Dallas Colleges: Colorado Buffaloes

Position U: Kicker

June, 18, 2014
Jun 18
10:30
AM CT

Who really deserves to claim the title of “Kicker U” for the 2000s?

1. Ohio State (80 points): The Buckeyes placed first among place-kickers and tied for ninth at punter thanks to an award winner in each category. The high-point man who helped Ohio State win the “Kicker U” label was Mike Nugent, who won the Lou Groza Award, was a two-time All-American and All-Big Ten pick and was picked in the second round of the 2005 draft. Punter B.J. Sander won the Ray Guy Award and was drafted in the third round before enjoying a short career with the Green Bay Packers.

Award winners: B.J. Sander, Guy (2003); Mike Nugent, Groza (2004).
Consensus All-Americans: Mike Nugent (2002, 2004).
First-team all-conference: Dan Stultz (2000), Adam Groom (2002), Mike Nugent (2002, 2004), B.J. Sander (2003), Josh Huston (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: B.J. Sander (Round 3, 2004), Mike Nugent (Round 2, 2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

2. UCLA (72 points): A pair of consensus All-Americans (Justin Medlock and Kai Forbath) and a Lou Groza Award (which Forbath won in 2009) helped UCLA push toward the top of the rankings. Medlock was also drafted in 2007 and has spent portions of several seasons on NFL rosters, while also kicking at times in the CFL.

Award winners: Kai Forbath, Groza (2009).
Consensus All-Americans: Justin Medlock (2006), Kai Forbath (2009).
First-team all-conference: Nate Fikse (2001, 2002), Justin Medlock (2004, 2006), Aaron Perez (2008), Kai Forbath (2009), Jeff Locke (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Justin Medlock (Round 5, 2007), Jeff Locke (Round 5, 2013).

3. Colorado (64 points): Three-time all-conference pick Mason Crosby -- also a consensus All-American in 2005 -- accounted for nearly all of Colorado’s point production at place-kicker. He went on to become a sixth-round draft pick and has set several franchise records as a member of the Green Bay Packers. Mark Mariscal also added some points by winning the Ray Guy Award and becoming an All-American and all-conference selection in 2002.

Award winners: Mark Mariscal, Guy (2002).
Consensus All-Americans: Mark Mariscal (2002), Mason Crosby (2005).
First-team all-conference: Jeremy Flores (2001), Mark Mariscal (2002), Mason Crosby (2004, 2005, 2006), John Torp (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Mason Crosby (Round 6, 2007).

4. Michigan State (62 points): With six first-team All-Big Ten selections -- including three-time honoree Brandon Fields, who was also a consensus All-American in 2004 -- Michigan State takes the No. 3 spot. The Spartans have also had two punters drafted since 2001, which is a rare feat for a college program, as well as kickers Dave Rayner and Craig Jarrett.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Brandon Fields (2004).
First-team all-conference: Brandon Fields (2003, 2004, 2006), Brett Swenson (2009), Aaron Bates (2010), Dan Conroy (2010), Mike Sadler (2012, 2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Craig Jarrett (Round 6, 2002), Dave Rayner (Round 6, 2005), Brandon Fields (Round 7, 2007).

T-5. Baylor (56 points): Baylor places almost solely because of one player: mid-2000s standout Daniel Sepulveda. The two-time Ray Guy Award winner scored 44 points by himself, which is greater than the score for every other program in the punter rankings except one (No. 2 Michigan State, which had 48).

Award winners: Daniel Sepulveda, Guy (2004, 2006).
Consensus All-Americans: Daniel Sepulveda (2006).
First-team all-conference: Daniel Sepulveda (2004, 2006), Derek Epperson (2009), Spencer Roth (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Daniel Sepulveda (Round 3, 2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

T-5. Oklahoma State (56 points): Between Quinn Sharp’s three all-conference selections at punter and two at place-kicker, Dan Bailey's 2010 Groza Award and Matt Fodge’s 2008 Guy Award, Oklahoma State fared well at both kicking positions.

Award winners: Matt Fodge, Guy (2008); Dan Bailey, Groza (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Dan Bailey (2010), Quinn Sharp (2010, 2011, 2012 at punter; 2011, 2012 at place-kicker).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

7. Florida State (54 points): A pair of Groza Award wins (by Graham Gano and last season by Roberto Aguayo) helped Florida State place third solely among place-kickers and sixth overall. Aguayo helped extend the Seminoles’ streak of first-team All-ACC place-kickers to three consecutive years after Dustin Hopkins earned the honor in 2011 and 2012. Since Aguayo was only a redshirt freshman last fall, there is a good chance the streak will continue. Punter Shawn Powell was the Seminoles' only All-American during this stretch.

Award winners: Graham Gano, Groza (2008); Roberto Aguayo, Groza (2013).
Consensus All-Americans: Shawn Powell (2011).
First-team all-conference: Dustin Hopkins (2011, 2012), Shawn Powell (2011), Roberto Aguayo (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Dustin Hopkins (Round 6, 2013).

8. Georgia (52 points): Give Mark Richt credit: In his 13-plus seasons as Georgia’s coach, he has rarely been without a consistent place-kicker. Players like Blair Walsh, Brandon Coutu, Billy Bennett and most recently Marshall Morgan have given Georgia a consistent scoring threat in the kicking game. And Drew Butler had one of the best seasons by any punter in SEC history when he won the Ray Guy Award in 2009.

Award winners: Drew Butler, Guy (2009).
Consensus All-Americans: Drew Butler (2009).
First-team all-conference: Billy Bennett (2002), Brandon Coutu (2005), Drew Butler (2009), Blair Walsh (2010), Marshall Morgan (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Brandon Coutu (Round 7, 2008), Blair Walsh (Round 6, 2012).

8. Miami (52 points): Another program with two punters who were drafted (Matt Bosher and Pat O’Donnell, both in the sixth round), Miami hasn’t had a punter win the Ray Guy Award or earn an All-America nod, but the Hurricanes do boast four all-conference punters since the turn of the century. Bosher was also an all-conference place-kicker in 2010.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Freddie Capshaw (2000, 2001), Todd Sievers (2001, 2002), Jon Peattie (2003), Matt Bosher (2009 at place-kicker, 2010 at punter), Pat O’Donnell (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Matt Bosher (Round 6, 2011), Pat O’Donnell (Round 6, 2014).

10. Florida (48 points): Chas Henry, who won the Ray Guy Award and was a consensus All-American and first-team All-SEC pick in 2010, accounted for 24 of Florida’s 30 points at punter. The Gators also had a pair of place-kickers (Jeff Chandler and Caleb Sturgis, a two-time all-conference pick) drafted.

Award winners: Chas Henry, Guy (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: Chas Henry (2010).
First-team all-conference: Chas Henry (2010), Caleb Sturgis (2011, 2012), Kyle Christy (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Jeff Chandler (Round 4, 2002).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Caleb Sturgis (Round 5, 2013).

