Big 12: Tennessee-Chattanooga Moccasins

Could Texas' non-league slate be a national-title albatross?

January, 16, 2009
1/16/09
9:51
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman had an interesting story earlier this week about Texas considering some major late changes in its nonconference schedule for the 2009 season and beyond.

Bohls reported that Texas and Wisconsin were in serious talks about a 2009 game in Austin. But that discussion finally bogged down when the two schools couldn't arrange for a return game to Wisconsin until at least 2013. Texas officials had even agreed to shift its Sept. 19 game against Central Florida to a future season, but still couldn't agree to a potential deal with the Badgers.

Texas senior assistant athletic director Butch Worley also told Bohls that the Longhorns are considering trying to get Notre Dame back on their schedule for the first time since 1996. That game makes sense because the Irish are desperate to have upcoming games in the talent-rich recruiting area of Texas.

Such discussion from Texas officials is interesting after the Longhorns were barely nosed out by Oklahoma for the Big 12 South Division title game berth after the Sooners and Longhorns finished in a three-way tie for the division crown with Texas Tech.

Texas' four-game 2008 nonconference schedule featured games against Florida Atlantic, Rice, Arkansas and UTEP, while Oklahoma's was marked by games against No. 7 TCU and No. 17 Cincinnati along with Tennessee-Chattanooga and Washington.

It's clear that the Sooners got a boost from the stronger nonconference schedule. And it undoubtedly helped the Sooners nose out the Longhorns in the final BCS standings despite Texas' 45-35 head-to-head victory over Oklahoma earlier in the season.

The Longhorns again could be facing a similarly weak nonconference schedule dilemma compared to the South Division's other projected powers. Here's how the top projected teams in the conference measure up for 2009.

Oklahoma: BYU (at Arlington, Texas), at Miami, Tulsa, one game to be determined.

Texas: Louisiana-Monroe, Central Florida, UTEP, at Wyoming.

Oklahoma State: Georgia, Rice, Grambling, Houston.

It's understandable why the Longhorns are beating the bushes trying to beef up their nonconference schedule. Because as it stands now, they are definitely behind both the Sooners and the Cowboys in terms of strength of nonconference schedules.

Lewis overcomes inexperience to blossom as LB

January, 7, 2009
1/07/09
2:57
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Earlier this season, Travis Lewis didn't know if he would ever learn the intricacies of Oklahoma's defense.

Understand that Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables' concepts are sometimes difficult to comprehend for even the most seasoned of veteran players. So some growing pains were to be expected for a redshirt freshman like Lewis who had seldom played the position before coming to college.

 
 Jerry Lai/US Presswire
 Travis Lewis (28) is looking forward to trying to slow down Florida's offense Thursday night.

But when injuries and the struggles of others contributed to Lewis moving forward on the depth chart, he still burned with fury because he thought he hadn't won the starting job because of his play.

"Things contributed to me starting ... it wasn't me being the best option," Lewis said. "But I wouldn't have it any other way. Going through that taught me how to play with a chip on my shoulder.

"I still treat every day like I'm third on the depth chart. I think about it every day when I wake up and every day before I go to practice."

That rage has fueled a remarkable debut season for Lewis, who has developed into the most productive freshman linebacker in Oklahoma history despite his lack of playing experience at the position.

"He came from out of nowhere," Venables said. "Travis has been able to overcome his lack of experience and technique and fundamentals because he plays so incredibly hard. He's been able to cover up his mistakes because of that."

The Sooners' program has been dotted by playmaking linebackers during the era that Venables has served as the Sooners' linebackers coach and defensive coordinator. Playmakers like Rocky Calmus, Teddy Lehman, Curtis Lofton and Rufus Alexander all have turned the position into one of the biggest strengths throughout the Bob Stoops era.

But none of them has had as quick a start as Lewis, who was a consensus All-Big 12 player and was named defensive newcomer of the year by the Associated Press and the league's coaches.

(Read full post)

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