Big 12: San Jose State Spartans

Considering its long history of Polynesian influence, it should come as no surprise that the Pac-12 led the way with 15 players named to the preseason watch list for the inaugural Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award.

Headlining the list is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, USC safety Su'a Cravens, Oregon State center Isaac Seumalo, Washington linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha and BYU linebacker Alani Fua.

The award was established by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class of members in January. That group of seven included Kurt Gouveia (BYU), Olin Kreutz (Washington), Kevin Mawae (LSU), Junior Seau (USC), Jack Thompson (Washington State), Herman Wedemeyer (Saint Mary's College) and Ken Niumatalolo (Navy/Hawaii).

The full breakdown of players on the watch list by conference is as follows: Pac-12 (15), Mountain West (12), Independents (4), American Athletic (1), Big 12 (1) and Sun Belt (1).

Here is the complete list (34 total):
Five finalists will be announced on Nov. 20 with the winner set to be named on Dec. 9.

Big 12 lunchtime links: Will OU rejoin the Bryce Brown Derby?

February, 27, 2009
2/27/09
12:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are some of Friday's more notable stories from across the conference. Enjoy them.
  • Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler provides the scoop on why Oklahoma might not necessarily be interested in re-entering the Bryce Brown Sweepstakes.
  • Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram consults with Dr. Makum Playbetter for information about Texas as the Longhorns prepare for Friday, the first day of spring practice.
  • Texas fans planning to attend the Longhorns' Sept. 12 game at Wyoming who don't already have tickets better prepare to dig deeply in their pockets to pay. Austin Ward of the Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune reports that some online ticket brokers are already commanding nearly $350 per ticket for the game.
  • Nebraska defensive backs John Levorson and Justin Rogers are not a part of the Cornhuskers' roster as the team prepares for the start of spring practice, Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star reports. But defensive end Barry Turner, who sustained a broken leg early in the second game last season against San Jose State, will be back.
  • Record-breaking Missouri kicker Jeff Wolfert tells Elisabeth Rentschler of the Columbia Missourian that his return to the pool at this week's Big 12 diving meet is coming with some inherent challenges.
  • More respondents to a Manhattan Mercury poll view outgoing athletic director Bob Krause as a fall guy rather than a villain.
  • Kansas is hoping to start a "Gridiron Club" offering premium seating among other perks to capitalize on the Jayhawks' recent run of success, the Lawrence World-Journal's Dugan Arnett reports.

What to watch for in the Big 12 this week

September, 12, 2008
9/12/08
9:50
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are ten things to watch for this week in the Big 12.

1. Missouri WR Danario Alexander's return: I'll be interested to see how Alexander performs in his first game since injuring his knee in the Big 12 championship game last December. He's a tall, athletic target who will be especially important for QB Chase Daniel in red-zone possessions. Just what the Tigers need, another offensive weapon.

2. Iowa State's defensive front against Iowa's inside running game: The Cyclones struggled mightily last week against Kent State. And they'll be stepping up in class as they try to contain bullish Iowa RBs Shonn Greene and Jewel Hampton.

3. The Oklahoma State triplets and what they'll do for an encore: QB Zac Robinson, RB Kendall Hunter and WR Dez Bryant all will have their chances against Missouri State, but I'm not betting on another 200-200-300 performance like last week. The Cowboys will have the game in hand by the middle of the second quarter, limiting their chances to pad their statistics in the second half.

4. New Mexico State's first-game readiness: The Aggies, no doubt, will be at a huge disadvantage in their maiden voyage this season after their first game against Nicholls State University was postponed by Hurricane Gustav. Saturday will be Nebraska's third game. That experience should have the Cornhuskers ready for the Aggies' aerial attack keyed by QB Chase Holbrook.

5. Bob Stoops' heebie-jeebies in a Pac-10 stadium: Stoops has never won in two previous trips to the West Coast (Oregon in 2006, UCLA in 2005). That losing streak continues Oklahoma's struggles that have seen the team win only one of its last six road games against Pac-10 teams since 1988.

