Dallas Colleges: Henry Josey

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Missouri players sat and watched the Allstate Sugar Bowl with the bewildered feeling the rest of the nation was experiencing. Oklahoma was imposing its will on SEC power Alabama in the heart of SEC country, going from underdog to the talk of the nation on Thursday night.

“It was crazy, it came down to what team wanted it most,” Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham said of the Sooners' 45-31 win. “You looked at Oklahoma and they wanted to win the game, they wanted to be Sugar Bowl champs, they went out and took what was theirs.”

Thus, Missouri players woke up on Friday morning with the knowledge that the weight of an entire conference was on their shoulders. Missouri needed to grab immediate revenge with a victory over Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl if it wanted to defend its conference’s reputation.

The SEC took a punch from the Big 12 in the Sugar Bowl, but the Tigers punched back Friday night with a 41-31 win over Big 12 foe Oklahoma State at AT&T Stadium.

[+] EnlargeHenry Josey, Blake Webb
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesMissouri might be new to the SEC, but the Tigers understood the importance of beating Oklahoma State and keeping the conference's rep.
“I did feel a tad bit of pressure, because I know we represent the SEC,” senior receiver L'Damian Washington said. “I think [OSU cornerback] Justin Gilbert made a statement earlier this week that the Big 12 was better than the SEC and I think we had to go out and prove the SEC is a force to be reckoned with.”

The Tigers used a combination of a relentless pass-rushing defensive line, strong running game and timely plays to earn their school record-tying 12th victory of the season, equaling the win total of the 2007 team.

Led by Cotton Bowl offensive MVP Henry Josey, Missouri rushed for 256 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry against a Cowboys’ defense that allowed 132.9 rushing yards and 3.46 per carry during the regular season. OSU quarterback Clint Chelf will have nightmares featuring Tigers pass-rushing duo Michael Sam and Kony Ealy. Missouri got to Chelf for three sacks, but the Cowboys quarterback was constantly flushed out of the pocket and forced to make plays on the move thanks to the Tigers defensive line, which cemented the win when Sam forced a Chelf fumble that was returned 73 yards for a touchdown by Shane Ray to halt OSU’s hopes of a game-winning touchdown in the final minutes.

“First-team All-American makes an All-American play,” Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel said.

SEC teams rejoiced as the conference escaped back-to-back losses to Big 12 opponents.

“We believe we’re the best conference,” said Andrew Wilson, who finished with a game-high 15 tackles. “And if you want to be the best conference you have to prove it, that’s why everyone is rooting for each other in these bowl games for everyone to go out and do what they can do.”

Make no mistake, the Tigers wanted the win for themselves, but they also wanted it for their conference.

“That’s something real big, representing the SEC,” Josey said. “The SEC is such a powerful conference, that’s the conference everybody looks to, that’s where the attention is. Coming into this game, that was in the back of our mind, that is always in the back of our mind that we had to hold up the rep for the SEC.”

Now, with its job done, Missouri passes the mantle to Auburn, which has the opportunity to win the eighth consecutive BCS title for the SEC when it takes on Florida State in the BCS National Championship on Monday night.

“Right now it’s up to Auburn to bring it home,” Ealy said. “We want to keep it in the SEC, that’s the most important thing as far as this conference goes.”
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Missouri sent a message for the SEC with a 41-31 win over Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl on Friday Night at AT&T Stadium. Here’s how it happened.

It was over when: Missouri defensive lineman Shane Ray returned a fumble 73 yards for a touchdown. Oklahoma State was driving to try to take the lead or tie the game in the final minutes when Missouri’s Michael Sam stripped OSU quarterback Clint Chelf of the ball, which Ray picked up for the scoop and score.

How the game was won: After Oklahoma State drove down to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, Missouri responded on its next drive to score the game-winning points. James Franklin led the Tigers down the field to jump right back on top after running back Henry Josey's 16-yard touchdown run made the score 34-31 with 3:08 remaining. Josey’s touchdown capped off a 7-play, 69-yard drive and gave the Tigers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Turning point: Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham made a key 27-yard catch on the Tigers' final drive on 3rd-and-9 from the OSU 43-yard line. Green-Beckham used his size and ball skills to outfight OSU’s Tyler Patmon for the key third down conversion. Josey rumbled 16 yards for the game-deciding touchdown on the next play.

Stat of the game: 256. Mizzou ran for 256 yards on the Cowboys, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Josey was shifty and solid while backup quarterback Maty Mauk was explosive with three carries for 73 yards in spot duty. OSU simply didn’t have an answer for Missouri’s running game, particularly when it needed one in the fourth quarter.

Player of the game: Josey. He didn’t have outstanding numbers, but his quickness and cutback ability gave OSU’s defense fits. He finished with 12 carries for 92 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 7.7 yards per carry.

What it means for Oklahoma State: The Cowboys end the season with back-to-back disappointing losses after falling to the Tigers in the Cotton Bowl and losing to Oklahoma in their regular-season finale. OSU heads into the offseason with very little momentum and looking to replace several starters while opening the 2014 season with Florida State.

What it means for Missouri: The Tigers rebounded well from their SEC championship loss to Auburn. Missouri finishes 12-2 with the Cotton Bowl victory and will head into 2014 with plenty of confidence and momentum.

AT&T Cotton Bowl preview

January, 3, 2014
Jan 3
12:00
PM CT
Oklahoma State will want to strike another blow for the Big 12, Missouri will want to defend the SEC’s reputation. It should be a good one.

OSU and Missouri battle in the AT&T Cotton Bowl (7:30 pm ET, FOX) on Friday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Here’s a preview of one of the most evenly matched games of this bowl season.

Who to Watch: Missouri defensive end Michael Sam. Look out Clint Chelf, Sam is coming for you and he’s been a terror for opposing offenses throughout the year. He led the SEC with 10.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. The senior brings a combination of acceleration and athleticism to the table that is very difficult for offenses to stop. If OSU has any hope to win, it can’t let Sam spend his holiday season in the backfield in hot pursuit of Chelf, the Cowboys quarterback, and OSU's running backs.

What to Watch: The interior lines. Missouri has a strong group in the trenches, and OSU’s success has mirrored its ability to control the line of scrimmage. Whoever wins the battle of the big fellas will probably win the game. Both teams have very talented skill players, like OSU receiver Josh Stewart and Missouri running back Henry Josey, who can make plays if given the chance. How do you take those explosive players out of the equation? Win the battle up front.

Why to Watch: The matchup between OSU cornerback Justin Gilbert and Mizzou receiver Dorial Green-Beckham is one reason. The battle between former Big 12 foes is another. These two teams know each other better than the normal bowl matchup, and the Cowboys will be looking to strike another blow for the Big 12 after Oklahoma’s Sugar Bowl win, while the Tigers will be looking to redeem the SEC. The Sooners’ win over Alabama could very well ramp up the intensity in this one.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 35, Missouri 34. The Cowboys prevail in one of the best games of the bowl season. Neither team dominates in the trenches, so this one is decided by turnovers and key plays on special teams. A late turnover by the Tigers helps OSU score a late touchdown to snatch the victory out of the hands of their former conference rival.

