Big 12: North Carolina Tar Heels
Dec. 26, 5:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Missouri take by Big 12 blogger David Ubben: Missouri is headed to the SEC next season, and went out quietly in Big 12 play. The Tigers roll with dual-threat quarterback James Franklin, but are still trying to find their offense after losing Henry Josey, the Big 12's leading rusher at the time, to a serious knee injury. He started the season No. 3 on the depth chart. It's been up to Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore to pick up the slack.
The Tigers' defense had high hopes coming into the season, and it's been good after some early-season struggles, but perhaps not as good as expected. The defensive line hasn't dominated as most expected, but the Tigers played well enough to win four of their final five games to rescue a rough start against a brutal schedule. Mizzou may have the best five losses of any team in the country: Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Arizona State. Not a bad one in the bunch, and all four but Oklahoma State came on the road. Mizzou is better than its record suggests, and will get a chance to prove it in the postseason.
North Carolina take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: The entire season could have unraveled for UNC, considering former coach Butch Davis was fired just days before summer practices began, but interim coach Everett Withers kept the program on track for its fourth straight bowl appearance.
North Carolina has faced Missouri twice, losing both times, but has not played the Tigers since 1976. North Carolina started the season 5-1, but fizzled down the stretch against better competition. The Tar Heels lost four of their past six games, including a fifth-straight loss to rival NC State. Individually, though, it has been an impressive season for a few Tar Heels. Tailback Giovani Bernard rushed for a UNC freshman record 1,222 yards and became the first Tar Heel since 1997 to run for more than 1,000 yards.
Receiver Dwight Jones set a school record with 79 receptions and has 11 touchdown catches, which is just one shy of the single-season record. And quarterback Bryn Renner enters the bowl game tied for the school record with 23 touchdown passes. Defensively, Carolina is led by defensive end Quinton Coples and linebacker Zach Brown. Coples ranks fourth among active college players with 24 career sacks. Brown led the Tar Heels with 91 tackles, including 11.5 for losses and 5.5 sacks.
But here's an idea better than tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for some warming noontime satisfaction.
Why, of course -- a piping hot selection of Big 12 lunchtime links for your edification.
- The Lawrence Journal-World’s Chuck Woodling pronounces Kansas’ idea of a Gridiron Club as a massive flop.
- The Sporting News’ Matt Hayes ranks East Carolina's hiring of former Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill as the best made by a non-BCS school this season.
- It might be January, but football talk dominated the weekly chat by Austin American-Statesman pundits Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden.
- ESPN.com’s Ivan Maisel likes the idea of the Hornung Trophy, believing it can honor all-around players who dominated their games like former Missouri player Jeremy Maclin.
- Rising Lakewood (Colo.) linebacker Joe Hemschoot will choose today between Colorado, Oregon and Stanford, Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Camera reports.
- The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports that documents filed by Texas Tech’s attorneys with the state attorney general’s office indicate that Craig James threatened to sue the school if it didn’t investigate his claims that Mike Leach mistreated an injured student-athlete.
- Oklahoma State cornerback Perrish Cox is listed among five rising players at the Senior Bowl by the Sporting News’ Clifton Brown.
- Running back Lucky Hadley of Taft High School in Woodland Hills, Calif., will visit Texas Tech this weekend, Gerry Gittelson of the Los Angeles Daily News reports. Hadley’s other finalists include Clemson, North Carolina and Utah.
- The Lincoln Journal Star's Brian Christopherson writes about some of Nebraska's most notable recruiting losses over the last several years.
- Turner Gill’s $2 million yearly contract makes him the fifth highest-paid coach in the Big 12, according to J. Brady McCollough of the Kansas City Star.
- UTEP athletic director Rob Stull told Zahira Torres of the El Paso Times that the Miners will pocket $1 million for their 2012 game against Texas in Austin.
- John Mackovic of the Palm Springs (Calif.) Desert Sun writes about the nervousness for coaches associated with national signing day.
Here are some of the better missives I’ve received over the last several days.
Steven Johnson from Salina, Kan., writes: This season there truly was the “curse of the Big 12 quarterback” all season long. Did any other conference lose as many starting QBs as the Big 12 this season due to injury? In the South Division, only A&M had the luxury of their starting QB all season long. Who were the only quarterbacks in the Big 12 who started every game this season?
Tim Griffin: Yes, it was a bad time to be a starting quarterback in the Big 12 in 2009. The only quarterbacks who started every game were Kansas’ Todd Reesing, Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert, Texas’ Colt McCoy and Texas A&M’s Jerrod Johnson.
And McCoy’s injury against Alabama last week might have been the biggest injury of the season for any player in the nation.
