Big 12: New Mexico Lobos
Grambling State at No. 20 TCU (7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net): The Horned Frogs finally hit the field after watching the remainder of the Big 12 open their seasons last weekend. TCU looks to make Gary Patterson the all-time winningest coach in school history in the first meeting between the two teams.
Texas Tech at Texas State (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3/WatchESPN): Any thoughts of overlooking Texas State left Lubbock when the Bobcats defeated Houston, 30-13, to start the season. Fortunately for the Red Raiders, any concerns about the healthy return of running back Eric Stephens were lessened with his two-touchdown performance against Northwestern State (La.) in the season opener, the fifth multi-touchdown game of his career. A healthy Stephens will make the Red Raiders offense more explosive in their first road test.
Florida A&M at No. 5 Oklahoma (7 p.m. ET, pay-per-view): All eyes will be on quarterback Landry Jones and the Sooners offense after the Big 12's preseason favorite stumbled to a 24-7 season-opening victory over UTEP on Sept. 1. OU needs to find its offensive rhythm against FAMU or Sooners fans will not be happy. And OU’s upcoming bye week becomes that much longer.
New Mexico at No. 17 Texas (8 p.m. ET, Longhorn Network): UNM better tighten up those chinstraps. And not just because of the new helmet rule. Longhorns running backs Malcolm Brown(105) and Joe Bergeron (110) each rushed for over 100 yards in the 37-17 victory over Wyoming as UT averaged 5.96 yards per carry.
No. 18 Oklahoma State at Arizona (10:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network): The first major test for Lunt as he looks to lead his team to a road win. While Lunt is in the spotlight, don’t be surprised if OSU puts the game on the shoulders of Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith, one of the Big 12’s top tailback duos, to carry the offense in Tucson.
The Red Raiders' 2010 schedule will finish with two non-conference games as the Red Raiders hook up with Weber State and Houston.
A look at Tech's historical schedule indicates this hasn't happened since the Red Raiders joined the Southwest Conference in 1960. It also will be the only time the Red Raiders play back-to-back home games during their upcoming schedule.
Tech last ended the regular season with a non-conference game in 2001 when they beat Stephen F. Austin. That game came about because the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 delayed the matchup between Tech and their original opponent, UTEP. UTEP couldn't make up the postponed game later in the season.
The unusual scheduling can be partially attributed to Tech moving its game against Texas to early in the season. The game was moved to September in 2009, and again will be played early this season on Sept. 18 in Lubbock. It will be the conference opener for both teams.
Moving the Texas game forward forced the Red Raiders to push back a scheduled 2010 game against TCU. The Oct. 9 game against Baylor will be played at the historic Cotton Bowl as part of the State Fair of Texas and it will be a week after the Texas-Oklahoma game set for Oct 2.
Here's how Tuberville's first Tech schedule lays out.
- Sept. 4 SMU
- Sept. 11 at New Mexico
- Sept. 18 Texas
- Oct. 2 at Iowa State
- Oct. 9 vs. Baylor (at Cotton Bowl, Dallas)
- Oct. 16 Oklahoma State
- Oct. 23 at Colorado
- Oct. 30 at Texas A&M
- Nov. 6 Missouri
- Nov. 13 at Oklahoma
- Nov. 20 Weber State
- Nov. 27 Houston
Note: Home games are in bold.
Houston's game against the Red Raiders was one of the most entertaining in the nation during the past season with the Cougars escaping with a wild 29-28 victory. I would expect the 2010 game to be just as exciting as it will be Houston quarterback Case Keenum's final regular-season game for the Cougars.
Tech has talent returning with quarterbacks Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield, and running back Baron Batch among seven offensive starters. The Red Raiders also have six returning defensive starters and two specialists, placing them in the middle of the pack in terms of returning starters.
Tuberville's first Tech schedule will leave him without any direct opportunity to improve his conference standing during those final two weeks of the season, but will give him the opportunity to perhaps improve the Red Raiders' bowl positioning. But it still looks a little strange to me, playing back-to-back non-conference games so late in the season.
I wouldn’t think of jumping into the weekend without answering some of my better letters from this past week.
So here I go.
Steve Russell of Loveland, Colo., writes: Tim, quick question for you. If you were picking a conference coach of the year including the bowl games, who would you select?
Tim Griffin: After the regular season and conference championship game, I picked Mack Brown because of his 13-0 record. But including the bowl results, I would lean to Bo Pelini, with Brown closely followed by Paul Rhoads of Iowa State.
I think Pelini was able to get a lot out of a team that struggled offensively for much of the season. The Cornhuskers had one of the most imposing defenses in recent Big 12 history with Ndamukong Suh, Jared Crick, Prince Amukamara, Larry Asante, Phillip Dillard and Co. They had a 10-4 record, but the Cornhuskers were very close to a couple of more wins. With a fortunate break or two, the Cornhuskers could have ended up winning the Iowa State and Virginia Tech games during the regular season and the Big 12 championship game. They came legitimately close to a 13-1 record this season. Pelini deserves much of the credit for getting them into the championship game and for their victory over Arizona in the Holiday Bowl.
And as far as Rhoads, I think he did a masterful job with his team. The fact he was able to go to Nebraska and beat the Cornhuskers while starting a backup quarterback and running back while Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson were out of the lineup was one of the biggest upsets in the nation this past season. Capping the season with an Insight Bowl victory over Minnesota and finishing with a winning record completed a strong first season for the Cyclones.
