Dallas Colleges: Damaris Johnson

Big 12 predictions: Week 3

September, 15, 2011
Holy cow. So, before we get to this week's picks, there's an elephant in the room that needs to be addressed.

Last week was by far the worst week I've ever had picking games. So, on paper, it's ugly. I have no idea what I'm talking about, right?

Well, here's my defense: Sure, I missed four games, but all I have to say is all four of those games were decided in the final minutes, including two in overtime. Missouri missed a kick to win the game in regulation before losing in overtime. Iowa State converted two fourth downs late before knocking off Iowa in triple overtime. Texas erased a double-digit deficit in the second half to win by a point and Kansas mounted a late drive to win the game in the final seconds.

They all could have gone the other way. But last week, every single game went against my picks. Thanks, guys.

On to this week's embarrassment:

Last week: 1-4 (.200)

Overall: 10-5 (.667)


Iowa State 27, Connecticut 20: Connecticut has a big offensive line, but no big-time back with Jordan Todman gone to the NFL. Iowa State's defensive line needs to play well, but the ISU linebackers will be called upon. Fortunately for the Cyclones, that's their biggest strength. ISU won't play many more teams that lack the ability to sling it like UConn does.


Georgia Tech 34, Kansas 28: Can Kansas keep the good times rolling? I'm not quite sold on the Jayhawks just yet, but this game will be close. Expect somewhere between 10-15 passes in this game.

No. 23 Texas 17, UCLA 14: This will not be pretty, but it will be physical. If you love zone reads, watch every second of this. If you value precise, accurate passing, look away. Here's guessing Malcolm Brown cements his status as Texas' lead back in this game.

Texas Tech 48, New Mexico 17: I'm excited to see what Darrin Moore does in his followup to the opener, but the Red Raiders won't run into many problems with a weak Lobos squad.

Missouri 34, Western Illinois 10: Missouri played two underrated teams to begin its season, but the Leathernecks shouldn't be quite the same challenge. The focus for the Tigers should be getting and staying healthy.

No. 19 Baylor 41, Stephen F. Austin 14: Wins are better to look at for two weeks than losses. Baylor learned this well after notching the Big 12's best win so far this season when it beat TCU in Week 1. The Bears are back, and continue their season with a win over another in-state opponent.

No. 9 Texas A&M 51, Idaho 7: The Aggies' offense can do it all, more so than any other offense in the Big 12. The Vandals' offense isn't one that's going to make the Wrecking Crew struggle, either.

Kansas State 27, Kent State 10: The Wildcats' defense is better, and it will have to be. If Kansas State wins games this year, it won't be by outscoring teams. Last year, this team was third in the Big 12 in scoring. Expect that to drop, but the defense is much faster. David Garrett, Arthur Brown & Co. get it done against the Golden Flashes.

No. 1 Oklahoma 34, No. 5 Florida State 30: This is my pick of the week. Come back later today for a video of me explaining my pick.

No. 8 Oklahoma State 51, Tulsa 27: We might find a defense this year that can slow down the Cowboys' offense (next week, maybe?) but it's not going to be Tulsa. And simply put, without Damaris Johnson, Tulsa won't be able to keep up. Easy pick here.

Part II: Wrapping up Week 1 in the Big 12

September, 3, 2011

No. 1 Oklahoma 47, Tulsa 14: Hard to ask for much more from the title contenders and current No. 1. Tulsa was handcuffed by the loss of Damaris Johnson, but this was still a 10-win team from last year with a big playmaker at quarterback in G.J. Kinne. And yet, Oklahoma dominated. The Sooners ran for 246 yard, led by walk-on Dominique Whaley, who scored four times and had 131 yards on 18 carries. Whaley was a spring-game star, but he's taken his act to the fall, and further crowds Oklahoma's loaded backfield. Great news for Sooners' fans. Kenny Stills sat with a one-game suspension, but the passing game did what it does. Landry Jones racked up 375 yards on 35-of-47 passing, hitting Ryan Broyles 14 times (one short of Broyles' school record) for 158 yards and a touchdown. But the best stat for the Sooners? No sacks in all that chucking. A-plus performance for the Sooners in Week 1.

