Big 12: Pittsburgh Panthers

Lunch links: Vols contact Carl Pelini

February, 9, 2010
2/09/10
1:29
PM ET
A quick show of hands, please, from anybody who braved the lines at their nearby Denny’s Restaurant for a free Grand Slam breakfast this morning.

The thought occurred to me to check it out, so I drove by the nearest location after I delivered my boy to school earlier today.

The lines outside the restaurant convinced me that a wiser choice was to return back home to my blogging duties.

Here are some stories from across the Big 12 this afternoon that should prove a little more substantial than the blueberry Pop Tart I had instead.

  • The Lincoln Journal Star’s Steve Sipple relates that new Tennessee coach Derek Dooley contacted Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini about joining his staff in a similar position before settling on Justin Wilcox.
  • The San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle’s Brent Zwerneman senses a growing sense of accountability in terms of wins and losses among Mike Sherman’s staff at Texas A&M.
  • The Sporting News’ Matt Hayes mentions in his mailbag that Kansas’ hiring of Turner Gill stood apart from other coaching hires.
  • The Austin American-Statesman’s Richard Tijerina’s must-read “Breakfast with Bevo” reports that the Texas football team was honored during halftime at the Longhorns’ “Big Monday” game against Kansas last night. It was probably the bright spot for most of the fans who attended the game.
  • The Lawrence Journal-World’s Lindsey Slater reports that Kansas is expanding an area of discounted seats at Memorial Stadium and dropping some prices of season tickets to as low as $199 for the upcoming season.
  • The Omaha World-Herald’s Tom Shatel writes that Nebraska’s offense should be based on dominating linemen rather than speedy receivers -- so he’s not necessarily worried about the Cornhuskers’ most recent recruiting class.
  • Former Baylor wide receiver Lawrence Elkins was among 10 former athletic figures inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame Monday night, the Waco Tribune-Herald’s John Werner reports.
  • Mediation talks between Mike Leach’s attorneys and those representing Texas Tech have failed to reach an out-of-court settlement, although the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Matthew McGowan reports that talks have not broken down.
  • Heralded recruit Gilbert Moye, who played tailback for Missouri, has left the Tigers’ program, the Columbia Tribune’s Dave Matter reports. Moye plans to transfer to a Southwestern Athletic Conference or Southland Conference program with hopes to play quarterback at his new school.
  • Missouri ranks third among possible Big Ten expansion candidates in a online readers’ poll commissioned by USA Today. The Tigers rank behind leader Notre Dame and No. 2 Pittsburgh.
  • Derek Summers of the Oklahoma State Daily O’Collegian reports that Mike Gundy is looking for immediate contributions from some members of the Cowboys’ 2010 recruiting class.
  • Former Baylor assistant coach and current North Carolina State linebackers coach Andy McCollum is close to being hired on Paul Johnson’s staff at Georgia Tech, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Doug Roberson reports.
It's cold and wet here in San Antonio today. Just a nasty day.

Perfect weather for some lunchtime links, if you ask me.

Enjoy them.

Iowa State's team of the decade

January, 19, 2010
1/19/10
4:44
PM ET
Iowa State struggled after Dan McCarney was let go and before Paul Rhoads took the team to a bowl victory this season.

McCarney led the Cyclones to five bowl trips in the first six seasons of the decade. That record was as good as any team's in the North Division to that point.

Things didn't go as swimmingly for the Cyclones for the second half of the decade, although Rhoads' gutty underachievers were one of the biggest surprises in college football in 2009.

Here's a look at my all-decade team for Iowa State.

OFFENSE

QB: Seneca Wallace

RB: Alexander Robinson

RB: Ennis Haywood

WR: Todd Blythe

WR: Lane Danielson

TE: Mike Banks

OL: Reggie Stephens

OL: Cale Stubbe

OL: Bob Montgomery

OL: Aaron Brant

C: Ben Bruns

DEFENSE

DL: Nick Leaders

DL: Brent Curvey

DL: Jordan Carstens

DL: Reggie Haywood

LB: Alvin Bowen

LB: Tim Dobbins

LB: Jesse Smith

DB: LaMarcus Hicks

DB: Ellis Hobbs

DB: JaMaine Billups

DB: Leonard Johnson

P: Tony Yelk

K: Adam Benike

KR: J.J.Moses

Offensive player of the decade: QB Seneca Wallace. Fans remember his serpentine touchdown run against Texas Tech in 2002, but he also led the Cyclones to back-to-back bowl trips while setting the single-season school records for passing and total offense.

