Big 12: Southeastern Conference
But the SEC has a reason to look over its shoulder this season. Several of them, in fact. The Big 12, Pac-10 and Big Ten are trying to catch the SEC, and all three leagues can make cases for being the nation's No. 2 conference right now. According to the ESPN Stats & Info conference power rankings, the Big 12 is No. 2, followed by the Pac-10 and the Big Ten.
Which conference is right behind the SEC?
Bloggers David Ubben (Big 12), Ted Miller (Pac-10) and Adam Rittenberg (Big Ten) weigh in.
Adam Rittenberg: What the Big Ten lacks -- an undefeated team -- it more than makes up for with incredible depth. The league boasts three 1-loss teams in Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State, all of which could finish 11-1. It also boasts a veteran Iowa team that no one wants to face in a bowl, in addition to decent squads like Northwestern, Penn State and Michigan. Even Illinois has made some major strides from 2009.
The Big Ten finished the 2009-10 bowl season as the nation's No. 2 conference, recording four victories against top 15 opponents.
Nothing has changed to move the Big Ten off of the second line.
David Ubben: Hey, I get it. In college football, a conference is only as strong as its strongest link. That's how the expression goes, right? Gimme a break.
The Big 12 has landed a team in the title game in each of the past two seasons. Despite being on the outside looking in on this year's chase, the league still has five teams in the top 20, and earlier this year, nine teams were in the poll or receiving votes. All that should be even more impressive considering the league's glamour program, Texas, at 4-6, is having a "down year" that is insulting to down years. Nine consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins for the Longhorns has come to a rather spectacularly bad end.
But otherwise, strength is everywhere. Baylor is having one of the program's best years and should be just as good in 2011. Missouri, had they not tripped up at Texas Tech, could be in the top 10. Oklahoma State has emerged as the league's surprise top 10 team and Nebraska is proving everybody wrong who thought they were overrated in the preseason. Texas A&M struggled early, but has won four Big 12 games in a row to reach the top 20. All in a down year for the two programs who have ruled the conference, Oklahoma and Texas.
Outside of Colorado, which is leaving anyway, and rebuilding Kansas, every team in the league is proving to be, at the very least, capable. Iowa State, despite playing the toughest schedule in college football, still has a chance to qualify for a bowl, and if Texas does the same by beating rival Texas A&M, the league could have 10 bowl-eligible teams.
So maybe the Big 12 doesn't have a team vying for the crystal football this year, but it has a whole lot of really good teams, and a handful of others who are proving there's no such thing as an easy week in the Big 12.
Ted Miller: Over at the Pac-10, we're grinning. We're about to point out the Pac-10 plays a nine-game conference schedule, which automatically adds five losses to the conference, which, of course, hurts the conference's national perception, not to mention its number of bowl-eligible teams. Every other BCS conference plays eight, other than the eight-team Big East. But that’s not why we're grinning. We're grinning because the Big Ten and the Big 12 will do that soon, and then they'll find out the perception consequence of not giving your entire conference an extra win with a nonconference patsy. Of course, the savvy SEC will continue to play eight conference games, schedule weak nonconference opponents and then trumpet itself as super-awesome.
Why is the Pac-10 No. 2? Well, it's got the nation's No. 1 team in Oregon. It's got the nation's No. 6 team in Stanford, which many believe to be the nation's best one-loss team. And four of 10 teams are ranked. Are Iowa and Wisconsin good teams? Absolutely. But Iowa lost to Arizona, which has three Pac-10 defeats, and Wisconsin got a fluky one-point win at home over Arizona State, which is 2-5 in the Pac-10. The Pac-10 is 10-4 overall vs. other BCS conferences. It's ranked No. 1 by the Sagarin ratings, which for some reason don't believe stadium size is a true measure of a team or a conference. Even lowly Washington State is no longer the pushover it was the previous two seasons.
Depth? Let's put it this way: The Pac-10 would love to match the team that ends up second to last in its conference versus the one that ends up in that spot anywhere else.
Rittenberg: Three strong cases for the No. 2 spot. But are any of these leagues closing the gap with the SEC?
Ubben: I guess we'll find out come bowl season, but I don't know that anybody in the Big 12 is in position for a run like the SEC's enjoyed in the latter half of the last decade.
