Big 12: Northwestern Wildcats
1. The headless Aggies. A team playing in a bowl after firing its coach is a bit of a rarity, but that's where the Aggies are as they prepare to face Northwestern on Dec. 31 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. Defensive coordinator and interim head coach Tim DeRuyter is leaving to become the coach at Fresno State. Former coach Mike Sherman served as their offensive coordinator, too, and it'll be interesting to see what Texas A&M looks like without him. Cyrus Gray is questionable, but Northwestern's defense is a lot different than Texas'. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill should be able to win this game, but will Texas A&M look like it's playing for anything, and will it show it has fixed the second-half woes?
2. Oklahoma State on the big stage. Oklahoma State has played in a lot of big games over the past two years, but the two biggest -- Oklahoma in both years -- were played in its home stadium. The Cowboys never played in a Big 12 title setting and never played in a huge neutral-site game against a team suited to beat them. The Jan. 2 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, opposite Stanford, will be all new for the Cowboys. Will the team look the same after a week unlike anything it has experienced before?
3. Sooners stopping a swoon? Oklahoma finished the season with two losses in its final three games and now will be without Jaz Reynolds in the Dec. 30 Insight Bowl against Iowa. Landry Jones will be missing his No. 1 and No. 3 receivers, and the Hawkeyes' offense will take on a defense that struggled late in the year against Baylor and Oklahoma State. Iowa is closer to Iowa State -- Oklahoma's only victory in the final three games -- but the Sooners had better show up in this one, or this season will get even more forgettable.
4. A finale for RG3? At Baylor, 2011 has been unforgettable. The Bears already have nine wins, a third-place finish in the Big 12 and the school's first Heisman winner. Quarterback Robert Griffin III has become must-see TV, but the Valero Alamo Bowl against Washington on Dec. 29 might be the last time we see him in green and gold. There's no guarantee on either side, but what's Griffin got in store for the finale?
5. Did the Longhorns learn? Texas lamented its holidays at home last year, with players saying they never wanted to experience the feeling again. Several said they couldn't even watch the bowls. Well, the Longhorns are back. How much will they relish the Dec. 28 Holiday Bowl meeting with Cal? Texas should be back to health by then, and a big win in this game might produce big results next fall for a young offense that needs good vibes heading into the offseason.
Dec. 31, noon ET (ESPN)
Texas A&M take from Big 12 blogger David Ubben: The Aggies are in a state of turmoil. They have no coach and the players are understandably shaken up about it. Mike Sherman was loved around College Station, and his super classy exit press conference showed all the reasons why. Ultimately, Texas A&M's much-ballyhooed second-half failures ended Sherman's tenure as the head Aggie. The numbers are well-known by now, but still staggering. They tell the story of how a preseason top 10 team with as much talent as any in the Big 12 ends up at 6-6. Five halftime leads of double digits and another by nine against rival Texas. All were losses.
That doesn't change the talent on the field. Running back Cyrus Gray will likely return from injury, as will quarterback Ryan Tannehill with top targets Ryan Swope and Jeff Fuller. They'll play with an offensive line that has some legit NFL talent, a credit to Sherman's recruiting acumen as a coach with an offensive line background. Texas A&M is already assured of leaving the Big 12 with a bitter taste en route to the SEC next season, but a bowl win might help ... if only a little bit.
Northwestern take from Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern will play in a bowl for a team-record fourth consecutive year, but the Wildcats are still looking for that elusive postseason win after a disappointing 2011 campaign.
As players and coaches often are reminded, Northwestern hasn’t won a bowl game since the 1949 Rose. The Wildcats have come close the past three seasons, particularly in the 2010 Outback Bowl, but they’ve fallen short each time. While Texas A&M’s motivation might be a question mark after its recent coaching change, Northwestern will be geared up.
The good news is that unlike last year, Northwestern will have top quarterback Dan Persa on the field for its bowl. Although Persa didn’t look nearly as dominant this season as he did in 2010, he still led the Big Ten in passing (240.3 ypg) and completed 74.2 percent of his passes with 17 touchdown strikes and seven interceptions. Persa and the offense will need to put up points as Northwestern’s defense has struggled mightily this season and in the recent bowl losses. The Wildcats will be without top cornerback Jordan Mabin against Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill and his talented group of receivers.
This will be a virtual road game for Northwestern in Houston, as Texas A&M fans will pack Reliant Stadium. But Pat Fitzgerald’s teams often play better on the road than at home, as they are 14-8 on the road since the start of the 2008 season.
I couldn’t jump into the recruiting hubbub, however, without taking care of some Tuesday afternoon correspondence.
Richard Sylvester from Houston writes: Tim, love your blog. Thanks for all of the diligent hard work you’re cranking out day after day. I read it every morning and throughout the day.
My question is whether you’ve been reading an excellent set of posts from Frank the Tank’s Slant about a potential move by Texas to the Big Ten. It lays out several well-researched reasons why the ultimate big fish out there – bigger than Missouri, bigger than Syracuse and way bigger than Notre Dame – is Texas.
Could you envision a scenario where the Longhorns would ever leave the Big 12 behind and jump to the Big Ten?
Tim Griffin; I have been reading Frank’s interesting posts on the subject. And he raises some interesting points about how much money the Longhorns could ultimately make by joining the Big Ten in one of his most recent missives.
Obviously, the Big Ten is one of the most tradition-rich conferences in the nation, if not the most. Adding Texas would give them, like Frank writes the ultimate free agent in terms of college sports.
Texas matches the research qualities that members of the Big Ten’s academia would demand when a new conference partner would be added.
And it would deliver a huge potential market for the fledgling Big Ten cable television network if the state of Texas would be added. Some estimates are that the population for the states in the Big 12 would account for more than 90 million people if Texas was added to the Big Ten.
It would also conservatively mean the Longhorns would make at least $10 million in new athletic revenue because of the new revenue sources the Big Ten’s whopping television network provides, compared with the Big 12's current deal.
But whether they would leave the traditional rivals from the Southwest Conference and the new ones from the Big 12 is debatable. The travel costs would be huge in all sports and the Longhorns would be jumping into a cauldron of potential new opponents like Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Iowa among others.
Texas would have to agree to a revenue sharing deal in place in the Big Ten that is different from the Big 12’s where the teams that appear in the most television games and make the most NCAA basketball tournament appearances earn more money.
And remember how the Texas Legislature became involved with news leaked that Texas was leaving for the Big 12 Conference. It basically paved the way for Baylor and Texas Tech to tag along with Texas and Texas A&M. It would be interesting to see what would happen if Texas announced it wanted to go to the Big Ten by itself.
The Big 12 has been good for Texas. Virtually every sports program is at a level where the Longhorns can legitimately contend for a national championship. It has an intriguing mix of local and regional rivals.
It makes for some fanciful thinking and has a lot of interesting points to think about Texas leaving the Big 12. But I just don’t see it happening – at least at this time -- because of so many obstacles that would exist in the move.
