Big 12: Steve Spurrier
When: Monday, July 23 and Tuesday, July 24. TCU, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech will be up on Day 1. Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Texas and West Virginia will be speaking to the media on Day 2. Here's the full player roster.
Where: Westin Galleria hotel, north Dallas. The players could wander outside the hotel and hit up the skating rink at the Galleria mall, but they'll probably be a little too busy to strap on skates or go shopping.
Big names in attendance: West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones top the list of guys who will be hounded by media from start to finish. The same goes for Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, last season's breakout star.
Big names not in attendance: The biggest will be Oklahoma State quarterback Wes Lunt, who's staying home per Mike Gundy's rule against first-year players speaking with the media. He'll be sticking to it, even though he named the true freshman his starting quarterback in the spring. Texas also won't be bringing either of its quarterbacks, including likely starter David Ash. West Virginia is leaving its leading receiver, Stedman Bailey, at home, and Texas star defenders Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro are banned from representing the team to media after an offseason incident. Oklahoma stars and two-thirds of the California trio -- safety Tony Jefferson and wide receiver Kenny Stills -- won't be representing the Sooners, either.
What to watch for:
- Media days are traditionally full of mostly fluffy fodder, but the TCU players in attendance will face some pressing, difficult questions. Coach Gary Patterson withheld his players from media interviews for the entirety of the spring after an offseason campus drug sting that resulted in four player arrests and removals from the team. The players haven't been asked about anything surrounding the incidents since, and they're bound to come up in the first interviews since.
- Look out for a debate on which Big 12 quarterback is the best. You could make a case for Smith, Jones or Klein, but this blog's readers are firmly in the "Smith" camp.
- This year expect the main topic of conversation to center around "How will TCU and WVU adjust?" It's already been talked about plenty, but for the Big 12, that's better than "Is the league really stable?" or "Will Texas A&M leave?" -- a few of the simmering topics of conversation last year.
- Each coach gets 15 minutes at the podium before a break for lunch and a return to the breakout room. Players will be available in the afternoon, too. Last year, Art Briles stole the show on the podium, and expect him to do the same with a few one-liners this year. Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville and Texas' Mack Brown are also usually pretty entertaining, but West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen might have a few cracks up his sleeve too, as he looks to make a name for himself in his first Big 12 Media Days.
- Expect Kansas' Charlie Weis to be disarmingly honest, a refreshing change from his predecessor and the majority of coaches in attendance. Expect Oklahoma's Bob Stoops to drop an "in the end" more than a few times. Kansas State's Bill Snyder will be frivolous in referring to his players as "youngsters."
- It'll be civil. The SEC has a few coaches who love to prod each other -- mostly Steve Spurrier. The Big 12 coaching fraternity is largely a boring one when it comes to feuds. Everybody looks up to Snyder, respects Stoops and Brown, and gets along with everyone else. If anybody's going to spice it up, it'll be Tuberville or Holgorsen. There aren't many issues or opportunities, unless they want to go out of their way to stir the pot.
- Here's hoping Paul Rhoads shows up and is so proud of a thick beard. The Big 12 doesn't have a coach with any facial hair, and Rhoads has been rolling with one of the greatest beards in existence all offseason. Please, let it live. This is my plea.
- We may get a little talk on what the coaches think of bringing in new teams, whether it be Florida State, Notre Dame or Louisville. For now, it's a little early, but realignment is always in the back of any college football fan's mind.
The two coaches who have been in the league the longest? They're the guys who happen to be among the best and among those blessed with the greatest amount of resources, too.
Mack Brown came to Austin as John Mackovic's replacement in 1998. The former North Carolina coach had a solid pedigree as the head Tar Heel, and set out to man one of college football's sleeping giants.
A year later, a young whippersnapper named Bob Stoops left his post as defensive coordinator on Steve Spurrier's staff to grab the reins of another sleeping giant in college football: Oklahoma. Not bad for a guy who'd never been a head coach before, eh?
Both inherited losing teams and quickly turned them into contenders. More than a decade later, they're still doing it.
Along the way, each collected a national championship (and a loss or two in the title game). Stoops conjured up some Sooner Magic for an unbelievable turnaround in 2000, winning a national title after going just 7-5 in his first season. His quarterback from that team? Stoops has been around long enough to see Josh Heupel climb the coaching ranks and become his co-offensive coordinator and playcaller.
In 2005, it was Texas' turn. Transcendent star Vince Young, the greatest player to put on a jersey in Big 12 history, carried the Longhorns to Brown's only national title, but he did it in the middle of one of the most impressive stretches in college football history. From 2001 to 2009, Texas won at least 10 games every year in the midst of a growing league that also boasted powers like Nebraska and Oklahoma.
They've been around the block a few times, but only two coaches in all of college football have been at their current posts longer: Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer and Troy's Larry Blakeney.
Care to get less than technical about the issue? Kansas State's Bill Snyder trumps them both, having held his post for two decades, the only head-coaching job he's ever held since leaving Hayden Fry's staff at Iowa back in 1989. Snyder retired in 2005, but returned to "calm the waters" at K-State after a rocky three seasons with few highs and more lows under Ron Prince.
His first time around, Snyder did the impossible, turning "the worst job in America" (according to a now infamous Sports Illustrated story) into a place you could win a Big 12 title and play in BCS bowls. Snyder did the former in 2003, upsetting Stoops' highly favored Sooners, and played in the Fiesta Bowl in 1997 and 2003.
Snyder's break technically disqualifies him for the title of longest-tenured, but everyone knows what he's done for the program.
Stoops, Brown and Snyder have proved over the better part of the past two decades that you can make a comfortable, secure home in the Big 12. No other league in America has a better, more durable trio of coaches who have become the faces of their respective programs.
Stoops was mentioned among the favorites if Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley needed to find a permanent replacement for Meyer.
But when Meyer told reporters Sunday in New Orleans he would like to still coach the Gators, it will mean he'll have to keep his list of replacements unchecked.
Along with Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, Boise State coach Chris Petersen and maybe even former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan or Arizona coach Mike Stoops, the Oklahoma coach would have been a likely candidate to be interviewed for the Gators' head coaching position.
Stoops is familiar with the program after serving as defensive coordinator for three seasons under Steve Spurrier from 1996 until he was hired by the Sooners in 1998 to replace John Blake.