Oklahoma and Texas will be Oklahoma and Texas, but the strength of the Big 12 has been a rising middle class with teams like Oklahoma State, Missouri, Texas A&M and maybe Baylor and Texas Tech positioning themselves to become mainstays in the top 25 during the next couple years or beyond.
That's good for the computer ratings, but not good for a league trying to field a national champion. And for better or worse, a league's ultimate identity boils down to its best team or two. Thanks to that rising middle class, getting inside the top five and staying there could be harder than ever in the next few years.
When USC ruled the Pac-10 from 2002-2008, folks called the conference the Trojans and the nine dwarfs. Now that USC has fallen, Oregon has risen, and teams such as Stanford and Arizona also have made moves. But USC will be back. That's just inevitable. And if Utah continues to play at a high level after it joins the Pac-12, you could make the case that the Pac-10 should start to produce multiple top-10 teams and five or six top-25 teams annually, which would put it on par with the SEC.
And, honestly, with resurgent Nebraska joining the Big Ten, I'm not sure we won't have a new No. 1 conference in 2011 anyway.
Rittenberg: Well, Ted made most of my points for me. I'll be sending a gift basket to Scottsdale.
The Big Ten certainly has matched up well with the SEC in the Capital One and Outback bowls, and the addition of Nebraska next fall truly enhances the league's clout. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany often points out the only way his league truly regains national respect is by beating the best from another conference at the championship level. The Big Ten still gets bashed for Ohio State's stumbles against the SEC in the BCS title game, and barring a wild final three weeks, a Big Ten squad won't be facing Auburn on Jan. 10 in Glendale. So the Big Ten must wait for that true statement game.
When I look at these two leagues from top to bottom, I don't see much difference. The Big Ten has continued to build off of its strong finish to 2009, while the SEC seems to have backslid. All you need to do is look at the SEC East division. Could Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State beat Auburn or LSU? It's possible, but I really think the entire league matches up better now with what the SEC is offering.
Like Ted writes, it's all about perception. Until a team from another league beats the SEC at the highest level, the SEC will keep living off of its incredible run.
But the Big Ten is catching up.
But it's not all that is going on across the Big 12.
Check out these links along with your lunchtime respite. You'll thank me for it later.
- ESPN.com’s J.C. Shurburtt has high confidence that Owamagbe Odighizuwa will end up at Nebraska.
- The Denver Post’s Woody Paige wonders where Dan Hawkins has been the last few weeks.
- The Lincoln Journal Star’s Steve Sipple writes about Turner Gill’s diligent job of trying to cobble together his first recruiting class at Kansas.
- U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen blasted the Southeastern and Big 12 conferences for failing to adopt stricter policies on handling player concussions, the Associated Press’ Kristie Rieken reports.
- Baylor wide receiver David Gettis and Texas Tech tackle Marlon Winn struggled through the first day of practices at the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game at El Paso, Texas, the Sporting News’ Russ Lande reports.
- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bill Coats catches up with Sheldon Richardson to talk about the pressures of recruiting. Richardson, who played at the College of the Sequoias last season, said he remains committed to Missouri for the spring semester next year.
- A Dallas Morning News recruiting day primer predicts that Texas is set to contend for championships for years with this year’s recruiting class. And the Morning News’ Chuck Carlton also provides extensive recruiting previews for Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Baylor.
- The Omaha World-Herald’s Tom Shatel is curious why Nebraska is competing with Western Kentucky for a potential starting quarterback.
- The Boulder Camera’s Kyle Ringo reports that attrition has cost Colorado nearly eight players per year from each recruiting class by the end of its eligibility at the school.
- New defensive tackle commitment Mike Jones tells the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Don Williams he was set to attend Fordham before receiving a late recruiting offer from Texas Tech.
- Kicker-punter Will Russ of Shreveport, La., is Texas’ 25th and final commitment of the recruiting class of 2010, the Austin American-Statesman’s Suzanne Halliburton reports.
- The Oklahoman's Jake Trotter reports that former Georgia defensive coordinator and Stanford assistant Willie Martinez appears headed to Oklahoma as a new defensive coach for the Sooners.
The bowl season only added to those miseries.
The conference finished 4-4 in its bowl games, but lost in the BCS title game for the second straight season as Texas fell to Alabama. Colt McCoy’s injury may have left an asterisk on that defeat in the minds of most Longhorn fans and even for Barack Obama, but it’s a loss nonetheless.