Meni of Manchester, N.H., writes: In regards to the link you had yesterday about the Oklahoma players who were likely first-round selections in the Class of 2011, the guy in College Football News listed Travis Lewis, DeMarco Murray, Quinton Carter and Dominique Franks on his list. I thought Franks declared for the NFL draft, didn’t he?
Tim Griffin: Meni, you are correct. Franks declared for the draft shortly before the deadline. Most draft analysts have him going in the third or fourth round. He’s a very determined player and I think his speed should help him make an NFL squad as a special-teams player, making him an intriguing sleeper pick.
Steve Sutton from Ozona, Texas, writes: Tim: Interesting story about players who exceeded recruiting expectations, showing how uncertain the recruiting process is. I was wondering if you might elaborate on some of the more celebrated misses during the time of your survey.
Tim Griffin: Steve, I hope I was able to showcase how inexact recruiting can actually be. But I think the player in the most celebrated Big 12 player in recent seasons who has failed to live up to expectations was Colorado running back Darrell Scott, who was the No. 2 running back in the nation in 2008 and had an 89 ranking by ESPNU. He played with the Buffaloes during his freshman season before leaving the team midway through the season in 2009. His next playing situation is unknown at this time.
Of course, the player ranked ahead of him at running back has been a bust as well. Jermie Calhoun of Oklahoma was the No. 1 running back in the 2008 class, but redshirted and then gained only 220 yards and scored a touchdown in his redshirt season. Calhoun had trouble getting a chance at playing time behind Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray last season. It will be interesting if he develops and gets more of a chance for a playing time in 2010 after Brown’s graduation.
Another player who hasn’t lived up to expectations has been Texas defensive end Eddie Jones, who had an 88 ranking and was the No. 2 defensive end in the nation in the 2006 class. He hasn’t started a game at Texas in his first three seasons, although he showed some flashes as a situational pass rusher with five sacks and seven tackles for losses in 2009.
Pete from Omaha, Neb., writes: Tim, great blog, I love reading every day. I noticed that ESPN Sports Nation did a poll that asked if recruiting or game planning was more important for a coach to succeed. The vote showed that most fans think recruiting is more important.
But I disagree.
Bill Callahan and Charlie Weis were great recruiters, but did they ultimately succeed? What about John Blake? Nope. Game planning is what wins. Take Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern, Bo Pelini at Nebraska and Kirk Ferentz at Iowa. All of them are good recruiters, but they never attract top-five classes. Yet they have their programs at a consistent level. What’s your take on the issue?
Tim Griffin: Pete, you raise an interesting question. I think you ultimately have to have a combination of both, but I would lean to game planning as being just as important as recruiting in developing a contending program.
Like you mentioned, coaches like Pelini and Ferentz get good players, but they take them to high competitive levels thanks to their teaching and game planning.
The old recruiting adage has always described college football as “not being about the Xs and Os, but about the Jimmys and the Joes.”
But I think that’s changing as there’s more parity across the nation. When good coaches get good players, that’s when programs the foundations for really good programs start being built.
Cecil Wilson of Plano, Texas, writes: With recruiting coming to an end, I just noticed that Texas did not get a commitment from a tight end. Looking at the Longhorns’ roster, they have several, but I have not seen or heard of any of them, except for Blaine Irby. What do you think the Horns will do about this position in the upcoming season? With a new quarterback, either Garrett Gilbert or Case McCoy, they are going to need all the options they can have. Thank you for all your hard work. Hook 'Em.
Tim Griffin: The tight end hasn’t been a position of much relevancy for the Longhorns since Jermichael Finley left after the 2007 season. Irby was injured early in the 2008 season and didn’t play last season.
That left the Longhorns utilizing four-receiver sets in many occasions for many occasions. Greg Smith, a 260-pounder was the primary blocking tight end for most of the season. He was backed up by Ahmard Howard. Wide receiver Dan Buckner emerged at the flex tight end spot early in the season, but struggled getting the ball late in the season and has elected to transfer to Arizona.
The status of Irby is unknown at this time as he recovers from his injury. I look for D.J. Grant to have the best shot of emerging during spring practice. Grant was declared academically ineligible at the start of the season, but should be ready to go.
The tight end position will be of vital importance as Gilbert uses it for checkdown receptions. The question will be who will ultimately be catching passes from that position.
Thanks again for all of the good questions this week. I’ll check back again on Friday.
Here are a some that I’ve received over the last couple of days.
Austin from Arlington, Va., writes: Hey Tim, enjoy reading the blog, thanks for your reporting. I was interested in one of your comments today, when you mention you prefer the college version to the pros. I'm with you, but I was curious to hear you expand on that a little. What aspects of the game (excluding outside the game stuff like recruiting) make the college game a better version for you? Thanks again, keep up the good work!
Tim Griffin: I just think the college game lends itself more to the fans. You don’t have greedy owners threatening to move colleges at the drop of the hat if they aren’t satisfied with their stadium deal. I love the pageantry of a Saturday afternoon game. There’s color involved when you hit a college campus hours before a game you just don’t see in and around NFL stadiums. I’ve covered the NFL for many years, and it always seems too antiseptic for my tastes.
I also like the college game more. I think it skews a little bit more towards offense, which I like. I love the fact the clock stops after a first down, giving teams more plays over the course of a game. I hate the fact that television has made the NFL into a three-hour, 20-minute window with commercials after every kickoff.
I also will take recruiting over the NFL draft any day. And give me the college version of overtime where both teams have the opportunity to have the ball before a game is settled.
In my opinion, it’s really quite clear why the college game is better than the pro version.
Nate from Seattle, Wash., writes: Tim, love the blog, please keep the content coming during the offseason. That being said, on your "crystal ball" piece, in which you looked in to the Big 12's future, you got one thing terribly wrong. Bo Pelini is not interested in the LSU job. It has been mentioned before, but several reports have stated that his wife hated Baton Rouge and Bo wasn't a big fan of the area either. Ohio State may be an issue some day, but LSU? No.
Tim Griffin: Nate, thanks for the kind words. But I’ve heard from sources that Pelini wasn’t that all that happy with his experience in Ohio State, either. I just think that when some school from the Southeastern Conference waves a huge multi-million contract in front of Pelini, likely sometime in the future, he’ll have to think about it. And he left on great terms in the administration and among LSU fans. Not saying that would be enough to persuade his wife to start liking boudin and beignets, but a paycheck with a lot of zeroes at the end has a way of doing some not-so-subtle convincing.
Thomas from Columbia, Mo., writes: Tim, I liked your crystal ball predictions but was a little disappointed that nothing more about Missouri came from your thoughts. I was hoping that the Big 10 blogger would comment on Mizzou, but that didn't happen. If Missouri does not leave the Big 12, what are your predictions for the Tigers through 2020? And if they do go to the Big 10, where do you think they would end up? Will they fit in with a heavy offense, and annually limited defense? Will they flop or soar in the Big 10?
