Dallas Colleges: Jeff Fuller

Post-spring notes: Texas A&M Aggies

May, 11, 2012
5/11/12
1:00
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The good folks over at the SEC office delivered a plethora of post-spring notes for us to dive into as summer creeps closer and closer.

TEXAS A&M
  • Senior Dustin Harris enters the 2012 football season as the reigning punt return average statistical champion. The cornerback from Livingston, Texas, led the NCAA with a 18.9 average on 18 returns in 2011, with a 72-yard touchdown return against Kansas. Against the Jayhawks, Harris set a school record with 162 punt return yards.
  • Senior Ryan Swope, from Austin, Texas, has career numbers of 180 catches for 2,204 yards and is chasing Jeff Fuller’s school records of 233 catches for 3,092 yards. Fuller’s records would appear to be within range after Swope’s record-setting junior season that saw him set school standards with 89 catches for 1,207 yards.
  • The Aggies led the nation with 51 sacks in 2011 (six more than the second-best team), and A&M’s top two pass-rushing threats return in 2012. In fact, Texas A&M is the only team in the nation with two returnees that posted 8.5 or more sacks in 2011. Senior Sean Porter led the Big 12 with .73 sacks per game (No. 19 nationally), while junior Damontre Moore chipped in .71 per game (No. 21 nationally).
  • Despite attempting the ninth most pass attempts in the NCAA FBS, the Aggies did a remarkable job of protecting their quarterback in 2011. In 13 games, A&M allowed just nine sacks for a NCAA-low 44 lost yards. Four of five starters return from the 2011 offensive front, including juniors-to-be OTs Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, who have been mentioned as first-round draft picks in several early 2013 mock drafts.
  • The offensive line was penalized for holding just twice in 2011 and enters 2012 with a streak of 11 straight games without a holding call against a lineman.

Thoughts on the Big 12's NFL draft

May, 2, 2012
5/02/12
3:44
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We've already gone over my thoughts on the Big 12's first round of the draft. What about the rest? Here are some thoughts:

  • [+] EnlargeRyan Broyles
    Brian Spurlock/US PresswireThe Lions saw enough from Ryan Broyles to take a risk on him in the second round.
    Absolutely fantastic to see Ryan Broyles find a home in Detroit in the second round. Broyles is a second-round talent, and it was great to see him recognized as such -- with NFL teams seeing enough out of his newly-rehabbed knee to know he's a solid prospect. No player in the history of college football had more receptions. I like his chances for a productive career, especially on a building Detroit team with a lot of talent, especially at the offensive skill positions.
  • I've written about it in the past, but I'm intrigued to see what Missouri tight end Michael Egnew does at the next level. He was less productive than his predecessors at Mizzou, Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman, but supposedly is a more talented blocker. Coffman got stuck in a franchise that didn't seem willing to use him for what he is -- a receiving tight end -- but can Egnew shed the Mizzou tight end stereotype? We'll find out in Miami.
  • Really happy to see things work out well for Oklahoma's Frank Alexander, who was drafted in the fourth round by Carolina. He had a scare at the combine. Doctors thought he had a heart condition and his playing career was in jeopardy. Turns out, he was fine. Glad the mixup didn't cost him more than it could have.
  • Allow me to join in the chorus of folks asking, "What the heck is Washington doing drafting Kirk Cousins?" Nothing against Cousins, who I actually think will do well at the next level (or could elsewhere, at least), but this isn't even about bringing in a fellow rookie to "compete with" Robert Griffin III. Washington has plenty of other holes. The Redskins couldn't try to draft and fill it, while finding a backup quarterback in free agency? Seriously. Good grief. And you wonder why Washington hasn't won anything in a long while.
  • Ronnell Lewis' fall from top-25 prospect to fourth-rounder is intriguing. Did NFL teams see him up close and get spooked by his lack of a true position? In my book, he'd be a great defensive end, but if NFL teams think he's too small, I have major, major doubts about his ability to play the linebacker spot. The mental part of the game didn't come easily to Lewis at OU, but his career will be fascinating to watch. He's got a high motor, and if it doesn't work out, it won't be because of a lack of effort.
  • Good on A&M's Randy Bullock, who went in the fifth round. Prepare for a similar fate in 2011, Quinn Sharp.
  • Interesting to see OU's Travis Lewis fall all the way to the seventh round. How much did his broken toe in 2011, which he rushed back from to help his team, hurt his NFL stock? His tape from senior season was underwhelming, no doubt. NFL teams had to be scared about his lack of progression from freshman to senior year, at least not what you'd expect from a guy who topped 140 tackles as a freshman.
  • A year ago, A&M folks were rejoicing a future Big 12 title run when Jeff Fuller announced his intention to return. The Aggies went 7-6 and Fuller went undrafted. I hate to see when guys who make decisions to come back get hurt by them, but Fuller's season started with a hamstring injury, and his production never recovered, even when he got healthy. Almost the exact same scenario with A&M corner Coryell Judie, who couldn't get healthy in 2011 and didn't get drafted, even though he was one of the Big 12's top players in 2010.
  • Meanwhile, Bryce Brown was drafted, and his 2011 tape included three total carries, one of which was a fumble on his own goal line that nearly cost 10-win Kansas State a game early in the season. Take a bow, Mr. Brown.
  • Adding Josh Cooper to the Browns to play with Brandon Weeden? Well played, Cleveland. Well played.
  • How did Leonard Johnson go undrafted? I have no idea. Seemed like a solid middle rounder to me, and he proved his worth plenty of times this year against some great Big 12 receivers. His physical skills don't wow you, but he's instinctive at the position, and was physical and productive.

Big 12 position rankings: Receivers/TEs

February, 14, 2012
2/14/12
9:00
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We're continuing our look at the postseason rankings for each position in the Big 12. Here's a look back at where the receivers ranked in the preseason.