Caleb from the Foothills of Colorado writes: Tim, I saw in your last mailbag that you weren't certain Colorado was nailed down as a conference member. Can you please elaborate on where you think they might be going and why? I can't see them in any other conference that makes geographical sense except the Mountain West and while the Buffs have been (sometimes painfully) bad for a few years now I don't think they deserve being relegated to the MWC.
Tim Griffin: Caleb, I was speaking from a gut feeling I have about Colorado in comparison with the rest of the conference. The Buffaloes program is nowhere near its level in football in the 1990s or even in the early stages of the Big 12. They obviously need a shot of enthusiasm. The report of the $50 million donation from boosters might produce that, but they clearly need a boost of some kind to jump into competition with schools like Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.
I’ve always wondered if Colorado might be a better fit in the Pac-10 if that conference ever chose to expand. New Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott is said to be considering that. Maybe the Buffaloes might be a team he would look at.
And I’ve often thought that if the Mountain West ever got an automatic berth into the BCS if Colorado would be more competitive in that conference. Playing against schools like Colorado State, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and BYU would make geographic sense. But I don’t know if it would be palatable to Colorado fans after playing Big Eight and Big 12 opponents for all of these seasons.
My point was that if the Big 12 becomes serious about making the jump into Utah by adding either BYU or Utah at some point, they need to be sure that Colorado is on board for the duration. The move that direction doesn’t make much sense if the Buffaloes aren't committed.
Roger Stringfellow of Katy, Texas, writes: Tim, I read your post earlier today about Dat Nguyen returning to Texas A&M. What do you are his legitimate chances of returning to Aggieland? And do you think that Mike Sherman is smart enough to make this hire?
Tim Griffin: I think that Dat Nguyen would bring cache to Sherman’s coaching staff unlike many hires he could make. Nguyen legitimately is the most decorated Aggie football player of the last 40 years.
But you have to remember that Sherman is facing huge pressure after going 10-15 in his first two seasons at A&M. Hiring Tim DeRuyter from Air Force was a bold, popular move among most A&M fans. But I’m wondering if DeRuyter and Sherman believe they can gamble on a new coach with little true coaching experience and none in college football by hiring Nguyen.
To me, the hiring is a no-brainer. Getting Nguyen back in the program would be huge for Sherman and his staff. But if they believe they only have a one- or two-season window to turn things around, I can understand why they might opt for a new defensive coach with more experience.
Michael Hengel of Pine Bluff, Ark., writes: Hey, Tim, thank you for the nice column on Freddie Steinmark. Seeing his name in the headline of your piece brought back a flood of memories -- even before reading the feature, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I confess that I had not thought about his great story in years. What an inspiration.
Tim Griffin: Michael, thanks to you and everybody else who wrote to me to comment on my piece on what would have been Steinmark’s 61st birthday earlier this week. He’s still an iconic figure in Texas football history. But his story needs to be shared with more people who might have forgotten about him, or never heard of his inspiring life.
David Macrander of Omaha, Neb., writes: Tim, What do you think the chances are of all three of the major recruits Nebraska is after end up signing with them on signing day? If not all of them, how many (if any) do you think will sign with the Huskers?
Tim Griffin: Out of the three players remaining, I’ll rank the chances of them coming like this. I think the Cornhuskers’ best hopes come with attracting Owamagbe Odighizuwa because of their success with Ndamukong Suh. Odighizuwa saw what Bo Pelini’s staff did with another raw but talented defensive line prospect from Oregon in Suh. I’ve heard that really resonates with him. After that, I think their chances are next best with Corey Cooper, who likely sees that the Cornhuskers need immediate help at safety and likely could use him in the 2010 season if he develops quickly.
Quarterback Brion Carnes obviously has some family history with the Cornhuskers, considering he’s the cousin of legendary Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier. But I’m wondering if Jamal Turner’s announcement last night that he’s coming in the Class of 2011 will have any effect. Also, I know that Carnes is close with Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggert, who is a former quarterback at Manatee High School in Bradenton, Fla., where Carnes played.
So I’d rank Odighizuwa first, Cooper second and Carnes third in terms of their chances at arriving at Nebraska. Getting one player from that group would be a big late surge for Pelini. Two would be huge and a hat trick of all three players might be beyond even his most optimistic hopes. It will be interesting to see how many late recruiting commitments the Cornhuskers will get.
Thanks again for all of the good questions this week. Enjoy the Senior Bowl and I’ll check back with you again next week with another batch.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is taking his time deciding on his starting quarterback.
But Sherman joked Thursday that he still isn't ready to make his decision yet. He'll watch both quarterbacks participate in a scrimmage Saturday morning at Kyle Field as one of the final determining factors.
"We have two good quarterbacks," Sherman said. "Somebody said something about the controversy we have at quarterback. It's not a quarterback controversy to me."
Johnson is presumed to have the inside track after starting the final 10 games last season, passing for 2,435 yards and a school-record 21 touchdowns in 2008 as a sophomore. He received all of the meaningful snaps with the Aggies' first-string offense in Thursday's practice.