I don’t know of any conference anywhere that had the run of injuries that the Big 12 endured this season.
Terrell from the Bay Area in California writes: It's obvious that Mack Brown's offensive staff doesn't develop the talent like it should or utilize the talent it has. What's the shelf life of Greg Davis? Mack has a history of going with the style that's winning. And right now a pro-style SEC offense is dominating the championship scene. Do you see Coach Brown having the courage to replace Davis or are we stuck with him until Will Muschamp takes over? I think now would be a perfect time to make the switch especially with the recruiting classes they've had the last three years. The lineman alone should make Brown a more pro-style coach.
Tim Griffin: Terrell, you raise an interesting point I often hear from Texas fans. Davis was successful enough to help Vince Young and Colt McCoy develop into two of the greatest quarterbacks in college football history. There’s no doubt the Texas running game struggled this season, but Davis was able to cobble together a short passing offense that still took them to the national championship game.
I think there’s a lot of loyalty between Mack Brown and Greg Davis. They’ve worked together for 17 seasons at three different jobs -- Tulane, North Carolina and Texas. Brown has never fired a coach before during his Texas stint. And I don’t see him starting with one of his most stalwart associates in Davis.
Zachary Cole from San Marcos, Texas, writes: I just read that Tommy Tuberville's new offensive coordinator will be Neal Brown from Troy. I don’t know much about Troy, do you think this is a good choice or do you think that Lincoln Riley should have got the call?
Tim Griffin: It doesn’t surprise me that Tuberville looked outside the Tech program to pick his offensive coordinator. And Brown is one of the rising stars of the business after the job he did with the Trojans over the last two seasons. He’s actually the youngest offensive coordinator in the nation but has more experience as a coordinator than Riley at the job.
Tuberville was looking for a proven commodity along with a coach rising in the profession. It's a bonus that Brown arrives with a few different wrinkles he wants to bring to his new job.
I think it’s a good choice, although it sounds like the offense will be pretty similar to the one the Red Raiders have run in recent years with Mike Leach serving as the coach and offensive coordinator. Tuberville wants his own immediate stamp on the program and that’s why I think he went out of it for Brown.
Chris Watkins from Lawrence,Kan., writes: Tim, now that Jim Leavitt, Mike Leach, and Ruffin McNeill are all available, would it be wise for Kansas State coach Bill Snyder to bring them in, even in the thick of the tumult? I could see going to Kansas State being a smart move for Leach and Leavitt considering their reputations have taken hits. Snyder is just the guy to "mentor" them, much like Tony Dungy did with Michael Vick. Who would be most likely to go to work for the Wildcats, in your opinion?
Tim Griffin: I expect Jim Leavitt, Mike Leach and Ruffin McNeill all to be back in coaching quickly. But as far as Kansas State, I would suspect that Leavitt makes the most sense, mainly because he’s worked for Snyder before.
I know that Snyder has leaned on veteran counsel in the past and hasn’t hesitated to surround himself with former head coaches. And Snyder’s ability to “mentor” coaches, as well as work them pretty hard, is legendary. It would be a good place for any of those coaches you mentioned to land.
Preston Nix of Austin writes: Tim, now that the season is over I've been looking at recruiting and noticed that Texas doesn't have a running back ranked better than 31st in his position for 2010. Why is this? It seems with Texas underperforming at running back there would be a high demand for star running backs to fill the gap.
Tim Griffin: Preston, I’m not normally a huge fan of recruiting rankings except for the very top players. And it seems like Mack Brown has done a nice job melding together his program in recent seasons with players who weren’t the top recruits. But at running back, I am a little surprised that the Longhorns haven’t been in the ballgame for more top prospects. Obviously, the Longhorns’ running game problems since Jamaal Charles left the program have been well-chronicled. And it seems that Texas has steered away from the running game in favor of pass-heavy offense under McCoy. Obviously, recruits see that and likely are more interested in places where they will carry the ball more often.
Maybe Chris Whaley will be poised to earn playing time over the spring. Or Tre’ Newton could takes the next step in 2010. But it is clear that Texas does have an immediate opening for a top running back heading into next season. Improved punch in the running game will be important as the Longhorns try to lessen some of the pressure around new quarterback Garrett Gilbert.
Kelly Smith from Memphis, Tenn., writes: Tim, being an avid Cornhusker fan in SEC country, I have really enjoyed your coverage of the Big 12. I look forward to your outstanding continued reporting on college football. Keep up the good work. I have only one thing against you...lol... you did not vote for Ndamukong Suh for Heisman. I will forgive you, however.
Tim Griffin: Kelly, I appreciate the kind words. And your note isn’t the only one that I’ve received for not voting for Suh for the Heisman.