McCoy’s injury was the capper in a jinxed season for the Big 12 that included season-ending injuries to Sam Bradford and Robert Griffin, a season-ending NCAA suspension to Dez Bryant and season-long injury struggles for 2008 leading rusher Kendall Hunter.
The final Associated Press rankings underscored that sentiment. The Big 12 finished with only three teams ranked among the top 25, the fewest since a record-low two teams were ranked at the end of the 2006 season. Texas finished at No. 2, Nebraska was No. 14 and Texas Tech was No. 21.
Most notably, the Big 12 lost all three bowl games against the Southeastern Conference. The nation’s baddest conference bullied the Big 12 again, stretching its record in bowl games against the Big 12 to 12-3 since 2003. Convincing victories by Alabama over Texas in the BCS title game, Mississippi over Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl and Georgia over Texas A&M in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl came by an average of 18 points per game.
Missouri was flummoxed by Navy’s triple-option offense in a humbling 35-13 Texas Bowl loss where it appeared the Tigers’ coaches had little inkling for making in-game adjustments.
Despite a victory over Stanford in the Brut Sun Bowl, Oklahoma finished the season out of the top 25 for the first time since Bob Stoops’ first season in 1999. The Sooners finished 2009 with five losses, most since Stoops’ first season.
Texas Tech overcame a suspension-depleted Michigan State team in the Valero Alamo Bowl in a game that was overshadowed by Mike Leach’s firing three days before kickoff.
Oklahoma State skidded out of the top 25 after starting the season at ninth in the preseason Associated Press poll.
The Big 12’s two most impressive bowl victories came with upset triumphs from North Division teams. Nebraska stymied Arizona with a vintage defensive performance in Ndamukong Suh’s final game in a 33-0 victory over Arizona. And Iowa State punctuated the conference’s feel-good story of the season as Paul Rhoads’ team produced an emotional 14-13 triumph over Minnesota.
But conquests like those were too few and far between for the Big 12 in a season to forget for the conference’s power elite.
- The Southeastern Conference's recent domination of three-straight BCS championships could be stretched if favored Alabama beats Texas Thursday night, Tim Gayle of the Montgomery Advertiser reports.
- Sporting News’ Dave Curtis said that if Texas' offense is one-dimensional in favor of the passing attack against Alabama, it won’t necessarily hurt the team.
- The long break from the end of the regular season to Thursday’s Citi BCS title game could work in Texas’ favor, the New York Daily News’ Dick Weiss writes.
- Pete Fiutak of the College Football News is predicting a big game for Colt McCoy and a 23-19 upset victory for the Longhorns.
- Des Moines Register reader Chuck Davis wonders if the bowl system is too watered down after the Insight Bowl’s matchup between 6-6 teams Iowa State and Minnesota.
- Texas walk-on wide receiver and New York native C.A. Vergari has learned about the art of hunting doves with Colt McCoy, Lenn Robbins of the New York Post reports.
- Wide receiver prospect Kenny Bell spurned his hometown Colorado Buffaloes for a recruiting offer from Nebraska, the Boulder Daily Camera’s Joshua Lindenstein reports.
- Peter Bean of Burnt Orange Nation opines why Texas will upset Alabama.
- Officials arranging the banquet in Omaha next week to honor Outland Trophy winner Ndamukong Suh are expecting an overflow crowd, Rich Kaipust of the Omaha World-Herald reports.
- Ron Matejko of KTAR.com suggests that the Arizona Cardinals should consider hiring Mike Leach.
- Texas Tech has contacted Baylor to interview Art Briles about the Red Raiders’ vacant coaching position, the Waco Tribune-Herald’s John Werner reports. The biggest sticking point could be a $4 million buyout in Briles’ contract.
- Texas officials are telling the Austin American-Statesman’s Kirk Bohls they expect Mack Brown to continue coaching for three more years -- a timeframe that satisfies Will Muschamp.
But we can't start them unless we sift through our mailbag for some of the weekend's better letters.
Jason from Wichita, Kan., writes: Hey Tim, I love the blog...it has become my primary source of Big 12 football information. I was wondering your thoughts as to why every time a major coaching position in college or NFL positions come open, Bob Stoops is inevitably listed as the number one candidate and Mack Brown is never mentioned. Is this because most of the college football world (fans and the media) view Texas as more of a destination job than Oklahoma? With both receiving comparable pay, the only other difference I see is their ages.