"It's competition," Johnson said. "It's what you play the game for. That's one of the things I respect about Coach Sherman -- he always has the competition factor there. He never lets you get complacent in your situation, and that's how it should be.
"The best player should play, and competition only makes your team stronger."
Tannehill led the Aggies in receiving last season after he was pressed into duty there when he couldn't crack the logjam at the top with Johnson and Stephen McGee. He set school freshman records with 55 receptions and 844 receiving yards.
Despite his strong start at the new position, Sherman promised him a chance to compete for a starting quarterback job this season. That effort was supposed to start this spring, but was shelved for several months as Tannehill recovered from a torn labrum.
Finally healthy, he has given his old position a strong shot in preseason camp.
"I came here to be a quarterback," Tannehill told reporters earlier this week.
But the recent emergence of Tommy Dorman as a backup might make it easier for Sherman to move Tannehill back to wide receiver. He would provide Johnson with a strong pair of receivers with him and Jeff Fuller that could boost the productive of the Aggies' offense.
"I definitely want to be on the field," Tannehill said. "It's hard to help the team standing on the sidelines. But right now, my focus is on playing quarterback."
Sherman has been pleased with the work of both Johnson and Tannehill during fall practice.
"It's been a good week for the quarterbacks," Sherman said. "They have competed well and they're both doing an excellent job."
Because of the strong finish by both quarterbacks, Sherman has opted to let the competition steep a little more over the weekend.
And because of that, Sherman will judge the progress of both quarterbacks with a critical eye as he plans for the Aggies' Sept. 5 opener against New Mexico.
"We're very fortunate because a lot of teams would like to have the quality quarterbacks that we have," Sherman said. "I'm happy to have the two we have. We're better because we have those two players. We'll figure this thing out soon enough."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- My viewing time of Texas A&M's afternoon practice was trimmed to about 15 minutes, but I got a chance to see several interesting trends.
- I learned and saw at the practice's end that Jerrod Johnson took every snap with the No. 1 offense. That puts him in prime position to nail down the starting job with a strong effort at Saturday's scrimmage.
- I'm still wondering if coach Mike Sherman will be willing to entrust redshirt freshman Tommy Dorman with the backup quarterback's role. Ryan Tannehill is the obvious choice, but I've got to think he would have more value to the team as a receiver than a backup quarterback. And with the margin of error so slim in the conference, Sherman will have to make a tough decision whether Tannehill is more valuable wearing a headset or catching passes. I'm betting on the latter.
- After watching the Aggies repeatedly struggle running the ball last season, I was impressed with the pop they showed in inside running plays. Christine Michael broke one nice long run that earned some plaudits from Sherman after practice. Cyrus Gray looked as good as advertised. But I'm wondering if some of the Aggies' offensive success might have been because they were scrimmaging against the Aggies' defense.
- Sherman said the offense "won the scrimmage" because of the way the Aggies broke deep from their own territory for touchdown drives. That's something that veteran defensive coordinator Joe Kines needs to shore up before the Aggies' Sept. 5 opener against New Mexico.
"We had some lulls in the backed-up offensive drills," Sherman said. "We gave up two touchdowns when the offense was (deep in our territory). You can never do that. When you pin them down there, you have to keep them down there and we didn't necessarily do it."
- Michael particularly showed some strong running ability, enough that Sherman said he is more advanced than he expected at this point of training camp.
"I'm pleased with all of the running backs, Christine being one of the them," Sherman said. "He was very explosive, has great balance is very difficult to tackle. We're very excited about him. He's a tough physical runner and that's proven every day when come out here."
- It was interesting that in the middle of his discussion about his backs, Sherman singled out his offensive line for its improvement throughout training camp.
My impression is that there's been a lot of growth in the unit since the spring. During the short time I watched practice, the group seemed to play with a nasty disposition that was detectable watching the final drills against the first-team defense in the trenches.
"Our offensive line is improving," Sherman said. "After all the criticism of last season and what not, we're fairly healthy. We still have a lot of work to do, God knows, but I think they are jelling a little bit better this year than at this time last year."
- I was impressed with the way the Aggies were running through tacklers on inside runs, a factor that has been emphasized throughout practice, Sherman said.
"All the backs are bringing a physical nature to our team," Sherman said. "If you're a linebacker and not prepared to tackle our running backs, you're going to get knocked over. It's making everybody else step up."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Kingsbury and Long hook up in passing duel for the ages
Date: Oct. 5, 2002
Place: Kyle Field, College Station, Texas
Score: Texas Tech 48, Texas A&M 47 (OT)
The Texas A&M-Texas Tech rivalry has developed into one of the country's most bitter blood feuds in the last few years. The Red Raiders have proved difficult for Texas A&M ever since Mike Leach took over in 2000.
One of the most memorable games in the rivalry wasn't settled until one of the wildest passing shootouts in conference history transpired.
Kliff Kingsbury was judged to be one of the nation's top quarterbacks in 2002, setting a conference record with six touchdown passes the week before the A&M game in a 49-0 beatdown of New Mexico.
Texas A&M quarterback Dustin Long wasn't expected to be nearly as proficient. Coming into the Tech game, he had thrown only one touchdown pass in his previous college career.
But that didn't faze him as he started quickly against the Tech secondary, blistering them for a 78-yard touchdown pass to Bethel Johnson on A&M's first offensive play of the game. He also added three other touchdown passes -- a 4-yard toss to Greg Porter, 9 yards to Terrence Murphy and 15 yards to Johnson -- to spark the No. 23 Aggies to a 28-17 halftime advantage.