REST OF “KICKER U” RANKINGS
46 – California; 44 – Auburn, Nebraska, Utah, Wake Forest; 42 – Georgia Tech; 40 – Purdue; 38 – Pittsburgh, Tennessee; 34 – Iowa, Louisville, Maryland; 32 – BYU, Texas A&M, TCU, Wisconsin; 28 – LSU, Michigan, Oregon State; 26 – USC, Virginia Tech; 22 – Arizona State; 16 – Ole Miss; 14 – Arizona, Penn State, Texas; 12 – Alabama, Duke, Illinois, Kansas State, Kentucky, Missouri, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Syracuse, Washington State; 8 – Virginia, West Virginia, Boston College; 6 – Indiana, Oregon, Rutgers, Stanford; 2 – Arkansas, South Carolina, Vanderbilt; 0 – Clemson, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi State, North Carolina, NC State, Notre Dame, Texas Tech, Washington.

Pac-12 leads leagues in QB starts

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
7:00
PM CT
Keeping with our theme of Pac-12 quarterbacks -- and numbers donated to the Pac-12 blog by the Arizona State sports information department -- Jeremy Hawkes and Jordan Parry compiled a list of returning starts behind center by conference. Not surprisingly the Pac-12, with 10 returning starting QBs, is tied with the Big Ten for the most returning starters, and the Pac-12 leads the nation in total starts.

[+] EnlargeSean Mannion
Russ Isabella/USA TODAY SportsOregon State quarterback Sean Mannion is one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the country.
Hawkes wrote: "The logic we used was based around the quarterback who would be considered the 'primary' quarterback by season's end last season. Quarterbacks who were injured early in the season when they were considered the primary quarterback and return this year are also counted on the list (like David Ash at Texas)."

The Pac-12 not only welcomes back 10 starting QBs, it welcomes back 198 total starts, topped by 31 from Oregon State's Sean Mannion. Seven of the returning Pac-12 QBs have more than one season's worth of starting experience, too.

The Big Ten features 10 returning QBs and a cumulative 139 starts. The 14-team SEC only welcomes back five starting QBs with a combined 68 starts. Ohio State's Braxton Miller has the most career starts among returning quarterbacks with 32.

Further, notes Hawkes, "Also notable is that aside from Rutgers' Gary Nova (28 starts), Mannion (31), Taylor Kelly (27), Brett Hundley (27) and Marcus Mariota (26) are the four most seasoned QBs among all BCS teams (along with Bo Wallace at 26 starts at Ole Miss)."

Here's the list.

Pac-12 (10)
Sean Mannion, Oregon State: 31
Taylor Kelly, Arizona State: 27
Brett Hundley, UCLA: 27
Marcus Mariota, Oregon: 26
Kevin Hogan, Stanford: 19
Connor Halliday, Washington State: 19
Travis Wilson, Utah: 16
Cody Kessler, USC: 14
Jared Goff, Cal: 12
Sefo Liufau, Colorado: 7
Total: 198 starts

Big Ten (10)
Braxton Miller, Ohio State: 32
Gary Nova, Rutgers: 28
Devin Gardner, Michigan: 21
Joel Stave, Wisconsin: 19
Connor Cook, Michigan State: 13
Jake Rudock, Iowa: 13
Christian Hackenberg, Penn State: 12
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana: 8
Danny Etling, Purdue: 8
Mitch Leidner, Minnesota: 4
Total: 139 starts

Big 12 (8)
David Ash, Texas: 21
Bryce Petty, Baylor: 13
Jake Waters, Kansas State: 13
Jake Heaps, Kansas: 9
Sam Richardson, Iowa State: 8
Clint Trickett, West Virginia: 7
Davis Webb, Texas Tech: 6
Trevor Knight, Oklahoma: 5
Total: 82 starts

American Athletic (5)
Paxton Lynch, Memphis: 12
John O'Korn, Houston: 11
P.J. Walker, Temple: 7
Mike White, South Florida: 5
Casey Cochran, Connecticut: 4
Total: 39 starts

ACC (5)
Anthony Boone, Duke: 15
Jameis Winston, Florida State: 14
David Watford, Virginia: 12
Terrel Hunt, Syracuse: 10
Total: 54 starts

SEC (5)
Bo Wallace, Ole Miss: 26
Nick Marshall, Auburn: 14
Brandon Allen, Arkansas: 12
Justin Worley, Tennessee: 10
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: 6
Total: 68 starts

Big 12 all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
2:00
PM CT
After 16 years, the BCS era is finally over. Next season, college football will have a playoff instead.

With the BCS done, we've come up with our Big 12 all-BCS era team (1998-2013) below:

Offense

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Scott Clarke/Getty ImagesWith Vince Young at the helm, Texas won a national title and Rose Bowl.
QB: Vince Young, Texas (2003-05) -- Young led Texas to its first national title in 35 years with an unforgettable performance in the Rose Bowl against USC. The Heisman runner-up also became the first QB in college football history to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in the same season.

RB: Ricky Williams, Texas (1998) -- Williams was part of the BCS era for only one season, but what a season it was. He rushed for 2,327 yards and won the Heisman Trophy going away. Only Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne has more career rushing yards than Williams (6,279).

RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06) -- Despite battling injuries throughout his career, Peterson still was a beast in college. After rushing for 1,925 yards while leading the Sooners to the national title game, he finished second in the ’04 Heisman voting, even though there was still a stigma then in voting for a freshman.

WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (2007-08) -- Crabtree became the first two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver. In '08, he and QB Graham Harrell led the Red Raiders to an upset of Texas and a No. 2 ranking in the polls.

WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11) -- Blackmon became the second and only other two-time winner of the Biletnikoff. In his final two seasons, he finished with 233 receptions, 3,304 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns, and he helped propel the Cowboys to their first Big 12 title in '11.

TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08) -- Coffman had a monster statistical college career for a tight end with 247 catches for 2,659 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns. He won the ’08 Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. Missouri won 37 games during the four years Coffman was in the lineup.

OT: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma (2001-04) -- Brown was a unanimous All-American and a three-time All-Big 12 selection. He became the fifth Sooner to win the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top interior lineman.

OT: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State (2007-09) -- In Okung’s final two seasons, Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in rushing yards. The Cowboys were also third in the country in ’07 in fewest sacks allowed with Okung at left tackle. He was a unanimous All-American and Outland finalist in ’09 and became the sixth overall pick in the ’10 NFL draft.

OG: Cyril Richardson, Baylor (2010-13) -- Richardson became Baylor’s seventh all-time unanimous All-American. The Outland finalist was also a key piece on the nation’s highest-scoring offense this season.

OG: Justin Blalock, Texas (2003-06) -- Though a guard in the NFL, Blalock actually started 50 games for Texas, most coming at right tackle. He was a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and a consensus All-American in 2006.

C: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-2000) -- Raiola was the inaugural winner of the Rimington Award, named after former Nebraska center Dave Rimington, which recognizes the best center in college football. He was an Outland finalist and a consensus All-American.