Tim Griffin: Jason, first thanks for the compliment. I’ve always been interested in how Stoops seems to be mentioned or portrayed as the more desirable coach as far as other openings, while Brown seems to be permanently affixed to Texas. The point you made about their ages is a good point. Brown is 58 and Stoops is 49. Most would assume that Stoops has at least one more move after never serving as a head coach at another school. Brown has done it before at places like Appalachian State, Tulane and North Carolina before arriving at Texas.
The last time I can remember Brown being mentioned in connection with a job came when his good friend Red McCombs was looking for a head coach of the Minnesota Vikings after the 2001 season. McCombs instead hired Mike Tice at that time and sold the team to Zygi Wilf and five partners in 2005.
The point you made about both Texas and Oklahoma being destination college football jobs is correct. I would include both in the top six or seven jobs in college football -- particularly with the strong support that they receive from Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione.
I think it would take a special job to get either Stoops or Brown to leave their current jobs. And this will give us a chance to savor their rivalry in the Big 12 for at least another few years.
Alex Headington from Iowa writes: Tim, the Big 12 North loses a lot of talent next season. Do you see Iowa State competing for the North title?
Tim Griffin: Even with the Cyclones’ improvement and bowl bid this season, their schedule gets much tougher in 2010. ISU trades Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M for Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Toss in non-conference foes like Northern Illinois and Utah and the Cyclones will be facing a rugged challenge.
Even with the return of players like Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson and a second season becoming familiar with Paul Rhoads' coaching style, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Cyclones with a better team in 2010 and a worse record.
Brett Cooper from Piedmont, Okla., writes: Hey, Tim. I’m wondering if you are reporting the Big 12 or promoting the SEC with that statistic you dredged up about the SEC’s 10-3 record over the Big 12 in the bowls?
Tim Griffin: Brett, you can’t alibi your way around facts. And the fact is that the Big 12 has struggled mightily against SEC teams since 2003 with 3-10 record.
The Big 12 started slowly Monday night when Texas A&M enabled Georgia to score 30 unanswered points to cruise to an easy victory.
It will be up to Oklahoma State and Texas to claim upsets to give the Big 12 some bragging rights, or else the SEC will boat race them again in this season's bowl games.
It’s been that way since 1997 – the last time the Big 12 had a winning bowl record over the SEC. The only way the Big 12 can claim superiority is to win on the field, which is something its teams have had trouble accomplishing in the last few seasons against the SEC.
James from Dallas/Fort Worth writes: Hey Tim, quick question about the Independence Bowl - what was ever the final reasoning on why it was right for A&M to have not gotten time back after the spike at the end of the first half when ESPN2 clearly showed 0.5 of a second left? It may not have been a game-changer, but it certainly changed the mood and morale of the team after they were sure they had gotten themselves in field goal range in time. Officials reviewed the Colt McCoy time issue at the end of the Nebraska game. Why couldn’t they fix this one?
Tim Griffin: James, I have no real answer for you. The only differences I could see was that the Texas play ended a game and the Texas A&M play ended a half. Also, there was less than a second left, 0.3 seconds I believe.
The chance not to stop the clock happened when Ryan Tannehill battled for extra yardage after making the catch with nine seconds left. He should have gone down and allowed Jerrod Johnson to make a quick spike which would have left a couple of seconds on the clock. I think the Mountain West Conference crew might have given them the call in that situation. Instead, after Tannehill’s catch, the ball was respotted and the clock started immediately without giving the Aggies at least a half-second to re-set.
In the grand scheme of things, the play didn’t really matter that much. But it would have given A&M a shot of momentum to start the second half. And we don't really know how the game would have turned out if the Aggies had gotten the call there.
Justin Kalemkiarian of Minneapolis, Minn., writes: In preparation for the Holiday Bowl, plus being on my "lunch break,” I was a bit curious about Roy Helu Jr.'s statistics. According to ESPN, Helu has rushed for 2,151 yards through this year's Big 12 Championship game. In the pantheon of Husker running backs that puts him at no. 22 all-time, right between Tony Davis and Steve Taylor. With a 100-yard game he would vault into 17th place and pass such heroes as Doug DuBose and Jeff Kinney. If he were to rush for another 1,000 yards in his career he would end up at fifth all-time, just 2 yards behind Calvin Jones for fourth place. This blows my mind!
