Big 12: Sam Keller

IRVING, Texas -- The big topic of conversation at the Big 12's spring meetings Wednesday was doing the league's part to help piece together the College Football Playoff selection committee, but plenty more took place inside the meeting room, too. Here are a few notes from the Big 12's business this week.

Big 12 plays officiating guinea pig

Conference officials approved the use of eight-man officiating crews for the 2013 season. It'll be a one-year experiment that's revisited at the end of the season, and the Big 12 will be the only league in college football to use the additional official, who will be located in the offensive backfield, on the side of the quarterback, opposite the referee.

The crews, which will cost an additional $2,000 per school, will be used for all conference games and four selected nonconference games.

"Most people think our officials are as good as any in the country, and [Big 12 coordinator of officials] Walt [Anderson] is a seasoned and successful coordinator and an innovative guy. I think that's why [the national coordinator and other league coordinators] thought the Big 12 was a pretty good place to try it out."

Bowl tie-ins getting straightened out

Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the Big 12 won't officially announce its bowl tie-ins this week, but the picture is coming into shape during the week of meetings, and the Alamo Bowl could replace the Cotton Bowl as the top Big 12 game for teams who don't qualify for the four-team playoff.

"We're not finished with that yet, but it looks like it's going to work that way," Bowlsby said. "We're not quite there, but we're not far."

He reiterated his stance that the Big 12 wants its bowl games to remain anchored in Texas but also have games out west (i.e., Arizona and/or California) and a game in Florida (possibly the Russell Athletic Bowl or Gator Bowl), as well as a game with a destination within driving distance for fans. That sentiment was driven in part by 25,000 Iowa State fans showing up at last year's Liberty Bowl in Memphis.

NCAA briefs Big 12 on lawsuits

NCAA attorney Donald Remy updated Big 12 officials on class-action lawsuits filed by former players claiming the NCAA used their images in video games without their permission. Former Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller and former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon are among the plaintiffs.

"This is years away from being resolved, and there’s probably an appeals process after that," Bowlsby said.

He declined to speculate on what a loss for the NCAA might mean, citing "too many moving parts" in any fallout from the lawsuits.

Big 12 links: Could OU have another dynamic RB duo in 2010?

July, 6, 2009
7/06/09
1:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I hope everybody is as recharged and ready as I am after my Fourth of July break.

Between the dinners with the in-laws, fireworks displays, wiffle ball games and even a 2-hour wait in 104-degree heat for the most quintessential of all Texas tourist trips -- a visit to the Blue Bell Creamery in Brenham -- I'm still kind of worn out from all my days off.

Thankfully, the links were waiting for me this morning with a lot of news that transpired over the last few days across the Big 12.

Enjoy them.

A wish list for my Big 12 Football 2010 game

May, 21, 2009
5/21/09
4:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I've never really been a big fan of EA Sports' NCAA Football. So Sam Keller's lawsuit that would take away the ability to play realistic teams doesn't really resonate as a cause célèbre for me quite like it does for some of my readers.

But I am amazed at some of the realistic elements that are added to the game.

The Web site Dawg Sports includes seven touches that they wish were incorporated into the game. One has a Big 12 relationship. They wished there were thought bubbles over Mike Leach when the Red Raiders are playing. Here's why:

"Just picture it. The Texas Tech quarterback lofts one into the corner of the end zone for his sixth touchdown pass of the game. The camera pans over to Coach Leach, who is busy weighing several of the lesser known critiques of Keynesian economics, and reflecting on why exactly he loves pineapple salsa so much. You know that's how it really happens in Lubbock."

I like that idea and a few more involving the Big 12. Here's my list of features that should be in the game.