But I am going to meet with Suh on Thursday night in Omaha. In my role as the president of the Football Writers Association of America I’ll be presenting him with his Outland Trophy, emblematic of his season as the best lineman in college football.
We supposedly will be having a record crowd for the banquet. I’ll look forward to seeing him, the Pelini brothers and all of the rest. I’ll report back on it after the banquet on Thursday night. It should be a good time.
Thanks again for all of the good questions. I’ll check again Friday as I leave Omaha and head into the weekend.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Six Big 12 schools are represented in the initial 62-man watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Award, which is awarded annually to the nation's best defensive player as determined by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club.
Defensive end Jeremy Beal and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy represent Oklahoma, which leads all Big 12 teams with two selections.
Other nominees include Baylor linebacker Joe Pawelek, Texas defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle, Kansas defensive back Darrell Stuckey, Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.
The watch list is topped by 17 players from the Southeastern Conference and nine from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Big 12 is next in a three-way tie for third with the Big Ten and the Pacific-10.
The Big 12 has accounted for four of the Bronko Nagurski Award winners since it began play in 1996, most recently Texas' Brian Orakpo last season. Other Big 12 winners have included Oklahoma's Roy Williams (2001) and Derrick Strait (2003) and Texas' Derrick Johnson (2004).
Finalists for the award will be announced in mid-November. The trophy will be presented on Dec. 7 in Charlotte, N.C.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I've seen colleges emblazon their names on windbreakers and Snuggies, toilet seats and ice cream.
Heck, once at a party I was stunned when I wandered into an empty room and saw a friend had a lifelike 6-foot cutout figure of former Iowa coach Hayden Fry. He looked like he was about ready to roar at an official.
But unquestionably the weirdest sponsorship deal I've ever seen has been the introduction of Masik Fragrances for school-specific perfume products for Penn State, North Carolina and LSU.
The company also plans to introduce products for Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn later this year. A percentage of each bottle sold will go to the university's scholarship and athletic fund.
The development of a school-specific scent is a lot more complicated than I would have thought.
After campus visits, discussion with students and alumni and additional research, a school perfume is developed, the company reports. Among the characteristics considered include school colors, mascot spirit, traditions and history, landmarks and architectural style, campus trees and flowers, mission statements, college town character and themes in the school's alma mater and fight songs.
The Big 12 is missing out with this as each school and stadium has a specific scent that I could pick out if I closed my eyes and tried to imagine them.
Nothing, of course, matches the distinctive odor of a Texas-Oklahoma football game at the Cotton Bowl. The mixture of spilled beer, farm animals from the nearby State Fair of Texas and grease from the corny dog fryers waft to me as soon as I leave my car. It's hard to categorize, but something I instantly recognize each year.
Which Big 12 school will be the first to have its own fragrance?
I can't wait to see which one joins up first. I'd love to take a blind "smell test" to describe what the scent reminds me of.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's always interesting to see what some Big 12 coaches have to say, particularly when they are interviewed by reporters who know them from their previous jobs.
Texas coach Mack Brown, who coached 10 seasons at North Carolina, still apparently keeps close tabs on the Tar Heels and their basketball success.
Brown told the Raleigh News & Observer that he couldn't help but notice North Carolina's recent men's basketball title. After Roy Williams won his first national title at North Carolina in 2005, Brown won his first national title the ensuing football season.
The Texas coach hopes that's a trend that continues, particularly after Williams picked up his second title in April.
"We have a chance," Brown told the News & Observer. "If we have the same chemistry and leadership [as the 2005 team], and this team can play up to the expectations, then we should be in the mix."
There already is a list of eerie similarities between Texas' 2005 and 2009 teams. Another one continued last week when the Longhorns were ranked No. 2 in the coaches' poll -- just like before the 2005 season in the same poll.
And several readers have also pointed out to me that in 2005, Texas made a trip to the championship series at the College World Series as it won the national championship over a Southeastern Conference foe Florida.
This season, Texas again went to the College World Series finals against a Southeastern Conference foe LSU. But this time, the Longhorns finished second.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson prepared for his senior season in a unique manner.
Robinson spent part of his break serving as a camp coach at the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La., where he worked alongside some of the nation's top quarterbacks. Additionally, Robinson worked with the camp's namesakes, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and their father, retired NFL quarterback Archie Manning.
Robinson recently shared some of his thoughts with okstate.com about his experience.
Q: So what was a typical day like at the Manning Camp?
Zac Robinson: The first day, we got there in the morning and in the afternoon, the college guys threw with Peyton and Eli. The other days, we'd wake up at 7:30 and coach kids. My station was the deep ball. We would have lunch, then another afternoon session, then we'd have dinner and come back for a little seven-on-seven. My team was 4-0 and won. Manning Camp champs. Another night we did something called "Air it Out" where we'd throw to the receivers.