I think most people would be hard-pressed to name Nebraska's starting running back and would be even more shocked to find out that he has a legitimate shot at ending his career as the no. 3 rusher in the team's history (he needs 1,284 yards to pass Eric Crouch)! What are your thoughts on Helu's place among Cornhusker greats?
Tim Griffin: It’s hard to argue with statistics, although Helu does get a break because would have played in four seasons and basically started for about 3 ½ of those seasons. But it does underscore the kind of numbers he has racked up during his career.
But considering the aggravating injuries that occurred at times in each of the last two seasons, it might be a big presumption to think that Helu will automatically be able to play through next season.
He’ll be an important element for the Cornhuskers – in Wednesday’s bowl game and into next season after Bo Pelini has hinted about moving to a more basic offensive attack.
And if he stays healthy and productive, Helu will go down in history as one of the greatest running backs in Nebraska’s storied history along with immortals like Mike Rozier, Ahman Green, Jones, Ken Clark and I.M. Hipp who rank as Nebraska's top five running back rushers of all time. All five of those players compiled their career totals in only three of playing time.
That's all the time for today. Keep the letters coming and I'll check back later this week.
Thanks again for all of the good correspondence.
I appreciate it.
The Aggies' 44-20 loss Monday night pushes the Southeastern Conference's advantage in head-to-head bowl games against the Big 12 to 10-3 since 2003.
And as Chad Moeller, the fine media relations director at Missouri reminded me on Monday night, two of those victories came from Missouri.
The Tigers rallied from an early three-touchdown deficit to claim a 38-31 victory over South Carolina in the 2005 Independence Bowl. And they followed that up with one of the most impressive Big 12 bowl outings in memory with a decisive 38-7 beatdown of Arkansas in the 2008 Cotton Bowl.
Southeastern Conference teams have struggled against Missouri's combination of a running game and a passing game in those two bowl outings. It helped the Tigers post two impressive triumphs and keep the Big 12's record afloat -- albeit barely -- in bowl games against the Southeastern Conference.
The Big 12's only other triumph over the SEC came when Oklahoma State rallied for a 34-31 victory over Alabama in the 2006 Independence Bowl.
Georgia's impressive victory over the Aggies means that the Big 12 must sweep the two remaining games against the SEC in the bowl games to claim a mythical victory over the rival conference. The last time the Big 12 posted a winning bowl record over the SEC came in 1997.
To do that this season, Oklahoma State must upset Mississippi in the AT&T Cotton Bowl on Saturday and Texas must stun top-ranked Alabama in the Citi BCS National Championship Game.
Getting that sweep might be a tall order for the Big 12. But Big 12 coaches might consider asking Missouri coach Gary Pinkel for any secrets of success against the SEC.
And making it even better, the Big 12's bitter rivalry with the Southeastern Conference will be played out at the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl when Texas A&M and Georgia meet.
We'll be chatting about all things college football during the game, starting at 4 p.m. ET.
Here's the link to join us. ESPN.com colleagues Heather Dinich, Mark Schlabach and Chris Low will be participating earlier in the game. I'll be on for the end of the game with my old buddy from ESPN Dallas, Richard Durrett, from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. ET.
Please feel free to join us. I'm thinking this might be a better game than some of the prognosticators might think.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Big 12 has more villains than can rightfully be included in one post, but so does college football in general.
Here are some my major perpetrators of ignominy.
Anybody else have some other suggestions about what in college football really raises their hackles?
College rulemakers -- Those soulless technocrats who attempted to make the game faster by instituting quick-play rules. Don't they know that the reason that college football is so much better than the NFL is the additional offense from more plays?
The Southeastern Conference -- The South shall rise again -- or at least it already has with its new megabuck television contract. Now, can the rest of the college football keep up?
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany -- By placing all of his bowl teams on the East and West coasts, he's robbing us in the flyover parts of the country of watching how slow and unathletic his teams really are.
Coaches as unchecked poll voters -- Who is the American Football Coaches Association trying to fool? Giving coaches the chance to hide behind the mask of anonymity in their final votes prompts a chance for widespread poll abuse and makes a mockery of their poll.