The Oklahoma coach still keeps his condominium in Crescent Beach, Fla., and visits there often with his family.
But Meyer's leave of absence quashes any need for an immediate replacement to coach the Gators.
Sooner fans can be thankful for that announcement.
The Stoops family packed up for their condominium to spend Christmas at Crescent Beach, Fla., not too far away from the beach house owned by Steve Spurrier, his old boss at Florida.
Stoops still loves the Florida lifestyle and found virtually any excuse to return there -- even during the salad days of his Oklahoma run through the Big 12.
So now with the Florida job open, it will be interesting if Stoops can turn down an offer to return to the place he first built his coaching reputation. Stoops was the respected defensive coordinator under Spurrier for three seasons before he was hired at Oklahoma in December 1998.
He's still known as "Bobby" by Gator fans, but is respected for the job he did in leading the Gators to the national championship in 1996.
Stoops has had other opportunities over the years. Notre Dame made a big push earlier this season after other schools and professional teams came calling. Stoops was in the mix when Florida hired Ron Zook and Urban Meyer earlier this decade.
You don't hear him called "Big Game Bob" as much around the Big 12 as before -- particularly after his 7-5 record this year. It was his worst regular season mark in his 11 years with the Sooners. But Stoops remains one of the seminal figures in the conference's growth after claiming a record six Big 12 titles.
He enjoys a relationship with Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione and school president David Boren that might be unrivaled for a college coach anywhere.
And it appears he is already itching for the challenge of bouncing back after this season's disappointment. Stoops has already arranged for the Sooners to have the Seattle-based Pacific Institute help rebuild his team's psyche next season like it did with Alabama this year.
But Florida clearly would be a special opportunity. He is familiar with recruiting throughout the sunshine state and it would give Stoops a chance to claim a program that is only a season removed from back-to-back national championships.
Would that be enough of a pull to get Stoops to leave Oklahoma after he's turned down so many other jobs over the years?
We'll have to see over the next several days.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's been a long time between bowl trips for Baylor.
The Bears' last bowl trip came in 1994 when they were defeated by Washington State in the Alamo Bowl. Current Baylor starting quarterback Robert Griffin was 4 years old when that game was played.
But excitement is rampant along the Brazos River and the Bears are ready to snap a bowl drought that is tied with Duke for the longest in schools in BCS-affiliated conferences.
Considering that Grant Teaff was coaching Baylor then and Steve Spurrier was directing the Blue Devils, it has been an extensive drought for both schools.
The Bears have their best hope this season and I'm thinking they squeak in. It will be critical for them to win at least one of their first two games against Wake Forest and Connecticut. They also need victories over Northwestern State and Kent State to enter Big 12 play at 3-1.
If Baylor does make that remarkable step, it will likely mean the Big 12 will be able to fill its full complement of bowls. It was unable to fill two bowls at the bottom of its list of partners. But that likely won't be the case this season if the Bears live up to their preseason hype.
Here's a look at how I predict the Big 12's bowl slots will be filled this season with a record nine teams making trips. The last two or three might be 6-6 teams, but there won't be much complaining from any of them.
Bowl bid: Possibly.
Best case: Robert Griffin electrifies the nation with stunning victories over Wake Forest and Connecticut to start the season and the Bears are already at six victories by mid-October. It makes them the feel-good story of the conference, places Art Briles in prime consideration for a couple of top jobs and pushes the Bears into the Alamo Bowl where they last went bowling in 1994.
Worst case: Offensive tackle Danny Watkins can't protect Griffin's blind side and the Bears stumble early with two-straight losses. Those pass-protection problems fester all season as the Bears revert to their losing ways and miss a bowl for another season.
Prediction: Texas Bowl.
Bowl bid: Possibly.
Best case: In a nod to soothsayers everywhere, the Buffaloes indeed live up to Dan Hawkins' preseason "prediction" and win 10 games, claiming a surprise Big 12 title game and ending up in the Holiday Bowl.
Worst case: The Buffaloes don't settle on either quarterback and tumble out of bowl contention for the third time in the last four seasons under Hawkins, making his seat extremely toasty this winter.
Prediction: Independence Bowl.
Best case: The Cyclones become the surprise story of the conference as Austen Arnaud immediately blossoms in Tom Herman's new offense. The defense shows steady improvement under Wally Burnham, providing a surprise trip to the casinos and crawfish boils at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.
Worst case: Paul Rhoads is a willing worker, but his new team just never jells with his philosophy. More road woes continue against Kent State as the Cyclones see their nation-worst road losing streak stretch to 22 games as they stay home from a bowl for a fourth-straight season.
Prediction: Home for the holidays.
Bowl bound: Count on it.
Best case: The Jayhawks find a couple of defensive reincarnations of Aqib Talib to help them spring a couple of upsets over South Division powers. Confidence gleaned from those games helps them surprise the South Divison champion in the Big 12 title game and send Mark Mangino and his team skipping into their second BCS bowl in three seasons -- this time to the Fiesta Bowl.
Worst case: Todd Reesing struggles behind a retooled offensive line and the Jayhawks' offense isn't nearly as potent as expected. Without a high-powered scoring team, the Kansas defense is exposed as posers, falling to the Insight.com Bowl for the second-straight season.
Prediction: Sun Bowl.
Best case: Bill Snyder brings the magic back to Manhattan, picking up a couple of upset victories to restore some pride in the Kansas State program from early in the season. The Wildcats ride that momentum for a surprise trip to the Insight.com Bowl.
Worst case: A quarterback never emerges and a struggling pass defense regresses into a horrific unit against the Big 12's high-powered aerial attacks. Those defeats make Snyder wonder why he ever left retirement as the Wildcats finish out of a bowl trip for the fifth time in six seasons.
Prediction: Home for the holidays.
Bowl bid: Possibly.
Best case: Blaine Gabbert provides steady leadership as Derrick Washington becomes the most versatile back in the Big 12. The retooled defense emerges as the Tigers claim a surprise Big 12 North title and end up at the Cotton Bowl.
Worst case: The loss of Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman and both coordinators cause the wheels to fall off the Missouri program and they miss a bowl trip for the first time since 2004.
Prediction: Insight.com Bowl
Bowl bound: Count on it.
Best case: Zac Lee is a revelation at quarterback and the defense emerges in Bo Pelini's second season to push the Cornhuskers to a upset victory in the Big 12 title game and into the Fiesta Bowl.