Q: Who were some of the other quarterbacks there?
ZR: Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Jevan Snead from Ole Miss. He was my roommate. T.J. Yates from North Carolina and Jonathan Crompton from Tennessee. There were more, but those were some of the guys that immediately jump out.
Q: Did you get any time to visit with any of the Mannings?
ZR: I did get to talk to Peyton and Eli. I spoke to Eli for about 45 minutes the first night. Those guys brought us in to answer any questions that we had. They talked about the NFL and what to expect when you get there. That whole session was a great part of the camp because they really want to help you as a college quarterback and teach you some things both on the field and off the field.
Q: What did you take from those sessions and from the camp in general?
ZR: They said the biggest thing is to just enjoy your senior year because it's the last time you are going to play college ball and have that camaraderie with your teammates. Don't even think about the NFL at this point. Just enjoy what you have because it's a great thing.
Q: What did they know about you as a quarterback going into the camp?
ZR: They watched a bunch of our games last season. Archie Manning in particular kept up with me because I worked their camp last summer too. He sent text messages to me before a few of the games last season wishing us well. They knew that I am an athletic quarterback who can throw it too.
Q: Describe what it was like to be around those other quarterbacks who worked camp, some of whom are on teams that you'll face this year:
ZR: It's good to be around those guys. Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and I actually hung out together out at the camp. It's fun to sit around and talk to those guys about their experiences and kind of compare notes because we are all in a similar situation and we all face the same teams in the Big 12. It's good to get their input.
The experience obviously has helped Robinson mature into a more experienced and seasoned quarterback. It will be interesting to see if he uses those lessons as he tries to boost the Cowboys into the Big 12 championship game for the first time in school history.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
More information keeps coming out of Manhattan in the news story that new Kansas State athletic director John Currie probably wishes would die.
Unfortunately for Currie in his new job, that's not the case.
The Associated Press reports that the Kansas Board of Regents may consider taking a greater oversight role of athletics at all six state universities. That discussion comes after a recent audit found numerous questionable transactions at KSU.
The Manhattan Mercury's Carrie Miller reports that new KSU president Kirk Schulz and Currie will take questions from students, faculty and staff at a meeting Monday at the KSU student union. The story makes it a point to inform readers that the general public isn't invited to the meeting because of a fear of a lack of room for all those who would like to attend.
The NCAA already has told KSU officials it won't get involved because it didn't present an NCAA issue or the lack of institutional control at the institution.
But I still would imagine that the Wildcats' Sept. 5 opener against Massachusetts can't come soon enough for Currie.
Until then, here are a few lunchtime links to help familiarize him with his new conference.
- The Tulsa World's Dave Sittler writes that contract hikes to Bob Stoops and his staff were accompanied by a significant reminder of their value to the school -- a gift of $3 million back to the school's general academic fund. And Tulsa World sports editor Mike Strain explains why Stoops is worth every penny of his new contract.
- Nebraska recruit Eric Martin, a linebacker from Moreno, Calif., tells the Lincoln Journal Star's Brian Christopherson he is confident he will make his grades this summer and report to the Cornhuskers next month. Martin was one of only two linebackers in Nebraska's 2009 recruiting class.
- The Bryan Eagle's Robert Cessna analyzes which athletic department had a better year -- Texas or Texas A&M.
- The Dallas Morning News' Brandon George reports that former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell's father, Sam Harrell, is battling Multiple Sclerosis. Sam Harrell, a noted Texas high school football coach, was diagnosed with the illness four years ago but has decided to tell everybody about the condition over the last several weeks.
- Paul Myerberg of the New York Times' college sports blog, The Quad, ranks Kansas State No. 70 in his countdown of teams heading into the season.
- Linebacker Jared Parham of Coppell, Texas, is Missouri's seventh football commitment in the 2010 recruiting class, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported. Parham chose the Tigers over offers from Arkansas, North Carolina and Texas Tech.
- Phil Steele ranks Oklahoma No. 4 in his national countdown.
- Quarterback Nick Hirschman of Las Gatos, Calif., has committed to Colorado, the Boulder Daily Camera reports. Hirschman is the fourth commitment for the Buffaloes in the 2010 recruiting class and first commitment from out of state.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Memorial services for former Kansas athletic director Bob Frederick will be held Wednesday at the Lied Center on the campus that he loved.
Frederick died Friday from injuries that he sustained the previous day in a bicycle accident when he was riding through the streets of Lawrence.
Frederick was involved with Kansas athletics for the better part of 40 years. He played basketball there as a walk-on. He married his wife on a chapel on the campus. He worked as an assistant basketball coach and later was involved in administration there for much of his professional career.
