Nonconference primer: UCLA

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
5:30
PM ET
We continue with our series looking at each Pac-12 team's nonconference opponents in 2014.

UCLA Bruins

At Virginia Cavaliers, Saturday, Aug. 30
  • Coach: Mike London (18-31), fifth year
  • 2013 record: 2-10, 0-8, ACC
  • Returning starters: Seven offense, nine defense
  • Offensive headliner: Running back Kevin Parks became the first Cavalier player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in almost a decade, posting 1,031 yards and 11 touchdowns. He ranked second in the conference with 85.9 yards per game on the ground.
  • Defensive headliner: Middle linebacker Henry Coley led Virginia with 91 stops last year, including 8.5 tackles for a loss and a sack. He ranked eighth in the ACC with 7.6 tackles per game.
  • The skinny: Virginia is coming off its worst season under London, who has had a pair of 4-8 seasons with one winning season (2011, 8-5) in between. They are currently riding a nine-game losing streak and a 10-game losing streak against FBS teams (which started with a 59-10 loss last season to Oregon). After opening the year with a surprising win over BYU, it was all downhill, save for a win over VMI in between.
Memphis Tigers, Saturday, Sept. 6
  • Coach: Justin Fuente (7-17), third season
  • 2013 record: 3-9, 1-7 American
  • Returning starters: Nine offense, eight defense
  • Offensive headliner: Quarterback Paxton Lynch threw for 2,056 yards and nine touchdowns last year, while adding 127 yards and two scores on the ground. It was just the 10th 2,000-yard passing season in school history and he was just the second freshman in school history to break the 2K passing mark.
  • Defensive headliner: Defensive lineman Martin Ifedi has been getting a lot of preseason love, landing on the Bednarik, Bronko Nagurski and Rotary Lombardi watch lists. He has 20 career sacks, one shy of matching the school record.
  • The skinny: Though there were a lot of losses last season, the Tigers were still pretty competitive in games against Duke, Louisville and BCS darlings UCF. But they ended the year on a low note with blowout losses to Temple and Connecticut. Lynch returns with some experience and a pretty good receiving corps, headlined by fourth-year player Keiwone Malone. The defense should be steady with a good line and a trio of returning linebackers.
Texas Longhorns (in Arlington, Texas), Saturday, Sept. 13
  • Coach: Charlie Strong, first year
  • 2013 record: 8-5, 7-2 Big 12
  • Returning starters: Five offense, seven defense
  • Offensive headliner: Running back Malcom Brown rushed for 904 yards and nine touchdowns. He posted five 100-yard rushing performances last year, including 120 yards in the Red River Rivalry win over Oklahoma.
  • Defensive headliner: Defensive end Cedric Reed was third on the team last season with 79 tackles. He also led the team with five forced fumbles and is on the All-Big 12 preseason team and several watch lists.
  • The skinny: The Longhorns are starting anew with the Charlie Strong era. The last time we saw them, the Ducks were escorting Mack Brown into retirement following a 30-7 win in the Alamo Bowl. Texas has some rebuilding to do on the offensive line, with three starters departed. The quarterback spot is also, well, shaky. They also lose their top two tacklers from last season. But there is enough talent at the skill spots and across the defensive line to make this a potentially dangerous game.
Thoughts: For the Bruins to get to where Jim Mora wants them, anything less than 3-0 won't do. Memphis and Virginia are struggling FBS teams -- but FBS teams nonetheless, which will help the Bruins resume. But the Texas game is the one that could bring some national attention to Westwood. A lot of eyes will be on Texas to see what Strong can do with the brand-name program in his first year. A lot of eyes will also be on the Bruins, who will likely be a top 10 team to start the season with Heisman hopeful Brett Hundley at the helm. Things only get tougher for the Bruins, as they leave their nonconference schedule and jump right into a showdown at Arizona State. Then home dates with Oregon, USC and Stanford loom. The Bruins have the DNA to be one of the top teams in the country and possibly advance to the College Football Playoff. A 3-0 nonconference mark puts them on the right path. Anything less knocks them off that path.
Our series of preseason picks for every single Big 12 game of 2014 concludes today with Week 15. The past two Big 12 champions face off, and Bedlam is always fun.