Kingsbury was just as hot early, starting the game with 14 straight completions. But Long was more effective early, boosting the Aggies to a 35-17 lead on an 82-yard touchdown strike to Jamaar Taylor with 6:57 left in the third quarter.
That lead held until the fourth quarter when Kingsbury went to work.
The Red Raiders exploded for 21 unanswered points in a span of less than 10 minutes to take the lead after a 21-yard Kingsbury TD pass to Wes Welker, a 15-yard TD toss from Kingsbury to Taurean Henderson and a 88-yard punt return by Welker with 2:48 left. A two-point pass from Kingsbury to Anton Paige provided Tech with a 38-35 lead with 2:48 left.
The Aggies answered on a wild scoring play when running back Stacy Jones recovered a fumble by Porter at the Texas Tech 1 and carried it into the end zone with 1:40 left to extend A&M's lead to three. But kicker John Pierson missed the extra point to make it 41-38.
Kingsbury then engineered a seven-play 56-yard drive in only 98 seconds. It was capped by a 42-yard field goal by Robert Treece with two seconds left, tying the game at 41 and setting up the first overtime game in the history of the series.
The Aggies scored first in overtime on Long's seventh touchdown pass of the game, a 3-yarder to Terrence Thomas. But Pierson sent the conversion careening wide left, giving Tech an opening.
Four plays later, Kingsbury hooked up on an inside screen pass to Nehemiah Glover, who cut to the middle before scoring on a 10-yard reception. Treece's conversion gave the Red Raiders a wild 48-47 victory.
Kingsbury's heroics were particularly sweet considering he wanted to attend A&M coming out of high school. The Aggies never seriously recruited him and he ended up at Tech, where he left school as the most productive passer in school history.
The numbers: Kingsbury and Long combined for 841 passing yards and 13 touchdowns. Kingsbury completed 49-of-59 passes for 474 yards and six touchdown passes; Long was 21 for 37 for 367 yards and a Big 12 record seven TD passes. At the time, the Aggies' 47 points were the most they have ever scored in a loss.
It was also the most points that A&M had allowed at Kyle Field since a 57-28 loss to Texas in 1977. The week before the game, Long threw a touchdown pass in his first career start. It snapped a string of seven straight A&M games without a touchdown pass. And Henderson produced 13 catches for 61 yards to pace Tech.
They said it, part I: "This is the biggest definitely. To do it against A&M -- a college I wanted to come to out of high school, and they didn't recruit me -- I made my point today," Kingsbury, who told the Lubbock Avalanche Journal that the win was particularly memorable to him.
They said it, part II: "All week long, I had a great week of practice. The snaps and holds were great. It was my fault. I thought the first one was good, but it just missed going through. The second one I pulled from the beginning, and I knew I missed it right away," Pierson, who described his missed extra points to reporters after the game.
They said it, part III: "I didn't see anybody on our sideline that didn't think we couldn't win," Tech coach Mike Leach, commenting on his team's 18-point fourth-quarter comeback.
The upshot: Texas Tech utilized momentum from the victory to charge to an upset victory over Texas later in the season. That triumph boosted the Red Raiders into a winner-take-all battle for the South Division title against Oklahoma that they lost, 60-15.
After that loss, they advanced to the Tangerine Bowl where they notched a 55-15 triumph over Clemson for their first bowl victory under Leach. The Red Raiders finished the season at 9-5.
A&M coach R.C. Slocum and the Aggies had trouble overcoming the Tech loss. The Aggies lost four of their final five games that season to finish 6-6. Slocum was fired after the final game of the season, a 50-20 loss at Texas, and replaced by Dennis Franchione.
Long started the remaining games of the season but was supplanted by Reggie McNeal as the Aggies' starter the following season. After the demotion, Long transferred to Sam Houston State following the 2003 season where he completed his college career.
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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Big 12 teams should be seldom tested before conference play begins as most teams again are opting to compete with a pillow-soft slate of opponents.
Here's the toughest and weakest of the Big 12 nonconference schedules:
1. Oklahoma: BYU (at Arlington, Texas), Idaho State, Tulsa, at Miami
The Sooners deserve props for adding the BYU game late. The nationally televised game should showcase Oklahoma's defense as it thwarts Max Hall and Harvey Unga for the Cougars. Idaho State is a bad Division I-AA team that went 1-11 last season. Tulsa and Miami both went to bowl games last season. The Golden Hurricane will be breaking in a new quarterback and a new coordinator -- not a good recipe for success for a road team at Owen Field. And although the game against Miami brings back memories of Jimmy Johnson vs. Barry Switzer, the fact is that the Hurricanes could be worn out by the time Oklahoma visits. Miami starts the season with a meat-grinder schedule of Florida State, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech before the Sooners visit.
2. Colorado: Colorado State, at Toledo, Wyoming, at West Virginia
Coach Dan Hawkins has this team pegged for good things in the conference. The Buffaloes will be tested by four FBS opponents, including two on the road. The rivalry game against Colorado State should be decided in the trenches and the Buffaloes' offensive line will be a load for the Rams. The Toledo game might be trickier than expected considering the Buffaloes will be playing this one only five days after the Colorado State game. But Colorado still should have the talent to prevail. Something tells me that Hawkins will remember that new Wyoming coach Dave Christensen's offense hung 113 points against his defense the last two seasons when he was at Missouri. And the West Virginia trip will be a challenge, although new Mountaineers quarterback Jarrett Brown is largely untested.
