Big 12: letters from readers
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The mailbag was heavy this week with comment from readers, particularly about my ranking for coaches earlier this week. Here are some answers from your missives.
Bryan from Oklahoma City writes: I've never understood the concept of a power poll. OU dominated Missouri in the Big 12 Championship game last year based mostly on its utter dominance in the trenches in the second half. Every starter from those lines returns for the Sooners, along with most of the skill players on offense, and you put Missouri ahead of OU in your "power poll." What kind of power is this poll measuring exactly?
Tim Griffin: You're right, but that was last year. It seems to me that Curtis Lofton had a lot to do in that game and he's not around anymore is he? Also, I'm thinking that the attitude I saw from Chase Daniel and the Missouri players I've seen over the last several weeks tell me they are still pretty angry about that game. I've always said that my margin between Oklahoma and Missouri is very slight -- maybe the difference between Missouri K Jeff Wolfert and Oklahoma K Jimmy Stevens. That, and the fact that any game between the two teams would be played late in the season in Kansas City are the reasons why I give them the slimmest of margins. Because I don't think my bosses would have wanted me to rate them 1A and 1B.
Andy from Wichita writes: Hey, Tim. Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. Your blog has become the first place I go to in the morning to catch up on sports. Honestly, I tell all my friends about your articles. Keep it up!
Tim Griffin: Thanks, Andy, for the kind words. And don't just tell them about the blog items -- tell them to click on their computer and read them on their own. I need the page hits!
Mike D from Lubbock writes: What do you think Texas Tech's chances are of actually pulling off a win against Texas at home this year, and against Oklahoma away? Then, can the Red Raiders win the Big 12 and then a national title BCS bid? Everyone has been saying we are going to lose to an unexpected team again this year, I can't see it happening at all. What do you think?
Tim Griffin: Mike, I think you're just a tad optimistic in your assessment of the Red Raiders, although I think they can beat Texas in Lubbock. Of course, they've only been able to do that once under Mike Leach and it will be a big chore for them this year.
I know that Tech has beaten Oklahoma two of the last three years, but both of those games were in Lubbock. I don't like their chances in Norman in 2008. And Bob Stoops is still known as "Big Game Bob" in Big 12 games, isn't he?
I don't see them losing any of the nonconference games this year, but keep your eye on the game at Kansas. Mark Mangino has very quietly developed a pretty nice homefield advantage in Lawrence. That game is one that could be a stumble. And I really don't think it necessarily would be an upset -- if the teams played today, I think Kansas would be a favorite.
Sean from Boulder, Colo., writes: Hey Tim! So CU landed big-time recruit in Darrell Scott, how will the Buffs do this upcoming season?
Tim Griffin: Sean, I think the Buffaloes might be a surprise team in the North Division. They have to find somebody to replace Jordon Dizon and find a couple of capable defensive backs. But if Scott is as good as DT George Hypolite says he is -- or even comes close -- he could develop into one of the top three or four backs in the league by the end of the season.
That should be able to get them to a bowl game, although I still don't think they are good enough to match up with Missouri. I think the Tigers are in a class by themselves in the North Division.
Houston writes: Will Texas A&M ever rise above the ranks of Texas, and be a national power house or will they be in UT's shadow forever?
Tim Griffin: Good question that we need to go back and look at history to consider. It's funny that in this rivalry, both teams are rarely good enough to challenge for the national championship at the same time. It's tended to be that one team is up while the other is down, and vice versa.
I think it will be tough for A&M to ever regain control in this rivalry as long as Mack Brown is coaching in Austin. And yes, Aggie fans, I know A&M has won the last two games in the series. What did that do for Dennis Franchione? Did he get a sweeter radio deal or contract settlement on his way out of College Station?
Mike Sherman has a different way of thinking than Franchione. It's more like the program was under R.C. Slocum, an old-school approach heavy on fundamentals and respect. I think a lot of recruits will gravitate to that, but I'm wondering how many truly great players will.
That remains to be seen. But I think Texas still is considered to be one of the top five programs in the country. Texas A&M would be considered in the top 30.