Worst case: The hype for Lee is just that. The new quarterback struggles and the Cornhuskers' defense backslides all the way t
o the Texas Bowl.
Prediction: Holiday Bowl.
Bowl bound: Count on it.
Best case: The young offensive line jells and the defense plays better than expected as the Sooners earn another chance to play in the BCS title game -- restoring order in the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 17 along the way.
Worst case: The offensive front struggles to protect Sam Bradford and the defense isn't as good as expected, dropping the Sooners to their first visit to the Alamo Bowl.
Prediction: Fiesta Bowl.
Bowl bound: Count on it.
Best case: The offensive triplets exceed expectations as Bill Young cobbles together enough defense to enable the Cowboys to outduel Texas and Oklahoma for their first Big 12 championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
Worst case: The defense still can't match up with Oklahoma and Texas -- and some of the other teams in the South Division either. Those struggles send the Cowboys skidding all the way to the Insight.com Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., where they play second-fiddle to the Sooners who are playing up the road in the Fiesta Bowl.
Prediction: Cotton Bowl.
Bowl bound: Count on it
Best case: The Longhorns find a featured running back and enough push from the defensive front to make all of the BCS rankings meaningless en route back to another shot at the national title in Pasadena.
Worst case: Colt McCoy gets hurt, the running game struggles and the Longhorns keep playing dropsy with key turnovers chances for another season. Instead, Texas players fumble their way to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego where they munch fish tacos and feed the whales at Sea World for the fourth time in the last 10 years.
Prediction: BCS National Championship Game.
Texas A&M Aggies
Bowl bid: Possibly.
Best case: Jerrod Johnson plays so well at quarterback that Ryan Tannehill moves back to wide receiver full time. The Aggies respond to defensive coordinator Joe Kines' defense with vast improvement through the season, stunning Texas in the regular-season finale to push them into the Alamo Bowl.
Worst case: A leaky offensive line can't open holes or pass block and the Aggies' defense struggles against all Big 12 quarterbacks in another season that finishes without a bowl.
Prediction: Home for the holidays.
Bowl bid: Count on it.
Best case: Taylor Potts exceeds all expectations and the Red Raiders defense plays so well that some start accusing the school of being a "defense-first" program. The Red Raiders don't win the Big 12 South, but they revisit the location of Mike Leach's biggest bowl victory at the Holiday Bowl.
Worst case: The Red Raiders miss Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree more than expected and skid out of bowl contention for the first time under Leach.
Prediction: Alamo Bowl.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Colorado (Big 12 No. 7) vs. South Carolina (SEC No. 7)
Colorado's record against the SEC: 0-2
South Carolina's record against the Big 12: 0-1
Previous series: Never met.
Distance between them (according to How Far Is It): 1,404 miles.
Where they should play: Clarksville, Ark. (717 miles from Boulder, 722 miles from Columbia)
Who wins: Colorado.
Why: Two of the great quote machines in college football will square off in this matchup. It's too bad the action on the field likely wouldn't compare with the interplay between Steve Spurrier and Dan Hawkins.
Even with the uncertainty of Colorado's quarterbacking with Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen battling for the job, the Buffaloes would be able to run consistently against a Gamecock defense weakened by the departure of its top three playmakers from last season. And although Stephen Garcia was Spurrier's first big-time recruit with the Gamecocks, he hasn't gone through the wars in college football -- yet.
The Gamecocks' specialty on defense is stopping the pass. Unfortunately, Colorado moves the ball much better running the ball than passing. So it's not a good matchup for South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's group.
South Carolina might be able to beat some other more highly ranked Big 12 teams that rely on passing more than the Buffaloes. But in this game, Darrell Scott, Rodney Stewart and an improving offensive line would enable the Buffaloes to grind out a victory.
The count: Tied, 3-3.
Monday: Texas Tech (Big 12 No. 6) vs. Arkansas (SEC No. 6).
Note: Matchups are determined by the most recent rankings of Big 12 blogger Tim Griffin and SEC blogger Chris Low. All cumulative records go back to the 1996 season -- the first of Big 12 competition.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
After watching way too many uncompetitive September matchups in recent seasons, I started thinking of some fantasy matchups I'd love to see for each Big 12 team.
Here are my dream games for each school.
Baylor: The Bears are on the verge of making their first bowl game in nearly 15 seasons if we are to believe many preseason magazines. It might be fun to see them hook up Duke, which also qualified for its last bowl during that same 1994 season. The Bears' bowl drought is actually three days longer than the Blue Devils'. This would also be an intriguing matchup of two underrated coaches in Baylor's Art Briles and Duke's David Cutcliffe. Which program will get to a bowl game first? It might be interesting to see them play on the field.
Colorado: Before his youngest son, Drew, decided to leave Boise State because of concussions, it might have been cool to see a Hawkins family reunion on the blue turf in Boise. The game still has much appeal to me as it would be interesting to see Hawkins and his other son, Cody, try to beat the team where he earned much of his early acclaim as a coach.
Iowa State: Before his first game at Iowa State two years ago, they were minting coins to honor Gene Chizik. But after two struggling seasons with the Cyclones, many ISU fans felt betrayed when Chizik jumped to Auburn. How about the delicious matchup of Chizik and the Tigers against ISU and Paul Rhoads, who was Auburn's defensive coordinator last season?
Kansas: Two of the most imposing coaches strolling the sideline are Mark Mangino of the Jayhawks and Charlie Weis of Notre Dame. And both can coach a little offense, too. It might be a cool chess match watching the underrated Jayhawks offense try to overcome an Irish offensive attack that receives way more national publicity.
Kansas State: Bill Snyder has been careful to say nice things about his old offensive coordinator, Andy Ludwig, who was in Manhattan for only a few weeks this spring before bolting to California. It still would be an interesting matchup between Snyder and the offensive coordinator who left the KSU program before a first game was played.
Missouri: The Tigers have developed one of the most innovative and productive offenses in the nation during the past several seasons. It would certainly be interesting for them to show their stripes against Oregon and new coach Chip Kelly, who knows a thing or two about big offensive numbers. It would also be a matchup of two interesting uniform combinations, too.