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

More postseason position rankings:
[+] EnlargeJustin Blackmon
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesJustin Blackmon highlighted Oklahoma State's deep group of receivers this season.
1. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys boasted two-time Biletnikoff winner Justin Blackmon, but he wasn't the only weapon. The Cowboys had nine (!) receivers with at least 19 catches and 200 yards receiving this season. Insane. Life is good with Brandon Weeden at quarterback.

2. Baylor: Kendall Wright actually outperformed Blackmon and Ryan Broyles on the stat sheet, catching 108 balls for 1,663 yards. The Bears didn't have the insane depth of OSU, but the trio of Wright, Terrance Williams (59 rec, 957 yards, 11 TDs) and Tevin Reese (51 rec, 877 yards, 7 TDs) were all in the Big 12's top seven receivers.

3. Texas A&M: Ryan Swope emerged to become one of just four Big 12 receivers to notch 1,000-yard seasons. Jeff Fuller's season was disappointing, but he still finished eighth in the league in receiving, and Uzoma Nwachukwu was in the league's top 15 in receiving.

4. Oklahoma: The Sooners weren't quite as solid as they thought to begin the season. Broyles was as advertised, though his Biletnikoff-contending season was cut short by a torn ACL. The unit was productive, but came down with the drops late in the season. Broyles and Kenny Stills were both in the league's top seven in receiving, and Jaz Reynolds caught 41 passes for 715 yards to crack the top 10.

5. Texas Tech: Tech's top target, Darrin Moore, battled injuries all year, but Eric Ward emerged as the team's most consistent target, catching 84 passes for 800 yards and 11 scores. Alex Torres missed two games, but added 616 more yards.

6. Missouri: The Tigers' receivers had their production dip with a dual-threat passer in James Franklin who ran the ball more than his predecessor, but they were still pretty good, despite lacking a true big-time threat. T.J. Moe caught 54 passes for 649 yards and four scores. Tight end Michael Egnew added 50 grabs for 523 yards and three scores. L'Damian Washington, Marcus Lucas and Wes Kemp had unremarkable individual seasons, but their production added up to a good year for Mizzou's receivers.

7. Kansas State: Kansas State was better than most thought to begin the season, but the ground-based offense limited their receivers' ability to finish with big production. Chris Harper (40 rec, 547 yards, 5 TDs) led the group. Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett showed some good promise, too.

8. Texas: The Longhorns could get really good, really fast at this spot. The uncertainty/struggles at quarterback limited this group, but Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis could both mature into absolute stars. For now, though, they didn't quite crack the top 15 in the Big 12 in receiving. Both topped 40 catches and 600 receiving yards.

9. Iowa State: Darius Reynolds' size downfield will be missed, but Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz are tough covers working the middle of the field. Reynolds caught seven touchdowns, and Horne and Lenz both topped 38 catches.

10. Kansas: Yikes. The Jayhawks didn't have a receiver in the league's top 20, but D.J. Beshears led the team with 40 grabs for 437 yards and three touchdowns. He was the only Jayhawk in the Big 12's top 32 in receiving.

Blog debate: Will Aggies thrive in the SEC?

February, 10, 2012
2/10/12
9:30
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Kevin SumlinCal Sport Media/AP ImagesBetween a young team and a tough new conference, coach Kevin Sumlin has his work cut out for him.
It's Moving Day No. 2 on the blog network today, and the Aggies are following Missouri out the door into the SEC blog today. We introduced the Aggies to the SEC earlier, but now it's time to debate.

The Aggies' move to the SEC was more about having the program grow in brand-new soil, whereas Missouri's move was more about conference stability.

Will the Aggies thrive? SEC blogger Chris Low and Big 12 blogger David Ubben go head to head to find out.

Chris Low: OK, David, let's not tiptoe around. This is a big-boy conference in the SEC with big-boy stakes. I know everything is supposedly bigger in the state of Texas, but do the Aggies really know what they're getting themselves into? For one, they tend to play all four quarters in the SEC. Judging by what I saw from the Aggies last season, somebody might want to remind them that there is a second half. Come to think of it, that's not very hospitable of me. I take that back. But, honestly, how do you think the Aggies will handle the grind of this league?

David Ubben: Now, now, Chris, that's not very nice. The Aggies are ...

As one final tribute to Texas A&M, I elected to forfeit the second half of that sentence.

In the early running, Texas A&M's going to have a lot of issues. Losing the volume and quality of talent they did in 2011 will hurt, especially on offense, as the program moves into a league -- and, particularly, a division -- known for defense. Ryan Tannehill wasn't great last year, but his experience helped, and Jeff Fuller and Cyrus Gray are a pair of NFL players that don't roll around every year.

I like the talent on campus at A&M a lot, though. They're just going to be young for now. With what they have now, they'll get better and better, as long as Kevin Sumlin does well. Based on what we've seen from his career, I think he will.

[+] EnlargeSean Porter
Troy Taormina/US PresswireLinebacker Sean Porter tallied 9 sacks for A&M last season, but the Aggies will need more from their defensive line.
Beyond these first three to four years, how well they progress will depend on recruiting. The Aggies think the SEC will be a big draw for Texas recruits who want to play in the best conference in college football. Being able to offer that could help them surpass Texas on the recruiting trail and on the field.

Are you buying that? I strongly lean toward no, but I could see it happening. What do you think? Is playing in the SEC going to be a draw for Texas kids? Why or why not?

CL: I absolutely think the SEC will be a draw for some Texas recruits who see it as a chance to stay in the state and still play their college football and also be able to do it against SEC competition. That's a pretty sweet proposition: Stay close to home in the football-crazed state of Texas and compete in the football-crazed SEC, which has a standing order with the sculptor who designs that crystal trophy every year for the BCS national champion.

There's also another side to this story. The boys in the SEC think their chances of going deep into the heart of Texas and landing elite prospects are better than ever with Texas A&M joining the league. Rival coaches can tell mamas and daddies (that's the way the Bear used to say it) that they'll be able to keep up with their sons just like they were in the Big 12 with the Aggies now part of the SEC family, although the recruiting atmosphere in this league isn't very family-oriented. Just ask Urban Meyer. He got so tired of the recruiting shenanigans in the SEC that he's now pulling his own in the Big Ten, according to some of his new brethren there.

