Big 12: Houston Nutt
- You've heard enough about Oklahoma State's QBs for today (Part 1, Part 2), with more to come on that trio, but whoever wins the job won't be short for targets. Receiver Josh Stewart's made the biggest improvement this offseason, but Tracy Moore has come on strong on the outside, too. Inside, you really do have to watch out for Blake Jackson. I regret not putting him on my "Top Newcomers in the Big 12" list from earlier this week. He's playing inside, but he's basically a tight end, and was the best of the junior college ranks last year. He's also a man. He's a huge target with great, great hands. Look for him to get some run on the goal line, but in this offense, he may actually be my frontrunner for Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. I'd almost guarantee him getting a high volume of touches, and he's going to be tough to bring down at 6-foot-3, 238 pounds. He's every bit of that, too. "He's a big body guy and has really good hands. If it's in the general area of him, he's going to catch it," quarterback J.W. Walsh said. "He's got really good leaping ability and great ball skills."
- Speaking of newcomers, you don't hear as much hype around him, but defensive coordinator Bill Young is hopeful that Calvin Barnett can have a big impact on the defensive line. Plenty of folks were after the one-time OSU commit, turned Arkansas signee, turned juco All-American, turned Cowboy signee. The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder has big-time potential, but he has to pick up the speed of the game and focus on technique. OSU's defense may ultimately depend on strength at the defensive tackle spot. "He's a very talented guy, he's really strong and powerful. Weight coaches have raved about what he's done in the weight room," said Young. "He's a big guy who can run and change direction. We're fortunate to have him." Big impact? "We're hoping he can," Young said.
- Fired Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, an Oklahoma State alum, was back on OSU's campus on Wednesday visiting with the coaching staff. Colorado coach Jon Embree also showed up unannounced earlier this spring to meet with Gundy, who granted the request.
- Oklahoma State's corners and running backs are both having great springs, as expected. Those two spots might be the biggest strength on the team. OSU has a great case as the Big 12's best set of running backs, and is second to only Texas at cornerback.
- Defensively, Mike Gundy feels like this year's team is the most talented and deepest of any team he's had dating all the way back to even when Gundy was an assistant under Les Miles.
- Oklahoma State may be hurt the most of anyone with the new rule changes in special teams. Kickoffs have been moved up to the 35-yard line and touchbacks are now brought out to the 25-yard line. That negates two huge advantages OSU has had the past two season. Quinn Sharp boomed 61 touchbacks last season. No other kicker had more than 40. Meanwhile, Justin Gilbert is one of the most dynamic return men in the league, but he'll have fewer opportunities. He says he'll still plan on taking it out when he gets a chance, but he'll have to dial it back some and take the unselfish route a whole lot more. Sad to see that. He's electrifying.
- Oklahoma State moved safety Daytawion Lowe to nickel back and Lavocheya Cooper is holding down the free safety spot. The void at strong safety will be filled by committee, Young said. Zack Craig will be part of it, as and Shamiel Gary and Deion Imade will get a shot, too. "The good thing about is we have all the backups back," Young said.
- OSU is missing center Evan Epstein this week. He's out with pneumonia.
- Former OSU lineman Levy Adcock showed up briefly to Oklahoma State' facilities on Wednesday. I can confirm he's shaved his mullet, just like he said he would.
- Missouri says it's absolutely leaving for the SEC next year, regardless of what happens with the Big 12 and West Virginia. That and more insight into the move by Chancellor Brady Deaton from Vahe Gregorian of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown's breakout year was bittersweet without his brother, Bryce Brown, writes Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal. Recently, Brown said he was "not too sure" what Bryce was up to.
- Texas A&M's search for a defensive coordinator got a bit more complicated after interim coach Tim DeRuyter became the new head coach at Fresno State.
- Here's what life is like when the Heisman moves to its new home in Baylor's office. (RG3 gets his own, too, of course.)
- And the scene at halftime of last night's game when RG3 took to the court with the Heisman. Fans chanted, "One More Year!"