Defensive player of the decade: LB Alvin Bowen. A two-time team most valuable player, Bowen produced 155 tackles as a senior in 2006 to become All-Big 12 linebacker and one of the most productive players in ISU history.

Coach of the decade: Dan McCarney. When he was fired after the 2006 season, he had more wins, more bowl trips and more bowl victories than any coach in the school's history. And if he had a more consistent field goal kicker, McCarney might have won that elusive North Division championship that the Cyclones are still looking for.

Moment of the decade: Iowa State’s 37-29 victory over Pittsburgh in the 2000 Insight.com Bowl. Sage Rosenfels passed for 308 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cyclones to their first bowl victory in school history. It capped a 9-3 season that was the most victories by a Cyclone team since 1906.

The numbers say UT could win the BCS title and OU won't

July, 7, 2009
7/07/09
11:31
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The number crunchers at Docsports.com have come up with the common statistical traits that the BCS national championship winners have shared.

1. Be a member of a "Big Six" conference or Notre Dame:

Teams still fitting the profile: 67.

2. Have at least eight wins in the previous season. Of the 11 BCS title winners nine teams (and the past six consecutive) have had at least eight wins the season prior to winning the championship. All have had at least seven.

Teams still fitting the profile: 37

3. Have a winning regular-season record in November-December games in the previous season. Winning games late in the season usually ensures a strong finish. Only LSU in 2002 -- with a 2-2 record in November and December -- claimed a BCS national championship without a winning record in those two months in the year before.

Teams still fitting the profile: 25.

Among those still standing are: Alabama (4-0), Boston College (4-1), California (3-2), Cincinnati (5-0), Florida (5-0), Georgia Tech (3-1), Iowa (3-1), Michigan State (3-1), Mississippi (4-0), Missouri (3-1), Nebraska (3-1), Northwestern (3-1), Ohio State (3-0), Oklahoma (4-0), Oregon (3-1), Oregon State (4-1), Penn State (3-1), Pittsburgh (4-1), Rutgers (4-0), Texas (3-1), Texas Tech (3-1), USC (5-0), Wake Forest (3-2), West Virginia (3-2) and Virginia Tech (3-1).

4. Have a junior or senior quarterback with some playing experience. All 11 teams that have won BCS national titles have had a junior or senior playing. All but Tee Martin of Tennessee had starting experience entering the season.

Teams still fitting the profile: 17.

Among those still alive are: California (Kevin Riley), Cincinnati (Tony Pike), Florida (Tim Tebow), Georgia Tech (Josh Nesbitt), Iowa (Richard Stanzi), Mississippi (Jevan Snead), Northwestern (Mike Kafka), Oklahoma (Sam Bradford), Oregon (Jeremiah Masoli), Oregon State (Lyle Moevao), Penn State (Daryll Clark), Pittsburgh (Bill Stull), Texas (Colt McCoy), USC (Mitch Mustain), Wake Forest (Riley Skinner), West Virginia (Jarrett Brown) and Virginia Tech (Tyrod Taylor).

5. Have six returning defensive starters from a unit that ranked in the top 20 in scoring defense in the previous season. Eight of the past nine teams to have won the BCS title have had a defense in the nation's top 20 in scoring defense the previous season (Florida was 46th in 2007) and all but one team (1998 Tennessee) returned at least six starters from their previous season's defense.

Teams still fitting the profile: 6.

Those teams that are eligible include Florida (fourth in scoring defense, 11 returning starters), Iowa (fifth in scoring defense, eight returning starters), Mississippi (20th in scoring defense, eight starters), Texas (18th in scoring defense, seven starters), West Virginia (11th in scoring defense, eight starters) and Virginia Tech (ninth in scoring defense, seven starters).

