Big 12: Phillip Bates

Big 12 internal affairs: Pelini trusting in his talent

November, 19, 2008
11/19/08
8:20
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are a few tidbits from around the Big 12 this week.

The biggest change in recent weeks is that Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is trusting in his scheme and the players who are operating it. Earlier this season, Pelini crafted a gimmick defense when he played Missouri. Now, he's more willing to let his talent play. Of course, the recent surge by the Nebraska front four is helping him feel that way, too. The Cornhuskers have notched nine sacks in their last two games after producing only five in the first five Big 12 conference games.

Two recent losses to Texas A&M has Texas coach Mack Brown searching for ways to better prepare for his traditional rival. One change that will help will be enthusiasm from his young players. Brown has been pleased with the contribution of young players in recent weeks. The list includes safety Christian Scott, center David Snow, defensive tackle Kheeston Randall and defensive ends Sam Acho and Eddie Jones. All had big games in the Longhorns' 35-7 triumph over Kansas last week. And the excitement of playing next week for a possible BCS berth should do the trick, too.

Oklahoma will be scrambling against Texas Tech's massive offensive line without two key pass rushers this week as defensive ends Auston English and Alan Davis both will be out with knee sprains. To build depth at the position, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has moved converted linebacker J.R. Bryant to one backup spot and seldom-used Pryce Macon will serve at the other position behind starters Frank Alexander and Jeremy Beal. The Sooners are also bracing to use the nickel formation as their base against Tech's collection of wide receivers. That would mean extensive use for backup safety Quinton Carter, who made his first career start against Kansas last month. And Nic Harris will likely remain at safety with redshirt freshman Austin Box continuing to start at middle linebacker for Ryan Reynolds, out for the season with a knee injury.

Chase Coffman is unquestionably one of the most valuable receivers in the conference, but does the Missouri system play just a little part in his success? Freshman backup Andrew Jones produced seven catches last week against Iowa State as the Cyclones hardly missed Coffman, who was out with a sprained toe.

Iowa State has gotten to the final game without quarterback Austen Arnaud sustaining an injury, with only freshmen Jerome Tiller and Brett Bueker behind him as backups. If Arnaud should become injured against Kansas State, coach Gene Chizik has a plan. Chizik said he would insert freshman wide receiver Darius Darks, a converted high school quarterback and the team's leading receiver last week against Missouri, into the quarterback position. Chizik also said that the Cyclones have worked on an emergency package that includes direct snaps to the tailback. He remains adamant about saving the redshirts for both Tiller and Bueker after not playing either of them this season after the midseason departure of former backup quarterback Phillip Bates.

Lunchtime links: No late heroics in Daniel's Heisman bid

October, 17, 2008
10/17/08
12:46
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It's always seemed like orchestrating a successful Heisman Trophy candidacy is a lot like running a presidential election campaign.

Similar strategies are employed with ideas to highlighting a presidential/Heisman candidate, trying to showcase the positive accomplishments of the player/presidential candidate. It's not exactly about kissing babies, but it doesn't hurt to have a View Master ready to highlight what a sports information director might not be able to highlight on a website or a press release.

That's why Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News might have unearthed the "Swift Boat" chink in Chase Daniel's armor that could torpedo his Heisman bid.

Finger's research detailed that since taking over as Missouri's starting quarterback in 2006, Daniel has never won a game in which Missouri trailed at any point in the second half. The Tigers are 0-8 in those games.

Additionally, Missouri blew second-half leads in five of those losses - in 2006 at Texas A&M, at Iowa State and in the Sun Bowl against Oregon State, in 2007 at Oklahoma and last week against Oklahoma State.

Popular image has always had Heisman Trophy winners as those unshakable winners who will their teams to comeback victories. Think Doug Flutie could have won without his "Hail Mary" against Miami in 1984? I don't think so.

There's still time for Daniel to turn around the negative momentum in his campaign after his loss to Oklahoma State last week. And his moment will come Saturday in Austin, when he can reverse his second-half struggles and slay an old ghost in the process by beating Texas on Saturday.