Weak nonconference schedules -- Every team owes its fans at least one marquee nonconference opponent a season and a pledge of avoiding FCS schools. Is that really asking for that much, especially with the run of Big 12 pastry-trough games with "opponents" like North Dakota State, Northern Colorado and North Dakota scheduled in the first week alone by Big 12 teams?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
By all accounts, 2008 was a landmark season for Big 12 football.
The unprecedented three-way tie for the South Division championship that involved Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma made the conference must-see television for the second half of the season for fans across the country. Attention was riveted to the conference unlike any previous time in the Big 12's history.
It should be more of the same this season as strong races are expected in both the North and South Divisions.
The conference again will feature cutting-edge offensive units that will score boatloads of points and be powered by the most talented collection of quarterbacks that can be found anywhere.
Those numbers are nice, but the Big 12's lack of defensive production is the main reason I still think it ranks behind the Southeastern Conference.
The top athletes in the Big 12 are clustered on offensive units, helping to result in shootouts.
In the SEC, those same athletes seem to end up playing defense. It might not be as much fun to watch, but the physical nature is apparent.
In recent bowl games, the Big 12 has struggled to match that defensive nature of the SEC for many statement-making victories. Oklahoma's loss to Florida in the BCS title game and Texas Tech's defeat to Mississippi in the Cotton Bowl last year indicated there's still a gap between defenses found in the SEC and the Big 12.
The SEC also has a deeper concentration of top teams, as seen by its four teams in the top 10 when the USA Today coaches' poll was released earlier today.
It doesn't mean the Big 12 won't be exciting or fun to watch this season. Because it will be -- again.
But until Big 12 teams can notch some statement-making victories where defense isn't an afterthought, its national perception will continue to lag behind the SEC's.
The rest of the nation is no comparison. Big 12 teams can occasionally win their BCS bowl games, unlike the ACC. It might not have the fancy television network of the Big Ten, but has a more exciting brand of football to showcase. And it's not nearly as top heavy as the Pac-10 with its concentration of USC and Oregon at the top and little balance after.
Here's my ranking of the top eight conferences heading into the upcoming season
- Big 12
- Big Ten
- Big East
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
All right Big 12 fans, don't say that the ESPN.com football pundits didn't keep you on the edge of your seat.
Pat Forde, Mark Schlabach and Ivan Maisel attacked an interesting proposition, choosing the top programs if the FBS was being winnowed to 40 members.
The Big 12 finished with eight teams selected, including three of the final four picks. Don't say that we at ESPN.com don't enjoy a little finely-crafted drama from the live chat from their 40-team draft, which played out at this link.
Here are the Big 12 teams and where they were picked in the draft.
25. Texas Tech
26. Oklahoma State
39. Texas A&M
And for the fans of the other four schools -- Baylor, Colorado, Iowa State and Kansas State -- I wish my deepest sympathies. And please send the irate e-mails to the panel members and not to me.
The late run enabled the Big 12 to have the second-most schools picked in the relegation game than any other conference, trailing only nine picks from the SEC. The Pac-10, Big Ten and ACC had six schools apiece, two from the Mountain West and one each from the WAC, Big East and from the independents.
I wasn't surprised that the three power teams in the Big 12 were picked as high as they were. And South Division powers Texas Tech and Oklahoma State were actually picked a tad earlier than I might have expected. And the run of the three late schools might have showed that the esteemed panel might have been using some collective notes.
But having eight teams picked in this game is a pretty good indication of the Big 12's stature among national powers.
Truthfully, it's one or two more Big 12 schools than I expected would be picked.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are the Big 12's best stories today for your lunchtime edification.
- The Des Moines Register's Randy Peterson has a touching story about how Iowa State defensive back James Smith found his mother in Haiti this summer after not seeing her for the past 19 years.
- Joe Williams of the Orlando Sentinel catches up with Lache Seastrunk of Temple, Texas, one of the nation's top recruits who is in Paisley, Fla., for the Football University's Top Gun Camp. Among the schools Seastrunk is considering includes Baylor, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas and Texas A&M.
- Texas Tech could make millions by taking advantage of Lubbock's new "wet" laws by designating vendors for sales at football games at Jones AT&T Stadium, the Daily Torreador's Ben Jones reports.
- ESPN.com's JC Shurbutt reports that Oklahoma State snatched a recruiting commitment from heralded offensive line prospect Dan Koenig of Cape Coral, Fla. Koenig, whose two older brothers played for the Cowboys, picked OSU over Nebraska, Mississippi and Clemson.
- Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune provides another interesting "Case of the Mondays" with particular interest in Missouri's upcoming practice schedule, five questions heading into Missouri's fall practice and his need for assistance in a Big 12 fantasy football team.
- The Big 12 is in danger of being lapped by the SEC in terms of its mega television deal, the Lincoln Journal-Star's Steve Sipple reports.
- Jake Vehyl of Athlonsports.com predicts that Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant will be among the Heisman finalists this season.
- The Baton Rouge Advocate's Randy Rosetta writes that LSU might be willing to play Big 12 schools Texas and Texas A&M in the future at facilities like Reliant Stadium in Houston and the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
- Paul Myerburg of the New York Times' "The Quad" blog ranks Texas Tech as the nation's No. 29 team.
- John Werner of Lindys.com writes about Robert Griffin's attempt to lead Baylor to its first bowl game since 1994.
- Big 12 foes have trouble deciding whether Colt McCoy or Sam Bradford is the better quarterback, the Tulsa World's John Hoover reports.
- Bob Devaney's omission in a recent Sporting News poll of history's top-50 coaches makes development of a Nebraska Football Hall of Fame at Memorial Stadium a priority, Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel writes.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Trying to earn more television money while maximizing exposure for his schools is taking much of Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe's attention these days.
Beebe called working on settling that television question as the "major issue" that currently is facing him in his role as the conference's chief executive officer.
"I think that's fair to say because it was such a strong proponent of what put us together in the conference in the first place," Beebe said. "The origins of this conference was to get together to find a more valuable spot in the marketplace. We need all the platforms we can get for the quality of play that all of our student-athletes provide."
The Big 12 was formed in a marriage between the old Big Eight Conference and four schools from the old Southwest Conference because of vanishing spots in the market for those conferences in the mid-1990s.
A similar concern could be facing the Big 12 in the immediate future as it lags behind the megabuck contracts recently earned by the Southeastern and the Big Ten conferences that have helped propel those conferences to preeminent spots in college athletics.
"We can't deny it," Beebe said. "I give them a lot of credit for what they have been able to achieve. It's up to us to try to compete with that. It certainly concerns me there's going to be so much exposure of SEC product and Big Ten Network in this part of the country. And part of my charge will be how we will be able to compete with that in the future."
Several reports indicate there has been discussion among the Big 12, Pac-10 and Atlantic Coast conferences to provide a new television network with programming from two or perhaps three of the conferences in a consortium. Beebe said that the Big 12 must be creative in looking for ways to remain viable in the changing economic marketplace.
"I think we have to look at strategic partnerships with whomever, whether it's on the media side or the content owners (conferences) to find out what would be best for us," Beebe said. "I don't discount any scenario in that regard. Looking at a partnership with other conferences is something we'll have to take a close look at. Maybe there's something there that would work out for all of us."
Beebe conducted his press conference late Tuesday at the new Dallas Cowboys' stadium in Arlington. The facility will serve as the home of the next two Big 12 championship game and the site for three regular-season games involving Big 12 teams this season.
Big 12 officials like many things about the new stadium. The facility's location, its ability to accommodate more than 80,000 fans and the ability to stage games in climate-controlled conditions are particularly attractive. The conference already has forged a working relationship with the Cowboys as the Big 12 will serve as the sponsoring entity for the NCAA men's basketball Final Four in 2014 when it comes to facility.
The new stadium also will serve as the home of the Cotton Bowl beginning in January. The bowl hopes that moving to the new facility will boost its chances of elbowing its way into the rotation of BCS bowl locations -- although the BCS likely will not expand before its current contract expires in 2014.
"If there's going to be an expansion of games in the BCS, we're certainly going to be adamant about that including a bowl in our region," Beebe said. "This would be highly attractive with the kind of facility we have here. The Cotton Bowl is our Tier I partner and we would try to accommodate that."
Beebe said he hopes the conference will have agreements with its bowl partners by the start of the football season with plans to take them for approval to the conference's board of directors at its October meeting.
"Our bowl partners have been tremendous," Beebe said. "The addition of the Gator Bowl has been very great for us. I wish I was this desired when I was a single man. There are a lot of bowls interested in coming after us and we're very fortunate in that regard."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
There were some fears among Big 12 officials when details about the SEC's whopping television contract with ESPN was announced last year. Some coaches have mentioned the recruiting advantages present for the SEC with virtually every game available in some form or fashion.