The formula has been accurate over the years. Of the seven teams that fit the profile coming into last season -- Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Rutgers, USC, and Wake Forest -- all won at least eight games and Florida won the national championship. The team the Gators beat for the national title, Oklahoma, was not included among those on the list.

So keep these trends in mind this season. It might be the reason why we end up seeing Texas and Florida playing for the national championship, if not Iowa, Mississippi, West Virginia or Virginia Tech at the Rose Bowl.

Analyzing Rhoads' and Snyder's chances for success in '09

May, 28, 2009
5/28/09
5:35
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's a look at the Big 12's new coaches, Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads and Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, and their chances of turning around their struggling programs.

 
  AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
  New head coach Paul Rhoads was an assistant at Iowa State in the 1990s.

IOWA STATE

Coach: Paul Rhoads
Previous school and position: Auburn, defensive coordinator
Head-coaching experience: None
Iowa State's 2008 record: 2-10, 0-8 in Big 12
Returning players: Offense 9, defense 6

What he brings: Rhoads is familiar with the challenges of trying to win at Iowa State after serving as an assistant there under Dan McCarney from 1996 through '99. He later cut his teeth as a defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh from 2000 to 2007 and at Auburn last season and is one of the most respected defensive minds in college football. Rhoads, from nearby Ankeny, fits with the Cyclones' fan base and their expectations. In fact, his upbeat nature is reminiscent of McCarney, whom some Cyclones fans might want back after their five bowl trips in a six-season span from 2000 to 2005. They haven't been back since.

Challenges he faces: It seems hard to believe that the Cyclones were challenging for the North title as recently as 2005. The program dropped as McCarney was let go and continued its tumble under Gene Chizik. Rhoads will be challenged to orchestrate a quick turnaround. He inherits the framework of an offense with nine returning starters include tough and  productive (but streaky) quarterback Austen Arnaud and running back Alexander Robinson. The big problem will be on defense where the Cyclones were the worst tackling team in the Big 12 last season, ranked 110th nationally in scoring defense, 112th in total defense, 116th in pass defense and 117th in pass efficiency defense. Their development won't come overnight. Rhoads has cobbled together a strong staff including offensive coordinator Tom Herman and wily veteran defensive coordinator Wally Burnham. But it will be a big challenge considering the talent they will inherit.

Likelihood of pulling off a winning season: Slim. Most are picking the Cyclones for the North Division cellar with good reason. The defense will struggle against the Big 12's potent offenses. They will be able to move the ball and score, but likely not enough to compensate for their defensive struggles. The Cyclones will be facing a challenging nonconference schedule with an underrated opener against North Dakota State -- a program that has won at Ball State and Minnesota in the last three seasons. With games against Iowa, at Kent State and Army, the Cyclones likely will be pushed to notch a winning record in nonconference play. And their Big 12 action starts with a game that could decide the Big 12 cellar in Kansas City against Kansas State -- a game that was set to be played in Ames before it was moved. After that, the Cyclones will face a tough road stretch with games at Kansas, Nebraska and Texas A&M sandwiched around a homecoming game against Baylor. They then will finish the season with home games against Oklahoma State and Colorado and a road game against Missouri. All three of those late-season opponents likely will have bowl hopes riding on the game. Don't look for that to happen with the Cyclones -- yet.

My prediction: 3-9, 1-7 in Big 12

 
  Scott D. Weaver/Icon SMI
  Bill Snyder compiled a 136-68-1 record during his first stint in Manhattan.

KANSAS STATE

Coach: Bill Snyder
Previous coaching position: Kansas State, head coach (retired for last three seasons)
Head-coaching experience: Kansas State, 136-68-1 during previous stint there from 1989-2005
Kansas State's 2008 record: 5-7, 2-6 in Big 12
Returning players: Offense 6, defense 8

What he brings: Snyder earned a likely position in College Football's Hall of Fame during his first coaching stint at KSU. The Wildcats were on the cusp of the BCS title game in 1998 and claimed their only Big 12 football title in 2003. The program has tumbled badly since that championship and it will take all of Snyder's legendary drive and determination to get the Wildcats back into contention again. He returns with a staff stacked with assistants who have worked with him in the past and are familiar with the challenges of winning at KSU. His knack of making something out of nothing and unearthing recruiting gems from the junior college ranks will be vital in helping get them back into bowl contention.

