Big 12: Penn State Nittany Lions
One of my best friends in Oklahoma City is a Penn State grad who moved to the Sooner State a couple of years ago. Since we met, she’s always talked about how special a place Penn State is.
As fate would have it, my Flip Week assignment happened to be State College, Pa., which gave me the chance to inspect firsthand whether she’s been telling the truth.
Turned out, she was.
My visit to Penn State exceeded even the expectation she set for me. The food was great. The people were even better. And the experience was a memorable one.
Below is an overview of my trip to a place I hope to return to someday soon:
(Me eating a Penn State mooseburger)
Must-see sight in State College: The heartbeat of the Penn State football experience is the tailgate. Before every game, tens of thousands descend to the parking lots and fields outside Beaver Stadium for pregame camaraderie. As several tailgaters explained to me, the Penn State tailgate is a way for family and friends who might not live close to one another to reconnect, which is difficult to do during the actual game. The tailgating doesn’t end when the final whistle blows, either. Floodlights outside the stadium are kept on hours after the game, so the tailgates -- and the reunions -- can carry on into the night.
Biggest surprise: Despite everything that has happened the last couple of years, the school spirit at Penn State couldn’t be stronger. Students camped out for the best seats the night before, even though the opponent was Purdue. Downtown State College was hopping the night before the game. Penn State bumper stickers lined the highway all the way back to the airport I flew into (Pittsburgh). I couldn't detect any malaise on campus, and thanks in large part to coach Bill O’Brien, there is an infusing optimism that Penn State will be back on top before long. That’s saying a lot, considering the program was on the brink of decimation just a year ago.
Biggest difference from Big 12: The fans in the Big 12 are great. The student sections are great, too. But I'm not sure any students in the Big 12 would camp out in 30-degree weather the night before to get tickets for a game featuring an opponent the caliber of Purdue. In fact, I’ve seen many student sections in the Big 12 with empty seats under similar circumstances. Not only was the student section at Penn State overflowing, but it was boisterous the entire day. I’m not sure I’ve seen a student section live or die on every single play in a game that was never really in doubt.
They said it: “In this state, the one thing you have to do before you die is go to a Penn State tailgate.” – Penn State fan Luigi Puglia
If I could go back: I would take in more of the State College nightlife and the Penn State campus. Because I was on official assignment, I avoided State College staples such as Otto’s Pub and Brewery and the American Ale House & Grill, but both came highly recommended. Because my itinerary was crammed, I didn’t have a chance to just walk around the Penn State campus and go through buildings like the Hub, either. Apparently, there’s a mule skeleton on display there.
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.
And Texas, as always seems to be the case, has nearly finished its recruiting with another solid haul of players among the top teams in the nation.
There's a reason for this, detailed in the Lincoln Journal Star earlier this week.
It seems Baylor, Nebraska and Texas are among only 12 schools nationally to have the same coaching staff in place for a third straight season heading into the 2010 campaign.
Continuity speaks volumes in the competitive world of college football recruiting. Having coaches in place for a number of years enables them to foster relationships with high school coaches that result in better recruiting over time.
You can definitely see that taking place this season with the Cornhuskers, Bears and Longhorns.
Here are the teams that have had the same full-time coaches in place since the start of the 2008 season, according to the Journal Star. I also listed their 2009 records and conference records.
1. Baylor (4-8, 1-7 in the Big 12 last season)
2. Indiana (4-8, 1-7 Big Ten)
3. Iowa (11-2, 6-2 Big Ten)
4. Navy (10-4)
5. Nebraska (10-4, 6-2 Big 12 runner-up)
6. North Carolina State (5-7, 2-6 ACC)
7. Penn State (11-2, 6-2 Big Ten)
8. Texas (13-1, 8-0 Big 12 champion)
9. UAB (5-7, 4-4 in Conference USA)
10. Vanderbilt (2-10, 0-8 SEC)
11. Virginia Tech (10-3, 6-2 ACC)
12. Wake Forest (5-7, 3-5 ACC)
Not all of these programs have experienced consistent recent success. But the Big 12 teams appear headed in that direction after a successful recruiting effort again this season. Staff continuity is one of the biggest reasons.
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.
Fans and pundits have castigated Kiffin about his move to a job that has to rank among the top 10 in college football -- even after some of the Trojans’ pending dealings with the NCAA.