  • An enthusiastic Will Muschamp bouncing to his team, hurting himself more than his players after chest-bumping a linebacker after big plays. Or maybe he could have a "Boom ......" element for the biggest of defensive plays.
  • Flyovers from rival teams for important-late season games. The whinier the better.
  • Sideline histrionics by Kansas coach Mark Mangino after his team scores.
  • Texas A&M fans remain standing throughout games at Kyle Field -- even when they are being run out of their own stadium.
  • Mascots visible along the sidelines -- whether sitting (Bevo), drinking Dr Pepper (Judge), charging (Ralphie), barking (Reveille), hopping (Lil' Red), riding a motorcycle (Willie) or flapping (Big Jay).
  • Pregame introductions like something out of the WWE -- especially for home games involving Nebraska and Texas.
  • A Bob Stoops visor toss after a disappointing Oklahoma defensive play.
  • Extra enthusiasm in the Colorado coaching module for Dan Hawkins. After a big play, my faux Hawkins could chirp "this ain't intramurals." And before the game, the Hawkins character could demand "10 wins and no excuses."
  • In a nod to the old days, when Kansas State players are receiving treatment along the sidelines, the other players would ring around him so the camera couldn't determine the nature of his injury.
  • Road players at Folsom Field might be subject to occasional blinding from a laser beam flashed from the stands.
  • Problem areas for Texas Tech could be addressed by the addition of players from the stands -- just like Matt "Lynwood" Williams.
  • And finally, a BCS tiebreaker in the season mode which would give a game player no idea if his team would advance to a championship game or not -- no matter how its season record played out. That would be really cool -- and realistic, too.

Anybody else have ideas they would like to incorporate into our version of EA Big 12 Football 2010?

Big 12 lunch links: Warriner vs. Warriner tough for KU coach

May, 12, 2009
5/12/09
1:16
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Ed Warriner only thinks he has it tough making third-and-long calls against tough defenses on Saturdays during the fall.

The Kansas offensive coordinator and his family will have an interesting dilemma Thursday afternoon when his two daughters, Madisyn and Merideth, will be on different sides of the field when their respective high schools play for the Lawrence city soccer championship.

Madisyn, a sophomore, is a forward for Lawrence Free State High. Merideth, a freshman at Southwest Junior High, has been called up to the varsity team at Lawrence High School, where she plays in the Lions' midfield.

It will be the first time the Warriners will face each other on opposite in a soccer game.

The Lawrence Journal-World provides an interesting profile of both players and their upcoming

"Come Wednesday night, there might be a little tension in the house," Madisyn told the Journal-World.

As Warriner juggles that potentially ticklish situation, here are a few lunchtime links from across the conference.

  • Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal touts Nebraska associate athletic director Mark Boehm as a strong potential candidate for the vacant Kansas State athletic director's job.
  • Paul Rhoads is traveling across the Midwest this month pressing the flesh with Iowa State fans. Steve Batterson of the Quad City Times reports that Rhoads is set to visit Quad City fans on Wednesday night.
  • The Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel weighs in on several football topics, including Sam Keller's case against EA Sports and the Big 12's tiebreaker rule recommended by the coaches.
  • The Boulder Daily Camera's Kyle Ringo and Neill Woelk go on video to break down Colorado's recent spring practice.
  • Tom Kensler of the Denver Post has some musings about arriving Colorado quarterback Clark Evans and Colorado coach Dan Hawkins' ability to uncover recruiting "diamonds in the rough."
  • New Iowa State quarterback commit Jared Barnett should be in good shape when he arrives at college. His high school coach at Garland High School, Jeff Jordan, told the Ames Tribune's Bobby LaGesse that he runs the same offensive system in high school as the one favored by new ISU offensive coordinator Tom Herman.
  • The Columbia Daily Tribune's Dave Matter writes about Missouri's new $3.8 million scoreboard at Faurot Field.
  • Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman writes about what a big gamble it really is for Bob Stoops to bring Justin Chiasson into his program.
  • Paul Myerberg of the New York Times' blog "The Quad" provides a detailed breakdown of Iowa State, ranked as the nation's 112th best team coming out of spring practice.
  • Colorado's Dan Hawkins earns honorable mention status on the Orlando Sentinel's list of fittest head coaches posted on its College Gridiron 365 blog.

Big 12 lunch links: Watts earned $620K as BCS lobbyist

May, 11, 2009
5/11/09
1:38
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Wasn't it the Bangles who sang about "Manic Mondays" way back when?

But Susanna Hoffs can't top these smokin' hot links for the first day of the work week.

Here they are. And you don't even have to put up with a bunch of cheesy VH-1 videos to read them. 

Big 12 lunch links: Stoops faces tough call on Chaisson

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
12:57
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

While the coaches are away in Phoenix playing golf, the Big 12 links keep rolling in.

Here are some of the most notable to get us ready for the weekend.