Tim Griffin: I would think it would be a little harder for Missouri to compete in the Big Ten on a consistent basis than the Big 12. The reason why is because I think the Big Ten is deeper top to bottom than the Big 12. The Big 12 has more dominant teams at the top like Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, but there are still some teams that Missouri enjoys a natural advantage over.
I think they would be on a more even basis in the Big Ten. Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Iowa would replace their big rivals in the Big 12. But I think they would be challenged on a consistent basis with teams like Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan State and others in the Big Ten as well.
Another possible problem if they were to ever leave the Big 12 would be that Missouri’s developing recruiting presence in Texas would gradually dry up. The Tigers and Gary Pinkel are entrenched in the state and have done a nice job of picking up under-recruited players like Chase Daniel, Sean Weatherspoon, Stryker Sulak and Ziggy Hood from Texas high schools and developing them once they spend a few seasons in the program.
I don’t think Missouri would be quite as effective recruiting Texas if they ever left the Big 12, because I don’t know how excited Texas players like I mentioned would be to play against Big Ten schools rather than Big 12 schools. Those Texas players are excited about an occasional trip back to Texas where friends and family could watch them play.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the Tigers. And like I predicted in my piece earlier today, it wouldn’t surprise me if they decide to move if they get the opportunity.
Dan from Texas writes: Hey Tim, read the blog every day, keep up the good work. I was wondering with the recent success of the Flexbone/Triple Option run by Georgia Tech, and the military academies, do you see more teams hiring coaches that run that system? Are you surprised more schools haven't given it a shot?
Tim Griffin: Dan, I don’t see the triple option really taking off as a mainstream offense at many schools. The military academies recruit to that kind of offense because they have tradition in place in running them and coaches who are confident in playing that offense.
But it’s a big change for most coaches to go to that kind of offense. They worry that the offense doesn’t provide an opportunity to come back in games if they were to fall behind by a couple of touchdowns. It’s not attractive to many of today’s recruits who have been weaned on the excitement of pass-and-catch football. Also, it’s the kind of offense that places your quarterback in jeopardy of being injured on almost every running play if he carries the ball. Most coaches add all that up and see that the flexbone or the option provides much risk when compared with other offensive philosophies.
While the option has a place in college football, I just don’t see it getting a lot of acceptance by most coaches when other offensive avenues are available.
Julio Ramirez from Corpus Christi, Texas, writes: Tim, were you surprised that Mack Brown had such a quick hook with Dan Buckner when he decided to leave school last week?
Tim Griffin: I was stunned that Buckner elected to transfer as quickly as he did. I don’t suspect he was particularly happy with his shrinking role in the offense at the end of the season. I don’t know if the arrest necessarily triggered that or not. But Mack Brown’s statement when he was released mentioned that Buckner’s family was convinced he would be cleared once he goes through the legal process.
Buckner will be getting a fresh start at Arizona starting in 2011. It’s a rare move from a Brown-coached school to one directed by a Stoops brother. But in Arizona’s offense, I think that Buckner could flourish. I think he saw what former Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski was able to do and likely thinks he could produce similar numbers with an opportunity to play for Mike Stoops’ team.
Charles Urich from Dallas writes: From your story about the hiring of Tim DeRuyter yesterday: "But duplicating that success against the offensive firepower in the Big 12 will be a different challenge? Particularly with the personnel the Aggies currently have." Tim, I'm curious to know what you meant by this statement. Are you saying the 4-star athletes we have in this new recruiting class on defense are lesser than what the Air Force Academy had? Are you saying that with the defense we had last year that almost beat Texas and beat Tech is a challenge to work with?
Tim Griffin: The Aggies do have some defensive talent, but in regards to the Texas game you were speaking of, I believe the Longhorns did gash the Aggies for 597 yards and 49 points in that game, didn’t they? The Aggies allowed more than 44 points in five games last season, including two in the sixties. They allowed 640 yards to Oklahoma, 520 yards to Texas Tech and even 521 yards and 31 first downs to Utah State, a team that went 4-8 this season.
DeRuyter will find himself with better defensive players, but he’ll be facing better offensive players, too. It’s a double-edged sword that will make turning around the Aggies’ defense a lot more of a challenge than his previous work at the Air Force.
Thanks again for all of your good questions this week. I’ll check back again on Tuesday.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Recruiting analyst Bill Kurelic provided some information about a couple of players with interest in Big 12 schools in his most recent notepad.
Oklahoma is still in the hunt for Under Armour All-American defensive back Joshua Shaw of Palmdale, Calif., although he is strongly considering three Big Ten schools.
"I'm a fan of Big Ten football," Shaw told Kurelic, a regular contributor to ESPN.com's Midwest Recruiting Blog. "I like the three power house teams, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State."
Shaw has scholarship offers from at least two dozen schools. He has narrowed his list down to the three Big Ten schools as well as USC, UCLA, Washington, LSU, Tennessee, Notre Dame and the Sooners. All but the Nittany Lions have offered and Shaw feels that offer will soon be on the way.
Oklahoma hasn't made Shaw's list of visits yet. He is set to visit Ohio State, LSU and Notre Dame during the football season. Shaw, a 6-foot-2, 180-pounder made 40 solo tackles and intercepted four passes during his junior season last year.
"All the schools are even. If I had to make a decision today it would be like picking out of a hat," Shaw said.
And safety/wide receiver Jimmy Hall of Southview High School in Sylvania, Ohio, has included Colorado and Kansas in a field of 16 suitors that also includes schools like West Virginia, Boston College, Northwestern, Indiana, Maryland, Syracuse, Vanderbilt and several Mid-American Conference schools.
"Right now I'm in the process of trying to get it down to a top five," Hall told Kurelic. "I'd like to get it down by the end of the summer. I've visited all the schools that have offered except Colorado, Kansas, Maryland and Vanderbilt."
The 6-foot-2, 192-pound Hall produced 85 tackles and intercepted five passes during his junior season. He also snagged 45 receptions for close to 1,000 yards.
He has made has no timetable in regards to selecting a college, and is leaving open the possibility of taking official visits.
"I'm trying to get a top five, then if I really like a school I could commit," he said. "I'm not sure about [official] visits right now."
Both players could help the Big 12 schools they have targeted, although it sounds like the schools in the conference aren't as highly rated as others from across the country for these prospects.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
If it's a Friday, it must be time to open some e-mails from my mailbag.Shane Riley from Arapahoe, Neb., writes: I know the Big 12 hasn't jumped on the bandwagon yet, but what is up with college teams wanting to play games in major league baseball stadiums? Why does Army want to play at Yankee Stadium so bad and why are Illinois and Northwestern looking to play at Wrigley Field? And if the Big `12 did jump on the bandwagon what teams would want to play at a Big 12 area baseball venue?