APB: Darren Sproles, Kansas State (2001-04) -- One of the most prolific all-purpose performers in college football history, Sproles finished his career with 6,812 all-purpose yards. Among his 39 consecutive starts, his most memorable performance came in the ’03 Big 12 championship, when he had 235 yards rushing and 88 receiving, as K-State upset top-ranked Oklahoma 35-7.

Defense

DE: Brian Orakpo, Texas (2005-08) -- Orakpo captured the ’08 Nagurski Award as the most outstanding defensive player in the country, and the Lombardi Award, given to the best college lineman or linebacker. He also was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American while piling up 11 sacks his senior year.

DE: Von Miller, Texas A&M (2007-10) -- Out of a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role, Miller led the nation with 17 sacks in ’09. He was a two-time All-American and won the Butkus Award in ’10 as the nation’s top linebacker.

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- There was no more dominant defensive player in college football during the BCS era. Suh finished fourth in the Heisman voting in ’09 and won several national awards, including the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski (most outstanding defensive player)and Bednarik (defensive player of the year). He was also a unanimous All-American and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

DT: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma (2001-03) -- Harris was a force from the beginning as a freshman on the OU defensive line. He won the Lombardi his junior year, and he was a two-time consensus All-American, garnering unanimous honors in ’03.

LB: Derrick Johnson, Texas (2001-04) -- Johnson was a menacing linebacker for the Longhorns, earning consensus All-American honors in ’03 and unanimous honors in ’04. He was also a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and won the Butkus (best linebacker) and Nagurski awards as a senior. Johnson finished his career with 458 tackles.

LB: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma (1998-2001) -- Calmus played a major role in OU’s resurgence under Bob Stoops. He won the Butkus in ’01 and was a finalist for the Nagurski and Bednarik. A three-time All-Big 12 pick, Calmus led the Sooners in tackles in all three of those seasons.

LB: Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- Lehman too won the Butkus, beating out Johnson for the award in ’03. He also was Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, captured the Bednarik, was a unanimous All-American and played in two national championship games.

[+] EnlargeTavon Austin
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesWest Virginia receiver and returner Tavon Austin had a huge 2012 season.
CB: Terence Newman, Kansas State (1999-2002) -- Newman was a solid player for Bill Snyder his first three seasons, then broke out as a senior. Newman was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, a unanimous All-American and the Thorpe winner, given to college football’s top defensive back.

CB: Derrick Strait, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- A four-year starter, Strait finished with a school-record 52 career pass breakups. He also won the Thorpe, and was a unanimous All-American.

S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-2001) -- Nicknamed “Superman,” Williams was the Big 12’s most dominating defensive player until Suh came along. He won the Thorpe and Nagurski in ’01, and was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American the same season. He also famously skied over the Texas offensive line to force the game-clinching interception to earn his moniker.

S: Michael Huff, Texas (2002-05) -- Huff became the first Longhorn to win the Thorpe, and was the leader of the ’05 national championship defense. He was also a unanimous All-American that season.

Special teams

K: Mason Crosby, Colorado (2003-06) -- Crosby was three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and twice was a consensus All-American even though he never won the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's top kicker. He was also the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year as a junior, and converted 66 field goals in his career.

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State (2009-12) -- Sharp became the first three-time All-American in Oklahoma State history, and he earned All-American honors both as a punter and a kicker. He was twice named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year. In his career, he made 50 of 59 field goals, averaged 45.9 yards per punt and missed only one extra point.

KR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012) -- Austin was in the Big 12 only one season, but he was unstoppable that one season. On top of being one of the most dangerous kick returners in the country, Austin had 1,289 yards receiving and 643 rushing, and finished second in the country in all-purpose yards.

PR: Ryan Broyles Oklahoma (2008-11) -- On top of being a prolific punt returner, Broyles was one of the most efficient receivers in college football history. He finished his career with an FBS-record 349 receptions, and was a two-time consensus All-American before a knee injury cut his senior season short.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper has two Big 12 players -- Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson and Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro -- potentially going in the first round of this year’s NFL draft.

Fellow expert Todd McShay has the same two as Kiper and also is optimistic about the chances of West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Tavon Austin.

So let’s split the difference and label the potential Big 12 first-round picks as an optimistic three, with Johnson being the only absolute first-round lock.

Those three would represent the fewest Big 12 players taken in the first round of the NFL draft since 2008. Even if four went, the Big 12 still would have the fewest since 2008.

That year, only Kansas -- yep, the Jayhawks -- managed a first-rounder, Aqib Talib to Tampa Bay with the 20th pick. In the four drafts that followed, the Big 12 has always put at least five players into the first round, including the first four overall picks in 2010.

How well this year’s group of first-round picks will fare might not be known for years. What is known, though, is how well Big 12 players have done when they are selected in the first round. With that in mind, here is a ranking -- from worst to best -- of the Big 12’s best first-round draft classes over the past 10 years.

2008: It’s all about quantity, and a little bit of quality. In 2008, the Big 12 only produced one first-round pick, Talib. He has not produced dramatic returns in the NFL. In the past two years, he has only started nine games. He was somewhat productive for Tampa Bay in the previous three seasons, starting 41 games and playing in 53. But, again, he was the only Big 12 player taken in the first round in 2008.

2006: Vince Young is working out at Texas’ pro day at the end of March. Enough said. Davin Joseph and Michael Huff have been solid producers. But when the No. 3 overall pick is out of the league and having to work out at his alma mater's pro day, it means it was a bad year for the Big 12 in the first round of the NFL draft.

2004: Tommie Harris and Marcus Tubbs, the two defensive tackles taken in the first round, were productive for a few years, with Harris selected to Pro Bowls in 2005, '06 and ’07 before he was beset by injuries. Tubbs lasted four seasons in the NFL. Roy Williams had 5,715 receiving yards but never lived up to the hype he generated coming out of Texas. Rashaun Woods played only two years and had seven career catches.

2005: The lack of numbers might be what hurts this group the most. Cedric Benson, Jammal Brown, Derrick Johnson, Mark Clayton and Fabian Washington all proved they could play at the NFL level. Benson has had three 1,000-yard-plus seasons. Johnson is one of the top linebackers in the game. Brown remains a solid option on the offensive line. Clayton played seven NFL seasons; Washington played six. But there were only five guys selected and that isn't enough to push 2005 to the top of the list.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
Andy Clayton King/Getty ImagesThe Big 12's 2007 draft class wasn't huge, but did feature 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson.
2009: Every Big 12 player selected in the first round in 2009 has produced and appears to be poised to continue to do so. Only Jason Smith didn’t have a start last year. But the offensive lineman still played in all 16 games for the New York Jets. Michael Crabtree, Brian Orakpo, Josh Freeman, Jeremy Maclin, Brandon Pettigrew and Ziggy Hood are all starters for their respective teams.

2007: It wasn’t the biggest group, but it did include Adrian Peterson, so there could be some quibbling that maybe 2007 should be higher in the rankings. Throw in Aaron Ross and Michael Griffin and the debate could get even more heated. Adam Carriker was also taken this year. He started his career strong but suffered an injury and only played in two games last season.

