Big 12: North Dakota State Bison

Big 12 games of the year: No. 7

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
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We’re counting down the 10 best games of the year in the Big 12. Below is game No. 7, the most shocking result of the Big 12’s nonconference schedule.

No. 7: Aug. 30 – North Dakota State 24, Kansas State 21

Make no mistake, the Bison took it to the Wildcats. On K-State’s home field.

What happened: We kept waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

But the Wildcats never turned it on and pulled away from the eventual FCS champions. A 49-yard punt return from Christian Dudzik set up NDSU’s first touchdown and sent the early message that the Bison weren’t going to back down to the returning Big 12 champions.

Even when KSU took a 21-7 third-quarter lead after a Daniel Sams touchdown gallop, the Bison came right back on their next possession with a touchdown of their own to get right back in striking distance.

Then, with the game on the line, NDSU drove the ball down the Wildcats' throats with an 18-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, which included three third-down conversions. NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen’s 1-yard run with 28 seconds left made the Bison the talk of college football after the opening weekend.

Player of the game: Jensen didn’t finish the game with great numbers (21-of-30, 165 yards, 2 TDs, INT). But the NDSU quarterback was outstanding on third down, finishing 8-of-9 for 69 yards and one touchdown. He made clutch plays when his team needed them.

Stat of the game: 174. The Bison rushed for 174 more yards than the Wildcats in their upset victory. NDSU’s 215 rushing yards was the third-most K-State allowed in 2013, behind Oklahoma (301) and Texas (227). The Wildcats managed just 41 rushing yards in the loss.

Quotable: "I would like to see a whole bunch of mad guys, in all honesty. I did not see any. That is concerning, that is for sure.” -- KSU coach Bill Snyder about the postgame locker room.

The rest of the list:


North Dakota State did it again.

The FCS school knocked off Kansas State, 24-21, at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Friday night in Manhattan, Kan. The Bison have defeated an FBS team each of the last four seasons as the Wildcats joined Kansas, Minnesota and Colorado State. NDSU scored 17 unanswered points to finish off the upset.

[+] EnlargeBrock Jensen
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerBrock Jensen's game-winning touchdown run with 28 seconds left put Kansas State on a rapidly growing list of North Dakota State FBS victims.
That's right, Kansas State paid NDSU $350,000 to come into its home stadium and give it a loss. In fact, NDSU, the two-time defending FCS champion, could pay the salary of coach Craig Bohl, who makes $206,000 per year, with the check it received for visiting the home of the defending Big 12 champion.

Bohl's team took its game to another level with the game on the line. The Bison went right at Kansas State, pounding the ball on the ground for an 18-play, 80-yard drive and taking 8:30 off the clock in the final quarter. NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen capped off the drive with a 1-yard plunge with 28 seconds remaining.

The inability to get off the field killed KSU’s defense, as it allowed the Bison to convert 11 of 17 third down conversion attempts, including 4-for-4 on the final drive. If KSU’s defense continues to struggle to get key defensive stops on third down, it could be a long season for the Wildcats, particularly against the explosive offenses of the Big 12.

The Wildcats' offense fell apart after taking a 21-7 lead on a Daniel Sams' 17-yard touchdown run with 9:58 left in the third quarter. KSU’s running game was stuffed by the Bison, who held the Wildcats to 41 yards on 23 carries (1.7 yards per carry). KSU’s lack of running game put the contest on the shoulders of quarterback Jake Waters, who finished 21-of-29 for 280 yards and two touchdowns but also threw two interceptions. Waters wasn’t horrible in his first start after winning the job over Sams, but he couldn’t come up with the critical plays when it mattered, as the Wildcats converted just two of 10 third-down conversion tries.

Clearly it’s back to the drawing board for Kansas State. Making key plays in key moments is often the difference. And the Wildcats couldn’t do that on Friday night. If that continues, a second straight Big 12 title could be out of reach for Bill Snyder and company.

