Big 12: Syracuse Orange
Dec. 29, 3:15 p.m., Bronx, N.Y. (ESPN)
West Virginia take by Big 12 blogger David Ubben: Bowl matchups love to produce ready-made storylines, and you’ll find plenty of interesting ones in Yankee Stadium on Dec. 29 for the Pinstripe Bowl. West Virginia won’t renew its Backyard Brawl rivalry with Pitt, and it won’t earn a BCS bid that looked possible with a season that began with five consecutive wins, but it will get a chance for redemption.
WVU suffered an embarrassing loss to Syracuse last season on the way to the Big East title, and the Mountaineers will encounter their old buds in the Big East once again in the Bronx. Geno Smith has never beaten the Orange, but he’ll get one last chance in his final game as a Mountaineer.
Smith won’t win the Heisman, but he’ll lead the nation’s No. 8 offense along with Biletnikoff finalist Stedman Bailey and all-purpose superstar Tavon Austin. Austin nearly broke the NCAA record for all-purpose yardage with 572 yards against Oklahoma, highlighted by 344 rushing yards. The Mountaineers made waves in their Orange Bowl blowout win in Year 1 under Dana Holgorsen, but a leaky defense proved to be their downfall in a Big 12 well-stocked with powerful offenses.
Syracuse will offer another test for the WVU defense. The Orange led the Big East in total offense by more than 40 yards per game and boast a 3,500-yard passer in Ryan Nassib and a 1,000-yard rusher in Jerome Smith. Can WVU’s defense get some redemption in its final outing of the season?
Syracuse take by Big East blogger Andrea Adelson: When the Orange started the season 2-4, their bowl prospects looked extremely dim. Though quarterback Ryan Nassib had put up some big numbers, the Orange had a major turnover and penalty problem. Coach Doug Marrone called himself out, saying all the mistakes were on him.
Well, whatever introspection he did -- and whatever he said to his team -- worked.
Syracuse closed the year with five wins in its final six games -- including a surprising 45-26 victory over then-No. 9 Louisville -- to claim a share of its first Big East title since 2004. Here is all you need to know about the dramatic difference in turnover margin.
In the first six games of the season, Syracuse won the turnover battle once -- and won only two games. In the final six games of the season, Syracuse won the turnover battle five times. The Orange won five games. It also is no coincidence that the Syracuse run game got going in the second half of the season--– Jerome Smith had four 100-yard games and finished with 1,000 yards on the season.
Interestingly enough, the brutal nonconference schedule this team played ended up helping it find a way to win at the end of the year. Syracuse started the year with losses to USC, Northwestern and Minnesota. But late in the season, the Orange went on the road and upset Missouri -- truly understanding what it would take to win.
In the end, Nassib led the Big East in passing with a career-high 3,619 yards, tossing 24 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Alec Lemon had a career-high 1,063 yards, and Syracuse ended up with its first 1,000-yard running back and 1,000-yard receiver since Michael Owens and Rob Moore in 1989.
Dec. 30, 3:20 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Kansas State take by Big 12 blogger David Ubben: Take me at my word, I'll spare you any sort of Apple humor for the duration of this game's coverage. That said, the two Manhattans will be linked when Kansas State heads to the Pinstripe Bowl, even though Yankee Stadium is in the Bronx.
Daniel Thomas carried the Wildcats to an early 4-0 start, but Kansas State struggled to a 1-4 finish in conference play before finishing the season with a win over North Texas to finish 7-5. Thomas, a senior, will get a chance to prove his worth to NFL scouts with a big game against Syracuse, and he'll be coming off a 269-yard performance in the win over North Texas.
Kansas State found a new offense late in the season when it leaned on quarterback Collin Klein, who played receiver last season. Carson Coffman still sees plenty of time, but the Wildcats offense, even if it's one-dimensional with Klein, can be dangerous. In a 39-14 win over Texas earlier this year, the Wildcats needed just four pass attempts to jump out to a 39-0 lead. They ran for 261 yards in that game, and Klein and Thomas both topped 100 yards.
If Syracuse doesn't see enough Cats on Broadway, its front seven will have its hands full with these 'Cats.
No promises on other New York/baseball humor.
Syracuse take by Big East blogger Brian Bennett: Syracuse won't even be leaving its own state for its bowl game, but there was a time not long ago when the postseason seemed far, far away.
Second-year coach Doug Marrone has engineered a remarkable turnaround, leading the Orange to their first bowl game since 2004. They actually were still in position to win the Big East title in their final conference game, but losing three of the past four to end the year took a little cheer out of the banner year.
Defense powered the improvement, as coordinator Scott Shafer's heavy blitz schemes caused problems for Big East teams all year. Led by tackling-machine linebackers Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue, Syracuse ranked sixth in the FBS in total defense.
