Big 12: South Dakota State Jackrabbits
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
If it's Friday, it must mean it's time to crack open the mailbag.
Here are some of the better questions I received this past week.
Ryan Lund of Minneapolis, Minn., writes: Hi Tim. I love your blog, especially as a Cyclone and Big 12 fan who lives in Big Ten country. You wrote recently that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is considering the creation of a Big 12 network. Do you see this eventually becoming a reality? And if so, when?
Tim Griffin: I would imagine that discussions are taking place in a broad sense between the conference and some of its partners about a potential television network. But before these plans would go forward, a determination has to be made on which way the conference's schools really want to go.
Mainly, would those Big 12 schools be willing to start their own television network -- with all the inherent chances for riches but with a greater gamble. Or would they prefer to take the model of the Southeastern Conference and employ a model where a television partner offered extensively wider distribution to the conference in exchange for them not creating their network. In essence, let somebody else do the work for them.
Both models seem to have worked.
I think the Big 12 is also hamstrung when compared to the Big Ten in a couple of ways. The Big 12 doesn't have as many attractive big-city markets or populous states as the Big Ten, lessening its chances for more money through wider distribution in their immediate areas.
More importantly, the Big Ten has always been more conducive to sharing revenues. It makes a smaller school like Northwestern feel like an equal partner to Ohio State or Michigan.
In the Big 12, the teams that have the most nationally televised games or make the most tournament trips receive more money.
That's been an ingrained idea that has been in place throughout the history of the conference and would be difficult to change, despite the wailing of some of the little brothers at the table clamoring for a bigger piece of the conference's pie.
I think for the idea of a conference television network to fly, it would be practical for all partners to be on an equal footing to help get it off the ground. And frankly, I don't know if the strongest schools in the Big 12 would be willing to share that much.
James from Swede Home, Neb., writes: Tim, remember you heard it here first. Evidence points to 2010 being the Year of the Cornhuskers. Exhibit A: A cupcake non-conference schedule with home games against Western Kentucky, South Dakota State, Idaho and Washington. Exhibit B: A friendly conference schedule favors the Cornhuskers with games against more difficult foes like Texas, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado at home. On the road, they will meet Kansas State, Iowa State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. This is the kind of schedule that would win championships.
Tim Griffin: And that's besides the fact that Zac Lee, Roy Helu Jr., Quentin Castille, Mike McNeill, Mike Smith, Keith Williams, Pierre Allen, Blake Lawrence, Anthony West and Prince Amukamara all should return for their senior seasons, as well. Add that younger players like Cody Green, Rex Burkhead and Chris Williams will have another year of experience. I expect the Cornhuskers to be pretty good in 2009 and even better in 2010.
James Coulter from Corpus Christi, Texas, writes: Tim, I completely agree with you on your assessment of the rushing statistic in college football and how it compares to how the stat is kept in the pros.
Do you think, however, that college football keeps its rushing game because of the larger role that quarterbacks play in the running game versus how much quarterbacks run in the NFL?
Tim Griffin: James, I got a lot of good feedback on that post. I just think that it diminishes the ability of running quarterbacks who are forced to include their sacks with their rushing total.
Actually, I think the NCAA does their statistics as a throwback to the older days when teams were more run-heavy than they are today. Sacks were fewer in those earlier days because teams didn't pass the ball as often.
But today, a quarterback is susceptible to a sack on many more passing attempts than in earlier eras of football. Those numbers eventually add up to diminish their rushing totals.
I just believe we would have a clearer, more consistent view of the rushing productivity of an offense or a defense -- those sack yards shouldn't be subtracted from the rushing totals. Instead, they should be kept in a separate category like in the NFL.
And yes, it does grieve me to say they do something better in the NFL than college football.
Dan Swanson writes: The story you wrote about Oklahoma giving $3 million back to the school was nice, but hardly merited the front-page coverage it received on your college-football link.
Why is it so special that Oklahoma's athletic department contributed $3 million back to the school?
That sum is pocket change from an athletic department of this size, particularly when you consider individual donors sometimes give $50 million to $100 million.
Tim Griffin: Dan, I respectfully disagree with your comments. I thought the Oklahoma gift to the general academic department at the school was significant for a couple of reasons.