That leads me to my next question: Has anybody informed the Aggies that the rules are a little different in the SEC? Unlike the Big 12, it's not the first team to 40 points that wins.

DU: For the record, the league changed those rules for Baylor-Washington in the Alamo Bowl. First to 60 wins now, but that's irrelevant news for the Aggies.

A&M's front seven's actually been really good these past two years, but this year, it was the secondary that let the team down. The Aggies led the nation with 51 sacks, but the team wasn't happy that it took a lot of risky blitzes to get those sacks. The defensive line wasn't the unit applying the pressure most often — it was linebackers and defensive backs. That meant a lot of big plays in the passing game; the Aggies ranked 109th nationally in pass defense, giving up more than 275 yards a game. Now, they won't see the same caliber of quarterbacks in the SEC, but we will see if the front seven can handle the power of teams in the SEC West, which, to their credit, do have a handful of quarterbacks with a lot of potential. Tyler Wilson's great now. AJ McCarron and Kiehl Frazier could be elite soon.

We'll see what new defensive coordinator Mark Snyder can fix.

On the flip side of the recruiting debate, how much do you think SEC teams will try and slide into Texas? Could we see some collateral damage in the Big 12? Will the SEC one day take over the world? I heard Nicolas Sarkozy already has a special security detail in place in case Mike Slive comes after him.

CL: I'm not sure about taking over the world. It's just college football that the SEC one day would like to own. Some might suggest it already does.

Arkansas and LSU will probably be helped the most in terms of going into Texas and getting players. Other schools in the SEC might be more apt to target players in the state of Texas and make a push for those select players, but I don't think you're going to suddenly see a mass of teams in the SEC setting up camp in Texas on the recruiting trail. There's no need to when you look at how bountiful the states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and South Carolina are in most years.

You mention some of the quarterbacks in the Western Division. It's fair to say that this wasn't a quarterback's league this season, and I also realize that the Big 12 has produced some quarterbacks over the last few years who've put up Xbox-type numbers.

[+] EnlargeTexas A&M
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireThere's little doubt that the state of Texas and the SEC share a deep passion for football.
But my question for you: Is Texas A&M capable of playing the kind of defense it takes to win big in the SEC?

DU: I think so, eventually. They know they have to, which is huge. They've seen how teams succeed in the SEC, and it's with defense.

If you invest in something, especially with the resources A&M has, good things will happen. Don't forget, the Aggies defense was really, really good last year. The athletes are there. For A&M, it's about putting it together.

CL: With all due respect, "really, really good" on defense in the Big 12 is entirely different than being "really, really good" in the SEC on defense. The more I watch this conference, the more it's ingrained in me that you're never going to win at a high level unless you can run the ball, stop the run and consistently win the turnover battle. Everything else is window dressing. I understand that's not exactly rocket science, but being able to run the ball creates a mindset that positively impacts your entire team. The same goes for playing good run defense.

So if I were offering any advice to the Aggies as they make the big jump, it would be to fortify their offensive backfield and recruit like crazy in the offensive and defensive lines. There's no such thing as too much depth in the SEC.

Having a little Texas flavor in the SEC is exciting. I know you're on record as saying the Aggies might struggle next season. But over time, I think they have what it takes to be an upper-echelon team in the SEC. Of course, that's the beauty of the SEC. So does everybody else in the league.

DU: Oh, there's no respect due when we're talking Big 12 defenses. The best in the SEC are on another stratosphere from the best in the Big 12.

Your game plan sounds like what I'd recommend, but it's easier said than done. Like Mizzou, A&M will have to start mining some of those junior colleges down south like the rest of the SEC West.

Generally, I'd agree with you on A&M's long-term prospects. The Aggies will win less than they did in the Big 12 ... which is to say not much. But they could put it together and have a huge year every now and then. I don't see them surpassing Texas as a program, but they're on their own now.

For some Aggies, that's enough. Next year, the Aggies will struggle, but watching them grow and try to build a new program will be fascinating.

The best Big 12 games of 2011

January, 18, 2012
1/18/12
9:43
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We took a look at the best atmospheres on Tuesday, and today, it's time to rank the top 10 games involving Big 12 teams of 2011.

1. Kansas State 53, Texas A&M 50 (4 OT): Kansas State erased a double-digit lead in the final half of the fourth quarter to force overtime. Collin Klein burrowed into the end zone on a quarterback sneak to earn a huge win and a memorable night in Manhattan.

2. Baylor 50, TCU 48: The first game of the entire season for the Big 12 began in style. Robert Griffin III began his Heisman campaign with five touchdown passes, but the Bears blew a 47-23 lead in just over 11 minutes, giving up 25 fourth-quarter points. Griffin, though, hauled in his only catch of the season to extend a game-winning drive on third down, and Aaron Jones booted a 37-yard game winner with just over a minute left, cueing the Baylor fans to storm the field after a game-clinching interception.

3. Oklahoma State 41, Stanford 38 (OT): This was what we thought it was. Neither defense could stop the opposing offense, and Oklahoma State converted a fourth down from Brandon Weeden to Justin Blackmon to extend the game and take the lead, but Stanford drove back down the field and missed a 35-yard field goal as time expired. It missed another kick in overtime, and OSU kicked a game-winning field goal after Colton Chelf's game-winning touchdown was overturned to just a 24-yard gain.

4. Baylor 45, Oklahoma 38: This gave way to the signature moment of Robert Griffin III's Heisman campaign, and it wasn't the 87-yard touchdown pass to Kendall Wright off Tevin Reese's helmet. The teams traded second-half leads and Oklahoma erased a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead before Griffin extended a play and hit Terrance Williams for a 34-yard, game-winning touchdown pass with eight seconds left.