Tim Griffin: Shane, that has been an interesting trend in recent weeks. I've heard through the grapevine that Dodger Stadium would be interested in staging some college games there. Those baseball stadiums are looking for new revenue sources and they are trying to attract college games as another way to fill seats and sell more concessions.
I'm a football traditionalist and the idea of football returning to Yankee Stadium would be cool. I've heard all of the great stories about games there in the 1940s and 1950s. The New York Giants really got their fans turned on when they started playing there.
But even with the "wow factor," I would doubt if any Big 12 teams really would seriously consider any upcoming games in baseball stadiums. And the reason is because in every city with a major league franchise in the Big 12's geographic footprint, there is also a new football stadium with all of the bells and whistles that is significantly bigger than the baseball stadium in the city.
For example, I don't think that any college team would give up the chance for 25,000 extra seats by moving a game from Reliant Stadium in Houston to Minute Maid Park. I certainly don't think that will be the case in Arlington, Texas, where the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium has every accoutrement known to mankind and is much bigger than the nearby baseball stadium. And I don't see it happening in St. Louis, Denver or Kansas City, either.
The football stadiums are simply too big and it would hard to visualize any college giving up a shot for extra tickets to play in a baseball stadium that wasn't constructed to allow football in the first place.
It would be neat to see the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis lined up for a football game, but I'm not expecting it. The chance to play at the Edward Jones Dome at America's Center just provides too many more seats in a climate-controlled setting to boot.
Willis from Raleigh, N.C., writes: OK, I'm a traditionalist and love the old rivalries that college football has every year. When most conferences started to expand (SEC, Big 8 to Big 12, ACC), they kept the traditional games playing every year (Georgia-Auburn, Tennessee-Alabama, OU-Texas, Florida State-Miami, etc) and other conferences kept their "big" games (Michigan-Ohio State, USC-UCLA, etc). I mean, what is college football without Ohio State playing Michigan every year? That said, what was the Big 12 thinking when it got rid of the Nebraska-Oklahoma game every year? I grew up watching that game in the 70's, 80's, and 90's and it was one of the greatest rivalries in college football. It's a shame that they play each other every four or five years like Bonow.
Tim Griffin: I've heard that the lack of a yearly Oklahoma-Nebraska game bemoaned since the first conference schedules were generated for the Big 12.
The rivalry was a great one, although truth be told, it had slipped a lot in the 1990s in the Big Eight as Nebraska turned the conference into a cakewalk shortly before the Big 12 started.
One way around it could be making that game a designated rivalry game each season, although it would put those Nebraska and Oklahoma at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the teams in their divisions because they would be facing one of the powers of the other division every season.
I'm betting that Bo Pelini and Bob Stoops wouldn't like that idea nearly as much as some of the traditionalists.
And actually, the gap between games isn't as bad as you wrote. With the Big 12's sliding schedule, the two old rivals meet twice every four seasons.
I know it's not like the days when Barry Switzer and Tom Osborne were roaming the sidelines, but it's the best we can do for now.
Jim Perry from Albuquerque, N.M., writes: About Bill Callahan, I liked a lot of things about his offense. It was one of the few that sent Michigan wondering what happened. Callahan had a lot of answers but still needed a hard-nosed defense. I liked that he had class when it came to dealing with unruly players. I still think Callahan could still do it at the collegiate level and I wish him the best.
Tim Griffin: I also wonder about some of the contentiousness that some hard-core Nebraska fans hold for the Callahan era. Sure, he tried to dismantle a lot of the tradition on which that storied program is steeped. But at the same time, he helped the Cornhuskers win a Big 12 North title as recently as 2006.
If Callahan had played more to the Nebraska tradition, it definitely would have helped him out -- along with maybe a choice of a different defensive coordinator than Kevin Cosgrove. If Callahan had embraced the image of Nebraska and played to it like Mack Brown did at Texas or Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, it might have helped him weather some of the storms that he eventually faced. Not all of them, but it might have bought him an extra season or two.
I think the majority of Cornhusker fans are more excited about the future now than they've been since early in the Frank Solich era. And it should only get brighter as Pelini starts getting better players.
Charles Seibert of Albuquerque, N.M. writes: A couple of weeks ago you had an e-mail in the mailbag basically saying "Mack Brown only has one conference championship? What do Longhorns fans see in him?" Your answer focused on Stoops' domination in that department. Here's the rest of the answer.
The Longhorn fans would love to have more Big 12 crowns, but we judge UT's football program on many criteria. The 'Horns under Mack have a national championship, a stellar win-loss record (having passed Nebraska, Ohio State and Notre Dame among others on the all-time lists), regular finishes in the top five and top 10 (and ahead of the hated Sooners), near-automatic bowl wins (including 3-0 in BCS bowls) and solid records against their traditional rivals. With all of that, who wouldn't be proud to have Mack Brown coaching their team?
Tim Griffin: Charles, I agree with you. Mack Brown has the Texas program going as well as any in the country. And like you listed, he has many accomplishments and has his program pointed to claim a few more before he hangs up his whistle.
But with all of those facts in place, Stoops still has claimed six Big 12 titles and Brown has one. I hear from Texas fans all the time about their three victories in the last four seasons over the Sooners, but they also privately grumble they are disappointed that the Longhorns still have made only one trip to the Big 12 title game during that span compared to three for the Sooners.
That shows the strength of the South Division and the struggles that winning a division championship provides in each season. And for all of the accomplishments you listed, I still bet Mack Brown wishes he had more than one Big 12 title to show for it.
Steve Rodriguez of Sisson, Texas, writes: Tim, in reading your blog on a daily basis, I love your numbers and charts you come up with. I know of no other place I can find to get that kind of information with your spin on it. I wish you would share a weekly stat or tidbit in your mailbag or perhaps as a regular post that delv
es deeply into the numbers in the conference.
Tim Griffin: Steve, sounds like a great idea. And here's my tidbit for today. Or maybe I can "borrow" a term from the Tim Horton doughnut shops in Canada - thanks to my old CFL coverage I know about them - and provide a weekly "Timbit."
How about this one? During the course of the 13-season history of the Big 12 Conference, Bob Stoops has claimed six championship game victories. The most amazing fact is that no other coach has claimed more than one Big 12 title during that span.
Here's a list of coaches and their titles
Bob Stoops -- 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008
John Mackovic -- 1996
Tom Osborne -- 1997
R.C. Slocum -- 1998
Frank Solich -- 1999
Gary Barnett -- 2001
Bill Snyder -- 2003
Mack Brown -- 2005
That list speaks about as well to Stoops' domination of the Big 12 as any I could find.
Wally Gonzales of San Antonio writes: Hey Tim, I was wondering if you had any information on the new linebacker group at KU. I am interested in Justin Springer, who is from my hometown of Los Fresnos, Texas. Also when Kansas plays UTEP, it will be the first time that Springer will play against his twin brother, Jeremy. It also gets even more interesting when Justin goes up against his best friend Eloy Atkinson who is also from Los Fresnos and is the center for UTEP. I'd love to hear some inside information about this game.