- Texas Tech could be bringing in a longtime assistant for Houston Nutt to coach the offensive line.
- Could he give Baylor the recruiting momentum to land the next RG3?
- The late Kansas coaching legend Don Fambrough might be getting a street named after him, reports Chad Lawhorn of the Lawrence Journal-World.
- Oklahoma is chasing a few of the best receivers in the country for its next recruiting class, writes Ryan Aber of The Oklahoman.
- Missouri assistant Barry Odom is leaving to take the defensive coordinator job at Memphis.
- Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman offers up the case for every coach to vote in the coaches poll.
- The Fort Worth Star-Telegram hands out some season-long awards and names its All-Big 12 team.
- Charlie Weis has his first commit at KU, and it's a player from his new offensive line coach's school. Weis also did an interesting Q&A with Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune, looking back at his Notre Dame tenure.
Raven's mother signed his letter for him, but Raven says "it was an honest mistake."
"Long story short, my mom thought she was helping me out,” Raven told The Associated Press Wednesday evening. "I wasn’t home and she sent it in. I never told her I had changed my mind to Texas A&M. I forgive her for it."
Raven ranks as the nation's No. 18 cornerback and was confirmed as Texas A&M's 22nd signee of 2011 earlier this evening.
From the AP story:
Mississippi athletic spokesman Kyle Campbell said the school had trouble reading the initial letter of intent sent by fax machine, so the school requested another. Raven declined.
Raven, a Reserve, La., native, said Ole Miss coaches were "very understanding" of the problem.
Raven ranks as the nation's No. 18 cornerback, but Ole Miss received a letter from Raven earlier on Wednesday. Raven's mother reportedly forged the letter of intent to Houston Nutt in Oxford, Miss., but presumably upon discovering that was the case, Nutt allowed Raven to choose a different school.
"We got a signature, but I want people who really want to be here," Nutt told reporters on Wednesday. "His mom really wanted him here in the worst way. Let's leave it at that."
Raven, a 6-foot-2 native of Reserve, La. gives the Aggies 22 signees for the 2011 class.
- An appeals court has thrown out former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach's breach of contract claim regarding his 2009 firing.
- Texas Tech has filled the vacancy on its schedule after canceling a series with TCU. The Red Raiders will take on Texas State, coached by former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione, reports Jeff Caplan of ESPNDallas.com.
- Texas' new deal with ESPN could be the first step to the Longhorns going independent, writes Ray Buck of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
- Don't worry about Texas going independent, writes Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com. The Longhorns are already an independent, using the Big 12 for little more than scheduling.
- Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman examines if the new UT network will hurt Oklahoma.
- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops took a new job after the season after all: He'll be coaching the Harlem Globetrotters later this month.
- Nebraska has a new running back commitment for its 2011 recruiting class, giving them 17 commits.
- KCBD in Lubbock, Texas has new details on the situation surrounding defensive coordinator James Willis' exit from Texas Tech's program, thanks to an open records request.
- Kansas State lost its defensive backs coach, Keith Burns, who went to Ole Miss to work for his old boss, Houston Nutt.
- New Oklahoma State quarterback and early enrollee J.W. Walsh says he's ready to go if needed for the Cowboys.
- Texas Tech may be playing another early-season Big 12 game like it did last year vs. Texas, reports Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
- Oklahoma's Cale Gundy made colleague Ryan McGee's list of the nation's top recruiting coordinators. Gundy, the brother of Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, also coaches running backs for the Sooners.
- No guts, no glory, writes Gil LeBreton of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Texas Tech blew a chance to beat a TCU team in 2011 high on respect and low on quality.
- February won't be a quiet month for Kansas' football program.
How the game was won: Ole Miss took advantage of six Oklahoma State turnovers on consecutive fourth-quarter possessions to blow the game open. The Rebels got the ball back via interceptions by free safety Kendrick Lewis on consecutive drives, followed by back-to-back fumble recoveries and then interceptions by Patrick Trahan and Fon Ingram during a run in which the Rebels scored the game’s final 14 points.
