Big 12: Northern Colorado Bears
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?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Earlier this week, I took a look at the nonconference games that Big 12 teams will struggle to win this season.
There's also a set of games that the Big 12 should have no worries about winning. These trips to the pastry wagon can get addictive, but they don't provide much nutritional value. So consider whatever tangible benefits that happen in these games as problematic -- mainly because of the opposition the Big 12 teams will be playing.
Here are the six easiest nonconference games of the season for the Big 12.
1. Idaho State at Oklahoma, Sept. 12: Want to know how bad Idaho State is? They lost to Northern Colorado last season in a 1-11 season marked only by an overtime victory over Sacramento State. The Bengals ranked as the nation's worst FCS team in total defense and pass efficiency defense, next-to-last in scoring defense and had the FCS's sixth-worst rushing defense. Sam Bradford will be watching this one from the bench by midway through the second quarter.
2. Northern Colorado at Kansas, Sept. 5: The Division I-AA Bears are 3-31 over the last three years, including a 32-point loss at Purdue last season, a 36-point loss at San Diego State and a 57-point loss at Hawaii in 2006.
3. Tennessee Tech at Kansas State, Sept. 26: Watson Brown will be looking for better luck against the Wildcats than little brother Mack Brown has enjoyed over the years. It won't happen on this trip.
4. North Dakota at Texas Tech, Sept. 5: The Fighting Sioux were a Division II team last year. They are transitioning to Division I-AA status and this game will be their first battle in modern history against an FBS opponent. That won't help them in an opener as Mike Leach tries to build confidence in his retooled offense quarterbacked by first-year starter Taylor Potts.
5. Northwestern State at Baylor, Sept. 26: The Bears dominated the Demons in a 51-10 blowout last season and will be even better this year. Considering that Baylor's first two games are against foes from BCS-affiliated conferences -- a feat that no other Big 12 will attempt this season in nonconference play -- gives them a little bit of a mulligan for playing such a weak opponent for their third game.
6. Grambling State at Oklahoma State, Sept. 26: Once upon a time, the Tigers were a virtual football factory for NFL talent. Those days are long gone, but at least the storied Grambling band will be coming to Stillwater -- at least we hope.
And some other dogs to avoid include:
- Furman at Missouri, Sept. 19
- Louisiana-Monroe at Texas, Sept. 5
- Massachusetts at Kansas State, Sept. 5
- UTEP at Texas, Sept. 26
- Utah State at Texas A&M, Sept. 19
- Louisiana-Lafayette at Nebraska, Sept. 26
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Big 12 teams should be seldom tested before conference play begins as most teams again are opting to compete with a pillow-soft slate of opponents.
Here's the toughest and weakest of the Big 12 nonconference schedules:
1. Oklahoma: BYU (at Arlington, Texas), Idaho State, Tulsa, at Miami
The Sooners deserve props for adding the BYU game late. The nationally televised game should showcase Oklahoma's defense as it thwarts Max Hall and Harvey Unga for the Cougars. Idaho State is a bad Division I-AA team that went 1-11 last season. Tulsa and Miami both went to bowl games last season. The Golden Hurricane will be breaking in a new quarterback and a new coordinator -- not a good recipe for success for a road team at Owen Field. And although the game against Miami brings back memories of Jimmy Johnson vs. Barry Switzer, the fact is that the Hurricanes could be worn out by the time Oklahoma visits. Miami starts the season with a meat-grinder schedule of Florida State, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech before the Sooners visit.
2. Colorado: Colorado State, at Toledo, Wyoming, at West Virginia
Coach Dan Hawkins has this team pegged for good things in the conference. The Buffaloes will be tested by four FBS opponents, including two on the road. The rivalry game against Colorado State should be decided in the trenches and the Buffaloes' offensive line will be a load for the Rams. The Toledo game might be trickier than expected considering the Buffaloes will be playing this one only five days after the Colorado State game. But Colorado still should have the talent to prevail. Something tells me that Hawkins will remember that new Wyoming coach Dave Christensen's offense hung 113 points against his defense the last two seasons when he was at Missouri. And the West Virginia trip will be a challenge, although new Mountaineers quarterback Jarrett Brown is largely untested.