This is an offensively-challenged team that sputtered to the finish line, scoring just 26 points in its final three games combined. That could spell trouble against a Kansas State team that averaged 33.5 points per game this season. The Orange are in no way built for a Big 12-style shootout.
But they should have a heavily pro-Syracuse crowd at Yankee Stadium. And after such a long absence from the postseason, the Orange are just happy to be bowling anywhere.
I couldn’t jump into the recruiting hubbub, however, without taking care of some Tuesday afternoon correspondence.
Richard Sylvester from Houston writes: Tim, love your blog. Thanks for all of the diligent hard work you’re cranking out day after day. I read it every morning and throughout the day.
My question is whether you’ve been reading an excellent set of posts from Frank the Tank’s Slant about a potential move by Texas to the Big Ten. It lays out several well-researched reasons why the ultimate big fish out there – bigger than Missouri, bigger than Syracuse and way bigger than Notre Dame – is Texas.
Could you envision a scenario where the Longhorns would ever leave the Big 12 behind and jump to the Big Ten?
Tim Griffin; I have been reading Frank’s interesting posts on the subject. And he raises some interesting points about how much money the Longhorns could ultimately make by joining the Big Ten in one of his most recent missives.
Obviously, the Big Ten is one of the most tradition-rich conferences in the nation, if not the most. Adding Texas would give them, like Frank writes the ultimate free agent in terms of college sports.
Texas matches the research qualities that members of the Big Ten’s academia would demand when a new conference partner would be added.
And it would deliver a huge potential market for the fledgling Big Ten cable television network if the state of Texas would be added. Some estimates are that the population for the states in the Big 12 would account for more than 90 million people if Texas was added to the Big Ten.
It would also conservatively mean the Longhorns would make at least $10 million in new athletic revenue because of the new revenue sources the Big Ten’s whopping television network provides, compared with the Big 12's current deal.
But whether they would leave the traditional rivals from the Southwest Conference and the new ones from the Big 12 is debatable. The travel costs would be huge in all sports and the Longhorns would be jumping into a cauldron of potential new opponents like Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Iowa among others.
Texas would have to agree to a revenue sharing deal in place in the Big Ten that is different from the Big 12’s where the teams that appear in the most television games and make the most NCAA basketball tournament appearances earn more money.
And remember how the Texas Legislature became involved with news leaked that Texas was leaving for the Big 12 Conference. It basically paved the way for Baylor and Texas Tech to tag along with Texas and Texas A&M. It would be interesting to see what would happen if Texas announced it wanted to go to the Big Ten by itself.
The Big 12 has been good for Texas. Virtually every sports program is at a level where the Longhorns can legitimately contend for a national championship. It has an intriguing mix of local and regional rivals.
It makes for some fanciful thinking and has a lot of interesting points to think about Texas leaving the Big 12. But I just don’t see it happening – at least at this time -- because of so many obstacles that would exist in the move.
Meni of Manchester, N.H., writes: In regards to the link you had yesterday about the Oklahoma players who were likely first-round selections in the Class of 2011, the guy in College Football News listed Travis Lewis, DeMarco Murray, Quinton Carter and Dominique Franks on his list. I thought Franks declared for the NFL draft, didn’t he?
Tim Griffin: Meni, you are correct. Franks declared for the draft shortly before the deadline. Most draft analysts have him going in the third or fourth round. He’s a very determined player and I think his speed should help him make an NFL squad as a special-teams player, making him an intriguing sleeper pick.
Steve Sutton from Ozona, Texas, writes: Tim: Interesting story about players who exceeded recruiting expectations, showing how uncertain the recruiting process is. I was wondering if you might elaborate on some of the more celebrated misses during the time of your survey.
Tim Griffin: Steve, I hope I was able to showcase how inexact recruiting can actually be. But I think the player in the most celebrated Big 12 player in recent seasons who has failed to live up to expectations was Colorado running back Darrell Scott, who was the No. 2 running back in the nation in 2008 and had an 89 ranking by ESPNU. He played with the Buffaloes during his freshman season before leaving the team midway through the season in 2009. His next playing situation is unknown at this time.
Of course, the player ranked ahead of him at running back has been a bust as well. Jermie Calhoun of Oklahoma was the No. 1 running back in the 2008 class, but redshirted and then gained only 220 yards and scored a touchdown in his redshirt season. Calhoun had trouble getting a chance at playing time behind Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray last season. It will be interesting if he develops and gets more of a chance for a playing time in 2010 after Brown’s graduation.
Another player who hasn’t lived up to expectations has been Texas defensive end Eddie Jones, who had an 88 ranking and was the No. 2 defensive end in the nation in the 2006 class. He hasn’t started a game at Texas in his first three seasons, although he showed some flashes as a situational pass rusher with five sacks and seven tackles for losses in 2009.
Pete from Omaha, Neb., writes: Tim, great blog, I love reading every day. I noticed that ESPN Sports Nation did a poll that asked if recruiting or game planning was more important for a coach to succeed. The vote showed that most fans think recruiting is more important.