Here are some other links from across the conference for your lunchtime perusal:

  • Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star writes about the correlation between experience and coaching success in the Big 12. The conference's six ranked teams are directed by the six coaches with the most head-coaching experience at their current jobs.
  • Baylor freshman WR Kendall Wright is on his way to making history if he can continue leading his team in receptions. And he's also planning to play basketball for the Bears after football season ends.
  • Ames Daily Tribune beat writer Bobby La Gesse writes about message-board meltdown after Iowa State's four-game losing streak, its loss of back-up quarterback Phillip Bates and a 28-point spanking last week at Baylor.
  • Maybe it's the three-game losing streak. But Nebraska fans have bombarded Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel's mailbag with angry letters about the coaching of Bo Pelini and his staff - six games into Pelini's coaching tenure with the Cornhuskers.
  • John Shinn of the Norman Transcript writes about the close association between Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and Kansas coach Mark Mangino, an original member of his first staff with the Sooners.
  • Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star explains that a string of recruiting misses over the last three seasons is the reason why freshman walk-on linebacker Matt Holt is now starting for Nebraska.

Big 12 internal affairs: Kansas, OU look to fix leaky special teams

October, 15, 2008
10/15/08
9:58
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's a look at some tidbits from around the league that are transpiring as teams get ready for games this week.

1. Both Kansas and Oklahoma have added more playmakers to their special teams after recent struggles for both teams covering and returning kickoffs. Bob Stoops plans to add four new members to his kick coverage team that has been blistered for two TD returns, including a pivotal 96-yard return by Texas' Jordan Shipley last week that turned the game around. And Kansas coach Mark Mangino has talked about placing starters like James Holt and Joe Mortensen on his special teams as the Jayhawks rank last in the nation in kick returns. The Jayhawks are averaging 12.4 yards per kickoff -- almost three yards per return less than the next-lowest team, Kent State at 118th.

2. Iowa State has inserted freshman Jerome Tiller as its backup quarterback after Phillip Bates left school. Coach Gene Chizik hopes that he can still make it through the season using only Austen Arnaud as the quarterback and keeping the redshirts intact for Tiller and fellow freshman Bret Bueker. Early word is that Bates likely won't resurface at another Big 12 school because it would cost him an additional season in the transfer. A more likely location would be a FCS school where he could play immediately or an FBS school like Ohio University, where his family already has a strong association with coach Frank Solich. Bates' father, Phillip Bates Sr., was a running back at Nebraska who played there when Solich was his position coach under Tom Osborne.

3. Texas ditched using a tight end in favor of a four-wide receiver look as its base offensive formation against Oklahoma. And the unit's success -- 438 total yards and 20 combined catches from Quan Cosby and Shipley -- make it likely to be used more during the rest of the season. Starting tight end Blaine Irby's season-ending injury robbed the Longhorns of their top receiving threat at the position. The four-receiver sets have made the Longhorns lethal in terms of big-play capabilities, but a little weaker trying to consistently run the ball.

4. Considering the recent injury to Lamark Brown, it wasn't surprising that quarterback Josh Freeman emerged as a key rushing threat in the Wildcats' victory last week over Texas A&M. Freeman produced career-high totals of 18 carries, 95 yards and four rushing touchdowns against the Aggies. In the philosophy of Kansas State quarterbacks coach Warren Ruggiero and offensive coordinator Dave Brock, the quarterback is used as more of a rushing weapon. Freeman has gained positive rushing yards in each of his six starts this season. Before this season, Freeman had netted positive yards in only eight of his 20 previous career starts.

5. Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is doing what he can to instill discipline on his team, even if it affects its performance in the short term. Key players Michael Bennett and Mike Goodson weren't in the starting lineup last week against Kansas State after discipline issues, paving the way for the Wildcats to jump to an early 27-3 lead over Sherman's beleaguered team. Sherman is hoping that his struggles bottom out as he tries to make the Aggies know they've got a firm leader running the program.

Texas, Oklahoma State soar in Big 12 rankings

October, 13, 2008
10/13/08
10:51
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

1. Texas -- Longhorns expect an even tougher game this week against Missouri than their last one -- if that's possible.

2. Oklahoma State -- Stunner in Columbia ranks as one of the biggest victories in school history, mainly because of the uptick in the Cowboys' national ranking.

