Big 12: North Texas Mean Green

KSU-Nebraska set for Thursday night

January, 29, 2010
1/29/10
11:20
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The Big 12 will be showcased in conference play again after Kansas State announced its Oct. 7 home game against Nebraska will be a Thursday night game shown by ESPN.

That game will be part of a six-game 2010 home schedule for the Wildcats. All but one of the games will be against FBS foes.

The Wildcats' game against Iowa State has been pushed ahead to Sept. 18 and will be played again at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. And KSU will finish the season with a Nov. 27 road game at North Texas.

The schedule will feature seven teams coming off bowl appearances, including five visiting Manhattan for KSU home games.

And it should be more conducive to making a bowl trip. The Wildcats notched two victories over FCS opponents last season, but could count only one toward the six-win minimum for a bowl appearance. The 6-6 Wildcats missed a bowl trip by one game.

Taking care of that was among several priorities that KSU attempted to address with the schedule, KSU athletic director John Currie said.

"Generally, we have five primary goals in scheduling,” Currie said. “We want to have as many home games as possible, especially early in the season; have at least 11 FBS opponents each season; attempt to include an open date during the regular season and create opportunities to provide further exposure for our program and university on a national level.

"With this schedule, we feel we have accomplished these goals and are looking forward to a sold-out Bill Snyder Family Stadium in 2010.”

The Sept. 18 game against Iowa State will be the earliest conference game for KSU since the Wildcats kicked off the Big 12 with the inaugural game in conference history against Texas Tech in 1996.

The schedule also features a game against Central Florida, beginning a two-game, home-and-home schedule with the Golden Knights.

Here's a look at KSU's 2010 schedule

Sept. 4 UCLA
Sept. 11 Missouri State
Sept. 18 Iowa State (at Kansas City, Mo.)
Sept. 25 Central Florida
Oct. 7 Nebraska
Oct. 16 at Kansas
Oct. 23 at Baylor
Oct. 30 Oklahoma State
Nov. 6 Texas
Nov. 13 at Missouri
Nov. 20 at Colorado
Nov. 27 at North Texas

It's interesting for a number of reasons. The Wildcats will begin their two-game cross-division schedule with Texas this season. KSU has been the most successful North Division team against the Longhorns in the history of the Big 12 and will come into the upcoming game with a two-game winning streak and a 4-2 record against the Longhorns since 1996.

The KSU schedule starts with four of their first five games at home and finish with the final three games of the season on the road. That should help build confidence for a young team early in the season, but will test them mightily as the season finishes up.

Texas Football's magazine release tells us the season beckons

June, 15, 2009
6/15/09
6:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Today is a special summer day for football fans across Texas and the Southwest.

Today is the annual release date of Dave Campbell's Texas Football, which is the unquestionable college football magazine of record in these parts every year.

This magazine is special because it's the 50th anniversary edition. The first one was laid out on the kitchen table of former Waco Tribune-Herald sports editor Dave Campbell, who started it in 1960.

It's gotten much bigger than that over the years, being read by three generations of football fans over the years. Today, there's a Texas Football classic every year at the Alamodome and even an official Texas Football song.

I first learned about the magazine in the late 1960s when a friend of mine in fifth grade, Richard Jackson, moved to Memphis from Houston. Along with his neat Houston Astros hat that I always was envious of was his copy of Texas Football Magazine. The story and pictures of the guys from Texas, Baylor and Rice were so different than anything I came across in the Southeastern Conference. I wanted mine, too.

My dad occasionally traveled to Texas with his job and soon learned to look at the 7-Eleven on one of his trips to Dallas to see if he could score a copy of Dave Campbell for me.

Later, my family moved to Texas and I learned the excitement of visiting the newsstand in mid-June to pick up the Dave Campbell magazine, which was there to chronicle the demise of the Southwest Conference and the start of the Big 12.

The new one will officially be released today across the area. And the coverboy is Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who becomes the first individual player to be pictured since Texas wide receiver Roy Williams in 2003.