But I disagree.
Bill Callahan and Charlie Weis were great recruiters, but did they ultimately succeed? What about John Blake? Nope. Game planning is what wins. Take Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern, Bo Pelini at Nebraska and Kirk Ferentz at Iowa. All of them are good recruiters, but they never attract top-five classes. Yet they have their programs at a consistent level. What’s your take on the issue?
Tim Griffin: Pete, you raise an interesting question. I think you ultimately have to have a combination of both, but I would lean to game planning as being just as important as recruiting in developing a contending program.
Like you mentioned, coaches like Pelini and Ferentz get good players, but they take them to high competitive levels thanks to their teaching and game planning.
The old recruiting adage has always described college football as “not being about the Xs and Os, but about the Jimmys and the Joes.”
But I think that’s changing as there’s more parity across the nation. When good coaches get good players, that’s when programs the foundations for really good programs start being built.
Cecil Wilson of Plano, Texas, writes: With recruiting coming to an end, I just noticed that Texas did not get a commitment from a tight end. Looking at the Longhorns’ roster, they have several, but I have not seen or heard of any of them, except for Blaine Irby. What do you think the Horns will do about this position in the upcoming season? With a new quarterback, either Garrett Gilbert or Case McCoy, they are going to need all the options they can have. Thank you for all your hard work. Hook 'Em.
Tim Griffin: The tight end hasn’t been a position of much relevancy for the Longhorns since Jermichael Finley left after the 2007 season. Irby was injured early in the 2008 season and didn’t play last season.
That left the Longhorns utilizing four-receiver sets in many occasions for many occasions. Greg Smith, a 260-pounder was the primary blocking tight end for most of the season. He was backed up by Ahmard Howard. Wide receiver Dan Buckner emerged at the flex tight end spot early in the season, but struggled getting the ball late in the season and has elected to transfer to Arizona.
The status of Irby is unknown at this time as he recovers from his injury. I look for D.J. Grant to have the best shot of emerging during spring practice. Grant was declared academically ineligible at the start of the season, but should be ready to go.
The tight end position will be of vital importance as Gilbert uses it for checkdown receptions. The question will be who will ultimately be catching passes from that position.
Thanks again for all of the good questions this week. I’ll check back again on Friday.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Recruiting analyst Bill Kurelic provided some information about a couple of players with interest in Big 12 schools in his most recent notepad.
Oklahoma is still in the hunt for Under Armour All-American defensive back Joshua Shaw of Palmdale, Calif., although he is strongly considering three Big Ten schools.
"I'm a fan of Big Ten football," Shaw told Kurelic, a regular contributor to ESPN.com's Midwest Recruiting Blog. "I like the three power house teams, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State."
Shaw has scholarship offers from at least two dozen schools. He has narrowed his list down to the three Big Ten schools as well as USC, UCLA, Washington, LSU, Tennessee, Notre Dame and the Sooners. All but the Nittany Lions have offered and Shaw feels that offer will soon be on the way.
Oklahoma hasn't made Shaw's list of visits yet. He is set to visit Ohio State, LSU and Notre Dame during the football season. Shaw, a 6-foot-2, 180-pounder made 40 solo tackles and intercepted four passes during his junior season last year.
"All the schools are even. If I had to make a decision today it would be like picking out of a hat," Shaw said.
And safety/wide receiver Jimmy Hall of Southview High School in Sylvania, Ohio, has included Colorado and Kansas in a field of 16 suitors that also includes schools like West Virginia, Boston College, Northwestern, Indiana, Maryland, Syracuse, Vanderbilt and several Mid-American Conference schools.
"Right now I'm in the process of trying to get it down to a top five," Hall told Kurelic. "I'd like to get it down by the end of the summer. I've visited all the schools that have offered except Colorado, Kansas, Maryland and Vanderbilt."
The 6-foot-2, 192-pound Hall produced 85 tackles and intercepted five passes during his junior season. He also snagged 45 receptions for close to 1,000 yards.
He has made has no timetable in regards to selecting a college, and is leaving open the possibility of taking official visits.
"I'm trying to get a top five, then if I really like a school I could commit," he said. "I'm not sure about [official] visits right now."
Both players could help the Big 12 schools they have targeted, although it sounds like the schools in the conference aren't as highly rated as others from across the country for these prospects.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are some Big 12 links to send you bouncing into the weekend.
- Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News reports about the end of Mack Brown's trip to the Middle East with a group of other college football coaches.
- Nebraska wide receiver Niles Paul has pleaded not guilty on charges of reckless driving, being a minor in possession of alcohol and driving under suspension in connection with an April 12 traffic stop performed by a Nebraska State Patrol trooper. The Lincoln Journal Star reports that Paul's bench trial will be July 6.