Nebraska: I'm a sentimentalist at heart. And who couldn't resist the story lines of seeing Bo Pelini return home and play his alma mater, Ohio State, back at the Horseshoe where he played his college career? And even better would be the return game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, where the Buckeyes have never played before.
Oklahoma: Before last season, I imagined that Florida would be an ideal dream opponent for the Sooners, but the end results turned out to be a little nightmarish for them when they finally played. This time, I'd like to see Bob Stoops hooking up with his coaching guru, Steve Spurrier and South Carolina. That would be an interesting matchup.
Oklahoma State: The two teams have played previously, but I'd really like to see the matchup between OSU and UCLA. Both teams have flashy, young coaches -- OSU's Mike Gundy and UCLA's Rick Neuheisel -- who found success as quarterbacks at their schools in the 1980s. Both have made strong, early starts, but still find themselves in the shadows of nearby prominent programs -- USC for UCLA and Oklahoma for OSU. And both Gundy and Neuheisel would have some interesting things to say after the game was over, too.
Texas: A rematch with USC would be sweet to see, considering the two teams haven't met since the titanic BCS title game in the Rose Bowl in 2006. Some old-school Longhorns would like to meet Notre Dame. But a better one-season dream matchup for this season would be Mississippi. It's always fun to see Mack Brown hook up with Houston Nutt, particularly after Nutt's celebrated upside-down hook 'em sign after upsetting the Longhorns in the 2000 Cotton Bowl with Arkansas. And the Rebels would be particularly interesting this season as Colt McCoy would square off with Jevan Snead, the quarterback who couldn't beat him out before leaving for Oxford.
Texas A&M: The Aggies and LSU have shared an intense rivalry over the years that seemed to get more forceful as both got better and started recruiting against each other. The battle has a history of 48 games between them, including every season from 1960-1975 and 1986-1995. They haven't met since then. It's been too long to see both old rivals compete.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders and TCU could have a pretty spicy rivalry if they played more often. The last two games between Mike Leach and Gary Patterson were particularly memorable. In 2004, TCU jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead in Lubbock before the Red Raiders stormed back to score eight straight touchdowns that blew open their 70-35 victory. It was the most points ever allowed by a Patterson-coached team. Patterson got his revenge in Fort Worth in 2006 when he produced a 12-3 victory, using the postgame news conference as a bully pulpit to talk about how little respect his program receives. And there's even more after Patterson's votes in the coaches' poll after last season. Patterson voted the Red Raiders 11th in the final coaches' poll last season -- their lowest national ranking -- and it's evident there's still a little bad blood between Patterson and Leach. What better reason for staging this one again?
Does anybody have any other dream games they'd like to see Big 12 teams play?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Getting a head-coaching job is sometimes as much about timing as coaching skills or any other factor.
An intriguing story by Randy Peterson in Sunday's Des Moines Register reminded me of that when it mentioned several coaches with Big 12 backgrounds who likely were interested when the Iowa job opened up after the 1998 season following the retirement of legendary head coach Hayden Fry.
Former Iowa defensive back Bob Stoops may have been one of the most attractive potential candidates. His connection with Fry ran deeply from his career as a player and graduate assistant coach there before he became the nation's hottest assistant coach while working under Steve Spurrier at Florida.
Terry Allen was another coach whom Iowa might have been intrigued with when Fry left, despite his lack of personal history with the program. His father, Robert, was well-known in the program. Robert Allen was a champion swimmer with the Hawkeyes who later become an assistant football coach and head swimming coach at the school. His son had developed into a hot commodity after leading Northern Iowa to a 75-26 record as a head coach.
But the hottest candidate of them all might have been Bobby Elliott, a former Iowa player who had chosen to remain at his alma mater to work with Fry through the years as a trusted member of his staff. His father, Pete, had been a Iowa athletic director.
At the age of 45, Bobby Elliott was on the cusp of earning his shot as the Hawkeyes' head coach when an illness cost him a shot at the job.
When then-Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby was sorting through his candidates, Elliott informed him he couldn't take the job because he had been taking daily doses of chemotherapy to control a blood disorder called polycythemia vera. Bowlsby instead turned to then-NFL assistant Kirk Ferentz to fill the job.
Stoops decided to take a sure offer at Oklahoma, where John Blake had recruited the framework of a strong but underachieving team. With the addition of Stoops' coaching acumen, the Sooners claimed a national championship in less than two seasons.
Allen decided to take the Kansas job, which proved more daunting for him than expected. He was let go after posting a 20-33 record after five seasons.
After Elliott was cured, he became a respected defensive coordinator who ably served under Dan McCarney at Iowa State and Bill Snyder at Kansas State. He most recently served as a defensive coordinator under Chuck Long at San Diego State -- a staff that was let go after last season.
Peterson's masterful story relates Elliott's thoughts about coaching and how his illness profoundly shaped so many lives during another relapse of the serious blood disorder in 2001. The poignancy became even more significant as Elliott related his thoughts about facing death with his wife and two children.
Peterson received unmatched access to Elliott during that season. It was an arrangement that McCarney didn't know about.
He updated the story with a masterful lead, describing how Elliott arranged to have a rose bush delivered to his wife, Joey, on Mother's Day in 1999 as he was being treated for a bone marrow transplant on that day.
"It was the first thing I saw when I walked outdoors that morning," Joey Elliott recalled in the story. "He knows how much I love gardening, but not knowing what was going to transpire, he had a Mother's Day present arranged."
The story provided a lot of insight into the battling nature of Elliott as he dealt with a life-threatening illness and beat it twice. Even more interesting was how he dealt with knowing the illness denied him a shot at his dream job.
It made me wonder what might have been -- for Elliott, for Stoops, for Allen, for Ferentz, for Iowa State and for Kansas State.
And it also made me think about so many other coaches who aren't blessed with the right timing when they finally get their chance to be a college head coach.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Before becoming a head coach in 1999, Bob Stoops worked under a varied group of coaches. Each helped shape his career.
While working at Iowa after playing for the Hawkeyes, Stoops worked on a staff that included legendary members like Hayden Fry, Barry Alvarez, Dan McCarney and Bill Brazier. At Kansas State he worked with Jim Leavitt as a co-coordinator under Bill Snyder. And at Florida, he was defensive coordinator on a national championship team in 1996 that was coached by Steve Spurrier.
Stoops credits all his mentors with molding his coaching career that has included three national title game appearances heading into Thursday's game against Florida.
