Big 12: Larry Coker
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's the first day of June and the opening day of college football season is less than 100 days away.
Keep reminding yourself of that for the next week or so before all the preseason magazines become readily available at newsstands across the country.
Until then, here are some lunchtime links designed to inform, educate and maybe even entertain you.
- New Kansas State athletic director John Currie will have his work cut out in regaining public trust in his institution, according to Jeffrey Martin of the Kansas City Star/Wichita Eagle.
- The Atlanta Journal Constitution's Mark Bradley predicts Texas to beat Florida in the BCS title game. He's not stopping there, as he also picks Colt McCoy to win the Heisman.
- Gocyclones.com reports that season end-zone tickets at Iowa State have already been sold out for the season.
- The Columbia Daily Tribune's Dave Matter laments the Big 12's weak non-conference September schedule.
- CollegeFootballNews.com has an extensive preview of Texas.
- Darren Carlson of Big Red Network.com wonders why he heard so many advertisements for football season tickets during a recent trip through Missouri.
- Vincent Carroll of the Denver Post blasts Colorado's proposal to charge all students a one-time $70 fee to benefit the school's alumni association.
- The Lawrence Journal-World's Dolph C. Simons writes about the challenges that will face new Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little as she attempts to keep up with the development of other Big 12 schools.
- Grant Wistrom's work assisting pediatric cancer patients was profiled in a touching story by the Lincoln Journal-Star's Brian Christopherson.
- New UTSA coach Larry Coker plucked a surprise commitment from San Antonio East Central High School running back Chris Johnson, who was being actively recruited by Colorado and Iowa State.
- Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler reports that two reputable preseason prognosticators are picking Iowa State to finish last in the Big 12 North.
- The new video boards at Nebraska's Memorial Stadium should result in a better game-day experience for spectators, Lincoln Journal Star reporter Brian Christopherson writes.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The weekend is coming. If you can't wait for the spring games, here are a few links to get you ready.
- Don't look for much of a statement from Texas A&M's running game at Saturday's spring game. The Aggies will have only seven scholarship offensive linemen and two running backs healthy for the workout, Robert Cessna of the Bryan Eagle reports.
- Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill worked with a retooled defensive front to accommodate the loss of McKinner Dixon, Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports.
- Quarterback Zac Robinson's playing time will be limited at Saturday's Orange-White game, but most other starters will play in the game, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy told the Oklahoman's Scott Wright.
- Missouri kicking coach Dave Yost expects a stiff three-way battle to replace Jeff Wolfert to play out throughout the summer, Matt Schiffman of the Columbia Missourian reports.
- Hey, blame them and not me. Sporting News college football writers Matt Hayes and David Curtis will make a lot of Big 12 fans angry after both picked Tim Tebow over either Sam Bradford or Colt McCoy as the best quarterback in college football.
- Multi-faceted Colorado standout Josh Smith had to overcome an initial fear of returning kicks, Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera reports.
- Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler opines on the rock-solid Oklahoma defense.
- Former Oklahoma State defensive back Eric Roark was among the first assistant coaches named Wednesday to Larry Coker's inaugural coaching staff at Texas-San Antonio.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's hard for a disgraced head coach to get back into the business after earlier struggles.
Take former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione, who lost his job at Texas A&M after the 2007 season after the shameful VIP e-mail story surfaced about him giving inside information to big-money boosters willing to pay him for the services.
That was a sad, sordid tale that had no place in today's college football. But I think that Franchione learned from his lesson and will be a different, more accountable coach if he has another shot in the business.
I thought Matt Hayes' recent column in the Sporting News Daily about Franchione and other older coaches wanting their chance to get back into coaching was spot-on in his assessment.
Coaches like Franchione, former Colorado coach Gary Barnett and former Kansas and Minnesota coach Glen Mason all are looking for one more shot at coaching. It's refreshing to see former Miami coach Larry Coker among the finalists at the new program at UTSA.
Franchione and I go back a long way. I can remember when he trudged up the steps at Bobcat Stadium in San Marcos, Texas, for an interview with me after losing a season-ending 1991 game to Sam Houston State while at Southwest Texas. It was a bitter defeat that cost his team a chance at the playoffs. There was no press-box elevator and Franchione walked up the steps just like the rest of us for his interviews after the game.
