Big 12: Rocky Calums
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
After finally having a night to decompress after all of the Big 12 hype, I was wondering why I was only getting a trickle of responses to my early blogs.
That's when I remembered something about a mailbag icon. So after sorting through some e-mails and finding the password, I finally have some feedback.
I kind of feel like Tom Hanks in "Castaway" when he came upon his volleyball. "Wilson" became his friend and sounding board. I hope you guys will feel the same way about me, passing along any questions you might have about Big 12 football.
And as Warner Wolf would say...on to the questions.
Chance from Memphis writes: Much is being written about the record-setting, high-flying offenses of the Big 12. Without question 2008 should be the wildest, most competitive Big 12 race since the league's inception. But the question remains: Are the offenses in the league simply that good, or are the defenses weaker than they have been in the past?
Tim Griffin: I think it's a little bit of both. The offenses unquestionably are better than this league has ever seen. The quarterbacking in this league goes about 10 deep. And with the way that parity is, a team can catch a couple of breaks running the spread offense and have a chance for an upset victory almost any week. But you are also right about the weaker defenses in the conference. Oklahoma's defense is down significantly from the Rocky Calmus/Roy Williams/Teddy Lehman era. So is Texas. there's no Derrick Johnson or Michael Huff in the Longhorns' back seven. That's why both of those teams are susceptible to passing offenses than they were before.
But in the end, I think the team that plays the best defense will end up winning the conference. And it could be Missouri, particularly if Van Alexander and Sean Weatherspoon make quick recoveries from post-spring surgeries to return to productive defensive roles.
And also, I always go with the dry ribs when I'm in your fair city, which also happens to be my hometown.
Ryan from Austin writes: Who is your favorite team in the Big 12?
Tim Griffin: I'm just like a mother with 12 children. I love them all equally. It might sound like a copout, but it's true.
Chris from Denver writes: As an OU fan living in Colorado (and therefore interested in Big XII news, and not just one team), I have one thing to say: Best....blog....ev....er. I heard you on a Denver sports talk station the other day, and as a result, checked your blog out. I was intrigued. Since then, I can't stop reading it. I love your takes, and especially the number of updates. I hope you update the blog this much during the season. Awesome work, keep it up.
Tim Griffin: Thanks for the compliments and for trying the blog. I hope I can keep the pace going once the season begins and I aim to. And for those talk-show producers out there, I love to talk about some Big 12 football if you're ever looking for a guest.
Ben from Lubbock writes: Excuse me, but I find it terribly disappointing that a journalist of your stature used the word "enthused" in an article. "Enthused" is not a part of the English language at all. It is a common misconception that many people have used incorrectly. I am ashamed to see someone with your experience, writing for a national audience, with young people reading (much like myself) would be so completely unaware of such a blatant mistake. If there is any way you could change the title of your article to "Turnaround has the Jayhawks EXCITED about future" then that would be not only grammatically correct, but beneficial to your role as a journalist as well.
Tim Griffin: Ben, I appreciate your attention to detail. Dictionary.com claims it's a word that fit the meaning that I wanted to use, so I decided to employ it.
And please tell me the truth. Wouldn't you enthuse about a Red Raiders' trip to a Bowl Championship Series game this year?
Dwayne writes: If the Nebraska defense can cut down their yards allowed by about 30% to 40% and force twice as many turnovers do you think they'll have a real chance to win the Big 12 north?
Tim Griffin: It would make them a lot better and make Bo Pelini's transformation much easier. But Pelini's biggest chore will be to force turnovers and make third-down stops. And that's going to be tough with the group he inherited. Deep down, I bet Pelini would be satisfied with a 15-20 percent improvement from last year.
Scott writes: In yesterday's blog, you mentioned a post from weisnd.com asking if Bob Stoops is the modern day John Cooper. While I agree that Bowl Season in Oklahoma has not been fun the last few years, I too would say that is a tad extreme. While it's fair to ask Bob what is going wrong in bowl preparation, it's not fair to compare him to John Cooper.