"I've been with some great head coaches, but also some great assistant coaches, too," Stoops said. "I've just been around a lot of just quality coaches that I've learned from."
Fry, whom Stoops played for during his career at Iowa, still holds special prominence.
"Coach Fry I thought was a great leader and did a great job with his assistant coaches," Stoops said.
His career began as a defensive backs coach with Snyder in 1989. He remained at Kansas State for seven seasons.
"Coach Snyder was just a determined guy," Stoops said. "I was at the ground floor at Kansas State. I learned a lot from that experience."
But working with Spurrier gave him his best training for becoming a head coach.
"Coach Spurrier was just an amazing competitor," Stoops said. "I felt I learned to really love the competition of it all from watching him and being around him. All his assistant coaches were great recruiters, very professional in how they handled their business. So as a young guy, I got to see that all the time."
His Florida association led to an interesting exchange at Wednesday's press conference. Former Florida sports information director John Humenik, who now works as the executive director for the College Sports Information Directors of America, referred to Stoops as "Bobby" when he left the podium.
"I haven't been called that since I left Florida," Stoops said, chuckling.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's a look at some of factoids from Texas Tech's previous bowl history.
Bowl record: 10-20-1.
Current bowl streak: Won 2.
Most memorable bowl victory: The Red Raiders charged back from a 38-7 deficit midway through the third quarter to claim a wild 44-41 victory over Minnesota in the 2006 Insight Bowl in the greatest comeback in bowl history. Tech sputtered early after failing on fourth down on its first possession and three quick turnovers after that. But Graham Harrell passed for 445 yards and two touchdowns to lead the comeback. Joel Filani snagged 11 receptions for 162 yards as the Red Raiders tied the game at the end of regulation on a 52-yard field goal by Alex Trlica. After Minnesota kicked a field goal to start overtime, Shannon Woods scored his third touchdown of the game to spark the wild comeback that brought coach Mike Leach to tears afterward.
Most disappointing loss: The Red Raiders were making their first Cotton Bowl appearance since 1939, but little went right for them in a 55-14 thumping to Southern California in the 1995 Cotton Bowl. The Trojans jumped to a 48-0 lead, gashing the Red Raiders for Cotton Bowl records of 578 total yards and 435 passing yards. Keyshawn Johnson produced a Cotton Bowl record 222 receiving yards and three TD grabs. The loss marked the seventh straight Cotton Bowl loss for an SWC team.
Best individual bowl performance: James Gray sparked the Red Raiders' 49-21 victory over Duke in the 1989 All-American Bowl by rushing for school bowl records of 280 yards and four TDs. The victory was the last game at Duke for Steve Spurrier and was Tech's first bowl triumph in 16 years.
Record against Mississippi: Tied at 2-2. Tech won the most recent game, 49-45, in 2003. Mississippi has won both previous bowl games against the Red Raiders, claiming the Independence Bowl over the Red Raiders in 1998 (35-18) and in 1986 (20-17).
Common 2008 opponents: None.
The number: 9. Consecutive bowl appearances for Texas Tech through its current game -- a school record.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Ed Quigley writes: I did a quick search of the Big 12 tiebreakers should Texas Tech beat Texas and OU beat TT (and they all win the rest of the games). Now, I realize this is a big supposition but it appears from my reading of the Big 12 tiebreaker rules that in this case it would fall to subsection (f) which would be the team with the Highest Ranking in the latest CNN/USA Today poll. Now correct me if I'm wrong but Oklahoma does not have a vote in this poll while Texas Tech and Texas do.
Is this the true? And if so, is this the most ridiculous conflict of interest imaginable? Does the poll have a clause that will disallow the poll votes of Leach and Brown in this case? I mean if you're talking about the Big 12 title game appearance and possible BCS Title game why would you NOT put your team #1 and leave the other 2 completely out of the poll? And if you DON'T do this are you not doing what you should do as a coach for your team? Or are you supposed to keep your vote "honest" and "teach the men"? I know it's all speculation but WOW, what speculation.
Tim Griffin: As I wrote last week, the order of tiebreakers in that three-team tie would revert to the fifth tiebreaker, with the team advancing with the highest standing in the Bowl Championship Series standing.
And here's a list of those voters with Big 12 ties who are voting in either the Harris poll or the coaches' poll:
USA Today coaches' poll - Art Briles, Baylor; Mack Brown, Texas; Dan Hawkins, Colorado; Mike Leach, Texas Tech; Bo Pelini, Nebraska; Gary Pinkel, Missouri; Gene Chizik, Iowa State.
While Oklahoma isn't directly represented by Bob Stoops, his coaching godfather Steve Spurrier is a voter as is Pelini, who once worked for him.
On the Harris Interactive Poll, here are Big 12 area voters I was able to ascertain - Former Nebraska linebacker/ broadcaster Trev Alberts, Dallas-based NFL.com contributor Gil Brandt, Fort Worth Star-Telegram Texas A&M beat writer Lori Dann, former Baylor quarterback J.J. Joe, Kansas City Star Big 12 beat writer Blair Kerkhoff, former Texas A&M coach/broadcaster Jackie Sherrill, former Oklahoma State running back Thurman Thomas, Oklahoma City talk show host/Big 12 play-by-play broadcaster Ron Thulin and former Ohio State/Iowa State coach Earle Bruce.
I think the grassy-noll conspiracy talk might be a tad early. Let's at least wait until the last couple of weeks before we start it. We aren't even in November yet.
Steve from Huntsville, Texas writes: I am a born and bred Texas Aggie, but I am no fool. If Texas wins this week, they should not be allowed to play in a BCS bowl. They should let their second-string and third-string play against A&M. I think they are that good.
Tim Griffin: Steve, I do agree that Texas has shown much during its three-game gauntlet with impressive victories over Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State. A triumph over Tech would make it four ranked opponents in a row.
But something tells me that Colt McCoy and the Longhorns still remember those two games that your team beat them during the last two seasons. I bet Colt especially remembers how he left the field the last time he played A&M in Austin. So I wouldn't expect much mercy from your old rivals considering that.
Clay writes: Texas Tech kicker Matt "Lynwood" Williams won a year's worth of rent for his kick and it's been reported that he turned it down because he had already signed a lease elsewhere. He was only a student at the time of the kick, surely the NCAA couldn't have involved itself in that in regards to "later" making the team, could it?