6. Washington State's early arrival at Baylor: Hurricane Ike pushed the kickoff up a day, making an already difficult trip more arduous for the Cougars. And they can't be feeling very confident after last week's 66-3 home blowout to California. WSU struggles defensively against the pass, so look for Robert Griffin to try to establish WR David Gettis early.

7. The trench battle between Kansas T Jeff Spikes and South Florida DE George Selvie: The Bulls have to pressure Kansas QB Todd Reesing for any chance to win. Selvie finished second nationally with 14.5 sacks, but hasn't notched one since mid-November. His slump has permeated the rest of his team as the Bulls have produced only one sack as a team this season.

8. Mike Leach's gambles: No Big 12 coach disdains punting on fourth-and-short situations as much as Leach, no matter where on the field he's positioned. After being burned twice on missed fourth-down plays deep in his own end of the field last week at Nevada, it will be interesting to see how reckless Leach will be Saturday against SMU.

9. Graham Harrell's slump: Some are wondering if Texas Tech's talented quarterback has hit a wall after struggling last week against Nevada. He had a below 50 percent completion percentage for the first time in his starting career last week. Harrell has thrown three touchdowns after the first two games of the season. He averaged 3.6 touchdown passes per game last season.

10. Nebraska's offensive discipline: The Cornhuskers struggled with self-inflicted mistakes last week against San Jose State. They were flagged eight times offensively, including false-start penalties on three consecutive snaps at one juncture. A veteran quarterback and offensive line were expected to have better communication than that.

Nebraska wins, Oklahoma cruising and Colorado struggling

September, 6, 2008
9/06/08
4:26
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Sorry about the delay, but a trip through the drive-through at the nearby In-and-Out turned into a 40-minute ordeal. But I love the fries.

As we advance into the late afternoon games, Nebraska's late rally enabled the Cornhuskers to subdue a plucky San Jose State by running off 21 late points en route to a 35-12 triumph.

Niles Paul's 84-yard kick return for a touchdown kick-started the late rally. But the Cornhuskers allowed San Jose State to hang around for more than three quarters and produced only 99 yards rushing. Not a good performance by an offensive line that was thought to be one of the Cornhuskers' major strengths.

I'll leave it up to fellow blogger Brian Bennett in Norman to put the Oklahoma game in perspective -- particularly since it's not available on television here. But the Sooners seem like they are making a statement to the rest of the country with their quick start that included two TD passes by Sam Bradford. Ryan Broyles has emerged as an early big-time threat with a couple of long receptions for more than 27 yards apiece.

The most notable trend of the afternoon games might be struggles that Colorado's green cornerbacks are having with Eastern Washington QB Matt Nichols, who completed 10 of his first 13 passes. The same Eastern Washington offense gave Texas Tech a lot of troubles and it looks like the same could be in store for another Big 12 team this week as they've battled to a 7-7 deadlock early in the second quarter.

Paul's kickoff return provides Nebraska cushion

September, 6, 2008
9/06/08
3:20
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Niles Paul's 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter appears to have given Nebraska a little breathing room with a 21-12 lead over San Jose State with about 11 minutes left the game.

The biggest concern for the Cornhuskers appears to be San Jose's domination -- the Spartans have dominated time of possession, outgained them and appeared on the verge of notching their first victory over a Big 12 team since beating Baylor in 1980.

Despite a deep stable of backs, Nebraska has been unable to run the ball consistently against a San Jose State defense that was lucky to beat California-Davis last week.

The Cornhuskers need senior QB Joe Ganz to emerge with some big plays down the stretch to help ice the victory. Ganz has had a pedestrian game so far, failing to show the form that enabled him to throw for at least 345 yards in his last four starts.  

Cornhuskers scrambling in Lincoln

September, 6, 2008
9/06/08
2:26
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Even while Nebraska fans are cheering the scoreboard updates from Columbus featuring Ohio University coach and former Nebraska coach Frank Solich, the Cornhuskers were battling through their own struggles against San Jose State.

The Spartans showed they meant business early in the game, notching two sacks to end Nebraska's first possession. San Jose State then marched 59 yards on five plays to take a quick 6-0 lead on Kyle Reed's 12-yard TD run as the conversion was missed.