Curious Big 12 factoids to start the week

August, 24, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin Want to impress your friends with some arcane Big 12 trivia? Have I got a couple of links for you.  How long has it been since Iowa State returned a kickoff for a touchdown in a home game? The correct answer would be nearly 33 years. The last time an Iowa State player thrilled the home crowd with a touchdown kickoff return was Luther Blue's 95-yarder against Nebraska on Nov. 13, 1976. As of Monday, that streak stretches 11,972 days. The chances that streak could be broken are good this season, considerting that Leonard Johnson is back returning kicks for Iowa State. If he can take one to the house against North Dakota State in the Sept. 3 opener or early in the season, the Cyclones could break the streak before it reaches 12,000 days. "What Leonard did as a kick returner last year encourages you," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads told the Des Moines Register. "Special teams have the ability to win or lose football games. "Having Leonard back there certainly gives us a chance to advance the program in that regard." Considering Rhoads was only 9 years old the last time a Cyclone broke a kickoff at Jack Trice Stadium, I'm sure he thinks it was too waaaaay too long. Oklahoma has never won a game on a last-second field goal during the Bob Stoops coaching tenure at the school. Stoops' 133-game Oklahoma coaching history has been marked by only five games that were decided late in the game on kicks, according to the Oklahoman. Here's a list of those last-second games for Stoops' teams. Sept. 29, 2007: Colorado 27, Oklahoma 24 Colorado's Kevin Eberhart hits a 45-yarder as time expired in Boulder to stun the No. 3 Sooners. Sept. 16, 2006: Oregon 34, Oklahoma 33 Garrett Hartley's 44-yard kick on the final play of the game is blocked, preserving Oregon's controversial victory over the Sooners. Oct. 30, 2004: Oklahoma 38, Oklahoma State 35 Oklahoma State's Jason Ricks misses a 49-yarder wide left with 11 seconds left that would have sent 2004's Bedlam game into overtime. Dec. 2, 2000: Oklahoma 27, Kansas State 24 (Big 12 title game) Tim Duncan's second field goal of the game, a 46-yarder with 1:25 left, provided Oklahoma with the winning points for Stoops' first Big 12 title. The kick gave the Sooners a 10-point lead and Kansas State scored a touchdown in the game's final seconds.    Dec. 31, 1999: Mississippi 27, Oklahoma 25 (Independence Bowl) Mississippi kicker Les Binkley hits a 39-yarder to beat the Sooners on the final play in the last game of the century. Stoops hasn't had to rely on the pixie dust of "Sooner Magic," yet. But I'm sure he's hoping to be able to conjure up the mystical potion when he needs it, just like his Oklahoma coaching predecessors before him.

Big 12 lunch links: Gideon fueled by memories of critical drop

August, 20, 2009
8/20/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Busy today with all kinds of interviews, including more later this afternoon at Texas A&M.

But would I forget your lunchtime links?

Not a chance.

My personal college football villains

August, 17, 2009
8/17/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Big 12 has more villains than can rightfully be included in one post, but so does college football in general.

Here are some my major perpetrators of ignominy.

Anybody else have some other suggestions about what in college football really raises their hackles?

College rulemakers -- Those soulless technocrats who attempted to make the game faster by instituting quick-play rules. Don't they know that the reason that college football is so much better than the NFL is the additional offense from more plays?

The Southeastern Conference -- The South shall rise again -- or at least it already has with its new megabuck television contract. Now, can the rest of the college football keep up?

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany -- By placing all of his bowl teams on the East and West coasts, he's robbing us in the flyover parts of the country of watching how slow and unathletic his teams really are.

Coaches as unchecked poll voters -- Who is the American Football Coaches Association trying to fool? Giving coaches the chance to hide behind the mask of anonymity in their final votes prompts a chance for widespread poll abuse and makes a mockery of their poll.

Weak nonconference schedules -- Every team owes its fans at least one marquee nonconference opponent a season and a pledge of avoiding FCS schools. Is that really asking for that much, especially with the run of Big 12 pastry-trough games with "opponents" like North Dakota State, Northern Colorado and North Dakota scheduled in the first week alone by Big 12 teams?

Iowa State ranks No. 8 on ESPN.com's Bottom 10

August, 12, 2009
8/12/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Before coaching his first game at Iowa State, Paul Rhoads will have to overcome an early high ranking.

My ESPN.com colleague David Duffey has tabbed the Cyclones No. 8 on his initial "Bottom 10" list of the season.

Considering the Cyclones' nation-worst 17-game road losing streak, they are lucky they weren't ranked higher in Duffey's first poll. Iowa State is the second team from a BCS-affiliated conference to be ranked in the poll, trailing only Tennessee.

The Cyclones have a shot at turning around the naysayers when they meet North Dakota State in the Big 12's opening game on Sept. 3.