SEC Power Rankings: Week 14

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
5:00
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We have a new No. 1 in our Power Rankings, and there's a chance that either of the top two teams on this list could back its way into the BCS title game:

1. Auburn (11-1, 7-1 SEC; last week: 3): Call it luck, but don't forget to call the Tigers good. Auburn won the Iron Bowl 34-28 over No. 1 Alabama on a last-second field goal return for a touchdown by Chris Davis. It was another improbable win for the Cardiac Cats, but Auburn also ran for 296 yards on the SEC's best rush defense. Back-to-back thrillers have Auburn No. 3 in the BCS standings and SEC Western Division champions.

2. Missouri (11-1, 7-1 SEC; LW: 2): These Tigers will meet those Tigers in the SEC championship game on Saturday. After beating Texas A&M 28-21 at home, Mizzou completed its own improbable season in its second year in the league. Missouri now has five wins over opponents that were ranked when it played them. Like Auburn, Mizzou is very much in the national championship picture. The Tigers need help, but a win over Auburn would push a team that was left for dead last season a step closer to Pasadena, Calif.

3. Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC; LW: 1): The three-peat is likely over after Alabama was bested by its archrival. Why Nick Saban would attempt a 57-yard field goal with a second left without any speedy athletes on the field is mind-blowing. Saban rarely makes mistakes, but this one will sting for a very long time. Alabama is still very much in the hunt for a BCS bowl game, but a return to the title game is a long shot.

4. South Carolina (10-2, 6-2 SEC; LW: 4): Another year, another win over Clemson. That makes five in a row for Steve Spurrier and his Gamecocks after his guys walked over the Tigers 31-17. South Carolina forced six turnovers, and quarterback Connor Shaw impressed yet again with 246 yards of offense and two touchdowns. The BCS is out of reach for the Gamecocks, but they have a shot at three straight 11-win seasons.

5. LSU (9-3, 5-3 SEC; LW: 5): This is easily the most confusing team to follow in 2013. The Tigers started hot, hit some bumps and then finished strong with an exciting 31-27 win over Arkansas. LSU was without starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger (knee) late, but it didn't matter, as freshman Anthony Jennings drove the Tigers 99 yards, with a 49-yard go-ahead touchdown pass with 1:15 left. This could be another double-digit-win season for the Tigers.

6. Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC; LW: 6): Johnny Manziel went from carving up defenses to being smothered in his last two outings. In Saturday's loss to Mizzou, Manziel was held to a season-low 216 total yards and a touchdown. The defense was gutted -- again -- allowing 225 rushing yards, including a 57-yard Henry Josey touchdown run with 3:34 remaining. It's been a long November in College Station, but at least Kevin Sumlin is locked up for the long haul.

7. Vanderbilt (8-4, 4-4 SEC; LW: 8): Coach James Franklin might be near the top of USC's coaching list, but for now, he's doing a heck of a job as Vandy's coach. There's no wonder he's on the Trojans' radar. Vandy has won four straight, will make its third straight bowl game and is in line to win nine in back-to-back seasons. The Commodores didn't make it look easy against Wake Forest, but a Carey Spear field goal with 39 seconds left kept the Dores' winning streak alive.

8. Georgia (8-4, 5-3 SEC; LW: 9): Another team that didn't want things to be easy over the weekend, Georgia needed double overtime to beat rival Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs' defense was pushed around for 495 yards, but the offense was there to bring the Dawgs back from deficits of 20-0 and 27-17. When you have a guy like Todd Gurley (158 total yards and four touchdowns), it doesn't matter who you have at quarterback.

9. Mississippi State (6-6, 3-5 SEC; LW: 10): After being on the outside of the bowl picture just a couple of weeks ago, the Bulldogs rallied to win their last two, including an overtime victory against bitter rival Ole Miss on Thanksgiving. It wasn't the prettiest of games, but injured quarterback Dak Prescott came into the fourth quarter and threw for 115 yards, while running for 29, including the eventual winning 3-yard score. Dan Mullen has Mississippi State in the postseason for the fourth straight season.

10. Ole Miss (7-5, 3-5 SEC; LW: 7): Oh, what could have been for this team. Not only have the Rebels lost two straight, but they allowed their archrivals to make it to the postseason. For a season that started 3-0, some poor play in the red zone -- especially near the goal line -- against Missouri and turnovers against Mississippi State cost Ole Miss in its final two games.

11. Tennessee (5-7, 2-6 SEC; LW: 11): A long first year for Butch Jones ended with a nice 27-14 win over Kentucky. The Vols aren't going bowling, but now is the time when Jones has to ramp up the development phase and keep an already stellar recruiting class together. Remember, this team was a fake Vandy jump pass from a bowl berth.

12. Florida (4-8, 3-5 SEC; LW: 12): The Gators' nightmare of a season ended with a 37-7 rout by rival Florida State inside the Swamp. Florida then fired embattled offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis. Florida lost seven straight to end the season without scoring more than 20 points. And it isn't going bowling for the first time in 22 years and has its first losing season since 1979.

13. Arkansas (3-9, 0-8 SEC; LW: 13): With that heartbreaking loss to LSU, the Razorbacks have dropped a school-record nine straight and went 0-8 in conference play for the first time. This team fought hard in its final act, but it's clear that development and recruiting need to amp up during the offseason if Bret Bielema is going to have a chance at really competing in this league.

14. Kentucky (2-10, 0-8 SEC; LW: 14): The Wildcats have now gone 0-8 in SEC play in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1941-42 and have lost 16 straight SEC games. Mark Stoops is building a pretty impressive recruiting class right now, but we all know it takes more than recruiting. The Wildcats need more than talent, as they took steps back on both sides of the ball late in the season.

Aggies conclusion not what they hoped

December, 1, 2013
12/01/13
1:00
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COLUMBIA, Mo. -- It wasn't the ending Texas A&M envisioned.

[+] EnlargeKevin Sumlin
Denny Medley/USA TODAY SportsThe Aggies received hype in the preseason, but coach Kevin Sumlin's team failed to live up to their lofty expectations.
The Aggies quickly headed to the visitor's locker room on Saturday night as thousands of Missouri fans, most of them clad in black for the stadium "blackout," rushed Faurot Field to celebrate the Tigers' SEC East Division championship and berth in the SEC Championship Game.

It was the kind of ending A&M would have loved to experienced for itself. Coming into the season with a preseason top-10 ranking, those were the goals the Aggies set for themselves.

The primary goal was simple: Get to Atlanta.

After the impressive 11-2 debut season in the SEC that the Aggies put together in 2012, you probably would have been hard pressed to find anyone predicting that Mizzou would be getting to the Georgia Dome before Texas A&M. But that's how quickly things can change in college football.

Rather than play for a championship, the Aggies finished a somewhat underwhelming 8-4 overall and 4-4 in SEC play. They didn't beat a single ranked team this season. They lost their final two games, both on pretty big stages. That's the cold reality of the situation. Now they're simply left to play in whatever bowl game they wind up in, possibly the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, but not quite a BCS bowl like they once hoped.