Soon thereafter, Texas assistant coach Will Muschamp was thrown into the conversation as a potential replacement for Kiffin at Tennessee. Muschamp, who is the coach-in-waiting at Texas, apparently had the chance to make an unprecedented salary for a first-time college football coach if had decided to lead the Volunteers.
Muschamp opted to stay in Texas, which I believe was a wise choice. The promise of the Longhorns’ top job, even if he has to wait on Mack Brown’s retirement for several seasons, is still is better than the Tennessee job will ever be.
And who can blame Kiffin for trading the life at Tennessee for the glitz and glitter of living in southern California? It seems like an easy choice, particularly because the USC program is a better job.
While I was talking with Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini last night, we started ticking off an informal list of the best jobs in college football. Here’s my list of the 10 most attractive head coaching positions in college football. Three of them are in the Big 12.
1. Texas: It’s got it all -- facilities, support, tradition and located within a rich recruiting base. Mack Brown has made this the nation’s best job. Muschamp would be crazy to skedaddle to Rocky Top and leave this behind.
2. Florida: Recruiting might be better than Texas and the location provides a beach lifestyle. The only trouble with this job, compared to Texas, is that Florida’s place in the SEC is a little more tenuous than Texas’ place in the Big 12.
3. Ohio State: Tradition, facilities and an unmatched place in the pecking order of the Big Ten. Some coaches would love the weather in Columbus, while snowbirds might see it lacking compared to places like those at the top..
4. USC: “Tailback U” has returned to the top thanks to Pete Carroll’s transformation. This is the football team for a southern California without an NFL franchise.
5. Alabama: Still wondering why Dennis Franchione left Alabama for Texas A&M. Another stadium expansion after this season’s national championship has made this a job that Nick Saban would willingly leave one of the NFL’s flagship franchises to return to. Considering his college allegiance, he’s a smart man.
6. Oklahoma: Bob Stoops might have the best setup in coaching considering he’s working for Joe Castiglione and David Boren. Recruiting will always be a matter of plucking Texas players and Stoops has done a marvelous job at that over the years.
7. Penn State: It will be interesting to see who follows Joe Paterno when he finally decides to hang up his whistle. This is one of the Big Ten’s best jobs with facilities and history to match. It might be daunting to follow Paterno, however.
8. Notre Dame: Still has the attention of NBC and the tradition of college football’s most storied program. Can they find the right coach to return Notre Dame to its place of dominance?
9. LSU: There’s a reason why Les Miles decided to stay here rather than pursue the Michigan job. Rabid talent base and SEC television money make this one special. And you can eat good crawfish any time you want.
10. Nebraska: The only drawback for this job is its lack of a fertile home recruiting area. But other than that, this job has got it all including one of the nation’s most knowledgeable fan bases. It’s the biggest unifier for the entire state as college football is clearly king here.
I would have a few other jobs like Georgia, Tennessee, Oregon, UCLA and Florida State ranked just below these top jobs. Texas A&M would be in my top 20. Oklahoma State -- as long as Boone Pickens is financially priming the pump -- would be in my top 30.
I’m curious what the readers might think in terms of a top 10 of destination coaching jobs? Please feel free to provide your rationale to back up your assertions.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
You've seen them across the blogosphere before. Heck, I've even done them in the past with a "hot-seat rating" for those coaches and their chance for employment in their current job.
I'd like to stretch those thoughts a little by coming up with something new -- a longevity rating for Big 12 coaches.
These ratings have been crafted to gauge how long I think each Big 12 coach will remain at his current job.
For example, nobody could ever argue with the coaching credentials of Mack Brown and Bill Snyder. Both will likely end up at the College Football Hall of Fame one of these days and neither has a seat that could even be considered remotely warm after their past accomplishments.
But with Will Muschamp already anointed as Texas' coach-in-waiting and Snyder's age, it would hard to imagine either of them coaching at their schools five to seven years from now.
These ratings not only judge the security a coach has been able to craft at his position, but also how likely he will remain at the job for an extended period of time.
1. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: He's directed the Cowboys to the golden era of success and he's in surroundings with creature comforts that few programs can match. And he has an appreciation for how far his program has come since his own playing career two decades ago. He likes to say that this is his "destination job" for the rest of his lifetime. I believe him.
2. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: Even with the recent BCS losses, he's as secure as any coach in the nation with a multi-million dollar annuity upcoming. Six Big 12 titles -- no other coach has more than one -- provide a sense of cache. But I still get the idea that this isn't his last coaching job. Maybe it's an NFL position; maybe it's another big-time college. He likely will consider it when his kids get older and might be looking for another coaching challenge somewhere down the line. But I don't look for it to happen anytime soon.
3. Bo Pelini, Nebraska: Arguably, Pelini might be positioned to make this his destination job, morphing into the new millennium's version of Tom Osborne. But it might be interesting to see what would happen if he has success and a top job in the Midwest at a power like Ohio State, Notre Dame or Penn State ever came open.
4. Mark Mangino, Kansas: He's piloted Kansas into what arguably might be the school's golden age of football success. But with that also comes expectations as the Jayhawks are coming into the season as Big 12 North favorites in many quarters for the first time. It will be interesting to see how the Jayhawks and Mangino react to that role.
5. Gary Pinkel, Missouri: His back-to-back title game appearances likely have earned him the leverage to make this his last job. But he's going to have to build on his success with a new cast of characters this season.
6. Mike Leach, Texas Tech: He became college football's newest made man after starting down athletic director Gerald Myers in a high-stakes game of chicken. Leach won. You could argue he's bigger than the program, considering the national attention he has generated for himself. But what would happen if he finally got the dream offer from another big-time job in another part of the country?
7. Art Briles, Baylor: If he turns Baylor into a winner, he should have his choice of other top jobs in the future. But with the school's new training facilities and improved recruiting, I could see him staying here for many years if he wants. But I can imagine it's going to get frustrating battling all of the strong schools around him in the South Division.
8. Mack Brown, Texas: Poised to go down in history as one of the greatest coaches in Texas history, I can see Brown always being employed by the school in some form or fashion. But as the head coach, I'm not so sure. With Muschamp waiting in the wings, the Longhorns have an orderly transition in place for settling on their next coach. How long it might be is anybody's guess. I could see Brown riding into the sunset if he ever won another BCS title. And that might come sooner than later.
9. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State: His administration will give him time, but this remains the most difficult place to win in the conference. He's surrounded himself with a solid staff of assistants for his difficult turnaround. It still might not be nearly enough.
10. Bill Snyder, Kansas State: It's got to be a heady feeling taking your team into a game in a stadium that has your name on it. That being said, Snyder will face some huge challenges that weren't there during the salad days of his program in the late 1990s. Will that still fuel his incredible work ethic at the age of 69? We'll see over the next few months. He's repeatedly said that he re-entered coaching to still the waters at his old school. How long will that take?
11. Dan Hawkins, Colorado: The pressure on him to win is incredible. And he didn't help himself with the 10-win claim, whether it was meant to help him set goals for the team or whatever. He does have a nice home schedule in conference play and an underrated set of players. But the Buffaloes' lack of big-play producers in the passing game could prove to be a season-long challenge -- particularly when matched against some of the other high-powered aerial attacks in the conference. It doesn't sound like a good recipe to spread a little more "Hawk Love" across the Flatirons.
12. Mike Sherman, Texas A&M: It's a different world coaching college football than in the NFL. Sherman has shown a quick aptitude for recruiting better athletes his program so desperately needs. But the Aggies appear mired in the South Division cellar at a time when competition has never been keener from all of the schools around them. And that's not a good set of circumstances to promote job security.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
As promised, here are a few tidbits about the Big 12 teams that were ranked in the preseason Associated Press poll released earlier today.
Texas: Ranked at No.2, the Longhorns return to the top 10 after starting the season No. 11 last season. It's the Longhorns highest ranking since starting the 2005 season in the second slot. As all Longhorns' fans remember, that was the last time that Texas won the national championship.
Texas' 2009 ranking also represents the ninth time in the last 10 seasons that Texas started the season in the top 10. And it also extends the Longhorns' current streak of being ranked in preseason polls to 11 -- longest in school history.
Oklahoma: The Sooners' No. 3 ranking is their highest in the preseason since checking in at No. 2 in 2004. It's also their ninth-straight season in the preseason top 10. The last time the Sooners weren't in the top 10 in the preseason was in 2000, when they were 19th. And as all Sooner fans remember, that was the season they won their last national championship.
Oklahoma State: Tied for ninth with Penn State, the Cowboys have their highest preseason ranking in school history. Their previous high came in 1985 when they were ranked 16th. It is the first time the Cowboys have been ranked in the preseason since 2003.