But it's trickling down even more than that. ESPN Regional has arranged for station clearances for over-the-air broadcasts of a package of SEC games this season in Big 12 markets like Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Wichita, Kan.
This is the package for the early Raycom games that once were seen only in the nine-state geographic footprint of the SEC. But that's changed this season as the SEC has also ram-rodded itself into markets like Columbus, Ohio, Phoenix and Pittsburgh for those games. The SEC also has hopes of having affiliates in places like Chicago, Detroit and New York City by the time the regular season begins.
These syndicated games likely will be carried on independent stations in their respective markets, taking time away from paid programming.
I myself will love having another game available. The more the merrier has always been how I look at it.
No other conference can match the SEC's mainstream national assault -- even with the availability of the Big Ten Network on some satellite systems.
And it highlights why the Big 12's television future has become such a huge priority for Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe.
As more SEC games are available in the three largest markets of his league's most significant recruiting area, it's understandable why Beebe is hoping the Big 12 can attract a similar television package to match this exposure when its TV deal comes up. The Big 12's current contract with ESPN/ABC runs through 2015-16, but its deal with Fox Sports Net expires after the 2011-12 season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
After watching Big 12 games last season, I got the idea that the league was one where offenses dominated and defensive coordinators grew old very quickly.
But I didn't realize how much Big 12 offenses ruled until I looked at the numbers compared to the rest of the country.
The NCAA broke down all of the 2008 statistics on a conference-by-conference extrapolation. I then pulled out a calculator to delve deeper than the surface numbers.
The Big 12 led every conference in almost every major offensive statistic. Some of these margins were by an unexpectedly large margin.
Take average number of plays. Here's how the conferences rank on a per-game, per-team basis.
Big 12 71.0
Conference USA 69.9
Mountain West 69.1
Sun Belt 68.5
Big Ten 68.3
Western Athletic 67.4
Big East 66.1
Atlantic Coast 65.2
NATIONAL AVG 67.7
The statistics indicate the Big 12 ran 1.59 percent more plays than its next closest rival and was 4.93 percent above the national average.
Punting also provides another interesting comparison. The Big 12 ranks last among conferences in average punts per game. Here's a look at the national average in per-team punts per game.
Sun Belt 5.1
Western Athletic 5.0
Big Ten 5.0
Atlantic Coast 4.9
Big East 4.7
Mountain West 4.7
Conference USA 4.6
Big 12 3.7
NATIONAL AVG. 4.7
The Big 12 has fewer punts -- by a huge margin over any other conference. It's 27.45 percent below the national leader and one full punt per game below the national average.
The Big 12 also led the nation convincingly in most yards per team. Here's a look at the national per-team, per-game averages.
Big 12 439.6
Conference USA 401.8
Sun Belt 378.2
Western Athletic 370.2
Mountain West 368.8
Big Ten 367.2
Big East 360.9
Atlantic Coast 329.1
NATIONAL AVG. 371.6
Again, the Big 12 has a huge edge over the rest of the country. The per-team per-game total offense total is 9.41 percent above its next closest finisher, 18.3 percent above the national average and 33.6 percent above the last-place finisher's average.
Scoring again was led by the Big 12. Here's a per-conference, per-team, per game comparison.
Big 12 35.6
Conference USA 28.8
Western Athletic 26.7
Big Ten 26.6
Mountain West 26.4
Sun Belt 26.2
Big East 25.3
Atlantic Coast 24.0
NATIONAL AVG. 27.2
The Big 12's figures were a whopping 23.6 percent over second-place Conference USA, 30.9 percent above the national average and 58.9 percent above the scoring done by independents.
Here's how the conferences ranked on a yards-per-play average.
Big 12 6.19
Conference USA 5.75
Sun Belt 5.52
Western Athletic 5.50
Big East 5.46
Big Ten 5.35
Mountain West 5.33
Atlantic Coast 5.03
NATIONAL AVG. 5 49
The Big 12's average per play ranked 7.65 percent above its closest contender, 12.8 percent above the national average and 23.1 percent above the lowest finisher among the conferences.
It will be interesting to see if the Big 12 offenses can maintain that domination next season. With the strong cast of returning quarterbacks, it wouldn't surprise me if it is similarly skewed next season.