3. Missouri: Illinois (at St. Louis), Bowling Green, Furman, at Nevada
The Tigers' inexperienced defense will get a huge challenge in the opener against Illinois' pass-and-catch tandem of Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn. They'll be facing another experienced quarterback in three-year Bowling Green starter Tyler Sheehan, but the Falcons' defense will be breaking in two new cornerbacks. Furman has a talented quarterback in Jordan Sorrells, but the Paladin's defense shouldn't be able to match Missouri. The trip to Nevada might be a hornet's nest. The Wolf Pack have made four straight bowl trips, multi-purpose quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the Western Athletic Conference's last two leading rushers. And, oh, yeah, the Wolf Pack probably still remember that 69-17 beatdown to the Tigers last season in Columbia.
4. Nebraska: Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State, at Virginia Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette
No truth to the rumor that the Cornhuskers are gunning for the September version of the Sun Belt championship. Their road game at Virginia Tech is the toughest game that any Big 12 team will play this season. But Bo Pelini will have two games to get his defense ready for Tyrod Taylor and Co. Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger made his career name by beating the Cornhuskers in the 1984 Orange Bowl while at Miami. He won't be nearly as successful this time around. Arkansas State stunned Texas A&M last season, but the Red Wolves will be utilizing a new offensive line this season. And Louisiana-Lafayette's offense is very young and the Cornhuskers will be catching them the week after they have met up with LSU.
5. Oklahoma State: Georgia, Houston, Rice, Grambling
Four home games make for an ideal schedule for the Cowboys to make some national noise. The Georgia game will be arguably the biggest home nonconference game in school history. But the Cowboys grab a break as the Bulldogs try to break in new quarterback Joe Cox. Houston will have Case Keenum and a high-powered offensive attack, but the Cowboys blistered the Cougars for 56 points last year and could score more this season. Rice won't be as good this season after losing most of its offensive firepower. And Grambling has a great football history and an even better band.
6. Baylor: at Wake Forest, Connecticut, Northwestern State, Kent State
The nonconference schedule could determine whether the Bears can snap that long bowl drought. And it won't be an easy one considering that Baylor is the only Big 12 team with two opponents from "Big Six" conferences. The Wake Forest opener will be a huge test, but Robert Griffin might be able to feast on a depleted Demon Deacon defense that lost four starters to the NFL draft. The Bears nearly beat Connecticut last season on the road and the Huskies lose their starting quarterback and top rusher from that team. New coach Bradley Dale Peveto will bring new ideas for Northwestern State, but the Bears have a big edge. And Kent State will be breaking in a new quarterback for a team that has won only 19 games in the last five seasons under Doug Martin.
7. Kansas: Northern Colorado, at UTEP, Duke, Southern Mississippi
The Jayhawks should be able to name their margin against Northern Colorado in the opener. The trip to the Sun Bowl against UTEP the following week might be a different matter. UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe could be a challenge, although the Jayhawks should have enough firepower to outscore them. A Kansas-Duke game would be a made-for-national television delight in basketball. Football, however, is a different story. And Southern Mississippi might be poised to challenge for the Conference USA title and might be a chore with leading conference rusher Damion Fletcher and all of its starting secondary back to challenge Todd Reesing and Dezmon Briscoe.
8. Texas A&M: New Mexico, Utah State, UAB, Arkansas (at Arlington, Texas)
The Aggies desperately need to build confidence and collect a few victories before the South Division gauntlet begins. After last season's opening-game loss against Arkansas State, expect coach Mike Sherman to have the Aggies focused for all of the games. They catch new New Mexico coach Mike Locksley with an uncertain quarterback in the Lobos' opener. Utah State is universally picked to finish last in the Western Athletic Conference. UAB will be rebuilding its defense and likely won't pose many problems for Jerrod Johnson. But the game against Arkansas at
the new Dallas Cowboys' stadium will be a challenge for A&M's defense. The Razorbacks should be much improved in Bobby Petrino's second season. Fans are paying premium prices and expect big things from both teams. The Aggies may catch a break considering the Razorbacks will play SEC contenders Georgia and Alabama in their previous two weeks.
9. Texas Tech: North Dakota, Rice, at Houston, New Mexico
Mike Leach's nonconference schedule won't be as bad as last season's trip to the pastry wagon, but not by much. North Dakota is transitioning into FCS status this season after ranking 137th among the 148 Division II passing teams last season. Sounds like target practice for Taylor Potts, doesn't it? Rice won't be nearly as tough as last season without James Casey, Jarrett Dillard and Chase Clement gone. The trip to Houston will be Tech's biggest challenge and Case Keenum will test Tech's rebuilt secondary in the first battle between the old Southwest Conference rivals since 1995. And New Mexico will have had several weeks to work under Locksley's system, making them a tougher challenge for the Red Raiders in early October.
