Big 12: Matt Barkley

NFL teams are jockeying for position and every time a quarterback is cut, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith's name seems to surface.

Are they targeting him?

Smith was the main attraction at his pro day on Thursday in Morgantown in front of 29 NFL teams -- all but the Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks -- and completed 60-of-64 passes.

Sounds like the Baylor game back in September to me. From the Associated Press:
He had two passes dropped, tossed one into a net hanging from the ceiling and overthrew two receivers -- one on a sideline pattern, the other on a deep ball. But not much went wrong for him otherwise.

Smith's workout was scripted by former Florida State star and Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, who now directs the IMG Football Academy in Florida.

"It was a lot easier than the combine," Smith told reporters. "For one, I wasn't up for three days straight before doing this. I was able to get some rest, just being back in Morgantown, which is my comfortable environment and feeling good.

"At the combine we were limited to about 10 to 15 throws. To get 60 to 70 throws in here, I think it helped me out a lot."

By now, it's hard to see Smith being passed up by USC's Matt Barkley. Everything Smith has done since the end of the season has validated his stellar on-field performance this year that included 42 touchdown passes to just six interceptions--five-game losing streak notwithstanding. The only game Smith played poorly was in the first loss of the year to Texas Tech, when he was wildly inaccurate and looked shaken up by windy conditions in Lubbock, Texas.

Still, Smith looks like the best QB in this draft to me, and I have a hard time seeing even the best pro day performance from USC's Matt Barkley changing that.

Receiver Tavon Austin didn't run his 40 again--a wise move considering his absurd 4.34 time at the combine last month--but he reportedly impressed everyone in attendance with his work during Smith's throwing session. He makes the position look natural, has obvious eye-popping speed and even more "Wow!"-worthy quickness and change of direction in tight space or in the open field. Colleague Todd McShay also unearthed a really intriguing nugget about the 5-foot-9, 164-pound, do-everything talent for the Mountaineers.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen told McShay that Austin didn't miss a single practice in four years as a Mountaineer, which is nothing short of amazing when you consider the undersized prospect touched the ball 526 times in games over that period. Sure, he perfected the art of getting out of bounds to avoid contact on many occasions, but that talent in itself speaks to his ability to remain healthy. Nobody blames stars for sitting out practice time -- Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein hardly practiced at all late in the 2011 season at K-State -- but Austin refused to take a day off. That's going to tell NFL teams plenty.

Just as much as Smith's solid showing with his arm on Thursday, I'd say. He simply proved what we all saw last fall in his first season as a Big 12 quarterback.

Big 12 combine storylines to watch

February, 22, 2013
The NFL scouting combine is underway, with the first set of physical workouts to begin today. You can see the full schedule here.

A few things you can watch for from the Big 12's talents this week:

Who's the No. 1 quarterback? USC's Matt Barkley isn't throwing at the combine workouts, but West Virginia's Geno Smith surprised some by announcing that he planned to give it a try. If he performs well, he could definitely ascend to the No. 1 spot. He's already close behind Barkley, but his combine performance will have an impact. But in the new NFL where mobile quarterbacks are en vogue, Smith's versatility that WVU didn't use could come into play. He'll put up some very interesting measurables, and his accuracy will show up if he calms his nerves. If not, NC State's Mike Glennon or Arkansas' Tyler Wilson could jump over him in the pecking order.

What about the No. 1 receiver? Baylor's Terrance Williams will be in the house and so will West Virginia's Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson is widely accepted as the top prospect, but could any of the Big 12's heavyweights make some noise with solid workouts and fight their way into first-round status?

Fixed up, but not quite ready to go. Jake Knott is still healing from his shoulder surgery this fall, but TCU's Stansly Maponga and Matthew Tucker should be all healed up from nagging ankle injuries. Knott won't be able to fully work out, but he'll do well in the interview process and was one of the most respected players in the league. It'll be interesting to see what NFL folk have to say about him after this week, despite not being able to see him work out.

Klein catching anyone's eyes (or their passes)? Collin Klein's Senior Bowl snub had fans around the Big 12 fired up and wondering how the Heisman third-place finisher could be left out of the premier postseason exhibition for scouts, but he doesn't quite fit the NFL mold. He's been working with former Denver Bronco Jake Plummer over the past few weeks, though he struggled in his one postseason all-star game experience. Could he build some buzz this week, either at quarterback or another position (receiver, tight end?) and convince an NFL team to fall for him? He'll knock his interviews out of the park.

Fastest man in the building. Could Austin take home the title? What about Marquise Goodwin? We may finally get some answers about who truly is the fastest man in the Big 12, and perhaps all of college football. The combine tells all, and the 40 times are always reliable. Seeing what those two put on the board will be interesting. How close to 4.3 could we see?

Time is money. Tony Jefferson has big-time instincts and plays physically, but he could help himself out in a big way by posting a great 40 time. His straight-line speed is his biggest knock, but he's spent the last month or so working out, and we'll see how much his work has paid off. Some of that speed work is so specifically tailored to 40 times that sometimes it doesn't show up on the field, but silliness aside, Jefferson has a ton to gain in that workout.

Big moving day? Every year somebody wows at the combine and ascends from out of nowhere to becoming a consensus first-round pick. Call it silly if you'd like, but that's the truth. Could any Big 12 talents be that guy this year? Keep an eye out. The Big 12 is likely to be shut out of the top 10 and may only have two to four first-round picks. That could change this week. Here's a few guys who might make that happen.
Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, his first national award of the season.

He beat out fellow finalists Matt Barkley of USC, EJ Manuel of Florida State, AJ McCarron of Alabama and West Virginia's Geno Smith to win the award.


Which player will win the 2012 Heisman Trophy?


Discuss (Total votes: 351,208)

To be eligible, quarterbacks must be nearing completion of their college eligibility or be a fourth-year junior on schedule to graduate with the recruiting class he signed with.

Klein carried Kansas State to an 11-1 record and its first Big 12 championship since 2003 by throwing for 2,490 yards and 15 touchdowns, adding 22 more touchdowns on the ground with 890 rushing yards.

Klein was also named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy on Monday.

"Collin is not just a tremendous athlete and leader on the field, but an MVP off the field as well, who repeatedly has been recognized for his numerous contributions to the community and to the spirit of sportsmanship," said John C. Unitas Jr., president of The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation.

Big 12 Heisman Watch: Week 8

October, 16, 2012
Here are the Big 12's best hopes for the Heisman after seven weeks:

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Smith's day wasn't as bad as the scoreboard indicated in Saturday's 49-14 loss to Texas Tech, but his lead in the Heisman race was trimmed quite a bit. He completed 29 of 55 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown, moving to 25 touchdowns and no interceptions.

2. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Klein did what Klein does in a 27-21 win against Iowa State, completing 16 of 24 passes for 187 yards and rushing for three touchdowns and 105 yards on 25 carries. Go up to Morgantown and win next week, while outgunning Geno Smith? Klein is the new Heisman front-runner.

3. Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State: Randle's quietly still leading the Big 12 in rushing and averaging more than 20 yards more a game than any back in the league. He had a rough outing (29 carries, 80 yards, no TDs) against Kansas, but odds are in his favor to bounce back.

4. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Jones is back on the list after a pair of big wins and a pair of big performances in both of those wins. He's got a lot of ground to make up to really get back in the race, but the Sooners are back inside the top 10. That's a good start. Jones threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns against Texas, but his completion percentage still needs a lot of work.

5. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: Austin had his worst day of the season, and Stedman Bailey's absence no doubt was a big factor. He was quiet (9 receptions, 99 yards), but we'll see if he'll get back to his old ways this week. Before Saturday, he'd topped 100 yards and 10 catches in every game this season.

Here's how I voted in this week's ESPN Heisman Watch:
  1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
  2. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
  3. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
  4. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
  5. Matt Barkley, QB, USC

Geno Smith new No. 1 in Heisman Watch

September, 18, 2012
For now, let's make it official: Geno Smith is the new Heisman frontrunner.

In our weekly ESPN Heisman Watch, Smith collected 12 of the 15 first-place votes, including mine.

That gave him a 22-point lead over second-place finisher De'Anthony Thomas, the Oregon running back.

Here's what we wrote about Smith in the Heisman Watch blurb:
Smith kept himself in the Heisman race, finishing with five touchdowns and 411 yards on 34-of-39 passing in a 42-12 win over James Madison. He passed Marc Bulger to earn the school's all-time passing mark, and through two games, he's thrown nine touchdown passes and nine incompletions.

Not bad, not bad at all.

Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein was the only other Big 12 player to receive votes. He grabbed one second-place vote, three fourth-place votes (including mine) and three fifth-place votes. That put him in sixth place, one of only six players to receive double-digit points and just one point behind Matt Barkley.

Big 12 Heisman Watch: Week 4

September, 18, 2012
Here's who I've got as the Big 12's best Heisman hopes through three weeks of games.

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Smith should take over the spot as the front-runner for the award after a crazy-good two games and a USC loss in which Matt Barkley played awful. Smith has accounted for 10 touchdowns (nine passing, one rushing) and thrown just nine incompletions. West Virginia's two wins have been no-doubters fueled by the offense, and Smith is second nationally in passer rating and fourth in touchdowns.

2. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Klein's Cats have had a pair of slow starts, but he made a big impression in K-State's win over Miami. He had a pretty good outing against North Texas, completing 15 of 20 passes for 230 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also added 85 yards rushing and a touchdown on 11 carries. Good enough. Klein is still a dark horse, but if he goes into Norman and wins? Look out.

3. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Jones is on this list in name only so far this season. He has been underwhelming through two games, but the Sooners are still in the top 10 and Jones has big name recognition. If he has a big game in the Sooners' first real test -- Kansas State -- he'll get back in the mix. Through two games, though, Jones is completing just 62.5 percent of his passes (40-of-64) for 474 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.

4. Tavon Austin, WR/KR/PR, West Virginia: Austin has been overshadowed a bit by his more traditional teammate, Stedman Bailey, but has put up some good numbers through two games, too. He's caught 21 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns, but was quiet in the return game on Saturday, not returning a punt and taking his only kick return just 8 yards. Bailey has put up bigger numbers in the receiving game, but traditional receivers have zero chance to win the Heisman. If Austin makes noise in the return game, he could get in the mix.

Here's how I voted in this week's ESPN Heisman Watch:
  1. Geno Smith, QB, WVU
  2. De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
  3. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
  4. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
  5. Matt Barkley, QB, USC -- Completely silly to think Barkley is out of this race with one bad game and one loss. Take a look at what happened to RG3 last season.
Our ESPN college football team is talking Heisman all day today, including the debut of our weekly Heisman tracker, the Heisman Watch.

We have 15 voters who turn in a Heisman top 5 each week following the games, including yours truly.

We released our first version today, and two Big 12 quarterbacks are on the list.

West Virginia's Geno Smith is No. 3, and even received a first-place vote. He cashed in two votes for second, third, fourth and fifth. Way to spread the love. He appeared on 11 of 15 ballots.

Oklahoma's Landry Jones is No. 5. He also appeared on 11 of 15 ballots, but had three third-place votes, and four votes in fourth and fifth place.

You can see the full standings here.

I'll be releasing my ballot here on the blog every week, but here's how I voted to start the season:
  1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
  2. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
  3. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
  4. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
  5. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

Star power returns to college football

August, 16, 2012
Stanford's Andrew Luck left a year early for the NFL. USC's Matt Barkley returned for his senior season. Baylor's Robert Griffin III bolted. Oklahoma's Landry Jones stayed. Alabama's Trent Richardson moved on. Wisconsin's Montee Ball is still in Madison.

The top six finishers in the Heisman Trophy vote were all underclassmen. The top three left early (Griffin, Luck and Richardson). But the next three came back (Ball, Tyrann Mathieu and Barkley, though Mathieu was given the boot from LSU).

On the defensive side of things, while superstars such as LSU's Morris Claiborne, Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox and Alabama's Dont'a Hightower entered the draft early, others, such as LSU's Sam Montgomery, Utah's Star Lotulelei and Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, came back.

Bottom line: There's a lot of star power returning to college football in 2012. More, perhaps, than usual. Each player has his own reasons for coming back, though visions of national championships, individual awards and, yes, better NFL draft position certainly danced in their heads.

Read more from Ted Miller by clicking here.
Sports Illustrated's college football preview issue hits newsstands soon, but the magazine is once again going the regional cover route.

It released all five covers earlier today, and two Big 12 quarterbacks grabbed spots.

Oklahoma's Landry Jones grabbed one spot, with the headline "Deep Threat," which asks if Jones is the man to lead Oklahoma to a Big 12 title and beyond.

West Virginia's Geno Smith, the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year, grabbed the other spot. His headline reads, "Air Raid," previewing his bombs away style of passing's debut on the bigger stage.

Good-looking crew. You can see all five covers here. USC's Matt Barkley, Michigan's Denard Robinson and Alabama's AJ McCarron filled out the five spots for quarterbacks on the cover. Check it out.

Mailbag: TCU/WVU upgrade, home turf

February, 24, 2012
Thanks for all the questions this week. We heard from plenty of you. Here's where I can be reached if you have more thoughts, questions or cute witticisms.

Ernie A in Austin, Texas, writes: Ubbexander the Great, I watched a video over on the Pac 12 blog today and saw their blogger refer to the Pacific conference as "The Conference of Quarterbacks." Ridiculous, right? I mean, sure they've got Price and Barkley, but the Big 12 can more than match that in my opinion, especially since every team excluding my horns and the Jayhawks have a real, potential difference maker going into the season. So diving off of this--what is the state of Big 12 QBs with the departure of three of the best from last season, and who do you think (besides Jones and Klein) will step up and keep the Big 12's strong QB reputation known?

David Ubben: First off, what are you doing on the Pac-12 blog? I can only assume it's because the Longhorns are plotting an escape to the Pac-16.

We heard the same thing about the Pac-12 last season with Luck, Barkley, Foles and Co., but I'd say it was still pretty clear by season's end that the Big 12 was superior. It took home the Heisman and was a deeper league at the position. The gap isn't enormous, but the Big 12 was better.

This year? You have to remember how well this league develops new passers. Baylor and Oklahoma State lose two great quarterbacks, but Nick Florence and whoever wins the battle at OSU should be solid. All those guys have potential.

Landry Jones and Seth Doege are back, but they're joined by Geno Smith at WVU and Casey Pachall at TCU, the two new guys. For now, the league's reputation as the best quarterback league is safe, even if Barkley will grab plenty of attention at the top this season, and maybe win the Heisman.

Jason in Evansville, Ind., writes: David, looking forward to getting to know your blog. BB and AA have done a nice job covering our beloved Mounties. As far as some game day traditions to see at Mountaineer Field, get to know the 1st down chant. All schools have their own game day traditions in the crowd that give them an identity. FSU does the chop, some schools like VTech jingle keys for "key plays", Pitt sings Sweet Caroline (never understood why), etc....The first down chant kind of started in the student section during my days as a an undergrad and over the years has become a standard game day tradition across the stadium. Pretty simple, here's how it goes. WVU gets a 1st down on any given play. Fans hold their arms straight out and start vocally with "ohhhhhhh" until the PA announcer says" 1st down West Virginia", and in unison the crowd bounces their arms down 3 times and says "hoo-hoo-hoo.....(clap) first down", and points in the direction of the first down. Pretty simple. When the game is a big one and is close the chant gets louder with the crowd and generally gets everyone fired up as momentum builds moving the ball down the field. Hopefully we will continue many more 1st down chants against our new Big tWelVe conference foes. You should start practicing for your first visit to Morgantown. See you in the Blue Lot!

DU: Thanks for filling us in, Jason. I'm curious about all the gameday traditions. I really can't wait for my first game out there. New experiences are always great. I'll keep an eye out for this. I'm sure the other fans across the Big 12 think the same.

Jayhawk in Maryland in Edgewater, Md., writes: Dave, Love the readers' snippets on what to do in Morgantown and Fort Worth for gamedays. Maybe we/you should introduce them to Lawrence, Stillwater, Manhattan, etc. as well. Always good to plan a tailgate.

Mason in Texas wrote: Ubbs, I like the "Home Turf" series for TCU and WVU. A thought though, expand it to all schools. WVU and TCU folks need to know where to go when they visit all of us. Not just that, but I bet a lot of people haven't traveled every and would like to know what's up in each town. Just a humble suggestion.

DU: I heard from a ton of you this week, expressing a similar sentiment. Which means we'll do this for the rest of the Big 12 because a) there are new members to educate and b) we've never done it before.

I'll send out calls for recommendations for each city in the weeks to come, so don't bother just yet. That said, I'm excited for this series. It should be delicious.

Here's the new ones, if you missed them:
Fred Dodge in Annapolis, Md., writes: David, I was extremely skeptical and ready to dismiss your column on the change in the Big 12 "Rivalries will be missed, not results." [I should note here that I am a Cornhusker]. But you know what, you convinced me. The Big 12 is better off, not only do WVU and TCU bring some recent pedigree, they really want to be in the Big 12. Hopefully that will bring some stability.

DU: I appreciate it, and your second point gets lost a bit, I think. There's no question that both schools are pretty enthusiastic about entering the league. We'll see if that spreads.

The league is losing a ton of tradition in Missouri and Texas A&M, and that's sad. A&M will have that rivalry with LSU, but I doubt it will have any others. Missouri's going to have a tough time finding a rival if it doesn't lock in Arkansas as its cross-divisional rival.

Arkansas' been in the league 20 years and still doesn't have a true rivalry that gets fans fired up year-round.

Kansas and Texas will miss their departed rivals. But like I said, the league's in good shape on the field, to maintain, if not exceed, the success.

Grant in Round Rock, Texas, writes: In response to your blog "New Big 12 will miss rivalries, not results". The bottom line is the SEC upgraded with the additions of Texas A&M and Missouri, while the Big 12 downgraded. If the conference really felt they would be better off with TCU and WVU they would have had no problem losing these two schools.

DU: Not true. Like I mentioned before, that tradition can't be replaced, and that's the biggest reason the Big 12 was sad to see them go.

My point in the column wasn't that the Big 12 made some monumental upgrade on the field. The difference is negligible on the field at worst, and a slight upgrade at best. That's about as good as the Big 12 could expect, considering its recent membership issues.

The money issue matters. Texas A&M and Mizzou have bigger fan bases, but if TCU and WVU sustain nationally relevant programs, the difference in the television deal is probably negligible, too. There's not much reason to believe TCU and WVU will see a huge drop-off in the quality of their programs.

The Big 12 would have loved to keep A&M and Mizzou. It didn't. As a response, it made two great additions.

Gabe in Buehler, Texas, writes: Ubbs, what is your thought on K-State special teams next year, namely Tyler Lockett, both as return man and receiver. I wonder if he had been healthy, would the Cotton Bowl have gone a little different? Not necessarily a K-State win, but pretty darn close! Also, what is your thought on Justin Tuggle moving to OLB? MORE speed to that linebacker corps?!

DU: Yeah, K-State wouldn't have won that game with Lockett, but the Wildcats definitely missed their big-play man. Joe Adams changed that game on special teams, and Lockett could have possibly done the same for K-State. The way Kansas State's offense played, it needed that badly. Tuggle seems like a good move. He's a guy that just wanted to get on the field, and with Collin Klein's emergence, it wasn't going to happen at quarterback. In the Big 12, you can never have enough speed at linebacker, and he should bring that. Instincts and toughness seem like it could be tough to develop in one offseason. It'll be fun to watch, though.

Decision looms for 'contemplating' RG3

January, 10, 2012
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III met with coach Art Briles a second time this week and remains undecided on his future, according to Briles.

"It's a situation where he's really contemplating what he feels like is the thing that's going to give him peace," Briles said.

Griffin won the Heisman Trophy and tied the school record for wins with Baylor's third 10-win season in program history. The Bears won their final six games of 2011 after losing the final four of 2010.

From The Associated Press:
Briles said he is for whatever Griffin feels is the right thing to do, whether it's the NFL or coming back to play as a senior at Baylor.

"Like I told him from Day 1, I don't want to be any influence on it," Briles said. "My goal for him is for him to be successful and fulfill all of his dreams. If that dream is going to the NFL right now, that's great."

Griffin and Briles met last week, and again on Monday, as a new semester of classes started on the Waco campus.

I've weighed in on what RG3 should do, but when the decision has taken this long, neither choice would surprise me. I get the feeling he's extremely torn.

At the Fiesta Bowl, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott talked about the phenomenon of guys coming back to school, like Stanford's Andrew Luck and USC's Matt Barkley.

Now, Griffin faces the same choice.

Scott says Luck and Barkley's decision is proof that the college experience is more valuable than the public realizes. You only get to do it once, and Griffin's changed a lot at Baylor.

This won't be about achieving this or that at Baylor. It'll be about what Griffin thinks is best for him.

Even now, he's the only person who knows the answer to just what that is.

Video: Kiper, McShay debate QBs

December, 22, 2011

Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. debate McShay having three quarterbacks (Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley and Robert Griffin III) in the top 10 of his mock draft, and where Kellen Moore might go in the draft.

Bowl debate: Big 12 vs. Pac-12

December, 19, 2011
The Pac-10 and Big 12 nearly got married last year, but only Colorado ended up eloping with the now-Pac-12.

You know: The conference that can count!

But the Pac-12, which has, yes, 12 teams, and the Big 12, which has 10 teams (though it's often hard to keep up with which ones), play each other in three bowl games this holiday season.

Joy to the world.

So it seemed like a good time for the Pac-12 and Big 12 bloggers -- Ted Miller and David Ubben -- to say howdy and discuss all the coming fun.

Ted Miller: Ah, David, the bowl season. Pure bliss. Unless you’re the Pac-12, which is expected to get a whipping from your conference over the holidays. We have three Pac-12-Big 12 bowl games with the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl between Stanford and Oklahoma State, the Valero Alamo with Baylor and Washington, and the Bridgepoint Education Holiday matching California and Texas. And the Big 12 is favored in all three!

Poor ole West Coast teams. What are we to do? It’s almost like the Big 12 is the SEC or something. Speaking of which, how are things with your Cowboys? Are they over not getting a shot at LSU for the national title? Are they excited about getting a shot at Andrew Luck and Stanford? We might as well start with that outstanding matchup in Glendale.

David Ubben: You know, I was actually a little surprised. I stuck around Stillwater for the BCS bowl selection show announcement, and the players took the news pretty well. They found out an hour before, but there wasn't a ton of down-in-the-dumpiness from the Pokes. When you've never been to this point before, it's a bit difficult to develop a sense of entitlement. If Oklahoma had OSU's record and was passed over by Alabama and sent to the Fiesta Bowl for the 17th time in the past six years, you might have had a different reaction.

But Oklahoma State's first trip to the BCS and first Big 12 title aren't being overlooked. These players are looking forward to this game. There's no doubt about that.

I know the Big 12 seems like the SEC, but I have a confession, Ted. I wasn't supposed to tell anybody, but I can't hold it in anymore. When the Big 12 began back in 1996 ... wow, I'm really going to do this ... then-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer graciously allowed the league to keep two of his teams. The league made a similar arrangement with the Big Eight a century ago, and the Southwest Conference around the same time. Missouri and Texas A&M are really wolves in sheep's clothing: SEC teams just pretending to be in other leagues. So, that might explain the Big 12's recent dominance.

These should all be fun games, though. I ranked two of the matchups among the top three in my bowl rankings.

As for the big one, they say you learn more by losing than by winning. Stanford got its first BCS win. How do you think that experience plays into this year's game? I hate to ruin the surprise, but Oklahoma State's a bit better than the Virginia Tech team Stanford beat last season. OSU's loss to Iowa State this season is bad, but it's nothing like the Hokies' loss to James Madison last season.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeQuarterback Andrew Luck leads Stanford into its second consecutive BCS bowl, this season against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Ted Miller: Not only is Oklahoma State better than Virginia Tech, it's still questionable whether this Stanford team is better than last year's. Since we're going all crazy and whispering about the SEC, there was a feeling out West that by the end of the 2010 season the Cardinal might not only be the best team in the Pac-12 but also in the nation. They were big and physical and quarterback Luck actually had a solid receiving corps with which to work. After a loss to Oregon in the fifth game, they didn't lose again until playing, er, Oregon in this year's 10th game. If we could go back in time and have the Cardinal play Auburn, I think Stanford would have won the national title.

But that's 2010. The difference this year is the season-ending knee injury to middle linebacker Shayne Skov, who was an All-American candidate, a slight step back on the offensive line and a lack of top-flight receivers. But if Oklahoma State fans are looking for something to worry about it is this: Stanford's running game.

The Pokes are bad against the run, and they haven't faced a team that is as physical and creative in the running game as Stanford. As much as folks talk about Luck's passing, it's his run checks that often ruin a defense's evening.

The Fiesta Bowl matchup looks like a great one, perhaps the best of the bowl season. But I’m excited to see Mr. Excitement Robert Griffin III in the Alamo Bowl against Washington. Of course, I’m not sure that the Huskies, their fans and embattled Huskies defensive coordinator Nick Holt are as thrilled. First, tell us about what Washington should be most worried about with Griffin. Then tell us about Baylor in general. Such as: Can the Bears stop anyone?

David Ubben: Nope. Not really.

Oklahoma State's defense unfairly gets a bad rap. Baylor's bad rap is earned. This is the same team that won five consecutive games late in the season -- but became the first team ever to win four consecutive in a single season while giving up 30 points in each.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Jerome Miron/US PresswireBaylor's Robert Griffin III will try to make it three straight bowl victories by Heisman Trophy winners.
Which, if you ask me, says plenty about both the defense and the power of RG3. They've got a lot of athletes on the defense, but when four of your top five tacklers are defensive backs, well, you need a guy like RG3 to go 9-3.

The man is a nightmare. Top to bottom, he's the most accurate passer in a quarterback-driven league. Then, you add in his athleticism, which he doesn't even really need to be extremely productive. It sets him apart, though, and forces defenses to account for it, and it buys him time in the pocket. How many guys break a 20-plus yard run before hitting a receiver for a game-winning 39-yard score to beat a team like Oklahoma for the first time?

How do you think Washington will try to slow him down? What has to happen for them to have some success?

Ted Miller: This game matches the 99th (Washington) and 109th (Baylor) scoring defenses. It has a 78-point over-under, the biggest of any bowl game. The offenses are going to score plenty, at least that's the conventional wisdom.

How does Washington stop RGIII? His name is Chris Polk. He's a running back. Baylor gives up 199 yards rushing per game. Polk right, left and up the middle is a good way to contain Griffin. The Huskies' best hope is to reduce Griffin's touches with ball control. It also needs to convert touchdowns, not field goals, in the redzone. The Huskies are pretty good at that, scoring 36 TDs in 45 visits to the red zone.

The Huskies also have a pretty good quarterback in Keith Price, who set a school record with 29 touchdown passes this year. He and a solid crew of receivers have prevented teams from ganging up against Polk. But Polk is the guy who burns the clock.

Should be a fun game. As should, by the way, the Holiday Bowl. David, Cal fans are still mad at Texas coach Mack Brown and his politicking the Longhorns into the Rose Bowl in 2004. Every team wants to win its bowl game, but the Old Blues really want to beat Brown.

Of course, neither team is what it was in 2004. Cal has an excuse. It's not a college football superpower. Sure you've been asked this before, but give me the CliffsNotes version of why the Longhorns have fallen so hard since playing for the national title in 2009.

David Ubben: Cal fans are still mad? Really? I'd suggest they get over themselves. What's anybody on that Cal team ever done anyway? It's not like the best player in the NFL missed out on a chance to play in the Rose Bowl. Now, if that were the case, we might have a problem. But honestly, I don't think Tim Tebow cares all that much about the Rose Bowl.

As for Texas' struggles?

The easy answer is quarterback play. Texas relied on Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley more than anyone realized. When they were gone, Texas couldn't run the ball, and quarterback Garrett Gilbert never made it happen. Two seasons later, the Longhorns still don't have a quarterback.

The other big answer last season was turnover margin. Gilbert threw 17 interceptions and the Longhorns were minus-12 in turnovers, which ranked 115th nationally.

They were still only 90th this year, and without solid quarterback play in a Big 12 dominated by passers, they scored five, 13 and 17 points in three of their five losses. Texas keeps people from moving the ball and runs the ball better this year, but without a solid passing game and a defense that changes games, it's tough to rack up wins in the Big 12.

It's been awhile since Cal was in the mix for the BCS, even as USC has fallen. Oregon answered the call and rose, but what has prevented Cal from winning the Pac-10 and Super Pac-10 since the Trojans' swoon?

Ted Miller: You mention quarterback play. Cal fans ... any thoughts? You mention Aaron Rodgers. Cal fans? Oh, well, that's not very nice during this festive time of the year.

Cal has become a solid defensive team, but it's lost its offensive mojo, and that can be traced to a drop in quarterback play since Rodgers departed. The latest Bears quarterback, Zach Maynard, started fairly well, stumbled, but then seemed to catch on late in the season. It's reasonable to believe the team that gets better quarterback play -- mistake-free quarterback play -- is going to win this game.

Nice to cover a conference where quarterback play matters, eh David?

Speaking of quarterback play and winning, let's wind it up. Our specific predictions aren't coming on these games until after Christmas. But we can handicap the Big 12-Pac-12 side of things. We have a three-game series this bowl seasons.

I say the Pac-12, underdogs in all three games, goes 1-2. What say you?

David Ubben: And to think, before the season, all I heard was the Pac-12 had surpassed the Big 12 in quarterback play. Did somebody petition the NCAA for another year of eligibility for Jake Locker and/or clone Matt Barkley? You West Coast folk are geniuses; I figured you'd find a way. We can't all be Stanford alums ...