2003: Kevin Williams has been the standout of this group. The defensive tackle has started every game but four in his 10-year career. Terence Newman has been effective as a defensive back, first in Dallas and last season in Cincinnati. Tyler Brayton played at least 15 games on the defensive line in a nine-year career. Ty Warren played eight solid seasons for New England but tailed off last season with Denver. Andre Woolfolk lasted four seasons, mostly as a reserve.

2011: Von Miller, who was the highest pick among Big 12 players this year, has proved to be the top player so far. Aldon Smith is not far behind. Add in Prince Amukamara, Phillip Taylor, who when healthy is a starter at defensive tackle, a somewhat productive Blaine Gabbert and Nate Solder as well as reliable backups Danny Watkins and Jimmy Smith and this proved to be a successful year for Big 12 first-round selections.

2012: Three quarterbacks, and all were not only starters as rookies but also made huge differences for their respective squads. Clearly, Robert Griffin III made the most dramatic impact, but Ryan Tannehill, with the Dolphins, and Brandon Weeden, with Cleveland, were both solid. Kendall Wright and Justin Blackmon each had 64 catches, for Tennessee and Jacksonville, respectively. Blackmon was targeted more (133 to 104) and had 200 more receiving yards.

2010: This list maybe doesn’t have the star power and is not littered with offensive playmakers, but six of the nine players picked were selected for the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl: Gerald McCoy, Trent Williams, Ndamukong Suh, Earl Thomas, Russell Okung and Jermaine Gresham. And the other three players -- Dez Bryant, Sam Bradford and Sean Weatherspoon -- were vital pieces for their respective teams.

Instant analysis: Baylor 49, UCLA 26

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
12:46
AM CT

It was billed as a potentially high-scoring, exciting Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl. Baylor got the memo. UCLA didn't. The Bears dominated, making an early statement for the Big 12 in the battle with the Pac-12 for the title of "second best conference."

UCLA was gifted a TD at the end they didn't actually score. The final score should have been 49-19.

It was over when: It was 35-10 at halftime, so there wasn't much tension at any point. Baylor dominated in every way from gun-to-gun, on both sides of the ball. That the Bears' offense was explosive wasn't a surprise. That the Bears' defense crushed UCLA, well, that was.

Turning point: UCLA wanted to blitz and pressure Baylor's offense. It seemed like a good idea. But in the second quarter, on third-and-9 from the Baylor 45, the Bruins blitzed Bears QB Nick Florence, and he connected on a 55-yard TD pass to Tevin Reese. It was a beautiful pass and catch. It made the score 21-zip, and it firmly established the direction of this game.

Baylor game ball goes to: Coordinator Phil Bennett and the Baylor defense. There was this guy who kept calling Baylor's defense "horrible" and "terrible" and "awful." He doesn't feel very smart at this moment. Of course, that was the take on Baylor's defense just about all season from everyone. Still, just as Baylor transformed after a 3-4 start, the defense posted its best game in its final outing of 2012.

UCLA game ball goes to: Let's hear it for the special teams! Bruins kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn was 2-for-2 on field goals, and punter Jeff Locke was his usual outstanding self. Shaquelle Evans had a 43-yard punt return, and Steven Manfro had a 51-yard kick return.

Unsung hero: Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk, who announced his Heisman Trophy candidacy before the game, had a nice performance with 16 carries for 138 yards. But backup running back Glasco Martin had 98 yards and three TDs.

Stat of the game: UCLA was 1-of-17 on third down. That's just horrible. The Bruins were also 3-of-8 on fourth down. Credit to Baylor. Discredit to UCLA.

Stat of the game II: Baylor outrushed UCLA 306 yards to 33. One word: dominant.

What it means: This was the first of three bowl games putting Big 12 and Pac-12 teams. Those conferences are competing for the mythical title of Second Best Conference. This was a decisive win for the Big 12, as a team that went 7-5 overall and 4-5 in Big 12 play whipped a Pac-12 team that went 9-4 overall and 6-3 in conference play. While it's probably silly to read too much into one bowl game, which can be fluid and surprising, the pressure certainly is now on Oregon State in the Valero Alamo Bowl against Texas and Oregon in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against Kansas State.

Charleston Classic primer

November, 15, 2012
11/15/12
11:00
AM CT
It doesn’t boast the tradition of the Maui Invitational or a field stocked with Final Four contenders like the Battle 4 Atlantis. Still, don’t be surprised if the Charleston Classic turns out to be one of the most entertaining preseason tournaments of them all. Only one ranked squad (No. 16 Baylor) is featured in the eight-team bracket. But there aren’t any patsies, either.

Murray State lost just two games last season and returns a preseason All-American in Isaiah Canaan. This year’s Colorado team is even better than the one that upset UNLV in the NCAA tournament. St. John’s touts one of the most athletic rosters in the country, while Dayton should be greatly improved under second-year coach Archie Miller.

Expect a lot of exciting games and close scores this week.

The basics: Nov. 15-16, 18 at TD Arena in Charleston, S.C.

The set matchups: Dayton vs. Colorado, 12:30 p.m. ET; Baylor vs. Boston College, 3 p.m.; St. John’s vs. Charleston, 5:30 p.m.; Murray State vs. Auburn, 8 p.m.

(For the full bracket, click here.)

The favorite: Baylor. The Bears have the best chance of any team to end Kansas’ string of eight straight Big 12 titles. Point guard Pierre Jackson is a Wooden Award candidate, and 7-foot-1 freshman forward Isaiah Austin may be, too, after a few more weeks. Austin, Cory Jefferson and Ricardo Gathers may form an even better frontcourt than the unit that had three players (Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller) drafted last season. And the Jackson-led backcourt is six deep. Baylor went 30-8 last season and reached the Elite Eight. This team may be even more dangerous.

[+] EnlargeBaylor's Isaiah Austin
Kevin Jairaj/US PRESSWIREBaylor's 7-foot-1 freshman Isaiah Austin can do it all when he's healthy, but may be limited by an ankle sprain.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

Isaiah Austin, Baylor: Austin may have more upside than any player in college basketball. How many other 7-footers can bring the ball up the court, swish a 3-pointer on one possession and then drive to the basket for a dunk on the next? Physically, Austin needs to gain weight and strength. Still, despite being a bit frail, he’s one of the most unique players in college basketball.

Isaiah Canaan, Murray State: Big-school coaches have been kicking themselves the past two years for not recruiting Canaan, who may be the best point guard in America. Canaan has the green light to take shots from 5 or 6 feet beyond the 3-point arc, and his strength makes him tough to stop when he’s slashing to the basket. Canaan averaged 19 points for a Racers squad that went 31-2 last season.

Andre Roberson, Colorado: Roberson may be the best pure rebounder in the country -- and he’s only 6-foot-7. That didn’t stop the Buffaloes forward from averaging 11.1 boards per contest last season along with 11.6 points. Roberson may be even more productive this season thanks to the presence of standout freshman center Josh Scott, who will make it difficult for opponents to double-team Roberson.