10. Texas: Louisiana-Monroe, at Wyoming, UTEP, Central Florida
The Longhorns had a couple of game against Utah and Arkansas fall through in their planning. But don't expect the Longhorns to get that much sympathy for a group of opponents that won't give them much BCS bounce. Louisiana-Monroe will be breaking in a retooled offense with a new quarterback. The road trip to Wyoming doesn't resonate like some the Longhorns have made to places like Ohio State and Arkansas in recent seasons. The Cowboys will be breaking in a new quarterback, too. UTEP could contend for the Conference USA West title, but the Miners are a different team on the road. And the Nov. 7 game against Central Florida will bring the nation's worst offensive team from last season into Austin.
11. Iowa State: North Dakota State, Iowa, at Kent State, Army
Paul Rhoads doesn't want any surprises early in his first season and his nonconference schedule. North Dakota State has posed problems to FBS teams like Minnesota in the past. Iowa doesn't have Shonn Greene back, but has almost everybody else back on a stout defense that will challenge the Cyclones. Mighty mite 5-foot-5, 170-pound tailback Eugene Jarvis will test ISU's defense and the trip to Kent State won't be a gimme. And new Army coach Rich Ellerson will bring 6-10, 283-pound wide receiver Ali Villanueva along with starting quarterback Chip Bowden from a team that won three games last season.
12. Kansas State: Massachusetts, at Louisiana-Lafayette, at UCLA, Tennessee Tech
The schedule doesn't provide as many gooey treats as some that Bill Snyder's teams have feasted on in the past, but it's still nothing to write home about. Massachusetts is a contender in the CAA, which is the toughest top-to-bottom FCS conference in the nation. Louisiana-Lafayette will have to replace a lot of offensive talent, but can be troublesome at Cajun Field. UCLA struggled offensively last year and will be breaking in a new quarterback with four new offensive linemen. KSU might be able to compete in that one better than most might think. And Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown, older brother of Texas coach Mack Brown, returns a talented pass-and-catch combination of Lee Sweeney and Tim Benford. KSU still should roll, however.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's a name that resonates across America as one of strongest high-school football programs in the nation.
Odessa Permian has been a steady provider of top talent to Big 12 schools, among others, over the years.
That's why Jeff Miller's story about Odessa Permian now on ESPN Rise was so interesting to me. Former coach Gary Gaines, the coach of the Permian program during the tumultuous 1988 season that was chronicled in Buzz Bissinger's masterpiece "Friday Night Lights," is back coaching his school again after 11 years away from high school coaching.
Among the Big 12 products who played at Permian over the years have included former Texas standouts Britt Hager and Roy Williams, former Texas Tech wide receiver Lloyd Hill and former New Mexico quarterback Stoney Case. Other products of the school include actor Jim J. Bullock, noted model and actress Kim Smith and Olympic silver-medal winning pole vaulter Toby Williams.
The Permian program resonates across Texas like the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Lakers of high school programs. And the Big 12 has received a big boost from some of its more notable products over the years.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Former Oklahoma quarterback J.C. Watts always had the flair for the dramatic.
Whether it was breaking big runs as a wishbone quarterback under Barry Switzer or the way he directed the Sooners to back-to-back Orange Bowl victories in 1980-81, Watts always had star power.
After he left football he has carved an enviable career as a politician. He's accustomed to tackling challenge issues. One of the most interesting was his work as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill trying to curry favor among congressmen and senators for the Bowl Championship Series.
Many thought it was only a matter of time before Watts returned to the political arena.
But that idea will have to wait after he announced Friday he won't be running for governor of Oklahoma in this year's election to replace outgoing Gov. Brad Henry.
As such, I would imagine that Watts has more time to keep up with his old team. And I can't think of a better way to do that than by reading these daily links.
Here are a few I hope will enlighten him if he gets the chance to read them today.
- Texas Tech coach Mike Leach tells Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram why Bart Starr's picture hung on his wall when he was a kid and why he enjoys boxing and rugby but hates golf.
- Even as the Big 12 cuts the largest distribution pie in conference history, the conference is still considering ways to save money, according to Austin American-Statesman reporter Randy Riggs.
- The Dallas Morning News provides a video look at the new $40 million high-definition video boards at Cowboys Stadium. The facility will host three Big 12 regular-season games in the upcoming season and the Big 12 title game.
- The Los Angeles Times' Chris Dufresne lists three Big 12 games among the 10 national contests he can't wait for in 2009. Included are Georgia-Oklahoma State, Texas-Oklahoma and Texas-Texas Tech.
- The Kansas City Star's Jeffrey Martin reports on a new twist on Kansas State's lawsuit against former football coach Ron Prince. The Star's editorial page ripped the contract between Prince and former Kansas State athletic director Bob Krause, calling it a "stain on collegiate sports."
- Texas A&M's season opener against New Mexico likely will not be shown on national television as Texas A&M officials earlier had hoped, Robert Cessna of the Bryan Eagle reports.
- The Columbia Daily Tribune's Dave Matter answers questions about Missouri's offensive line, numbers he expects Missouri to retire and Chase Daniel's chance to stick with the Washington Redskins.
- The Lincoln Journal-Star's Brian Christopherson has the interesting story of Nebraska philosopher Hartley Burr Alexander, whose legendary "In the Deed the Glory" maxim put some big ideas into a few words on the side of Memorial Stadium.