- Missouri quarterback Blaine Dalton tells Bill Althaus of the Rock Springs Examiner that he is excited to be practicing with the Tigers again after his suspension was rescinded by coach Gary Pinkel. Dalton was reinstated after it was revealed that no felony charges would be filed against him for his arrest by Columbia police a month ago.
- David Flores of KENS5.com reflects on the still powerful legacy of Texas' 1969 national championship team.
- The Lawrence Journal-World's Bill Mayer writes about the problems that Kansas State leaders will be facing in regaining public trust.
- Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione is among athletic directors who will work with the NCAA Champions Forum in hopes of improving the hiring ratio of minority head football coaches, the Oklahoman reports.
- Texas lost its second commitment in as many weeks when wide receiver Ross Apo of Arlington, Texas, switched from the Longhorns to BYU, ESPN.com's JC Shurburtt reports.
- Adding Missouri to the Big Ten was the least popular of three Big Ten expansion alternatives that Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Mike Hlas presented in an online poll of his readers.
- The Tulsa World's Bill Haisten reports that Kevin Johnson, a wide receiver from Houston Cypress Ridge High School, has become Oklahoma State's 10th recruit in the class of 2010. The Cowboys beat out more than a dozen schools, including Arizona, Arkansas, Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas, Utah and Syracuse.
- The Columbia Tribune's Dave Matter breaks down what the additions of Indiana and Miami (Ohio) will mean to Missouri's future schedules.
- Nebraska's Sept. 19 game with Virginia Tech will be part of the ACC's television package and carried nationally by the ABC/ESPN networks, the Lincoln Journal Star's Brian Christopherson reports.
- Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman reports that former Oklahoma defensive back Moses Washington remains alive on Michael Irvin's "Fourth and Long" reality football show on Spike TV.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
As anybody who reads this blog knows, I love all lists.
I came across an interesting list this morning at the Bleacher Report ranking the 11 worst college coaching performances of the 21st century.
It wasn't surprising that the Big 12 was solidly represented with two recent coaches who were fired after unceremonious struggles at traditional powers.
In a list that was topped by Ty Willingham from his Washington days and also included Syracuse's Greg Robinson and BYU's Gary Crowton among its top three spots, the Big 12 also was prominently highlighted with Bill Callahan of Nebraska ranking fourth and Texas A&M's Dennis Franchione coming in ninth.
Here's what the author had to say about Callahan:
"Twenty-two losses in four years. Legendary Cornhusker coach Bob Devaney lost only 20 games in his entire career at Nebraska. Frightening."
Or about Franchione:
"He wasn't that bad at Alabama (17-8), and he was pretty good at TCU and his other stops, but in College Station he went 32-28."
It's fair to remember that Callahan had taken the Cornhuskers to back-to-back bowl games in his previous two seasons, including a Big 12 North title in 2006. But his team's defensive struggles were a factor he couldn't overcome.
And Franchione, who qualified the Aggies for three bowl games in his final four seasons before he was fired, had his moments as well. He left with a two-game winning streak over Texas, becoming only the second coach in school history to leave with an existing multi-season winning streak over the Longhorns.
The other was Jackie Sherrill.
But his admission of selling "state secrets" through his VIP Newsletter eventually pulled his program down.
Today, few fans of either program were sorry to see Callahan and Franchione go.
But it was still interesting to me to see them ranked among the biggest coaching flops in recent history. While they struggled building their programs, I don't know if I would necessarily go that far.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It seems like the nation has been held hostage for months awaiting where Robert Marve will attend college.
It turns out the former Miami quarterback is headed to Purdue, where he will be playing for new Boilermaker coach Danny Hope. Marve made his announcement Thursday afternoon on ESPN's College Football Live.
Marve made a very brief appearance at Nebraska's spring game and also considered Texas Tech. Early speculation linked him with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, but neither school seemed to have much interest in him, if any.
I think the team that could have benefited the most from attracting Marve would have been Nebraska. But even that wasn't much.
The Cornhuskers whiffed on their shots at both Marve and Greg Paulus, who ended up at Syracuse after playing basketball earlier in his career at Duke.
The fact that the Cornhuskers didn't attract either quarterback isn't a big negative. It's hard to believe that Paulus would have helped that much. Marve would have had two years to play when he became eligible in 2010. Zac Lee figures to be the starter the first season. Cody Green, Kody Spano and LaTravis Washington should compete in 2011.
It likely means that Green will play as an incoming freshman this season, particularly if Spano doesn't make a quick recovery from his knee surgery.
There are worse things that have happened before to Bo Pelini and Shawn Watson than Marve and Paulus not picking their school. I still the Cornhuskers will be a solid challenger for the North title this season and beyond with the quarterbacks currently in the program.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are some Tuesday lunch links for your lunchtime edification.
- Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman reports that former Oklahoma lineman Brandon Walker was arrested on a complaint of driving while intoxicated. It was the second time that Walker, who recently signed a rookie free agent contract with the Houston Texans, had been arrested within a week. He earlier was arrested for driving without proper registration or proof of insurance.