First, it's one of the largest gifts that an athletic department has made back to its school this year. Secondly, the Sooners' athletic department made this gift without the benefit of new megabuck television deals like those garnered by some of the schools in the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten.
But the main reason I think the story was newsworthy was what Oklahoma president David Boren said when the gift was announced. The gifts, he said, helped the school avoid tuition increases or faculty layoffs.
In these challenging economic times, to hold the line on those costs is commendable. And if Boren credited the athletic department for helping to bring that about, it was noteworthy.
Jack Branch from Oklahoma City writes: Hey, Tim. You've got the ball on your own 20-yard line with 2 minutes left in a game needing a touchdown to win.
Which Big 12 quarterback do you want running your offense?
Tim Griffin: Jack, great question. Maybe it's because I just watched the tape of the 2009 Fiesta Bowl a couple of nights ago, but I would go with Texas' Colt McCoy. He might not have the deep arm of other quarterbacks in the league, but he has a knack for improvising big plays when he needs them.
Here's a statistic that best shows McCoy's clutch value, in my opinion. In games that he has started and finished that have been decided by seven points or less, Texas is 8-2.
Andrew Gaskill of Aledo, Texas, writes: Tim, I read your answer to a question about Chris Brown where you stated that you believe the combination of Brown and DeMarco Murray are the best combination in the Big 12. Wouldn't Oklahoma State's combination of Kendall Hunter and Keith Toston, which led the conference in rushing last season, be your top combination?
Tim Griffin: Andrew, I think the Oklahoma group is just a shade better because both of the backs rushed for 1,000 yards last season. Hunter led the conference in rushing last season, but the combination of Oklahoma's two primary backs makes them collectively just a little bit better, in my opinion.
And I also think an argument could be made that Nebraska's Helu and Castille are the second-best pair of running backs along with the Oklahoma State duo you mentioned.
Joe Costas from Memphis, Tenn., writes: As a Southeastern Conference fan, I'm enjoying your mythical matchups with the Big 12. But one question. What's with posting the midpoint between the two locations?
Tim Griffin: Joe, I just thought that might be a neat little trinket that would show the distances between the two teams. And the fact that it's often a small town only adds to its appeal, in my opinion.
The matchups will continue for the next couple of weeks. I'm taking a critical look at both teams before I make my pick, which is why the Big 12 hasn't fared so well, so far.
But you never know -- things could change in the mythical matchups. Keep reading them.
Thanks again for all of the great questions this week. Keep them coming and enjoy your weekend.
And let's agree to meet here again next week, OK?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Iowa State (2-4, 0-2): After starting the season on a two-win binge largely fueled by turnovers, the Cyclones have taken a step backwards with four straight losses. Coach Gene Chizik insists his team is better this season than its won-loss record indicates. The Cyclones played well for a half in losses against UNLV and Kansas, but couldn't sustain their strong play in either game. The Cyclones were lethargic last week in 38-10 loss to Baylor and cornerback Devin McDowell told the Des Moines Register that the Cyclones gave up. Not a good sign.
Offensive MVP, Austen Arnaud: Before a struggling performance against Baylor, Arnaud had asserted himself as an efficient playmaker with a knack for making big plays. He almost single-handedly directed the near-comeback against UNLV and passed for career-high totals of 268 yards and three TD passes against Kansas. But he must stay healthy because of the lack of an experienced backup.
Defensive MVP, Kurtis Taylor: One of the Cyclones' few defensive bright spots has been Taylor, a former special-teams player who has developed into his team's most consistent pass rusher. Taylor has produced 24 tackles and three sacks and leads his team with eight tackles for losses. He also returned an interception 48 yards to help spark the victory over South Dakota State.
What's next: A bowl bid is likely out of the question for the Cyclones, but their next two games will provide an immediate litmus test for Chizik and his program. They have winnable home games approaching against Nebraska and Texas A&M before a punishing finish that will conclude with three road games in their final four. Chizik is already building for the future with new starters at cornerback in Leonard Johnson and Ter'ran Benton. More could come as the season concludes.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Iowa State has jumped to a quick 20-0 lead over South Dakota State midway through the second quarter.
An opportunistic Iowa State defense has already accounted for three interceptions.
The Cyclones are playing as well on opening night as Baylor is struggling.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The season finally arrives tonight in the Big 12 and not a moment too soon.