I saw Franchione a couple of times last season in press boxes that were much more lavish in his new role in the media working for ESPN radio. He was around the game, but didn't appear to be nearly as comfortable or happy in his new job as he was when he was coaching -- even after the bitterest of defeats.
Franchione and the others belong on the sideline. Here's hoping he gets a chance at coaching again sometime soon.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- History will be made Thursday night at Dolphin Stadium no matter who ends up holding the crystal ball at the end of the game.
No coach has ever claimed two Bowl Championship Series national championships. Both Bob Stoops and Urban Meyer are among 11 coaches who have claimed one national championship since the BCS era began at the 1999 Fiesta Bowl.
Stoops will make history Thursday as the first coach with four BCS title game appearances. His Sooners won the 2001 Orange Bowl over Florida State and then lost the 2004 Sugar Bowl to LSU and the 2005 Orange Bowl to USC.
Urban Meyer is 1-0 in previous BCS title games after beating Ohio State in the 2007 Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.
Coming back to the game again is a big accomplishment for Stoops and his program. But he joked that the historical achievement would mean little if his team didn't win Thursday's game.
"I'm just proud of our program and what we've been able to do the last 10 years when you compare it to what was happening in the 10 years prior to what we've been able to do," Stoops said. "It isn't just me; it's a great administration, it's a bunch of great assistant coaches that we've had here and good character of players that have helped us build and get the program back in a strong position."
Five previous coaches have failed in their attempt to claim a second national championship after winning their first.
"It's just very humbling when you start thinking of all the great head coaches out there and great coaching staffs," Meyer said. "Other than that, I just worry about third-and-6 and make sure our punting team is ready to go."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's been a long time since Stephen McGee hasn't started a football game.
McGee's personal iron-man streak reaches back to the fourth grade. But his sprained right shoulder has made his condition questionable heading into Saturday's game against Miami at Kyle Field.
''Yeah, it's been a pretty scary deal for me,'' said McGee, who sustained the injury during the third play of the Aggies' 28-22 victory Sept. 6 against New Mexico. "If God is willing and my injury heals, I'll be ready to go ... It's obviously difficult because I've never been in this situation before."
If McGee can't play, he would be replaced by Jerrod Johnson, who engineered the Aggies' comeback victory after McGee went down. Johnson fired three touchdown passes to spark the triumph, evening A&M's record at 1-1 before last week's bye.
McGee said earlier this week he hasn't had any discomfort as he returned to practice. But A&M coach Mike Sherman isn't expected to make a decision until shortly before game time.
"If I can't go, I'll be preparing to be on the sidelines helping my teammates and being a leader," McGee said. "I want to use my experience to help the team and be beneficial for them. I'll be ready to go either way."
When the matchup between the Aggies and Miami was first announced several years ago, it was expected to be a battle between two of the nation's pre-eminent football powers.
But what a difference a few years can make. Both of the once-proud powers have struggled through some hard times -- as recently as earlier this season.
Miami has lost nine of its last 11 road games, five of them by at least two touchdowns. The Hurricanes have 12 freshmen on their two-deep roster. Their quarterback position is in flux and they'll be missing starting tailback Javarris James, who suffered a high ankle sprain against Florida and isn't expected back for another three weeks.
The Aggies are in just as dire straits after dropping their season opener at home to Arkansas State, a defeat that many observers are quantifying as one of the most disappointing in the school's football history.
Both teams will be looking to turn around their recent struggles and get their seasons headed in the right direction.
Saturday's game is particularly important for Sherman, as he desperately tries to regain some momentum in his first season with conference play looming in two weeks.
That's why having a bye week last week gave him the opportunity to rebuild his team's confidence, despite the season-opening loss and McGee's injury.
"I wouldn't have ever picked to have the off week this time of the season. But it was somewhat fortuitous on our part to have the week off when we did," Sherman said. "We need to get better. We need to improve as a team and it give us a chance to really isolate in practice on some things that we need to work on."