- Discussion about the Big 12's bowl arrangements is expected to dominate the Big 12's meetings today in Colorado Springs, Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera reports.
- The Oklahoman's Andrea Cohen writes about the devotion that Oklahoma State strength coach Rob Glass has for helping run the Special Olympics competitition at the school each year.
- Texas A&M gets to keep the Lone Star Showdown trophy - an all-sports award given with points in each sport - after a dramatic late victory over Texas in track over the weekend. But Bryan Eagle columnist Robert Cessna said that fans he surveyed while waiting for five hours in a jury room were more concerned with how Mike Sherman will do in his second season or the Aggies' struggling baseball team.
- Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads has charged his assistants for looking for productive players as they hit the recruiting trails, Bobby LaGesse of the Ames Tribune reports.
- Bryan Harlan, Paul Rhoads' agent, told Randy Peterson of the Ames Tribune that the Iowa State coach is close to signing his original contract with the school. And Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette wonders why it takes coaches so long to sign their original contracts.
- New Kansas State athletic director John Currie was hired because of his acumen at raising funds, the Kansas City Star's Jeffrey Martin reports. The KSU athletic director will receive $350,000 annually in his new contract with the school, Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal reports. Topeka Capital-Journal columnist Kevin Haskins predicts that Currie has the opportunity to make a big splash in his new job.
- Dave Matter's always interesting "Case of the Mondays on Tuesday" relates why he picked Kansas and Texas as his preseason Big 12 favorites, Missouri's recent success at recruiting cornerbacks and his plans for creating the NCAA playoffs.
- With tongue placed firmly in cheek, the Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel wonders how Nebraska can be considered a co-favorite in the North Division after Greg Paulus elected to attend Syracuse.
- The "Three Wise Men" of Nebraska football analysis, Steve Sipple, Brian Christopherson and Kent Wolgamott of the Lincoln Journal-Star, discuss their Big 12 South predictions and how Nebraska matches up with them.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Former Duke point guard Greg Paulus didn't surprise anybody Thursday morning when he announced he would be heading to Syracuse for an additional season of football eligibililty.
Paulus weighed offers from Syracuse and Nebraska and earlier visited Michigan before deciding on the Orange.
In the end, the opportunity to challenge for a starting position near his home in Syracuse proved to be a stronger lure than a likely backup position with the Cornhuskers behind Zac Lee.
At Syracuse with new coach Doug Marrone, Paulus will be competing with redshirt freshman Ryan Nassib, who was named the starting quarterback in spring practice. The backup quarterback is senior Cameron Dantley after former starting quarterback Andrew Robinson was moved to tight end earlier in spring.
Paulus said he strongly considered the Cornhuskers, and he met with coach Bo Pelini and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson last weekend.
"I had a great visit there," Paulus said. "Nebraska is a place where there is so much tradition and there are some great people there. I had a great visit with Coach Pelini and Coach Watson. But my heart and my gut told me that Syracuse is the best place for me."
Paulus' arrival would have provided depth for the Cornhuskers and a better chance to redshirt heralded freshman Cody Green.
But the Cornhuskers look set at quarterback heading into the season with Lee, Green, Kody Spano and converted linebacker Latravis Washington.
And look for a potential challenge later this summer at the position from Taylor Martinez who played quarterback at his high school in Corona, Calif., but had been targeted by Pelini to play defensive back.
Paulus would have added some depth to the quarterback mix, but his decision wasn't a great loss for the Cornhuskers.
If he had showed up in Lincoln, it would have been a bonus. But it wasn't anything that Nebraska coaches ever really expected.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Hey, it's been too long.
The folks over at ESPN.com Sports Nation have asked me to have a chat tomorrow where we can discuss all things related to the Big 12.
Earlier in the day, my post-spring preview of all the teams will be released.
And we'll have the decision by Greg Paulus to mull over that should come several hours earlier.
Please feel free to participate at 3 p.m. ET.
Follow the link and I'll try to cover as many questions as I can during my allotted time.
I'm looking forward to it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Former Duke point guard Greg Paulus will announce his decision on which school to attend for his final season of college in a Thursday morning news conference.
The Lincoln Journal-Star reported that Paulus is expected to announce his decision between either Nebraska or Syracuse.
Paulus hasn't played football since his senior season in high school days in Syracuse. He was named Gatorade Player of the Year after that season, culminating a career where he threw for 11,763 yards and 152 touchdowns.
He would have a chance to move into the backup role with the Cornhuskers behind projected starter Zac Lee.
But Syracuse would have a pull for more immediate starting time as he would challenge Andrew Robinson for the job. And he would be able to play close to home.
The decision that Paulus will have to make is whether he wants to play Big East teams in a half-empty Carrier Dome or serve as a backup in a developing Nebraska program where excitement appears to be at a fever pitch. He would also have the opportunity to work with a quarterback coach in Nebraska's Shawn Watson who he could help him develop into an NFL quarterback.
