Big 12: Kurtis Taylor
Most famously known as Barbie's boyfriend, the doll is due for a re-design, which will be based on former Cyclone Kurtis Taylor, now 25.
Eight contestants took part in various "Bachelor-style" challenges, and according to the New York Times, Taylor won over the judges in the "romantic gesture" category. He was given $500 to buy gifts for a significant other, but he gave each judge a penny and donated the rest of the money to the Make-A-Wish foundation.
While at Iowa State, Taylor won the team's comeback player of the year award after the 2007 season when he finished second in the Big 12 with 6.5 sacks a season after missing all of 2006 with a knee injury suffered during spring drills.
He made 41 tackles that season, including eight tackles for loss.
In 2008, Taylor was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection as a senior. . He finished his career with 85 tackles, 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.
Mattell is reportedly readying a modeling contract for Taylor, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound native of Fort Dodge, Iowa.
In case you were wondering, here's Taylor's page on the site.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Every team is green someplace. Here are the specific areas of the most inexperience for each Big 12 team.
Baylor offensive tackle: The Bears need to break in two new starters after losing Jason Smith and Dan Gay.
Colorado defensive line: Help is needed along the defensive front where the Buffaloes lose starting defensive end Maurice Lucas, starting defensive tackle George Hypolite and starting nose tackle Brandon Nicolas.
Iowa State defensive line: Coach Paul Rhoads desperately wants somebody to emerge on the defensive line where the Cyclones lose starting defensive tackle Michael Tate, starting defensive end Kurtis Taylor and top backup defensive back Travis Ferguson.
Kansas linebackers: Even as Mark Mangino is contemplating going to a two-linebacker base defense because of the Big 12's spread offenses, he still needs to find those two players. The Jayhawks lose starters James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen at the position from last season.
Kansas State quarterback: Josh Freeman departed for the NFL early, leaving Carson Coffman and junior college transfer Daniel Thomas to compete for the starting job. It's not a pleasant introduction back to football for returning KSU coach Bill Snyder.
Missouri skill-position players: The Tigers need a quick infusion of playmakers after losing quarterback Chase Daniel, wide receiver/kick returner Jeremy Maclin and tight end Chase Coffman. All of them arguably were the greatest players at their respective positions in Missouri history. Blake Gabbert will receive first look at quarterback and Andrew Jones will work at tight end. It could take several players to fill in for what Maclin did.
Nebraska quarterback: It will be tough for the Cornhuskers to replace all that Joe Ganz did for them, both as a playmaker and a leader at quarterback. Zac Lee will get the first shot, along with freshman Cody Green and redshirt freshman Kody Spano. Maybe the Cornhuskers really could use former Miami quarterback Robert Marve next season.
Oklahoma offensive line: The departure of starting center Jon Cooper, tackle Phil Loadholt and guards Duke Robinson and Brandon Walker means that Sam Bradford will have an inexperienced group protecting him next season. Trent Williams moves to left tackle and Bob Stoops likes his incoming talent, if not its early work habits.
Oklahoma State defensive tackles: The Cowboys ranked last in the conference in sacks last season and lost starting defensive tackles Tonga Tea and Jeray Chatham. It will mean that new defensive coordinator Bill Young will need somebody to step up in the trenches to help shore up that weakness.
Texas defensive line: The major question dogging the Longhorns' national title hopes will be rebuilding a defensive front that loses All-American defensive end Brian Orakpo, defensive tackle Roy Miller, defensive tackle Aaron Lewis and defensive end Henry Melton from last season.
Texas Tech offensive line: New quarterback Taylor Potts will be relying on a retooled offensive line protecting his blind side after left tackle Rylan Reed, left guard Louis Vasquez and center Stephen Hamby all departed from last year.
Texas A&M running backs: The Aggies' offensive backfield will need to restock players: Michael Goodson left school early to declare for the NFL draft and fullbacks Jorvorskie Lane and Nick LaMantia are gone. Look for Cyrus Gray to get most of the work this spring with heralded freshman Bradley Stephens arriving in the summer.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Iowa State (2-4, 0-2): After starting the season on a two-win binge largely fueled by turnovers, the Cyclones have taken a step backwards with four straight losses. Coach Gene Chizik insists his team is better this season than its won-loss record indicates. The Cyclones played well for a half in losses against UNLV and Kansas, but couldn't sustain their strong play in either game. The Cyclones were lethargic last week in 38-10 loss to Baylor and cornerback Devin McDowell told the Des Moines Register that the Cyclones gave up. Not a good sign.
Offensive MVP, Austen Arnaud: Before a struggling performance against Baylor, Arnaud had asserted himself as an efficient playmaker with a knack for making big plays. He almost single-handedly directed the near-comeback against UNLV and passed for career-high totals of 268 yards and three TD passes against Kansas. But he must stay healthy because of the lack of an experienced backup.