Andrew Lawrence, College of Charleston: Lawrence was one of just two current college players to compete in the 2012 Olympics in London, where he represented his native Great Britain. A point guard, Lawrence averaged 13 points and 5.5 assists as a junior last season. He’s hoping to lead the Cougars back to the NCAA tournament under first-year coach Doug Wojcik.

D'Angelo Harrison, St. John’s: Harrison averaged a team-high 16.8 points for the Red Storm last season -- and he was only a freshman. Impressed as Steve Lavin was with his performance, the head coach wants Harrison to improve his shot selection, as he connected on just 37 percent of his field goal attempts in 2011-12. Harrison scored 22 points in Tuesday’s victory over Detroit.

FIVE BIG QUESTIONS

Who else steps up for Murray State?

Everyone knows about Canaan, but the senior point guard can’t do it all by himself. The Racers lost three starters from last season’s team, leading some to believe they won’t be nearly as dangerous in 2012-13. Head coach Steve Prohm is confident seniors such as forwards Ed Daniel and Stacy Wilson will flourish in increased roles.

Will Austin play for Baylor?

The freshman sprained his ankle midway through the second half of the Bears’ season-opening victory over Lehigh and was held out of a game against Jackson State two days later. Baylor coaches were hopeful Austin could return for today’s game against Boston College. The Bears don’t need Austin to beat the Eagles, but his presence will be vital in the semifinals and final.

How much has Dayton improved?

The Flyers won 12 of their first 16 games in Archie Miller’s first season but then fizzled down the stretch. A few key returnees -- especially senior Kevin Dillard -- will make Dayton dangerous in 2012-13, but if the Flyers don't notch a quality win or two in Charleston, they’ll still be regarded as a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic 10 team.

Can Auburn compete?

The Tigers haven’t reached the NCAA tournament since 2003, but strides are definitely being made. Other than Kenny Gabriel, Auburn returns virtually every key piece from a squad that went 15-16 last season. Tonight’s opening-round game against Murray State will be tough, but look for Tony Barbee’s squad to play some tight games in the consolation rounds.

Can anyone in this field beat Baylor?

Absolutely. The Bears may have looked like one of the top teams in college basketball last weekend, but it’s not as if they don’t have kinks to work out. Jackson can be careless with the ball, sharpshooter Brady Heslip is in a funk from 3-point range and it appears Austin won’t be 100 percent. Personnelwise, Colorado would appear to have the best chance of upsetting the Bears. The Buffaloes will certainly be motivated, as Baylor beat Colorado in last season’s NCAA tournament.

THE PICKS

First round: Colorado over Dayton; Baylor over Boston College; St. John’s over Charleston; Murray State over Auburn

Semifinals: Baylor over Colorado; Murray State over St. John’s

Championship game Baylor over Murray State

Bears say Heslip hardworking, humble

March, 18, 2012
3/18/12
9:28
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Brady Heslip was stocky, not exactly someone who looked like he was going to be an impact player when he arrived at Boston College in the middle of the season two years ago.

And his impact was minimal, since he had been stashed at New Hampton Prep (N.H.) for the fall semester before he joined the Eagles in December. Then the staff was fired. New Boston College coach Steve Donahue didn’t see Heslip’s potential, for whatever reason. Heslip said the two met, he wasn’t in the plans and so he was out.

Former BC associate head coach Pat Duquette, who now has the same title at Northeastern, said he recruited Heslip out of Burlington, Ontario. Duquette said Heslip was “absolutely fearless, but physically more than you see. He had very long arms, which equaled a high release. And he had unusually big hands for a guard his size.’’

Former BC head coach Al Skinner said by phone Saturday night that he liked Heslip’s tough-minded approach.

“The thing about him was that he didn’t hunt shots; he let the game come to him,’’ Skinner said. “He executed well and was patient on the offensive end. He rarely takes a bad shot, and he had tremendous range.’’

[+] EnlargeBrady Heslip
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBrady Heslip hit nine 3-pointers on Saturday to help Baylor earn a school-record 29th win.
There was an AAU connection with his coach to the Baylor staff. He went on a visit to Waco, Texas, and was sold. Baylor coach Scott Drew said Heslip dropped 24 pounds. He was a gym rat. His teammates loved him. But little did they know what they were getting in return.

“I know how hard he’s worked,’’ Baylor’s Quincy Acy said. “When he came in, we knew how good a shooter he was. Every time I went to the gym at night, I would see him in there sometimes twice a day. He works for it. I know whenever he gets hot, he can outshoot anybody.’’

Heslip’s impact Saturday night was epic for a Baylor program that is breaking barriers.

Heslip hit nine 3s for a career-high 27 points in Baylor’s 80-63 victory over Colorado at the Pit, to propel the Bears to their second Sweet 16 appearance in three seasons. The two Sweet 16s are the only ones in the school’s history. Drew is now 5-2 in the NCAA tournament, and the win Saturday gave the Bears a school-record 29 victories.

Heslip’s nine 3s set a single-game NCAA tournament record for the Bears. How much of an impact is Heslip having on a team known for its up-tempo style, tremendous length, and headliners Acy, Perry Jones III and Pierre Jackson?

“Heslip was the difference,’’ Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “He was unconscious tonight.’’

Heslip made six of his 3s in the first half, but the Bears were up only two. His three 3s in the second half helped open up the game. Sure, there were times when Acy and Quincy Miller as well as Anthony Jones were extremely difficult to stop inside. The 17 offensive rebounds kept possessions alive. The 24 defensive rebounds ended plenty of the Buffs’ attempts.

But Heslip busted the game open.

“I’m just feeling great right now, first of all, because we won,’’ Heslip said. “I’m just happy for my seniors.

“As for the shooting, Pierre does a great job of finding me when I’m open and finding me in transition. Acy sets great screens, and it was just one of those nights.’’

Heslip was getting the ball in motion and was stroking it without any hesitation.

“If I’m in rhythm and feeling good shooting, it just makes it even easier,’’ Heslip said.

Baylor was a major disappointment last season, following an Elite Eight appearance and the departure of point guard Tweety Carter with a flameout in the Big 12 tournament. Jones’ ineligibility days before the tourney led to the Bears' missing the rest of the postseason.

The arrival of Jackson from junior college and Heslip’s eligibility changed the backcourt for the Bears and the potential for this squad.

If you followed Baylor early in the season, you saw wins at BYU and Northwestern and over Mississippi State, Saint Mary’s and West Virginia -- the latter three all on neutral courts. The Bears couldn’t beat Missouri or Kansas in the regular season but knocked off the Jayhawks in the Big 12 tournament.

Now Baylor is the first Big 12 team in the Sweet 16. And if Purdue were to upset Kansas on Sunday, the Bears could be the only one. Even if the Jayhawks join them, the Bears are peaking at the right time.

And so is Heslip, an option that makes the Bears that much more formidable in a possible showdown with Kentucky in the South Region at Atlanta with a right to go to the Final Four.