It will be an interesting decision.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Happy Friday afternoon.
As usual here are some of the best questions I received this week from readers.
D.J. from San Diego, Calif., writes: Hey, Tim. Can you explain to me why Tommie Frazier is not in the College Football Hall of Fame? Do you believe he belongs there and how long does it usually take for a super quarterback like him to get in?
Tim Griffin: D.J., I'm similarly mystified why Frazier hasn't made the Hall. When I see lesser quarterbacks like Don McPherson and Major Harris get into the Hall before him, I wonder what the electors are thinking.
Remember, Frazier came within a missed field goal at the end of the 1994 Orange Bowl of leading his team to three-straight national championships. His play really defined those great Nebraska teams of the mid-1990s. And he was the focal point of the 1995 Nebraska team - which in my opinion is one of the three or four greatest teams in college football history.
Frazier didn't pile up the statistics that a lot of his contemporaries did. But he won games and championships. And I think that should be one of the primary determiners for Hall of Fame inclusion.
It sometimes takes too much time for players to get inducted. Tim Brown just made it this season and he even had the appeal of a Heisman Trophy and the fact he played for Notre Dame working for him.
But there are several players who merit inclusion out there. We can only hope that the Hall's selectors can find some room for Frazier and Pat Tillman in the near future.
Because both definitely deserve inclusion.
James Coulter from Corpus Christi, Texas, writes: I'm surprised after seeing your chart earlier this week that you don't have Baylor finishing in a bowl game. They were only one win away last year, and had three losses that could have gone either way. This year their luck in those games should change, so why don't you think Baylor will be bowl-eligible?
Tim Griffin: Actually, James, the Bears were two games away from bowl eligibility last season with a 4-8 record. But I don't like a couple of factors for the Bears that I think will keep them away from a bowl this season.
First is their non-conference schedule. A building program shouldn't be playing teams like Connecticut and Wake Forest in their formative stages. With all of the challenges that the Bears will face in the Big 12 South, it would be understandable if they cut back on the ambitiousness of their non-conference scheduling a bit.
I think Robert Griffin is one of the top young players in college football, but remember the Bears lost two veteran tackles in NFL No. 2 pick Jason Smith and Dan Gay. I think those personnel losses are going to be huge -- both literally and figuratively -- in pass protection, leadership and in run-blocking.
The Bears also didn't do themselves any favors in their Big 12 scheduling. Their three home games will be against Oklahoma State, Texas and Nebraska. I think it would be an upset if the Bears can win any of those games.
And their other designated Big 12 home game will be the Texas Tech game that will be moved to Arlington, Texas. I would like Baylor's chances of beating the Red Raiders a lot more in Waco than there.
I think an absolutely pivotal game for their bowl hopes will be the road game at Texas A&M. The Aggies appear to be struggling and are picked by most to finish last in the Big 12 South. But Baylor hasn't won at Kyle Field since 1984 and it will be a long streak of bad karma in one place to overcome.
It wouldn't surprise me if the Bears were significantly better than last season, but only have a 5-7 record to show for it.
Bob from Sioux Falls, S.D. writes: Tim, great blog. I enjoy reading it every day. You provide some of the best mainstream coverage of the conference that I can find anywhere.
Quick question for you. Do the NFL scouts have something against the Big 12 quarterbacks? If anybody had seen last season in the Big 12 and determined that the best draft-eligible quarterbacks were Josh Freeman and Stephen McGee, somebody would have laughed them out of their "scouting rooms."
Tim Griffin: I agree with some points that you make. I think NFL scouts and teams get caught up on a "profile" of a quarterback that if he isn't the right size or has the necessary they won't consider them.
But I think the biggest quality that NFL scouts sometimes don't consider is previous production. Guys like Graham Harrell and Chase Daniel aren't the biggest or fastest quarterbacks, but I think it says something that both were wildly productive players in winning programs.
If you had ranked Big 12 quarterback last season, Freeman and McGee both would have been behind Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Todd Reesing, Harrell, Daniel and Zac Robinson. I think Robert Griffin's playmaking ability makes him a better college player than Freeman or McGee. And Joe Ganz, despite his NFL detractors, was a capable leader who turned Nebraska into a solid bowl team last season.
It will be interesting to see if the so-called bias against the spread offense will affect the draftability of some of the current Big 12 quarterbacks.
I don't think it will matter with Bradford. I think Griffin's raw athleticism will make him an intriguing NFL quarterback if he can stay healthy. But I will be really curious about McCoy, who has played in a spread offense for much of his college career. Will that hurt his draft status? I guess we'll see next year.