3. Oklahoma -- Sooners will be facing huge challenges in trying to return to championship contention while tweaking the running game and finding a replacement for Ryan Reynolds.

4. Missouri -- Chase Daniel has been waiting for a long time to play Texas. But that's nothing like his school, which hasn't won in Austin since 1896.

5. Texas Tech -- Upset against Nebraska was averted by the kind of late defensive stop Ruffin McNeill has been preaching about.

6. Kansas -- Look who's sitting alone in the North Division penthouse. The Jayhawks' recent turnaround has been keyed by hard running of Jake Sharp.

7. Kansas State -- Josh Freeman's big day against Texas A&M underscores why he might be among the nation's most underrated players.

8. Baylor -- Robert Griffin had another strong game against Iowa State, but the biggest story in the victory was the Bears' solid defensive performance.

9. Nebraska -- Near-miss at Lubbock turned on Joe Ganz's only turnover of the game.

10. Colorado -- Would a quarterback change become a prickly issue for the Hawkins family? Considering recent offensive struggles, that decision could be looming.

11. Iowa State -- Penalty-prone Cyclones can't afford an injury to Austen Arnaud after Phillip Bates' departure.

12. Texas A&M -- Aggies' 0-2 conference start is their worst since 1984 and their 1-3 home start is their worst since 1980. Those negative numbers can even deflate excitement about Jerrod Johnson's record-breaking offensive performance against Kansas State.

Bates' decision creates big depth problem for Cyclones

October, 9, 2008
10/09/08
7:13
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The timing of Iowa State backup quarterback Phillip Bates' decision to quit the Cyclones' team was surprising, but the decision itself likely wasn't.

As soon as ISU coach Gene Chizik made his decision to go exclusively with Austen Arnaud in the Kansas game last week, it was only a matter of time before Bates would leave. As Chizik gave Arnaud more playing time in the last two games -- and as the Cyclones progressed offensively -- it made Bates' decision almost a certainty.

Chizik didn't make a decision before Arnaud and Bates in the spring and allowed both to play in the Cyclones' first four games. Bates threw touchdown passes in each of ISU's first two games and even rushed for a team-high 83 yards in the Cyclones' victory over Kent State.

But Arnaud turned the tide and firmly grasped the starting job after nearly leading a comeback against UNLV. Arnaud directed three drives of 80 yards or more in that game, including a drive in the final minutes of regulation that forced overtime in a game the Cyclones eventually lost, 34-31.

Bates' departure will put big responsibility in protecting Arnaud during the rest of the season. The Cyclones have two freshmen quarterbacks on their roster -- Brett Bueker and Jerome Tiller. Chizik had hoped to be able to redshirt the 6-foot-4, 179-pound Tiller to build him up physically for next season, making Bueker the likely backup for the Cyclones' game Saturday at Baylor.

Big 12 internal affairs: Whatever happened to 'The J Train?'

September, 24, 2008
9/24/08
10:12
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are a few tidbits from around the conference that have people talking:

1. Even with the presence of super-sized 285-pound FB Jorvorskie Lane, it's clear that Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman has other options in short-yardage plays. Lane had a remarkable streak earlier in his career, converting 27 of 29 plays for first downs in short-yardage situations. But Sherman opted to use 201-pound junior Keondra Smith twice on third-and-1 against Miami because of his pad level and his possibility of breaking a big gain. Smith converted one of the two plays. Lane has had trouble getting into shape and his usage could be greatly curtailed after only seven carries so far this season.

2. It might have been a coming-of-age moment for Austen Arnaud, even as Iowa State coaches say they are still open to playing two quarterbacks. But Arnaud's dramatic 98-yard touchdown drive in the closing moments of regulation at UNLV appear to have given him the inside track to more playing time as the Cyclones' starting quarterback. Phillip Bates will still get some looks, but Arnaud's performance clearly puts him in the driver's seat as the team's assured leader.

3. Oklahoma coaches have been concerned with DeMarco Murray's running style so far this season. They believe he is running against the grain too much with hopes of making big plays. It's understandable why after Murray broke touchdown runs of 92 and 65 yards last season and returned kickoffs 91 and 81 yards for touchdowns. He remains one of the most explosive players in college football. But his longest run in the Sooners' first three games this season has been "only" 49 yards.