But if they lose that one, it could really get ugly for Rhoads this season.

ISU's first-game hopes soar after 3 NDSU players suspended

August, 5, 2009
8/05/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Heading into the season, I thought that North Dakota State might have a chance to spring an upset and ruin Paul Rhoads' first game as a head coach at Iowa State on Sept. 3.

But recent news has tempered those upset plans.

North Dakota State coach Craig Bohl announced Tuesday that three more key players will be suspended for his team's opener, the Fargo Forum reported. All were arrested last spring for driving under the influence.

Starting wide receiver Shamen Washington, defensive end Garrett Johnson and backup quarterback Jose Mohler all will be missing for the Iowa State game. And backup linebacker Blake Sczepanski, the fourth Bison cited for DUI in the past six months, remains indefinitely suspended.

"We've probably faced more adversity than we've ever had," Bohl told the Forum.

Already, backup quarterback Troy Jackson was dismissed from the team for off-the-field issues unrelated to being arrested for marijuana possession. Wide receiver Jordan Schultenover was dismissed from the team in May and later charged with possession of marijuana and intent to deliver.

Bohl, a former Nebraska defensive coordinator, had fashioned an impressive FCS program that had a knack for playing FBS opponents closely in previous seasons. The Bison won at Ball State in 2006, at Minnesota in 2007 and nearly upset Wyoming in Laramie last season.

I would have thought that Bohl's familiarity with the Iowa State program, coupled with first-game jitters from the Cyclones under Rhoads, might provide NDSU with the opportunity to spring another surprise.

Kansas-NIU set for 2011-12 home-and-home series

July, 21, 2009
7/21/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Kansas and Northern Illinois have announced a two-game football series in 2011 and 2012. The Huskies will travel to Lawrence, Kan., for the Sept. 10, 2011 game, while Kansas returns the trip to DeKalb, Ill., on Sept. 22, 2012.

Northern Illinois officials are excited about attracting their first home game against an opponent from a BCS conference since 2003, when Maryland and Iowa State visited Huskie Stadium.

"Getting a home-and-home series with a BCS conference opponent has been a priority since I came to NIU a year ago," Northern Illinois athletics director Jeff Compher said in a prepared statement. "We know what it means to our fan base to have Kansas come to DeKalb, and this series is something that has been in the works for several months.

"We appreciate the willingness of (Kansas athletic director) Lew Perkins and his staff to work with us on these games. It's always a challenge, knowing that we have to schedule our non-conference opponents many years out, but this is a scheduling philosophy that we want to continue over time."

The only previous meeting between Northern Illinois and Kansas came on Sept. 3, 1983, with NIU claiming a 37-34 win in Lawrence.

The announcement also adds another opponent for Kansas' 2011 schedule, with one still needed. 

The Jayhawks will have home games against North Dakota State, Georgia Tech and New Mexico State and a road game at Southern Mississippi in 2010. And in the following season, Kansas still has one opening with home nonconference games against Northern Illinois and UTEP and a road game scheduled at Georgia Tech.

Kansas also will switch South Division opponents in those two seasons, swapping Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma for games against Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas A&M.

Back from vacation and getting ready for the season

July, 20, 2009
7/20/09
7:55
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

After a week chasing through the New York subway system with a 4-year-old, I was ready for my vacation to end before it finished.

But I'm back, rested and tanned after enjoying those 80-degree days from the top of a double-decker bus crisscrossing Manhattan.

Football season beckons. The Big 12's media days start next Monday in Arlington, Texas.

We're at 45 days and counting until Iowa State meets North Dakota State on Sept. 3 in the opener for Big 12 teams.

I can hardly wait.

Five games to fear in the Big 12

July, 13, 2009
7/13/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

There are several obvious games that are already noticeable that should carry an extra bit of trepidation for Big 12 teams as they prepare for the upcoming season. Even with Big 12 teams likely to be solidly favored in these games, here are five games that should come with a warning label considering the opponent and the circumstances of the game.

North Dakota State at Iowa State, Sept. 3: Craig Bohl will have the Bison fired up for their game in Ames. And he knows a little bit about beating the Cyclones, considering his history as a defensive coordinator at Nebraska.