I picked up my copy and am already deeply into it. It takes me back to my childhood.

The only problem is that I wonder why I couldn't pick up a Grape Slurpee to drink with it like I used to back in the day.

A list of the cover boys in the magazine's history exhibits a unique history of football in the southwest. Here's a list of the players who have graced the cover of the magazine over the years.

1960: Texas RB Jack Collins

1961: Baylor RB Ronnie Bull

1962: TCU QB Sonny Gibbs

1963: Texas coach Darrell Royal and DT Scott Appleton

1964: Baylor coach John Bridgers and WR Lawrence Elkins

1965: Texas Tech RB Donny Anderson

1966: SMU NG John LaGrone, Baylor DT Greg Pipes, Texas DT Diron Talbert

1967: Texas A&M T Maurice "Mo" Moorman

1968: Texas A&M QB Edd Hargett

1969: Texas QB James Street

1970: Texas RB Steve Worster

1971: Texas Tech QB Charles Napper

1972: Texas A&M LB Brad Dusek

1973: Texas LB Glen Gaspard

1974: Texas coach Darrell Royal

1975: Baylor coach Grant Teaff

1976: Houston coach Bill Yeoman

1977: Texas Tech QB Rodney Allison

1978: Texas A&M K Tony Franklin and Texas K/P Russell Erxleben

1979: Texas DT Steve McMichael

1980: Baylor LB Mike Singletary and Texas A&M QB Mike Mosley

1981: Baylor RB Walter Abercrombie and SMU RB Craig James

1982: Texas A&M QB Gary Kubiak

1983: SMU QB Lance McIlhenny

1984: Texas A&M DE Ray Childress

1985: TCU coach Jim Wacker and TCU RB Kenneth Davis

1986: Texas A&M coach Jackie Sherrill

1987: Texas QB Bret Stafford and Texas coach David McWilliams

1988: Texas RB Eric Metcalf and Texas A&M LB John Roper

1989: Houston coach Jack Pardee and SMU coach Forrest Gregg

1990: Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes

1991: Houston QB David Klingler

1992: Rice RB Trevor Cobb

1993: Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum

1994: Texas QB Shea Morenz

1995: A collage of Southwest Conference historical figures including Texas RB Earl Campbell, Houston coach Bill Yeoman, Baylor LB Mike Singletary, TCU QB Sammy Baugh, Texas coach Fred Akers, Texas coach Darrell Royal and SMU RB Doak Walker.

1996: Baylor coach Chuck Ready, Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes, Texas coach John Mackovic and Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum

1997: Texas QB James Brown and Texas RB Ricky Williams

1998: Texas A&M LB Dat Nguyen, Texas RB Ricky Williams and Texas coach Mack Brown

1999: Texas coach Mack Brown and TCU coach Dennis Franchione. Note: Alternative cover for those magazines sold outside the state featured Dallas Cowboys QB Troy Aikman

2000: Midland Robert E. Lee H.S. RB Cedric Benson

2001: Texas QB Chris Simms, TCU QB Casey Printers, Texas A&M QB Mark Farris and Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury

2002: Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury, Celina H.S. coach G.A. Moore, Dallas Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith and Baytown Lee H.S. QB Drew Tate.

2003: Texas WR Roy Williams

2004: Texas Tech DE Adell Duckett, TCU S Marvin Godbolt, Houston QB Kevin Kolb, North Texas RB Patrick Cobb

2005: Texas QB Vince Young and Texas A&M QB Reggie McNeal

2006: Former Texas RB Earl Campbell, Mansfield Summit H.S. QB John Chiles, Texarkana Texas H.S. QB Ryan Mallett and Gilmer H.S. QB G.J. Kinne

2007: Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee, Texas QB Colt McCoy and TCU DE Tommy Blake

2008: Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell and Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree

2009: Texas QB Colt McCoy

Source: ESPN.com research

Why the coaches' poll votes must be made public

May, 28, 2009
5/28/09
4:01
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The realization came a few years ago, early one morning in the Lubbock airport, when I thought nobody could have cared what I was doing.