4. After strong success running the ball against West Virginia, look for Colorado to employ the I-formation as a way of boosting production from the running game, rather than the shotgun formation they have heavily relied upon in recent seasons. Running from the I will be a way of boosting production keyed with a veteran offensive line and emerging running backs like Rodney Stewart and Darrell Scott. But it will be a bigger challenge for the Buffaloes against a Florida State defense that will return four additional starters from suspension this week.

5. Baylor will use its off week with plans of trying to get more players involved offensively. After Robert Griffin accounted for 48 plays against Connecticut (23 runs, 25 passes) there was concern that his teammates were relying too much on him. Look for Jay Finley and Jacoby Jones to get more work to try to keep the Bears from relying too much on their playmaking freshman quarterback.

Big 12 internal affairs: Geer's return bolsters CU

September, 17, 2008
9/17/08
12:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are a few items to watch for around the Big 12 this week

1. Expect a more balanced Colorado offensive attack against West Virginia with the return of TE Riar Geer, who missed the last two games with a sprained knee. His return will give the Buffaloes an intermediate receiving threat important against West Virginia's 3-3-5 defense. Don't be surprised if it also boosts the confidence of QB Cody Hawkins, who will have his favorite target from last season returning.

2. Despite being overshadowed by linebacking mates Joe Mortensen and Mike Rivera, Kansas LB James Holt is being used as the team's top blitzer in new coordinator Clint Bowen's schemes. Holt responded with a game-high 13 tackles, a sack and forced two fumbles while thriving in his new role against South Florida.

3. Junior-college transfer RB Keithen Valentine will get the majority of playing time against Louisville and not just because of his rushing abilities. Kansas State coaches think the 5-foot-8, 197-pound Valentine is the best antidote they have for Louisville's blitz tendencies.

4. Don't be surprised if Missouri opts to bench S William Moore for this week's game against Buffalo. Moore, the Tigers' inspirational leader and best defensive back, tweaked his injured ankle against Nevada. The Tigers would like to have him as near to 100 percent as possible for the start of conference play Oct. 4 at Nebraska.

5. Iowa State QB Austen Arnaud got all the snaps except for three series against Iowa. Despite that imbalance, Iowa State coach Gene Chizik remains committed to a two-quarterback system where Phillip Bates will see some playing time in every game. Chizik likes to use his quarterbacks depending on feel. He expects to use both this week against UNLV.

No surprises in Big 12 yet

September, 13, 2008
9/13/08
6:56
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The games in the Big 12 have played out as expected today. Big victories by Missouri and Oklahoma State by a combined margin of 126-30 were to be expected, as was Iowa's 17-5 victory over Iowa State.

Here are a few things that I saw after watching games throughout the afternoon.

  • Chase Daniel is playing like a Heisman Trophy candidate and Missouri's offense is awesome. Of course, the Tigers still haven't played a defense that has legitimately tested them.
  • Phillip Bates didn't give Iowa State the lift I thought he would provide as a spot player. And the Cyclones had as much trouble as I thought they would against Shonn Greene, who gashed them for 120 yards and a touchdown.
  • Oklahoma State's offense might be the most versatile in the conference. They can pass like they did last week in coming back for a victory against Houston. And they can pound the ball on othe ground like at Missouri State, when they gashed the Bears for 450 yards with three different backs with more than 100 yards.

I'll have another report later this evening after games involving Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Nebraska.

Big 12 links: Stoops turns 48 with hopes of ending road woes

September, 11, 2008
9/11/08
8:10
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Bob Stoops turned 48 earlier this week. And while the Oklahoma coach is revered in the Sooner State, it wasn't a holiday or anything.

At least not that we know of.  

Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel put his spin on Stoops' birthday in a unique way. He compared the career stages for other notable Oklahoma football coaches when they turned 48.

Barry Switzer's wishbone was struggling a little when he turned 48 in 1985 with Troy Aikman as his starting quarterback. Bud Wilkinson was in the middle of his run for the U.S. Senate in 1964. Chuck Fairbanks was trying to rebuild a struggling program at Colorado, well after his salad days at OU. Bennie Owen was getting ready for his 19th season as the Sooners' head coach. And Howard Schnellenberger was preparing for his fourth season as Miami's head coach, only 23 victories into his college head-coaching career.