"We're going to have one more opportunity with this group of guys to go out and win a football game, and we're not happy about what happened the last couple of weeks, obviously," head coach Kevin Sumlin said late Saturday. "But we've still got one more opportunity and it's probably going to be [against] another really, really good team."

There are a few reasons why the Aggies faltered at certain points this season. The young defense, which was inconsistent and downright bad in several games, made the offense work in losses to Alabama and Auburn.

However, in the past two weeks, the unit began to make some strides. Considering how high-powered the Aggies offense has been the past two seasons, the defense played well enough -- at least in the first half of the past two games -- to give Texas A&M a chance to take control of the game. But the offense sputtered, having an ugly showing at LSU and simply being inconsistent against Missouri.

Johnny Manziel's health status didn't help. The Heisman Trophy winner is not 100 percent -- though many players aren't at this point in the season -- and even Missouri players noticed that he was hurting. With a nagging thumb injury on his throwing hand and a pair of taped ankles, Johnny Football looked human the past two weeks, not like the magician that has captivated the college football world for two seasons. If he was too hurt, Sumlin wasn't saying it.

"If he wasn't healthy enough to play, he wouldn't have played," Sumlin said.

A player as talented as Manziel can help mask deficiencies. Seemingly unable to do so these past two weeks, it uncovered several issues against two talented defenses. LSU and Missouri were certainly quality defensive teams that made life difficult for Manziel.

"He's had better performances, he's had worse performances," Sumlin said. "There's a lot of pressure on him to perform at a high level all the time. I've said before, quarterbacks are like the head coach. You get too much credit when you win, you get most of the blame when you lose. Whenever you don't win, everything focuses on that. There's a lot of people out there playing besides him. For us to be effective, there has to be more than one guy that's going to have to make plays. We made some, we didn't make some, and that was across the board."

It would have been impossible to make this statement a season ago when the Aggies were all the rage and Missouri was getting through a 5-7 season, but the Tigers are where the Aggies want to be. Across the sideline they saw a savvy, veteran group, led by strong seniors and playmakers on both sides of the football. The Tigers, who lead the SEC in sacks and interceptions, have an athletic front seven and a solid secondary.

Offensively, senior quarterback James Franklin provides a steady hand and gets the ball to the myriad playmakers around him, running back Henry Josey and receivers L'Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham among them. Coach Gary Pinkel has provided stability as the head coach, having been with the Tigers for 13 years now. They won three division titles in their final five years in the Big 12, so Saturday's victory is just continued success under Pinkel, albeit in a new league.

The good news for the Aggies? The fact that finishing 8-4 is a disappointment speaks to the progress that the program has made in a short time under Sumlin. Expectations have been raised significantly in Aggieland, and that will continue after Sumlin agreed to a new six-year contract on Saturday. The last time the Aggies even won eight games in back-to-back seasons was 1998 and 1999.

Sumlin's on the way to signing his second consecutive top-10 recruiting class. The school has begun work on a $450 million renovation of Kyle Field, and the Aggies continue to improve facilities. So the commitment to getting where they want to be is there.

Now, it's simply a matter of making it happen. But for now, Missouri gets the bragging rights among the SEC newbies because it's the Tigers who will be playing for a championship in the Georgia Dome on Saturday.

It will take some time for the Aggies to write the ending they're looking for.

Five things: Texas A&M-Missouri

November, 30, 2013
11/30/13
6:00
AM CT
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- There's a lot on the line in the 'Zou on Saturday night when No. 5 Missouri hosts No. 21 Texas A&M at Faurot Field. Here are five things to know and/or watch for when these teams take the field:

1. High stakes for Mizzou: It's pretty simple. If the Tigers win, they're in the SEC championship game. If they don't, South Carolina goes and the Tigers have to watch. So the task at hand is clear. There's a ton of buildup, buzz and pageantry to go with this one: a capacity crowd is expected, it's senior night for 18 Tigers and it's "blackout" night for Missouri with all-black unis. Fitting for what could be a historic night. And the 10-1 Tigers get to do it at home against the Aggies for the first time in a while. The last time A&M traveled to Columbia was 2007 and the team's last three meetings were in Aggieland.

2. Missouri DEs vs. Texas A&M OTs: This should be one of the fun matchups to watch tonight. Missouri defensive ends Michael Sam (10 sacks) and Kony Ealy (6.5 sacks) lead a defense that is tops in the SEC in sacks this season (35). They'll go up against a pair of talented offensive tackles in Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Cedric Ogbuehi. Matthews is a projected first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft and Ogbuehi figures to have an NFL future as well when his time at Texas A&M is up.

3. Bounce back for Manziel?: Last week was a rough one for Johnny Manziel and the Aggies as they took a 34-10 beating at LSU. It was the team's worst loss in the Kevin Sumlin era and probably Manziel's worst performance. The Heisman Trophy winner usually thrives on big stages and the stage will be huge on Saturday. His chances for a second Heisman seemed almost wiped out by LSU, but if he has a big performance and leads A&M to a win, who knows?

4. When the Tigers have the ball: Missouri has numerous offensive weapons, from quarterbacks James Franklin and Maty Mauk to a trio of running backs led by Henry Josey to several tall, athletic receivers led by the trio of Marcus Lucas, Dorial Green-Beckham and L'Damian Washington. Texas A&M's defense, well, it hasn't been good this season. The Aggies rank 107th in yards allowed per game (460.1) and they're in the bottom 40 in both rushing and passing yards allowed per game. Missouri ranks 16th in offensive yards per game (491.9) and tied for 13th in scoring (39.7). On paper, it's a mismatch. Will it play out that way on the field?

5. A&M running game: Aside from a few called runs and several scrambles by Manziel, there wasn't much of a running game for Texas A&M last week. Only six times did a running back carry the football. Sumlin said they could have "done some things differently," and it'll be interesting to see if the Aggies use the ground attack more this week, especially considering the pass rush that Missouri possesses.

SEC helmet stickers: Week 11

November, 10, 2013
11/10/13
3:30
PM CT
With apologies to Nick Saban, AJ McCarron, T.J. Yeldon, C.J. Mosley and all of the pageantry that accompanied the SEC's annual marquee regular-season matchup, there were just too many noteworthy performances to go handing out helmet stickers to the rolling Tide's usual suspects.

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: With two touchdown passes in an easy 45-6 rout of Appalachian State on Saturday, Murray broke the 17-year-old SEC record of Florida's Danny Wuerffel (1993-96) for the most career TD passes. Murray entered the game already holding the SEC career marks for total offense and passing yards. The senior completed 19 of 26 passes for 281 yards in three quarters of work.

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Ho-hum. Another week, another compelling argument in the sophomore's case for a second straight Heisman Trophy. Against Mississippi State on Saturday, Johnny Football threw for 446 yards with five touchdown passes (never mind those three interceptions). Honorable mention goes to senior Travis Labhart, once a walk-on, now a scholarship guy who has emerged as a key contributor at receiver. Manziel completed six passes to Labhart for a career-high 102 yards and two touchdowns.

Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn: The former Georgia Bulldog and former juco quarterback accounted for 214 of Auburn's 444 rushing yards, running for two touchdowns and passing for another in the No. 9 Tigers' 55-23 dismantling of the home-standing Volunteers. Marshall posted a 99.6 Total QBR despite completing only 3 of 7 passes, but Gus Malzahn didn't need to throw with the success the Tigers were having on the ground. Marshall's 214 yards were the third-most by an SEC quarterback in a game over the last 10 seasons, behind only Heisman winners Manziel (229 yards vs. Oklahoma in 2012) and Cam Newton (217 vs. LSU in 2010).

Missouri's offense: The No. 8 Tigers encountered little resistance in their first league game in the Bluegrass State. Freshman quarterback Maty Mauk threw five touchdown passes to tie Chase Daniel's school record in Mizzou's 48-17 romp past Kentucky. Dorial Green-Beckham broke through in a big way. The 6-foot-6 sophomore, who was the nation's No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the Class of 2012, had seven catches for 100 yards and four touchdowns. Not to be outdone, running back Henry Josey ran 11 times for 113 yards and two TDs, including an 86-yarder. The Tigers remain a half-game ahead of idle South Carolina in the East division.

Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: Even in a 51-41 road loss to Texas A&M, a special heartfelt helmet sticker goes out to Prescott, who lost his mother last Sunday to her battle with cancer. Tyler Russell got the start after Prescott missed the week of practice before Saturday's game, but the two rotated, with Prescott getting the majority of the snaps. The Aggies had difficulty slowing him in the running game, as Prescott ran 16 times for 154 yards (9.6 yards per carry). He was 14-of-26 passing for 149 yards and two touchdowns. It was certainly a determined and inspiring performance under the most difficult of circumstances.

SEC predictions: Week 1

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
12:00
PM CT
Well, it's that time again. With the start of the college football season, which literally kicks off in a few hours, we are back to our weekly SEC predictions.

I mean, it's no big deal or anything, but I completely dominated the picks last year. The ATL Kid showed no mercy. Chris just didn't have the focus that you'd expect from a veteran. He started covering this league when I still had training wheels on my bike and chocolate stains on my shirts. (OK, those are still there.)

I spent the entire offseason gloating over how my beautiful 107-15 (.877) record looked down at Chris' 100-22 (.820) record and scoffed. But I also did some homework. I studied film. I might have had the championship belt around my waist, but today is a new day -- a new season.

Last year's picks mean nothing (except in the realm of blogger pride), so I have to start over. I'll starting lifting and running more in the mornings in order to get my mind and body right for the days ahead.

One championship was nice, but I'm looking for more rings and more bragging rights, and that all starts with a strong Week 1.

Let's get onto the picks:

THURSDAY

NORTH CAROLINA AT SOUTH CAROLINA

Chris Low: It’s the Battle of the Carolinas, or as the Head Ball Coach would say, South Carolina vs. “Dabo’s Carolina.” Not sure Dabo’s Carolina will be able to block Mr. Clowney. Then again, can anybody? ... South Carolina 30, North Carolina 17

Edward Aschoff: This could be the team that gets Steve Spurrier back to the SEC championship game. Jadeveon Clowney and that talented defensive line will make things miserable for UNC's offense all night. ... South Carolina 31, North Carolina 17

OLE MISS AT VANDERBILT

Chris Low: There’s no getting around the rape case and how it will impact the Commodores, especially with junior receiver Chris Boyd being suspended. The Rebels are for real and will finally figure out a way to beat the Commodores after losing five of the last six in this series. ... Ole Miss 24, Vanderbilt 20

Edward Aschoff: Both of these teams are on the rise in the SEC and have higher expectations than usual entering the season. While the Rebels have struggled recently with the Commodores, there's more pressure on Vandy, and Ole Miss will claim its redemption. ... Ole Miss 27, Vanderbilt 24

SATURDAY

WESTERN KENTUCKY VS KENTUCKY (in Nashville, Tenn.)

Chris Low: OK, no jokes about Bobby Petrino riding his motorcycle to the game. He gets his first of two straight chances to take down SEC teams, but the Wildcats will stand their ground in Mark Stoops’ debut. ... Kentucky 28, Western Kentucky 21

Edward Aschoff: Mark Stoops doesn't get a cupcake for his first game as Kentucky's new coach. I think it actually benefits him because he'll have a better idea of what he really has. And what he'll have is an opening-day winner. ... Kentucky 24, Western Kentucky 20

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE AT ARKANSAS

Chris Low: Louisiana-Monroe sent the Hogs reeling last season. Now, it’s Louisiana (the Ragin’ Cajuns) who’d like to get a little slice of Pig Sooie. Arkansas is too strong up front defensively to stumble in this one. ... Arkansas 27, Louisiana 17

Edward Aschoff: Bret Bielema and his Hogs are dealing with a lot of injuries, but he'll still have more talent on the field Saturday. We won't know a ton about this team, but starting off 1-0 ain't bad. ... Arkansas 27, Louisiana-Lafayette 17

AUSTIN PEAY AT TENNESSEE

Chris Low: There won’t be many breathers for Butch Jones in his first season at Tennessee, but the only drama in this one will be whether or not the Pride of the Southland Band has enough stamina to still be playing “Rocky Top” in the fourth quarter. ... Tennessee 45, Austin Peay 7

Edward Aschoff: Another new coach makes his debut with a team shrouded in mystery. Jones has a lot of inexperience to work with on offense and it'll be interesting to see how that up-tempo offense looks. ... Tennessee 31, Austin Peay 14

MURRAY STATE AT MISSOURI

Chris Low: It sounds like Henry Josey is healthy again, and all those SEC fans who didn’t get a chance to see him last season while he was sidelined are in for a treat. It won’t be a lot of fun for Murray State trying to tackle him. ... Missouri 38, Murray State 14

Edward Aschoff: The Tigers are healthier and carrying a big chip on their shoulders this season. A more complete Missouri team should take the field this weekend. ... Missouri 41, Murray State 13

WASHINGTON STATE at AUBURN

Chris Low: We know that Mike Leach thinks the bottom half of the Pac-12 is better than the bottom half of the SEC. Here’s his chance to prove it, although the Tigers should be greatly improved this season. ... Auburn 34, Washington State 21

Edward Aschoff: The Tigers have no choice but to get better with Gus Malzahn back on the Plains and Ellis Johnson taking over the defense. You should see lots of points in Malzahn's debut as the head coach. ... Auburn 38, Washington State 20

TOLEDO AT FLORIDA

Chris Low: The latest blow to the Gators was offensive tackle Chaz Green going down for the season, joining already injured running back Matt Jones and guard Jon Halapio. But when you don’t give up any touchdowns, it’s hard to lose. ... Florida 24, Toledo 6

Edward Aschoff: The Gators enter with a banged-up offense that already had a lot of questions. Toledo is far from a pushover, but Florida has the muscle to get by a tricky opening opponent. ... Florida 27, Toledo 10