To give you an idea of how special Lawrence was for Frederick and his family, he retreated from a fast-track career as an assistant basketball coach at places like BYU and Stanford to return home and begin work as head high school basketball coach at Lawrence High School.
That move eventually led to his return to Kansas. I could think of no place where he was happier.
I still remember working with Frederick when he was the chairman of the men's basketball committee. It was back in the day when San Antonio was first trying to position itself as a national contender for NCAA events. Obviously, this story was of huge interest in the city. I called Frederick a bunch of times, but he was always gracious and patient in his dealings with me.
Later, he was a finalist for the Big 12 commissioner when Steve Hatchell was hired as the conference's first commissioner. I wonder how the conference would have turned out if Frederick has earned the job.
I can recall his two most celebrated hires at Kansas. He went against the norm, using a strong recommendation from his mentor Dean Smith, to hire little-known Roy Williams as his basketball coach. His qualities as a gentleman away from coaching were what attracted Frederick to hiring him.
It turned out to be his most successful hire.
Later, he used a similar strategy when he hired Terry Allen as his football coach. Allen was the winningest coach in the history of the Gateway Conference when he arrived at Kansas. But Frederick was attracted by his qualities as a gentleman away from coaching.
That hire turned out to be Frederick's most unpopular, a decision that helped lead to Frederick's undoing at Kansas after Allen struggled.
But through it all, Frederick never changed.
He was a moral man who once canceled a schedule with Notre Dame when he was Kansas' athletic director because the Fighting Irish had abandoned their deal with the rest of their college football brethren to strike their own television deal with NBC.
To those who knew Frederick best, that decision didn't surprise him. He was a man of his convictions.
The athletic landscape around the Big 12 changed a little when Frederick left his job in 2001.
His alma mater has developed into an emerging football power in the last several years with back-to-back bowl trips in the last two seasons.
They could be poised for even more in 2009.
But it won't be the same without him being around to revel in his alma mater's success.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Veteran Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sports editor/columnist Wally Hall has seen a lot of football over the years.
So it's understandable he would know what makes the best of the national programs and others that are up-and-coming to those levels in a couple of lists he compiled over the weekend.
It's an arbitrary grouping with Texas ranked fourth among the national programs, below No. 1 Florida, No. 2 USC and No. 3 LSU. Oklahoma checks in at No. 6, behind Ohio State and in front of Penn State, Georgia, Virginia Tech and Alabama.
Just as interesting is Hall's list of up-and-comers.
Nebraska ranks as No. 2 among Hall's programs poised to make a splash, trailing only North Carolina. Oklahoma State ranks as No. 4 on his list and Kansas is No. 7.
I think those rankings are pretty accurate, although I might quibble and put Texas ahead of LSU because of the Longhorns' recent BCS bowl game victories. Oklahoma is where it is because of the Sooners' recent BCS bowl struggles and it's about right.
The development in the conference is interesting with Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Kansas ranked where they are. And if you were considering recent success, it would be hard to argue with either including Missouri or Texas Tech on that list for what they've done in recent seasons.
It's an interesting concept. I'm curious what some of the readers think about how he grouped them.
Anybody else have ideas?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
While Colorado strength coach Jeff Pittman's comments weren't nearly as widely reported as Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin's blast at Florida, I imagine that his recent remarks for Colorado fans probably caught some notice around other Big 12 teams.
Pittman appeared at a post-signing day recruiting wrapup for Colorado fans and was excited about his team's recent progress at conditioning. And like Kiffin, he played to his crowd.
But in the process, Pittman probably raised the hackles of a few Big 12 foes.
"The last two weeks have been the best two weeks I've had here by far," Pitman told the group in a story reported by the Boulder Camera's Kyle Ringo. "I'm definitely excited. I think we're going to road-grade some people next year."
Here are some other stories from around the Big 12 today.
- The San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger writes that Mack Brown is always going to hear about Texas-based recruits who were snubbed in recruiting by the Longhorns.
- Alabama recruit Dre Kirkpatrick explains to the New York Times' Thayer Evans that a woman at a gas station helped convince him to attend Alabama over Texas.
- Tulsa World columnist John Klein catches up with former Oklahoma coach John Blake, now the top recruiter at North Carolina on Butch Davis' staff.
- Texas will be charging $95 for a single-game ticket against Texas Tech in 2009 -- the highest ticket price the school has ever charged for one game, John Maher of the Austin American-Statesman reports.
- DeMarco Cobbs, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound wide receiver from Tulsa Central High School and a prime Oklahoma target, is ranked as the No. 1 prospect of the 2010 recruiting class by the Sporting News' Brian McLaughlin.