With Stoops apparently excited about continued coaching at Oklahoma, it will be interesting to see what happens for him in the years after his 48th birthday.

Of a more immediate interest for him will be his team's trip to Washington to attack some nasty road karma. Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle writes that Stoops currently has a nation-best 20-game home winning streak at Owen Field. During that same time, the Sooners are a more pedestrian 12-9 on the road.

Those recent road woes have raised the stakes for Saturday's game at Husky Stadium.

"For me, this is the game of the year because this sets the tone for our future road games and sets the tone for our team," redshirt freshman LB Travis Lewis told the Chronicle. "It's easy playing in front of 85,000 who love you, but what about the 80,000 who hate you?"

It will make Saturday's game the biggest test for the Sooners so far this season. If Stoops can win, he would become the fourth OU coach to have won 100 games during their careers at the school, joining Wilkinson, Switzer and Owen.

Pretty select company, indeed.

Kind of like being included with these morning links:

Big 12 internal affairs: Quigley poised to emerge

September, 10, 2008
9/10/08
10:47
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are some tidbits from around the conference that will shape how teams play their games this week.

1. Kansas: TB Angus Quigley, a third-stringer before the start of the season, has emerged as the team's most consistent rushing threat. Despite big expectations for Jake Sharp and Jocques Crawford before the season, it's been Quigley who's been the best runner. The Jayhawks need some kind of consistency rushing the ball for any kind of success against South Florida on Friday night.

2. Missouri: Coaches are hoping the return of S William Moore and LB Van Alexander will help boost their defense's production. The Tigers allowed 250 yards passing against Southeast Missouri State and surrendered 15- and 11-play drives in the first half of the game. That unit must improve before Big 12 play begins.

3. Iowa State: Look for the team to use Phillip Bates more against Iowa than in his first two games as he's backed up starting ISU QB Austen Arnaud. Bates' athleticism could give the Iowa defense some problems, particularly on option plays and other outside runs. Remember, Bates' 38-yard reception last season against the Hawkeyes was the key play in ISU's game-winning drive.

4. Oklahoma: Don't be surprised if top defensive recruit R.J. Washington gets his redshirt pulled this week. The Sooners' depth at defensive end is lagging as Frank Alexander recovers from a stab wound. And Washington has been routinely wowing coaches with his performance in practice. They believe it's about time for him to be tested in a game.

5. Oklahoma State: Despite Dez Bryant's huge game last week against Houston, look for Oklahoma State to try to develop other receiving threats this week against Missouri State. With Artrell Woods gimpy with a knee injury, players like Jeremy Broadway, Damian Davis, Josh Cooper and DeMarcus Conner need to produce to keep offenses from concentrating on Bryant.

Big 12 morning links: Harris' resolve told in inspiring story

September, 10, 2008
9/10/08
8:56
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin 

Oklahoma S Nic Harris has faced a long road to playing college football.

John Hoover of the Tulsa World tells a riveting story about Harris' determination to succeed, despite being shuttled among family members throughout his childhood.

That resolve has helped him bounce back from early struggles in his college career into one of the nation's top defensive backs. His memories about the Oregon game two years ago -- still fresh because of the Sooners' trip to the Pacific Northwest this week -- show how far he has come.

It's a terrific story that I can't recommend more highly. Spend some time reading it.  

Here what's making news across the Big 12 this morning:

Big 12 morning links: Sooners return to Northwest

September, 9, 2008
9/09/08
10:16
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

After a miserable early trip to the Northwest, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops promised he would never again play a Pac-10 team on the road.

Stoops' determination was fueled by the Pac-10's rules that mandate having its own officials work nonconference home games.

The Sooners were involved in a controversial onside-kick recovery at Oregon two years ago that eventually led to a comeback victory by the Ducks.

But even after another controversial Pac-10 officiating decision in Seattle last week, Stoops said his team is ready for the challenge of another tough road game Saturday at Husky Stadium.

Stoops said Monday he couldn't get out of the Washington game because it had already been scheduled before the Oregon game.