RICE AT TEXAS A&M

Chris Low: By order of Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman, I will not make any comments concerning a certain Aggies’ quarterback. What I will say is that the Aggies will roll despite No. 2 being on the bench for a half. ... Texas A&M 48, Rice 10

Edward Aschoff: Johnny Football might be sitting out a half, but it wouldn't matter if he were sitting out the entire game. It's finally time for A&M to get back on the playing field. ... Texas A&M 48, Rice 17

MISSISSIPPI STATE VS OKLAHOMA STATE (Houston, Texas)

Chris Low: The Bulldogs want to bring more pressure on defense this season. They’re going to need to in this one, but they will have a hard time scoring with the Cowboys. ... Oklahoma State 37, Mississippi State 24

Edward Aschoff: A lot of questions remain for the Bulldogs, and it won't be easy for this defense to slow down Oklahoma State's high-powered passing game. ... Oklahoma State 34, Mississippi State 21

LSU VS TCU (in Arlington, Texas)

Chris Low: Les Miles isn’t saying whether Jeremy Hill will play in the opener. He’s “withholding” that information. Something else that will be withheld is TCU touchdowns. This LSU defense might be young, but it’s not lacking talent. ... LSU 28, TCU 16

Edward Aschoff: The Tigers might be the must undervalued team in the SEC. Miles always has his teams prepared for these out-of-conference games, and you'll see a more explosive offense that's fast and athletic and will overpower the Horned Frogs. ... LSU 31, TCU 17

ALABAMA VS VIRGINIA TECH (in Atlanta)

Chris Low: This is not your father’s Virginia Tech team. The Hokies simply don’t have enough firepower to keep it close against the two-time defending national champions. ... Alabama 35, Virginia Tech 10

Edward Aschoff: Alabama likes these big openers. The process is strong with Crimson Tide players and Virginia Tech is hurting. Alabama comes in more talented, and the Hokies just don't have the horses to keep up in Atlanta. ... Alabama 38, Virginia Tech 13

GEORGIA AT CLEMSON

Chris Low: It’s the most compelling opener of the season and should also be the most entertaining. If you like points, sit back and enjoy. The Dawgs will hold up a little better in the secondary and sneak out with a win. ... Georgia 35, Clemson 31

Edward Aschoff: This is the main event. Both teams have high-octane offenses and both have defenses littered with questions. Georgia has a lot of talent on defense, but it's young. This game is going to come down to which defense makes a play late -- and home-field advantage. ... Clemson 34, Georgia 31

The 11 best individual performances of 2011

February, 13, 2012
2/13/12
12:44
PM CT
Each offense across the Big 12 starts 11 players on Saturday and plays 12-13 games. That's a whole lot of performances. Some are better than others.

These are the 11 best individual performances from the entire 2011 season. Here's our top 10 from 2010. Why are there 11 this year? Because.

If a player's team didn't win the game, he was ineligible, and this list omitted defensive performances. This is, after all, the Big 12. An opponent's defensive quality is factored in. That considered, my apologies to Henry Josey vs. Western Illinois.

[+] EnlargeJustin Blackmon
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireJustin Blackmon was the difference between a win and a loss for the Cowboys in the Fiesta Bowl.
1. OSU receiver Justin Blackmon vs. Stanford. Simply put, Blackmon completely changed the game in the Cowboys' 41-38 win. OSU doesn't come anywhere close to winning without him. His first two catches went for scores, and he was uncoverable, hauling in his biggest catch of the night on a slant on fourth-and-6 with minutes to play and OSU trailing by seven. He finished with eight catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns.

2. Baylor QB Robert Griffin III vs. TCU. Interesting that Blackmon's performance came in the second-to-last game of the Big 12 season, and Griffin's came in the very first. Still, both were legendary. Griffin launched a Heisman campaign with four touchdown passes of 28 yards or longer, and extended the game-winning drive with a third-down catch up the middle that resulted with getting the wind knocked of out him. He still marched Baylor down the field for the game-winning field goal in the 50-48 win and finished 21-of-27 for 359 yards and five touchdown passes.

3. OSU QB Brandon Weeden vs. Texas Tech. This was sheer dominance from Weeden, who had an unbelievable game in the 66-6 win, despite throwing passes in what I can assure you was 40 mph-plus winds. He somehow finished 31-of-37 for 423 yards and five touchdowns in the laugher against the Red Raiders.

4. K-State QB Collin Klein vs. Texas A&M. This was by far Klein's best passing game of the season, rescuing the Wildcats from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter with a pair of deep completions and winning the game, 53-50, in the fourth overtime with a QB sneak. He carried the ball 35 times for 103 yards and five scores. He also completed 17-of-27 passes for 281 yards, a touchdown and an interception. That's a ton of touches.

5. Oklahoma WR Ryan Broyles vs. Missouri. Oklahoma fell behind 10-0 early, but Broyles and quarterback Landry Jones helped bring the Sooners back in the 38-28 win. He was uncoverable for most of the game, catching 13 balls for 154 yards and three touchdowns.

6. Griffin III vs. Oklahoma. Griffin became the Heisman frontrunner after a second legendary performance in the same season. He threw the game-winning touchdown pass with seconds left to Terrance Williams, his fourth touchdown pass of the game. He finished 21-of-34 for 479 yards and carried the ball 18 times for 72 yards, including a late scramble on the game-winning drive.

7. Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope vs. Baylor: For once, the Aggies didn't struggle in the second half. Swope was solid for 60 minutes, breaking tackles and breaking loose from Baylor's offense all day. The Bears had no answer, and were blown out, 55-28. Swope finished with 11 catches for 206 yards and was the only receiver to catch four touchdowns in a game this season.

8. Baylor WR Kendall Wright vs. TCU. Now, you didn't think Griffin did it all by himself in the 50-48 win over the Horned Frogs, did you? Wright was blowing by an inexperienced TCU secondary, and RG3 found him all night. He finished with 12 catches for 189 yards and two scores, but he also threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams and hit Griffin on his only catch of the night.

9. Baylor RB Terrance Ganaway vs. Washington. Ganaway sealed the Big 12 rushing title with his sixth 100-yard game and second 200-yard rushing game of the season, rolling over the Huskies and overshadowing RG3 in the Heisman winner's final game. He carried the ball 21 times for 200 yards and five touchdowns.

10. Blackmon vs. Kansas State. Blackmon was at his best late, hauling in a 54-yard touchdown pass to take the lead in the final minutes, capped by a two-point conversion to make it a seven-point lead. K-State couldn't handle him, and he finished with 205 receiving yards, 13 catches and two scores.

11. Missouri QB James Franklin vs. Iowa State. Franklin had a handful of great dual-threat games. This was his best, despite going up against the Big 12's best group of linebackers. He helped blow out the Cyclones with 289 yards and three scores on 20-of-28 passing. He threw two interceptions, but he also carried the ball 11 times for 84 yards and two scores.