Tim Griffin: Wally, Justin Springer has a chance to step up at linebacker, which appears to be the biggest weakness for the Jayhawks coming into the season. But Springer was hobbled by a knee injury that he sustained last season against Kansas State that caused him to miss the Jayhawks' final four games last season.
Springer has prototypical size for football of the 1990s when you consider he's 6-foot-4 and 242 pounds. But Coach Mark Mangino has placed a premium on speed with his defense and will want his linebackers to move well in space. That has to be a concern for Springer, considering he's coming off knee surgery.
Mangino also has hinted he plans to go to a 4-2-5 defense this season as his base. And he mentioned earlier this week that Arist Wright and Angus Quigley have really looked good so far in spring practices.
Springer wasn't able to practice during the spring, but Mangino has said he expects him to be ready for preseason camp. His recovery will be one of the interesting stories to follow next month for the Jayhawks.
And I think the UTEP game might be more difficult for the Jayhawks then some might expect. If they can't get much pass rush against underrated UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe, it might be a long evening in the Sun Bowl for the Jayhawks. Along with the potential matchup between the Springer brothers from Los Fresnos.
Chris Leonard from Minneapolis, Minn., writes: Tim, I read your summary of the Sporting News' all-time top coaches list. I was glad to see Tom Osborne on there, but 34th? And ninth among the college football coaches mentioned? I couldn't believe it.
Some writers have said that he didn't belong among the top 10 college head coaches and others have written that he wasn't a sexy enough coach to put on a top-10 list because of his perceived lack of flamboyance and personality.
What's with all the disrespect for the guy with the second-highest winning percentage in the modern era of college football? No one's ever reached 250 wins faster!
Tim Griffin: I agree with you that Tom Osborne was one of the greatest coaches in football history. He might not have been as verbose as Bobby Bowden or have the longevity of Joe Paterno, but his teams were always ready and he did a great job at making Nebraska a consistent national power.
I think the most significant facts about Osborne are that he won a share of the national championship three times in his final four seasons of coaching and nearly had another one in the previous season. And he finished the final five seasons of his career with a 60-3 record. Those are flashy numbers, in anybody's book.
Thanks for all of the good questions and I'll be checking in again next week.
Have a good weekend.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The number crunchers at Docsports.com have come up with the common statistical traits that the BCS national championship winners have shared.
1. Be a member of a "Big Six" conference or Notre Dame:
Teams still fitting the profile: 67.
2. Have at least eight wins in the previous season. Of the 11 BCS title winners nine teams (and the past six consecutive) have had at least eight wins the season prior to winning the championship. All have had at least seven.
Teams still fitting the profile: 37
3. Have a winning regular-season record in November-December games in the previous season. Winning games late in the season usually ensures a strong finish. Only LSU in 2002 -- with a 2-2 record in November and December -- claimed a BCS national championship without a winning record in those two months in the year before.
Teams still fitting the profile: 25.
Among those still standing are: Alabama (4-0), Boston College (4-1), California (3-2), Cincinnati (5-0), Florida (5-0), Georgia Tech (3-1), Iowa (3-1), Michigan State (3-1), Mississippi (4-0), Missouri (3-1), Nebraska (3-1), Northwestern (3-1), Ohio State (3-0), Oklahoma (4-0), Oregon (3-1), Oregon State (4-1), Penn State (3-1), Pittsburgh (4-1), Rutgers (4-0), Texas (3-1), Texas Tech (3-1), USC (5-0), Wake Forest (3-2), West Virginia (3-2) and Virginia Tech (3-1).
4. Have a junior or senior quarterback with some playing experience. All 11 teams that have won BCS national titles have had a junior or senior playing. All but Tee Martin of Tennessee had starting experience entering the season.
Teams still fitting the profile: 17.
Among those still alive are: California (Kevin Riley), Cincinnati (Tony Pike), Florida (Tim Tebow), Georgia Tech (Josh Nesbitt), Iowa (Richard Stanzi), Mississippi (Jevan Snead), Northwestern (Mike Kafka), Oklahoma (Sam Bradford), Oregon (Jeremiah Masoli), Oregon State (Lyle Moevao), Penn State (Daryll Clark), Pittsburgh (Bill Stull), Texas (Colt McCoy), USC (Mitch Mustain), Wake Forest (Riley Skinner), West Virginia (Jarrett Brown) and Virginia Tech (Tyrod Taylor).
5. Have six returning defensive starters from a unit that ranked in the top 20 in scoring defense in the previous season. Eight of the past nine teams to have won the BCS title have had a defense in the nation's top 20 in scoring defense the previous season (Florida was 46th in 2007) and all but one team (1998 Tennessee) returned at least six starters from their previous season's defense.
Teams still fitting the profile: 6.
Those teams that are eligible include Florida (fourth in scoring defense, 11 returning starters), Iowa (fifth in scoring defense, eight returning starters), Mississippi (20th in scoring defense, eight starters), Texas (18th in scoring defense, seven starters), West Virginia (11th in scoring defense, eight starters) and Virginia Tech (ninth in scoring defense, seven starters).
The formula has been accurate over the years. Of the seven teams that fit the profile coming into last season -- Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Rutgers, USC, and Wake Forest -- all won at least eight games and Florida won the national championship. The team the Gators beat for the national title, Oklahoma, was not included among those on the list.
So keep these trends in mind this season. It might be the reason why we end up seeing Texas and Florida playing for the national championship, if not Iowa, Mississippi, West Virginia or Virginia Tech at the Rose Bowl.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
If it's Friday, it must mean it's time to crack open the mailbag.
Here are some of the better questions I received this past week.
Ryan Lund of Minneapolis, Minn., writes: Hi Tim. I love your blog, especially as a Cyclone and Big 12 fan who lives in Big Ten country. You wrote recently that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is considering the creation of a Big 12 network. Do you see this eventually becoming a reality? And if so, when?
Tim Griffin: I would imagine that discussions are taking place in a broad sense between the conference and some of its partners about a potential television network. But before these plans would go forward, a determination has to be made on which way the conference's schools really want to go.
Mainly, would those Big 12 schools be willing to start their own television network -- with all the inherent chances for riches but with a greater gamble. Or would they prefer to take the model of the Southeastern Conference and employ a model where a television partner offered extensively wider distribution to the conference in exchange for them not creating their network. In essence, let somebody else do the work for them.
Both models seem to have worked.
I think the Big 12 is also hamstrung when compared to the Big Ten in a couple of ways. The Big 12 doesn't have as many attractive big-city markets or populous states as the Big Ten, lessening its chances for more money through wider distribution in their immediate areas.
More importantly, the Big Ten has always been more conducive to sharing revenues. It makes a smaller school like Northwestern feel like an equal partner to Ohio State or Michigan.
In the Big 12, the teams that have the most nationally televised games or make the most tournament trips receive more money.