Challenges he faces: The talent has dropped from the level Snyder was familiar back in his coaching days and the Big 12 might be even tougher. Nearby programs Kansas and Missouri have climbed into title contention since he left. And old coaching nemesis Bo Pelini has Nebraska pointed in the right direction. Snyder will have to settle on a starting quarterback after Carson Coffman won the job this spring, but will be challenged by Grant Gregory and junior college transfer Daniel Thomas during the summer. He'll also need to cobble together a running game and find some productive linebackers in his new 4-2-5 defense. But he has an underrated group of productive performers like wide receiver Brandon Banks, cornerback Joshua Moore, defensive end Brandon Harold and defensive tackle Jeff Fitzgerald.

Likelihood of pulling off a winning season: It might be better than you think. First, the North Division is going to be relatively even without a dominant team. A surprise team might be able to remain in contention if healthy.

KSU's nonconference schedule isn't too taxing with a trip to visit a rebuilding UCLA team that might be winnable with a few breaks. There are also home games against Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech and a road game at Louisiana-Lafayette. The conference schedule starts off with the Iowa State game in Kansas City, a road game at reloading Texas Tech and home games with Texas A&M and Colorado. Their conference schedule toughens later in the season with road games at Oklahoma and Nebraska, but the Wildcats might surprise people if they get some consistent quarterback play and can keep an underrated defense healthy.

Snyder's coaching acumen might help them win a game or two that might be considered surprises. One major national publication is already p
icking KSU to tie for second in the North Division. They do have the most favorable conference schedule in the Big 12 with only one road game in a North opponent's home stadium.

The Wildcats should be competitive among North Division teams. Snyder is a legendary builder and his team appears to have already gravitated to his coaching philosophy. They will play hard and shouldn't have the late-season collapse that marked the program in each of the last two seasons under Ron Prince. It might add up to a bowl trip in Snyder's first season back.

My prediction: 6-6, 3-5 in Big 12

Former coach Franchione turns to sportswriting

May, 27, 2009
5/27/09
5:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Credit former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione for not languishing during his time away from football.

Franchione will join the Web site BusterSports.com to provide a weekly column about the Big 12. (Hat tip to Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News.)

"I'm looking forward to diving deep into the Big 12 and sharing my experience and opinion with fans of the conference," Franchione said. "There's nothing like football Saturday in the Midwest and I can't wait to build up Big 12 football excitement each and every show we do."

He will join a set of former coaches who will provide insight about conferences they used to coach in.

Jim Donnan will handle the national reporting scene, Terry Donahue the Pac-10, Tommy Tuberville the SEC, Tommy Bowden the ACC, Glen Mason the Big 10 and Mike Gottfried the Big East.

"Having been in the heart of the beast as a college football coach in the state of Texas, we can't wait for coach Fran to offer all of his insight to our audience," said Dan Ballard, CEO of Buster Sports Communications. "His college football knowledge is respected not just around the Big 12, but throughout the entire country."

Franchione worked as an analyst for ESPN radio last season. And his interest and knowledge of college football remains keen.

It's a good way for him to stay involved in the game. Because it's not quite the same without him roaming the sidelines.

Sanders ranks among best living Heisman winners

April, 29, 2009
4/29/09
6:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

With the recent passing of Felix "Doc" Blanchard, the folks at FanHouse.com posed an interesting question when they considered who the greatest living Heisman winners are.

Not surprisingly, the Big 12 was represented.

Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders was selected as the No. 2 living Heisman winner, trailing only double-Heisman winner Archie Griffin of Ohio State.

It's obvious why Sanders would be so highly ranked. His 1988 season might be the greatest in college football history with 2,628 rushing yards, 3,249 total yards and 39 touchdowns.