This game has all the marking of one to worry about for the Cyclones. It's Paul Rhoads' first game as a head coach. The Bison have been tough in other road games at FCS teams in recent seasons, losing by three points at Wyoming last season, beating Minnesota and Central Michigan on the road in 2007 and losing by one point at Minnesota and beating Ball State on the road in 2006. Even with the talent disparity, this game might be closer than expected.

Rhoads should ask Colorado coach Dan Hawkins how much losing to an FCS team in your first game at a Big 12 school can ruin your first season. That 2006 opening-game loss to Montana State was a particularly bad start for Hawkins' coaching tenure there.

Houston at Oklahoma State, Sept. 12: This game is coming at a tricky time for Oklahoma State, which will be coming back for a second game after a huge emotional opener against Georgia the week before. The Cougars will have 5,000-yard passer Case Keenum along with 1,000-yard rusher Bryce Beall and 1,000-yard receiver Tyron Carrier among a group of 15 returning starters.

And not only do the Cougars return a lot of experience, but they also have a modicum of confidence against OSU. Houston led the Cowboys last season, 16-7, late in the first half before the Cowboys' offense blitzed them for four touchdowns in a span of barely 7½ minutes. If Houston can do a better job defensively this season, it could make Mike Gundy sweat against the preseason Conference USA West Division's favorites.

Kansas at UTEP, Sept. 12: The trip to the Sun Bowl might be a little more harrowing than expected for the Jayhawks.

UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe threw for 33 touchdown passes and 3,274 yards last season. The Miners also surround him with 14 other returning starters. If Vittatoe can stay protected, he might be able to singe the Jayhawks' questionable linebacking corps and perhaps win a shootout. Stranger things have happened -- particularly playing in front of what should be a sellout crowd at the Sun Bowl.

And here's a statistic to keep in mind before the game: The Jayhawks have lost their last three true nonconference road games and haven't claimed a nonconference road game since winning at Wyoming in 2003. Their trip to El Paso won't be a picnic.

Wyoming at Colorado, Sept. 19: On paper, this looks like a game the Buffaloes should easily win. But a couple of trends might prove to benefit new Wyoming coach Dave Christensen, who will be playing his first road game.

Christensen was the offensive coordinator of a Missouri team that beat Colorado by a combined margin of 113-10 over the past two seasons, including a 58-0 victory last season. He won't have Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin or Chase Coffman in this game, but he still has confidence of being successful against Colorado's defense.

The Cowboys won at Tennessee last season so they aren't intimidated by hostile road environments. They have 17 starters back, including eight defensive players who will be facing Colorado's defense with some confidence after strong play late last season.

Colorado has a history of struggling as a big favorite in previous nonconference home games, winning by seven against Eastern Washington last season and losing at home to Montana State in Hawkins' first game in 2006. The signs point to this being a game where the Buffaloes potentially could struggle.

Missouri at Nevada, Sept. 25: This Friday night game will set up nicely for veteran Nevada coach Chris Ault and the Wolf Pack, who will showcase their program on national television in this game.

Nevada has the explosive Pistol offense keyed by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the returning Western Athletic Conference player of the year who will be looking to make a national name for himself with a big performance. Also back are 2008 WAC leading rusher Vai Taua and 2007 leading rusher Luke Lippincott, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in the second game last year. And they'll be facing a retooled Missouri defense.

The Wolf Pack still remember a gadget pass for a touchdown by Missouri wide receiver Tommy Saunders when they were behind 45-17 midway through the third quarter of a game they eventually lost 69-17 in Columbia last season. Could revenge spur a better effort at home? It will be interesting to see if the Wolf Pack can similarly make the Tigers sweat in a game played at high altitude at Reno.

Kansas, Georgia Tech to meet in 2010, 2011

June, 10, 2009
6/10/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Kansas and Georgia Tech have announced an upcoming two-game series that should significantly upgrade the Jayhawks' nonconference schedule.

The Yellow Jackets and Jayhawks will play in Lawrence, Kan., in 2010, before returning the game to Atlanta in 2011.

The announcement came as Kansas released its 2010 schedule. The Jayhawks also will host North Dakota State and New Mexico State and travel to Southern Mississippi for their nonconference games next season.

Kansas and Georgia Tech have met just once. The Yellow Jackets edged KU 20-14 in the 1948 Orange Bowl, KU's first bowl appearance.

Kansas most recently played an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent in the 2008 Orange Bowl, when the Jayhawks defeated Virginia Tech, 24-21. KU is slated to play ACC opponent Duke in Lawrence this fall.