5. Iowa State 37, Oklahoma State 31 (2 OT): This game made our top 10 moments of 2011, too. The Cowboys lost a 24-7 second-half lead and missed a game-winning field goal. Brandon Weeden threw an interception in the second overtime and Jeff Woody set off the biggest party in Ames in a long while with his game-winning, four-yard touchdown run in the second overtime.

6. Texas 27, Texas A&M 25: The Aggies led 10-0 and 16-7, but once again, it didn't matter. Jeff Fuller gave the Aggies back the lead with a big 16-yard touchdown with 1:48 to play. The two-point conversion failed, though, and Case McCoy got free for a 25-yard scramble that set up a 40-yard, game-winning field goal by Justin Tucker as time expired to give the Longhorns bragging rights in the heated rivalry for as long as they want, perhaps forever. The two teams aren't scheduled to meet again after A&M leaves for the SEC.

7. Oklahoma State 52, Kansas State 45: OSU fell behind 24-14 early after a pick six by Weeden, putting the undefeated season in doubt. The teams traded three touchdowns in just under two minutes, and Joseph Randle's 23-yard run gave OSU the lead for good with 3:16 to play, making it four touchdowns in three minutes. Kansas State drove to tie the game and possibly win it with a two-point conversion, but two Collin Klein passes fell incomplete, and OSU survived to move to 9-0.

8. Baylor 31, Kansas 30 (OT): This game wasn't televised, but it was quietly a classic. Baylor struggled to stop the run, and trailed 24-3 in the fourth quarter before RG3 broke a 49-yard run and hit on two long touchdown passes to tie the game. The two teams traded touchdowns in overtime, but Kansas failed to convert a game-winning two-point conversion, and Turner Gill's guts went unrewarded. Kansas also went without a win in conference play. Baylor loses this game, and RG3 doesn't win the Heisman.

9. Missouri 31, Texas Tech 27: This is a sneaky pick for our top 10 list. Texas Tech jumped out to a 14-0 lead, and Missouri trailed by 10 in the fourth quarter, but James Franklin threw one touchdown pass and ran for another to take the lead. Texas Tech drove inside the Missouri 10-yard line in the final minute, but a tipped Seth Doege pass was intercepted to give Mizzou a dramatic win.

10. Missouri 38, Texas A&M 31 (OT): The SEC bowl helped bury Texas A&M's season and spark Missouri's. The Tigers trailed by 14 early and 11 points at half before taking the lead in the fourth quarter. Randy Bullock tied the game with a field goal in the final minutes to force overtime. James Franklin hit Marcus Lucas for an 11-yard score and Ryan Tannehill's final pass was batted down as Missouri stormed the field and celebrated the end of their three-game losing streak. The Tigers would win four of their final five games, and that bounced Mizzou to 4-4 instead of 3-5. That loss for then-No. 16 Texas A&M keyed off four in the final five regular-season games, including two in overtime (K-State, Mizzou) and another as time expired (Texas).

Honorable mention: Kansas State 28, Miami 24; Baylor 67, Washington 56; Iowa State 44, Iowa 41 (3 OT); Texas 17, BYU 16; Arkansas 42, Texas A&M 38; Oklahoma State 30, Texas A&M 29.

Instant analysis: Texas A&M 33, NU 22

December, 31, 2011
12/31/11
3:19
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After a rough season that included the death of teammate Joey Villavisencio last week and the firing of coach Mike Sherman, the Aggies got a bowl win. It's been an emotional year at Texas A&M, but it will end in fine fashion with a good win over Northwestern.

The Aggies did it without top rusher Cyrus Gray, too. Gray missed his second consecutive game and the final game of his career with a stress fracture in his shoulder that he suffered early in a win over Kansas.

Here's some instant analysis.

How the game was won: Texas A&M was the better team and proved it for the first three quarters, but like we've seen all year, the team swooned in the second half. This time it came in the fourth quarter. The Aggies survived via two huge third-down catches from Uzoma Nwachukwu and Jeff Fuller to keep the ball out of Northwestern's hands in the final minutes. This season, the Aggies blew leads of 18 (Arkansas), 17 (Oklahoma State), 14 (Missouri), 13 (Texas) and 10 (Kansas State). They avoided a sixth loss in extravagant fashion this season with a clutch late drive to close out the Wildcats.

Turning point: Trailing 7-3, Texas A&M scored on its final three drives of the first half, highlighted by a vertical, 26-yard touchdown catch by Jeff Fuller from Ryan Tannehill. The Aggies took control and the Wildcats weren't able to get within realistic reach the rest of the game. The Aggies scored the first 10 points of the second half for a 30-7 lead.

Player of the game: A&M receiver Ryan Swope. Swope continued his tear this season with eight catches for 105 yards and broke a few tackles on a 37-yard catch-and-run to set up an early touchdown that put the Aggies ahead for good. Fuller had a huge catch late to seal the game, but Swope kept the A&M offense humming in the first half while it built the big lead.

Unsung hero: Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter. He spelled what looked like a gimpy Dan Persa and ran for 65 yards and a touchdown in a nice performance.

What it means: One epic bowl losing streak ended while another lives on. Northwestern had lost five bowl games going back to 1949 and made it a sixth. Texas A&M ended its eight-game bowl losing streak dating back to 2001. The Northwestern streak was represented on the sidelines by a monkey wearing a No. 63 jersey, the number of years since the Wildcats won a bowl.

Well wishes: Coryell Judie. The Aggies' kick returner and cornerback finally returned to full health against Texas on Thanksgiving after missing a handful of games with a hamstring injury. However, he suffered a fractured wrist during his final collegiate game. It's a rough break for a huge talent, but he'll hear his name called next April in the NFL draft.

Record performance: With his first field goal midway through the first quarter, kicker Randy Bullock broke Texas A&M's single-season scoring record set back in 1927. The Lou Groza Award winner surpassed Joel Hunt's record of 128 points and finished the season with 139 points after making three field goals and three extra points on Saturday.