Behind Griffin and Sanders, Matt Leinart of Southern California was third, Tony Dorsett of Pittsburgh was fourth and O.J. Simpson of USC was fifth.

And 1972 Heisman winner Johnny Rodgers of Nebraska ranked among those players receiving honorable mention.

It was an intriguing list and the display with career video highlights of the top five finishers was pretty cool, too. Sanders' running style looks as scintillating today as it did during his college playing career.

Check out A&M-Pittsburgh game later today on ESPN Classic

April, 20, 2009
4/20/09
10:37
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

For those of you who have this read this blog for the past several months, you probably know that I can't get enough history.

As such, ESPN Classic is on heavy rotation in my house. Even if my 4-year-old would rather watch Noggin staples like "Franklin" and "Toot and Puddle" than my favored sports classic reruns.

Fortunately for me, I've got the remote control later this afternoon when the rotation of old college football games will start.

And for Big 12 fans, there will be at least one game that should be interesting later today.

Tune in about 4 p.m. ET if you want to see a young Larry Fitzgerald and his Pittsburgh team roam rather freely through the Texas A&M secondary in a 2003 game at Kyle Field in Dennis Franchione's first season coaching the Aggies.

I won't give you any spoiler updates for this game, only to say that it probably won't be considered a classic many places in the Bryan-College Station area.

The Fitzgerald kid looked pretty good in that game, but also keep your eye out for one particular catch from a Pittsburgh fullback by the name of Lousaka Polite.

Colorado-Toledo set for Sept. 11 ESPN broadcast

March, 26, 2009
3/26/09
2:20
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Colorado filled the final hole in its 2009 schedule with the announcement of a game Sept. 11 at Toledo.

The Friday night game will be nationally televised by ESPN and set for a 9 p.m. ET kickoff.

The announcement is significant because it fills a hole that originally was created when Miami backed out of a game with the Buffaloes in order to play a game against Kentucky at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati on the same weekend.

And it provides another nationally televised game for Colorado against a Toledo team that will be breaking in a new coach with the arrival of former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Tim Beckman.

"Any time you have late changes to your schedule, it's a challenge and creates angst associated with your fans and your coaches," CU athletic director Mike Bohn told the Boulder Camera. "However, ESPN and many others were diligent, professional and committed to ensuring that all the pieces fit in the right place and for all the right reasons."

The Camera reported that the contract between Colorado and Miami originally called for damages of $750,000 to be paid if one school canceled on the other. But because a suitable replacement was found and the game still will be nationally televised, there will be no damages paid.

The Buffaloes do get one consideration as Miami will play a men's basketball game at Colorado without receiving any compensation, the Camera reported. With some road opponents commanding up to $80,000 for a basketball guarantee, it will represent a sizable savings for the Buffaloes.

It looks like a winnable game for the Buffaloes, but past history might be considered before they chalk anything up before their trip to the venerable Glass Bowl in Toledo.

The Rockets are 2-0 at home against Big 12 schools in the past three seasons, beating Kansas there in 2006 and Iowa State in 2007. They have also beaten BCS teams like Pittsburgh (2003), Minnesota (2001) and Purdue (1997), dating to the era when Gary Pinkel turned them into a solid Mid-American Conference power.

And the most notable victory in the history of the Toledo program came last season with a 13-10 triumph at Michigan. It was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing 3-9 season that eventually cost former Toledo coach Tom Amstutz his job.

Thursday's announcement fills the final scheduling hole in the Big 12 heading into the 2009 season.

Q&A with Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads

February, 25, 2009
2/25/09
10:08
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

New Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads will be tackling a huge rebuilding job with the Cyclones, who finished in the Big 12 North Division's cellar with a 2-10 record last season.

Despite those daunting odds, Rhoads talked about how excited he is to return to Iowa State, where he served as an assistant coach from 1995-99, during a wide-ranging interview.

 
  AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
  Paul Rhoads takes over for Gene Chizik, who managed to notch just two wins last season.

What is the biggest challenge of trying to get your program up and running?