Georgia Tech posted a 9-4 overall record last season, which included a 5-3 ACC record and a loss to LSU in the Chick-fil-A-Bowl.

Also, Kansas' Big 12 slate of South Division opponents will switch next season. The Jayhawks will trade this year's rivals -- Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech -- for home games against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State and a road game at Baylor.

That change in South opponents is significant for the Jayhawks. If they were playing their 2010 Big 12 conference schedule with their current roster, I have to believe the Jayhawks would be a consensus top-15 team in the preseason polls and a heavy favorite to win the North.

But the tougher schedule is leading many observers to discount Kansas' hopes of earning their first appearance in the Big 12 title game.

Ranking the best and worst of Big 12 nonconference schedules

June, 10, 2009
6/10/09
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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.

Tags:

Barry Switzer, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mike Locksley, Miami Hurricanes, Illinois Fighting Illini, Jarrett Brown, BYU Cougars, Toledo Rockets, Harvey Unga, Colorado State Rams, Iowa Hawkeyes, Arrelious Benn, James Casey, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Tim Benford, Bill Snyder, Jordan Sorrells, Kent State Golden Flashes, Bradley Dale Peveto, Ali Villanueva, Baylor Bears, Wyoming Cowboys, Massachusetts Minutemen, Texas Longhorns, Doug Martin, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles, Connecticut Huskies, Juice Williams, Central Florida Knights, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Missouri Tigers, Rich Ellerson, Colorado Buffaloes, Bowling Green Falcons, Todd Reesing, Dave Christensen, Oklahoma Sooners, Georgia Bulldogs, Utah State Aggies, Chip Bowden, Dan Hawkins, Mike Leach, Robert Griffin, Duke Blue Demons, Kansas State Wildcats, Grambling Tigers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Florida State Seminoles, Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, Furman Paladins, Northwestern State Demons, LSU Tigers, Watson Brown, Colin Kaepernick, Paul Rhoads, Kansas Jayhawks, Damion Fletcher, Idaho State Vandals, Florida Atlantic Owls, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, West Virginia Mountaineers, Tyrod Taylor, Army Black Knights, North Dakota State Bison, Jerrod Johnson, Shonn Greene, Case Keenum, Lee Sweeney, Alabama Crimson Tide, Taylor Potts, Iowa State Cyclones, Trevor Vittatoe, Mack Brown, Schedule rank 061009, UCLA Bruins, Dezmon Briscoe, UTEP Miners, Bobby Petrino, Northern Colorado Bears, Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles, Houston Cougars, Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, Jimmy Johnson, Eugene Jarvis, Virginia Tech Hokies, North Dakota Fighting Sioux, Ohio State Buckeyes, Jarrett Dillard, Tyler Sheehan, UAB Blazers, Arkansas Razorbacks, Howard Schnellenberger, Chase Clement, Mike Sherman, Texas A&M Aggies

Ranking the best and worst Big 12 games for 2009

June, 5, 2009
6/05/09
11:31
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


The season is less than 100 days from starting and it's never too early to start analyzing schedules.

The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel did just that, doing his yearly list of the best and worst of the upcoming Big 12 schedule, ranked 1 through 96.

His top game and mine are alike, as are most of them. His list is heavily stacked to conference games, as the days of reputable non-conference games for Big 12 teams are getting to be few and far between.

Here's Tramel's list of the top 10 games:

1. Texas vs. Oklahoma at Dallas, Oct. 17
2. Texas at Oklahoma State, Oct. 31
3. Georgia at OSU, Sept. 5
4. Oklahoma at Texas Tech, Nov. 21
5. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, Nov. 28
6. Nebraska at Missouri, Oct. 8
7. Oklahoma at Miami, Oct. 3
8. Nebraska at Virginia Tech, Sept. 19
9. Missouri vs. Kansas at Kansas City, Nov. 28
10. Texas Tech at Texas, Sept. 19

And here's his list of the bottom 10 games as well:

96. Idaho State at Oklahoma, Sept. 12
95. Northern Colorado at Kansas, Sept. 5
94. North Dakota at Texas Tech, Sept. 5
93. Tennessee Tech at Kansas State, Sept. 26
92. Grambling at Oklahoma State, Sept. 26
91. Northwestern State at Baylor, Sept. 26
90. Furman at Missouri, Sept. 19
89. Massachusetts at Kansas State, Sept. 5
88. Louisiana-Monroe at Texas, Sept. 5
87. North Dakota State at Iowa State, Sept. 3

Oklahoma teams dominate his list. I've got to think some North Division games will be good ones, but they probably don't rank with those he listed involving the power elite of the South.