Texas Tech 50, Texas State 10: Awful, awful start for the Red Raiders, who trailed 10-0 late in the first quarter after a turnover set up the Bobcats. Tech trailed 10-9 at the half, but usually, if you can outscore an opponent 41-0 in the second half, you'll do OK. The Red Raiders got it rolling against their FCS opponents. And those replacements at the skill positions? No worries. Each was as advertised. Seth Doege threw for 326 yards and three scores. Darrin Moore caught 12 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown. Eric Stephens rolled for 118 yards on 21 carries. The competition wasn't much, but at least Tech knows it can execute.

Oklahoma State 61, Louisiana-Lafayette 34: Predictable and safe. Oklahoma State's Saturday night went as planned, and Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden did exactly what they usually did, save Blackmon scoring a touchdown, ending his 12-game streak of a score and 100 yards. He did catch eight passes for 144 yards to lead his team. Weeden threw for 388 yards and three scores, but had three picks, including one returned for a touchdown. That's may be a bit of a red flag, but this early in the season, not a huge cause for concern. The Cowboys ran up a nice 24-point second quarter and made life easy for themselves.

Kansas 42, McNeese State 24: There we go, Jayhawks. I wanted to see if they could put a big number on the board against anyone, and Kansas proved it could. As they should, the Jayhawks relied heavily on the running game, throwing just 10 passes to 55 rushes, but they rolled up 301 yards rushing on the night. Very nice, Kansas. Safe to say the Jayhawks have played themselves out of the No. 10 spot in the Big 12 power rankings for the first time in awhile. James Sims and Darrian Miller combined for 167 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries. Jordan Webb threw three touchdown passes and no picks.

Big 12 power rankings: Week 1

August, 29, 2011
Oh, yes. It is game week.

Today is Monday, which means we'll kick off our weekly power rankings and continue doing so each week throughout the season.

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners are clearly the class of the Big 12 but will have to start proving it early with a hyped trip to Tallahassee to face a Florida State team that yours truly thinks is a bit overrated. Saturday, though? Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles will open the season at home against an underrated Tulsa team that won more games in 2010 than Florida State but will travel to Norman perhaps without its top playmaker, Damaris Johnson. G.J. Kinne is great, but he'll have to be spectacular for the Golden Hurricane to be a serious threat.

2. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys gave college football fans a treat with the return of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, who will kick off their encore seasons against Louisiana-Lafayette, a team that spawned Weeden's trust in Blackmon originally last season. The opener should be a snoozer, but next week's rematch of the Alamo Bowl against Arizona could produce big fireworks on a Thursday night national broadcast.

3. Texas A&M: This is an absolute coin flip. Until the teams meet on Sept. 24, I'll probably flip OSU and A&M depending on who was more impressive the previous week. The Aggies will have the best chance to impress with a Sunday nighter against an underrated SMU team coming to Kyle Field with a crowd that could get a huge boost from the prospect of a future in the SEC, which might be announced later this week.

4. Missouri: We'll get our first real look at James Franklin when the Tigers suit up against Miami (Ohio). After struggling early in spring camp during his competition with Tyler Gabbert, Franklin has only gotten better. This week will be big for the Tigers' offensive line, which has to find a suitable replacement for stalwart left tackle Elvis Fisher, a 40-game starter who will miss the season with a torn patellar tendon. The Tigers' first big test is just six days from Saturday, when they travel to Tempe, Ariz.,to play Arizona State.

5. Baylor: Baylor's new-look defense will get a pretty good test from TCU. The Bears are the Big 12's lone team matched up with a ranked opponent in Week 1. A win against the defending Rose Bowl champs with the nation's eyes watching a Friday night ESPN broadcast could be a big coming-out party for Art Briles and Robert Griffin III on a national scale.

6. Texas: obody knows what to expect from the Longhorns, but we might find out who'll be starting at quarterback for the Horns later today. The defense, which has led the Big 12 in total defense the past four seasons, should still be stout in spite of a young secondary, but an amorphous offseason depth chart will take shape this week.