Paul Rhoads: It was just the immediacy of recruiting. Getting players into your program is everything. Coming in when I did, it was everything at that time. You can get your coaching staff put together as fast as you can without being too hasty, get them out on the road and get your class signed, which we did.

Why was your determination to make recruiting even more of an immediate priority than filling your staff?

PR: You can't have a complete zero in recruiting; there's just too big of a void. Our recruiting has to be upgraded, no matter what our level is. Getting our staff put together was certainly our next priority and we were able to get a group that I felt good about to lead and teach these students and get them going. And then, we want to get them going, establishing the mental toughness we need to be a success.

What about the available talent you inherited?

PR:  I think there's a group of players -- some who have been in the Big 12 and others who played as true freshmen for us -- who in the long run will be helpful in getting our program up and running. And then there's another group we've got to develop. If you are going to be successful at an institution like Iowa State, you've got to do an exceptional job of evaluating. You've got to get the right players who are the right fit and then do an equal job of developing those players once you get here. That's what we're going to try to do.

With the hiring of Wally Burnham as your defensive coordinator, you were able to bring one of the most respected assistants in college football into your program. How important was it to you to get an experienced coach like him to come in to direct your defense?

PR: I think it's invaluable. The veteran leadership and command that Wally brings in to the program, I don't think you can measure what that is worth. Not only the knowledge he has coaching players but also coaching coaches will help us so much. He's maybe as respected as anybody in the state of Florida when it comes to recruiting because he's been down there doing it for so long. I think it's invaluable when you look at all the things he brings us.

How did you first get to know Burnham? Did you have any associations in the past?

PR: We had been competitors over the years. With both him and me being in Big East, that was our background. Knowing how hard his kids played and watching schematically all the things that his defense has always done impressed me. And Dan McCarney gave me some good insight into what kind of coach and recruiter he is.

You are obviously well-versed with this program after growing up in the area and coaching here earlier in your career. What are some of the advantages that you see in being so close to home?

PR: The immediate reception has been warm and inviting to all of us. It's a unique situation for me. [Former Iowa State coach] Gene [Chizik] comes in and stayed briefly. He left a group of players and fans. Some Iowans felt betrayed and maybe even a little bit angry. I think that some of those wounds are quickly healed when a native takes over. And just being the kind of person I am, very humble and blue-collar in our approach to doing things, I think will help me.

The symbol of your approach appears to be found in your ball cap, something you like to wear to show your approach to your craft. Explain that.

PR: I don't think it's anything I can force to make that any kind of symbolism ... it's just the kind of person I am. When I grew up, I was always playing ball or walking beans or mowing lots when I worked for the county. In all of those sports or jobs I had when I was growing up, you always put your ball cap on before you went outside. There's nothing to it more than that. I've always worn one. And it's what I will do when I continue, because I can assure you I'm not a viser-type of guy.

What are you looking for in terms of your offensive philosophy when you hired offensive coordinator Tom Herman from Rice?

PR: We're looking to do some things. We want to mesh the immediate talent and then working to recruit some of the other things we want to do. We're going to run the spread attack on offense, although I think it's become too all-encompassing kind of term. We won't be doing what they do at Texas Tech or Kansas or Missouri. But I still want to use the spread because opposing defense will have to defend the whole field. We're going to run it, throw it and hand it off to have a quick attack.

Tom's approach is sound as it emphasizes high-percentage passes with low risk. If you look at what they were able to do last season at Rice, they had 48 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions. That's what we'd like to be able to do.

 
  Peter G. Aiken/US Presswire
  Austen Arnaud returns hoping to build on last season in which he passed for nearly 2,800 yards and 15 TDs.

You arrive with a quarterback in place in Austen Arnaud who had some success last season in his first season as a starter. How much does that help in your transformation of the program?

PR: The fact that we've got a quarterback who played every snap for us last year and still has two years of eligibility left is a big plus for us. He's an exciting player with a lot of savvy and he's a smart player. He's got the majority of his targets back who he's been familiar throwing to. We want to put him in a situation where he'll have comfort and confidence. And for him to be in place gives us a pretty good launching spot for what we want to do.