"You know how it is to try and get games. Scheduling isn't easy to do," Stoops said. "Washington had already come here. It's living up to the agreement. We're good with it and anxious to go play. It's a great stadium with a great atmosphere. You need to go meet the challenge."

An extensive package of stories in the Oklahoman this morning renewed memories of that Oregon game framed against the backdrop of the blown call in the BYU-Washington game last week. 

Just a thought here. Maybe it would be better to let sleeping dogs lie.

And that's why Stoops hasn't made much about his earlier disappointment as he prepares for the Huskies on Saturday.

Here are some of the other stories people are talking about across the Big 12 this morning.

  • Texas DT Lamarr Houston will be back in the starting lineup against Arkansas following  a one-game suspension stemming from a DWI charge. Houston took responsibility for his actions as he met with the media.
  • Although WR Dez Bryant made headlines with 236 receiving yards, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was pleased with the work of his other receivers in the Cowboys' victory over Houston. WR DeMarcus Conner, who didn't have a reception, delivered 12 knockdown blocks. That work appears to have OSU headed to having a 1,000-yard rusher and receiver for the fourth time in the last six seasons.
  • Kansas All-Big 12 LB Joe Mortensen was set to be a Nebraska player before Bill Callahan reneged on a scholarship offer on signing day.
  • A Nebraska fan has reached a settlement with the Oklahoman and Oklahoman beat writer Jake Trotter after writing a bogus article about two OU quarterbacks from earlier this summer.
  • The Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel speculates that Nebraska's early running game struggles might be the residue of a line trained to emphasize pass blocking in the last four seasons.
  • The Lincoln Journal-Star's Curt McKeever had this nugget from Colorado coach Dan Hawkins about the Big 12's unprecedented 12-0 record last week: "I guess if it's the first time ever, it's pretty hard."
  • Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman isn't ready to rule out QB Stephen McGee from the Aggies' next game against Miami, despite a sprained right shoulder.
  • Iowa State QB Phillip Bates remains known more for his big reception last season against Iowa than for his throwing abilities. ISU coach Gene Chizik said his team must show major defensive improvement for any hope of upsetting the Hawkeyes on Saturday.
  • Colorado will spend the next 10 days trying to get a handle on the offensive changes at West Virginia, where the natives are restless after the struggling start against East Carolina.
  • Lawrence Journal-World columnist Tom Keegan writes about Daymond Patterson, Kansas' new deep threat. The Jayhawks will be trying to prove something to the nation Friday night at South Florida, even as they work in new CB Phillip Strozier into the starting lineup.
  • The Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond wonders why third-string QB Blaine Gabbert's redshirt was burned in the Tigers' game against Southeast Missouri State. Meanwhile, the Tigers' struggling pass defense, which ranks 115th nationally among 118 teams, has sputtered since All-American S William Moore went down with a foot injury. And WR Danario Alexander is set to return after missing his first two games with a knee injury.
  • After being found not guilty of first-degree sexual assault, Nebraska OL Andy Christiansen was reinstated on Monday. But Coach Bo Pelini is more concerned about finding a replacement for injured DE Barry Turner.

Arnaud learned early about rivalry with Hawkeyes

September, 8, 2008
9/08/08
4:50
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

To say that Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud has been raised on the importance of the Cyclones' rivalry with Iowa would be an understatement.

Arnaud's father, John, was a three-year starter for the Cyclones from 1978-81, earning the nickname of "Landshark" because of his ferocious hitting in the secondary. And he infused his son with the same kind of fierce determination for beating ISU's cross-state rivals from an early age.

"There were always Iowa fans around when I was a kid," Arnaud said. "But I was the one to talk up the Cyclones. I used to have my gear on everything from head to toe when I was a little kid."

The rivalry is just as important after Arnaud chose to follow in the footsteps of his father as a Cyclone player. He's sharing snaps with Phillip Bates as the Cyclones prepare for their game against the Hawkeyes in Iowa City on Saturday.

Despite starting both games, Arnaud has been kept on a tight leash by ISU coach Gene Chizik. The rotation has helped the Cyclones jump to a 2-0 record, scoring at least 40 points in each of their first two games for the first time since 1976.