3. Missouri: Illinois (at St. Louis), Bowling Green, Furman, at Nevada
The Tigers' inexperienced defense will get a huge challenge in the opener against Illinois' pass-and-catch tandem of Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn. They'll be facing another experienced quarterback in three-year Bowling Green starter Tyler Sheehan, but the Falcons' defense will be breaking in two new cornerbacks. Furman has a talented quarterback in Jordan Sorrells, but the Paladin's defense shouldn't be able to match Missouri. The trip to Nevada might be a hornet's nest. The Wolf Pack have made four straight bowl trips, multi-purpose quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the Western Athletic Conference's last two leading rushers. And, oh, yeah, the Wolf Pack probably still remember that 69-17 beatdown to the Tigers last season in Columbia.
4. Nebraska: Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State, at Virginia Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette
No truth to the rumor that the Cornhuskers are gunning for the September version of the Sun Belt championship. Their road game at Virginia Tech is the toughest game that any Big 12 team will play this season. But Bo Pelini will have two games to get his defense ready for Tyrod Taylor and Co. Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger made his career name by beating the Cornhuskers in the 1984 Orange Bowl while at Miami. He won't be nearly as successful this time around. Arkansas State stunned Texas A&M last season, but the Red Wolves will be utilizing a new offensive line this season. And Louisiana-Lafayette's offense is very young and the Cornhuskers will be catching them the week after they have met up with LSU.
5. Oklahoma State: Georgia, Houston, Rice, Grambling
Four home games make for an ideal schedule for the Cowboys to make some national noise. The Georgia game will be arguably the biggest home nonconference game in school history. But the Cowboys grab a break as the Bulldogs try to break in new quarterback Joe Cox. Houston will have Case Keenum and a high-powered offensive attack, but the Cowboys blistered the Cougars for 56 points last year and could score more this season. Rice won't be as good this season after losing most of its offensive firepower. And Grambling has a great football history and an even better band.
6. Baylor: at Wake Forest, Connecticut, Northwestern State, Kent State
The nonconference schedule could determine whether the Bears can snap that long bowl drought. And it won't be an easy one considering that Baylor is the only Big 12 team with two opponents from "Big Six" conferences. The Wake Forest opener will be a huge test, but Robert Griffin might be able to feast on a depleted Demon Deacon defense that lost four starters to the NFL draft. The Bears nearly beat Connecticut last season on the road and the Huskies lose their starting quarterback and top rusher from that team. New coach Bradley Dale Peveto will bring new ideas for Northwestern State, but the Bears have a big edge. And Kent State will be breaking in a new quarterback for a team that has won only 19 games in the last five seasons under Doug Martin.
7. Kansas: Northern Colorado, at UTEP, Duke, Southern Mississippi
The Jayhawks should be able to name their margin against Northern Colorado in the opener. The trip to the Sun Bowl against UTEP the following week might be a different matter. UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe could be a challenge, although the Jayhawks should have enough firepower to outscore them. A Kansas-Duke game would be a made-for-national television delight in basketball. Football, however, is a different story. And Southern Mississippi might be poised to challenge for the Conference USA title and might be a chore with leading conference rusher Damion Fletcher and all of its starting secondary back to challenge Todd Reesing and Dezmon Briscoe.
8. Texas A&M: New Mexico, Utah State, UAB, Arkansas (at Arlington, Texas)
The Aggies desperately need to build confidence and collect a few victories before the South Division gauntlet begins. After last season's opening-game loss against Arkansas State, expect coach Mike Sherman to have the Aggies focused for all of the games. They catch new New Mexico coach Mike Locksley with an uncertain quarterback in the Lobos' opener. Utah State is universally picked to finish last in the Western Athletic Conference. UAB will be rebuilding its defense and likely won't pose many problems for Jerrod Johnson. But the game against Arkansas at
the new Dallas Cowboys' stadium will be a challenge for A&M's defense. The Razorbacks should be much improved in Bobby Petrino's second season. Fans are paying premium prices and expect big things from both teams. The Aggies may catch a break considering the Razorbacks will play SEC contenders Georgia and Alabama in their previous two weeks.
9. Texas Tech: North Dakota, Rice, at Houston, New Mexico
Mike Leach's nonconference schedule won't be as bad as last season's trip to the pastry wagon, but not by much. North Dakota is transitioning into FCS status this season after ranking 137th among the 148 Division II passing teams last season. Sounds like target practice for Taylor Potts, doesn't it? Rice won't be nearly as tough as last season without James Casey, Jarrett Dillard and Chase Clement gone. The trip to Houston will be Tech's biggest challenge and Case Keenum will test Tech's rebuilt secondary in the first battle between the old Southwest Conference rivals since 1995. And New Mexico will have had several weeks to work under Locksley's system, making them a tougher challenge for the Red Raiders in early October.