I wanted to send you some statistics on the subject in the way of a comparison. John Cooper: 13 seasons at Ohio St. Record: 111-43-4 Bob Stoops: 9 seasons at OU. Record: 97-22. Cooper: Zero National Championships Stoops: 1 National Championship Cooper: 3 Big 10 Titles (shared, never won an outright title) Stoops: 5 Big 12 Titles (most in league history) Cooper: 3-7 Bowl Record Stoops: 4-5 Bowl Record Cooper: 2-10-1 against Michigan Stoops: 6-3 vs. Texas. As you can see, Bob compares pretty well against John overall.
Losing Bowl Games is disappointing for sure. But let's don't throw Bob into the same category as John Cooper just yet. We'd be elevating John Cooper by doing so! Thank you for your excellent coverage of the Big 12! I enjoy reading your work very much.
Tim Griffin: I agree with you. I just wanted to throw that blog post out to see if any Oklahoma fans would bite. It took them about 15 minutes.
The biggest reason that the comparison between Cooper and Stoops is specious at best -- on top of Stoops' national championship and Cooper's lack of one -- is their comparative records against their major foe. Cooper as you said was 2-10-1 vs. Ohio State. Stoops is 6-3 against Texas.
Those are the games that can get coaches fired at those schools. Stoops has won most of them and Cooper lost most of his. But Stoops probably needs to win a bowl or two to get back in the complete good graces of Sooner fans. It's not like he's on the hot seat or anything like that - except if it's January and he's playing in the Fiesta Bowl or something.
Brandon from K.C. writes: I have a couple of points in your blog post today. "Kansas' record won't be nearly as good this year as it was last..." Which is not the same as saying their team won't be as good as they were last year, so we didn't really get any information from that little tidbit. "...taffy pull masquerading as a cross conference schedule..." Another highly original comment. No really, I haven't heard that before.
Funny, though, where was all the sympathy for KU three years ago when they played this brutal south schedule? It's not like KU controls the Big 12 matchups, so pointing that out hardly seems fair. And just like any other year - not to mention one chock full of crazy upsets - a team can only play/beat the guys across the field. KU did that in every game they were supposed to and many they weren't last year. Discounting their season because the Big 12 decided to give them the most unbalanced conference schedule out of all 12 teams is a slap in the face of each one of those players and coaches. And let's remember that the non-conference schedule was designed for a team shooting for a mid-level bowl after a 7-5 season; and yet they're blamed for overachieving. Ridiculous.
Tim Griffin: Easy there, Brandon. That's the same Kansas team that I elevated to the top 10 of all Big 12
squads during the BCS era earlier this summer. A bunch of your neighbors over in Manhattan still haven't forgiven me for that.
But let's be fair. There's no way that Kansas would have had the same 12-1 record last season if they would have switched this season's opponents -- Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma -- for their three victories at A&M and at Oklahoma State and over Baylor. In fact, some very knowledgeable football people have told me that the Jayhawks might have had trouble beating any of those Big 12 South powers last season. I don't know if I'd go that far, but it would have been a challenge for them.
Let's see how they play out this season. And If Mark Mangino can pull a sweep over his South Division opponents this season, I'll be the first person to tell Lew Perkins he needs to give his coach another raise. Because I bet a lot of athletic directors who might be looking for a new coach would be willing to offer it to him if Perkins wouldn't.
Mike from College Station writes: Tim, what are some of the biggest non-conference games in the Big XII this year? Mizzou/Illinois, obviously. Baylor/Wake Forest? A&M/Miami? Do you have any choices?
Tim Griffin: Check back at my blog later this afternoon. I'll make my choices and have them ready as long as I can work on the airplane going back home. Hopefully the guy in front of me on the airplane won't be leaning back too far in his seat.
Guys, thanks again for the question and please feel free to drop me a line any time. I always enjoy the feedback.