Mailbag: OU's Murray, Reynolds recovering nicely

February, 27, 2009
2/27/09
2:12
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's a batch of fresh letters from my readers who wrote me about various Big 12 topics this week.

Steve from Clearwater, Fla., writes: I'm wondering what's the status of Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray and Ryan Reynolds. Will they be ready for spring practice? Thanks again for all of your great coverage of Big 12 ball.

Tim Griffin: Hey, thanks for the kudos. Because of the severity of Murray's partial rupture of his left hamstring tendon and Reynolds torn knee ligaments, neither player will participate in a full spring practice regimen in the next few weeks. But Oklahoma officials say that both are progressing at or ahead of the normal pace of recovery for their injuries. The forecast for both key players participating in the 2009 season is bright, I am told.


Dale from Richmond, Texas, writes: Is John Chiles the next Percy Harvin? His athleticism is unquestionable on film. Moving Chiles to wide receiver is like finding a diamond in the rough! What is your opinion?

Tim Griffin: Like you mentioned, Chiles is an athlete and should be able to make plays in Texas' offense.

I'm wondering, however, if he might be better suited as a running back than a receiver. His speed and pass-catching abilities could be more useful there. I think the Longhorns are much weaker in the backfield with oft-injured Fozzy Whittaker, Tre' Newton and Vondrell McGee as their lone breakaway threats along with the hulking Cody Johnson. Among receivers, Chiles will have to challenge Dan Buckner, Malcolm Williams, Brandon Collins, James Kirkendoll and Jordan Shipley when he recovers from his injury. It will be very hard for him to crack that rotation.

An even more likely role for him will be as a kick returner. Mack Brown said that special emphasis will be placed on improving the Longhorns' kick returns after the Longhorns placed only sixth in the conference last season. I could see Chiles being very useful there.


Kent from Cushing, Iowa, writes: Tim, in your blog about what you don't love about the Big 12 you list human mascots and have my beloved Cyclones listed. Hey, we had a REAL cyclone for one game in Ames. It was against Colorado in 2005, I believe. CU just packed up Ralphie and went home.

Tim Griffin: I remember that game and the unusual weather conditions. But I still like animals rather than those mascots in costumes -- even if the climatic conditions might belong on The Weather Channel.


Kyle Highberg from Omaha writes: Hey, good blog and I greatly appreciate it. But that being sad, can the North Division get some love, too? Each and every day you blog about something going on at Texas. I know you live only an hour away from Austin, but I don't need to hear three updates a day on the same slow news story! Maybe it's just me, or maybe it is only February and I have a big itch for Big 12 football. Seriously, thanks for the blog!

Tim Griffin: The reason that Texas schools have been featured so prominently the last several days is that they are actually practicing. Texas is taking advantage of the warmer weather to start practice as the first team in the conference. Baylor will start its next week, leading to my story earlier today on Robert Griffin.

As I've often said, I consider the 12 schools in the conference as almost my children and I try not to show any one of them any more love or favoritism than another. Even if it makes me feel like Old Mother Hubbard sometimes.

But during next few weeks, you can be assured that I'll have reports of teams across the Big 12.


Dane from Dallas writes: What is a guy do until September 5th? Your blogs alone are enough to satiate me enough to prevent withdrawals and I am going crazy here! How do you feel about OU opening up Jerry's world against BYU?

Tim Griffin: First, let me suggest ESPN Classic. They often play great games of the past that will help feed your "Football Jones" when no live games are available.

As for the Sooners, I think their game against BYU will be one of the most intriguing nonconference games of the season. Both teams have got a lot of offensive firepower. The Cougars have never lost to a Big 12 team, beating two teams from the conference since the Big 12 started play in 1996.

It should make for an intriguing first college game at the Dallas Cowboys' Stadium in Arlington, Texas, shouldn't it? First team to 50 points will win.


Rene from Valencia, Calif., writes: Hey Tim, I just have two simple questions. I'm a Longhorn fan, and I was wondering if the Rose Bowl 2006 has been the only time that USC has played Texas? How many times has Texas played USC in school history? And in your opinion, what makes one team better than another? History, accomplishments such as national championships, Heisman Trophies. or head-to-head records?