Nebraska: Checking in at No. 24, the Cornhuskers are ranked in the poll for the first time since 2007, when they were ranked 20th. The Cornhuskers had a record among Big 12 teams with a string of 33-straight seasons when they were ranked in the preseason top 25 from 1970 through 2002.
Kansas: The Jayhawks are ranked No. 25, marking the second-straight season they have been ranked to start the season. It marks the first time in school history that Kansas has been ranked in the preseason in back-to-back seasons.
And here's a list I came up with for Big 12 teams and the last time they were ranked in the preseason AP poll, or their streak of consecutive AP preseason rankings:
- Texas: 11 straight rankings
- Oklahoma: 10 straight rankings
- Kansas: 2 straight rankings
- Nebraska: 1 straight ranking
- Oklahoma State: 1 straight ranking
- Missouri: Last ranked in 2008 preseason poll
- Texas Tech: Last ranked in 2008 preseason poll
- Texas A&M: Last ranked in 2007 preseason poll
- Kansas State: Last ranked in 2004 preseason poll
- Colorado: Last ranked in 2002 preseason poll
- Baylor: Last ranked in 1986 preseason poll
- Iowa State: Last ranked in 1978 preseason poll
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The pundits over at College Football News had an interesting project a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to discuss before the start of the season.
Their list had a decided crimson-and-cream hue to it with more Oklahoma players -- by far -- than any other team in the country.
The Sooners had 10 players selected. Penn State was next with six players, followed by Florida, Virginia Tech and USC with five players apiece. Oklahoma State, Texas and Kansas were among the team with four players apiece.
Here's a list of the Big 12 players who were selected with their rankings in parenthesis.
Oklahoma (10): QB Sam Bradford (5), DT Gerald McCoy (8), TE Jermaine Gresham (20), T Trent Williams (47), CB Dominique Franks (T141), LB Travis Lewis (142), RB DeMarco Murray (148), LB Ryan Reynolds (173), DE Jeremy Beal (182), RB Chris Brown (185).
Texas (4): QB Colt McCoy (4), DE-LB Sergio Kindle (19), T Adam Ulatoski (122), DT Lamarr Houston (152).
Baylor (3): QB Robert Griffin (37), LB Joe Pawelek (73), S Jordan Lake (126).
Missouri (2): LB Sean Weatherspoon (17), RB Derrick Washington (118).
Nebraska (2): DT Ndamukong Suh (10), DE Pierre Allen (170).
Colorado (1): RB Darrell Scott (116)
None selected: Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech
As expected, the Big 12's offensive reputation dominates with 17 players from that side of the ball, compared with 13 defensive players. And the 21-9 edge that the South Division enjoys isn't actually as one-sided as nearly every all-conference team that I saw.
But it again exhibits the star power of the conference when 30 of the top 200 players -- a cool 15 percent -- will be playing in the Big 12 this season.
I'll check back tomorrow with this list broken down by opposing nonconference players that Big 12 teams will be seeing in their nonconference games.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Six Big 12 schools are represented in the initial 62-man watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Award, which is awarded annually to the nation's best defensive player as determined by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club.
Defensive end Jeremy Beal and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy represent Oklahoma, which leads all Big 12 teams with two selections.
Other nominees include Baylor linebacker Joe Pawelek, Texas defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle, Kansas defensive back Darrell Stuckey, Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.
The watch list is topped by 17 players from the Southeastern Conference and nine from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Big 12 is next in a three-way tie for third with the Big Ten and the Pacific-10.
The Big 12 has accounted for four of the Bronko Nagurski Award winners since it began play in 1996, most recently Texas' Brian Orakpo last season. Other Big 12 winners have included Oklahoma's Roy Williams (2001) and Derrick Strait (2003) and Texas' Derrick Johnson (2004).
Finalists for the award will be announced in mid-November. The trophy will be presented on Dec. 7 in Charlotte, N.C.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I've seen colleges emblazon their names on windbreakers and Snuggies, toilet seats and ice cream.
Heck, once at a party I was stunned when I wandered into an empty room and saw a friend had a lifelike 6-foot cutout figure of former Iowa coach Hayden Fry. He looked like he was about ready to roar at an official.
But unquestionably the weirdest sponsorship deal I've ever seen has been the introduction of Masik Fragrances for school-specific perfume products for Penn State, North Carolina and LSU.