Brad from Denver writes: Tim, Your article about APR ratings in the Big 12 left the door open for people to criticize Colorado. The Buffaloes' rating is in peril primarily because of recent attrition of players that were ineligible because of academics, an area that Colorado is more stringent on than just about any other school. Players don't study, they don't play; they don't play, they leave. All schools are created equally, and it is more difficult to achieve a 2.6 GPA at some schools than others.
Accordingly, I do not find it a coincidence that Baylor and Colorado, arguably the two Big 12 schools with the most rigorous academic standards, are at the bottom of the list.
Tim Griffin: I agree with your point about grades at some schools than others. But to steal a line from Tony Soprano, Colorado's APR score is what it is. It's close to falling below the level where punitive penalties start kicking in. If Coach Dan Hawkins is having trouble keeping players eligible and then they transfer, he might consider attracting players who would be more likely to stay.
The APR is the first piece of academic reform that actually has some teeth in it. The NCAA does a lot of things wrong. But I think this piece of legislation that is good for college athletics.
Ivan Martinez from Waco, Texas, writes: Since you talked about throwback uniforms and helmets, Baylor is actually bringing back the white helmet with the green interlocking BU for the first game against Wake Forest, along with an all white uniform like Oregon. They made some other uniform changes that are more "contemporary," according to athletic director Ian McCaw, which actually discourages me a little bit.
Tim Griffin: Ivan, like I said in my post, I love the idea of throwback uniforms on a limited basis. Texas and Oklahoma both have worn those uniforms for select games in recent seasons. I'd like to see every Big 12 team wear them on a specific weekend that could be designated by the conference office. I think that would be something really cool that would differentiate the conference from all else in college football that weekend.
And they don't have to wear single-bar facemasks, either.
Jason Lewis from Kansas City writes: Tim, I love your blog, but you missed one of the biggest surprises of spring ball in the Big XII. That was Patrick Witt transferring from Nebraska. After all, he was considered the favorite to take over at quarterback for the Huskers. How could you miss that?
Tim Griffin: I didn't consider Witt's transfer because it happened before spring practice started. And I don't know much of an edge that Witt really had over Zac Lee or Latravis Washington or Cody Green or any of Nebraska's quarterbacks after the 2008 season.
Sure, Witt was the player who Bo Pelini turned to when Ganz was dinged in the Gator Bowl. But Witt's struggling performance probably didn't do much to set him apart from the rest. It might have even brought him back to the rest of the other players. And if he was the favorite after the end of last season, it was by a very slight margin.
Rick from Boulder, Colo., writes: It stung a little that you didn't see any Buffs make your top 40 in the Big 12. Would you say a couple might have made the list if it were a top 50 instead? I think Colorado has some talent just about to have a breakout season.
Tim Griffin: I included Darrell Scott on my list of 10 players who nearly made the list. If Markques Simas plays up to his ability, I think he can develop into a solid Big 12 player. Josh Smith is a versatile player who does a lot of things well. Jimmy Smith looks like he might develop into a lockdown cornerback. And I like their offensive line collectively, although one player doesn't stand out for me.
And I think a big performance this season might enable them to have several players on the 2010 list.
Roger Smithson from Wichita, Kan., writes: Tim, who do you think is the best special teams player in the league? By that, if you could have one player to start your special teams, who would it be?
Tim Griffin: I might consider Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant or Perrish Cox or Colorado's Josh Smith. But for my money, the most valuable special-teams player in the conference might be Alex Henery of Nebraska. He was the best long-distance kicker in the conference late last season. He's working as a punter and showed some flashes in the spring of being able to do both. I'm curious to see if he can do both consistently.
Thanks for all of the great questions. I'll check back again next week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
While it's not followed as closely as the changes at the top of the football program, the hiring of solid coordinators can often make or break a program.
And it's a chore that sometimes faces successful programs on a pretty regular basis.
For example, former Oklahoma offensive coordinators Mike Leach and Chuck Long both assumed head coaching jobs after coaching on Bob Stoops' staff with the Sooners. And former Texas defensive coordinators like Dick Tomey, Greg Robinson and Gene Chizik all parlayed their experience coaching under Mack Brown to head coaching positions.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel will be facing an unprecedented dilemma -- at least while at Missouri -- as he replaces offensive coordinator Dave Christensen and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. Adding David Yost as his offensive coordinator and Dave Steckel as his defensive coordinator ranks as among the major changes the Tigers will be facing this season.
College Football News' Robert Cirminiello ranks the 20 biggest hirings of offensive and defensive coordinators for the upcoming season. Several have interesting Big 12 connections.
- 4. Kevin Steele, Clemson defensive coordinator: The former Nebraska assistant and Baylor head coach will be trying to pump some life into the Tigers' defense on Dabo Swinney's staff.
- 5. Bill Young, Oklahoma State defensive coordinator: The veteran Oklahoma State graduate returns to his old school from Miami intent on trying to bring the Cowboys' defense in line with their explosive offense.