I've got three underrated rivalries that merit some mention, although they probably aren't in the top ten. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State always play entertaining games against each other, particularly in Stillwater, Okla. Texas Tech and Texas A&M is merely the nation's most underrated blood feud. And I'm curious about the Nebraska-Kansas State game as much for the post-game handshake between Bo Pelini and Bill Snyder -- if it happens -- as anything on the field.

But as you can see there's a lot of feast and famine in the Big 12 schedule this season. But I still can't wait. September can't get here quickly enough for me.

Analyzing Rhoads' and Snyder's chances for success in '09

May, 28, 2009
5/28/09
5:35
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's a look at the Big 12's new coaches, Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads and Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, and their chances of turning around their struggling programs.

 
  AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
  New head coach Paul Rhoads was an assistant at Iowa State in the 1990s.

IOWA STATE

Coach: Paul Rhoads
Previous school and position: Auburn, defensive coordinator
Head-coaching experience: None
Iowa State's 2008 record: 2-10, 0-8 in Big 12
Returning players: Offense 9, defense 6

What he brings: Rhoads is familiar with the challenges of trying to win at Iowa State after serving as an assistant there under Dan McCarney from 1996 through '99. He later cut his teeth as a defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh from 2000 to 2007 and at Auburn last season and is one of the most respected defensive minds in college football. Rhoads, from nearby Ankeny, fits with the Cyclones' fan base and their expectations. In fact, his upbeat nature is reminiscent of McCarney, whom some Cyclones fans might want back after their five bowl trips in a six-season span from 2000 to 2005. They haven't been back since.

Challenges he faces: It seems hard to believe that the Cyclones were challenging for the North title as recently as 2005. The program dropped as McCarney was let go and continued its tumble under Gene Chizik. Rhoads will be challenged to orchestrate a quick turnaround. He inherits the framework of an offense with nine returning starters include tough and  productive (but streaky) quarterback Austen Arnaud and running back Alexander Robinson. The big problem will be on defense where the Cyclones were the worst tackling team in the Big 12 last season, ranked 110th nationally in scoring defense, 112th in total defense, 116th in pass defense and 117th in pass efficiency defense. Their development won't come overnight. Rhoads has cobbled together a strong staff including offensive coordinator Tom Herman and wily veteran defensive coordinator Wally Burnham. But it will be a big challenge considering the talent they will inherit.

Likelihood of pulling off a winning season: Slim. Most are picking the Cyclones for the North Division cellar with good reason. The defense will struggle against the Big 12's potent offenses. They will be able to move the ball and score, but likely not enough to compensate for their defensive struggles. The Cyclones will be facing a challenging nonconference schedule with an underrated opener against North Dakota State -- a program that has won at Ball State and Minnesota in the last three seasons. With games against Iowa, at Kent State and Army, the Cyclones likely will be pushed to notch a winning record in nonconference play. And their Big 12 action starts with a game that could decide the Big 12 cellar in Kansas City against Kansas State -- a game that was set to be played in Ames before it was moved. After that, the Cyclones will face a tough road stretch with games at Kansas, Nebraska and Texas A&M sandwiched around a homecoming game against Baylor. They then will finish the season with home games against Oklahoma State and Colorado and a road game against Missouri. All three of those late-season opponents likely will have bowl hopes riding on the game. Don't look for that to happen with the Cyclones -- yet.

My prediction: 3-9, 1-7 in Big 12

 
  Scott D. Weaver/Icon SMI
  Bill Snyder compiled a 136-68-1 record during his first stint in Manhattan.

KANSAS STATE

Coach: Bill Snyder
Previous coaching position: Kansas State, head coach (retired for last three seasons)
Head-coaching experience: Kansas State, 136-68-1 during previous stint there from 1989-2005
Kansas State's 2008 record: 5-7, 2-6 in Big 12
Returning players: Offense 6, defense 8

What he brings: Snyder earned a likely position in College Football's Hall of Fame during his first coaching stint at KSU. The Wildcats were on the cusp of the BCS title game in 1998 and claimed their only Big 12 football title in 2003. The program has tumbled badly since that championship and it will take all of Snyder's legendary drive and determination to get the Wildcats back into contention again. He returns with a staff stacked with assistants who have worked with him in the past and are familiar with the challenges of winning at KSU. His knack of making something out of nothing and unearthing recruiting gems from the junior college ranks will be vital in helping get them back into bowl contention.