Honorable mention: Oklahoma QB Landry Jones vs. Texas; Landry Jones vs. Missouri; Texas RB Joe Bergeron vs. Texas Tech; Kendall Wright vs. Texas; Henry Josey vs. Western Illinois

Big 12 position rankings: Running back

January, 26, 2012
1/26/12
1:30
PM CT
We're continuing our look at the postseason rankings for each position in the Big 12. Here's a look back at where the running backs ranked in the preseason.

In this position, unlike quarterback, depth is a major, major factor in these rankings.

1. Texas A&M

The Aggies had the two most talented backs, and despite injuries to both, proved it through an otherwise frustrating 2011. Christine Michael suffered a torn ACL, but still managed 899 yards on just 149 carries. Cyrus Gray injured his shoulder late in the season, but secured his second consecutive 1,000-yard season and ranked third in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 198 times. This duo should have easily surpassed 1,000 yards, but even when they were injured, Ben Malena played well in the final two games.

[+] EnlargeChristine Michael
AP Photo/Brandon WadeChristine Michael averaged 6 yards per carry before a torn ACL ended his season.
2. Missouri

Mizzou dealt with injuries, too, first to Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore. Cue Henry Josey. Josey became the best back in the Big 12 this year before suffering a major knee injury that included torn ligaments. He may not be back in 2012. His 1,168 yards were third most in the Big 12, despite carrying the ball just 145 times. Lawrence finished 12th with 566 yards.

3. Oklahoma State

Joseph Randle stole the show this year, rushing for 24 scores and ranking second in the Big 12 with 1,216 yards. Only Collin Klein ran for more touchdowns and Terrance Ganaway was the only player with more yardage. Still, Jeremy Smith had averaged more than 7 yards a carry, and he'd be able to start for anyone else in the league. Herschel Sims showed promise, too, with 242 yards on 31 carries.

4. Baylor

Ganaway led the Big 12 in rushing with huge performances late in the season, including a 200-yard, five-touchdown game in his final outing as a college athlete in the Alamo Bowl. He averaged more than 6 yards on his 250 carries and had 330 more yards than any other back in the league. Jarred Salubi added 331 yards, too.

5. Texas

Texas' Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron were banged-up late in the season, but Fozzy Whittaker played well until suffering a torn ACL against Missouri, too. Scatback D.J. Monroe was effective in the passing game as well. Four running backs topped 300 yards and Brown led the team with 742 yards, despite missing three games and having his carries limited early in the season.

6. Oklahoma

Oklahoma got great contributions from walk-on Dominique Whaley early on, and he proved to be the team's most effective runner and best runner between the tackles. He fractured his ankle in midseason, and finished with just 627 yards to lead the team. Roy Finch emerged late in the seasons after a quiet first half and added 605 yards.

7. Kansas

KU's James Sims led the team in rushing again with 727 yards. Darrian Miller was excellent, too, with 559 yards, though he was dismissed after the season. Freshmen Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon have plenty of promise, both averaging more than 5.5 yards a carry in 2011. The bad news: All their carries were limited by an awful defense that limited KU's chances to run the ball.

8. Kansas State

K-State's rushing attack centered around Klein, but John Hubert, a slippery back from Waco, Texas, had a good year. Hubert was seventh in the Big 12 with 970 yards. Bryce Brown offered basically nothing to K-State, and beyond Klein and Hubert, the Wildcats were pretty thin. Additionally, without Klein, would Hubert have duplicated his success?

9. Texas Tech

An awful knee injury derailed Eric Stephens' likely 1,000-yard season, and the rest of Texas Tech's backfield got banged-up, too. Stephens will probably return in 2012 from his dislocated knee, and finished with 565 yards, 17th in the Big 12. Aaron Crawford and DeAndre Washington both topped 300 yards.

10. Iowa State

ISU lost Shontrelle Johnson for the season early on, but James White filled in well. He finished with 743 yards, which ranked ninth in the Big 12. Jeff Woody had 380 yards and provided quality carries late, including the game-winning touchdown against Oklahoma State.

Recruiting rewind: All-Big 12 Offense

December, 13, 2011
12/13/11
7:48
PM CT
The season has come and gone, and brought with it an All-Big 12 team. But where do these guys come from? How easy is it for a no-name recruit to earn all-conference first-team honors?

Let's take a look at the All-Big 12 offense and see who surprises us.

You'll need ESPN Insider Insider to see each player's recruiting page from back in the day, but I excerpted a bit of what the scouts had to say about each player coming out of high school.