- 11. Greg Robinson, Michigan defensive coordinator: After washing out at Syracuse as a head coach, the former Texas defensive coordinator has been charged with bringing some life in Rich Rodriguez's group with the Wolverines.
- 12. David Yost, Missouri offensive coordinator: After working with Missouri quarterbacks in the past, Yost was a natural pick to replace Christensen after he left for the head coaching job at Wyoming.
- 13. Andy Ludwig, Californa offensive coordinator: Picked up stakes and moved to California after barely having time to memorize the menu at the Hibachi Hut in Manhattan during his 65-day stint on Bill Snyder's coaching staff.
- 20. Gary Nord, Purdue: The former UTEP coach had a short stint on Howard Schnellenberger's staff at Oklahoma where he earned much derision among Sooner fans when he mentioned that he didn't see a full set of teeth in the state when coaching there.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I saw a summer t-shirt I've got to have over at ESPN.com's Page 2 today. Kurt Snibbe and Thomas Neumann lampooned the upcoming move of former Duke point guard Greg Paulus to a football program for the start of the 2009 season.
Nebraska is prominently displayed on their Greg Paulus World Tour t-shirts. Their shirt also mentions he might be traveling through College Station to meet with Texas A&M coaches before his final destination -- a stop at the San Francisco 49ers' summer camp.
This shirt likely won't win many friends at Florida State, where it mentions that the visit was "vacated."
Earlier stops to Michigan and Syracuse also are prominently displayed along with the Aggies and Cornhuskers.
It's good to see that somebody is having fun with all of Paulus' stops -- just like a rock'n'roll band making a summer tour across the country.
I don't know how popular this shirt might actually be in Lincoln, Neb., and College Station, Texas.
But I'd still like to have one and would proudly wear it during my weekend forays when cutting my yard, or on visits to my son's day-care provider or on a visit to the grocery store.
Because I'm betting that the Paulus World Tour t-Shirt would be a sure conversation piece wherever I would go.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Web site Coacheshotseat.com is one of my must reads every day. They always have an interesting spin on various college football topics and a lot of original content.
One post this afternoon was particularly interesting. The Web site ranks the 22 hirings of new FBS head coaches since the end of last season.
Here's a list of hirings of all new Division I head coaches. The ones that are highlighted have Big 12 connections.
1. Dave Christensen, Wyoming
2. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
3. Rich Ellerson, Army
4. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
5. Brady Hoke, San Diego State
6. Steve Sarkisian, Washington
7. Doug Marrone, Syracuse
8. Danny Hope, Purdue
9. Mike Locksley, New Mexico
10. Ron English, Eastern Michigan
11. Mike Haywood, Miami (OH)
12. DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State
13. Chip Kelly, Oregon
14. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State
15. Gene Chizik, Auburn
16. Gary Anderson, Utah State
17. Frank Spaziani, Boston College
18. Tim Beckman, Toledo
19. Stan Parrish, Ball State
20. Dave Clawson, Bowling Green
21. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
22. Lane Kiffin, Tennessee
It's particularly interesting to look at the difference between former Missouri coordinator Dave Christensen and former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Tim Beckman.
They believe that Christensen's success bringing his version of the spread to Wyoming will pump new life into the Mountain West Conference. And they compare that to the largely unknown Beckman, who will be challenged to succeed in the balanced Mid-American Conference.
The switch from Gene Chizik to Paul Rhoads appears to be a wash, as Rhoads' hiring is ranked No. 14 while Chizik checks in at No. 15.
But the most interesting comments to me were how the Web site viewed Bill Snyder replacing Ron Prince at Kansas State.
21. Bill Snyder for Ron Prince at Kansas State
"We could have gone either way on the firing of Ron Prince, but bringing Bill Snyder back to Kansas State? No, we cannot understand that move by KSU. OK...Bill Snyder was a great football coach, but that was in another time and another place. Snyder put up some great seasons at K-State, but in his last two years, which happened to correspond to the rise of Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Missouri in the Big 12, Snyder went 4-7 in 2004 and 5-6 in 2005. There is a reason that Bill Snyder was fired after the 2005 season and that reason has not changed and we believe K-State will regret hiring Snyder because he will not move the football program forward in what has become a much tougher Big 12. Instead of Bill Snyder, we would have hired Buffalo's Turner Gill, Oklahoma's Brent Venables, Illinois Mike Locksley, Missouri's Dave Christensen or even Dennis Franchione over bringing back Bill Snyder and we believe Kansas State will regret this coaching move."
I would criticique Coacheshotseat.com for saying that Snyder was fired after the 2005 season. He actually resigned. But I'm still intrigued by their comments.
It will be interesting to see how Snyder's return to KSU plays out. Either it will be a home run or a colossal flop.
I'm betting that Snyder's work ethic and his return of a veteran group of coaches familiar with the KSU program will work and work to ensure the program's success.
But even that might not be enough, considering the Big 12's strength.