“Brady will be the first to tell you that his teammates really got him open and got him the ball,’’ Drew said. “That humility is what makes our team successful.’’

Rapid Reaction: Baylor 80, Colorado 63

March, 17, 2012
3/17/12
11:02
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Reaction from Baylor's 80-63 win over Colorado.

Overview: Give Colorado plenty of credit, the Buffaloes were scrappy until the final few minutes. But they simply didn’t have the overall talent to hang with Baylor, especially against the power game inside or the 3-point shooting from Brady Heslip and Anthony Jones. The Bears put on quite a display. They have the ability to turn it on as well as any team in the country, outside of Kentucky. If Baylor can play like this it should meet Kentucky in the Elite Eight Sunday in Atlanta.

Turning point: There were many to choose from but I’m more inclined to go with a Quincy Acy spin-move slam that was as impressive as you’ll see. That bucket gave the Bears a 61-58 advantage and set the tone for what would soon be a blowout. That bucket was the precursor to the 3s that Heslip started to drain, which opened up the game.

Key player: Brady Heslip. He made nine 3s, two shy of The Pit record, set by the late Bobby Phills in 1990 when he played for Southern and one shy of a school record. It was also only two shy of the NCAA tournament record set by Loyola Marymount's Jeff Fryer against Michigan in 1990. Heslip missed only three. The Buffs tried to find him but couldn’t contest. It was as good a performance as you’ll see from beyond the 3-point line.

Key stat: The 3s were noteworthy, but just as big a deal was the rebounding margin. The Bears dominated the backboard. Their defensive rebounding severely limited the Buffs' ability to get second-shot opportunities.

Miscellaneous: Baylor went with the yellow highlighter uniforms. The Bears are 3-0 with them. Former Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg flew in to represent the conference that he currently works in, the Pac-12. Odd that he was watching two former conference members tussle at The Pit. Baylor fans were chanting "Big 12 rejects" at Colorado when Baylor was up by 12. Not cool. The proper chant came later when the Bears fans were chanting “Big 12.” That was enough.

What’s next: Baylor will play the winner of Lehigh-Xavier on Friday in Atlanta for the right to go to the Elite Eight and possibly take on South top seed Kentucky. The Bears have the makeup to challenge Kentucky better than anyone else in this bracket. The Bears also have a chance to get to the Elite Eight by facing only double-digit seeds if Lehigh were to upset Xavier.

Breaking down this weekend's top games

February, 24, 2012
2/24/12
11:02
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Editor’s note: Jay Bilas breaks down Missouri-Kansas in today’s Weekend Watch. Andy Katz offers a dozen more games to keep an eye on this weekend.

Friday

Marquette at West Virginia (9 p.m. ET, ESPN): West Virginia has to win this game, right? The Mountaineers have lost six of their past eight games. The only wins were over lower-level teams (Providence and Pitt) on the road. Marquette has been on a tear of late and may have the Big East Player of the Year in Jae Crowder or Darius Johnson-Odom.

Saturday

Vanderbilt at Kentucky (noon ET, CBS): Kentucky has three games left to finish off an undefeated SEC regular season. No offense to Georgia, but the Cats should take care of the Bulldogs. If Kentucky takes out Vandy, the only obstacle left is a game at Florida to end the regular season. If Kentucky can accomplish an unblemished mark, it would go down as one of the most impressive regular seasons in coach John Calipari’s career.

Iowa State at Kansas State (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3): Wins at Baylor and Missouri have changed the complexion of Kansas State’s season. The Wildcats have finally finished games by playing smart in the final possessions. Iowa State has a tough slate to finish the season with games at Kansas State and Missouri and then hosting Baylor. Not an easy road for a bubble team.

North Carolina at Virginia (4 p.m. ET, ESPN): UVa has had injury issues and hasn’t been able to find consistency against the league’s elite (Duke and North Carolina). But the Cavs have a shot to re-establish themselves. This could turn into an ACC Player of the Year-type game as Tyler Zeller of the Tar Heels matches up with Mike Scott of the Cavs. UVa must ensure that it controls the tempo to have a chance.

Mississippi State at Alabama (6 p.m. ET, ESPN): Mississippi State has stumbled down the stretch and has no momentum going into the SEC tournament. The Bulldogs have lost to the bottom of the SEC and now to Kentucky at the top. Meanwhile, Alabama has done a tremendous job, despite player suspensions, to be in the hunt for an NCAA tournament berth. The win at Arkansas was one of the more impressive for the Tide this season.

George Mason at VCU (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2): George Mason was going to be in position to possibly catch Drexel and win the conference. But an overtime loss at Northeastern has pushed the Patriots into a second-place tie with VCU. The winner will get the No. 2 seed in the CAA tournament and potentially set up for a final matchup against Drexel.

Temple at Saint Joseph’s (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU): Temple has emerged as the class of the A-10. Saint Joe’s had some fleeting hopes of getting a bid, but the Hawks lost at home to Richmond and scored only 49 points in the process. This is a huge rivalry game but the toughness of the Owls should prevail.

Penn at Harvard (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3): If Harvard gets by Princeton on Friday night, a win against Penn could give the Crimson a share of the Ivy League title and a chance to clinch it outright the following Friday at Columbia. Harvard is trying to get to the NCAAs for the first time since 1946.

Syracuse at Connecticut (9 p.m. ET, ESPN): The Huskies have new life after Shabazz Napier’s 3-point heave went in to beat Villanova on Monday night. The Orange have been as good, if not better, on the road than at home -- other than at Notre Dame. Syracuse should dominate the bench scoring. The Huskies have a chance if Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi can win the post, and Napier and Ryan Boatright can get into the zone with floaters to score. UConn is in desperate mode to get this win.

Sunday

Wisconsin at Ohio State (4 p.m. ET, CBS): The Badgers lost at Iowa on Thursday night and now have to go to Ohio State? Yikes. Iowa let Wisconsin back in the game, but then the Badgers couldn’t finish and lost by one. OSU, save the game against Michigan State, has been as dominant at home as any team in the country. The Badgers have to find a way to score and avoid the droughts that can decimate their chances of pulling off an upset like this one.

California at Colorado (5:30 p.m. ET, FSN): Colorado had a chance to make some noise down the stretch in the Pac-12, but losing at home to Stanford took some of the energy out of this game. The Buffaloes had overachieved to that point. Cal needs to get a sweep of the mountain area to win the Pac-12 regular-season title, assuming Washington doesn’t stumble.

Florida State at Miami (6 p.m. ET, ESPNU): The Seminoles lost their shot to win the ACC regular-season title by dropping a home game to Duke. Miami desperately needs this game to prove to the selection committee that it is tourney-worthy. This game will have ACC tournament seeding implications.
In Thursday's post about the Big 12's to-do list, I added a quick line that read a little something like this:

"Truth be told, the Big 12 won't miss Missouri or Texas A&M nearly as bad as it will national power Nebraska."

That's based off Nebraska's fan support, first and foremost, which I still think is unrivaled in the Big 12.