It’s notable: Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt becomes the first coach to win back-to-back Cotton Bowls since Lou Holtz at Notre Dame in 1993 and 1994.
Turning point: With about 9 minutes remaining in a tie game, OSU had the ball on the Ole Miss 19-yard line and appeared poised to claim the lead. Ole Miss defensive tackle Jerrell Powe looked to have obviously jumped offsides on a snap as he charged past OSU center Andrew Lewis before the snap was completed. Feeling that he had a free play, Robinson threw to the end zone, where he was intercepted by Lewis in the end zone. The Cowboys unraveled from that point in the game.
Player of the game: Oklahoma State’s defense was gearing to stop Ole Miss running back Dexter McCluster. And it still didn’t matter. McCluster rushed for 185 yards on 34 carries, including touchdown runs of 86 and 2 yards to account for both of the Rebel’s offensive touchdowns. He also produced five receptions for 45 yards, becoming the first player in Southeastern Conference history to account for 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in the same season.
Unsung hero: Patrick Trahan capped the victory with two pivotal fourth-quarter plays. He recovered a fumble by OSU wide receiver Hubert Anyiam and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown to give the Rebels a 21-7 lead. He then provided an interception on OSU’s next possession to ice the victory.
Stat of the game: The two teams combined for 12 turnovers, but it didn't top the Cotton Bowl record of 13 that was set when Alabama claimed a 29-21 victory over Texas A&M on Jan. 1, 1942.
What it means: Oklahoma State failed to tie a school record with a 10th victory. The Cowboys’ late collapse in the final two games was a disappointment, but OSU overachieved considering their injury and suspension losses over the course of the season. The Cowboys lose key players like Robinson, Russell Okung, Keith Toston, Perrish Cox and starting linebackers Andre Sexton, Donald Booker and Patrick Lavin next season. But they will try to rebuild around a retooled offense that will should be centered around running back Kendall Hunter, who looked to regain his form Saturday after struggling with injuries all season.
Ole Miss didn’t achieve its preseason goal of contending for an SEC championship, but the Rebels claimed back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time since 1959 and 1960. And they likely will have Jevan Snead back for another season as well.
WHO TO WATCH: Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
Hunter led the Big 12 in rushing last season, but has struggled with a foot injury in 2009, missing five games and never really recovering the form that enabled him to gain 1,555 yards last season. Keith Toston took over as Oklahoma State’s featured running threat and raced for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns. But the Cowboys have missed a breakaway element in their running game all season. Hunter returned to action late in the regular season, but has looked reluctant to plant and cut the way he did last season. But after his Cotton Bowl practices, he appears to be finally rounding into form. His return against Mississippi should boost the productivity of the Cowboys’ offense and perhaps give him a jump-start for the 2010 season.
WHAT TO WATCH: Can the Cowboys protect Zac Robinson from theRebels’ lethal pass rush?
Oklahoma State’s offensive line has struggled protecting Robinson at times this season, ranking only ninth in the Big 12 in fewest sacks allowed. Rebels’ defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix has developed a productive defense that led the Southeastern Conference and had five different players with at least five sacks during the season, keyed by Marcus Tillman and Emmanuel Stephens with 5.5 sacks apiece. The biggest reason the Rebels have been successful with their pass rush is because their secondary has held up well this season. And with OSU consensus All-American tackle Russell Okung’s status iffy with a tweaked knee, it could be more difficult for the Cowboys to withstand the Rebels’ pressure. OSU must do a better job of protecting their quarterback than late in the season when Robinson’s performance dipped as he was hampered with injuries.
WHY WATCH: The coaching matchup between two former OSU quarterbacks
The association between Mississippi coach Houston Nutt and OSU coach Mike Gundy goes back a long way. Nutt was an OSU quarterback in 1979-80 and Gundy played at the position for the Cowboys from 1986 to 1989. During Gundy’s playing stint, Nutt served as the Cowboys’ wide receivers coach. They have remained close over the years. It will be interesting to see how teacher and pupil compete in the game -- and how they interact after it.