OFFENSE

QB: Robert Griffin III, Baylor
  • Griffin was infamously recruited as an "athlete" by top programs like Texas that may have moved him to safety or receiver. Scouts graded him as a 77 and the No. 40 quarterback. He committed to Houston before following coach Art Briles to Houston. One interesting note: He only threw for 1,734 yards as a high school senior. Development much? Scouts take: Griffin is a wonderful athlete with great size, solid arm strength and the ability to move to wide receiver if he doesn't remain at quarterback in college. He is long-legged, well built and is a smooth athlete. He's at his best when he is out of the pocket and can improvise. He will create when things break down and he shows very good presence to avoid the rush, use his feet to get on the perimeter and throw on the move.
All-purpose: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
  • Klein was graded as a 75 by ESPNRecruiting and the nation's No. 60 quarterback. He picked K-State over Colorado State, Utah and Air Force. Scouts take: Klein has prototypical size and a powerful arm. What you don't expect is how athletic he is and while he is a pocket passer, if he gets on the move, he can build momentum and create a few plays here and there with his legs. He can be unorhtodox in his delivery and mechanics can be inconsistent, but he is very productive and has a lot of physical tools to mold at the next level.
RB: Terrance Ganaway, Baylor
  • Ganaway played at Houston before transferring from junior college to Baylor. He was graded at the minimum grade of 45 and wasn't ranked by ESPN coming out of high school or junior college.
RB: Henry Josey, Missouri
  • Josey was a two-star recruit and the nation's No. 258-ranked athlete. He was also recruited by Baylor, TCU and UTEP. Scouts take: Josey flashes playmaker skills on both sides of the ball at the high school level and may get recruited on either side of the ball in college. We feel he is a bit of an overachiever and his weaknesses may get exposed at the major college level, but we like his foot-speed, quickness and overall savvy as a potential hybrid safety/Bandit type or change-of-pace back on offense.
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma
  • Millard was a three-star prospect and the nation's No. 59 athlete in the 2010 class. He graded out at 78, and was also recruited by Syracuse, Iowa, South Carolina and Tennessee. Scouts take: Millard is a thick inside linebacker prospect with good mobility and downhill burst between the tackles. We like his athleticism as a future tight end or H-back as well. Has a large upper-body and overall frame. Carries his weight well and has above average lateral agility for a defender with his thickness.
WR: Kendall Wright, Baylor
  • Wright was No. 118 in the 2008 ESPNU 150 and was the nation's No. 12 athlete. He was also recruited by Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas A&M. Scouts take: Wright is an athlete playing quarterback who belongs at either wide receiver or at cornerback at the next level. He is an athlete with great speed and acceleration. He is at quarterback because he is a playmaker and is very difficult to handle in the open field. With the ball in his hands, he has running back-type skills. (My take: Hey, remember this?)
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
  • Blackmon was the nation's No. 139 receiver and was also recruited by Colorado and Missouri, grading out at a 74. Scouts take: Blackmon is a smooth-looking, natural receiver prospect with well-rounded tools at the position. A potential sleeper at this time. He is tall, rangy and layered with good muscle tone. Shows great downfield, big-catch ability with his good size, hands and large catch radius. Displays very good concentration tracking the ball in tight coverage and plucks the ball smoothly in stride.
WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
  • Broyles was the No. 58 receiver and graded out at a 77. He committed to Oklahoma State before switching to OU just before signing his letter of intent. He was also recruited by Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee. Scouts take: This versatile athlete excels as both a cornerback and wide receiver but appears to be more of a playmaker on the offensive side of the ball at this stage. Broyles is a lean, sleek athlete who is very shifty and fluid in his movements. He has excellent straight-line speed and acceleration. He is a threat to turn a short gain into a big play but is also a vertical threat who plays bigger than his size. Has very good hands.
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri
  • Egnew was a two-star recruit who graded out at 40 and wasn't ranked. He was also recruited by Purdue and TCU.
C: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State
  • Garner was the No. 20 center in the 2007 class and graded out at 72. He was also recruited by Iowa State and Vanderbilt. Scouts take: Garner is a good center prospect but will need to add bulk to his frame. He is going to need some time to properly get up into that 280-290 lbs. range. He looks to have a strong quick snap and can also adequately handle shotgun responsibilities. Once he snaps the ball, he does a good job of bringing his off hand and making good contact.
OL: Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
  • Osemele graded out at 68 and was the nation's No. 149 offensive tackle in the 2007 class. He was also recruited by Arkansas, Houston and TCU. Scouts take: Osemele is a good sized prospect that can deliver a good initial blow. He gets good hand placement and displays the ability to get into a defender and push him off the line of scrimmage in the run game. He needs to work on his initial footwork coming out of his stance.
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State
  • Adcock was a junior college recruit and not scouted by ESPN.
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
  • Ikard was the nation's No. 19 tight end and graded out at 78. He was also recruited by Notre Dame, Stanford and Oklahoma State. Scouts take: Ikard is a good football player and it is tough not to like him. He comes across as a smart, hard working, and productive player. He plays both defensive end and tight end in high school and is a legitimate recruit on both sides of the ball. He is a sound defensive end prospect.
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
  • Joeckel was No. 83 in the 2010 ESPNU 150 and was a four-star recruit. He was ranked as the nation's No. 6 offensive tackle prospect. He was also recruited by Nebraska, LSU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Scouts take: Joeckel is a dominant offensive lineman. He has great size and is an intimidating force on the field. Exceptional run blocker that completely engulfs smaller defensive lineman. Has a real nasty streak and finishes his run blocks on a consistent basis. Does a great job of getting his hands into the frame of the defensive lineman and locks on like vice grips. Drives feet after initial contact and often puts defender into the turf due to his aggressiveness in finishing the block.

Fascinating stuff here. I enjoyed looking these guys up. The two most highly recruited players on the All-Big 12 team? Kendall Wright and Luke Joeckel. Shocking stuff.

ESPN.com's 2011 All-Big 12 Team

December, 9, 2011
12/09/11
4:30
PM CT
Editor’s Note: Tune into the “AT&T ESPN All America Team Show” on Saturday (ABC, 1:30 p.m. ET) to see who ESPN’s writers and experts selected.

It's been a fun season across the Big 12, with a few big names who didn't play as well as we thought, and lots of unknowns who became household names by the end of the season.

I'll offer my comments below, but here's our All-Big 12 team for 2011.

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Jerome Miron/US PresswireThe heroics of Robert Griffin III got Baylor to 9-3 and made him a Heisman Trophy finalist.
QB: Robert Griffin III, Baylor
All-purpose: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
RB: Terrance Ganaway, Baylor
RB: Henry Josey, Missouri
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma
WR: Kendall Wright, Baylor
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
WR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri
C: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State
OL: Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State
OL: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

DEFENSE

DE: Frank Alexander, Oklahoma
DT: Dominique Hamilton, Missouri
DE: Alex Okafor, Texas
DE: Jamie Blatnick, Oklahoma State
LB: Sean Porter, Texas A&M
LB: Jake Knott, Iowa State
LB: Emmanuel Acho, Texas
NB: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
CB: Nigel Malone, Kansas State
CB: Carrington Byndom, Texas
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
S: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State

SPECIALISTS

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
PK: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M
PR: Dustin Harris, Texas A&M
KR: Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

Finally, a few notes and explanations:

  • I loved the media's idea to craft an all-purpose spot to accomodate Collin Klein. The Big Ten did the same for Michigan's Denard Robinson last season. I followed suit, and did so on the defensive side of the ball with a nickel-back spot for Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson. Two players that missed first-team designation by the coaches, but clearly deserve to be recognized.
  • Additionally, I prefer the teams to reflect the Big 12 style of play, so the nickel back fits. Each team doesn't have 11 players, but there were deserving linebackers. The same with Egnew and Millard. Does every team use a fullback or a tight end? No, but both are standout performers. They'd rotate in anyway, just as Jefferson would in a theoretical package.
  • Tough call to leave Philip Blake from Baylor off my team, but Garner's been better. Blake is very, very close, though.
  • Hated to leave off Brodrick Brown and E.J. Gaines, but I went with a more traditional two corners and two safeties, rather than four corners like the media's team.
  • Steven Johnson and Arthur Brown would have been right behind my three linebackers. That race was probably closer than at any other position, except maybe cornerback. Difficult to leave either of those guys off my first team, but the three on the team were better. I gave Brown my Newcomer of the Year nod, though.
  • I don't like going with three defensive ends and one defensive tackle, but there wasn't a defensive tackle who deserved the honor more than Okafor, my third defensive end. Okafor was a defensive tackle last year anyway, so that's close enough, right? He moved from tackle to end before spring practice earlier this year. In the Big 12, an additional pass rusher is necessary, too, right?
  • I made a similar move with my offensive line. Went tackle-heavy, but the guards didn't have quite as many standouts.

Baylor's Ganaway taking, delivering many punches

November, 29, 2011
11/29/11
1:45
PM CT
Before Baylor took the field for the second half against Texas Tech on Saturday without its Heisman candidate at quarterback, there was no grandiose speech. There wasn't a frenzied huddle to go over altered strategy.

The Bears' offense simply looked around the post-kickoff, pre-drive huddle and didn't see the familiar No. 10 staring back at them.

Instead, Nick Florence quietly slid into Robert Griffin III's spot at starting quarterback for the second half and connected on a pair of touchdown passes longer than 40 yards.

[+] EnlargeTerrance Ganaway
Sarah Glenn/Getty ImagesTerrance Ganaway racked up 246 yards on 42 touches against Texas Tech -- the most he's ever had in his collegiate career.
"We trust in what Nick does, and what he brings to the table. He’s a great quarterback and he has a ton of experience in this offense," said running back Terrance Ganaway. "We’ve practiced with Nick and Nick practices at a high level, and we don’t expect him to play at anything but a high level. We all had confidence in him."