After a long night of covering Texas Tech, I was scheduled on the first flight back home the following morning. But before I left, I knew I had to take care of something.

As I went to a bank of pay telephones back in those pre-cellular phone days, I mumbled off my list of 25 teams to the Associated Press desker in New York City. I usually tried to get my vote in by 9 a.m. -- always settling on them the night before but always looking at them one more time the following morning before I submitted them.

The teams tumbled out in my order for the week. After I finished, I tried to relax for a couple of minutes before my flight left until an elderly man tapped me on my shoulder.

"Excuse me, sir," the man said. "I think you had Michigan ranked too high this week. And West Virginia, they were way too low."

How the fellow passenger had determined I was a voter, I had no idea. But he -- as do most college football fans at that time of the year -- had his own idea how the polls should be voted. And fans don't hesitate to tell you about it, either, in person or by e-mail.

That idea infused me with the thought of how important some considered my vote. As such, I knew the kind of diligence the poll deserved if I was voting.

And the idea that my vote was being made public each week made me take even more care in trying to get things right in my mind. Because, I knew I would hear something if it was skewed.

This is why I think the American Football Coaches Association's decision to keep their final votes private is so wrong.

Horribly wrong, in fact.

Not making the votes public robs the poll of its greatest attribute -- its credibility. When that is stripped away, the poll loses its relevance.

AFCA executive director Grant Teaff argues differently.

"Why do you think they have voting booths," Teaff told the Tulsa World. "Why do you think they have curtains around voting booths? Experts believe that's the truest way of getting the purest vote. That's what coaches are after."

Teaff is wrong in his thinking. Horribly wrong, in fact. 

(Read full post)

New Tech coach Russell surprised to be pursued by Red Raiders

March, 11, 2009
3/11/09
2:08
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Eric Russell was stunned last week when Mike Leach called his house wanting to talk about him joining his staff.

Russell hadn't heard about a vacancy on Leach's staff created when Seth Littrell recently left to join Mike Stoops' staff at Arizona.

"I didn't know anybody on the staff. I didn't even know there was a job open,'' Russell told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. "I guess Coach Leach had some research and special teams rankings nationally in whatever system they used, and Louisiana Tech came out on top. I had a phone call at my house, and my wife answered the phone. I thought it was someone from Louisiana Tech and she said, no, Texas Tech.''

Russell had worked the last two seasons at Louisiana Tech after coaching at North Texas from 1994 to 2006. And after an interview earlier this week, Russell was hired as the Red Raiders' new special teams coach.

Leach said that analysis by his staff indicated that 8-5 Louisiana Tech had the best special teams in the nation last season. The Bulldogs ranked in the top 25 in punt coverage, kickoff coverage, kickoff returns and punt returns. Additionally, Louisiana Tech scored five special-teams touchdowns last season -- a kickoff return, two punt returns, a blocked field goal and a blocked punt.  

"We studied all the teams and figured out, who had the best special teams in America last year? Louisiana Tech did,'' Leach told the Avalanche-Journal. "So we asked, who coaches their special teams? Is this a lucky year for him, or was he always good? At Louisiana Tech, he was. And he totally ruled at special teams at North Texas.''

Clay McGuire, who coached Texas Tech's special teams last season will move into Littrell's old job coaching running backs to make room for Russell.

It means the Red Raiders have a complete coaching staff as they prepare for the March 25 opening of spring practice.  

Big 12 lunch links: Harrell eager to perform at Senior Bowl

January, 19, 2009
1/19/09
12:42
PM ET

by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Who says it's the offseason? There's always news aplenty in the Big 12.

  • Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell is looking forward at this week's Senior Bowl of showing that he can stand apart from frequent comparisons with Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy, the Mobile Register's Tommy Hicks writes.
  • Former Colorado assistant coach Jeff Grimes told the Boulder Camera's Kyle Ringo that he "cried like a baby" when he told Colorado coach Dan Hawkins and his former players that he was leaving the Buffaloes for a position on Gene Chizik's staff at Auburn.
  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News reports that former North Texas quarterback Giovanni Vizza is enrolling at Texas A&M with hopes of playing for the Aggies in 2010. Vizza set an NCAA freshman record with eight touchdown passes in a game against Navy in 2007.
  • The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jimmy Burch provides an extensive look ahead at the Big 12 season for 2009.
  • The Tulsa World's Dave Sittler compares the attitudes of Bob Stoops and Pete Carroll when losing top players early to the NFL.
  • Five Oklahoma recruits have decided to graduate early from high school to start their college careers next month as incoming freshmen, Tulsa World beat writer John Hoover reports.

Freeman living up to his bold preseason claims

September, 16, 2008
9/16/08
2:03
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Before the season started, Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman audaciously made headlines by saying he merited inclusion among the top quarterbacks in the Big 12.

Considering the names among the conference's aerial hierarchy, it was a bold statement.

 
 AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
 Turns out, Kansas State's Josh Freeman IS one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12.

Funny thing, however. Freeman has lived up to his boast in the first two games of the season, ranking third nationally in pass efficiency -- and only behind Oklahoma's Sam Bradford among Big 12 quarterbacks -- as he's led the Wildcats to a 2-0 start.

"Those guys play within their systems and I play within mine," Freeman said. "It's all about who comes away with victories and gets the job done on the field. I understand that winning is a big part of that and I've been sometimes overlooked as a legitimate quarterback. But I've tried to approach it this season by just getting things done on the field."

His development has been the biggest key in the Wildcats' strong start heading into their nationally-televised game at Louisville on Wednesday night.

Freeman has completed 75.6 percent of his passes, throwing for five touchdowns and no interceptions. He's been responsible for nine touchdowns, running for four other scores as the Wildcats blitzed early opponents North Texas and Montana State by a combined 114-16 margin.

"I've always considered myself a strong Big 12 player," Freeman said. "With all of the hard work that we've put in and the team I think we have, our confidence was high. You'll earn respect by what you play and do during games. And that's what's I've tried to do."

Unlike the other top Big 12 passers, Freeman has worked in a pro-style passing offense during his entire career. He typically doesn't have the opportunities to pull the ball down and scamper on a zone read like many of the others in the conference.

That early experience and Freeman's mammoth 6-foot-6, 250-pound stature has NFL scouts projecting that he likely could become the most accomplished current Big 12 player at the next level. They drool about his size and rocket arm strength that have led to comparisons to Daunte Culpepper.

"I've always seen myself as a pocket passer," Freeman said. "That's what I've tried to polish and make myself best at. And I think I'm a perfect fit for the system here at Kansas State."

Freeman was thrown to the wolves in a matter of speaking, starting eight games as a true freshman. That factor alone makes him different from many quarterbacks who were allowed a more gradual ascent into college football.

But Freeman also had enough early success sprinkled with the struggles that it left him hungry for more. He dramatically won his first start in 2006 with a late TD run against Oklahoma State. He became the first quarterback since Jason White to beat Texas in back-to-back starts. And he finished with a flourish last season, even as the Wildcats cratered around him after a four-game losing streak cost them a bowl berth.

"During my early time in college, I was really using football as my area to take away the stress from being away from home. It was my happy place," Freeman said. "It was a little tough at first and I had to adjust a little bit. But I got more used to things and it's helping me mature."

Last season's late collapse left him more determined for success as a junior. Working with new quarterbacks coach Warren Ruggiero provided him with the tools for that growth.

"There's no doubt that he's our most improved player from last season," KSU coach Ron Prince said. "You can see he's getting more and more confident in what we're asking him to do. And he's becoming a leader for our team."

KSU WR Brandon Banks said that the Wildcats get much of their identity from having Freeman as their quarterback.