You worked earlier in your career under Dan McCarney before you left for the coordinator job at Pittsburgh. What did he tell you about the Iowa State job?

PR: I think I've learned something from every coach I've worked for. Each of them has taught me something. But where Dan is unique is that he's a native Iowan. Working here was very special to him and he brought a great passion and enthusiasm to this job. That's what it requires. Because of that, we understand the importance of recruiting players
in the state, building around Iowa kids and walk-ons. But we also realize what has to be done to supplement that. Now, we're moving forward and getting after it.

What's been the initial reaction you've received from your new players?

PR: They are obviously hungry for success. There's not a player around who wants to be 2-10 or lose every game in the Big 12. And they aren't working in that direction. We've got to do things if we want to achieve success and that's what we are working towards every day.

After working 20 seasons as an assistant coach, what is it like to finally get an opportunity to serve as a head coach?

PR: My first meeting I had with my team on Jan. 12 might have been the biggest high I've ever experienced as a football coach. And it's been good to be able to meet some the guys where we haven't been quite as rushed as when I first took over. I'm obviously learning and gaining familiarity with them as I go. But so far, there hasn't been one thing with this job or these kids that I haven't enjoyed thoroughly.

Your family is back at Auburn until school finishes. One of their neighbors across the street is your predecessor, Gene Chizik, who is renting the house across the street from them until his home is built there. Has there been any interaction between you and Chizik, or have your families crossed paths since you two switched schools?

PR: Our families have met each other. My wife has seen him in the street and had a great chance for some interaction with his wife, who treated her very well. But I haven't seen him. I guess I've just been too busy and he's been too busy, too.

Rhoads credits McCarney for helping him hire Burnham

February, 19, 2009
2/19/09
12:13
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

New Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads turned to a familiar friend for counsel when he was hiring his first defensive coordinator.

Rhoads said that his former boss, ex-Iowa State coach and current Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney, helped convince him that Wally Burnham was the best choice for the vacancy on his staff.

McCarney worked under Burnham during one season on Burnham's staff at South Florida. And Rhoads was very familiar with Burnham's defensive philosophies when he coached at Pittsburgh, a Big East Conference foe of the Bulls.

"We had both been competitors and with me and him both being in the Big East, that was our background," Rhoads said. "And knowing how hard his kids played and the things he did schematically and then Dan giving me some insight into what kind of coach and recruiter that Wally is."

Burnham, 67, is a very well-respected coordinator. USF has been ranked in the top 30 in total defense in six of the past seven seasons -- including a No. 10 ranking in 2008 -- with Burnham in charge.

Rhoads is especially excited to tap into Burnham's 40 years of coaching experience, which also includes a nine-season stint on Bobby Bowden's staff at Florida State, including the 1993 national championship season.

"I think his experience is invaluable," Rhoads said. "The veteran leadership and command that he immediately brings to the program -- I don't think you can measure what that is worth.

"The knowledge he has in not only coaching players, but also coaching coaches is also very important. And he may be as respected as anybody in the state of Florida when it comes to recruiting. I think it's invaluable to us as we start our program when you look at all he brings to the table."   

3Q: Colorado 31, Nebraska 27

November, 28, 2008
11/28/08
5:56
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It's amazing that Colorado had found a way to scramble ahead in this game.

Nebraska has dominated the game offensively, chalking up a 64-26 edge in snaps. But amazingly, Colorado has hit enough big plays to take a 31-27 lead after three quarters.

The best example of this trend happened early in the third quarter. Including the last drives of the first half, Nebraska maintained possession for 14:19 before Colorado regained the ball.

But when it happened, the Buffaloes were ready. Demetrius Sumler produced his second touchdown of the game, capping a 65-yard drive which gave Colorado the advantage.

The Cornhuskers have moved the ball well between the 20-yard lines, but have struggled once they hit the red zone. It's the major reason they are behind starting the fourth quarter.

Nebraska needs a late comeback to nail down a Jan. 1 bowl berth, most likely the Gator Bowl against Pittsburgh.

Colorado needs the victory to gain bowl eligibility for the second-straight season.

It should be an interesting fourth quarter.

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