Big 12: Terry Bowden
If it's Friday, it's time for a few letters from my mailbag.
Here are some of the best from this week.
Travis Broyles from Austin, Texas, writes: Big fan of your blog Tim. I understand the outcome of this season is still foggy, but I figure it might be a little fun to look ahead from this year. I'm curious to hear about how you think the Big 12 standings would look at the end of NEXT year. Of course, assume players who you feel will enter the draft will get drafted. Do you see a stand-out in Garrett Gilbert lead Texas to a conference championnship game, or the new upcoming of Sam Bradford, or maybe if Colorado or A&M are rising to power? I heard that Oklahoma will lose quite a few of their O-line again this year, and can't imagine their line getting much worse. Not to mention a potentially large void on the D-line and linebackers' position. So how will you rank them?
Tim Griffin: That’s an interesting question. I think Texas and Oklahoma will remain as the two most solid South contenders, although the Longhorns will lose a lot with Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley, Chris Hall and Roddrick Muckelroy all leaving. The Sooners will have Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray all back, so they should have some firepower. But their linebacking corps will be diminished and Gerald McCoy is a likely defection to the NFL draft. With both Texas Tech starting quarterbacks returning, I think the Red Raiders should be better and could challenge for the division. Texas A&M will be better too after having all those freshmen playing this year. Baylor should have Robert Griffin back, but they lose both Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake. And the biggest losses are at Oklahoma State, where Mike Gundy might have trouble keeping his team out of the cellar.
In the North, I like Nebraska, although I will be curious to watch how their quarterback plays down the stretch this year before I commit to it. But the return of key skill-position players will Roy Helu Jr. and Mike McNeill will help. Colorado returns most of their key players and should be up for a challenge along with Missouri, which will improve in its second season with Blaine Gabbert in control. I also look for improvement from Iowa State, which has played hard for Paul Rhoads in his first season and will have Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson back for 2010. Kansas is a question mark as they will lose Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier and Jake Sharp. The Jayhawks’ defense loses only Darrell Stuckey among its key contributors and should be better with more experience, but it will be a different kind of Kansas team than we’ve seen the last couple of years. Most importantly, they won't have to play Texas and Oklahoma next season. Kansas State will lose Grant Gregory, Brandon Banks and Jeff Fitzgerald among its key players and may be challenged to stay out of the basement.
So I would guess that Texas would be a slight favorite over Texas Tech and Oklahoma in the South. In the North, I’ll take Nebraska, followed closely by Colorado and Missouri.
Dan R. Van Dyke of Holdrege, Neb., writes: What was your point about Harrison Beck? According to the article he transferred from North Carolina State. No mention of being a Nebraska transfer.The kid got what he wanted. Starting quarterback. He did the same thing in high school, transferred until he got the quarterback job.A slow sports news day for you?? What relevance does Harrison Beck have for Nebraska or Nebraska have for Harrison Beck.I think both parties have moved on to the next day month, year. How long ago was Harrison Beck relevant to a Nebraska football program, if he ever was relevant in the first place?
Tim Griffin: The story that mentioned him as the starting quarterback for North Alabama under Terry Bowden was interesting. The fact his team is No. 1 in the nation while the Cornhuskers are sorting through a difficult quarterback situation is intriguing to me. And I’m sure that many Big 12 and Nebraska fans are interested in Beck and where he ended up, especially after all the ballyhoo of his recruitment by Bill Callahan.
John Vail from Denver writes: I have been watching OU football since I was a freshman there in '67 and I don't think your conclusions are too good. Colorado will beat Nebraska and then Oklahoma will lose to the Cornhuskers? Not likely. Keep this e-mail until the end of the season. Oklahoma will win all the rest of its games. Tech will be the only close game for the Sooners.
Tim Griffin: John, we’ve just saved it for posterity. I still think the Sooners could struggle winning all three of their road games against Texas Tech, Kansas and Nebraska without Sam Bradford. We’ll see how they play over the next few weeks. Bob Stoops has thrived in similar situations in the past. Let’s see what he can do this time.
Marty Murray of Dayton, Texas, writes: I saw your prediction of Texas 38, Missouri 24.I have just one question and a comment. I'm not trying to be confrontational or condescending, but how did you come up with that score? I can see UT only scoring 38 because I'm still not convinced they know why they are underperforming on offense, but I'm a little perplexed at the 24 you are giving Mizzou. The most this defense has given up this year is 24 to Tech and 10 of those points came directly off of turnovers giving Tech a very short field, and to be honest, Mizzou's offense is not even in the same zip code as Tech's offense. I'm really curious to know why you think they can score 24 points on UT's defense when OU could only muster 13 and that was primarily because of two big plays. Inquiring minds want to know! I appreciate your comments and your blog.
Tim Griffin: This will be Texas’ most difficult road game to date. I think their defense will be tested a little by Blaine Gabbert and Danario Alexander. And I think the Missouri defense might be energized by playing at home. So I’m expecting a competitive game. Add it together and it wouldn’t surprise me that the Tigers score more points against Texas, although I’m still looking for the Longhorns to score a lot more and keep their winning streak alive tomorrow night.
Bobby Klare from Lubbock, Texas, writes: Assume something crazy happens, and OSU picks up the upset against UT. After that, OSU loses to Texas Tech in a close game. Who do you think would go on to play for the Big 12 championship? It's hard to think that Texas would fall below Tech, but Tech will be coming off two big wins against ranked teams (presumably), and with the way last season turned out, it certainly seems possible. Can they advance past Texas into the championship game?