Nebraska reclaimed the lead on their next possession as backup I-back Roy Helu accounted for 48 yards on three plays. Quentin Castille scored two plays later to give Nebraska the lead.

Perhaps the best sign of the first half for Nebraska coach Bo Pelini came on the next drive. NT Ndamukong Suh, who underachieved badly last season as he struggled with injuries, returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown to extend Nebraska's lead to 14-6.

But San Jose State pulled within 14-9 on a 41-yard field goal by Louis Schuman. It could have been much closer with San Jose twice having the ball inside the Nebraska 25, but Schuman misfired on two field goals in the second half, including a 32-yard attempt to end the first half.

San Jose State coach Dick Tomey told San Jose reporters earlier this week that he backed out of a game against Tennessee in favor of one against Nebraska because he thought the Cornhuskers were easier. The Spartans responded by dominating the first half offensively with a 13-7 edge in first downs, 221-111 in total offense, 107 yards rushing and three sacks of Nebraska QB Joe Ganz.

At the end of the first half, the Cornhuskers were fortunate to be ahead even by five points.      

Big 12 links: Conference should have easy week

September, 6, 2008
9/06/08
11:03
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

RENO, Nev. -- Sorry for the delay this morning, but the sun was barely creeping over the nearby Sierra Nevadas when I started this. Also, with only four games played in the conference before this evening, most fans should be taking a similarly leisurely game-day routine.

With most Big 12 teams taking a trip to the pastry wagon this week, here are some delectable links almost tasty as the cupcakes being served at most places around the conference.

  • The multifaceted Oklahoma offense is described by the Oklahoman's Jake Trotter as college football's version of the Swiss army knife. The Sooners' offensive versatility will be tested by Cincinnati, even if many Sooners don't know which conference the Bearcats are members of.
  • Renovated Boone Pickens Stadium is officially a big house -- at least in Big 12 terms -- with 60,000 seats. The new configuration should result in increased reverberation Saturday night against Houston because of the configuration of the new seats.
  • New Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp led his team through a Sunday night walkthrough, something that hadn't been done around Austin before. That came after an impressive opening-game victory that had UTEP coach Mike Price thinking the Longhorns had 14 defenders as he watched the game film.
  • Texas A&M is seeking redemption this week at New Mexico, despite a frustrating recent history of struggling in nonconference road games.
  • Nebraska remains confident in its running game, despite producing the second-lowest rushing total in an opener in 30 years last week and netting 3 or more yards on only 13 of 31 carries. Maybe that's why San Jose State coach Dick Tomey admitted to the San Jose Mercury News this week that he dropped Tennessee and added Nebraska to the schedule because he thought it's a more winnable game.
  • Nevada's pass defense shouldn't be intimidated against Texas Tech's high-powered aerial attack, considering the Wolf Pack played four of the nation's top 11 passing offenses last season.
  • Missouri fans are excited about the Tigers' home opener against Southeast Missouri State -- to the tune of a record 40,000 season tickets sold. One of the more intriguing story lines today will be who gets the snaps behind QB Chase Daniel once the Tigers get the game under control. 
  • Baylor players know they can't overlook any opponent, especially after their first-game struggles. Their nine-game losing streak heading into Saturday's game against Northwestern State ties the school's longest since dropping 10 straight in 1998-99.
  • The Boulder Daily Camera's Neill Woelk says it's time to forget about the last time Colorado played a Football Championship Subdivision opponent -- even if ESPN the Magazine still expects a rough game for the Buffaloes today against Eastern Washington.
  • The Topeka Capital Journal's Austin Meek writes about how a Montana State kicker once converted 17 field goals in a game. I guess that's not a surprise from a school that produced NFL Hall of Fame K Jan Stenerud.
  • Times have changed at Memorial Stadium for Kansas games, where Louisiana Tech players who played there in 2005 will hardly recognize the place since the Jayhawks' recent success.
  • Iowa State CB Devin McDowell has waited a long time to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, former All-Big 12 CB DeAndre Jackson. His Cyclones are intent on gaining revenge Saturday for last year's loss to Kent State.

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