PREDICTION: Both OSU and Mississippi entered the season with a lot of preseason expectations, but struggled to match that hype after midseason slumps. Both teams like to feature their running backs as the Rebels’ Dexter McCluster will be matched against the Cowboys’ versatile duo of Toston and Hunter. Veteran OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young has had nearly a month to cook up a scheme to contain McCluster. But the Cowboys need to find a way to muster enough plays on offense to enable them to win. That’s easier said than done as the Rebels should find a way to persevere late in the game. Prediction: Mississippi 24, Oklahoma State 21.
Here are some lunch links that will make the leftover turkey tetrazzini go down a little easier.
- Snowbound Lincoln Journal-Star columnist Steve Sipple opines that Nebraska’s defense might be even better in 2010 than this season -- even without Ndamukong Suh.
- Texas fans in Austin tell the Tuscaloosa News’ Brian Reynolds that they’ve lived the excitement of a national championship, but are excited about reveling in another one.
- Mike Gundy, Houston Nutt and Bob Stoops talk about the stresses of coaching in the wake of Urban Meyer's leave of absence, the Tulsa World’s Bill Haisten reports. And the Omaha World-Herald’s Tom Shatel writes of the similarities that Meyer and Bo Pelini share.
- The College Football News’ Pete Fiutak provides a preview of today’s AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl between Texas A&M and Georgia.
- The Des Moines Register’s Randy Peterson writes about Jesse Smith’s romantic proposal to his wife on Iowa State's snow-covered practice field.
- Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson tells the Omaha World-Herald’s Jon Nyatawa that backup quarterback Cody Green will play in Wednesday’s Pacific Life Holiday Bowl.
- Michigan State is determined to run the ball against Texas Tech in the Valero Alamo Bowl to keep the ball away from the Red Raiders’ explosive passing game, Shannon Shelton of the Detroit Free Press reports.
- The Austin American-Statesman’s Eric Dexheimer writes about all of the tax breaks in place for big-time college football.
- There’s no reason for Oklahoma State to fear Ole Miss heading into Saturday’s AT&T Cotton Bowl game, according to the Oklahoman’s Jenni Carlson.
- The Tulsa World ranks Oklahoma's return to football prominence as its biggest sports story of the decade.
- Navy's rich football history is a little lost on Missouri players, the Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond writes.
Here are some links to toast with your Christmas Eve lunch.
We all have so much to be thankful for.
But just save some oyster stew for me.
- The Lincoln Journal-Star’s Steve Sipple writes of the friendship and mutual respect among the Stoops and Pelini families.
- Mike Leach tells the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Dwain Prince that he wouldn’t be surprised to see an all-Texas national championship game in the future.
- Watching Alabama's game films is like watching a horror movie for Mack Brown, the Dallas Morning-News’ Chuck Carlton reports.
- Patrick Rupinski of the Tuscaloosa News reports that a suite seating 14 patrons for the Citi BCS National Championship Game can be obtained for a cool $88,953.
- College Football News ranks Mack Brown second and Bob Stoops fourth among the top five coaches of the decade. The best coach, according to the survey, was Urban Meyer.
- The Kansas City Star’s J. Brady McCollough analyzes the past decade for Kansas athletics.
- Curt Popejoy of the Draft Board Insider wonders if Nebraska could face a similar bowl-game fate as Oregon State after both suffered emotional losses in their regular-season finales.
- The Oklahoman’s John Helsley writes about how Houston Nutt still fondly remembers his time as a player and coach at Oklahoma State. And the Stillwater News-Press' Justin Hite reports that the Jan. 2 AT&T Cotton Bowl will provide a chance for Mike Gundy and Nutt to renew old acquaintances.
- The Washington Post’s Steve Yanda employs the Mark Mangino case and some interesting quotes from Fred Akers to analyze the fine line that coaches walk between discipline and verbal abuse.
- Texas’ end-of-season struggles could benefit the Longhorns' preparations for the Citi BCS National Championship Game, the Los Angeles Times’ Chris Dufresne reports.