Challenges he faces: The talent has dropped from the level Snyder was familiar back in his coaching days and the Big 12 might be even tougher. Nearby programs Kansas and Missouri have climbed into title contention since he left. And old coaching nemesis Bo Pelini has Nebraska pointed in the right direction. Snyder will have to settle on a starting quarterback after Carson Coffman won the job this spring, but will be challenged by Grant Gregory and junior college transfer Daniel Thomas during the summer. He'll also need to cobble together a running game and find some productive linebackers in his new 4-2-5 defense. But he has an underrated group of productive performers like wide receiver Brandon Banks, cornerback Joshua Moore, defensive end Brandon Harold and defensive tackle Jeff Fitzgerald.

Likelihood of pulling off a winning season: It might be better than you think. First, the North Division is going to be relatively even without a dominant team. A surprise team might be able to remain in contention if healthy.

KSU's nonconference schedule isn't too taxing with a trip to visit a rebuilding UCLA team that might be winnable with a few breaks. There are also home games against Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech and a road game at Louisiana-Lafayette. The conference schedule starts off with the Iowa State game in Kansas City, a road game at reloading Texas Tech and home games with Texas A&M and Colorado. Their conference schedule toughens later in the season with road games at Oklahoma and Nebraska, but the Wildcats might surprise people if they get some consistent quarterback play and can keep an underrated defense healthy.

Snyder's coaching acumen might help them win a game or two that might be considered surprises. One major national publication is already p
icking KSU to tie for second in the North Division. They do have the most favorable conference schedule in the Big 12 with only one road game in a North opponent's home stadium.

The Wildcats should be competitive among North Division teams. Snyder is a legendary builder and his team appears to have already gravitated to his coaching philosophy. They will play hard and shouldn't have the late-season collapse that marked the program in each of the last two seasons under Ron Prince. It might add up to a bowl trip in Snyder's first season back.

My prediction: 6-6, 3-5 in Big 12

Big 12 lunch links: 122 days and counting until the season

May, 4, 2009
5/04/09
12:47
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Spring practice is over across the Big 12. We now have a long wait of 122 days until the 2009 season kicks off with Iowa State and North Dakota State facing off in the Sept. 3 opener.

To get you through that long gap, here are some lunchtime links.

  • John Maher of the Austin American-Statesman has the story about the 1918 Texas team that was undefeated, but didn't have a chance to play for the Southwest Conference championship because of an abbreviated season caused by the Spanish flu pandemic.
  • The Bryan Eagle's Robert Cessna has an easy way for Texas A&M to silence Texas Tech coach Mike Leach: start beating him on the field for a change.
  • Kansas City Star/Wichita Eagle beat writer Jeffrey Martin was impressed with Kansas State's first-string defense in the Wildcats' spring game.  
  • Suspended Missouri quarterback Blaine Dalton told Bill Althaus of his hometown Blue Springs (Mo.) Examiner that he wasn't intoxicated or selling pills when he was arrested by the Columbia Police Department.
  • Missouri, Iowa State and Nebraska were among the teams that Columbus Dispatch columnist Bob Hunter mentions as potential targets for the Big Ten -- if the conference decides to heed Penn State coach Joe Paterno's wishes and expand.
  • Tom Osborne appears firmly entrenched in the Nebraska athletic director job for the next several years, Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel writes.
  • The Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff and the Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner provide spring wrap-ups from around the conference. And Kerkhoff also details how the Big 12's defenses should improve next season.
  • Bo Pelini honored his Youngstown, Ohio, roots by returning to speak in his hometown Sunday night, Greg Gulas of the Youngstown Vindicator reports.
  • Kelly Beaton of the Waterloo Courier provides a glossary to better understand Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads.
  • Colorado officials have placed a little bit of Nebraska at the school's Colorado National Golf Club. Gary Baines of the Boulder Daily Camera reports that range-ball picking vehicle is colored in red and white, with a Nebraska football helmet on the roof and an "N" emblazoned on the front.

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