That's been an ingrained idea that has been in place throughout the history of the conference and would be difficult to change, despite the wailing of some of the little brothers at the table clamoring for a bigger piece of the conference's pie.
I think for the idea of a conference television network to fly, it would be practical for all partners to be on an equal footing to help get it off the ground. And frankly, I don't know if the strongest schools in the Big 12 would be willing to share that much.
James from Swede Home, Neb., writes: Tim, remember you heard it here first. Evidence points to 2010 being the Year of the Cornhuskers. Exhibit A: A cupcake non-conference schedule with home games against Western Kentucky, South Dakota State, Idaho and Washington. Exhibit B: A friendly conference schedule favors the Cornhuskers with games against more difficult foes like Texas, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado at home. On the road, they will meet Kansas State, Iowa State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. This is the kind of schedule that would win championships.
Tim Griffin: And that's besides the fact that Zac Lee, Roy Helu Jr., Quentin Castille, Mike McNeill, Mike Smith, Keith Williams, Pierre Allen, Blake Lawrence, Anthony West and Prince Amukamara all should return for their senior seasons, as well. Add that younger players like Cody Green, Rex Burkhead and Chris Williams will have another year of experience. I expect the Cornhuskers to be pretty good in 2009 and even better in 2010.
James Coulter from Corpus Christi, Texas, writes: Tim, I completely agree with you on your assessment of the rushing statistic in college football and how it compares to how the stat is kept in the pros.
Do you think, however, that college football keeps its rushing game because of the larger role that quarterbacks play in the running game versus how much quarterbacks run in the NFL?
Tim Griffin: James, I got a lot of good feedback on that post. I just think that it diminishes the ability of running quarterbacks who are forced to include their sacks with their rushing total.
Actually, I think the NCAA does their statistics as a throwback to the older days when teams were more run-heavy than they are today. Sacks were fewer in those earlier days because teams didn't pass the ball as often.
But today, a quarterback is susceptible to a sack on many more passing attempts than in earlier eras of football. Those numbers eventually add up to diminish their rushing totals.
I just believe we would have a clearer, more consistent view of the rushing productivity of an offense or a defense -- those sack yards shouldn't be subtracted from the rushing totals. Instead, they should be kept in a separate category like in the NFL.
And yes, it does grieve me to say they do something better in the NFL than college football.
Dan Swanson writes: The story you wrote about Oklahoma giving $3 million back to the school was nice, but hardly merited the front-page coverage it received on your college-football link.
Why is it so special that Oklahoma's athletic department contributed $3 million back to the school?
That sum is pocket change from an athletic department of this size, particularly when you consider individual donors sometimes give $50 million to $100 million.
Tim Griffin: Dan, I respectfully disagree with your comments. I thought the Oklahoma gift to the general academic department at the school was significant for a couple of reasons.
First, it's one of the largest gifts that an athletic department has made back to its school this year. Secondly, the Sooners' athletic department made this gift without the benefit of new megabuck television deals like those garnered by some of the schools in the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten.
But the main reason I think the story was newsworthy was what Oklahoma president David Boren said when the gift was announced. The gifts, he said, helped the school avoid tuition increases or faculty layoffs.
In these challenging economic times, to hold the line on those costs is commendable. And if Boren credited the athletic department for helping to bring that about, it was noteworthy.
Jack Branch from Oklahoma City writes: Hey, Tim. You've got the ball on your own 20-yard line with 2 minutes left in a game needing a touchdown to win.
Which Big 12 quarterback do you want running your offense?
Tim Griffin: Jack, great question. Maybe it's because I just watched the tape of the 2009 Fiesta Bowl a couple of nights ago, but I would go with Texas' Colt McCoy. He might not have the deep arm of other quarterbacks in the league, but he has a knack for improvising big plays when he needs them.
Here's a statistic that best shows McCoy's clutch value, in my opinion. In games that he has started and finished that have been decided by seven points or less, Texas is 8-2.
Andrew Gaskill of Aledo, Texas, writes: Tim, I read your answer to a question about Chris Brown where you stated that you believe the combination of Brown and DeMarco Murray are the best combination in the Big 12. Wouldn't Oklahoma State's combination of Kendall Hunter and Keith Toston, which led the conference in rushing last season, be your top combination?
Tim Griffin: Andrew, I think the Oklahoma group is just a shade better because both of the backs rushed for 1,000 yards last season. Hunter led the conference in rushing last season, but the combination of Oklahoma's two primary backs makes them collectively just a little bit better, in my opinion.
And I also think an argument could be made that Nebraska's Helu and Castille are the second-best pair of running backs along with the Oklahoma State duo you mentioned.
Joe Costas from Memphis, Tenn., writes: As a Southeastern Conference fan, I'm enjoying your mythical matchups with the Big 12. But one question. What's with posting the midpoint between the two locations?
Tim Griffin: Joe, I just thought that might be a neat little trinket that would show the distances between the two teams. And the fact that it's often a small town only adds to its appeal, in my opinion.
The matchups will continue for the next couple of weeks. I'm taking a critical look at both teams before I make my pick, which is why the Big 12 hasn't fared so well, so far.
But you never know -- things could change in the mythical matchups. Keep reading them.
Thanks again for all of the great questions this week. Keep them coming and enjoy your weekend.
And let's agree to meet here again next week, OK?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Missouri had already wrapped up the Big 12 North title. And Kansas was playing merely to avoid a trip to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.
But last year's Border War had as much drama as any of the games in the series because of the gutty performance from several Kansas players who rebounded after earlier injuries in the season.
Reesing to Meier. Again and again.
Date: Nov. 29, 2008
Place: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
Score: Kansas 40, Missouri 37
Some of the luster from the previous season's game was missing as Missouri had already claimed the North title.
Kansas jumped ahead early and stretched the lead to 26-10 early in the third quarter on a 19-yard touchdown run by Jake Sharp.
But Missouri climbed back in with a pair of Chase Daniel touchdown passes 57 seconds apart midway through the third quarter.
The Tigers claimed the lead for the first time at 30-26 on Daniel's fourth touchdown pass of the game, a 6-yard strike to Chase Coffman with 6:52 left.
Kansas stormed back to reclaim the lead as Reesing connected with Kerry Meier on an 8-yard touchdown pass with 4:26 left to put them ahead, 33-30.
Daniel answered with an epic 73-yard drive in which he accounted for all of the yardage by his runs or passes until the last play of the possession -- a 6-yard scoring run by Derrick Washington with 1:50 left that pushed Missouri ahead, 37-33.
But the Tigers left too much time. And Reesing and Meier, who both had been banged up with injuries earlier in the season, were ready.
The duo hooked up five times for receptions on the game-winning drive, including the game-winning 26-yard strike on fourth down which gave the Jayhawks the lead with 27 seconds left.