10. Texas: Louisiana-Monroe, at Wyoming, UTEP, Central Florida
The Longhorns had a couple of game against Utah and Arkansas fall through in their planning. But don't expect the Longhorns to get that much sympathy for a group of opponents that won't give them much BCS bounce. Louisiana-Monroe will be breaking in a retooled offense with a new quarterback. The road trip to Wyoming doesn't resonate like some the Longhorns have made to places like Ohio State and Arkansas in recent seasons. The Cowboys will be breaking in a new quarterback, too. UTEP could contend for the Conference USA West title, but the Miners are a different team on the road. And the Nov. 7 game against Central Florida will bring the nation's worst offensive team from last season into Austin.
11. Iowa State: North Dakota State, Iowa, at Kent State, Army
Paul Rhoads doesn't want any surprises early in his first season and his nonconference schedule. North Dakota State has posed problems to FBS teams like Minnesota in the past. Iowa doesn't have Shonn Greene back, but has almost everybody else back on a stout defense that will challenge the Cyclones. Mighty mite 5-foot-5, 170-pound tailback Eugene Jarvis will test ISU's defense and the trip to Kent State won't be a gimme. And new Army coach Rich Ellerson will bring 6-10, 283-pound wide receiver Ali Villanueva along with starting quarterback Chip Bowden from a team that won three games last season.
12. Kansas State: Massachusetts, at Louisiana-Lafayette, at UCLA, Tennessee Tech
The schedule doesn't provide as many gooey treats as some that Bill Snyder's teams have feasted on in the past, but it's still nothing to write home about. Massachusetts is a contender in the CAA, which is the toughest top-to-bottom FCS conference in the nation. Louisiana-Lafayette will have to replace a lot of offensive talent, but can be troublesome at Cajun Field. UCLA struggled offensively last year and will be breaking in a new quarterback with four new offensive linemen. KSU might be able to compete in that one better than most might think. And Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown, older brother of Texas coach Mack Brown, returns a talented pass-and-catch combination of Lee Sweeney and Tim Benford. KSU still should roll, however.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Teams are reporting back for summer workouts across the Big 12 this week.
Me, I'm conditioning myself to find as many good links as possible during the supposed quiet time before the season.
There was a good haul today. Enjoy them.
- Boulder Daily Camera beat writer Kyle Ringo gives his spin on the chances of Josh Smith transferring to USC and his rationale behind his 8-4 season prediction for Colorado.
- The Tulsa World's "The Picker" sports blog wonders if Bob Stoops peaked as a coach, or is he still peaking?
- Bryan Eagle columnist Robert Cessna writes that the $16 million line of credit issued to the Texas A&M athletic department by former school president Robert Gates is proving unpalatable to many fans because of the Aggies' recent struggles in football.
- Kansas coach Mark Mangino told Kansas supporters that all of his team reported Monday to begin their summer workouts, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports. Lawrence Journal-World reporter Dugan Arnett writes that Kansas' upcoming seven-week boot camp is designed to build discipline and prepare the Jayhawks for the rigors of the upcoming season.
- The Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff ranks his readership area's top 10 Big 12 stories during the most recent school year.
- If starting an NFL team, the College Football News' Richard Cirminiello and Jon Miller of Hawkeye Nation agree they would both select Colt McCoy as their first offensive player.
- Venerable Colorado announcer Larry Zimmer has broadcast the exploits of 34 starting Colorado quarterbacks, seven head coaches and been there for five different "Raphie" mascots for the Buffaloes, the Denver Post's Dusty Saunders reports.
- Matt Hinton of the blog Dr. Saturday wonders if Missouri can reload after its run of recent North Division success.
- Dave Matter explains why he doesn't get excited about football camps, provide a rare Gary Pinkel summer interview and ranks the current Kansas wide receiving group among the best in Big 12 history in his weekly "Case of the Mondays."
- New Northern Colorado coach Scott Downing tells the Lincoln Journal Star's Steve Sipple that his biggest concern as he prepares for season-opening opponent Kansas is the Jayhawks' new co-defensive coordinator, Bill Miller.
- The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel was reminded over the weekend of the depth and passion of Oklahoma's fan base.
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.