DiRaimo from Dallas writes: When Graham Harrell breaks all of Colt Brennan's career passing records what kind of legacy will be left behind?
Tim Griffin: Harrell will go down as one of the greatest statistical quarterbacks in history. But he's got to win some big games to really cement his legacy. And he better hope he doesn't play Georgia in a bowl game. I bet Colt Brennnan still has some "Dawg bites" from that one.
Eric from Houston writes: What do you think the chances are for Robert Griffin of Baylor to developing into a big-time QB?
Tim Griffin: I've seen some film of Griffin in action in high school and I was very impressed. Obviously, a lot of things can happen in college football. But I think he went to good place to work under Art Briles. It will be interesting to see how things work out for him. He's also one of the fastest players in the Big 12.
Matt from Omaha writes: I know the Big 12 is stacked this year, but I cannot understand why everybody is so down on the Huskers. Bill Callahan's recruiting classes were always ranked pretty high. With a better coaching philosophy in place, shouldn't they be capable of winning 7-9 games this year?
Tim Griffin: Matt, you can't necessarily depend on recruiting rankings to necessarily be a predictor of football success. They are good judgments, but not absolute. I think the players are present that Bo Pelini can win six or seven games, including an upset or two along the way this season. But the Cornhuskers' defense was atrocious last season. I know Bo is going to "coach them up" to use my favorite bit of coach-speak. But I don't know if that much improvement can be made.
Duane from Kalmazoo, Mich writes: I just read your coach rankings and I don't understand your logic. For instance, Art Briles is ranked No. 6 because he is a great offensive mind. Yet, Bo Pelini, who is known as a great defensive mind, is ranked 12th despite being the only coach who has won 100 percent of his games. Please be consistent and put all the new coaches down at the bottom if you wish, but this makes no sense.
Tim Griffin: Duane, I'm going to respectfully disagree with you. Art Briles did a great job in turning a downtrodden Houston program into a consistent bowl winner and even a conference championship winning team in his previous job. The Cougars made four bowl trips in the last five seasons. And I don't think he necessarily had many breaks to accomplish that turnaround. Turning Houston and making them what he did counts for more to me than Pelini's one-game bowl victory against a Michigan State team that didn't look like it wanted to play in that Alamo Bo
wl. I know, because I covered the game and was around the Spartans that week before the game.
But as I've explained on a couple of radio shows this week, these coaching rankings are very fluid. Nobody would have had Bob Stoops that highly ranked as a head coach coming into the 1999 season. He was a promising assistant, but nobody knew what he could do when he was running his own program. He got Oklahoma humming early, taking them to the Independence Bowl in his first season. And then he won a national championship his second season. Presto, rock-star status in two seasons.
Can it happen that fast for Pelini? Maybe, but I wouldn't bet on it. He still got to coach a few more games before anybody is ready to put him up on the coaching version of Mount Rushmore.
Robert Gohlke writes: What are the possible bowl games Oklahoma State could go to this year?
Tim Griffin: I think the Cowboys are a solid bowl pick, if they can keep QB Zac Robinson healthy and improve their defensive production. That being said, I could see them maybe topping off at the Alamo Bowl, but more likely at the Independence, Sun or Houston bowls. I don't see them going back to the Insight.com Bowl after playing in Tempe, Ariz., last season.
Thanks again for all of the letters. Please keep them coming.
BIG 12 SCOREBOARD
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
Final Marshall 52 Northern Illinois 23 Final Navy 17 San Diego State 16
Final Central Michigan 48 Western Kentucky 49 Final Fresno State 6 Rice 30
Final Illinois 18 Louisiana Tech 35 Final Rutgers 40 North Carolina 21 Final North Carolina State 34 UCF 27
Final Cincinnati 17 Virginia Tech 33 Final 15 Arizona State 36 Duke 31 Final Miami (FL) 21 South Carolina 24 Final/OT Boston College 30 Penn State 31 Final Nebraska 42 24 USC 45
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State