Ranking the Big 12 bowl games

December, 12, 2011
12/12/11
11:22
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Bowl season approacheth. Two games featuring Big 12 teams will be as good as any this postseason, especially with the impending rugby match that we'll tentatively call the BCS National Championship.

Here's how the Big 12 games rank from top to bottom.

[+] EnlargeWeeden
Richard Rowe/US PresswireOklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden could be a second-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
1. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2: No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 4 Stanford - Just imagine if the opponents were switched and these two took on SEC opponents in national semifinals as part of the college football Final Four. Oh, what could have been. Either way, Brandon Weeden and Andrew Luck assure us that this will be a tight, cleanly played game with two of college football's best passers. Outside of the SEC rematch for the title, this is the best bowl game of them all.

2. AT&T Cotton Bowl, Jan. 6: No. 8 Kansas State vs. No. 6 Arkansas - The Wildcats have played heart-stoppers in what seems like every week. They're 8-1 in games decided by fewer than seven points. Why change now? This will be just the second Big 12 vs. SEC matchup this year, and both games have been in Cowboys Stadium. Texas A&M allowed a Hogs comeback, but Arkansas' potent offense will be nothing new for Kansas State, which has been compensating for them all year. The Wildcats nearly beat OSU and beat Baylor this year. Expect a wild finish.

3. Valero Alamo Bowl, Dec. 29: No. 12 Baylor vs. Washington - Beware of fireworks. Baylor's first Heisman winner, Robert Griffin III, will take the field for perhaps the final time, and expect tons of points in this one. The Huskies and Bears combine to average 75 points and give up an average of 69 points. QB Keith Price keys a good Washington attack with running back Chris Polk, who burned Nebraska for 177 yards in the Holiday Bowl last season.

4. Insight Bowl, Dec. 30: No. 14 Oklahoma vs. Iowa - The storylines are rich in this rare Big Ten meeting for the Sooners. Last year, Stoops cheered on the Hawkeyes in the Insight Bowl against Mizzou. Oklahoma will take on Stoops' alma mater this year in the warmup game for the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona. The Sooners will be without receivers Jaz Reynolds and Ryan Broyles, but Landry Jones will try and bounce back from a Bedlam blowout.

5. Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Texas A&M vs. Northwestern - The Aggies will take on QB Dan Persa and the Wildcats in nearby Houston, where the crowd should be heavily maroon. Running back Cyrus Gray is questionable, but it'll be interesting to see how A&M looks without coach Mike Sherman and a new man running the offense. Defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter will serve as interim coach, and this will be the last time Ryan Tannehill throws to receivers Jeff Fuller and Ryan Swope.

6. Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, Dec. 28: No. 24 Texas vs. California - Texas should be mostly healthy by the time this one kicks off, and running back Malcolm Brown could carry some nice momentum into his sophomore season with a big day. After numerous bowl practices leading into this one, it'll be interesting to see what Texas does at quarterback, too.

7. New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 30: Iowa State vs. Rutgers - Last year's Bronx Salute was an ugly end to a classic, but the picturesque setting in Yankee Stadium still has a big novelty factor for fans watching and in attendance for this one. The 8-4 Scarlet Knights are fourth in the Big East and should offer an interesting contrast to the eighth-place team in the Big 12. We'll see how Iowa State's offense is impacted by a maturing freshman quarterback in Jared Barnett. But it will be an offense playing for the final time with offensive coordinator Tom Herman, who will join Urban Meyer's staff at Ohio State after the season.

8. AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, Dec. 26: Missouri vs. North Carolina - The 7-5 Tigers, like 6-6 Texas A&M, didn't go to the SEC in the fashion they would have liked. But even if it's a middling bowl game, don't underestimate the momentum that can be established by a win. Ask Oklahoma, which grew up a lot in a win over Stanford in the 2009 Sun Bowl before winning the Big 12 in 2010. That's especially true for a team returning a lot next year like Mizzou, even if it will take on a whole new schedule.

How would you rank the bowls?
On Monday, I pegged Texas A&M as the Big 12's biggest disappointment after a season that began with Big 12 title hopes and a top 10 ranking and ended with a 6-6 record and the firing of coach Mike Sherman.

That prompted a few e-mails from you, though, which expressed a different sentiment.

Mike in Red Oak wrote: David- You have said several times that A&M was the biggest disappointment. I would say being ranked #1 in the nation at the first of the year like OU was and ending the season in the Insight Bowl playing Iowa is pretty disappointing. True?

It's an interesting point, and certainly debatable. Oklahoma had to deal with more impactful injuries, though Texas A&M lost Christine Michael against Oklahoma and Cyrus Gray didn't play against Texas. Jeff Fuller played most of the season, but was slowed by a few injuries himself. Coryell Judie, one of the league's pre-emanate playmakers in the special teams and one of its best corners, missed a lot of time with a hamstring injury.

But what about the Sooners? The loss of Ryan Broyles late in the season was costly, and Oklahoma lost two of its three final games, including a blowout loss to Oklahoma State. For all of Texas A&M's losses, Oklahoma was the only team to beat it by more than one score.

Oklahoma embraced the high expectations before the season, though. The self-declared "Chase for Eight" will end in Arizona, though, and not for the Fiesta Bowl, where the Sooners played last year.

Which team was more disappointing, though?

Oklahoma? Or Texas A&M?

Season recap: Texas A&M

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
4:00
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TEXAS A&M AGGIES

Record: 6-6 (4-5)

Through all the rough moments for the Aggies in 2011, the lasting image will be the ecstatic Longhorns sideline emptying onto Kyle Field to chase down Justin Tucker, who kicked a game-winning field goal to beat A&M in the final iteration of the Lone Star Showdown. Texas might come to College Station again at some point before the end of the world, but with an ending like that, it could be awhile. The Aggies are headed to the SEC, but did it with one of the most disappointing seasons in school history, which resulted in coach Mike Sherman's postseason firing.

By now, the numbers are well known. The Aggies were good enough to lead 11 games by double digits and bad enough to lose six of those games. It was truly maddening. Texas A&M was so, so much better than 6-6, and stocked with as much talent as any team in the Big 12, and maybe the country. Why were there so many second-half meltdowns? Sherman and everyone else involved never figured it out, and the Aggies will try and bring in a coach to fix it.

Offensive MVP: Ryan Swope, wide receiver. This is a bit of an upset, but the only other option is going with Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael as a shared option. Both could be replaced by the other and missed key games, but Swope was consistent most of the year, and played his best in conference games. He finished with a team-high 81 catches for 1,102 yards with 11 touchdowns. He was one of only four Big 12 receivers to top 1,000 yards receiving. Even with his year, the former high school running back might be the most underrated player in the Big 12. Without him, Texas A&M's passing game wouldn't have been functional, and without that, what happens to the running game?

Defensive MVP: Sean Porter, linebacker. Porter's production slowed a bit late in the season, though he did notch 2.5 tackles for loss against Texas. Even still, he had one of the best years of any defender in the Big 12. He led the team with 16 tackles for loss and had 8.5 sacks. He finished with 73 tackles.

Turning point: The loss to Oklahoma State. That's the game that started it all and was the first of many blown leads. The 20-3 halftime lead was gone before the end of the third quarter, and the 30-29 loss cost them control of the Big 12. That didn't matter long, of course. A&M blew another lead to Arkansas a week later, but the three-game losing streak to Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas State officially made the 2011 season a wash.

What’s next: They'll be walking into the SEC West with a yet-t0-be-determined coach and lots of new faces. The first year in the SEC could be rough. Tannehill is gone, Gray is gone, Jeff Fuller is gone after an underwhelming senior season and four of the top eight tacklers are gone. That's a whole lot of production. A new quarterback, likely Jameill Showers, will have to adjust to much tougher defenses in a new league. The Aggies will rely on a very experienced offensive line and power back, Michael.

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
12:40
AM CT
Texas A&M (6-6) vs. Northwestern (6-6)

Dec. 31, noon ET (ESPN)

Texas A&M take from Big 12 blogger David Ubben: The Aggies are in a state of turmoil. They have no coach and the players are understandably shaken up about it. Mike Sherman was loved around College Station, and his super classy exit press conference showed all the reasons why. Ultimately, Texas A&M's much-ballyhooed second-half failures ended Sherman's tenure as the head Aggie. The numbers are well-known by now, but still staggering. They tell the story of how a preseason top 10 team with as much talent as any in the Big 12 ends up at 6-6. Five halftime leads of double digits and another by nine against rival Texas. All were losses.

That doesn't change the talent on the field. Running back Cyrus Gray will likely return from injury, as will quarterback Ryan Tannehill with top targets Ryan Swope and Jeff Fuller. They'll play with an offensive line that has some legit NFL talent, a credit to Sherman's recruiting acumen as a coach with an offensive line background. Texas A&M is already assured of leaving the Big 12 with a bitter taste en route to the SEC next season, but a bowl win might help ... if only a little bit.


Northwestern take from Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern will play in a bowl for a team-record fourth consecutive year, but the Wildcats are still looking for that elusive postseason win after a disappointing 2011 campaign.

As players and coaches often are reminded, Northwestern hasn’t won a bowl game since the 1949 Rose. The Wildcats have come close the past three seasons, particularly in the 2010 Outback Bowl, but they’ve fallen short each time. While Texas A&M’s motivation might be a question mark after its recent coaching change, Northwestern will be geared up.

The good news is that unlike last year, Northwestern will have top quarterback Dan Persa on the field for its bowl. Although Persa didn’t look nearly as dominant this season as he did in 2010, he still led the Big Ten in passing (240.3 ypg) and completed 74.2 percent of his passes with 17 touchdown strikes and seven interceptions. Persa and the offense will need to put up points as Northwestern’s defense has struggled mightily this season and in the recent bowl losses. The Wildcats will be without top cornerback Jordan Mabin against Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill and his talented group of receivers.

This will be a virtual road game for Northwestern in Houston, as Texas A&M fans will pack Reliant Stadium. But Pat Fitzgerald’s teams often play better on the road than at home, as they are 14-8 on the road since the start of the 2008 season.

One last A&M loss on the way to the SEC

November, 25, 2011
11/25/11
12:58
AM CT

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The deed was done.

Amidst a stream of long-faced Aggies fans filing out of the Kyle Field bleachers, a single hand flashed the most famous hand signal in Texas -- the hook 'em Horns -- and let out a primal "Yeah!"

Minutes earlier, the Aggies watched Justin Tucker flutter a 40-yard kick through the uprights for a 27-25 Texas win, leaving the worst phrase in sports behind for the A&M faithful.

"Better luck next year."

Or not.

The deepest burn in the Aggies' self-inflicted wound on Thursday night was the Longhorns' absence a year from now, and likely many years in the future. Thanksgiving will come and go. The Longhorns won't be coming to College Station. The Aggies won't march to Austin.

These bitter rivals have undergone this joyous ritual 118 times in their history dating back to 1894. They won't again for the foreseeable future when Texas A&M kicks off its SEC schedule next fall and the Longhorns stay behind in the Big 12.

[+] EnlargeCase McCoy
AP Photo/David J. PhillipA 25-yard run by quarterback Case McCoy helped set up the Longhorns for the game-winning field goal.
On Thursday night, the Aggies' biggest flaw flashed its face one more time, and Texas A&M will be forced to live with it for years to come.

"Seems like it's the same comment I've made before," coach Mike Sherman said before being asked a single question after the loss.

Another double-digit first-half lead -- nine at halftime -- and another crushing loss.

"Probably the hardest loss I've had since I've been here," said senior receiver Jeff Fuller.