- The San Antonio Express-News’ Brent Zwerneman writes about how Jeff Fuller’s return from injury has boosted Texas A&M’s offensive productivity.
Obviously, these games aren't quite as prevalent as bracket sheets during the NCAA men's tournament, but they assuredly are growing. I know I have several offers and have to get my sheets ready by Saturday's games.
Here are my picks for Big 12 bowl games ranked one through eight in terms of my confidence in the results of the games. I'll have much more extensive previews before the games and I reserve my right to make a last-minute change, but here are my picks in place for Saturday's confidence-pick deadline.
8 points: Texas Tech over Michigan State, Valero Alamo Bowl. The Red Raiders are catching the Spartans at exactly the right time. And the fact that Michigan State is riddled with suspensions only makes the Red Raiders' opportunity to win that much greater. Tech's Taylor Potts should have a huge game against the Spartans' struggling secondary that ranks 96th in pass-efficiency defense and 103rd in pass defense.
7 points: Missouri over Navy, Texas Bowl. The Tigers played well late in the season when Blaine Gabbert was healthy. Danario Alexander was the Big 12's most explosive player down the stretch. And while the defense isn't their best quality, I like their chances of being able to stuff Navy's run-heavy offense. Missouri limited four of its last five opponents to 77 yards rushing or less and Dave Steckel's group will have a long time to prepare for the option.
6 points: Georgia over Texas A&M, Advocare V100 Independence Bowl. Which Aggies team will show up for this game? The one that nearly beat Texas or the one that was blown out by Oklahoma or Kansas State? I think that Joe Cox and A.J. Green will have a lot of success against the Aggies' struggling defense, providing they can effectively keep Von Miller out of the Georgia backfield.
5 points: Oklahoma over Stanford, Brut Sun Bowl. The Sooners are intent on turning around after losing five of their last six bowl games. Oklahoma gets a break because of Andrew Luck's iffy status for the Cardinal. Look for the Sooners' run defense to clamp down on Toby Gerhart and Ryan Broyles and Landry Jones to make enough big plays to win.
4 points: Mississippi over Oklahoma State, AT&T Cotton Bowl. How much will that blowout loss at Oklahoma in Bedlam harm the Cowboys' psyche? I'm thinking more than might be expected as underrated bowl game coach Houston Nutt will assuredly have the Rebels ready to play. Look for a game similar to last year's Cotton Bowl against Texas Tech where the Rebels win the game in the trenches.
3 points: Arizona over Nebraska, Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. Look for a defensive struggle between good buddies Mike Stoops and Bo Pelini. But with Nebraska's well-chronicled offensive struggles against better opponents, it might be more of the same for the Cornhuskers in the bowl game. This one should be tight, but look for Arizona quarterback Nick Foles to make enough big plays to give the Wildcats a narrow victory.
2 points: Iowa State over Minnesota, Insight Bowl. The Cyclones definitely are happy to move up this far in the bowl pecking order. That attitude, along with strong inside running by Alexander Robinson, might be enough to catapult them to a big effort over the Gophers. Minnesota has been to the Insight Bowl three times in the last four seasons and might be a little bored with another trip to the desert this time around.
1 point: Texas over Alabama, Citi BCS National Championship Game. The Longhorns are underdogs in this one, but I'm thinking they are going to be a little tired about pundits talking about how fortunate they are to be playing in this game. The Longhorns are actually a better match for the Crimson Tide than they would have been against Florida. Will Muschamp's expertise on Nick Saban and his system will be pivotal. And I think Texas' run defense will keep Mark Ingram bottled up and that Colt McCoy will outplay Greg McElroy for his fourth bowl victory.
That would produce a 5-3 bowl record for the Big 12 this time around. It might be a little optimistic, but I'm fairly confident the teams can play to my expected levels.
What about some of your picks? I'm curious what you believe is a legitimate record the Big 12 can achieve this season.
Take the Web site fireturnergill.com that has already popped up, even before the new Kansas coach has been formally introduced in his new job.