- Former Texas A&M offensive coordinator Les Koenning and defensive coordinator Carl Torbush have resurfaced in the same roles on Dan Mullen's new staff at Mississippi State, Kyle Veazey of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Texas A&M running back Michael Goodson has declared for the NFL draft, pushing aside an option to potentially return to college to play with another school.
Goodson, who announced he would be leaving the Texas A&M program last month, becomes the fifth Big 12 player on the NFL's official list, which was released earlier today.
The Big 12 is tied for third among the FBS conferences with automatic BCS bowl bids with five players. The Southeastern Conference leads with 14 early declarations, followed by 10 players from the Big Ten. The ACC and Big Ten are tied for third with five NFL declarations while the Big East is tied for fifth with the Pac-10 with four players apiece. Among the non-BCS affiliated conferences, the Mid-American has two players and Conference USA and the Western Athletic Conference.
The five Big 12 players to declare early include Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree, Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman, Missouri kick returner/wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, Goodson and Texas Tech defensive end Brandon Williams.
Texas Tech is one of eight schools with multiple players declaring with Crabtree and Williams electing to leave school. Ohio State, South Carolina and Georgia have three players apiece with three players, while Alabama, Auburn, Texas Tech, North Carolina and Penn State with two players apiece.
Here's the complete list of the 46 early declarations with Big 12 players highlighted in bold.
- Asher Allen, DB, Georgia
- Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
- Eben Britton, T, Arizona
- Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut
- Everette Brown, DE, Florida State
- Carson Butler, TE, Michigan
- Jairus Byrd, DB, Oregon
- James Casey, TE, Rice
- Jeremy Childs, WR, Boise State
- Glen Coffee, RB, Alabama
- Emanuel Cook, DB, South Carolina
- Jared Cook, TE, South Carolina
- Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
- Andrew Davie, TE, Arkansas
- Nate Davis, QB, Ball State
- Vontae Davis, DB, Illinois
- Maurice Evans, DE, Penn State
- Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State
- Mike Goodson, RB, Texas A&M
- Shonn Greene, RB, Iowa
- Brian Hartline, WR, Ohio State
- Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
- Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
- P.J. Hill, RB, Wisconsin
- Greg Isdaner, G, West Virginia
- Ricky Jean-Francois, DT, Louisiana State
- Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
- Sen'Derrick Marks, DT Auburn
- Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State
- LeSean McCoy, RB, Pittsburgh
- Andrew Means, WR, Indiana
- D.J. Moore, DB, Vanderbilt
- Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
- Cameron Morrah, TE, California
- Captain Munnerlyn, DB, South Carolina
- Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
- Kevin Ogletree, WR, Virginia
- Jerraud Powers, DB, Auburn
- Richard Quinn, TE, North Carolina
- Mark Sanchez, QB, Southern California
- Andre Smith, T, Alabama
- Sean Smith, DB, Utah
- Matt Stafford, QB, Georgia
- Donald Washington, DB, Ohio State
- Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State
- Brandon Williams, DE, Texas Tech
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's a collection of some of the correspondence and e-mails I received this week.
Chris Coney from Austin writes: The final USA Today Coaches' Poll of the regular season needs to be made public. I am sending this to everyone I can find. If the next-to-last coaches' poll has a bearing on the Big 12 South Division champion, this poll has to be made public. I leave the explanation as to why this is absolutely imperative as to why this is absolutely imperative to the intelligent, professional writers who can explain it better than me.
Tim Griffin: Chris, you do a pretty good job, if you ask me. You are absolutely right. With so much riding on that potential poll, it must be made public and the Big 12 itself should be the one demanding the results are made public for full scrutiny.
I actually think that settling a potential three-way tie involving Big 12 South teams would make coaches vote with their self-interests first as much as if a BCS bowl berth was riding on it.
And as I've mentioned in previous mailbags, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach and Texas coach Mack Brown both have votes in the USA Today poll and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops does not. It would be interesting to see how that would play a part in the potential voting.
Kyle from Stillwater, Okla., writes: Tim, I was just wondering if you could go ahead and play out the next few weeks in the Big 12 and tell us how you believe the BCS will play out for the Big 12.
Tim Griffin: OK, Kyle. I'll do it. Just don't put the down payment on your house on my predictions.
In the North, I think Missouri wins at Iowa State and Texas beats Kansas this week, giving the North title to the Tigers.
If only the South was as easy to extrapolate. But I think Texas will win this week and Oklahoma State beats Colorado to remain with two losses.
Next week, I think Oklahoma beats Texas Tech to throw the South Division race into a three-way tie. And in the final week of the season, Texas will defeat Texas A&M, Texas Tech will beat Baylor and Oklahoma will beat Oklahoma State.