A rare chance in the spotlight will be provided tonight for South Division basement dweller Baylor and their counterparts from the North, Iowa State.
Baylor will kick off the season with a difficult matchup against No. 23 Wake Forest tonight in Waco. The game is interesting for a several reasons. Art Briles will start his coaching career at Baylor after leading Houston to four bowl appearances in the last five seasons. Both schools are Baptist-affiliated. And Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe was a finalist for the Baylor job when the Bears hired Guy Morriss back in 2002.
The Demon Deacons have shown that football transformations are possible, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference two seasons ago and making another bowl trip last season for the first back-to-back postseason appearances in school history. Baylor is only dreaming about that kind of success.
And Iowa State will start the season against Division I-AA South Dakota State in a game where coach Gene Chizik will play with 27 freshmen and sophomores in his two-deep roster. Included among those are sophomore quarterbacks Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates, who both will receive snaps tonight against the Jackrabbits.
I can't wait for the start of the season -- even if it means a three-hour drive to Waco this afternoon to get to Floyd Casey Stadium. But I actually think the journey along Interstate 35 will go by quickly because of my anticipation and the new Jimmy Buffett CD that my wife got me for our anniversary.
So until then, here are some morning links to satisfy your hunger pangs before kickoff.
- Briles is looking to become the first football coach since 1993 to win his first game at the school. Chuck Reedy was the last Baylor coach to win his first game, stunning No. 25 Fresno State, 42-39.
- Former Miami QB Kirby Freeman has seen the transformation in the Wake Forest program after notching a 47-17 victory over the Demon Deacons as a freshman in 2005. "They've come a long way since then," Freeman told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "I saw some of those guys three years ago and now they're seniors. They're a mature football team and won't be rattled."
- Iowa State coaches are bracing for a big change as they try to keep up with the new 40-second clock in the Cyclones' opener tonight against South Dakota State. "You've got to stay a play ahead," Iowa State defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt told the Des Moines Register. "It's going to be interesting to see what happens. It's a different game."
- Revelers at Kansas' Memorial Stadium will pay $20 per car this season for a parking space in a tailgate-friendly area that had been free last season, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.
- Lincoln Journal-Star reporter Brian Christopherson writes about the career gamble that Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini took five years ago to transition from being a successful high school coach into one who now is working in college football.
- Former Nebraska standout WR Irving Fryar will be on the sidelines for Western Michigan's game with his old school. But Fryar will be on the opposing sideline, watching his son, CB Londen Fryar play with the Broncos. "I took a DVD [of Londen playing high school football] and put it in the hand of Coach [Bill] Callahan," Irving told the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Gazette. "I never got a call. ... I was very disappointed with the way Coach Callahan handled that."
- The Dallas Morning News releases its innovative college football preview, complete with a picture of Dallas-area standouts Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell of Texas Tech. The picture must have been taken early, because Harrell still shows the remnants of his early-summer Mohawk.
- The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jimmy Burch writes about what to expect and not expect around the Big 12 this season.
- Texas coach Mack Brown got to practice on his 57th birthday Wednesday -- and the chance to visit with media members again.
- Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News writes that the NFL could be in Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee's future.
- Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman writes about the transformation of Oklahoma LB Mike Balogun from a construction worker who didn't play his junior or senior years in high school to a college football player. Interesting story indeed.
- Tom Shatel of the Omaha World Herald has an interesting take on Bo Pelini's emerging legendary status at Nebraska -- even before starting his first full season directing the Cornhuskers.
- Take a look at the Omaha World Herald's video version of "Big Red Today" with analysis by their army of reporters who cover the Cornhuskers. It's the best video production by a newspaper I've seen.
- Missouri's experienced defense is giving them a chance to attack offenses with a combination of line shifts, zone blitzes and innovative coverage schemes, Columbia Daily Tribune beat writer Dave Matter writes.
- Colorado WR Josh Smith has some big plans -- hoping for his own clothing line "Josh Fly" and shoe line "PF Fly's" and a record deal. But his biggest immediate aim is to score his first touchdown for the Buffaloes.
- The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel writes about Oklahoma State's intention to live up to its "Finish" slogan after struggling in several fourth-quarter meltdowns last season.
- Kansas State's defense has made its primary focus attacking the spread offense with speed, Wichita Eagle/Kansas City Star reporter Jeffrey Martin writes.