Tim Griffin: The Longhorns and Trojans have played five times in the history of both programs. USC won the four previous games in the series: 19-7 in Los Angeles in 1955, 44-20 in Austin in 1956, 10-6 in Austin in 1966 and 17-13 in Los Angeles in 1967. Some my more experienced friends in Austin still see former USC football player John Wayne attending the game in Austin back in 1966.

But the way that the 2006 Rose Bowl played out convinced me that these two programs should be occasionally playing each other. It would be a heck of an intersectional matchup.

And as far as the most important factor I use to gauge the strength of programs is consistency: If a team has been great for a long time, I think that speaks volumes about it. And it's why I think that ESPN.com's ranking of Oklahoma as the nation's most prestigious program was completely warranted.


John from Austin writes: In your coverage of the Nebraska quarterback battle, you haven't really mentioned Taylor Martinez. I realize that he was brought in to be a safety, but his high school quarterback numbers and apparent competitiveness warrant SOME mention, I think. I have an issue with prototypical quarterbacks like Sam Keller, Harrison Beck and Josh Freeman and how it seems like they never really live up to their hype - but maybe that's just been because we've been spoiled with a player like Joe Ganz!

Wasn't there talk about Martinez getting a chance to compete for the job? Where has that talk gone, if it ever existed?

Tim Griffin: I think the talk was the heaviest right around national signing day when Bo Pelini was trying to convince Martinez to attend Nebraska. I do
know that Martinez will fall far behind Cody Green, Kody Spano and Zac Lee because those players will receive chances to take many snaps during spring practice. It would be hard to imagine Martinez being able to catch up against that trio when he arrives later this summer, but I know he desperately wants to play quarterback.

Eventually, Martinez might become a factor, but it might be too early to think he will become one in 2009.

The Cornhuskers will have little depth at the position. I'm predicting Lee to have the starting job going into the summer with Green close behind. I could see Pelini using Green like Ohio State coach Jim Tressel used Terrelle Pryor last season by getting his feet wet with a few snaps early in the season before more extensive use later in the season. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

That's all the time I have for today. Check back for my live chat on Big 12 football on Monday and keep the e-mails coming. I appreciate all of them.

Ganz blossoms in record-setting senior season

November, 11, 2008
11/11/08
5:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Patience has paid off for Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz this season.

The remarkable ending of his career has pushed his team into bowl eligibility with two games still to play. The Cornhuskers still have a slim hope of claiming the North Division title.

 
  Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE
 Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz has been a major part of the Cornhuskers' success this season.

The biggest reason has been Ganz, who has emerged during his senior season after sitting on the bench most of his career.

"It's nice to know that all of the hard work and the heart and soul I poured into everything are paying off in the end," said Ganz, who backed up Zac Taylor and Sam Keller earlier in his career before his big finish. "I could have transferred and left for another school. But I just knew I could play here. And once I got it going, I wasn't going to leave without a shot at trying."

Despite starting one season and three extra games at the end of last season, Ganz is in position to challenge many of the school's career passing records. He has notched five of the top 10 single-game passing totals in school history and accumulated a school-record eight 300-yard passing games in his 13 career starts.

Ganz ranks 15th nationally in passing efficiency, completing 69.4 percent of his passes for 2,833 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. He also ranks 12th nationally in total offense (154.3) and 11th in passing yards per game (283.3 yards per game).

The contributions of Ganz haven't been fully appreciated outside the Nebraska program because of the stellar play of all of the other quarterbacks in the Big 12. Ganz gets lost in the shuffle with Heisman Trophy contenders like Graham Harrell, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford playing in the same league.

"I feel a little bit underrated in the whole thing, but this is a pretty good conference to be underrated in," Ganz said. "When Texas and Oklahoma and Texas Tech are winning like they have, those guys will get talked about and deserve the accolades they are getting. I'm just focusing on what I'm doing in leading my team and how I'm playing."

But Ganz's numbers are comparable and could break many of the records set by Taylor in 2006 -- a season in which he was the Big 12's Offensive Player of the Year.

In his nine conference starts, Ganz has thrown for more passing yardage than the opposing quarterback in all but one game. The only quarterback to beat him was Bradford earlier this season. Among the quarterbacks that Ganz has beaten in yardage have been Harrell, Chase Daniel, Todd Reesing (twice) and Josh Freeman.