But the game still wasn't over. Missouri took advantage of a 25-yard pass from Daniel to Jared Perry to advance to the Kansas 36. It set up a 54-yard field goal attempt by Jeff Wolfert on the final play of the game. But Phillip Strozier partially blocked the kick, preserving the victory in one of the wildest games of the 117-game series between the two bitter rivals.
Only a year ago, Reesing had beaten Meier out for the starting position at quarterback. But the former positional rivals worked together when the Jayhawks most needed them to provide one of the most dramatic triumphs in school history.
The numbers: Reesing, who played through various injuries in the game and had his hand stitched up afterward, finished 37-for-51 for 375 yards and four touchdowns. Meier produced a school-record 14 catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
Darrell Stuckey was the defensive standout for the Jayhawks, sharing team honors with six tackles, producing two interceptions and forcing and recovering a fumble.
They said it, part I: "Our injury list, a roll of toilet paper wouldn't be enough. We've got guys that played today that could barely walk a week ago. It's the guttiest performance I've ever been associated with as a coach," -- Kansas coach Mark Mangino, who told reporters after the game how proud he was of his team's effort.
They said it, part II: "His play was phenomenal. I get this feeling when I watch him that you can almost see this competitive spirit radiate from him," Mangino on Reesing's performance.
The upshot: Despite the loss, Missouri advanced to the Big 12 championship game the following week in the same stadium. The Tigers dropped a 62-21 loss to Oklahoma, their second-straight Big 12 title game defeat to the Sooners.
Kansas advanced to the Insight Bowl, where Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe and Meier were at it again. The Jayhawks combined for an impressive 42-21 victory over Minnesota. The game marked the Jayhawks' first back-to-back bowl appearances in school history. After losing four of five games late in the season, Kansas finished 8-5.
Missouri concluded the season with an impressive bowl victory, punctuating Daniel's career with a 30-23 overtime victory over Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl. Missouri finished 10-4 with a No. 19 ranking in the final AP poll in 2008.
22. A Texas-sized comeback - Texas over Oklahoma State in 2004.
23. A Border War unlike any of the rest -- Missouri over Kansas in 2007.
24. Seneca Wallace's wild TD run vs. Texas Tech in 2001.
25. Baylor's "So Much for Taking a Knee."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Sean Weatherspoon stops himself just short of saying that the final results of his last two seasons have been a disappointment.
His Missouri team qualified for two-straight Big 12 championship games, but lost convincingly to Oklahoma in the title game to cap both seasons.
|Brad Schloss/Icon SMI|
|Missouri coaches are very happy top linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is back for his senior season.|
Except maybe Weatherspoon and his teammates, whose cause was boosted when the senior linebacker opted to return after flirting with declaring for the NFL draft.
"When I decided to come back, I did so to help our football team," Weatherspoon said. "We still have a lot of great players, but just didn't put it together the way it should have been. This team has the opportunity to do that and over time, hopefully become a better team."
The Tigers lose offensive standouts like Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman and Jeremy Maclin. And their defensive departures will be sizable too, with Stryker Sulak, Ziggy Hood and William Moore among a group of seven starters who won't be back.
But in a balanced North Division without a clear-cut favorite, Weatherspoon thinks the Tigers will be able to confound observers who are already predicting their demise.
"It's great when you are the underdog," Weatherspoon said. "Everybody had said we'd win the North the past two or three years, but we still haven't gotten over the hump yet. With this team, we're going to surprise some people this year."
If they do, Weatherspoon will be a key reason.
He's become the face of the program as his visage adorns ticket promotions and the Tigers' preseason media guide.
But even after a strong finish that featured a 17-tackle effort that earned him the MVP honors in the Tigers' Alamo Bowl victory over Northwestern, Weatherspoon was projected as a third-round draft choice.
That realization was like a cold slap to Weatherspoon and provided some immediate motivation for his senior season.
"As soon as that happened, (Missouri linebackers) coach (Dave) Steckel called me up," Weatherspoon said. "He told me I could go back and show them what I really have by winning the Butkus and proving something to them."
Weatherspoon has returned with a different attitude. He's still the Tigers' most active and vocal leader heading into their Saturday spring game, but also is attacking other areas to help prepare him for the next level.
The most significant area he must improve is in separating himself from offensive linemen. His inability to "shed blockers" in scout speak is the major weakness that keeps him from comparing with potential first-round linebacker picks like Aaron Curry, Clay Matthews and James Laurinaitis.
"I just need to work harder in the weight room and become more diligent in my film study," Weatherspoon said. "I've got to spend more time in the film room and learn tendencies and stuff like that -- just become more of a student of the game."
Steckel, who has since been hired as the Tigers' defensive coordinator, is glad to have Weatherspoon back.
"Sean is a very, very good football player, but he just needs to take care of the little things," Steckel said. "He's intelligent, smart, fast and really knows our defense. Now, he just had to the little intricacies of the position to take him to the next level."
And an inspired Weatherspoon, with the low draft reports as a stimulus, might have a chance to become one of the nation's elite players.
"Knowing Spoon, that will spur him to great things," Steckel said. "Personally, I think he's close to getting to that level anyway. I was the happiest guy in the world when I heard he was coming back."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Statistics compiled by the NCAA indicated the Big 12 is coming off a record season in attendance as well as the largest growth of any BCS-affiliated conference.
The Big 12 attracted an average of 62,956 fans per game last season -- one of only five FBS conferences to show growth last season. A struggling economy helped explain why only the SEC and Big 12 showed attendance growth during 2008 for home games.
Here's a look at how the Big 12 ranked with the other FBS conferences
A more telling examination can be found how individual schools rank in attendance. The Big 12 had one school ranked among the top 10 schools in home attendace, four in the top 14 and five among the top 26 schools.
Here's a list of each Big 12's average attendance and where it ranks among FBS schools, and also among the 65 schools in BCS-affiliated conferences.
It's interesting to note that all Big 12 schools played to 90 percent home capacity with the exception of Baylor, which played to less than 70 percent capacity at Floyd Casey Stadium.
And for you trivia connoisseurs out there, the four teams that ranked in front of Texas were Big Ten powers Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State and Tennessee from the SEC.
The 10 non-BCS affiliated schools that ranked higher than Baylor in average attendance were Notre Dame (16th), BYU (27th), Utah (51st), East Carolina (56th), Hawaii (58th), Navy (59th), UCF (61st), Air Force (64th), Fresno State (65th) and UTEP (66st).
And the seven BCS-affiliated schools that ranked lower in Baylor than average attendance last season were Syracuse (69th), Cincinnati (71st), Indiana (72nd), Wake Forest (73rd), Washington State (74th), Duke (78th) and Northwestern (79th).
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's been difficult for Derrick Washington to sit on the sideline the first several days of Missouri's football practice this spring.
|G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images|
|Derrick Washington rushed for 1,036 yards for Missouri in 2008.|
Washington had arthroscopic knee surgery in February to get ready for the upcoming season and plans to return to practice in two weeks -- after the Tigers' break next week for spring vacation.