Additionally, there's the winning factor. Nebraska's 43 conference titles and five national championships dwarf Texas A&M's 18 conference titles and one national title. Missouri also has 15 conference titles. Colorado had 26 conference titles and a national title.

A few of you disagreed that Nebraska would be missed most.

So, let's get all scientific* about this. Which team will you miss most?

Maybe it's their stadium. Maybe it's their fans. Maybe its the rivalry. But if you had to pick just one, who would you miss most?

Vote in our poll.

*not actually scientific

Bowl debate: Big 12 vs. Pac-12

December, 19, 2011
12/19/11
8:00
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The Pac-10 and Big 12 nearly got married last year, but only Colorado ended up eloping with the now-Pac-12.

You know: The conference that can count!

But the Pac-12, which has, yes, 12 teams, and the Big 12, which has 10 teams (though it's often hard to keep up with which ones), play each other in three bowl games this holiday season.

Joy to the world.

So it seemed like a good time for the Pac-12 and Big 12 bloggers -- Ted Miller and David Ubben -- to say howdy and discuss all the coming fun.

Ted Miller: Ah, David, the bowl season. Pure bliss. Unless you’re the Pac-12, which is expected to get a whipping from your conference over the holidays. We have three Pac-12-Big 12 bowl games with the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl between Stanford and Oklahoma State, the Valero Alamo with Baylor and Washington, and the Bridgepoint Education Holiday matching California and Texas. And the Big 12 is favored in all three!

Poor ole West Coast teams. What are we to do? It’s almost like the Big 12 is the SEC or something. Speaking of which, how are things with your Cowboys? Are they over not getting a shot at LSU for the national title? Are they excited about getting a shot at Andrew Luck and Stanford? We might as well start with that outstanding matchup in Glendale.

David Ubben: You know, I was actually a little surprised. I stuck around Stillwater for the BCS bowl selection show announcement, and the players took the news pretty well. They found out an hour before, but there wasn't a ton of down-in-the-dumpiness from the Pokes. When you've never been to this point before, it's a bit difficult to develop a sense of entitlement. If Oklahoma had OSU's record and was passed over by Alabama and sent to the Fiesta Bowl for the 17th time in the past six years, you might have had a different reaction.

But Oklahoma State's first trip to the BCS and first Big 12 title aren't being overlooked. These players are looking forward to this game. There's no doubt about that.

I know the Big 12 seems like the SEC, but I have a confession, Ted. I wasn't supposed to tell anybody, but I can't hold it in anymore. When the Big 12 began back in 1996 ... wow, I'm really going to do this ... then-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer graciously allowed the league to keep two of his teams. The league made a similar arrangement with the Big Eight a century ago, and the Southwest Conference around the same time. Missouri and Texas A&M are really wolves in sheep's clothing: SEC teams just pretending to be in other leagues. So, that might explain the Big 12's recent dominance.

These should all be fun games, though. I ranked two of the matchups among the top three in my bowl rankings.

As for the big one, they say you learn more by losing than by winning. Stanford got its first BCS win. How do you think that experience plays into this year's game? I hate to ruin the surprise, but Oklahoma State's a bit better than the Virginia Tech team Stanford beat last season. OSU's loss to Iowa State this season is bad, but it's nothing like the Hokies' loss to James Madison last season.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeQuarterback Andrew Luck leads Stanford into its second consecutive BCS bowl, this season against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Ted Miller: Not only is Oklahoma State better than Virginia Tech, it's still questionable whether this Stanford team is better than last year's. Since we're going all crazy and whispering about the SEC, there was a feeling out West that by the end of the 2010 season the Cardinal might not only be the best team in the Pac-12 but also in the nation. They were big and physical and quarterback Luck actually had a solid receiving corps with which to work. After a loss to Oregon in the fifth game, they didn't lose again until playing, er, Oregon in this year's 10th game. If we could go back in time and have the Cardinal play Auburn, I think Stanford would have won the national title.

But that's 2010. The difference this year is the season-ending knee injury to middle linebacker Shayne Skov, who was an All-American candidate, a slight step back on the offensive line and a lack of top-flight receivers. But if Oklahoma State fans are looking for something to worry about it is this: Stanford's running game.

The Pokes are bad against the run, and they haven't faced a team that is as physical and creative in the running game as Stanford. As much as folks talk about Luck's passing, it's his run checks that often ruin a defense's evening.

The Fiesta Bowl matchup looks like a great one, perhaps the best of the bowl season. But I’m excited to see Mr. Excitement Robert Griffin III in the Alamo Bowl against Washington. Of course, I’m not sure that the Huskies, their fans and embattled Huskies defensive coordinator Nick Holt are as thrilled. First, tell us about what Washington should be most worried about with Griffin. Then tell us about Baylor in general. Such as: Can the Bears stop anyone?

David Ubben: Nope. Not really.

Oklahoma State's defense unfairly gets a bad rap. Baylor's bad rap is earned. This is the same team that won five consecutive games late in the season -- but became the first team ever to win four consecutive in a single season while giving up 30 points in each.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Jerome Miron/US PresswireBaylor's Robert Griffin III will try to make it three straight bowl victories by Heisman Trophy winners.
Which, if you ask me, says plenty about both the defense and the power of RG3. They've got a lot of athletes on the defense, but when four of your top five tacklers are defensive backs, well, you need a guy like RG3 to go 9-3.

The man is a nightmare. Top to bottom, he's the most accurate passer in a quarterback-driven league. Then, you add in his athleticism, which he doesn't even really need to be extremely productive. It sets him apart, though, and forces defenses to account for it, and it buys him time in the pocket. How many guys break a 20-plus yard run before hitting a receiver for a game-winning 39-yard score to beat a team like Oklahoma for the first time?

How do you think Washington will try to slow him down? What has to happen for them to have some success?

Ted Miller: This game matches the 99th (Washington) and 109th (Baylor) scoring defenses. It has a 78-point over-under, the biggest of any bowl game. The offenses are going to score plenty, at least that's the conventional wisdom.

How does Washington stop RGIII? His name is Chris Polk. He's a running back. Baylor gives up 199 yards rushing per game. Polk right, left and up the middle is a good way to contain Griffin. The Huskies' best hope is to reduce Griffin's touches with ball control. It also needs to convert touchdowns, not field goals, in the redzone. The Huskies are pretty good at that, scoring 36 TDs in 45 visits to the red zone.

The Huskies also have a pretty good quarterback in Keith Price, who set a school record with 29 touchdown passes this year. He and a solid crew of receivers have prevented teams from ganging up against Polk. But Polk is the guy who burns the clock.

Should be a fun game. As should, by the way, the Holiday Bowl. David, Cal fans are still mad at Texas coach Mack Brown and his politicking the Longhorns into the Rose Bowl in 2004. Every team wants to win its bowl game, but the Old Blues really want to beat Brown.

Of course, neither team is what it was in 2004. Cal has an excuse. It's not a college football superpower. Sure you've been asked this before, but give me the CliffsNotes version of why the Longhorns have fallen so hard since playing for the national title in 2009.