Thursday marked the fifth time this season the Aggies controlled the game's first 30 minutes before ceding to chaos in the final stanza. In 12 outings this season, the Aggies were favored to win 11 times. They finish 6-6. A middling December bowl game awaits. For all the pain and frustration of this season -- losses at home to Oklahoma State, Missouri and a loss to future SEC foe Arkansas at Cowboys Stadium were among the worst -- a win against hated Texas would have made a disappointing 2011 season feel a bit more complete.

Fuller's 16-yard touchdown catch to snatch back the lead with 1:48 left made it feel oh so close.

"I didn't notice anybody panicking," said Sherman, now 25-25 in four seasons at Texas A&M. "If you look at our sideline, it's not a panicked sideline. It never has been. It never will be. We pretty much keep our composure."

Texas' offense, better than just two Big 12 teams, patching together a game-winning drive? Don't count on it.

In the cruelest of fashions, the improbable silenced the nearly hoarse 12th Man. Sophomore Case McCoy -- brother of perennial Aggie-annoyance Colt -- slipped past a pass rush for a 25-yard scramble to bring a second comeback in a single half near its completion.

This was the way it's always been. In many ways, it was how it had to end. The Longhorns, aka Big Brother, getting the best of the Aggies, ripping out a heart flush with hope from a touchdown pass to Fuller that embodied clutch.

Land grant versus the flagship. All too cruel. All too poetic.

"The young guys aren't going to get a chance to come back in the spring, work as hard as they can and avenge this loss," safety Trent Hunter said.

A loss that fit the mold of nearly every other defeat this season left Sherman saying words of frustration that were exceeded only by their familiarity.

"This was a game that we should have won," he said. "And we didn't."

Turnovers, an offense gone cold and a defense that looked lost let the Longhorns back into the game and kept the Aggies from scratching a seventh satisfying notch in the win column, even when so many more -- 10 wins? Eleven? -- could have gone the Aggies' way.

"We set our standards high and we didn't achieve what we wanted to. It's always difficult," Hunter said.

Instead, a tearful, silent locker room with nothing left to say and a future that's looking all the more imposing by the day. One of Texas A&M's most talented teams in recent history, forced to write 6-6 in the record books, complete with a loss to Texas.

"The Texas-Texas A&M game speaks for itself," said running back Ben Malena. "But we're going to the SEC next year, so we've got bigger and better things to worry about."

Indeed you do, Aggies.

Swope stepping into spotlight as top target

October, 19, 2011
10/19/11
9:00
AM CT
Ryan SwopeBrett Davis/US PresswireReceiver Ryan Swope has become one of Texas A&M's most talented weapons on offense.
The comparisons are inevitable, and already in progress.

Texas A&M receiver Ryan Swope first heard them from teammates near the end of last season. At some point in their careers, any less-than-towering receiver who happens to play in the slot and is, yes, white, will hear the same.

"Man, he totally reminds me of Wes Welker!"

Swope's OK with the comparisons.

"He’s actually one of my favorite players to watch. He’s a competitor, and I just love seeing how he plays the game," Swope said. "He’s not the biggest guy you’ll ever see and to be compared to a guy like that is really special. I really look up to him and love watching him play the game. He really plays fearless."

Fact is, other than their stellar on-field production, the two don't have much in common. Welker checks in at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds.

PODCAST
Landry Locker and Trey Fallon of ESPN Dallas are joined by TexAgs.com's Brandon Leone to discuss the Aggies' win over Baylor, how much the meltdowns earlier this season still hurt and the upcoming game against Iowa State.

Listen Listen
Swope is a former Texas All-State running back with three more inches and about 25 more pounds on his frame. He uses it, too. His compact frame makes him one of the most difficult players in the league to tackle.

He showed it on Saturday, slipping out of a tackle and racing another 50 yards for one of his two 68-yard touchdown catches. He beat the defense over the top for his other one.

"Saturday was a good day," Swope said.

In Saturday's win over Baylor, Swope maybe never looked more like a running back who happened to have great hands and feet that have refined their ability to run sharp routes.

He finished with 11 catches for 206 yards and a school-record four touchdowns.

"I feel like [Texas A&M receivers] coach [Troy] Walters has done a great job of teaching me how to really run a route and explode out of my break," Swope said.

His teammate, 6-foot-4, 220-pound Jeff Fuller shrugged off an NFL paycheck a year ago to come back for another season at Texas A&M. Swope, however, has outpaced Fuller with 40 catches for 619 yards and six scores to Fuller's 32 catches, 351 yards and two touchdowns.

"It's a real special combination," Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said of the Aggies new top pass-catch combo. "It's become that way because of the way they both practice; they practice at game speed. When you do that the game is not too fast. Things don't change so the timing and the tempo of the play exists in practice and carries over to the game. It allows them the opportunity to be on the same page on game day."

Fuller has been slowed by a nagging hamstring injury suffered in preseason camp. He also suffered a concussion in a win over Texas Tech earlier this season. While Fuller has fought through those injuries, Swope has more than picked up the slack.

"Defenders have to keep an eye on Jeff and it kind of opens things up for me inside in the middle," Swope said. "Not only that, but we’ve got such an explosive backfield with Cyrus [Gray] and Christine Michael back there doing what they do. You can’t ever pinpoint one guy on the field, you have to keep an eye on every guy, and I’ve just, we’ve spread the ball around."

Texas A&M can do anything it wants offensively, but even with an early-round NFL draft pick and two of the Big 12's best running backs on the field, Swope has made a strong case as the Aggies' top talent.

Source: Jeff Fuller to play for A&M vs. Baylor

October, 14, 2011
10/14/11
3:22
PM CT


Texas A&M wide receiver Jeff Fuller (McKinney Boyd) has been cleared by physicians and is eligible to return from a concussion and play against Baylor on Saturday, a source told ESPN.com's Joe Schad.

Fuller, who suffered a concussion early in the game vs. Texas Tech, has 27 catches for 280 yards and two touchdowns. The receiver had 1,066 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

Q&A: Texas A&M receiver Jeff Fuller

September, 23, 2011
9/23/11
9:30
AM CT
We spent a few minutes with No. 7 Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden on Thursday, and today, it's time for a look at the other side of Saturday's big game: No. 8 Texas A&M.

PODCAST
Landry Locker is joined by Brandon Leone of TexAgs.com to discuss No. 8 Texas A&M's upcoming game against No. 7 Oklahoma State.

Listen Listen
Aggies receiver Jeff Fuller spoke to ESPN.com for a few minutes this week.

David Ubben: What do you remember most about last year's game?

Jeff Fuller: That we lost, for sure. Last year was a tough loss with a lot of turnovers. Oklahoma State's a great team, but I feel like there's a lot of things we could have done ourselves to perfect our game dramatically so we could have less turnovers and things like that that would have given us a better chance to win the ball game.

What are you expecting from the crowd in a game like this?

Oh, man. I expect the 12th Man to be out there loud and proud like they are every game. This is the first time we've had two top 10 teams playing at Kyle Field [since 1975] and it's going to be a wonderful venue and we're just looking forward to going out there and playing my best.

What's the environment like inside the facilities in a week like this?

Everything is real tight. Every day we're in meetings and everybody is really engaged. Coach [Mike] Sherman keeps on harping on us to not beat ourselves, so it's just kind of staying on top of the little things, the details to kind of perfect everything so we'll be ready to play on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeJeff Fuller
AP Photo/David J. PhillipTexas A&M wide receiver Jeff Fuller says beating Oklahoma State "would be huge."
Is this the most experienced team you guys have had in College Station?

I think so. We came in here with Coach Sherman, all of us. Tony Jerod-Eddie, Trent Hunter, Terrance Frederick. We're all Coach Sherman's guys and he kind of brought us up in his system and I think we started like, I don't even know how many freshmen, but I know we started more freshmen than anybody in college football my sophomore year, so we were young. That class is now seniors, and those freshmen are now juniors, and it's really exciting to see guys getting better and perfect things, all the little things, all the small details to make ourselves really a complete team.

Where does that experience pay off most on the field?

It pays off everywhere. Hopefully, we'll do a little bit better job of holding on to the football, we'll do a better job of just not turning the ball over and getting those small details right. Not miss one play and just get a lot of snaps.

What do you feel like a win in this game would mean to the program and fan base?

Being 3-0 would be huge. It would be a huge victory for us. The first two games, we had Idaho and SMU, two great teams, but they were nonconference games, but this is where it really counts. We're just trying to head into this game and try to put another victory on the board.

Big 12 did you know: Week 3

September, 16, 2011
9/16/11
2:00
PM CT


Time for another round of facts and tidbits via ESPN Stats and Info and various sports information departments around the Big 12.

We love you all.
  • The Big 12 played two overtime games last week. That's the same number of overtime games involving Big 12 teams in the past three seasons.
  • Since 2009, Landry Jones is 33-of-44 for 18 touchdowns on red zone pass attempts to Ryan Broyles. He's 61-for-120 for 22 touchdowns and two interceptions when targeting the rest of the team.
  • On the road, while facing four or fewer pass-rushers, Jones has 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while completing 63 percent of his passes.
  • Against blitzes in all games since the 2010 season, he has 10 touchdowns and two interceptions, while completing just under 67 percent of his passes. When targeting Broyles in those scenarios, he has completed 71 percent of his passes, compared to 63 percent for the rest of his offense.
  • Broyles' 19 red-zone touchdowns are six more than any active player in college football, but Texas A&M's Jeff Fuller is tied with Michael Floyd at Notre Dame for second, with 13.
  • Last year, against Florida State, Broyles finished with 12 catches for 124 yards. Eight of his catches and 67 of his yards came on passes behind or at the line of scrimmage.
  • Last week's 26-yard reception on a swing pass was the first catch of Texas running back D.J. Monroe's career.
  • Baylor's No. 19 ranking is its highest since 1991.
  • Landry Jones has 38 touchdowns and six interceptions in home games during his career. On the road (not neutral site), he has 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
  • Through two games, 10 of Texas' 14 passes thrown by David Ash and Case McCoy have been for 10 yards or less, including six screen passes.
  • UCLA ran for 264 yards against Texas last year, more than any other Longhorn opponent.
  • Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz's 57-yard completion to Aaron Horne was the longest for the Cyclones since 2005.
  • Bears quarterback Robert Griffin III leads the nation in passing efficiency, though he's played just one game.
  • However, with no limitations on attempts, Baylor receiver Kendall Wright has a passer rating of 496, well ahead of Griffin's 250.6. Wright is 2-of-2 this season for 55 yards and a touchdown.
  • Kansas has just one player on its roster from the state of Georgia. Georgia has no Kansans on its roster.
  • Kansas State is 11-5 coming off a bye week under Bill Snyder.
  • Texas Tech true freshman linebacker Blake Dees graded out as the defense's top performer in the season opener.
  • Big 12 officials have reviewed 34 plays so far this season, overturning 12 calls.
  • Kansas scored 89 points in its first four games last season. This year, it has 87 points through two weeks.
  • Missouri is 10-0 all-time against FCS opponents. It plays Western Illinois on Saturday.
  • Baylor and Stephen F. Austin haven't met since 1947, but the Lumberjacks never scored in the previous three meetings.
  • Baylor's Wright needs 122 receiving yards to become the school's all-time leader.
  • Missouri's streak of 22 consecutive nonconference wins stretching back to 2005 ended with last Friday's loss to Arizona State.
  • Texas Tech has nine consecutive seasons of at least eight wins. That's tied for fifth nationally and only Oklahoma has more in the Big 12, with 11. Boise State and Virginia Tech are the only schools with more.
  • Oklahoma State has scored a touchdown on its first offensive possession and forced a punt on its first defensive possession in both games this season.
  • The only score K-State gave up in its 10-7 opening win against Eastern Kentucky came after a fumble on the Wildcats' one-yard line.
  • Oklahoma State has won nine of its past 10 road games.

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