was a change.
I think league officials are cognizant of that. And that’s why I don’t think we’ll ever see a change. The opportunity of missing out on Texas-Texas A&M, Kansas-Missouri or Oklahoma-Oklahoma State will keep the league’s current divisional structure around, in my opinion.
So expect the North/South divisional arrangement to stay around for a few more years.
Steven Thompson from Beaumont, Texas, writes: Hey Tim, I liked your list of 10 most feared Big 12 players. But where were Sean Weatherspoon and Von Miller. Both seem to be able to produce some fear in Big 12 opposition and probably in you, too.
Tim Griffin: Steven, I found it hard to put Weatherspoon on the list because he’s such a kind, garrulous guy off the field. Although he’s a hitting machine, Weatherspoon is the kind of person I’d like to have for my next-door neighbor. I know he’s already a reporter’s dream for his comments. Maybe I should have separated those ideas and just considered him as a hitting machine on defense.
It's the same for Von Miller. I know he's got a lot of sacks. But as far as some of the real intimidators in the conference, I think those guys aren't as scary to me as some of the big bruisers down the trenches like Brandon Carter or Gerald McCoy.
Not meaning to say I'd like to make any of them mad, however.
Devin from Norman, Okla., writes: Tim, do you think Oklahoma will make it back into the BCS Rankings with three losses? Oklahoma is still listed on the AP, ESPN Fan Poll, and many other polls, but not the BCS. Would a convincing win over Oklahoma State help? Keep in mind, Oklahoma has only lost by a combined score of five points in three losses... I think Oklahoma is still most definitely the 2nd best team in the Big XII, and truthfully, I believe they outplayed Texas, regardless of the score in Dallas.
Tim Griffin: If Oklahoma keeps winning, I think it will be impossible for them to stay out of the BCS poll. The reason is like you said. Their record does have three losses, but they are by a combined five points. As other teams around the country would start to lose, I would expect the Sooners will be able to jump back into the poll.
But as far as them being the second-best team in the conference, that will have to wait until Oklahoma State loses. I think as long as the Cowboys have a better record, they will be ranked ahead of the Sooners.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's an interesting nugget that the folks at ESPN's Stats & Information sent along to illustrate the fast start of Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who leads the conference and ranks ninth nationally in passing efficiency.
This is how Big 12 quarterbacks rank in terms of 20-yard passes so far this season.
- Blaine Gabbert, Missouri 17
- Taylor Potts, Texas Tech 16
- Zac Lee, Nebraska 15
- Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State 15
Gabbert hasn't hesitated to really take advantage David Yost's vertical passing game. And the results have helped sparked Missouri to its surprising 4-0 start.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
STILLWATER, Okla. -- Dez Bryant has been relatively quiet today.
But the Oklahoma State wide receiver's catches have been daggers to Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez.
Bryant's 12-yard TD snag from Zac Robinson -- only his third reception of the game -- help extend Oklahoma State's lead to 24-10 with 7:59 left in the game.
Oklahoma State's scoring drive was extended by a crucial personal foul by Georgia strong safety Reshad Jones, who was flagged for a head-to-head hit on Justin Blackmon.
Three plays later, Robinson and Bryant hooked up for the All-American's first reception since late in the first half.
The score came after another critical turnover by Georgia as Joe Cox fumbled. It was the second time the Bulldogs have fumbled inside their own 32. Oklahoma State has turned those miscues into 10 points.
The story of the game has been Bill Young's defensive plan against Georgia. After allowing a touchdown on the Bulldogs' first drive, the Bulldogs have been limited to three points.
The Cowboys' defense was presumed to be its biggest weakness heading into the season. But today, it's been the Cowboys' most consistent element.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
STILLWATER, Okla. -- Here's a couple of quick notes from the Georgia-Oklahoma State game.
The game is being played before a record crowd of 53,102 at Boone Pickens Stadium. And it seems like almost everybody in the stadium in dressed in orange other than a small sliver of red-clad Georgia fans lined up in the final section of the end zone.
Oklahoma State cornerback Perrish Cox has been hobbled most of the third quarter with a case of cramps caused by the humid conditions. Cox missed much of Georgia's scoring possession and has tried to play without much success.
His loss would be huge for an Oklahoma State team already missing two safeties.
But I wonder if Georgia quarterback Joe Cox has the deep arm to exploit those missing players. He's settled on safe, play-action passes for most of the game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
STILLWATER, Okla. -- Mark Richt has the reputation of trying to be "cute" with his running game by using various trick schemes.
The Bulldogs showed a heavy dose of that in their first drive as they marched 80 yards for a touchdown capped by a 5-yard toss from Joe Cox to Michael Moore for an early 7-0 lead.
Three different Bulldogs took snaps from center on the drive -- Cox, backup quarterback Logan Gray and Brenden Smith on a "Wildcat" play.
Taking the lead was paramount for the Bulldogs. And they also showed enough different looks to give new Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young something to think about as his team comes to the sideline.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
STILLWATER, Okla. -- I had the chance to focus on Georgia quarterback Joe Cox, who looks ready for the approaching Oklahoma State game.
Cox was struggling with flu-like symptoms late this week and arrived later than the rest of his teammates. But he appeared flushed as he threw on the sidelines during the Bulldogs' pre-game workouts in the humid conditions at the game.