Tim Griffin: If as you say, the Big 12 South ends up in a three-way tie with all teams with one loss, it’s the same deal as last year where the final BCS standings would be used to determine the divisional participant in the title game as long as their losses among themselves. And with Texas with one season loss and Texas Tech and Oklahoma State both with two (one conference loss and another non-conference loss), I’d like the Longhorns chances to be ahead in the final ranking. Their loss would have conceivably come on Oct. 31, so it would presumably given them the month of November to finish the season strongly and boost their poll numbers after losing as you predict to OSU. I think the fact that Tech still hasn’t cracked the BCS poll makes it unlikely that it could soar past Texas and Oklahoma State in the final standings unless something really strange happens. And OSU would get a nice bounce from beating Texas, but would likely drop back when they would lose to Tech, as you mentioned.
In the end, I think Texas’ lack of a nonconference loss would keep them ahead of the other teams and result in a higher ranking.
Thanks again for all of the great letters. We’ll answer some more next week.
Welcome to a Thursday lunch session.
Here are some tasty links, including one about a name pretty familiar to Nebraska fans everywhere.
- Former Nebraska quarterback Harrison Beck has been among the reasons why Terry Bowden’s North Alabama team is 8-0 and No. 1 in the Division II poll this week, Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News reports.
- The College Football News’ Pete Fiutak writes about how Sam Bradford lost his “it factor.”
- The Omaha World-Herald’s Lee Barfknecht writes about the increase in penalties in the Big 12 this season.
- It’s time for the struggling Nebraska offensive line to make a statement, Lincoln Journal-Star columnist Steve Sipple opines.
- The Tulsa World’s John Hoover writes that Sam Bradford’s interview plans were put on hold Wednesday -- despite a huge media throng that turned out in the rain to meet with him.
- Baylor’s nagging habit of killing drives with self-inflicted mistakes is examined by the Waco Tribune-Herald’s Brice Cherry.
- The San Antonio Express-News’ Buck Harvey writes why the pressure on Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman might not be as intense as you might think.
- Texas sophomore cornerback Aaron Williams’ recent development is profiled by the Austin American-Statesman’s Alan Trubow.
- Kansas coach Mark Mangino tells the Kansas City Star’s Brady McCollough that freshman cornerback D.J. Beshears will start for the Jayhawks against Oklahoma.
- The Boulder Daily Camera’s Kyle Ringo writes about the development of Colorado tight end Riar Geer, who already has surpassed his previous season highs in receptions and catches after only six games.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's a little light today as Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State take this week off from spring practice.
But there's still some news around the Big 12. Here are a few links of interest from around the conference.
- After watching Missouri's early practices, Columbia Daily Tribune beat writer Dave Matter has anointed Blaine Gabbert as the Tigers' likely quarterback starter.
- Tom Cudd of Bleacherreport.com details a list of possible spring sleepers as Nebraska approaches the start of spring practice next week.
- Former Nebraska quarterback Harrison Beck is transferring from North Carolina State to finish his college career with Terry Bowden at North Alabama, Jeff McIntyre of the Florence (Ala.) Times Daily reports.
- Kansas State has hired former KSU player and assistant coach Michael Smith as wide receivers coach on Bill Snyder's staff, Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal reports.
- Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News writes that Texas A&M's new indoor track stadium could benefit the school's football program, too.
- Former Missouri tight end Chase Coffman isn't expected to be ready to run at Missouri's pro day Thursday as he recovers from a foot injury, the NFLdraftbible.com reports.
- New Kansas defensive line coach Tom Sims is excited about trying to boost his unit's production during spring practice, Dugan Arnett of the Lawrence Journal-World reports.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I wonder what kind of lawyer Mike Leach would have turned out to be. He probably would have been much like the attorney Perry Mason, with a little Ernest Frye sprinkled in for good measure.
Mason made a career out of tormenting Hamilton Berger, the district attorney on the old television show who was kind of like Mason's personal Baylor over the program's long history, if you put it in football terms. And Frye, played by Sherman Hemsley on the old television show "Amen," had a shingle that read "Attorney-at-Law, Ernest Frye -- Where Winning is Everything."
Leach graduated from Pepperdine Law School before starting his career as an assistant football coach. It represents one of the more unusual career moves to get into the coaching profession, shared by fellow coaches like UCLA's Rick Neuheisel and North Alabama's Terry Bowden.
The Texas Tech coach sat down with Texas Lawyer magazine (hat tip to the Dallas Morning News) for an extensive interview about all things legal and football. The story provides several intriguing quotes that provide some insight into how going to law school shaped Leach's coaching career.
After working as a clerk in the Santa Monica (Calif.) Public Defender's Office and with a solo practitioner in Los Angeles, Leach said he wrote legendary trial lawyer Gerry Spencer a letter about law as a career. Spencer told him that if he wasn't consumed by law, he should never consider working as a lawyer.
There are several similarities between the two jobs, Leach told Texas Lawyer.
"In both, you have never enough time. There is always more that you could feature, more that you could research," Leach said. "You have to pick out key things and the key things that are going to feature your side. Preparing for a game is very similar to trial planning. You review videos instead of books and then at the end of the week, instead of trial, there is a game."
And Leach is convinced that the demands are greater in his job than if he had ended up working as a lawyer.
"In coaching," Leach said, "you work every day of the week."