The site blasts Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins for not making a national hire when he replaced Mark Mangino, instead settling for a lesser and cheaper choice.
But let's get real. Gill was a great hire for the Kansas program, which had never been marked by much consistent success. The Jayhawks had been unable to make back-to-back bowl trips before Mangino took them to bowls in 2007 and 2008.
And for all of the talk about Houston Nutt and Jim Harbaugh, Gill likely will end up being the best choice. He's built a program from the depths at Buffalo. He has a background in the Big 12 from his playing and coaching career at Nebraska. And he knows his way around the recruiting circles in Texas, which will likely make or break his program.
Gill was a strong choice by Perkins for the vacant position. I can't believe some fans are already knocking it, even before he gets a chance to prove his coaching abilities.
That story and a lot of others are garnering headlines across the Big 12 and beyond.
Here are a few of them.
- The potential hiring of Houston Nutt at Kansas is analyzed by the Kansas City Star’s Martin Manley in his “Upon Further Review” blog. But Mississippi officials tell Dugan Arnett of the Lawrence Journal-World that Kansas hasn’t inquired about Nutt.
- The Columbus Dispatch’s Bob Hunter isn’t buying that Texas is the nation’s No. 2 team.
- The Omaha World Herald’s Tom Shatel analyzes why Shawn Watson’s offense struggled this season at Nebraska.
- Ndamukong Suh’s late charge at the Heisman Trophy is detailed by the Omaha World-Herald’s Mitch Sherman.
- Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News writes about the unique relationship between Ndamukong Suh and Colt McCoy.
- The San Jose Mercury-News’ Jon Wilner explains how Hunter Lawrence’s field goal saved the BCS and why the Alamo Bowl’s move to a Pac-10 affiliation next season looks promising.
- Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis tells the Dallas Morning News’ Chuck Carlton that he plans to lean on Will Muschamp’s expertise of Nick Saban’s offensive system.
- ESPN Rise ranks Adrian Peterson as one of the decade’s top 10 high-school athletes.
- Austin American-Statesman columnist Cedric Golden details his fail-safe college football playoff plan.
- Only four Big 12 teams were rated among the nation’s top 40 teams in College Football News.com’s ranking of all of the FBS football teams.
The Kansas City Star is reporting that Mississippi coach Houston Nutt has met with Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins about the job.
Nutt, 52, would provide a splash if he was hired by Kansas. In 12 seasons as a head coach -- 10 at Arkansas and two at Mississippi -- Nutt has posted a 92-56 record and been a three-time SEC coach of the year. He makes $2.5 million per season, which would put his contract slightly ahead of Mangino's $2.3 million contract.
Nutt was offered the Nebraska job after the 2003 season while coaching at Arkansas before the Cornhuskers opted for Bill Callahan.
Several media outlets have reported that Perkins will meet with Buffalo coach Turner Gill sometime in the next several days.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Oklahoma (Big 12 No. 2) vs. Mississippi (SEC No. 2)
Oklahoma's record against the SEC: 3-3
Mississippi's record against the Big 12: 5-4
Previous series: Mississippi leads the series, 1-0
Most recent game: Mississippi won, 27-25, in the 1999 Independence Bowl
Distance between them (as the crow flies according to How Far Is It): 448 miles.
Where they should play: Shreveport, La. (279 miles from Oxford, 279 miles from Norman)
Who wins: Oklahoma.
Why: The Sooners won't be playing in the featured matchup of the mythical tournament. Maybe that would work in their favor against Mississippi, which is approaching the season with more national hype than any in recent memory.
Oklahoma's nine returning starters on defense would dictate this game, particularly in the trenches. A big concern would be at left tackle, where the Rebels will miss All-American Michael Oher. His likely replacement Bradley Sowell would be facing waves of Oklahoma pass rushers intent on pressuring Jevan Snead.
The Rebels' lack of depth along the offensive line is another big question mark I have. Oklahoma would be able to take advantage of that weakness with one of the nation's deepest and most talented defensive fronts, keyed by playmakers like Gerald McCoy, Auston English and Jeremy Beal.