Tim Griffin: don't think so. He had to prove to them that he wasn't receiving an improper gift, and thus couldn't receive the prize he won at a game. It sounds like he gave up a chunk of cash, but maybe the chance to play Division I football and not go through the perils of spring practice were too good to resist. I don't know, it sounds like a pretty good gig to me. And he won the Big 12's special player of the week honors his first week as well. It sounds like it might be something he could tell his grandkids about some day. And maybe even be worth giving up free rent for.
Clay from Oakland, Calif., writes: In light of the official announcement that there will be a coaching change, what is your take on Gary Pinkel's candidacy? Is his "no comment" an indication he will listen to Washington? And if Pinkel leaves Missouri, would the head coaching job go to Dave Christensen. Or would Washington be interested in that former Husky?
Tim Griffin: It's interesting to consider Pinkel going back to Washington where he was the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach for some of Don James' best teams during his previous tenure there from 1979-90. But Pinkel is 56 and has most of his family living in the Columbia, including children and grandchildren. I can't see Gary walking - or taking his motorcycle for that matter - away from a program he has built into a North Division power and leaving for another huge rebuilding job at this stage of his career.
Maybe if the money was right, but I would be extremely surprised. I'm saying that with the full realization that Chase Daniel will be leaving after this season and Jeremy Maclin might be going. Pinkel has the Missouri program pointed in the right way, which wasn't the case when he arrived in 2001.
And Christensen, a former Washington offensive lineman who coached there with Pinkel in 1989-90, would be a logical choice if his boss says no. But I'm hearing that Washington is looking for somebody with head coaching experience and might look that way instead. But I expect Christensen to get a head coaching job soon.
Bryce Maher from Omaha writes: I wanted to know what shot you give Nebraska at winning the Big 12 North, and how good you think Joe Ganz, Marlon Lucky, and Nate Swift are?
Tim Griffin: I think Nebraska's schedule is much more difficult than either Kansas or Missouri. And the Tigers already have an edge on them with the head-to-head victory earlier this season in Columbia. But if Nebraska could pull off a stunning upset in Oklahoma this week, it might push them right into the middle of the title hunt. But I'm not expecting that to happen.
As far as the Nebraska players, I think Ganz is one of the most underrated players in the Big 12. If the league had a normal collection of quarterbacks rather than the star-studded group of this season, he might be considered for some all-conference honors. I've been a little disappointed with the early performance of Lucky, but recently I've seen him make a big step forward. And Swift has really turned into a nice player. Check out the feature I did on him earlier today. He's got an interesting story to tell.
Joseph from College Station writes: Texas A&M's offense has been getting more and more impressive as of late. When do you expect their defense to catch up with the offensive side? Do you think A&M can pull together wins against Colorado and Baylor and then maybe work some magic for a bowl bid against OU or Texas? Remember OU is coming into Kyle Field remember 2002?
Tim Griffin: I was impressed with A&M victory over Iowa State, but Colorado and Baylor will be another step up. I think they will have a better shot being the pedestrian offensive attack of Colorado's than Robert Griffin and the Bears. That should be an entertaining shootout between Griffin and Jerrod Johnson. And while I know that the Aggies have given Bob Stoops a lot of trouble in the past, Baylor's offense will give A&M a lot of problems, too. And as I mentioned earlier, something tells
me that Colt McCoy hasn't forgotten the Aggies, or his meeting with Kellen Heard the last time the Aggies and Longhorns hooked up in Austin, either.
Gail from Lubbock writes: Texas Tech beat Kansas in Lawrence by a much larger margin than Oklahoma beat them in Norman, and Tech also beat Kansas State by a larger margin than Oklahoma did. Tech also hasn't lost a game. Call me a homer, but I don't see how you can rank the Sooners ahead of the Raiders right now.
Tim Griffin: Gail, I labored over my power rating, which also was how I ranked them in my ESPN.com power poll. But I still think Oklahoma is just a tad better than Texas Tech. The gap is definitely narrowing. But I guess most people in the AP and USA Today polls agreed with me as well - Tech was ranked behind the Sooners in both polls as well.
But we'll be able to see which team is really better when the Red Raiders travel to Norman on Nov. 22, won't we?
Jason from Los Angeles writes: Tim, I am a CU alum traveling to College Station this weekend for the Big 12 crummy game of the week. What are the best places to go while in Aggieland?
Tim Griffin: As I've stated before, Kyle Field is one of my favorite locations to watch a college football game. If you've never been there before, you ought to go. There will be excitement there, no matter where the teams are in the standings.
If you are getting there a night early, you owe it to yourself to check out Midnight Yell Practice. It's also a one-of-a-kind spectacle you don't see many places.
You have all kinds of chain choices you would expect in a large college town. But I really like Freebirds, which got its start in the area as a location for some delicious massive burritos.
My friend Brent Zwerneman, who knows as much about Aggieland as anybody after covering them for a number of years, swears by the "Dixie Chicken" as his favorite place for libations and a post-game meal. I'd probably go by his advice on that one, too.
Jeni from Houston: Tim, what's your prediction for the Texas Tech/Texas game this weekend. Also, do you think this game could be the deciding factor for the Heisman Trophy between Graham Harrell and Colt McCoy?
Tim Griffin: Jeni, sorry to waffle on a score, but I'm still working on it. Check back on my predications page Thursday. But I do agree the game will have some serious Heisman ramifications. If Texas wins and McCoy has a good game, I think he becomes a prohibitive favorite. But if Tech springs the upset and Harrell is the difference, it puts him right in the race. And he'll have a great shot to build momentum after that with remaining games against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma that would only ratchet up in importance if Tech is unbeaten going into them.
David from Jackson, Tenn., writes: With the Longhorns playing Texas Tech this weekend, that will make four top ten opponents in a row. Has any team ever done that before? And if so, has any team won all four?
Tim Griffin: I asked your question to ace ESPN research department college football guru Brad Edwards and he's researching it as we speak. But he turned up the 1960 Iowa team as what he considers as the hardest schedule in history. Check out the gauntlet the Hawkeyes had to charge through that season.
