Big 12: Riley Skinner

Two potential upsets marking Big 12's impressive start

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
6:28
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


STILLWATER, Okla. -- Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has to be smiling somewhere as he's watching the Saturday afternoon games transpire.

His conference is close to notching two big upsets if Missouri can maintain its stunning 37-9 lead over Illinois and Baylor can hold a 24-14 advantage at Wake Forest.

The Tigers' large victory might be one of the day's biggest stunners. Most observers expected Missouri to decline after key players like Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman, Jeremy Maclin and Ziggy Hood left for the NFL .

Blaine Gabbert has already thrown for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another touchdown. It continues a trend of previous starters like Daniel and Brad Smith, who both led the Tigers to victories over Illinois in their first career starts.

And Baylor's defense has produced four turnovers, including intercepting Riley Skinner three times to pace the Bears' lead.

Most importantly, the performances of Baylor, Missouri and Oklahoma State are showing that the Big 12 can play a little defense

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.

Skinner makes history as Demon Deacons roll

August, 29, 2008
8/29/08
1:11
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

 
 AP Photo/ Donna McWilliam
 Riley Skinner throws a TD pass during the first half of Thursday night's game against Baylor.

WACO, Texas -- Riley Skinner could joke a little about his relative place in Wake Forest's football history.

So when somebody told him that he became the Demon Deacons' winningest quarterback after his 41-13 victory over Baylor, the junior chuckled at his place in a school without much of a previous winning history

"It's not too impressive of a record, I guess," said Skinner, who rifled a career-best three touchdown passes to lead the victory. "It feels nice. I just hope I can add onto it a little."

Much like their undersized quarterback, the Demon Deacons persevered for a workmanlike victory.

And they made history doing it, winning their first game as a ranked team to start the season.

"I thought our coaches prepared our team well, but I was still nervous," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. "We've always played well as an underdog. But I was really concerned with the top 25 ranking coming in here."

The Demon Deacons played like they're familiar with such rankings. They jumped to a quick 17-0 lead and cruised to the easy victory as they spoiled Baylor coach Art Briles debut with the Bears.

And they proved something to themselves by doing it.

"Being ranked is nice, but it puts a target on your back," Skinner said. "People expect you to win this game. We knew it would be a tough battle. We played well, but they're still some things left we'll have to work on."

Interestingly, Grobe was an unsuccessful candidate for the Baylor job when Guy Morriss was hired in 2002. When he took over the Wake Forest job a year earlier, the Demon Deacon program could have been considered the Baylor equivalent in the Atlantic Coast Conference after compiling seven losing records during an eight-season span.

But he steadily built the program into the ACC champion two years ago, the school's first title in 36 years. He followed that team with one that overcame an 0-2 start last season to qualify for the Meineke Car Care Bowl. The Demon Deacons had back-to-back bowl teams for the first time in Wake Forest history.

And with a veteran lineup of 17 starters, the Demon Deacons needed to prove their ranking to a national television audience.

Skinner especially did that, completing 17 of his first 19 attempts. His only missed connections during that stretch came on a throwaway pass and a drop. And his performance showed the form that is leading many to call him the ACC's best returning quarterback this season.

"People were getting open and they were making it easy on me making their catches," Skinner said. "We need to be efficient to score a lot of points like this. Basically, we took what they were giving us. I was really happy how everybody played."

Grobe sounded more relieved than happy as he related how his team had little to go by as they prepared for new Baylor coach Art Briles before the game.

"Every coach's nightmare is opening on the road, especially against a good team in a major conference," Grobe said. "We knew that coach Briles does a great job wherever he is and knew he had some great players.

"But we had little knowledge about their X's and O's on offense and defense. We had to do a lot of adjusting as the game went on. It was a good win for us and a great challenge."

This one is over ...

August, 28, 2008
8/28/08
11:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

WACO, Texas -- I'm headed down to the field for some interviews. Wake Forest handled this one easily and appears to be deserving of its No. 23 ranking. And this kid Riley Skinner impressed me as the Demon Deacons' quarterback. I'll check back in later.  

Skinner leading Demon Deacons to easy lead

August, 28, 2008
8/28/08
10:45
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

WACO, Texas -- Riley Skinner is making it look easy for Wake Forest.

The junior quarterback has posted the first three-touchdown passing effort of his career to lead the No. 23 Demon Deacons to a 34-6 lead after three quarters.

Seldom faced with a pass rush, Skinner has picked apart the Bears' secondary with precision. He's made Baylor CB Krys Buerck, a converted wide receiver, probably wish for a change back to offense after beating him for a pair of touchdowns.

These are the kind of games that ranked teams are supposed to take care of. And Skinner is showing the nation how to do it as maybe the Atlantic Coast Conference's most proficient quarterback.

His effort -- and two Baylor fumbles on its first two possessions of the second half -- have sent many of the crowd of 30,633 at Floyd Casey Stadium scurrying for the exits.

It's pretty quiet here now and should be for the rest of the game.

Griffin sparks Baylor's late first-half rally

August, 28, 2008
8/28/08
9:57
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Freshman quarterback Robert Griffin helped boost Baylor's offense after he finally got his feet wet.

Baylor's offense struggled during most of the first half before the heralded freshman finally started playing like a poor man's Vince Young on a scoring drive.

Griffin made two strong fakes on the same run, juking two defenders on an ankle-bending run as he streaked for 22 yards down the left sideline. Jacoby Jones added a 12-yard TD run on the next play, providing the Baylor crowd with what little excitement they could enjoy as Wake Forest streaked to a 20-6 halftime lead.

After replacing struggling starter Kirby Freeman early in the second quarter, the Baylor offense came to life under Griffin. But by then, Baylor was already in a 17-0 hole after struggling with early mistakes.

Griffin is counted on as the Bears' quarterback of the future. And if he continues his fast learning curve, he will be playing sooner than later.

But during most of the first half, Wake Forest played like a team ranked in the top 25 has to play in a road game. Quarterback Riley Skinner hit 17 of his first 19 passes as he picked apart the Baylor defense with relative ease.

The biggest reason for Baylor's early defensive struggles was the lack of a pass rush. Skinner was barely pressured until the latter stages of the first half when the Baylor defense revived after early struggles.

Wake Forest jumps to early 17-0 lead

August, 28, 2008
8/28/08
8:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

WACO, Texas -- Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner wasted little time taking control, completing 12 of his first 13 passes to help stake the Demon Deacons to a 17-0 lead 37 seconds into the second quarter.

Baylor was unable to muster any kind of pressure on Skinner, who made it looked like he was throwing against little defense in his quick start.

Wake Forest took advantage of two three-and-out possessions by the Bears to stake themselves to a field goal and touchdown on their first two drives.

Sam Swank drilled a 40-yard field goal to cap the first drive, a six-play, 13-yard possession.

After another struggling Baylor possession, Wake Forest marched 62 yards for another score. The 12-play drive was capped on a 12-yard pass from Skinner to Chip Brinkman.

And after Baylor whiffed on a fumble recovery, the Demon Deacons rambled 48 yards on 11 plays, capped by a 3-yard TD run by Brandon Pendergrass.

After three Baylor possessions and only one first down in the first quarter, freshman quarterback Robert Griffin was installed for the Bears on their first possession of the second quarter.

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