Defensive MVP, Kurtis Taylor: One of the Cyclones' few defensive bright spots has been Taylor, a former special-teams player who has developed into his team's most consistent pass rusher. Taylor has produced 24 tackles and three sacks and leads his team with eight tackles for losses. He also returned an interception 48 yards to help spark the victory over South Dakota State.
What's next: A bowl bid is likely out of the question for the Cyclones, but their next two games will provide an immediate litmus test for Chizik and his program. They have winnable home games approaching against Nebraska and Texas A&M before a punishing finish that will conclude with three road games in their final four. Chizik is already building for the future with new starters at cornerback in Leonard Johnson and Ter'ran Benton. More could come as the season concludes.
Let's jump right in.
Rodney from Salina, Kan., writes: Why did you not include the Kansas State and Louisville game in your links this morning?
Tim Griffin: I didn't link a story to that game because I thought the other stories were more immediate. With that game still more than a week away, I thought it was a better idea to highlight the upcoming games instead.
Ben from San Diego writes: Tim, Double-T Nation is already upset about the fact that Texas Tech is the No. 12 team and has yet to have a televised game this season. An honest question though - although Tech plays the proverbial 'cupcake' out-of-conference schedule, why do networks still air other games instead. I mean, look at some of the other games on broadcast over weeks 1 and 2 and tell me that you wouldn't rather watch Texas Tech. Love your blog!
Tim Griffin: I agree with you about Tech's lack of national exposure so far, although their game against SMU will be a FSN broadcast available through most of the southwest and Big 12 region.
But I will say this. I would have thought that the Nevada-Tech game would have been picked up by somebody. Two potential explosive offenses would have made for a good TV game -- at least as good as the Navy-Ball State game that was shown.
I've got to think that if the Tech-Tulsa game had been played earlier this season rather than cancelled, that game would have been picked up by somebody. But I think it's understandable why most television networks would steer clear of games like Massachusetts and Eastern Washington -- I think for obvious reasons.
Kenny Lyndon writes: Why hasn't Kansas State received any attention after back to back weeks of the Big 12 player of the week and national defensive player of the week in Courtney Herndon? Josh Freeman is leading the league in pass efficiency and has four rushing scores and four passing scores.
Tim Griffin: It hasn't helped Kansas State that they've played North Texas and Montana State during the first two weeks of the season. I've mentioned them a couple of times in some of my blog posts and I plan to do a lot more leading up to their game against Louisville next week. And as I said earlier this week, Freeman might have been the conference's most productive quarterback after two weeks. It will be interesting to see if that carries over when he starts playing some big boys across the conference.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Kurtis Taylor might not have the athleticism associated with a breakaway running back. Although the 6-foot-2, 250-pound defensive end briefly tried to flash those kind of moves after an interception in the Cyclones' season-opening victory over South Dakota State.
Taylor recorded one of six turnovers for the Cyclones -- a high in the Gene Chizik era -- when he intercepted a pass in ISU's first game. He punctuated the pick with a flashy spin move that had his teammates busting him for the next several days throughout their film review.
"They were calling me Barry Sanders after that spin move," Taylor said, chuckling. "But they can joke all they want. I'll take a turnover like that any chance we can get it."
Chizik has been preaching producing turnovers throughout his ISU tenure, but said he finally felt like the lessons were taking hold after his team's big season-opening performance.
The Cyclones produced a school-record 202 yards of interception returns, including 48 on Taylor's wild ramble. ISU's five interceptions were the most for the Cyclones since 2001. They produced 10 interceptions last season.
"It was great to see that," Chizik said. "We just didn't ever feel last year that we were very good in our turnover ratio. We've been really preaching ball security and turnovers. We started getting more comfortable in our defense and starting to play faster. It was a great start to show the kind of gains and what happens when you get turnovers."
The major reason for the defensive improvement was because of familiarity with the philosophy of defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt.
"All of the schemes and the language and the concepts we are using are a year old," Taylor said. "Obviously, they are asking us do something and want us to fit into their ideas. Now, we just have to refine things and do them a little bit faster."
The Cyclones' awareness grew as turnovers starting piling up against their opponent from the Missouri Valley Conference.
"We got on a roll and you are able to build on what we've been able to do," Chizik said. "You could see in their eyes along the sidelines. We had two, let's get three. We got three, let's get four and on and on. It certainly was catching and we hope it will continue the rest of the year."
The recent Iowa State defensive improvement began late last season when the Cyclones played well in a 17-7 loss to Oklahoma.
"After that game, we realized we could play with anybody in the country," Taylor said. "It's just a shame we didn't learn that earlier. We could have played better against more teams last season. And we didn't have any more talent. It was just because we played together more."
That returning defensive group has been boosted by the arrival of seven freshmen and sophomores in their two-deep defensive lineup. Taylor said the new additions have provided a boost to his unit's playmaking abilities.
The next step will come Saturday against Kent State, a team that ruined Chizik's coaching debut last season.
"I remember how disappointed I was walking off that field," Taylor said. "I don't like to lose and it was definitely a bad feeling that we lost the game. They came into our house last year and beat us. The good thing is that this season we get to start over and come in with a new identity."