More Big 12 predictions for 2014.

at Baylor 41, Kansas State 24: With the final weekend mirroring 2013, the Bears know this game could gain added importance if the Sooners slip up in Bedlam. Taking the field with that mindset, Baylor takes a two-touchdown lead in the first quarter and never really looks back. Bryce Petty is efficient and effective, and Baylor's defense uses the experience gained in the first 11 games to help slow Bill Snyder’s Wildcats in a comfortable win to end Year 1 at McLane Stadium.

at Oklahoma 38, Oklahoma State 35: Another Bedlam, another close game, another late-game win for the Sooners. This time it’s true freshman running back Joe Mixon who turns a swing pass into a late fourth-quarter touchdown, giving the Sooners a late lead and, for the second straight Bedlam game, Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker seals the win with a big play on the Cowboys’ final drive. The Sooners win the Big 12, and their campaign to be included in the College Football Playoff begins immediately with Bob Stoops saying the Sooners “absolutely” deserve to be one of the four teams included during his postgame comments.

at TCU 42, Iowa State 20: The Horned Frogs end a solid eight-win season in style with a blowout win against the Cyclones. TCU’s offense gives Horned Frogs fans plenty of hope with a six-touchdown performance to end the season, including a touchdown pass and touchdown reception from “Mr. Versatility” Trevone Boykin.

Final Big 12 standings

1. Oklahoma -- 11-1, 8-1
2. Baylor -- 10-2, 7-2
3. Kansas State -- 9-3, 7-2
4. Texas -- 8-4, 6-3
5. TCU -- 8-4, 5-4
6. Texas Tech -- 7-5, 4-5
7. West Virginia -- 5-7, 4-5
8. Oklahoma State -- 5-7, 3-6
9. Kansas -- 3-9, 1-8
10. Iowa State -- 2-10, 0-9

Big 12 lunchtime links

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
12:00
PM ET
It's been a busy week at ESPN but Big 12 coaches aren't the only ones who made a visit to Bristol.

More player dismissals at Texas

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
11:21
AM ET
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Texas football coach Charlie Strong has kicked at least six players off the team since becoming coach, in addition to suspending two Longhorns players Thursday after they were arrested on charges of sexual assault.

Safety Josh Turner, running back Jalen Overstreet and defensive back Chevoski Collins have been dismissed from the program for violating team rules, multiple sources told ESPN.com on Friday.

Senior running back Joe Bergeron was also dismissed from the program, according to Orangebloods.com and multiple media outlets Friday.

Texas has yet to officially acknowledge any of the dismissals.

Turner was a projected starter, a senior safety who played in 37 games and started five, including three in 2013. He had an interception in Texas' first spring game under Strong.

Overstreet, a sophomore, rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns as a reserve last season after moving from quarterback to running back. Collins redshirted as a freshman and was a backup at safety. Orangebloods.com initially reported the dismissal of Overstreet and Collins.

Overstreet previously had academic issues and was ruled ineligible last December for Texas' Valero Alamo Bowl loss to Oregon.


(Read full post)


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Charlie Strong explains how he is putting the "T" back in Texas.

Mack Brown joins ABC studio team

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
1:21
PM ET

BRISTOL, Conn. -- Former Texas coach Mack Brown will serve as a studio analyst for college football games on ABC.

Brown stepped down in December after 16 years with the Longhorns, winning the national title after the 2005 season.

"I'm so excited and grateful to be joining ESPN's college football coverage team," Brown said in a news release. "We've been talking about it for a few months, and I think it's a great opportunity to continue to be an active part of a game I love so much. People who know me know I'm a football junkie, so I'm really looking forward to watching and studying teams, sharing thoughts, and talking football with all of the passionate college football fans across the country each and every week."

Brown will appear on "College Football Countdown" and offer pregame, halftime and postgame commentary for the games on ABC, including "Saturday Night Football." He will work with host John Saunders and former Florida State quarterback Danny Kanell.

ESPN also said Thursday that former Miami and North Carolina coach Butch Davis will serve as an analyst for ESPN2's studio coverage on Saturdays. 

"I'm thrilled with the opportunity to be an analyst on a sport that has been a part of my coaching life at every level," Davis said in the release.

Davis was fired by the Tar Heels in 2011 during an NCAA investigation. He led the Hurricanes back to national prominence while coaching them from 1995-2000. In between, there was a mostly unsuccessful NFL stint with the Cleveland Browns.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


(Read full post)


Big 12 lunchtime links

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
12:00
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Texas coach Charlie Strong spent some time with the Numbers Never Lie crew on Wednesday.

Two Texas WRs face felony charge

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
11:22
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Two University of Texas football players were arrested and charged Thursday with felony sexual assault after a female student said she was raped in a campus dorm room last month.

Wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander were in custody at the university police station. According to an arrest affidavit, Sanders and Meander texted each other during earlier interviews with police to "get their story straight," and Sanders also faces a charge of improper photography tied to the alleged assault on June 21.

First-year Longhorns coach Charlie Strong, who will welcome his team to preseason training camp in two weeks, said he has suspended both players.

"We've been monitoring and addressing the situation with Kendall and Montrel since it was brought to our attention," Strong said in a statement released by the school. "It's been made clear to everyone on our team that treating women with respect is one of our core values, and I'm extremely disappointed that two young men in our program have been accused of not doing that."

The sexual assault charges carry prison terms of two to 20 years.

"It's a shame that a mere allegation can affect a young man's life to the extent this will," said Sanders' attorney, Brian Roark. "Kendall Sanders is innocent, though, and eventually, that will be proven."

According to arrest affidavits, the alleged victim knew both men for more than a year.


(Read full post)


Our series of preseason picks for every single Big 12 game of 2014 continues today with Week 14, which features a Thanksgiving night showdown in Austin and another high-profile game at AT&T Stadium.

More Big 12 predictions for 2014.

at Texas Longhorns 24, TCU Horned Frogs 14: Charlie Strong's first season in the Big 12 ends on a high note with a victory over the always-tricky Horned Frogs. A pick-six from Quandre Diggs on his senior night is the highlight of a dominant night for the Longhorn defense, and a fitting finish for Texas' solid turnaround on that side of the ball in 2014.

West Virginia Mountaineers 37, at Iowa State Cyclones 34: Dana Holgorsen ensures his job safety for another season with a good, tough win over an Iowa State team that isn't nearly as bad as its record suggests. Mario Alford and Kevin White both surpass 1,000 receiving yards on the season after big showings against the Cyclone secondary.

at Kansas State Wildcats 35, Kansas Jayhawks 13: Kansas State sets up an intense, high-stakes final week for the Big 12 with an easy win over the Jayhawks, whose frustrating season has finally come to an end. Jake Waters has never looked sharper, throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for another himself. Ben Heeney somehow finishes the year with a school-record 207 tackles.

Baylor Bears 56, Texas Tech Red Raiders 52 (in Arlington, Texas): Last year, Texas Tech blew up Baylor in the first quarter but quickly ran out of gas. This time, Davis Webb gets his chance and keeps the Bears sweating for four quarters. A defensive bust and a 45-yard touchdown run for BU's Johnny Jefferson midway through the fourth is the difference-maker in an extremely even ballgame.

Current Big 12 standings

1. Oklahoma -- 10-1, 7-1
2. Kansas State -- 9-2, 7-1
3. Baylor -- 9-2, 6-2
4. Texas -- 8-4, 6-3
5. TCU -- 7-4, 4-4
6. Texas Tech -- 7-5, 4-5
7. West Virginia -- 5-7, 4-5
8. Oklahoma State -- 5-6, 3-5
9. Kansas -- 3-9, 1-8
10. Iowa State -- 2-9, 0-8

Strong encourages series with Texas A&M

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
5:18
PM ET
BRISTOL, Conn. -- Texas and Texas A&M have played 118 times, and their in-state rivalry was a longtime holiday tradition in the Lone Star State, with the teams meeting 64 times on Thanksgiving Day.

But one of the sport's most storied rivalries was a victim of conference realignment, as the Longhorns and Aggies stopped playing each other when Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC before the 2012 season.

While Texas and Texas A&M administrators have repeatedly said renewing the rivalry isn't on their front burners, new Longhorns coach Charlie Strong said he wants the rivalry to resume.

To read more, click here.

Video: Strong on culture shift at Texas

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
5:13
PM ET
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Texas Longhorns coach Charlie Strong joins ESPN's "SportsCenter" to talk about changing the culture at the University of Texas, getting back in the national championship picture and recruiting for the future.

Big 12 media days takeaways

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
5:00
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DALLAS -- Big 12 media days have come and gone. Some of the storylines (Dairy Queen, fake watches) were silly. Others were far more serious. Here are some of the takeaways from this year’s edition of media days:

Baylor has a chip on its shoulder: Despite winning the Big 12 last season and returning the Big 12 offensive player of the year in quarterback Bryce Petty, Baylor was voted second in the conference’s preseason poll behind Oklahoma. The Bears clearly felt a bit disrespected while in Dallas this week. "That comes with being Baylor," defensive end Shawn Oakman said. "We're gonna be great one day and y'all are gonna notice." The Bears were pretty great last season, stomping the Sooners 41-12 on the way to their first Big 12 title. "That game from OU last year, that should have showed you that that product was nowhere near as good as the product that Baylor was putting on the field," Oakman said. "The execution, the players from each and every position ... You could tell we were on a different level from OU." Still getting picked to finish behind Oklahoma has given the Bears extra fuel for this season. "In our minds, we’re still underdogs," Oakman said. "We play with a chip on our shoulder. You only get the respect if you earn it."