The company also plans to introduce products for Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn later this year. A percentage of each bottle sold will go to the university's scholarship and athletic fund.
The development of a school-specific scent is a lot more complicated than I would have thought.
After campus visits, discussion with students and alumni and additional research, a school perfume is developed, the company reports. Among the characteristics considered include school colors, mascot spirit, traditions and history, landmarks and architectural style, campus trees and flowers, mission statements, college town character and themes in the school's alma mater and fight songs.
The Big 12 is missing out with this as each school and stadium has a specific scent that I could pick out if I closed my eyes and tried to imagine them.
Nothing, of course, matches the distinctive odor of a Texas-Oklahoma football game at the Cotton Bowl. The mixture of spilled beer, farm animals from the nearby State Fair of Texas and grease from the corny dog fryers waft to me as soon as I leave my car. It's hard to categorize, but something I instantly recognize each year.
Which Big 12 school will be the first to have its own fragrance?
I can't wait to see which one joins up first. I'd love to take a blind "smell test" to describe what the scent reminds me of.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Big 12 players dominated the Water Camp Player of the Year watch list announced Friday with eight players, including 2008 winner Colt McCoy of Texas.
The Big 12's number was double of any other conference. The Pac-10 and Southeastern Conferences were next with four players apiece.
Among the Big 12's nominees were quarterback Sam Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham of Oklahoma, running back Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Dez Bryant from Oklahoma State, McCoy and wide receiver Jordan Shipley of Texas, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon of Missouri and quarterback Todd Reesing of Kansas.
Oklahoma State, Texas and Oklahoma were among five schools to have two players nominated to the list. The others were Florida and Penn State.
McCoy became the fourth Big 12 winner of the award. Earlier winners included Ricky Williams of Texas in 1998, Josh Heupel of Oklahoma in 2000 and Nebraska's Eric Crouch in 2001.
Other winners from current Big 12 schools before the conference started included Oklahoma's Steve Owens in 1969, Nebraska's Johnny Rodgers in 1972, Oklahoma's Billy Sims in 1978, Nebraska's Mike Rozier in 1983, Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders in 1988 and Colorado's Rashaan Salaam in 1994.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
We all know that Bob Stoops' nickname is "Big Game Bob."
But the question is, how big do sports fans really feel Stoops is?
SportsNation is ranking 20 coaches in terms of their power at this link. Among those on the list are Stoops, Texas football coach Mack Brown and Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self.
As of 10:30 a.m. ET, Stoops is ranked ninth in the poll, Brown is 11th and Self 18th among those coaches who have been included.
Stoops is ranked sixth among the football coaches and Brown is seventh. They trail, in order: USC's Pete Carroll (second), Florida's Urban Meyer (third), Penn State's Joe Paterno (fourth), Florida State's Bobby Bowden (seventh) and Alabama's Nick Saban (eighth).
Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski ranks at the top of the poll, which has received 2,186 votes up to this time.
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 Sporting News came up with an interesting list of its top 50 selections of the greatest coaches of all time.
Not surprisingly, legendary UCLA men's basketball coach John Wooden earned the top slot.
There were 11 college football coaches on the list, including two that represented Big 12 schools during their coaching careers. It was selected by a panel of 118 Hall of Famers, championship coaches and other experts.
Bud Wilkinson of Oklahoma was picked as 29th on the list and Tom Osborne of Nebraska was 34th.
Two active coaches were picked and there's really no surprise that either of them made the list. Penn State's Joe Paterno was listed as 13th and Florida State's Bobby Bowden checked in at No. 24.
And several coaches in college basketball, the NBA and the NFL with Big 12 connections also made the list.
Among them included:
- Dean Smith, college basketball, No. 8: Graduated from Kansas.
- Bob Knight, college basketball, No. 16: Retired from coaching after finishing his career at Texas Tech.
- Tom Landry, NFL, No. 18: Played college football at Texas.
- Adolph Rupp, college basketball, No. 21: Played college basketball at Kansas.
- Bill Parcells, NFL, No. 33: Worked as an assistant football coach at Texas Tech.
- Hank Iba, college basketball, No. 47: Coached at Oklahoma State.
- Gregg Popovich, NBA, No. 49: Worked as volunteer assistant at Kansas.
It's a well-researched list and Big 12 schools certainly are well represented.