That production has earned a unique compliment from Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, who said last week he is glad he had Ganz in place for his first season coaching the Cornhuskers.

"Joe Ganz is a big reason why we're sitting here at 5-4 instead of 2-7," Pelini said. "I mean, Joe Ganz is a stud. He's played good football."

Since then, the Cornhuskers have won another game to earn bowl eligibility for the first time since 2006. And Ganz, who said he wishes he had a couple of more years of eligibility left, has been the catalyst of that surge.

"It's a huge thing to help get this program back on track," Ganz said. "Going to a bowl game is a start. I've wanted to leave this program in better shape than when I came into it. If we can do that, I think I've accomplished what I've set out to do."

Five minutes with Joe Ganz

August, 4, 2008
8/04/08
5:56
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

After being a backup quarterback for the last three seasons, Joe Ganz has inherited Nebraska's starting job. Ganz hopes to build on the success that saw him pass for 1,399 yards and 15 touchdown passes in his three starts after replacing Sam Keller late last season.

 
 AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
 Nebraska QB Joe Ganz, who turned heads with a stellar three-game stretch last season, will get the starting nod this year.

Ganz's three-game binge was the most touchdowns thrown in a three-game period in Nebraska school history.

We caught up with Ganz for a few minutes Monday to talk about his starting position and his plans for the Nebraska offense under new coach Bo Pelini.

Are you excited about your opportunity?

Joe Ganz: Yeah, I can't wait to get out there.

Is it your goal to maybe run the ball more this season?

JG: Yeah, I might not throw as many passes in the whole year as I threw in those last three games. Obviously, we're going to run the ball more. We have to if we want to win. I don't think we'll be throwing the ball 55 times and people will be teeing off on me like last year. I know we might have some shootouts in the Big 12, but I'm hoping not that much.

Your body hasn't taken the beating it likely will take with your full-time status as starter. Are you ready for it?

JG: Yeah, I haven't played a full season. I've gotten a little big bigger and ready to play. But I've always been durable. It will be a little different with bumps and bruises every week. I've just got to get down to the cold tank after games and recuperate to get back healthy.

Do you envision personally running the ball more on zone-read plays?

JG: Yeah, probably more than we've done before. I'll use my ability to run and scramble and probably do some designed runs. But I bet I won't run the ball Tim Tebow-style.

Are you surprised that there were co-number ones at tailback with Marlon Lucky and Roy Helu Jr. on the summer depth chart?

JG: Not really. Obviously, Marlon will get the majority of carries. But Roy deserves to be put in there. He's worked really hard in the offseason and our guys really respect him for how he runs the ball. I'm not really surprised by it. It's tough to get them both an equal amount of carries.

What does it feel like being the starter for the first time?

JG: It's awesome. It really kind of sunk in yesterday when we had a meeting with (Nebraska offensive coordinator) coach (Shawn) Watson. I'm going to get all the No. 1 reps and it kind of hits you about your opportunity. It comes with a lot of responsibilities but I wouldn't have it any other way.

How do you compare yourself with some of the other quarterbacks in the Big 12?

JG: Talent-wise, I don't compare myself against them, nor do I care about how many touchdowns or passing yards I've thrown for. Wins and losses are the appropriate thing. If I throw for 500 yards and win, it's fine. If I throw for 150 and win, that's good, too."

How tough was the losing last season?

JG: Obviously we understand the tradition here and it's been tough on us. But we're looking forward to righting the ship this year and getting our team going in the right direction.

Did you ever consider leaving earlier after not getting to play much earlier in your career at Nebraska?

JG: Not really. I thought about it some because it was killing me not to play. But I never wanted to play anywhere else. When I was here, I was here for good. It was hard to sit on the bench. And you think it might not ever happen for you. I didn't want to sit and be a career backup. But when I got in the summer battle last season, I knew I could play. I just kept working hard and waiting for my chance.

With guys like Josh Freeman (a one-time Nebraska commitment), Harrison Beck, Sam Keller and some of the others who have come or almost come through here, did you ever think you would get your chance to play?

JG: There were always doubts when they brought in these high recruits and fans go crazy about them and coaches want to get them in and see what they can do. It was tough, but I expected it when I came here. I was ready for it, but it didn't make it any easier.

But it all worked out for me. They left and here I am No. 1. I can't wait for the season to start.

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