That would throw three teams into a tie for the Big 12 title. And it will make the conference utilize the BCS rankings as the fifth tiebreaker. And at the time of the end of the regular season, I'll predict that Oklahoma barely noses out Texas for the South Division title based on those BCS standings. The reason will be the boost that the closing rush the Sooners receive at the end of the regular season with their two late victories over Tech and Oklahoma State. Even with the loss to Texas earlier in the season, I'm guessing that Oklahoma jumps the Longhorns for the BCS title-game berth.
And in the championship game, I expect Oklahoma will beat Missouri. The conference's two BCS teams will then be Oklahoma and Texas. And if Florida and Alabama both lose another game between now and the end of the regular season, we might end up seeing a rematch of the "Red River Rivalry" at the BCS Championship Game Jan. 8 in Miami. Which would only be fitting considering that the game played Oct. 11 between the two teams at the Cotton Bowl might have been the best in the rivalry in the last 10 years or so.
Remember, those predictions and 89 cents will get you a large soft drink somewhere, I hope.
Matt from Daytona Beach, Fla., writes: Hey Tim, why does Kansas still receive votes for the top 25 despite losing to Nebraska? Kansas has not beaten anyone yet, and have lost to all ranked teams and Nebraska! What's the deal?
Tim Griffin: Matt, I agree with you. When I saw the list of teams that received votes in this week's national AP rankings and saw Kansas listed instead of Nebraska, I was shocked. I guess whoever made that vote didn't watch the game or its highlights.
I think the Cornhuskers are clearly a better team now than the Jayhawks are. And they proved it on the field Saturday in Lincoln.
Max from Fort Collins, Colo., writes: I am a big Nebraska fan and am confused about how Nebraska took Texas Tech into overtime and barely lost but all the other top-ranked teams can't beat the Red Raiders. Why aren't other teams able to replicate Nebraska's success against Tech?
Tim Griffin: I'm as confused as you are, although I do think that Tech -- and particularly its defense -- is much better today than it was when that game was played on Oct. 11.
Few teams recently have been able to match the Cornhuskers' success because Tech's defense has done a nice job of getting off the field on third down. That's easier said than done.
Look at what happened to Oklahoma State last week. The Cowboys jumped to a 7-0 lead and seemingly had all the momentum behind them. And then Graham Harrell proceded to direct seven-straight touchdown drives to blow the game open.
The Oklahoma game will be interesting because the Sooners don't have the philosophy of grinding out victories over opponents. Sam Bradford likes the quick-strike mentality of beating an opponent quickly. So it should be a shootout. First team to 50 might win.
Dylan from Nebraska City, Neb., writes: Tim, how come the Cornhuskers are going to the Sun Bowl. The Insight Bowl takes the #6 Big 12, correct? I'm just wondering why those guys in Phoenix wouldn't want us more than KU because of revenue, fans, etc.
Tim Griffin: Dylan, you actually have the order of those bowls reversed. The Sun Bowl, if it picks a Big 12 team, will have the fifth pick in the Big 12's pecking order and Insight Bowl will be sixth. You are right in that the Cornhuskers would be a more attractive pick -- particularly if they finish the regular season with two more victories this season as they very well could do.
Todd from Rockville, Md., writes: The Sooner defense is not as bad as you think and are just now 'gelling' after the loss of Ryan Reynolds. A&M got 26 yards against them with lots of turnovers. OU just doesn't lose at home. As an unbiased observer, OU is the best team in the Big 12. Yes, they lost to Texas, but remember: bad calls on passer roughing kept two scoring drives alive, there was a kickoff return for TD and dropped interception in the end zone. Without that scenario, it could have easily resulted in a 10-point Sooner win. Vegas would favor OU. Remember, Texas Tech needed overtime to beat Nebraska. Their defense is better, but so is Oklahoma's.
Tim Griffin: You are right about the Texas-Oklahoma game in some parts, but you are also forgetting about the way that Texas dominated the line of scrimmage in the second half. Texas' speed defensively gave the heralded Oklahoma offensive line fits after the break. And the Sooners had some uncharacteristically shoddy tackling down the field. I realize the Sooners rarely lose at home -- they are 59-2 at Owen Field in the Bob Stoops coaching era. But this Tech team may be uniquely qualified to give them a lot of problems, particularly if Auston English isn't playing. Harrell's protection gives him the ability to pick apart a lot of secondaries. Oklahoma would just be another notch on his belt.
I look for a shootout. It might hinge on which team plays better in special teams, and both teams have struggled throughout the season in that facet of the game.