One of the biggest things is to try to get those players remaining from last year to wipe away any memories of Miami's humbling 34-17 victory over the Aggies at the Orange Bowl.
The Hurricanes' talent edge was apparent as they jumped to a 24-0 halftime lead, limiting A&M to 38 yards in the first half. The margin eventually swelled to 31-0 before the Aggies tacked on a couple of late cosmetic touchdowns that made the final margin appear more presentable.
That size and speed has left A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines with a simple solution as he prepares for Saturday's game.
When asked by reporters earlier this week what he could do to neutralize Miami's athletic ability, the 64-year-old Kines had a quick response that was meant to be a joke.
"Pray," he said with a smile. "You've either got speed or you're chasing it. That's just football. You can't manufacture speed, and you can't coach them to run faster. God and momma gave them most of that.
"If you run fast, you've got a definite advantage. Hopefully, what we've got to do is keep them bottled up before they get out."
Miami coach Randy Shannon, who was Miami's defensive coordinator for six seasons before replacing Larry Coker after the 2006 season, was a part of three of the school's five national championships. But he has similarly struggled with a 6-8 record since taking over.
"They remind me of Miami of old," Kines said. "Coach Shannon is doing a heck of job putting his young program together. He has the recipe [for success]."
Sherman said he's trying to guard his team from getting intimidated by Miami's once-sizable mystique.
"I worry more about us than them," Sherman said. "I worry about how we're doing things. I can't control that mystique and what they are, but we can control what we think about ourselves. I don't think that's going to play into it. We're playing a team in 2008 on this field, and it has nothing to do with the past.
"It has everything to do with how we play. If we play well, we'll do well. If we don't we won't. It's as simple as that."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's a representative cross section of some of the letters I received over the past few days.
Isaac from Tulsa writes: If Oklahoma and Missouri both run the table in the Big 12 do you think the championship game will be bigger than USC-OSU game? It's like the media was crowning USC the champions and then was there second game. What's the deal?
Tim Griffin: First of all, it's a big "if" for both Oklahoma and Missouri to run the table. But if they do, it would set up the first potential unbeaten matchup for a Big 12 title. How big would that be? Winner would likely go to the BCS title game in Miami. The loser likely would go to the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.
But there's still a bunch of football before we consider something like that happening. I'm still thinking the national title will include some kind of three-cornered result from the winner of the Ohio State-USC game -- USC obviously -- the winner of the Georgia/Florida game and the Big 12 championship. I look for those three winners to play a game of musical chairs for the national championship berths.
Ryan from Lincoln, Neb. writes: Hey Tim, I'm sure you're going to cover this more in depth next week but I wanted to hear your take on Virginia Tech - Nebraska. After watching both teams last week it looked like this should be a pretty even match. Is containing Tyrod Taylor going to be an obstacle for the Blackshirts even with the noticeable improvement last week?
Tim Griffin: I will be focusing on that question more next week. But as expected, Virginia Tech will be Coach Bo Pelini's biggest test to date. And the big thing the Cornhuskers will need to do is stand up to Virginia Tech's physical nature from the opening kickoff. Frank Beamer's team traditionally has been successful on the road because they don't get intimidated away from Blacksburg. Containing Taylor is going to be a good test for the Cornhuskers' defense, even with the recent success that Pelini has cooked up.
This is going to be Pelini's first chance to show his program off to a wide national audience. It should be interesting.
John H. from Broken Arrow, Okla., writes: Tim, Do you think Oklahoma State can do better than 8-4 this year?
Tim Griffin: I think that might be stretching things just a little. The Cowboys have played well so far this season, but they still haven't faced competition anywhere like what they'll see in the Big 12. I'm still not sold on their defense after the way they were blistered by Houston. And I'm curious how explosive the OSU offense will be against Big 12 defenses.
After the first three weeks of the season, OSU has been one of my biggest surprises in the Big 12. I didn't think they would fill in so quickly for Adarius Bowman and Dantrell Savage. But they have, and their offense looks so far to be as potent as it was last season. But let's see how they play against Texas A&M and in tough early Big 12 road games at Missouri and Texas before we start christening them as potential South Division title contenders.