Stoops is loose as a goose: The loosest coach at Big 12 media days might have been Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops. He was cracking jokes, photo-bombing his wife’s TV interview (she was there for a Mary Kay convention) and taking a break between interview sessions to grab a strawberry smoothie. He even chided Alabama coach Nick Saban for suggesting the Crimson Tide didn’t care about being in the Sugar Bowl. "So if I’m not in a national championship game, that means I’ve got a built-in excuse?" Stoops said. Such bravado could be a sign that Stoops thinks he has a pretty good team. With Trevor Knight at quarterback and nine starters back defensively, it’s not hard to see why.

TCU has a big problem: Though they had already left, the Horned Frogs were the story the second day of Big 12 media days. Defensive end Devonte Fields, who last week was voted the league's preseason defensive player of the year, was accused of pulling a gun on his ex-girlfriend. TCU acted quickly after the news surfaced, claiming it had "separated" from Fields. If any part of the allegations levied against Fields are true, it’s difficult to see him ever playing another game in the Big 12. That is a big loss for the league. And an even bigger one for TCU, which is attempting to bounce back from one of its worst seasons in the Gary Patterson era.

Strong believes in Ash: The biggest question mark in Charlie Strong’s first season as coach at Texas is quarterback. More specifically, quarterback David Ash. But even though Ash missed virtually all of last season with concussion issues, then the spring with a fractured foot, Strong said he was impressed with Ash when watching old game film. "When Ash is healthy, he played very well," Strong said. All signs point to Ash being the starter when the Longhorns open the season. Whether he can be consistent and be healthy could go a long way in dictating how Strong’s first season goes, too.

Bowlsby does not believe in the NCAA: According to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, cheating pays. And the enforcement wing of the NCAA is broken. Bowlsby painted a bleak future for the NCAA, also predicting that Olympic sports could be in trouble down the line. "If you like intercollegiate athletics the way it is, you're going to hate it going forward," he said. "There's a lot of change coming." Because of its popularity, football will always be fine. But with lawsuits and athletic department expenses about to rise dramatically, Bowlsby thinks something will have to give.

Everyone’s mind is on the playoff, even if all minds don’t quite get it: The inaugural College Football Playoff was one of the big topics of conversation this week. The Big 12 coaches all believe the league is positioned strongly for inclusion, thanks to a robust nonconference slate of games and a nine-game conference schedule. Many players, however, weren’t well-informed about how the playoff will work. One didn’t know how many teams would be in it. Another thought every conference champ automatically advanced to it. And still another had no idea just how the playoff would be picked. The playoff is going to be an adjustment for college football fans. There is going to be an adjustment for the players, too.

Trickett was always the guy: According to West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, Clint Trickett was always going to be this season’s starting quarterback. It was just a matter of him getting cleared medically. "We wanted him to be the guy," Holgorsen said. "We had to wait and see how he did coming off the shoulder surgery." Holgorsen said there was little the other West Virginia quarterbacks could have done this spring to unseat Trickett, who sat out while recovering from the shoulder injury. "He was the best option we had this year, he was the best option we had last year," Holgorsen said. "Once I was pleased with what I saw, it was a no-brainer to me."

Hill will get the ball a lot: Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has had some talented offensive players over the years. But Gundy said it has been a long time since the Cowboys had a playmaker like juco running back Tyreek Hill. "He's very fast," said Gundy, comparing him to former West Virginia standout Tavon Austin. "He gets [past] that first level [of the defense] and no one is caching him." Gundy wants Hill to touch the ball at least 20 times a game. Whether he’s at running back or lined up in the slot, Hill is going to be the focal point of the Oklahoma State attack.

Snyder is still the man: Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is 74 years old, just two years younger than former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, who popped by media days Monday night. But Snyder is still coaching strong, with a team that was voted third in the preseason poll behind co-favorites Oklahoma and Baylor. Apparently everyone should eat only one meal a day.
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Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby spoke at Big 12 Media Days on the changes that are coming for student athletes.

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More Dismissals At Texas
"College Football Live" discusses the decision by Texas coach Charlie Strong to kick at least six players off the team since becoming coach.
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