The Bulldogs also will play without Caleb King, who is struggling without a hamstring injury and won't play in Saturday's game.
As expected, Oklahoma middle linebacker Orie Lemon will not play. He's out with his team without pads with shorts and a giant brace on his right knee. He'll be replaced by senior Donald Booker in the Oklahoma State starting lineup.
Despite rumors to the contrary earlier this week, Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson, linebacker Andre Sexton and cornerback Perrish Cox all are dressed and appear ready to play.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
We caught up with Oklahoma State linebacker Andre Sexton for a few minutes earlier this week before the Cowboys’ big opener Saturday against Georgia. Here are some of his thoughts heading into the game.
How has it been getting back to the media earlier this week after the blackout a couple of weeks ago?
|Andre Sexton is well aware of the hype surrounding Saturday’s game.|
What have you been reading on Facebook about the game? Anything interesting?
AS: I had to update my status as soon as Georgia was coming. Everybody is commenting on it. People are saying they can’t wait for the game. I can’t blame them. I’m getting great support from people all over. I’m getting excited, too.
I know you’ve never really minded the media obligations. What was it like to spend those 10 days just concentrating on football?
AS: We put a lot of work in practice during that time and everybody was relaxed and cool. It was a little difficult doing your stuff on the field and then spending the next 30 to 45 minutes doing your media stuff. With the week off, it gave us the opportunity to stay focused about our game coming up and get ready for the challenges we’ll be facing against Georgia.
What do you think you’ll see from Georgia? Do you think they will try to physically pound the ball right at you?
AS: I definitely think so. With their young quarterback [Joe Cox], I think they will try to run the ball down our throats and see if we can stop them. We are going to have to be fundamentally sound and physical enough to put ourselves in good situations to see what they can do in the long-yardage situations. That will be a key for us.
A lot of people are saying this might be the biggest opening game in the history of your school and one of the biggest games ever played on your campus. Do you agree?
AS: I think everybody here is ready for the challenge. We’ve been hearing about all of this for so long. We’re ready to prove ourselves and change the way we are perceived. Everybody sees the new stuff at the stadium. All of our new surroundings have changed the way that people are looking at Oklahoma State. The next step is building our defense. We’re going to take it personally to try to do it.
Some of your teammates have vowed to be tougher after some of your struggles in the second half against Oregon in last season’s Holiday Bowl. Is this a ‘put up or shut up game’ for the program?
AS: I think it’s obvious for us to prove that we are a real program. This is a chance to try to change what people saw in that bowl game. They saw we were physically overmatched in the second half. We want to try to change that.
How much have you been thinking about this game?
AS: That’s something we’ve been working on from the first day we started our offseason work. We’re getting antsy about it.
What has the arrival of Bill Young (Oklahoma State’s new defensive coordinator) meant to your defense?
AS: He hasn’t had to talk much to the defense as a whole. Coach Young has focused on the defensive line, which is where he has done wonders. He’s simplified things to show them how to destroy blocks and create constant pressure.
The thing that hurt us last year was that we would get into the backfield and then we couldn’t finish. With the defensive line’s help this year that won’t be a problem.
He’s also talked to us about being consistent for four quarters. Coach Young being here has helped. But we also know what it takes. And we’re going to put it together on Saturday.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Kansas (Big 12 No. 5) vs. Georgia (SEC No. 5)
Kansas' record against the SEC: 0-0
Georgia's record against the Big 12: 3-0
Previous series: Never played
Distance between them (according to How Far Is It): 745 miles.
Where they should play: Memphis, Tenn. (385 miles from Athens, 393 miles from Lawrence)
Who wins: Georgia.
Why: Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno might be gone, but Georgia coach Mark Richt has other capable reserves that could make the Bulldogs one of the more underrated teams nationally.
I think that that quarterback Joe Cox, wide receiver A.J. Green and running backs Caleb King, Dontavius Jackson and freshman Washaun Ealey should provide enough firepower to enable the Bulldogs to outscore Kansas' potentially explosive offense.
Eight offensive starters who have started for Georgia over the last two seasons should provide the Bulldogs with the beef to dominate Kansas' suspect linebacking corps.
Kansas will be able to score in bunches with a lethal passing attack featuring Todd Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe, Kerry Meier and Johnathan Wilson. But if Georgia could maintain enough of a pass rush to keep Reesing from feeling comfortable in the pocket, the Bulldogs should be able to score enough to win this mythical game.
The count: Tied, 4-4.
Coming Tuesday: Nebraska (Big 12 No. 4) vs. LSU (SEC No. 4)
Note: Matchups are determined by the most recent rankings of Big 12 blogger Tim Griffin and SEC blogger Chris Low. All cumulative records go back to the 1996 season -- the first of competition in the Big 12.
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
12:00 PM ET 4 Oklahoma Tulsa 12:00 PM ET 20 Kansas State Iowa State 3:30 PM ET Missouri State Oklahoma State 7:00 PM ET Southeast Missouri State Kansas 7:30 PM ET BYU Texas 7:30 PM ET Towson West Virginia 7:30 PM ET Northwestern State 10 Baylor 11:00 PM ET Texas Tech UTEP