7. Texas Tech: There are a lot of new faces on the field for the Red Raiders, but Year 2 under Tommy Tuberville will probably get off to a yawn-worthy start with FCS Texas State heading to Lubbock for the opener. Tech is a bit of a wild card that might be as good as the league's fourth-best team. This is probably as low on the power rankings as you'll see the Red Raiders all season.

8. Kansas State: The Wildcats caught a break with Arthur Brown and Bryce Brown being given limited immunity by the NCAA and avoiding eligbility issues from the mess at Miami, but we'll finally get a chance to see K-State's hyped transfers take the field. Arthur Brown emerged as one of the defense's top playmakers during the spring, but what will Bryce Brown have to offer? And has Collin Klein improved enough as a passer to help the Wildcats claw into the next tier of Big 12 teams?

9. Iowa State: The Cyclones might be better than this, but they're going to have to prove it. No one above them in the power rankings finished with a worse record last season. The Big 12 had only one team (Kansas) that finished with a record worse than 5-7. New quarterback Steele Jantz, replacing three-year starter Austen Arnaud, should be fun to watch.

10. Kansas: Improvement is the name of the game for the Jayhawks, who dropped a game to an FCS team in Week 1 last year. It's doubtful we'll see a repeat against McNeese State this time around, but how much better will Kansas be? We'll get a better sense when the Jayhawks tangle with an underrated Northern Illinois team in Week 2 and ACC foe Georgia Tech the next week.
You're counting down the days, I'm sure. We're so close, and yet so far from the season's opening weekend. I can't wait for it, and I'm sure every player in the Big 12 can't either. So, despite being a bit far off, we'll take a look at each team's opener, inspired by our friends over at the Big Ten Blog.

We started this series at the top of the alphabet, and it's time for the Sooners.

Oklahoma Sooners

Week 1 Opponent: Tulsa

Coach: Bill Blankenship, first year

2010 record: 10-3 (6-2, Conference USA)

Returning starters: 17 (8 offense, 8 defense, 1 specialist)

About the Golden Hurricane: At Big 12 Media Days this week, Oklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis said he spent 70 percent of his film time this summer watching Tulsa. He better. The Golden Hurricane can play, and though Sooners fans will be quick to remember a 45-0 beat down in 2009 the last time these two teams met, there's no room for underestimating a 10-win team from the FBS.

Blankenship replaces Todd Graham, producing plenty of the obvious questions, but Tulsa has plenty of offensive talent, and Blankenship coached the receivers and running backs, as well as special teams.

Quarterback G.J. Kinne led the Golden Hurricane to co-division championship in the C-USA West, and the 10-3 season included a win over No. 24 Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl and a win over Notre Dame. That gave the program its third 10-win season in four years, and Tulsa won its final seven games, helping Kinne win C-USA Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for 3,650 yards, 31 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. Kinne, a Texas transfer, had one of the worst outings of his career (12-of-26, 106 yards, 2 INT) the last time he suited up against the Sooners, but it could be different this time around.

Kinne returns one of college football's most electrifying players, Damaris Johnson, who caught 57 passes last year for 872 yards and four touchdowns, and Johnson returned both a kick and a punt for a score last season. Johnson, an All-American, led the nation in all-purpose yards last season, averaging 202 yards per game.

Running back Charles Clay (the team's second-leading receiver) is gone, but Kinne was actually the Hurricane's leading rusher last season, with 561 yards and seven scores. Second on the team? Johnson, of course, with 560 yards and seven scores of his own. Running back Alex Singleton returns after getting the most carries among running backs, 87, which he turned into 399 yards and 11 scores.

Tulsa doesn't have an ordinary offense, and they'll prove a tough test for the Sooners D in the opener.

Random factoid: Tulsa's last win over the Sooners? A 31-24 win in Norman, of all places, in 1996. Dark days for the Oklahoma program, which went 3-8 in John Blake's first year. That was also the Big 12's first year of existence, and the third in a five-year stretch without a winning season before Bob Stoops arrived. Things have been a little better since then.

Totally unscientific percentage chance Oklahoma wins: 84 percent. The Sooners defense could struggle, but Oklahoma is more than capable of outscoring Tulsa. It may not have to do it, but if this game slips into the 30s or 40s, Oklahoma can still handle it.

More Week 1 previews: