Big 12: Matt Leinart

Mailbag: Preseason hype, recruiting, '04 title

June, 15, 2011
6/15/11
4:00
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Thanks for all the questions, everybody. Didn't get yours answered? Try again with a more interesting one.

Jon D in Davis, Calif., asks: Other than trying to pad his legacy or résumé, I cannot believe that Tuberville is being serious about his comments and the vacated 2004 title. Auburn should be the champ? Is he nuts? Was that not the same year that Auburn had the 90th-100th toughest schedule in the country? His comments make about as much sense as that hack that runs Ohio State and spews garbage out of his mouth "little sisters of the poor." We all saw how Wisconsin and the Big 10 handled that little sister TCU.

David Ubben: I can't believe people have a problem with him campaigning for it. As a lover of college football, I'd like to see it remain vacated if for no other reason than awarding it to someone else doesn't do very much and cheapens the title for the program that gets it.

But imagine if it was your school or in Tuberville's case, your team. Criticize the nonconference schedule all you'd like, it cost them a spot in the national championship. But the Tigers still made it through the SEC undefeated, and went 13-0 with five wins against top 15 teams. That's a national championship-caliber résumé. Tuberville's campaign is futile, but that doesn't mean it's misguided. I'd probably do the same thing if I were in his shoes.

Rob in St. Peters, Mo., asks: Why is aTm getting more preseason love than Missouri? Does nobody remember the beating that the Tigers gave them @ Kyle Field last season?

DU: Here's the thing: I've realized over time that fans have a very warped perception of a team based on how it played against them the previous year.

I saw A&M play in person four times last year, and watched their entire games on a few other occasions. I'll be clear about this: That was the worst performance the Aggies had last year by a wide, wide margin. It's the same reason why all my friends from Arkansas thought they were going to roll the Aggies in 2010. I disagreed then, too.

More than anything, the lack of an experienced QB is why Texas A&M is going to be favored by the posse of prognosticators this fall. But despite Missouri's solidness just about everywhere, I'd take the Aggies at just about every position other than defensive line. They're a solid team who, in the past, has shown some problems handling hype. We'll see how it ends up in 2011. Both are good teams, but A&M is just a bit better at almost every position. That pays off. I'm in the minority in thinking Missouri is a top 20 team, but I'd say A&M is a borderline top-10 team to kick off the season.

Edward in Austin, Texas, asks: Hey Ubbs...love the blog. It seems to me that talent doesn't necessarily translate from one level to the other; a lot of (if not, a substantial portion) of the time, highly-touted HS players don't do that well at the college level. And maybe as an extension of that, players that weren't highly sought after become superstars. I guess my question is, how much stock do you put in the ESPNU 150 rankings?It also seems the same is true for the next level. To recent memory, a couple of Heisman trophy winners (Matt Leinart and Eric Crouch) flopped in the NFL. Also you look at guys like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady...who were afterthoughts in their respective drafts. Am I being overly critical? Your thoughts?

DU: I'll nitpick a bit before I answer this question and point out that Manning was the No. 1 pick in the 1998 draft, but I get your question.

Obviously, the ESPNU 150 isn't the gospel, but it's still a good indicator of future success. Guys will hit and miss, and you can pick out plenty of All-Americans or Heisman winners who weren't top-flight recruits, but a good percentage of those All-Americans and Heisman winners? They were. It's no guarantee, but get more ESPNU 150 guys, and you're liable to have a better team. The simple truth is the chances of them turning out to be stars is much higher. Sure, there's a few two and three-star guys who become big time, but there's a whole lot more who don't. I'd be interested to see the percentage of guys who become starters after being five-star recruits vs. guys who become starters out of the three and two-star group. I'd bet good money the top guys are a lot higher.

John in Stillwater, Okla., asks: Why do you think recruits are decommitting from OSU? Are there any reasons to be alarmed?

DU: I assume you're talking about LB Dalton Santos and ATH Bralon Addison, a pair of former OSU commits who were ESPNU 150 guys. Santos reopened his recruitment and Addison did so briefly before committing to Texas A&M.

They were doing something right to get them to commit in the first place.

It's no cause for alarm. Nothing happened for them to jump ship. It's different for every guy. I don't really see a trend. The larger trend is Mike Gundy being in classes that are better and better, and you've seen that with OSU's recent rise, culminating in the first 11-win season in school history last year.

You never know what exactly causes high school kids to pick or not pick a school. When they do, it's a lot of the same comments about "family," etc, but it comes down to the best fit and what each individual player wants out of his college experience. Not every guy goes to the best school he possibly can go to. You have to consider playing time, helping a program rise, family connections, etc.

OSU's recruiting is fine.

Jared in College Station, Texas, asks: With all the hoopla around A&M's recruiting class, how much of a disappointment is it that they only have a few guys on the ESPNU150? (Especially since Texas has 7)

DU: I wouldn't get too wrapped up in it. I don't get out and watch or scout high school guys, so it's tough for me to say definitively. If a top recruit is playing a game on national TV, I'll usually DVR it and kind of half watch it while I work.

But, every indication about A&M's class is that the strength is in that second group. You only see three of them in the ESPN 150, but if it was the ESPN 350, I bet you'd see a ton more.

Cal Hardage in Chelsea, Okla., asks: All the talk about ESPNU 150 makes me wonder which coaches do more with less. Sure Texas (outside of 2010) wins, but they also bring in highly rated recruits. I'm not sure how you calculate it. Number of stars per win? Wins per star? Do you use only starters, two-deep, or entire team? I'm sure you can figure out a great way for it. Thanks!

DU: Yeah, you could probably break it down over time, but from a birds-eye view, I'd say it's pretty clear Missouri does the most with the least of any team in the Big 12. They don't haul in a lot of top-flight recruits, but they've won consistently in the last six years or so under Gary Pinkel, winning a share of the North three times and playing in the Big 12 title game twice. Texas Tech is probably a close second in that group.

Both teams always seem to find a lot of great players that weren't highly recruited. Sean Weatherspoon and Danario Alexander are two great examples of guys that not a lot of schools wanted but became stars at Mizzou.

Should a Big 12 coach get the 2004 title?

June, 10, 2011
6/10/11
9:00
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The BCS officially vacated Southern Cal's 2004 national championship this week, and has no plans to award the championship to anyone.

That, however, hasn't slowed the debate.

Former USC quarterback Matt Leinart made his thoughts clear on the issue shortly after the decision was announced.

"In reality, I don't think anyone can take the championship away from us," he told "SportsCenter."

ESPN reached former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville (now at Texas Tech) shortly after, who disagreed, and argued the championship should be given to his team.

"Someone should be awarded [the] title. If not, the team that had to forfeit is not really punished," he said.

Bob Stoops first commented on the vacation (word re-appropriation!) on Wednesday at an event in Tulsa, saying he didn't want the championship.

"I don't have any thoughts [on USC's situation] and we're not claiming any championships," he said.

But what about the fans? What's the right thing to do with the title of 2004 BCS champion?

Mailbag: Best games and scariest players

August, 13, 2010
8/13/10
3:30
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Big G in Western Nebraska writes: The Expendables comes out Friday. If you had to make a team of elite warriors using Big 12 players, who would you put on it? Not necessarily an All-Star team, but the toughest, baddest dudes in the conference.

David Ubben: First off, no matter what my friends tell me, that movie looks like garbage. But this question is interesting. I'd invite you all to make your own lists, but here's mine.

1) Nate Solder, left tackle, Colorado: First off, at 6-foot-9 and 310 pounds, he's probably the biggest player in the entire league. But he also hang cleans 470 pounds, runs a 4.88 40-yard dash and has a 32-inch vertical leap. He's very high on my list of guys I wouldn't want to face in a jungle death match. And yes, that list exists.

2) Ronnell Lewis, linebacker, Oklahoma: Defensive coordinator Brent Venables has coached some big hitters in his day like Rocky Calmus and Roy Williams. He says Lewis, just a sophomore, hits the hardest. And he hails from tiny Dewar, Oklahoma. Everybody knows you don't mess with country boys.

3) Cody Johnson, running back, Texas: Anybody want to try and tackle him? The Longhorns' 5-foot-11, 250-pound goal-line back is the closest thing to a bowling ball in the Big 12. Steer clear. I know I will.

Who's on your list?


Craig in Wichita, Kan. writes: Two years ago, the Big XII was known for lighting up the scoreboard. Last seasonit was the defenses that took the spotlight. What's going to be the Big XII's signature in 2010?

DU: A conference takes on the identity of its top teams. There's a ton of other great offenses across the Big 12, but look at the top three teams in the league: Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma. All three should field top-10 defenses in 2010. So even though there are offenses like Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Missouri, the league's going to be known for defense once again. If that's not enough, look around at the Big 12 representatives on any All-American team. Very few offensive players, but lots of defensive guys like Jared Crick at Nebraska, Aaron Williams at Texas or Travis Lewis at Oklahoma.


Cord in College Station, Texas, writes: As a longhorn living in College Station, I've already heard plenty of "noise" from the A&M faithful about this being their year. I know you're an Aggie, too, and I'm just wondering what you're non-biased prediction for the Aggie season is. Hook'em.

DU: I'm afraid you're mistaken. I've never gigged anything or anyone, but nine wins for the Aggies is probably about right. If I had to pick it, they knock off Nebraska at home, but lose to Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. They'll need to spring some upsets to win the South.


Craig in Ames, Iowa, writes: Do you think the recent flooding will help or hurt the Cyclones? Will the team-uniting fight against the adversity help, or will the routine-destroying distraction keep ISU from being ready for the first game against NIU?

DU: I don't think it hurts all that much, but if Paul Rhoads' team isn't already one of the league's closest, this sealed it. Some of the guys on that team have been through three coaching staffs, but finally got to experience some real success last season. Really, Iowa State only missed one practice, and though I'm sure there's some family troubles for a few of the players and some difficulty getting around still, I don't see the floods having much of an effect on the on-field product. But it's definitely a memorable experience that should change the way a lot of those guys see the world.


Tony in Lincoln, Neb., writes: Hey Dave, Just curious. What's the best game you've ever seen/been to?

DU: Of the games I've ever seen, it's pretty close between the Texas-Southern Cal Rose Bowl and the Boise State-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl. I probably said this about 100 times in the weeks following the game, but the best part of that is the hook-and-ladder never works. Ever. It's a great play in theory, but the execution and timing has such a small margin of error required for success, plus it needs a little luck from the defense's call. That makes it impossible to execute. Except that one time.

I also love the big-time clashes. There was just an unfair amount of talent on the field in that national title game between Texas and USC, two teams who 100 percent earned the right to be there. You don't get that with every national championship.

Matt Leinart, Vince Young, Reggie Bush, Jamaal Charles, Lendale White, Steve Smith, Fred Davis, Selvin Young and Limas Sweed are all factors in the NFL now, most of whom I've started on my fantasy teams at least once. And that's just the offenses. Can't forget Aaron Ross, Michael Griffin and Michael Huff in the Longhorns secondary alone. Brian Orakpo and Roy Miller also played down in front. It just doesn't get much better than two premiere programs and NFL factories going at it in a game of that magnitude that delivered the drama, even if you could see that final drive coming the whole time.

Of the game's I've covered, I'd probably go with the Kansas-Missouri Border Showdown at the end of the 2008 season. Gotta love rivalry games, and Kansas-Missouri has been one of the most dramatic in recent seasons. That game was no exception. A ton of offensive talent on the field during a blizzard at Arrowhead Stadium. It included four go-ahead touchdowns in the final seven minutes, and finished with a Todd Reesing floater over Kerry Meier's shoulder on -- what else -- a broken play. Classic game with a classic finish.

Weird similarities between '05, '09 Texas teams

August, 3, 2009
8/03/09
4:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I remember when I was a kid growing up, I was amazed and a little frightened when I first learned about the eerie similarities between the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy when I was in elementary school. I still recall learning about these facts of the unusual parallels between those two events nearly 100 years apart.

It's left me with the idea that history sometimes can repeat itself.

I still follow how history sometimes continues in some unusual patterns.

And I'm thinking there's a chance at it definitely could happen this season for Texas, which has numerous similarities coming into the 2009 season to when it last won the national championship in 2005.

Here are some of them:

In 2005, Texas had an offense revolving around a playmaking quarterback with striking pass-run skills in Vince Young.

In 2009, Texas has an offense revolving around a playmaking quarterback with striking pass-run skills who the offense revolves around in Colt McCoy.

In 2005, Texas' starting quarterback had five letters in his last name -- Y-O-U-N-G.

In 2009, Texas' starting quarterback has five letters in his last name -- M-C-C-O-Y.

In 2005, Texas had a defensive coordinator who had made his national reputation by leading a Southeastern Conference team to earlier defensive success -- Gene Chizik at Auburn.

In 2009, Texas has a defensive coordinator who has made his national reputation by leading a Southeastern Conference team to earlier defensive success -- Will Muschamp at Auburn and LSU.

In 2005, Texas was building on momentum after a dramatic comeback victory over a Big Ten team in a bowl game to conclude the previous season -- a triumph over Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

In 2009, Texas is building on momentum after a dramatic comeback victory over a Big Ten in a bowl game to conclude the previous season -- a triumph over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

In 2005, Texas started the season with a home game against a Sun Belt opponent from Louisiana -- Louisiana-Lafayette.

In 2009, Texas will start the season with a home game against a Sun Belt opponent from Louisiana -- Louisiana-Monroe.

In 2005, Texas' second game of the season was a road game to an opponent where it had never played before -- Ohio State.

In 2009, while quite not as challenging, Texas' second game of the season will be a road trip where it has never played before -- Wyoming.

In 2005, Texas played a Big 12 schedule that included home games against Texas Tech, Colorado and Kansas. The Longhorns' road games were against Missouri, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M with a neutral-site game against Oklahoma in Dallas.

In 2009, Texas will play a Big 12 schedule that will include home games against Texas Tech, Colorado and Kansas. The Longhorns' conference road games will be against Missouri, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M with a neutral-site game against Oklahoma in Dallas.

In 2005, Texas entered the season with big questions at running back. Ramonce Taylor, Jamaal Charles and Selvin Young shared carries with QB Vince Young.

In 2009, Texas enters the season with big questions at running back. Carries are expected to be shared by Fozzy Whittaker, Cody Johnson, Vondrell McGee, Chris Whaley and QB Colt McCoy.

In 2005, Texas' pass rush received a boost by the transformation of a linebacker into a pass-rushing specialist at defensive end -- Brian Robison.

In 2009, Texas hopes to receive a pass-rushing boost by the transformation of a former linebacker into a pass-rushing specialist at defensive end -- Sergio Kindle.

In 2005, Texas entered the season with its last loss as a disappointing defeat that ultimately cost them a shot at the Big 12 South title and a perfect record -- a 12-0 loss to Oklahoma was the only blemish in the 2004 season.

In 2009, Texas enters the season with its last loss a disappointing defeat that ultimately cost them a shot at the Big 12 South title and a perfect record -- a 39-33 loss to Texas Tech that was the only defeat in the 2008 season.

In 2005, Texas was looking for its first Big 12 championship to stop a string of three Big 12 titles by arch-rival Oklahoma since Texas' last Big 12 championship. Texas won the 1996 title, followed by Oklahoma Big 12 championships in 2000, 2002 and 2004.

In 2009, Texas will be looking for its first Big 12 championship to stop a string of three Big 12 titles by arch-rival Oklahoma since it last won a Big 12 championship. Texas won the 2005 title, followed by Oklahoma Big 12 championships in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

In 2005, the Big 12 championship was played in an NFL stadium in Texas -- Reliant Stadium in Houston.

In 2009, the Big 12 championship will be played in an NFL stadium in Texas -- the Dallas Cowboys' Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

In 2005, the Longhorns entered the season ranked No. 2 behind a talented returning national championship team that beat Oklahoma for the national title the previous season -- USC defeated Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl.

In 2009, the Longhorns have been ranked No. 2 in most every early preseason poll behind a talented returning national championship that beat Oklahoma for the national title the previous season -- Florida defeated Oklahoma in the 2009 BCS title game.

In 2005, that defending national champion had a quarterback who had previously won the Heisman Trophy -- USC's Matt Leinart.

In 2009, that defending national champion has a quarterback who has previously won the Heisman Trophy -- Florida's Tim Tebow.

And most importantly, Texas claimed the 2005 national championship with a victory over No. 1 ranked USC in the Rose Bowl.

We don't know if Texas and Florida will have a shot, but the BCS national championship game will be played in the Rose Bowl this season.

Coincidence or not, those are some stunning parallels from one season to another one.

Can Texas fulfill the legacy of the 2005 team this season?

We'll have to see.

But if you believe history repeats itself, the Longhorns might have a chance.

Young's title-game dramatics are Big 12's No. 1 memory

July, 10, 2009
7/10/09
8:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Title-game clash of the titans remains the Big 12's game for the ages 

Date: Jan. 4, 2006
Place: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Score: Texas 41, USC 38

After sorting through the moments that have made the Big 12's history so rich, the most memorable one was easy for me to pick.

 
  Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
  Vince Young threw for 267 yards and ran for 200 more.

All I had to do was think back to the greatest championship game in any sport that I've ever seen.

Admittedly, those are some strong words. But anybody who witnessed Vince Young's game-winning performance that night at the Rose Bowl against No. 1 USC would have to agree.

Young accounted for a Rose Bowl-record 467 yards, running for 200 yards and passing for 267 more. His 8-yard touchdown run with only 19 seconds left brought home the first undisputed national championship to Texas in 36 years, capping a wild 41-38 victory.

And making it even sweeter for the Longhorns, the victory  snapped the 34-game winning streak of a team that was judged as the greatest modern dynasty in recent college football history. USC had two Heisman Trophy winners in its starting backfield in Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush and scads of NFL-quality talent.

The game that preceded Young's late heroics only made the ending that much more unforgettable.

The Trojans and Longhorns combined for 60 first downs, 1,130 yards of total offense and only four punts. But in the end, a defensive play was the most pivotal in the game. 

USC was poised to wrap up the game, nursing a 38-33 lead. On a fourth-and-2 from his own 45-yard line, USC coach Pete Carroll gambled and tried to deliver a kill shot by calling a dive play by LenDale White.

But White was turned away inches short of the first down when he was met by Texas safety Michael Huff and defensive tackle Rod Wright among others.

That provided the opening for Texas' game-winning drive that started with 2:09 left. The Longhorns received a big break when USC defensive back Darnell Bing was flagged for a face-mask penalty after tackling Quan Cosby five yards short of a first down on third-and-12, giving Texas a first down.

Young then accounted for the next 33 yards on runs and passes to give the Longhorns a first down at the USC 13 with 50 seconds left. But after a 5-yard run sandwiched around two incomplete passes intended for Limas Sweed, the Longhorns were looking at a fourth-and-5 from the Trojan 8.

The Trojans gambled with a determined blitz, but Young scooted past them. And thanks to a crunching block from Texas right tackle Justin Blaylock, Young sped toward the right end zone in a serpentine path to the game-winning touchdown.

After Young converted a two-point play, USC had one more chance. Leinart and Bush hooked up on a 27-yard pass that pushed the ball to the Texas 42 for the final play. But Leinart's pass intended for Dwayne Jarrett sailed over his head at the Texas 25 to preserve the wild victory.

USC seemingly moved the ball at will early in the game, piling up a Rose Bowl-record 574 yards in the game. The Trojans struck first barely 2 minutes into the game on a 4-yard touchdown run by White to cap a 46-yard drive.

They were poised to score again when Bush snagged a 37-yard screen pass from Leinart on the second play of the second quarter. But the Heisman Trophy winner inexplicably attempted a sideways pitch to unprepared teammate Brad Walker. Huff fell on the loose ball and the Longhorns took control for the rest of the half.

Texas erupted for 16 straight points, scoring on its next three drives.

The binge started with a 46-yard field goal by David Pino, followed by a 10-yard option touchdown keeper by Young on a disputed play where his knee appeared to hit the ground. And Ramonce Taylor's 30-yard touchdown run extended the lead to 16-7 with 2:34 left in the half.

USC pulled within 16-10 on Mario Danelo's 43-yard field goal with two seconds left in the half. It was the fourth time during the season the Trojans trailed at the break.

A 3-yard scoring run by White enabled USC to reclaim the lead, capping a 62-yard scoring drive after Texas had been forced to punt to start the fourth quarter. But Young responded with a 14-yard touchdown run barely two minutes later to boost Texas back ahead at 23-17.

White's 12-yard scoring run boosted the Trojans back into a 24-23 lead after three quarters.

The Trojans' star power then took over. Bush raced on a spectacular 26-yard touchdown run, punctuated by a somersault in the end zone to boost the Trojans lead to eight with 11:19 left.

And after Pino added 34-yard field goal with 8:46 on the ensuing possession, USC's big-play offense struck again. Leinart whistled a 22-yard touchdown strike to Jarrett with 6:42 left to boost the Trojans' lead to 38-26, capping a four-play, 80-yard drive.

But Young was only getting started. He completed 5 of 6 passes and rushed twice for 25 yards on the next drive, capping the possession with a 17-yard scoring scamper that pulled Texas within 38-33 with 4:26 left.

And after his game-winning drive, the excitement from that ending still resonates to that day.

They said it, part I: "We never, ever, really thought we'd lose the ballgame," Texas coach Mack Brown, after his team's dramatic comeback.

They said it, part II: "You couldn't ask for anything better. This was a great football game. We gave our hearts, they gave their hearts and they came out on top." USC quarterback Matt Leinart on the disappointment of losing his final college game.

They said it, part III: "We couldn't stop them when we had to. Their quarterback ran all over the place. This is their night. It was wonderful doing what we've been doing. But we just didn't get it done tonight," USC coach Pete Carroll, on the end of the Trojans' 34-game winning streak.

They said it, part IV: "I still think we're a better football team. They just made the plays in the end." Leinart on Texas' late comeback.

They said it, part V: "The quarterback just ran all over the place. He's a fantastic player. He was the difference. And how classic was it that he ran it in on the last play?" Carroll on Vince Young's late heroics.

They said it, part VI: "Everybody showed so much heart on both sides of the ball. I said all week that it would come down to the last play of the game and it did," Texas quarterback Vince Young on his late-game heroics.

They said it, part VII: "We have Vince Young on the show tonight. We were able to do something USC couldn't do, we grabbed him," Tonight Show host Jay Leno, in his monologue  when Young appeared on his show several days after the game.

Factoids: Texas' conquest marked the second Rose Bowl comeback in as many years by Young, who orchestrated a 38-37 triumph over Michigan to account for Texas' first BCS bowl victory the previous season ... Bush accounted for 82 rushing yards and grabbed six passes for 95 yards ... Leinart completed 29 of 40 passes for 365 yards with one interception and was sacked three times ... Young was
30-of-40 passing for 267 yards ... Michael Huff earned game defensive MVP honors with 12 tackles, a fumble recovery and a tackle for loss ... On Young's controversial touchdown run in the second quarter, the play could not be renewed because of a malfunction for the monitor needed to supply different angles to the replay crew .... Both teams finished with 30 first downs, but USC had a 574-556 edge in total yardage. ... USC's 34-game winning streak that ended with the loss was tied for the sixth-longest in FBS history.  The Texas victory was the 800th in school history ... It was the first time that Texas had beaten a No. 1 ranked team since defeating Oklahoma on Oct. 12, 1963.

The upshot: Young's heroics helped boost his record as a starting quarterback to 30-2, finishing with a national championship. He decided to turn pro, informing Brown of his decision four days later.

Texas finished the season No. 1 with a 20-game winning streak. It was the Longhorns' first outright national championship since 1969. And it marked a share of their fourth national championship after claiming titles in 1963, 1969, and a shared one in 1970 with Nebraska.

The Longhorns would stretch their winning streak to 21 games before losing at home to Ohio State in the second game of the 2006 season. That represents Texas' second-longest winning streak in school history, behind only a 30-game streak from 1968-70.

USC has won 34 of their next 39 games since the Texas loss, including Rose Bowl victories to finish each season since then. The Rose Bowl loss to Texas is the only time Carroll has lost a bowl game from 2002 to the present. USC has gone 6-1 in bowl games during that period.

The countdown:

2. Michael Crabtree's last-second grab stuns Texas
3. Superman's leap. Roy Williams' tipped pass punctuates titantic defensive battle.
4. Davison's dramatic grab keeps Cornhuskers' national title hopes alive.
5. Bamboozled again and again and again. Boise State's gadget plays doom OU.
6. Yes, Sirr. Parker's dramatic catches lead A&M to first Big 12 title
7. Crouch's TD catch cements Heisman bid, beats Oklahoma
8. Sproles and Roberson stun top-ranked OU, leading KSU to its first Big 12 title.
9. Emotional A&M victory brings closure after Bonfire tragedy.
10. Roll left: James Brown guarantees victory and then backs it up.
11. When BCS meant "Boo Chris Simms" in Colorado's first Big 12 title.
12. A Buffalo stampede: Six Chris Brown TDs lead CU to first Big 12 title game.
13. Run, Ricky, run. Ricky Williams breaks NCAA career rushing record.
14. Wild game, wilder post-game rants when Gundy and Leach meet in 2007.
15. Rout 66: No, that score wasn't a typo.
16. KSU finally slays the Cornhuskers.
17. Kingsbury and Long hook up in a passing duel for the ages.
18. Henery and Suh make Colorado blue.
19. Stunning OSU rally leads to Stoops' first home loss.
20. It's never over for Texas Tech until it's over.
21. Reesing to Meier. Again and again.
22. A Texas-sized comeback -- Texas over Oklahoma State in 2004.
23. A Border War unlike any of the rest -- Missouri over Kansas in 2007.
24. Seneca Wallace's wild TD run vs. Texas Tech in 2001.
25. Baylor's "So Much for Taking a Knee" against UNLV in 1999.

Sanders ranks among best living Heisman winners

April, 29, 2009
4/29/09
6:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

With the recent passing of Felix "Doc" Blanchard, the folks at FanHouse.com posed an interesting question when they considered who the greatest living Heisman winners are.

Not surprisingly, the Big 12 was represented.

Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders was selected as the No. 2 living Heisman winner, trailing only double-Heisman winner Archie Griffin of Ohio State.

It's obvious why Sanders would be so highly ranked. His 1988 season might be the greatest in college football history with 2,628 rushing yards, 3,249 total yards and 39 touchdowns.

Behind Griffin and Sanders, Matt Leinart of Southern California was third, Tony Dorsett of Pittsburgh was fourth and O.J. Simpson of USC was fifth.

And 1972 Heisman winner Johnny Rodgers of Nebraska ranked among those players receiving honorable mention.

It was an intriguing list and the display with career video highlights of the top five finishers was pretty cool, too. Sanders' running style looks as scintillating today as it did during his college playing career.

Patton excited to show what he can do

January, 29, 2009
1/29/09
8:01
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Former Missouri quarterback Chase Patton might be the most unlikely player in the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game.

First, Patton barely got a chance to play while in college. And he didn't even play for a Texas school.

But it's not as if Patton isn't complaining. He's just happy to be playing with the Texas team in Saturday's game at the Sun Bowl in El Paso.

"I'm very fortunate that I'm getting my opportunity," Patton said. "I want to go out and make the most of my chance when I get it."

Patton arrived at Missouri as one of the Midwest's most heralded high school players after earning Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year honors in 2003. He was rated as one of the top five quarterbacks nationally coming to Missouri in the recruiting class of 2004.

The plan was for Patton to sit behind Brad Smith for a couple of years and then take over the starting position after Smith graduated.

But shortly after Patton's arrival, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel switched to a spread offensive attack that put a premium on movement. It also was the same offense that Chase Daniel played in high school.

Daniel thrived in the offense, beating out Patton to become one of the most decorated players in the school's football history. Patton threw only 31 passes during his college career as he backed up Daniel.

Some might be surprised that Patton never left for another playing opportunity. But the Columbia, Mo., native believes that his college experiences have given him perspective that will suit him well in whatever he does in the rest of his life.

"My faith is a big part of my life," Patton said. "I wouldn't have scripted it like it's played out, but I've learned some things about perseverance and mental toughness through what I've done. There have been a lot of valuable things that I've learned, but it's been hard sometimes to see something good come out of it."

And a funny thing happened as pro scouts looked at Daniel and compared him to Patton. It turns out the second-stringer might be better suited to play professionally because of his size and arm strength.

Scouts love Patton's size (6-foot-5, 220 pounds). But he's very raw and hasn't really shown much while playing for the Tigers, leaving his ability as something of a mystery for pro scouts who have flocked to watch workouts this week.

He's working under center for the first time in several years during his workouts for Saturday's game after operating in the shotgun in Pinkel's offense for most of his college career.

After providing some anxious initial moments, Patton is warming to the change.

"It was a little tough getting my chemistry with my receivers early in the week," Patton said. "But I'm getting comfortable just going out and playing and not thinking. I'm getting into rhythm and things are starting to come together for me."

(Read full post)

Bradford hopes to turn around Heisman jinx

January, 8, 2009
1/08/09
4:56
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

 
 AP Photo/Matt Slocum
 Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford hopes to avoid the same fate as other Heisman winners playing for the national title.

Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford will be hoping for better luck than most of his predecessors in the BCS national championship game tonight.

Of the six Heisman Trophy winners in the era, which began in 1998, only one has emerged as victorious in the national championship game.

Here's a look at how those Heisman winners have fared in those games

  • Chris Weinke, Florida State -- 2001 Orange Bowl -- Lost 13-2 to Oklahoma. Completed 25 of 51 passes for 274 yards with two interceptions and no touchdown passes. Rushed four times for 7 yards.
  • Eric Crouch, Nebraska -- 2002 Rose Bowl -- Lost 37-14 to Miami. Completed 5 of 15 passes for 62 yards with one interception and no touchdown passes. Rushed 22 times for 114 yards.
  • Jason White, Oklahoma -- 2004 Sugar Bowl -- Lost 21-14 to LSU. Completed 13 of 37 passes for 102 yards with two interceptions and no touchdown passes. Rushed seven times for minus-46 yards.
  • Matt Leinart, USC -- 2005 Orange Bowl - Won 55-19 to Oklahoma. Completed 18 of 35 passes for 332 yards with no interceptions and five touchdown passes. Rushed two times for minus-11 yards.
  • Reggie Bush, USC -- 2006 Rose Bowl -- Lost 41-38 to Texas. Rushed 13 times for 82 yards and a touchdown. Caught six passes for 95 yards.
  • Troy Smith, Ohio State -- 2007 BCS National Championship Game -- Lost 41-14 to Florida. Completed 4 of 14 passes for 37 yards with one interception and no touchdown passes. Rushed 10 times for minus-29 yards.

Oklahoma bowl tidbits

January, 8, 2009
1/08/09
12:55
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are a few factoids about Oklahoma's bowl history as we get ready for tonight's FedEx BCS National Championship Game against Florida.

Bowl record: 24-16-1

Current bowl streak: Lost 2

Most memorable bowl victory: Bud Wilkinson directed his team to the 1956 Orange Bowl, wrapping up the first time that the Sooners ever finished the season with a bowl championship and a national championship in the same season. After spotting Maryland a six-point halftime lead, the Sooners charged back to claim a 20-6 victory by scoring the game's final 20 points. Quarterback Tommy Harris rushed for a team-high 50 yards to pace the victory as the Sooners forced five turnovers and limited the Terrapins to nine first downs and 233 total yards.

Most disappointing loss: An explosive offense keyed by Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush enabled USC to dominate the Sooners in a 55-19 loss that ranks as the largest margin of defeat in an Oklahoma bowl game and also for a loser in a BCS title game. Leinart threw for 332 yards and five touchdowns and LenDale White rushed for 118 and two touchdowns to lead the Trojans to their first national championship under Pete Carroll. Oklahoma scored the first touchdown but the Trojans blew the game open by scoring 28 straight points midway through the first half.

Best individual bowl performance: Marcus Dupree rushed for 239 and had the Sooners ahead in the 1983 Fiesta Bowl until he was sidelined with leg injuries that kept him from playing in the rest of the game. Arizona State took advantage of his departure to claim a 32-21 victory over the Sooners, despite Oklahoma rolling up 417 rushing yards.

Record against Florida: First meeting.

Common 2008 opponents: None.

The number: 7. National championship won by Oklahoma in school history - more than any team in the Big 12.

BCS title game preview: Oklahoma (12-1) vs. Florida (12-1)

January, 8, 2009
1/08/09
12:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Who to watch: Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford will be trying to turn around some bad recent karma that has dogged Heisman recipients in the BCS era when the Sooners face Florida Thursday night in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game. Since 1999, only one Heisman winner has ever been able to win the national championship the same season he won the trophy. And Bradford will likely have to duplicate Matt Leinart's big performance in the 2005 game to help the Sooners win. If Bradford remains upright and the Oklahoma offensive line can protect him, the Sooners might have a chance to spring an upset. The Sooners' no-huddle offense worked to perfection down the stretch, scoring at least 61 points in each of its last five games. If he can continue that trend on Thursday, Bradford might single-handedly stop the Heisman jinx in BCS title games.

What to watch: The Sooners' defense has been disparaged throughout the week for the huge numbers it has allowed in the pass-happy Big 12 this season. The key to the Sooners' success will be the recipe it has used all season. Even though Oklahoma has been susceptible to big yardage games (allowing 400 yards per game against the Big 12), it will need to come up with the big plays that have marked their season. And a couple of early stops would be especially important to build confidence. The Sooners have provided enough big plays to rank first nationally in turnover margin, third in sacks, sixth in turnovers forced and eighth in tackles for loss. The Sooners will need those kinds of defensive stops to contain Florida's Tim Tebow, who has been intercepted only twice all season.

Why to watch: Some of Bob Stoops' big-game mystique has diminished in recent seasons with four straight BCS losses in the last five seasons. Few are giving the Sooners much hope against Florida in what should be a decided home-field advantage at Dolphin Stadium. But the last time the Sooners were in a similar predicament, they produced a defensive effort for the ages in a 13-2 stunner over Florida State in the 2001 Orange Bowl. They'll need to conjure up some magic in this game in order to spring an upset and keep the SEC from making history by claiming its third straight national championship, which hasn't been done since the Big Ten followed back-to-back championships by Minnesota in 1940 and '41 with a title by Ohio State in 1942.

Prediction: Gators will beat Sooners with speed

January, 7, 2009
1/07/09
7:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Here's how I think Thursday's FedEx BCS National Championship Game will play out.

Florida 35, Oklahoma 31 -- The biggest question remains how Oklahoma's defense responds after being repeatedly dissed by the Gators. After being trashed for the last week by several mouthy Florida players, Oklahoma should be suitably inspired.

But it still won't be enough. Both teams' offenses will have their moments and this matchup between Heisman Trophy winners Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford will be more noteworthy than the forgettable Jason White-Matt Leinart game in 2005.

The biggest edges for Florida are their special teams and their speed along the defensive front. Only one team has been able to pressure Oklahoma all season. If the Gators follow the model that Texas speed-rushers Brian Orakpo and Sergio Kindle provided for them, they should be able to make Bradford uncomfortable in the pocket.

Also, look for Florida to exploit Oklahoma's undisciplined kick coverage team for a big return by Brandon James. And if the game is close, Florida has an edge in the kicking game between senior Jonathan Phillips over redshirt freshman Jimmy Stevens for the Sooners. The Gators should be able to use those advantages to wear down Oklahoma in the second half and cruise to the victory.

And in case you might be asking, this pick might be the kiss of death for the Gators, considering I'm picking them. My record for the bowls hasn't been very good as I've been a rather pedestrian 3-3 so far. And I'll take my lumps after picking Oklahoma State, Clemson and Texas Tech to win their games. I've been right on Texas, Kansas and Missouri.

Here are my records for the season:

Record for last week: 1-2 (33.3 percent)

Record for the season: 87-16 (84.5 percent) 

Harris discounts Heisman Trophy matchup

January, 4, 2009
1/04/09
12:40
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Thursday's FedEx BCS National Championship Game will provide a rare bowl matchup between Heisman Trophy winners.

It will be the first time since Oklahoma quarterback Jason White and USC quarterback Matt Leinart faced each other in the 2005 Orange Bowl for the national championship. USC won the game, 55-19.

But Oklahoma safety Nic Harris discounts the excitement of Thursday's game between current Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow, who won the trophy last season.

"It's cool for who? Cool for fans, cool for the critics, cool for us at the end of the day? It's not really cool for us," Harris said.

Instead, Harris said his team is more intent on carrying the BCS crystal trophy after the game rather than the Heisman matchup between the two individual star quarterbacks.

"We're not worried about trophies," Harris said. "The only trophy we're concerned about is the one that will be presented when the last second comes off the clock. We need to care of what we need to take care off on the 8th."

Harris said he's not concerned with the historical ramifications of the championship game, or the two Heisman winners playing at the same.

"I could care less who won the Heisman," Harris said. "It doesn't really matter to me."

Tim's mailbag: No 7-0 bowl season expected for the Big 12

December, 23, 2008
12/23/08
4:08
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are some letters I've received over the last several days about Big 12 happenings.

Ashtyn from Jefferson City, Mo., writes: Which has a better chance of happening? The Big 12 going 7-0 or the Big Ten going 0-7 in the bowl season?

Tim Griffin: Actually, I don't see either happening. For some reason, it wouldn't surprise me if Wisconsin upsets Florida State in a battle between two underachieving teams. And I think that Iowa might be ready to play against South Carolina, too.

And in the Big 12, I think that Oklahoma and Nebraska both will have difficulty pulling off upsets in their bowl games against Florida and Clemson, respectively. It wouldn't be impossible, but I think both will be pushed to do it. I beleive Oklahoma is going to miss DeMarco Murray more than most people might think.


T. Broyles from Austin writes: First off, I wanted to tell you that your blog is amazing. But let's get down to the point. I won't ramble on about who I think is better between Texas and Oklahoma, but let's pretend that Texas made it to the national championship game against Florida. I believe Oklahoma will have a tough time beating UF, but do you think Texas would have a harder time beating them? If you could drop a final score between Texas and UF, what would it be?