"He's been a little up and down as we thought he would be," Chizik said. "But he's done some nice things. And there have been some things that he and we wish he could take back. But those are growing plains we're prepared to deal with."

Arnaud's statistics have been impressive, completing 20 of 26 passes for 264 yards and two TD passes as he ranks third in the Big 12 in passing efficiency. Arnaud also has added two rushing touchdowns.

But Bates, who is considered the more elusive runner, has had his moments as well, rushing for a team-leading 138 yards and passing for 109 more.

"Austen hasn't thrown the interceptions he threw last year and he's controlled and managed the offense well," Chizik said. "He's done a nice job and to this point we're proud of him and Phillip. But we've got to continue to improve."

Interestingly, Iowa is also handling a similar two-quarterback platoon as junior Jake Christensen and sophomore Ricky Stanzi are sharing snaps for the Hawkeyes.

While the shared snaps aren't ideal for Arnaud, they aren't unfamiliar. He was involved in a similar platoon late last season with Bret Meyer that helped spark the Cyclones to two victories in their final three games in 2007.

"It's definitely tough sharing the role and I don't have really advice for them," Arnaud said. "It's a week-long process focusing and getting ready. And I approach it the same way when Phillip is in the game. You always have to be ready to go back in and do what you can."

ISU has dominated the recent series, claiming seven of the last 10 games in the Cy-Hawk Rivalry. The importance of the game is elevated because of the lack of major-league sports in Iowa.

"This game is huge ... it's important to a lot of people," Chizik said. "There are so many passionate people for both Iowa and Iowa State. We don't have the NFL or the NBA or things like that in this state and this becomes the substitute for professional sports. This state will be in a frenzy and that's what makes it important. It's bragging rights for 365 days."

The game couldn't be coming at a better time, providing a few moments of levity after the calamitous floods that have struck Eastern Iowa throughout the summer.

"This state needs this game after all it went through," Chizik said. "At least for the next week we'll be able take our minds all of the troubles and woes. It's important that we're playing this game and it will be fun."

Big 12 links: Why Thursday should be a Big 12 day, too

September, 4, 2008
9/04/08
8:12
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It's the quiet before the storm today, still two days away from the games this weekend.

After all the excitement of last week's opening games, I'm wondering why the Big 12 doesn't have at least one Thursday night game every week during the nonconference part of the season. It would be a great opportunity for the conference to build some awareness.

The bigger Big 12 schools traditionally have not wanted to move their games around. But it would seem that a school itching to build some national notoriety -- are you listening Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Kansas State? -- would like to jump into a programming slot where a lot of people would be watching their games.

Thursday night has emerged as the unofficial kickoff point of the week. And because of the glut of games on Saturdays, playing a game early gives a school a chance to stand out and build some national awareness. Look at what it's done for ACC and Big East schools.

But then again, considering the weak games across the conference this week, I could understand why the less national exposure might be better.

Here are some links to get you through the pregame hungries.