Coach Houston Nutt has most of his skill-position players back and one of the nation's most talented quarterbacks in Snead. It would be interesting to see how Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables would try to counteract Mississippi wide receiver Dexter McCluster, particularly in the "Wild Rebel" formation.
I'd look for Sam Bradford and his collection of playmaking wide receivers to be able to exploit Mississippi's secondary. The Rebels have three starters back, but they still ranked 81st nationally in pass defense and would struggle to keep Oklahoma from dictating the game with their no-huddle passing attack.
The Rebels have the better kicker in Joshua Shene, who would be vitally important in a close game. But this one wouldn't be, as I would look for the Sooners to prevail by at least 10 points.
Friday: Texas (Big 12 No. 1) vs. Florida (SEC No. 1).
The count: SEC, 6-5.
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 competition in the Big 12.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Bonfire game shows softer side of Texas-A&M rivalry
Date: Nov. 26, 1999
Place: Kyle Field, College Station, Texas
Score: Texas A&M 20, Texas 16
Just eight days after the most stunning tragedy in school history, Texas A&M had to refocus to play Texas in the 106th meeting of the storied rivalry between the two bitter adversaries.
Except this time, it was a little different.
Thousands of maroon balloons filled the sky, followed by the pregame release of 12 white doves -- one for each of the 12 current and former A&M students who were killed in the bonfire collapse. Four F-16 fighters flew overhead in the missing man formation, a tribute usually saved for pilots killed in the line of duty.
Earlier in the week, A&M missed practice for two days. When the bonfire stack collapsed, A&M players helped rescuers move the logs in search of survivors.
Texas players and the Longhorn football staff held a blood drive to benefit the victims. Texas officials also canceled their annual "hex rally" before the game in favor of a unity rally that also included hundreds of A&M students.
The Aggies jumped to quick lead on a 3-yard TD run by bullish tailback Ja'Mar Toombs. But the conversion backfired when holder Mark Farris bobbled the snap, leaving kicker Shane Lechler to try an ill-advised pass that was returned 96 yards by Lee Jackson for the two-point conversion.
But heralded freshman Texas quarterback Chris Simms led a pair of scoring drives later in the first quarter that gave the Longhorns the lead. Simms was starting only because Major Applewhite was ailing with an upset stomach.
A fumble by Texas A&M quarterback Randy McCown helped the Longhorns to score their first TD, provided on a 14-yard run by Hodges Mitchell. Texas extended its lead to 16-6 later in the quarter on a 1-yard TD plunge by Chris Robertson.
The Aggies blocked a punt later in the second quarter, but were unable to score as they trailed 16-6 at the break.
Many fans who were at the game still remember the halftime presentation by both bands as the most moving part of the game. The Texas band played "Amazing Grace" and members took off their hats at the end. The A&M Band honored the bonfire victims by marching off the field without its usual musical accompaniment as the Kyle Field crowd was eerily silent.
The inspired A&M defense was the difference in the second half, limiting Texas to only two first downs as Simms struggled and was eventually replaced by Applewhite in the fourth quarter.
Toombs, rushed for 126 yards on 37 carries to lead the Aggies, gradually wore down the Longhorns in the second half. His 9-yard scoring plunge pulled the Aggies within 16-13 with 4:47 left in the third quarter.
And with 5:02 left, McCown lofted a 14-yard lob into the end zone that was snagged by his roommate Matt Bumgardner for the game-winning score.
The Aggies' defense took care of the rest. With 23 seconds left in the game, cornerback Jay Brooks forced a midfield fumble by Applewhite. Linebacker Brian Gamble recovered the fumble to seal the victory.
A&M offensive lineman Chris Valletta wore a T-shirt with the names of the 11 A&M students and one former student under his pads and jersey.
"We had the thought and memory of those 12 who died in our hearts and minds every single play," Valletta told reporters after the game. "I hope this can ease the pain a little bit."