Here are some of Washington's thoughts about the upcoming season and becoming more of an offensive weapon for the Tigers in 2009 as they rebuild after losing quarterback Chase Daniel, wide receiver/kick returner Jeremy Maclin and tight end Chase Coffman.
How has practice gone so far and how difficult is it for you to watch from the sideline compared to participating?
Derrick Washington: I'm rehabbing and just helping the team. I hate sitting out and watching. I see the competition going on across practice and wish I could be in it, too. It's hard for me to watch.
After getting the arthroscopic surgery, do you feel like you're coming close to being able to participate in practice?
DW: It's going pretty good. My rehab is going well and I'm working out twice a day. I'm trying to get my stride back and that's coming along, too. I should be back at practice in about a week.
I think the scope helped me out. I'm strengthening it with my work and getting stronger. I should be ready to help us out before too long.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I know it's March Madness. But spring practice is continuing across the Big 12 with plenty of interesting stories. Here are some of today's most notable:
- The Oklahoman's Jake Trotter reports that Corey Wilson has been moved out of OU Medical Center and into a rehabilitation facility. Wilson suffered a serious spinal cord injury in an automobile accident two weeks ago.
- Colorado could be scrambling for an opponent after Miami (Ohio) appears to have two opponents scheduled on Sept. 12 -- the Buffaloes and Northwestern, the Boulder Daily Camera's Kyle Ringo reports.
- Jared Crick could be poised to assume a starting defensive tackle position when Nebraska begins practice on March 25, according to Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal-Star.
- Columbia Daily Tribune beat writer Dave Matter analyzes what the promotion of new coordinator Dave Steckel will mean for Missouri's defense.
- Kansas added a late commitment at a huge position of need with the addition of linebacker Jon Watts of Oroville Butte (Calif.) Community College, according to the Lawrence Journal-World.
- Former Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew frustrated a group of scouts from 19 NFL teams Wednesday when he failed to run at Oklahoma State's Pro Day. Pettigrew told Tulsa World reporter John Hoover he was sidelined with a grade one strain of his right hamstring.
- Former Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz hopes to use the slight of not being invited to the recent NFL combine as motivation during the Cornhuskers' Pro Day on Thursday, the Omaha World-Herald's Mitch Sherman reports.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Former Missouri quarterback Chase Patton might be the most unlikely player in the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game.
First, Patton barely got a chance to play while in college. And he didn't even play for a Texas school.
But it's not as if Patton isn't complaining. He's just happy to be playing with the Texas team in Saturday's game at the Sun Bowl in El Paso.
"I'm very fortunate that I'm getting my opportunity," Patton said. "I want to go out and make the most of my chance when I get it."
Patton arrived at Missouri as one of the Midwest's most heralded high school players after earning Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year honors in 2003. He was rated as one of the top five quarterbacks nationally coming to Missouri in the recruiting class of 2004.
The plan was for Patton to sit behind Brad Smith for a couple of years and then take over the starting position after Smith graduated.
But shortly after Patton's arrival, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel switched to a spread offensive attack that put a premium on movement. It also was the same offense that Chase Daniel played in high school.
Daniel thrived in the offense, beating out Patton to become one of the most decorated players in the school's football history. Patton threw only 31 passes during his college career as he backed up Daniel.
Some might be surprised that Patton never left for another playing opportunity. But the Columbia, Mo., native believes that his college experiences have given him perspective that will suit him well in whatever he does in the rest of his life.
"My faith is a big part of my life," Patton said. "I wouldn't have scripted it like it's played out, but I've learned some things about perseverance and mental toughness through what I've done. There have been a lot of valuable things that I've learned, but it's been hard sometimes to see something good come out of it."
And a funny thing happened as pro scouts looked at Daniel and compared him to Patton. It turns out the second-stringer might be better suited to play professionally because of his size and arm strength.
Scouts love Patton's size (6-foot-5, 220 pounds). But he's very raw and hasn't really shown much while playing for the Tigers, leaving his ability as something of a mystery for pro scouts who have flocked to watch workouts this week.
He's working under center for the first time in several years during his workouts for Saturday's game after operating in the shotgun in Pinkel's offense for most of his college career.
After providing some anxious initial moments, Patton is warming to the change.
"It was a little tough getting my chemistry with my receivers early in the week," Patton said. "But I'm getting comfortable just going out and playing and not thinking. I'm getting into rhythm and things are starting to come together for me."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here is a representative sample of the questions I received during the past week about the Big 12:
Jeff from Austin writes: Tim, thanks for your work at ESPN.com covering the Big 12. I enjoy reading your stuff. But I'm floored by your perspective about Baylor being sixth in the South next year. There is not any way that Texas A&M or Texas Tech is better than Baylor next season. I think Baylor will easily win six games, maybe seven or eight. I think you might be picking according to history, and not looking at the information that is the 2009 season. I don't see how they finish without a bowl game.
Tim Griffin: I did consider history pretty strongly. For example, Baylor hasn't won in College Station since 1984. Their schedule also turns around. Baylor's four toughest games will be at home, but I just don't see them being able to consistently beat teams like Texas, Texas Tech, Nebraska and Oklahoma State. All are listed in most preseason top 25 lists. Baylor will be lucky, in my opinion, to win one of those games. The Bears go to Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas A&M and Iowa State for their road games. They haven't won at any of those schools except Iowa State since the Big 12 was formed. Their nonconference schedule eases a little bit, but I still see them as an underdog at Wake Forest. They should win remaining home games against Connecticut, Northwestern State and Kent State.
So even with another year of experience for Robert Griffin and Joe Pawelek's return, it will be tougher for the Bears to improve by two games with their schedule turning around. I think it will be close between Texas A&M and Baylor, but I give A&M a slight edge just because they are playing coach Art Briles' team at home.
Joe from Omaha writes: Tim, some up here are all over you about picking Nebraska to win the North Division. What is your rationale for picking the Cornhuskers to win?
Tim Griffin: I know that many polls are picking Kansas to win the North Division. But I'm thinking that the South Division will dominate the North as before, and Kansas has a murderous South with visits to Texas Tech and Texas and a home game against Oklahoma. That likely will give the Jayhawks three losses right there. It will mean that Kansas absolutely has to beat Nebraska in the showdown game and hope the Cornhuskers lose two other games in the division.
I also looked at how Joe Ganz flourished under Shawn Watson's tutelage and think he should be able to get Patrick Witt or Zac Lee to similarloy develop in his offense. Quentin Castille looked like a monster in the Gator Bowl and Roy Helu Jr. had his moments. The Cornhuskers will have four starting offensive linemen returning. And the Cornhuskers' defense with Ndamukong Suh, Pierre Allen and Phillip Dillard and the secondary with Anthony West, Larry Asante, Matt O'Hanlon and Eric Hagg will be the strength of the team.
If Pelini can find a serviceable option at quarterback, they should be able to cobble together enough wins to win a tight North Division race.