Big 12: what we learned 1
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are a few observations from the first week across the Big 12:
1. Suddenly, that Oct. 17 game between Texas and Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl doesn’t look like Armageddon. The Red River Rivalry still should be one of the pivotal games of the season, but the Texas-Oklahoma State game two weeks later might end up playing much larger on the national stage.
2. Now who was that Chase Daniel guy who played for Missouri? Blaine Gabbert had a scintillating first career start to pace Missouri’s 37-9 victory over Illinois. And the bigger and stronger Gabbert appears able to do things physically that Daniel couldn’t do after the 6-foot-5, 242-pounder beat the Illini. We might have written off the Tigers’ chances to contend in the North Division a little too early if Saturday’s performance is any indication.
3. It might be a long season for Bill Snyder. It wasn't a good sign for Snyder’s rebuilding job at Kansas State that the Wildcats needed a late drive to kill the clock in an unimpressive 21-17 triumph over FCS foe Massachusetts. Kansas State made the game way too close with three turnovers, including two by first-time starting quarterback Carson Coffman.
4. Texas' most exciting running back was one who emerged from out of nowhere. For all of the talk about the potential running backs in Texas’ deep backfield, we didn’t hear much about redshirt freshman D.J. Monroe coming into the season. Heck, he wasn't even listed anywhere on the Longhorns' two-deep roster coming into their opener. Monroe made the most of his debut with an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and 64 yards rushing in the Longhorns’ triumph over Louisiana-Monroe. The big night from the 5-foot-9, 170-pound converted wide receiver almost was enough to make Texas coaches forget Vondrell McGee’s two fumbles -- but not quite.
5. The Blackshirts apparently can play takeaway. Nebraska’s offense got a lot of the credit for the Cornhuskers’ 49-3 thumping of Florida Atlantic University. But as impressive was the opportunism of the Cornhuskers' defense, which forced three turnovers to spark the triumph. That’s more like Bo Pelini was looking for when he arrived at Nebraska after making his reputation for coaching defenses that thrived on making big plays. Nebraska caused only 17 turnovers last season and forced more than two in only one game. The Cornhuskers’ opening-game defensive effort was what Pelini hoped for after making forcing turnovers a huge point of emphasis since last year.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are five things we learned about Big 12 teams on Saturday.
1. Texas A&M's 18-14 loss to Arkansas State was the worst possible start for new A&M coach Mike Sherman. The debacle was even more galling than merely the program's first home opening-game loss in 21 years -- particularly to a Sun Belt team that finished 5-7 last season and had never beaten a Big 12 team in 15 tries. The Aggies missed two field goals, allowed four sacks, committed four turnovers and the defense was gashed for 280 yards rushing. Even worse, A&M turtle-backed in the second half, squandering a 14-3 lead by failing to score on its final eight possessions.
2. Gary Pinkel is no doubt happy this morning that he played Illinois sooner than later. The thought of playing a tough team without injured WR/PR Jeremy Maclin might have been too much for the Missouri coach to think about. The Tigers have three cakewalks approaching before their Oct. 4 conference opener against Nebraska. Look for Pinkel to show extreme care in how Maclin returns. Their national title hopes could be riding on it.
3. Kansas might miss leading 2007 rusher Brandon McAnderson more than coach Mark Mangino ever thought. The heralded replacement tandem of Jocques Crawford and Jake Sharp managed a mere 61 yards on 20 carries -- an average of barely 3 yards a carry.
4. All the ballyhoo about new Texas Tech coordinator Ruffin McNeill's transformation of the Red Raiders defense over the offseason might have been a tad overstated. After falling into an early hole, the unheralded Football Championship Series-affiliated Eastern Washington Eagles played the Red Raiders closely over the final three quarters in Tech's unappealing 49-24 triumph. Tech allowed 355 passing yards. And the Red Raiders' school-record 18 penalties in the game is clearly a matter of concern as well.
5. Bo Pelini still has his work cut out in fixing Nebraska's defense. The Cornhuskers had their moments early, but late breakdowns allowed Western Michigan two plays of at least 50 yards and three 80-yard drives that will have Pelini hopping when he watches the game film of his team's 47-24 victory. But he will be happier about his defense's big-play production -- especially four sacks and two turnovers that were in such short supply last season.