Clearing out all the tumbleweeds here in middle America, I'll go out on a limb for the Big 12 in this one. Every matchup is a good one, and I don't think Cal has seen a defense like Texas' and Washington hasn't seen an offense like Baylor's. People forget that, yeah, RG3 is outstanding, but the Bears also have the league's leading receiver and leading rusher.

Stanford-OSU is a toss-up, but I'll go with a perfect sweep for the Big 12. The Cowboys haven't played poorly on the big stage yet, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt in this one, and they clean up for the Big 12 against what was almost its new conference this fall.

Oh, what could have been. Ubben and Miller on the same blog? Divided ultimately by a little thing we call the Rockies.

Video: Can Griffin pass Luck in NFL draft?

December, 16, 2011

Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay discuss Robert Griffin III chances of passing Andrew Luck in the draft and the best non-BCS Bowl games.

My Heisman Trophy ballot has changed every week for the last couple of months.

I'm not surprised there are more than three players going to the trophy presentation.

Five players were invited to New York for Saturday night's Heisman Trophy presentation -- quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor, tailbacks Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Trent Richardson of Alabama and cornerback Tyrann Mathieu of LSU.

It's a shame the Heisman Trust didn't have room for three more quarterbacks because Houston's Case Keenum, USC's Matt Barkley and Boise State's Kellen Moore were just as deserving.

With five finalists going to New York, it figures to be one of the closer votes in recent Heisman Trophy history.

The closest vote in Heisman Trophy history came just two years ago, when Alabama tailback Mark Ingram edged Stanford's Toby Gerhart by only 28 points. Ingram received 227 first-place votes, Gerhart got 222 and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, the second runner-up, received 203.

Given the number of finalists and their geographical regions, we could have another really close finish on Saturday night.

Luck, the runner-up to Auburn's Cam Newton last season, entered the 2011 season as the Heisman Trophy favorite. His performance didn't slip much this season, as he completed 70 percent of his passes for 3,170 yards with 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

I still feel Luck might be the most valuable player on any team in the country. Without him, there's no way the Cardinal is ranked No. 4 in the country and playing No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Luck has done more with less, as Stanford lacks the game-changing playmakers that other teams have.

But Luck might still be the second-best quarterback in New York. Griffin, who is widely known as RG3, completed 72.4 percent of his passes for 3,998 yards with 36 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 644 yards with nine touchdowns.

Without him, the Bears wouldn't have beaten TCU, Oklahoma and Texas. Griffin's one drawback: He had a late interception that sealed the Bears' fate in a 36-35 loss at Kansas State on Oct. 1 and threw two picks in a 59-24 loss at Oklahoma State on Oct. 29. But with everything else RG3 has done this season, it's easy to give him a mulligan for the miscues.

LSU defense
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesRunning back Trent Richardson has been at his best in Alabama's biggest games.
I still believe Richardson is the best player in the country. He looked like the best player on the field in No. 2 Alabama's 9-6 loss in overtime to No. 1 LSU on Nov. 5. He had 89 rushing yards and 80 receiving yards in a game where every yard mattered. He finished the season with 1,583 yards with 20 touchdown runs and three touchdown catches. He's also Mr. Dependable, not losing a fumble in his past 520 touches and only once in 614 career touches.

Ball has been a scoring machine for the No. 10 Badgers this season, running for 1,759 yards with 32 touchdown runs and six touchdown receptions. His 38 total touchdowns are one shy of matching former Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season record of 39 set in 11 games in 1988. Ball's production helped lead the Badgers to a Jan. 2 date against Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

Mathieu fell off my ballot after he was suspended from playing in the Tigers' 45-10 victory over Auburn on Oct. 22 for smoking synthetic marijuana. But his big plays helped the Tigers overcome deficits in each of their last two victories, over Arkansas and Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Mathieu -- aka the "Honey Badger" -- is the best player on the top-ranked team. He leads the Tigers with 70 tackles and has forced six fumbles and recovered five. He also is the most dynamic punt returner I've seen since Florida State's Deion Sanders. Mathieu has scored four touchdowns -- two on fumble returns and two on punt returns.

To penalize Mathieu for one foolish mistake wouldn't have been right. After all, Newton was briefly ruled ineligible at Auburn last season and 2010 Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James of Oregon was suspended from playing in last season's opener.