They had reason to be. Florence started nine games when Griffin tore his ACL in the 2009 season, setting the school record for passing that Griffin broke this season.

In the second half, though, one player took over: Ganaway. We should have known, really. Ganaway's flourished under waves of media attention heaped on his quarterback, the second running back in two seasons to do so.

He carried the ball 25 times in the second half for 139 yards and a touchdown. That gave him 42 carries -- more than any Big 12 back in a game this year -- for 246 yards.

"We’d run it pretty effectively the first half, also, so that gave us a little confidence going into the second half," said coach Art Briles, "and it just worked out to where that was something that was being beneficial for us, so we just kept doing it."

Said Ganaway: "We knew it was working, so we weren’t going to get away from it. We were going to keep running until they decided to make us do otherwise."

Ganaway made sure Baylor didn't need much creativity. The rest of Baylor's backfield minus Griffin carried the ball 23 times, but Baylor's 240-pound back carried the load.

With the effort, Ganaway took over the Big 12 rushing lead from injured Missouri back Henry Josey. A year ago, Baylor wondered who would replace Jay Finley's 1,218 yards.

Next year, the Bears will have to wonder who'll replace Ganaway, who now has 1,195 with two games left to play.

"He’s a very mature person. The thing that makes him unique is his agility to go with his size," Briles said. "He’s also got the mentality enough to where he’s very, very focused and very driven."

Briles would know. Ganaway was with Briles at Houston in 2007 before transferring to junior college. Once Briles left for Baylor, Ganaway followed.

Quietly, as Griffin's racked up passing yards and accolades, he's had two great backs playing alongside him that too often get overshadowed.

"Terrance isn’t concerned about any of that. He’s a great team player," Briles said. "He brings a level of mature confidence to our football team because of his focus and energy lies, and that’s within everybody, not himself."

If Ganaway's needed again this week against Texas, he'll be available.

"It was a whole lot [of carries], but I didn’t really even notice. My body felt good the next day and I’m feeling really good right now. You’re just trying to win. You’re in the zone. The adrenaline’s pumping. Your heart’s pounding, you just want to go out there and get the win," Ganaway said. "You really don’t worry about being tired or fatigued. I know I felt tired, and I got some shots, but everybody was fighting. It’s a fight, and you don’t quit until the round’s over. Then you ask, how many punches were there?"

Predictions: Big 12 Week 12

November, 18, 2011
11/18/11
9:00
AM CT
A decent week of predictions last week, but I whiffed on a Texas pick for the second consecutive week. Longhorns, who are you?

On to this week's picks!

Last week: 3-1 (.750)

Overall: 48-15 (.762)

Here's a look at where we were at this point last year.

FRIDAY

No. 2 Oklahoma State 48, Iowa State 20: The Cyclones slow OSU's offense a little bit, but not enough to make a serious threat. The Cowboys are just too good. The fourth quarter is spent focusing on Oklahoma for the starters on the sideline, the first few moments of a 15-day wait for the Sooners' arrival on game day. Jared Barnett's got a lot of upside, but OSU's offense has too many playmakers for ISU to keep pace.

SATURDAY

Texas A&M 34, Kansas 24: I'm starting to believe in Kansas' growth, and A&M has to stay focused against a 2-8 opponent with a disappointing 5-5 record. The Jayhawks have played one of the nation's toughest schedules, but hang with A&M in this one for awhile, before A&M and Cyrus Gray flex late with a few big plays to break it open and grab a safe win. Kansas is inching closer to that win, and could be in for a great game next Saturday against Mizzou.

Missouri 34, Texas Tech 21: Texas Tech, though? Nobody in the Big 12 has fallen faster, and the banged-up Raiders are feeling around for something good to happen. It's been awhile. Missouri's been competitive in just about every game. Tech hasn't been competitive in a month. Welcome to the postseason, Mizzou. The Tigers' Kendial Lawrence picks up the slack for the injured Henry Josey and goes for 150 yards.

No. 13 Kansas State 17, No. 23 Texas 13: Bill Snyder won't need much Texas wizardry in this one. K-State is the better team, and inexplicable 9.5-point underdogs. The Longhorns lock down on the K-State offense, but the Wildcats are more than capable of doing the same. We may see the fewest passes thrown in a Big 12 game all season in this one.

No. 5 Oklahoma 47, No. 22 Baylor 31: Make it 21. Baylor moves to 0-21 against Oklahoma in this one. The Sooners have won eight consecutive games away from home, including five against teams in the top 13. This makes nine. Oklahoma's defense is one of a few that can slow Baylor's offense (credit fumbles and Kansas' running game for the three points in three quarters last week), and it'll do enough for the offense to get the win.

Who's Big 12's most irreplaceable player?

November, 17, 2011
11/17/11
3:30
PM CT
The Big 12 has been hampered by injuries in recent weeks. Missouri running back Henry Josey, the Big 12's leading rusher, was the latest to fall. He tore his ACL, MCL and patellar tendon — a situation serious enough to put his 2012 season in question.

Texas running back Fozzy Whittaker, who scored nine touchdowns this year, also went down with a torn ACL in Saturday's victory over Missouri.

Two weeks ago, Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles and Texas A&M running back Christine Michael suffered torn ACLs and will miss the remainder of the season. K-State receiver/kick returner Tyler Lockett is out for the season with a lacerated kidney.

Oklahoma running back Dominique Whaley suffered a fractured ankle and Iowa State running back Shontrelle Johnson injured his neck early in the season while he was still the Cyclones' leading rusher. Texas Tech running back Eric Stephens' likely 1,000-yard season, the first in Lubbock since Ricky Williams in 1998, ended on a dislocated knee suffered in a loss to Texas A&M.

That said, there's still plenty of big talent still standing around the injury-riddled league.

PODCAST
Baylor QB Robert Griffin III on last week's narrow victory over Kansas, his Heisman hopes, this week's game against Oklahoma and more.

Listen Listen
Who's the most irreplaceable?

Is it Heisman contender Brandon Weeden, who leads the league in passing yards and has dished out a league-leading 31 touchdown passes at the helm of Oklahoma State's explosive offense?

Is it do-everything quarterback Robert Griffin III at Baylor, who engineered a dramatic 21-point comeback against Kansas last week to put the Bears into the postseason for the second consecutive season after a 16-year drought?

What about OSU receiver Justin Blackmon? He's likely the biggest talent in Stillwater, and the only game he missed in the past two seasons was the one time the Cowboys were held under 30 points, a 24-14 victory over Kansas State last October.

What about the nation's leader in rushing touchdowns, K-State quarterback Collin Klein? With Josey down, he's now the Big 12's leading rusher, and only two players in the FBS have more carries.

Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones is the last man standing at OU, playing without his leading receiver, Broyles, and leading rusher, Whaley. What would happen to the Sooners if he went down?

So, who's the most irreplaceable? Vote in our poll.

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