- Trey Bradley of bleacherreport.com included two Big 12 jobs among his list of the nation's top 10 coaching jobs.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Web site Coacheshotseat.com is one of my must reads every day. They always have an interesting spin on various college football topics and a lot of original content.
One post this afternoon was particularly interesting. The Web site ranks the 22 hirings of new FBS head coaches since the end of last season.
Here's a list of hirings of all new Division I head coaches. The ones that are highlighted have Big 12 connections.
1. Dave Christensen, Wyoming
2. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
3. Rich Ellerson, Army
4. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
5. Brady Hoke, San Diego State
6. Steve Sarkisian, Washington
7. Doug Marrone, Syracuse
8. Danny Hope, Purdue
9. Mike Locksley, New Mexico
10. Ron English, Eastern Michigan
11. Mike Haywood, Miami (OH)
12. DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State
13. Chip Kelly, Oregon
14. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State
15. Gene Chizik, Auburn
16. Gary Anderson, Utah State
17. Frank Spaziani, Boston College
18. Tim Beckman, Toledo
19. Stan Parrish, Ball State
20. Dave Clawson, Bowling Green
21. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
22. Lane Kiffin, Tennessee
It's particularly interesting to look at the difference between former Missouri coordinator Dave Christensen and former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Tim Beckman.
They believe that Christensen's success bringing his version of the spread to Wyoming will pump new life into the Mountain West Conference. And they compare that to the largely unknown Beckman, who will be challenged to succeed in the balanced Mid-American Conference.
The switch from Gene Chizik to Paul Rhoads appears to be a wash, as Rhoads' hiring is ranked No. 14 while Chizik checks in at No. 15.
But the most interesting comments to me were how the Web site viewed Bill Snyder replacing Ron Prince at Kansas State.
21. Bill Snyder for Ron Prince at Kansas State
"We could have gone either way on the firing of Ron Prince, but bringing Bill Snyder back to Kansas State? No, we cannot understand that move by KSU. OK...Bill Snyder was a great football coach, but that was in another time and another place. Snyder put up some great seasons at K-State, but in his last two years, which happened to correspond to the rise of Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Missouri in the Big 12, Snyder went 4-7 in 2004 and 5-6 in 2005. There is a reason that Bill Snyder was fired after the 2005 season and that reason has not changed and we believe K-State will regret hiring Snyder because he will not move the football program forward in what has become a much tougher Big 12. Instead of Bill Snyder, we would have hired Buffalo's Turner Gill, Oklahoma's Brent Venables, Illinois Mike Locksley, Missouri's Dave Christensen or even Dennis Franchione over bringing back Bill Snyder and we believe Kansas State will regret this coaching move."
I would criticique Coacheshotseat.com for saying that Snyder was fired after the 2005 season. He actually resigned. But I'm still intrigued by their comments.
It will be interesting to see how Snyder's return to KSU plays out. Either it will be a home run or a colossal flop.
I'm betting that Snyder's work ethic and his return of a veteran group of coaches familiar with the KSU program will work and work to ensure the program's success.
But even that might not be enough, considering the Big 12's strength.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
One day and counting to the NFL draft. I guess that means we can still consider players like Michael Crabtree, Jason Smith, Josh Freeman and Jeremy Maclin as Big 12 players for at least one more day, can't we?
Until then, here are a few lunchtime links that are as tasty as the gorditas, turkey legs and funnel cakes that are available in downtown San Antonio right now at the Battle of Flowers parade.
Only about 300,000 people are attending.
Boy, am I glad I don't have to commute down there anymore.
Here are the links, sans the traffic and parking problems I used to face every year.
- Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls disputes the notion that Texas players are too soft for the NFL.
- It wasn't safe for former Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee to attend his old team's practice earlier this week, Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News beat writer Brent Zwerneman reports.
- The Omaha World-Herald's Lee Barfknecht analyzes the spring practice of Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
- Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman mentioned earlier this week to reporters that the Aggies' opener against New Mexico could be nationally televised. The Bryan Eagle's Robert Cessna analyzes the chances of the Aggies' game being chosen on a busy opening weekend.
- New Colorado offensive line coach Denver Johnson has helped his group develop by keeping its terminology from last season, Boulder Daily Camera beat writer Kyle Ringo reports.
- Former Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith is set to make history as the school's first first-round draft pick of the Big 12 era, the Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner reports.
- New Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Herman has developed a "Wildcat" offensive package that features tailback Alexander Robinson taking direct snaps and quarterback Austen Arnaud as a wide receiver, the Cedar Rapids Gazette's Eric Peterson reports.
- Colorado offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich told the Denver Post's Tom Kensler that there's a "razor-thin" margin separating quarterbacks Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen heading into the Buffaloes' spring game on Saturday.
- The pundits from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch analyze whether Jeremy Maclin or Michael Crabtree will develop into a better NFL player.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I feel a little remiss that we didn't celebrate Nebraska coach Bo Pelini's birthday last week in a suitable manner.
Pelini turned 41 on Saturday, a likely day for stoppage of mail and garbage delivery considering his early success with the Cornhuskers.
A rash of recent hirings of younger coaches has dropped Pelini to 13th among the youngest FBS head coaches. And his matchup with Clemson's Dabo Swinney in the Gator Bowl will be only the second time that Pelini has been older than his opposing coach. The only other time that happened was when he beat Ron Prince and Kansas State earlier this season.