  • The Houston Chronicle's Joseph Duarte describes the Big 12's Krispy Kreme diet of nonconference foes this week.
  • Texas' heralded "Q Package" got off to a quiet start in its opening game.
  • Brent Zwereneman of the San Antonio Express-News profiles Texas A&M QB-turned-WR Ryan Tannehill, who led the team in receiving yards in the Aggies' season opener against Arkansas State.
  • Jimmy Burch's Big 12 notepad in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram talks about Texas Tech's early struggles, Sam Bradford's new sense as a leader and how Colt McCoy has eschewed drinking a Dr. Pepper for nine years.
  • The Fort Worth Star Telegram's Brad Gray describes Texas WR Jordan Shipley's emergence as the Longhorns' deep threat.
  • Oklahoma State's red-zone struggles appear to have returned this season after sputtering offensive performances near the goal line in the Cowboys' opener.
  • Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News has a good story on the adversity that Texas Tech T Rylan Reed has overcome to reach the Red Raiders' starting lineup.
  • The Omaha World-Herald has a strong video package to break down the Cornhuskers' upcoming game with San Jose State.
  • The Oklahoman's John Helsley writes about the evolution of Matt Clapp into Oklahoma's fullback and also lists the school's top fullbacks in history.
  • Baylor hopes to build on a paltry pass rush that notched only one sack last week -- a safety blitz by Jeremy Williams.
  • The combination of high altitude and Colorado's no-huddle offense could be a nightmare for nonfamiliar opponents.
  • Preparing for two potential Iowa State quarterbacks -- Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates -- is much more difficult than preparing for one, according to Cyclone opponents.
  • Former top 10 national recruit Michael Keck has left the Missouri program.
  • Missouri has already sold a record number of more than 40,000 season tickets -- 5,000 more than the previous record.
  • Overlooked WR recruit Dezmon Briscoe has blossomed after arriving at Kansas, producing three TDs in the Jayhawks season opener.
  • Topeka Capital-Journal Kansas State beat writer Austin Meek consults the 8-ball to get some hot sports opinion about the Wildcats and Jayhawks.
  • Don't expect much of a challenge for Missouri against Division I-AA Southeast Missouri State, which struggled to post a 35-28 victory over Division II Southwest Baptist last week -- a team that was 0-11 last season.  
  • Former standout Kansas State QB Jonathan Beasley returns to Manhattan as an assistant coach for Montana State.
  • Iowa State must have better tackling if they hope to avenge last season's loss to Kent State on Saturday.

Big 12 links: Let's get it started

August, 30, 2008
8/30/08
11:48
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The first Saturday of football season finally is here. I can't wait.

My enthusiasm couldn't even diminished by a balky wireless system that kept me about three hours behind this morning. Fortunately, the hamsters were rousted and the power restored a few minutes ago. Hopefully, these links to whet your appetite on the first full day of the season will be savored.

Enjoy them and check back throughout the day. I'll have tidbits and information as the conference starts play at 2:30 p.m. CT when Oklahoma State squares off with Washington State in Seattle. That gives you guys most of the morning to catch up on your honey-dos before the games start in earnest.

But remember to read your links first. They are a better hangover cure than menudo, my friends back in San Antonio tell me.

  • Baylor coach Art Briles has named freshman QB Robert Griffin as his starter for the Northwestern State game next week. "He just gives us a few more options," Briles told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "His poise at quarterback is a given because he's played the position all his life and is comfortable with it and handles it well."
  • The Colorado-Colorado State game will return to campus sites in 2009 and 2010, the school's athletic directors announced on Friday.
  • Colorado coach Dan Hawkins expects several CU freshmen to have an impact in Sunday's game against Colorado State in Denver.
  • Strong debuts by both QB Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates pleased Iowa State coach Gene Chizik, although he's still unwilling to name a starter for next week's game against Kent State.
  • Redshirt Missouri freshman T Elvis Fisher needs to take care of business Saturday night against Illinois All-Big Ten DE Will Davis in their epic "Viva St. Louis" debut.  
  • Jeffrey Martin of the Wichita Eagle/Kansas City Star reports that Kansas State players insist that last season's late collapse is behind them as they head into Saturday's opener against North Texas. But the Wildcats will have to start without LB John Houlik, who will be suspended three games after being arrested Aug. 1 for driving under the influence.
  • Kansas still is getting little respect nationally, Lawrence Journal-World columnist Tom Keegan writes. Maybe he's hasn't seen those national rankings. 
  • Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel writes that Nebraska football gets a clean slate with Bo Pelini's first official game as head coach.
  • Mike Gundy learned a lesson from his old boss Les Miles seven years ago. That's why he's calling plays as Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator as well as serving as its head coach Saturday, Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler writes.
  • Chattanooga's visit to Owen Field today will be the biggest mismatch in modern Oklahoma history - even if Terrell Owens once played for the Moccasins, Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel writes.
  • Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds escapes the competitive world of college sports with a green thumb.
  • Texas will retire Vince Young's uniform number before tonight's game against Florida Atlantic and Tommy Nobis and Bobby Layne later this season. Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls wonders who is next?
  • New Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman hopes to rally support from Aggie fans as he starts his head coaching career there against Arkansas State.
  • Texas Tech RB Baron Batch has a different attitude after enduring seven surgeries during an eight-month period.
  • Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News writes that Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has a perfect stage tonight to debut the team's aggressive new style.

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