David Ubben: Cal fans are still mad? Really? I'd suggest they get over themselves. What's anybody on that Cal team ever done anyway? It's not like the best player in the NFL missed out on a chance to play in the Rose Bowl. Now, if that were the case, we might have a problem. But honestly, I don't think Tim Tebow cares all that much about the Rose Bowl.

As for Texas' struggles?

The easy answer is quarterback play. Texas relied on Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley more than anyone realized. When they were gone, Texas couldn't run the ball, and quarterback Garrett Gilbert never made it happen. Two seasons later, the Longhorns still don't have a quarterback.

The other big answer last season was turnover margin. Gilbert threw 17 interceptions and the Longhorns were minus-12 in turnovers, which ranked 115th nationally.

They were still only 90th this year, and without solid quarterback play in a Big 12 dominated by passers, they scored five, 13 and 17 points in three of their five losses. Texas keeps people from moving the ball and runs the ball better this year, but without a solid passing game and a defense that changes games, it's tough to rack up wins in the Big 12.

It's been awhile since Cal was in the mix for the BCS, even as USC has fallen. Oregon answered the call and rose, but what has prevented Cal from winning the Pac-10 and Super Pac-10 since the Trojans' swoon?

Ted Miller: You mention quarterback play. Cal fans ... any thoughts? You mention Aaron Rodgers. Cal fans? Oh, well, that's not very nice during this festive time of the year.

Cal has become a solid defensive team, but it's lost its offensive mojo, and that can be traced to a drop in quarterback play since Rodgers departed. The latest Bears quarterback, Zach Maynard, started fairly well, stumbled, but then seemed to catch on late in the season. It's reasonable to believe the team that gets better quarterback play -- mistake-free quarterback play -- is going to win this game.

Nice to cover a conference where quarterback play matters, eh David?

Speaking of quarterback play and winning, let's wind it up. Our specific predictions aren't coming on these games until after Christmas. But we can handicap the Big 12-Pac-12 side of things. We have a three-game series this bowl seasons.

I say the Pac-12, underdogs in all three games, goes 1-2. What say you?

David Ubben: And to think, before the season, all I heard was the Pac-12 had surpassed the Big 12 in quarterback play. Did somebody petition the NCAA for another year of eligibility for Jake Locker and/or clone Matt Barkley? You West Coast folk are geniuses; I figured you'd find a way. We can't all be Stanford alums ...

Clearing out all the tumbleweeds here in middle America, I'll go out on a limb for the Big 12 in this one. Every matchup is a good one, and I don't think Cal has seen a defense like Texas' and Washington hasn't seen an offense like Baylor's. People forget that, yeah, RG3 is outstanding, but the Bears also have the league's leading receiver and leading rusher.

Stanford-OSU is a toss-up, but I'll go with a perfect sweep for the Big 12. The Cowboys haven't played poorly on the big stage yet, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt in this one, and they clean up for the Big 12 against what was almost its new conference this fall.

Oh, what could have been. Ubben and Miller on the same blog? Divided ultimately by a little thing we call the Rockies.

Big 12: Challenges for Baylor, Oklahoma

October, 14, 2010
10/14/10
10:00
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Big 12 Weekly breaks down Baylor-Colorado and Oklahoma-Iowa State.

Colorado could stay in Big 12 until 2012

August, 24, 2010
8/24/10
5:46
PM CT
According to a Boulder Daily Camera report, Colorado will stay in the Big 12 for two more years, which would leave the conference with 11 teams for one year.

When Colorado originally agreed to join the Pac-10, the move was scheduled before the 2012-13 school year. Colorado has been negotiating with the Big 12 over departure fees to leave after the upcoming year, but no deal has been reached.

Nebraska has already agreed to leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten after 2010-11, and Utah is joining the Pac-10 after this season. If Colorado stays in the Big 12 an second year, both the Big 12 and Pac-10 would have 11 teams in 2011-12.

Tuberville blames TV stint for loose lips

July, 27, 2010
7/27/10
1:50
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IRVING, Texas -- A few weeks ago, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe reprimanded Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville for going on the radio and saying that the Big 12 with 10 teams is a doomed setup because of the inequities in splitting revenue.

He's the only Big 12 coach or official who has openly criticized the league its restructuring after the near implosion. Tuesday during his time on the stage at the Big 12 Media Days, Tuberville blamed, well, the media -- sort of -- for his honest assessment of how he sees it.

"It's great to be back at a Media Day. I was out for a year working on your guys' side of the ball a little bit, actually working in television," said Tuberville, who had a stint with ESPN after being fired at Auburn. "In television, they taught us to speak our mind. I forgot to get that out of my mind a few weeks ago, so I've got to get back on the coaching side."

Tuberville obviously is skeptical about the long-term health of a 10-team Big 12. He was asked Tuesday if he remains concerned about the future of the Big 12 considering the Big Ten and SEC could expand and potentially rock the college landscape again.

"I was just disappointed we lost two teams. We come here and you lose Nebraska and Colorado, but everything will pick up where we left off," Tuberville said. "I mean, we have our responsibility as coaches to make our teams better. The presidents and the athletic directors and the commissioner have committed, hey, they're going to make this the best conference in the country. We're all behind them. I'm excited about it."

OSU QB a little older, but right at home

July, 27, 2010
7/27/10
11:00
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IRVING, Texas -- Oklahoma State starting quarterback Brandon Weeden was born in Oklahoma City, was a two-sport star at Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe High School and committed to play baseball and walk-on the football team at OSU -- in 2002.

The hard-throwing right-hander instead signed a $565,000 minor-league baseball contract after the New York Yankees drafted him in the second round, 71st overall, in the 2002 draft. He spent a couple years in the Yankees system before being traded to the Dodgers in a deal that included former Texas Rangers pitcher Kevin Brown. He also played in the Kansas City Royals system before a shoulder injury convinced him to put away the glove and return to school and put on the shoulder pads.

"I'm 26, be 27 quick, but feel 18," said Weeden, who is projected to be the Cowboys' starter in the season opener and leading a pass-intensive spread offense under new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. "I had the quarterbacks all over dinner the other night, cooked them steaks, grilled out a little bit and hung out. I don't want to feel like I'm the old man, the boring guy, I just want to be one of the guys."

Weeden, 6-foot-4, 224 pounds, was the third-team quarterback last season behind three-year starter Zac Robinson. He's a junior now and if he shows he can run the Cowboys' offense in a transition season with plenty of turnover, OSU could be set behind center for the next couple seasons.

He had his big break out last season coming on in relief and guided OSU to a comeback win over Colorado. He threw for 168 yards and two touchdowns to rally the Cowboys from an 11-point deficit in the second half.

"We all know that we're different at 26 than we are at 18 and in order to handle the pressures of being a quarterback and playing at this level, maturity is an advantage," coach Mike Gundy said. "Brandon, obviously, signed to play professional baseball out of high school, so he's had a taste of what it's like to be there and to deal with the media and the public and have success. There's obviously tough days and I think that will help."

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