Niel from Dallas writes: Tim, I have a comment on the sack chart that you posted on your Big XII blog. You have sacks correlating to winning when you should have winning correlating to sacks. In other words, because those top teams have spent so much time ahead in football games, their opponents have been forced to pass
the ball. More opponent pass attempts leads to more sack opportunities.
Tim Griffin: Except in the Big 12, where everybody passes on almost every down, anyway.
Chris from St. Louis writes: Tim, what is with all of the projections having the Gator Bowl selecting Notre Dame? Once every four-year cycle the Gator can even jump the Cotton Bowl and take the first Big 12 team after the BCS. Is this not the best oppurtunity for that? With Notre Dame heading for a likely 7-5, and the third-place Big 12 team 11-1, is there any way that the Gator would actually take a 7-5 Notre Dame over an 11-1 Texas, Oklahoma, or Texas Tech?
Tim Griffin: You are forgetting about the magical television ratings attraction of Notre Dame. Remember, the Gator Bowl picked Texas Tech last season and attracted a crowd of 60,243 -- nearly 17,000 fans short of a sellout. If Oklahoma and Texas are the Big 12's two BCS teams as I predicted above, I don't see any rush for the Gator Bowl to jump in front of the Cotton Bowl to pick Missouri or Oklahoma State or have another shot at Texas Tech. If that was the case, having a chance to match Notre Dame against North Carolina might be the Gator Bowll's safest pick, while holding onto that chance to jump the Cotton Bowl for another year.
To my readers, thanks again for all of the good questions. Please keep them coming and I'll try to answer them.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The blog Carolinamarch.com revisted an interesting story stemming from Texas coach Mack Brown's public stance against fans charging the field after games.
Brown's comments came after Texas Tech charged the field in the wake of the Red Raiders' wild 39-33 comeback victory over Texas last week.
"It's really, really dangerous," Brown said. "It's amazing, with all the talk about security, that we'll turn everybody loose. For the first time while I was at Texas, I didn't get to sing 'The Eyes of Texas' after the game."
Brown's concern is well intentioned. But according to the blog, it's a big difference from when Brown was coaching at North Carolina.
In 1994, Brown was acting differently, according to the blog. In an effort to whip up interest for the Tar Heels' upcoming homecoming game against a 1-3 Georgia Tech team, Brown wrote a letter to the Daily Tar Heel, reminiscing about his first season coaching at North Carolina. He opined about the support that the fans gave him during his 1-10 season and reminisced fondly about how those students stormed the field after the Tar Heels' only victory that season over Georgia Tech.
After the letter appeared, the Tar Heels won the game and students charged the field to rip down the uprights. They did the same thing the following week after a victory over Maryland before Brown felt compelled to write a second letter to the student newspaper telling the kids to cool it.
Brown brought up his concerns of danger again this week. Maybe it reminded him of a point earlier in his career when he had to tell students to tone down their excitement.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Conventional football philosophy usually ascribes that the most successful teams are the ones that control the ball by keeping it away from their opponents.
But Missouri's productive offense is making a mockery of that line of thinking. The Tigers rank second nationally in scoring and third nationally in passing and total offense. And they are doing it although they rank next-to-last nationally in time of possession with an average of 26 minutes, 7 seconds per game.
It's typically very rare for a team to rank low in time of possession and have success. Of the 10 bottom teams last season in time of possession in the NCAA's final statistics, only Hawaii had a winning record.
But Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said the statistic might be overrated in terms of determining success, especially with a squad like his having the proficiency it has exhibited in running the no-huddle offense.
"If you're going to have the offense we run -- up-tempo, fast, attacking -- we're going to throw the ball a lot downfield," Pinkel said. "You can't be concerned about time of possession."
The Tigers showed they can control the ball when they need to, eating up 8 1/2 minutes during one second-half drive last week against Nebraska.
"I didn't want to score any more points going into the 4th quarter, so I'm thinking we've got to change what we're doing," Pinkel said. "We had about an 8-minute drive there which is really good. Our offense is like that."
The Tigers will be matched against a team with a different philosophy Saturday. Oklahoma State leads the Big 12 and ranks 10th nationally with an average time of possession of 32:47 per game.
"Bottom line, when you get the opportunity, you have to score," Pinkel said. "What they (Oklahoma State) like to do is control the clock, they're efficient and they score. It certainly puts a lot of pressure not only on our defense, but on your offense, that when you get the opportunity, you have to take advantage of it."
The NCAA has recorded time of possession as a statistic for only three seasons. During that period, only two teams that ranked in the bottom five during those years made bowl trips -- 2006 Central Michigan and 2006 Troy.
But that trend may be less important this season. Maryland and North Carolina both rank among the bottom five in time of possession this season with Missouri. All have winning records.