Chris from Abilene, Texas, writes: How worried should I be when my Aggies take the field against Miami on Saturday? Let me rephrase...is there any reason not to worry?
Tim Griffin: To be honest, I'm thinking that the Aggies might match up better against Miami than some might think. Remember, this isn't the monolithic "U" of the Larry Coker era. These Hurricanes rank 105th in total offense and 106th in passing offense. They do have a sturdy interior rush defense and it will be a huge effort for an underwhelming (at least so far) A&M offensive line to get much push against them.
Here's where I think the game hinges: Miami is tied for 99th nationally in net punting and 118th in kickoffs. The Aggies haven't been that much better. The team that wins the special teams will win the game.
And I'm looking for a low-scoring game, too. First team to 17 points might win it.
Steve from Belton, Texas, writes: I saw you on television Saturday afternoon from the studios. Your comments got better as the day went on. Do they have an open bar or something up there?
Tim Griffin: No, Steve, they don't. I probably could have used it. But I enjoyed my work in the studio much more than I ever would have imagined. Props to my colleagues Dari Nowkhah and Chris Spielman. They made a fish out of water feel like he could at least swim.
But I think I'm going to be enjoying covering a game again this weekend.
Roger from Oklahoma City writes: What criteria do you use for the awarding of your helmet stickers? And why did you decide not to give one to Sam Bradford (career-high five TD passes and a TD run) and give one to Robert Griffin.
Tim Griffin: I'm limited to four or five stickers each week, depending on the space we have. I was mightily impressed by what Bradford did against Washington. But I figured that setting the conference record for per-carry average was pretty special - especially when it was done in only Griffin's second career start and first against a BCS team. So that's why I awarded him the coveted sticker.
And to be truthful, the one I felt most badly about leaving out was Texas Tech S Daniel Charbonnet, who merely set a school record with three interceptions against SMU. A lot of media types were snickering when Mike Leach brought him to Kansas City for the Big 12 media days rather than Graham Harrell or Michael Crabtree. His game Saturday night proved he belonged there.
Victor from St. Louis writes: Any talk of how low it was for Missouri coach Gary Pinkel to run a fake FG up by 30 pts in the 2nd half on lowly Nevada? Now that Mizzou is gaining some respect as good football team, something like that is going to give people the impression that he's a Spurrieresque type of guy. That was pretty low budget.
Tim Griffin: I specifically asked Pinkel about that when I spoke with him earlier this week. And I agree with your premise. But Pinkel did make a good point when he said that running that fake got it out on film for every opponent during the rest of the season. They now know that Missouri is willing to gamble in that situation. Whether it should have been called in the particular game situation is debatable, but his thought about making opponents account for it has no ulterior motives.
Caleb from El Reno, Okla., writes: What was your take on the play where Oklahoma DT DeMarcus Granger got hurt? It seemed like a dirty play to triple team a player and then literally punch him while he is down, not to mention Granger was injured on the play.
Tim Griffin: The seeds for that play started on the previous play when Granger was flagged for a personal foul. As my old coaches would have said, he probably needed to "keep his head on a swivel" for the next few plays.
It was an odious play when Granger was hurt when he was down. Bob Stoops hinted that it might have been retaliation for Granger's previous play. But
he also made it clear he wasn't whining about it.
Stoops was able to take the high road a lot more easily considering all of the depth he has at defensive tackle. But it still reminded me of something from "The Longest Yard."
Jarratt from Austin writes: I agree that the Texas running back collection is not where it needs to be if we want to beat OU/Missouri/Kansas/Texas Tech. But I was actually surprised they average a collective 4.4 yards per carry. What is considered a good average? Perhaps I'm stuck in the "three yards and a cloud of dust age," but isn't 4.4 considered pretty good?
Tim Griffin: You should be able to keep collecting first downs if you average 4.4 yards per play. But considering the league average is currently 4.98 yards per carry, it would be considered something that could use some improvement. And among the league's top 12 ball carriers that average would be lower than every player with the exception of Texas A&M's Mike Goodson, who has a 4.4 yard-per-carry average.
So obviously, Mack Brown is looking for some improvement from his running backs.
Guys, thanks for the questions this week. Keep them coming and enjoy the games all throughout the week.