IOWA HAWKEYES, 1960 season
Oct. 1 at 6 Northwestern W
Oct. 8 at 13 Michigan State W
Oct. 15 12 Wisconsin W
Oct. 22 10 Purdue W
Oct. 29 19 Kansas W
Nov. 5 at 3 Minnesota L
Nov. 12 3 Ohio State W
That's a seven-week stretching featuring games against No. 6, No. 13, No. 12, No. 10. No. 19, No. 3 and No. 3. Incidentally, the Hawkeyes finished 8-1 that season and No. 3 in the AP poll.
Most amazingly of all, that Iowa team didn't even get to a bowl game. Only one team from the Big Ten was allowed to go to bowls back then. And Minnesota advanced after winning the head-to-head game, losing to Washington in the Rose Bowl.
Iowa finished the season 8-1 and No. 3 in the AP poll
And with all due respect to the Longhorns, I think they've been one-upped by the Hawkeyes on this.
Thanks for the letters and keep them coming. And feel free to join me on my weekly chat Thursday afternoon for more hot Big 12 conversation. And maybe even some discussion about the rest of college football, too.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Bleacher Report has an interesting article this morning, detailing an all-star football team based on the playing exploits of current Division I-A coaches.
Some of the selections were rather easy. It's kind of hard to keep South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier off the team after "The Ol' Ball Coach" claimed the Heisman Trophy at Florida in 1966. But some of the others were more problematic.
For example, Colorado coach Dan Hawkins earned a selection at running back, mainly because no other current college coaches played there. Hawkins was an overachieving slow-footed fullback at California-Davis from 1978-82.
The Big 12 was represented with several coaches, including Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops (Iowa defensive back, 1979-82), Nebraska coach Bo Pelini (Ohio State free safety, 1987-90) and Iowa State coach Gene Chizik (Florida linebacker, 1981; injury cut short his career).
And interestingly, two of the four current head coaches who did not play college football are in the Big 12. Texas Tech's Mike Leach and Kansas' Mark Mangino did not play football in college, along with Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson and Notre Dame's Charlie Weis.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I was struck looking at some pictures on the Oklahoman's web site of Bob Stoops and how he has changed as he begins his 10th season coaching the Sooners.
I recalled interviewing Stoops soon after he took over the Sooners' job. His reputation preceded him after a strong run as Steve Spurrier's defensive coordinator at Florida. But I will still struck at how young Stoops appeared to be back then -- barely older it seemed than some of his players.
His career has provided for much of the juice in the Big 12. He led the Sooners to a bowl game his first season and to the national championship the next -- the first time a Big 12 team ever claimed an undisputed football national championship.
Since Stoops started, 13 Big 12 coaches have come and gone and every job in the conference has turned over with the exception of Texas.
All of those coaches were fired except for Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who helped give Stoops his start.
Today, three Big 12 coaches -- Kansas' Mark Mangino, Texas Tech's Mike Leach and Nebraska's Bo Pelini -- once worked for Stoops. And another, Baylor coach Art Briles, is a second-generation descendant of the Stoops' coaching tree after earlier working with Leach at Texas Tech.
The beginning of Stoops' 10th season has prompted a week-long series of stories this week in the Oklahoman. The first two days were compelling reads and I'm expecting the rest to be as similarly strong.
Oklahoman sports columnist Berry Tramel started the series Sunday with a definitive analysis of Stoops' place in Oklahoma's storied football history.
Today's group of anecdotes about Stoops gave an interesting picture about him from those who know him best. My favorites included how Stoops demanded a practice field with no more chicken bones; his fastidious nature he inherited from his father: how he once stood up to Spurrier; and how he got his point across to the 2000 championship team to eat their breakfasts before practice. Good stuff.
Stoops' place in Big 12 history is secure. But looking at those pictures sure did make me think about how quickly time slips away.
Here are today's links. I can only hope they can have the staying power of Stoops.
- Texas Tech running backs coach Seth Littrell hasn't set a timetable for settling on a starting tailback. Shannon Woods, Aaron Crawford and Baron Batch are hooked up in a tight battle for the job.
- Bryan-College Station Eagle columnist Robert Cessna liked what he saw from Texas A&M's offense at their most recent scrimmage. TB Mike Goodson looked recovered from a tweaked groin muscle after scoring on an 80-yard screen pass from Stephen McGee.
- Baylor struggled through a turnover-fest at its most recent scrimmage, upsetting new coach Art Briles. "It (the turnovers) just makes you sick to your stomach," Briles told the Waco Tribune-Herald. said. "I'm not sure if we were as mentally prepared as we needed to be ... We've got to perform better, but I'd rather this happen now than on Aug. 28."
- Colorado sophomore TB Demetrius Sumler has emerged as the Buffaloes' likely starter against Colorado State in their season opener with heralded freshman Darrell Scott set for goal-line and short yardage duty.
- Scott and his uncle, Colorado WR/PR Josh Smith, still flashed some big-play potential at the Buffaloes' most recent scrimmage. Scott contributed kickoff returns of 50 and 47 yards, while his uncle, Josh Smith, returned a punt 44 yards for a score and added a 62- yard kickoff return.
- Iowa State coach Gene Chizik has beefed up his secondary with the realization that every Big 12 North opponent will be playing a spread offense this season.
- Sign of the times? Lawrence Journal-World columnist Tom Keegan predicts that Kansas' football team will be better than its defending national championship men's basketball team.
- Check out the Kansas City Star's video log of a recent Kansas practice to see how Coach Mark Mangino doesn't like to be crowded during a media scrum. Ah, coach, that's what happens when you start having a winning team.
- Kansas State coach Ron Prince doesn't know what to think about his team's top 25 ranking in Playboy Magazine -- its only top 25 preseason ranking this season. "I'm not even going to try to say anything clever regarding that," Prince told the Topeka Capital-Journal. There are six Big 12 teams ranked in the magazine's preseason issue, or so I've been told. Oklahoma is No. 1, with Missouri fourth, Kansas 10th, Texas Tech 11th and Texas 13th among the top 25 heading into the 2008 campaign.
- No catchy nicknames yet for the package where Texas QB Colt McCoy and QB John Chiles both are in the lineup for the Longhorns. Coaches, for now, are referring to it as the "Q Package."
- So much for all of the talk about open football practices at USC. Texas baseball coach Augie Garrido recently got booted from a Trojan workout at the L.A. Coliseum.
- Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne recently made a trip to the Omaha World-Herald offices to chat up members of the Fourth Estate. Osborne had an interesting comment to World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel. "There are some places where they have a Boone Pickens -- they are always going to be OK," Osborne said. "I think we'll be in good shape, as long as that football stadium stays filled. If that goes south, it could be a problem." Interesting comments from the leader of a school that had a near 100 percent renewal rate in season tickets.
- Andrew Hartsock of the Lawrence Journal-World analyzes Kansas' options in replacing Brandon McAnderson at tailback. Heralded 2007 national junior-college rushing leader Jocques Crawford had an interesting take: "It puts a lot of pressure on me," Crawford said. "You look at the status of the numbers he put up, how he helped the team, I've got big shoes to fill. But everyone's replaceable."
- Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was perturbed with his team's performance after a sloppy, turnover-filled second scrimmage. I told our football team, 'We've got to get better.' It was sloppy in a lot of ways," Pinkel
told the Kansas City Star. And offensive coordinator Dave Christensen was even madder. "I can understand having some type of those errors with the twos, threes and fours, but it's intolerable with the No. 1 offense," Christensen told the Star.
- Natalie England of the San Antonio Express-News has an interesting retrospective of Mack Brown's first 10 years coaching at Texas.
- The defensive effort by Missouri was a little brighter. The Tigers' first-team defense held its opponents out of the end zone for the second-straight scrimmage. And All-Big 12 LB Sean Weatherspoon provided a pair of interceptions, including one to punctuate the scrimmage.
- The Kansas City Star serves up a passel of position ratings. Most interesting findings included Kansas State's Josh Freeman ahead of Texas' Colt McCoy at quarterback and Texas A&M's Stephen McGee ranked 10th, behind Colorado's Cody Hawkins and Nebraska's Joe Ganz.
- Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News analyzes the preponderance of top quarterbacks in the Big 12.
- Oklahoma RB Chris Brown says he's finally healthy after struggling with a right knee injury that requred microfracture surgery after the season.
- The Des Moines Register's Andrew Logue suggests that Coach Gene Chizik play both Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates in the Cyclones' Aug. 28 opener against South Dakota State.
- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini went through a box of Sharpies as he pressed the flesh at the Cornhuskers' annual Fan Day. Attendance was 8,125.
- Logan Dold and Keithen Valentine have emerged as Kansas State's top two running backs for the Wildcats Aug. 30 opener against North Texas.
- Texas coach Mack Brown refuses to get in a war of words with Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger, who reportedly called the Longhorns soft last week. "I haven't called anybody out in 56 years,'' he said. "And I'm not about to start now." But give Schnellenberger credit for one thing. His team will be earning $900,000 for the Aug. 30 game -- highest guarantee ever paid to a visiting non-conference opponent in Austin.
While developing a list of the top 12 non-conference matchups Thursday, I began thinking about ideal matchups for different schools across the conference.
If I were king of college football and could mandate opponents for different Big 12 teams, here are some of the choices I'd make and my reasoning. Let me know what you think, and if you could come up with better ones.
Baylor -- How about Vanderbilt? What could be better than watching two schools that face similar difficulties from the nation's toughest conferences? Both are private schools and have the benefit of strong coaches. It would be an entertaining game.
Colorado -- I originally thought Air Force would work because of the geographical proximity. But a better choice, I think, is UCLA, so we could watch Rick Neuheisel squaring off against his old team. And the two programs are relatively equal, which should make for some real competition on the field.
Iowa State -- You could argue for Florida and a return of Dan McCarney to Ames. But a better, more entertaining game would be to match the Cyclones against Minnesota. The two schools are relatively close and are at about the same levels in their respective conferences. You could bet that Mack Brown would be watching the matchup of his old protégés Gene Chizik and Tim Brewster.
Kansas -- ESPN has liked matching the coaching wiles and offenses of Mark Mangino and Toledo's Tom Amstutz in the past. But a better matchup would be to let Mangino call plays against Joe Paterno and Penn State. Jayhawks fans are still grouchy about how the 1969 Orange Bowl finished up. It would be kind of neat to see a rematch -- even if it's nearly 40 years later.
Kansas State -- Give me the Wildcats and Fresno State, the school they ducked earlier this season. I don't know what Ron Prince is afraid of. His Wildcats would match up very favorably with the Bulldogs.
Missouri -- There was a lot of bluster emanating out of Iowa City a couple of years ago when the Tigers and Iowa abruptly cancelled a series of upcoming games. But things have changed since then. The Tigers are white-hot and the Hawkeyes have taken a big step back. Let's see them finally play.
Nebraska -- It's hard to think of many for the Cornhuskers, who have played virtually every great national program in the past. I'd like to see them challenge South Carolina right now. I know that Steve Spurrier hasn't forgotten that 62-24 bludgeoning his Florida Gators endured at the hands of the Cornhuskers in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl. And the coaching battle between Spurrier and Bo Pelini would be delicious.
Oklahoma -- I used to think seeing Bob Stoops match wits with Spurrier would be neat. But a better matchup might feature the Sooners against Florida -- a game between two of the nation's most talented programs in recent history.
Oklahoma State -- It might be kind of cool to see the Cowboys square off with Les Miles' LSU team or the Southern Mississippi team now coached by Larry Fedora. But a better game -- and definitely more anticipated media scrum afterward -- would be to see the Cowboys meet Michigan State and Coach Mark Dantonio. The game would be close on the field and the fireworks after the game with Mike Gundy and Dantonio might be better than the game before it.
Texas -- After watching a BCS title game that lived up to the hype (and more), I could watch Texas against USC every day for the rest of my life. These two programs really should play more often, even if Vince Young and Reggie Bush don't have any eligibility remaining.
Texas A&M -- The rivalry for recruiting in East Texas is pretty intense and I think it would be kind of fun to see the Aggies hook up against Les Miles and LSU. The two old rivals played 49 times between 1899 and their most recent skirmish in 1995. It would be good to see them playing again.
Texas Tech -- Mike Leach once roamed the sidelines at BYU, where he intently watched coach LaVell Edwards' practices as a student. Those early sessions enabled him to glean some of the bedrock principles for his passing offense. Who says you can't go home again? A game between the Red Raiders and the Cougars would provide the kind of offense that fans dream about.
Let me know what you think and suggest some other potential dream non-conference games. I'll let others know about your choices.