And here's another way to place Pelini and Swinney's youth in perspective. Their combined ages at kickoff for the Jan. 1 game in Jacksonville will be 80 years, 1 month and 31 days. That total is far less than Penn State's Joe Paterno, who will be 82 years and 11 days old on that date.
Here's a look at the youngest FBS coaches in the nation. Coaches who have been hired since the end of the season to their new jobs are indicated with an asterisk.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Newspapers in Toledo and Tulsa are reporting that Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Tim Beckman will be introduced later Thursday as Toledo's new head coach. A press conference is scheduled for 1 p.m.
This much is true: The Toledo job is a nice first head-coaching gig because it's one of the power schools in the underrated Mid-American Conference. Gary Pinkel started there and used his success to catapult to the job at Missouri.
Beckman's name didn't surface in the search at Toledo until very late. He's a good choice with state ties. He grew up in nearby Berea, which is about 100 miles away. Beckman also cut his teeth as defensive coordinator on coaching staffs of Gary Blackney, Urban Meyer and Gregg Brandon at Bowling Green. And he later served as a cornerbacks coach on Jim Tressel's staff at Ohio State, giving him some wide exposure in that football-crazed part of the country.
After some initial struggles last season, the Cowboys improved markedly under Beckman in his second season. His offense was undersized, relied on a lot of junior college talent and didn't pressure opposing quarterbacks very well. But it was sound schematically and improved in most areas in his second season in charge in 2008.
Oklahoma State played well defensively before two late stumbles against Texas Tech and Oklahoma. But Beckman was credited with developing the blueprint to beat Missouri, which the Cowboys did by intercepting Chase Daniel three times.
But it is interesting that Beckman will be getting the head job considering his team ranked 109th nationally in pass defense, 108th in sacks and 85th in total defense. Some of those numbers have been skewed because of the offensive surges across the Big 12 in recent seasons.
There is no word on whether Beckman will continue with the Cowboys in their bowl game. But one of the first names to surface as a possible candidate for his replacement is former New Mexico coach Rocky Long, who served as a defensive coordinator at UCLA, Oregon State and TCU before getting the Lobos' job.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are a few tidbits from around the Big 12 heading into this week's games.
1. The Big 12's most stable coaching staff might be set for a shakeup after the season. Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen is in the mix for openings at New Mexico and Wyoming, and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus is being considered for the vacant head job at Toledo. If either leave, they could become the first assistants from Gary Pinkel's staff to leave for another job. That stability has been an underrated facet in the Tigers' development into the North's strongest current program -- particularly in terms of recruiting two-star and three-star recruits in Texas who have blossomed into key contributors once they arrived in Columbia. A staff change would put Pinkel in the unfamiliar position of having to hire a new assistant for the first time since he arrived at Missouri in 2001.
2. Despite struggles in a disappointing 2-10 season, Iowa State coach Gene Chizik doesn't expect to go through heavy use of junior-college players to restock his program. Chizik said that "a couple" of junior-college players could be brought in to help the Cyclones at specific areas of need, but he doubted he would make a heavy push because those players would be around the program for only two seasons. Chizik still remains committed to using arriving high school talent as the backbone in his rebuilding job with the Cyclones.
3. Expect Oklahoma State to try to emphasize a more balanced approach in Saturday's game against Oklahoma than last season. The Cowboys have been working on play-action passing after throwing for only 104 yards last year against the Sooners -- the lowest in a Big 12 game in Mike Gundy's coaching tenure. The Cowboys hope to get tight end Brandon Pettigrew more involved Saturday after he was held without a catch last season by the Sooners. And the passing game should clearly benefit from the return of running back Kendall Hunter, who should be ready to go after nursing a quadriceps injury that occurred in the Cowboys' last game against Colorado.
4. Colorado's banged-up secondary will be at a big disadvantage Friday against Nebraska with senior starting strong safety D.J. Dykes out and starting free safety Ryan Walters' status still uncertain. It could mean a pair of freshmen will be starting against the high-powered Nebraska passing attack -- Anthony Perkins at strong safety and Patrick Mahnke at free safety. Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz has to be salivating, considering he blistered the Buffaloes for 484 passing yards, 521 yards of total offense and four touchdown passes last season when the Buffaloes' secondary was a lot healthier.
5. Texas coaches have been disappointed in the last two seasons because their team wasn't as physical as A&M, losing the game in the trenches both seasons. It's led to a change in Texas' practices leading up to the Texas A&M game for the Longhorns. The Longhorns still should have the edge, considering that Texas A&M's offense isn't nearly as ground-oriented with Jerrod Johnson playing quarterback and with a young offensive line developing as it grows.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman declined Monday to reveal who would be his starting quarterback for Saturday's game against Baylor.
McGee replaced him at that point and completed 10 of 19 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown while playing the rest of the game.
"We'll just play it by ear," Sherman said. "Both are capable of playing and we'll just see how it goes."
Johnson struggled through the worst game of his career, completing only 11-of-31 passes for 162 yards. He was sacked three times as well as the two interceptions.
McGee won the Aggies' starting position in training camp and was A&M's starter at the position for the first two games before sustaining a shoulder injury in the second game against New Mexico. McGee returned to start against Army before he was supplanted by Johnson, who has emerged in a record-breaking sophomore season.