Tim Griffin: First, thanks for your nice compliments about the blog. I think that Texas will face similar problems that Oklahoma does. Mainly, their secondary and defense will be facing a big test in trying to control Percy Harvin and Tim Tebow. And both teams would be challenged to control Florida's fast and active front seven on defense. Texas might have even more trouble because I don't think its running game is as good as Oklahoma's. So if the Longhorns got behind, I think they would be one-dimensional against Florida's fierce pass rush.

But in the end, I would make the Gators slight favorites over both Big 12 teams. And I think Florida would win both games by a score of, say, 35-31.


Jim from Grand Junction, Colo., writes: Tim, I don't know if you follow recruiting closely, but perhaps you can answer this. I've noticed on the recruiting sites that Colorado has only eight signed recruits. Most already have 20-plus recruits. Why is the Colorado number so low? Are they on NCAA sanctions or what? Thanks.

Tim Griffin: Colorado has a different philosophy than many schools with only eight recruits so far. But coach Dan Hawkins prefers to add to his classes later in the recruiting season. He has told Colorado reporters he plans to have 20-22 recruits in his class this season, so I wouldn't expect anything too strange at this point.


M. Holliday from New Braunfels, Texas, writes: I know this is subjective but Colt McCoy at number 11 in your poll of the best players in the Big 12 invalidates and removes subjectivity and borders on lunacy!

Tim Griffin: I appreciate your concerns, but the opinions I made were based strictly on my own opinions after talking to some of my friends in professional scouting. They actually had McCoy ranked a little lower than I ranked him. But it's interesting to see how different people value different kinds of players. I guess that's why some teams like the Tennessee Titans always seem to play well with players who were presumed to be borderline talents. And others like the Detroit Lions continually struggle despite continually getting top players in the draft every season.

But it has been interesting to see how different fans of different schools have taken personal umbrage with these lists. C'mon, lighten up. It was developed to merely to provoke some meaningful discourse about the Big 12.

And I can assure you it has certainly done that!


Zac F. from Houston writes: Hey, Tim, I'm a big fan of your blog, but I'm curious with Oklahoma losing some of its big men up front that this would affect the big numbers that their passing game has been generating?

Tim Griffin: Zac, I think you might be onto something. Something tells me that Sam Bradford might be more worried about the departure of senior starting offensive linemen Phil Loadholt, Duke Robinson, Jon Cooper and Brandon Walker than any of his receivers.

The Sooners do have some talent along the offensive line, but it will take time to develop. And it remains to be seen if this young group will grow up with Bradford or a new quarterback.


Ray from Hanford, Calif., writes: Now that its official and Jordan Shipley has a sixth year, how do you think Texas will do next season? With the emergence of Malcolm Williams late this season, does Texas have a 1-2 punch at receiver to work along with Colt McCoy?

Tim Griffin: Most definitely. I think that Williams and Shipley potentially might be one of the best receiving duos in the conference. And the expected return of Blaine Irby at tight end will only strengthen that group. It's one of the biggest reasons I think the Longhorns are the team to beat in the Big 12 South heading into the 2009 season.


Chris from Austin writes: Great job on the blog, it's become my go-to for any time I want Big 12 news. I feel that the "curse" of the Heisman isn't really a curse, it's mostly caused by the media tour that follows after a winner is announced and all of the practice that you miss. But how much preparation time does the Heisman winner actually miss on average?

Tim Griffin: Chris, a Heisman winner usually doesn't miss much practice time with his team. It's basically some of the conditioning that players take care of themselves before reporting back to practice after exams finish up. Heisman winners typically are stuck on the rubber chicken circuit when all that is going on.

I think an even bigger factor is that opposing teams zero in on a player with much national notoriety like a Heisman Trophy winner. It's a big reason why Heisman winners are 2-6 in their bowl games since 2000.

And if you want to impress your friends, know the only Heisman Trophy winners who have won during that eight-season period in the bowls were USC's Matt Leinart (over Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl) and USC's Carson Palmer (over Iowa in the 2003 Orange Bowl). Leinart is also the last Heisman winner to win a national championship in the same season as his Heisman. Recent losing Heisman winners in order have included Reggie Bush, Troy Smith and Tebow last season.

I wish a blessed and peaceful holiday season to all of my readers. Enjoy the times with your family and I'll look forward to more cards and e-mails after the holidays are over.

Will McCoy really stay? It's still too early to tell

October, 23, 2008
10/23/08
5:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I've been intrigued by all of the play that Colt McCoy's pronouncement that he will be returning for his senior season at Texas in 2009 is receiving in the mainstream media the last 24 hours.

And let me ask you this: When is the last time you can remember a player challenging for the Heisman Trophy and in the middle of the national title hunt stopping the mini-cams to say "No, I don't want this anymore. I'm out of here and off to the NFL as soon as the season is over?"

Which is why I don't think we'll really know what will be happening with McCoy -- or Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, for that matter -- until after the bowls are over.

After being around both players for the last couple of years, I admire their play and the impeccable character of both. I could easily see both of them back for another season. And both are saying the right thing by indicating they want to come back to college for one more year.

But when they look at how weak the quarterback potentials in the NFL Draft will be, will they really be able to say no?

Matt Leinart was able to. And I hope for the sake of college football next year that both Bradford and McCoy are back. How much fun would it be to have both squaring off in the Cotton Bowl again next season for a third time?

But until after the season, nothing will be absolute, although McCoy's sense of being able to say no to temptation is legendary.

Remember, McCoy has denied himself his beloved Dr Pepper for the last nine years because his parents and coaches told him it would hurt his football career.   

So staying away from NFL millions for one year might be a piece of cake, at least metaphorically speaking, that is.  

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