"It makes you feel really confident," Banks said. "You have time to run your route and the ability to get open and know the ball is going to get there on time. He can put the ball wherever you need it."

Freeman has thrown a touchdown pass in 13 straight games and hasn't been intercepted in his last 125 attempts. And he's primed for more heading into a game Wednesday that could make his preseason claims more apparent to a wider national audience.

"He's at a place now in his career where he's ready to round out the things he's capable of doing," Prince said. "There still are some things we haven't shown yet, but Josh is where he can contribute in a lot of different ways. And so far this season, he's taken that and done a nice job with it."

Tim's weekly mailbag: Where's the love for KSU?

September, 9, 2008
9/09/08
4:07
PM ET

Let's jump right in.

Rodney from Salina, Kan., writes: Why did you not include the Kansas State and Louisville game in your links this morning?

Tim Griffin: I didn't link a story to that game because I thought the other stories were more immediate. With that game still more than a week away, I thought it was a better idea to highlight the upcoming games instead.


Ben from San Diego writes: Tim, Double-T Nation is already upset about the fact that Texas Tech is the No. 12 team and has yet to have a televised game this season. An honest question though - although Tech plays the proverbial 'cupcake' out-of-conference schedule, why do networks still air other games instead. I mean, look at some of the other games on broadcast over weeks 1 and 2 and tell me that you wouldn't rather watch Texas Tech. Love your blog!

Tim Griffin: I agree with you about Tech's lack of national exposure so far, although their game against SMU will be a FSN broadcast available through most of the southwest and Big 12 region.

But I will say this. I would have thought that the Nevada-Tech game would have been picked up by somebody. Two potential explosive offenses would have made for a good TV game -- at least as good as the Navy-Ball State game that was shown.

I've got to think that if the Tech-Tulsa game had been played earlier this season rather than cancelled, that game would have been picked up by somebody. But I think it's understandable why most television networks would steer clear of games like Massachusetts and Eastern Washington -- I think for obvious reasons.

Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree will have many chances to play on television once Big 12 begins. It's too bad their nonconference schedule didn't help provide more chances earlier in the season.


Kenny Lyndon writes: Why hasn't Kansas State received any attention after back to back weeks of the Big 12 player of the week and national defensive player of the week in Courtney Herndon? Josh Freeman is leading the league in pass efficiency and has four rushing scores and four passing scores.

Tim Griffin: It hasn't helped Kansas State that they've played North Texas and Montana State during the first two weeks of the season. I've mentioned them a couple of times in some of my blog posts and I plan to do a lot more leading up to their game against Louisville next week. And as I said earlier this week, Freeman might have been the conference's most productive quarterback after two weeks. It will be interesting to see if that carries over when he starts playing some big boys across the conference.

(Read full post)

Muschamp's star continues to rise

August, 18, 2008
8/18/08
2:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

There's an interesting list that Foxsports.com posted of the top 10 college football coaches on the rise.

The Big 12 is represented on the list only once, and it's not by any head coach. Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp checks in at No. 3. Muschamp, who starts his first season with the Longhorns this year, ranks only behind BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall (No. 1) and Tulsa coach Todd Graham (No. 2).

Muschamp is the only assistant on the list. And the Foxsports list makes it sound like it's a foregone conclusion that he'll have another job. It even pegs his most likely location, saying Muschamp's most logical next position would be as head coach at Tennessee.

Muschamp knows his way around that conference after stops at LSU and Auburn. But he apparently has noticed the way that defensive coaches at Texas have moved to head coaching jobs in recent seasons.

After Dick Tomey, Greg Robinson and Gene Chizik, Muschamp likely will be the next.

The Big 12 is indirectly mentioned with North Texas coach Todd Dodge, a former Texas quarterback who is ranked No. 10 on the list. The Web site speculates that the next position for him could be as Oklahoma's offensive coordinator.

If that was to happen, it would be kind of a piece of reverse karma from long, long ago. Seems that legendary Texas coach Darrell Royal once was a pretty good Oklahoma quarterback.

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