Dallas Colleges: Robert Griffin
One glimpse at the image above makes it clear offensive firepower leads the way when the perception of the conference comes up. During various media days around the country, ESPN.com talked to players from each conference to get a feel for how the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, and SEC are perceived by players from other BCS conferences.
Several words stood out among the various responses, and the absence of others shouldn’t go unnoticed:
No-huddle offense: The Big 12 is known for its up-tempo, high-scoring offenses. Five Big 12 teams ranked among the nation’s top 25 in total snaps in 2012 with Baylor leading the way with 1072 offensive plays, according to ESPN Stats and Info. The relentless nature of the Big 12’s no-huddle offenses leads to the big plays, individual award winners, and recognition that makes playing in the conference a dream come true for skill players across the nation.
Baylor: The Bears' inclusion shows just how far Baylor has come thanks to Robert Griffin III and coach Art Briles. Baylor’s name recognition is as high as its ever been, and the Bears have been backing it up in recent years with bowl appearances in each of the past three seasons. They’ve been making a strong impression on the recruiting trail as well, evidenced by the recent commitment of ESPN300 receiver K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant), who spurned offers from Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and others.
Competitive conference: Everyone took notice as nine of the ten teams in the conference participated in a bowl in 2012. Baylor finished 4-5 in Big 12 play, but hammered then-BCS No. 1 and eventual conference co-champion Kansas State, 52-24, to knock the Wildcats out of BCS title contention. From top to bottom, it’s tough to beat the overall competitiveness of the Big 12, which features good games and great players on a weekly basis.
Noticeably absent: While some words jumped out, the absence of others is just as captivating. Texas joined Baylor as the lone individual schools named (other than an rather odd dislike of Kansas), while Oklahoma was nowhere to be found. There was a time when thoughts of the Big 12 immediately brought the Sooners to mind.
Defense is another word that could be considered missing, and some would argue that actual defense is nowhere to be found in the league either. True or not, it's clear the national perception of the Big 12 Conference is all offense, no defense.
Griffin is a junior, but he was granted a redshirt in 2009 after sustaining a devastating knee injury that he's clearly put behind him. He graduated last December with a degree in political science three years after enrolling at Baylor. He is a top three Heisman candidate and depending which draft boards you look at he could be as high as the third quarterback selected in April's NFL draft.
What he has meant to Baylor's football fortunes on the field and its profile off it is practically immeasurable. Coach Art Briles, who first recruited the Copperas Cove star to Houston before taking the Baylor job, would certainly love to have Griffin's rare combination of brilliant athleticism on the field and humility off it for one more season.
It might be wishful thinking.
"It’s something I’ve got to decide with coach Briles, coach Kaz Kazardi, our strength coach who’s played in the NFL, my family and anybody else who’s out there that I’ve felt close to to give me advice," Griffin said last week before sustaining a concussion and being knocked out early in the Bears' 66-42 victory over Texas Tech. "I don’t want it to be about money or about draft status or anything. If it’s time for me to go then it’s time for me to go. But, if I come back it won’t be because I’m not a high enough draft pick, it will be because God told me this is where I need to be, and I’m definitely proud to be a part of what’s going on here at Baylor."
What's going on at Baylor is a second consecutive bowl berth, an eight-win season for the first time since 1991 and the possibility of the first nine-win season since 1986 and first 10-win season since 1980. Such progress is a testament to the entire program, from Briles on down, but who can fathom the Bears being this good without a gem like Griffin at the helm?
He will have a decision to make. Some say it shouldn't be difficult, that he should not risk injury playing another year in college and go to the NFL in April. It will be his call.
"It’s something that I’ll decide, but right now I am a Baylor Bear," Griffin said. "We’re guaranteed [two] games, but I’m not guaranteed another day, so I’m going to make sure I seize every moment as a Baylor Bear."
The first was the season-opening, 50-48 win over recent nemesis TCU. The second happened Saturday night after a remarkable, 45-38 victory over then-No. 5 Oklahoma. Griffin led a five-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in just 43 seconds to put the Bears ahead with 50 seconds to play. His 34-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams sealed it and gave Baylor its first-ever win over the Sooners in 21 meetings.
Griffin threw for 479 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. As fans chanted, "Heisman-Heisman-Heisman," what moment could be finer?
Well, Griffin, said he can think of one.
"The best moment I’ve had since I’ve been here was last year when we beat K-State to get bowl eligible (for first time since 1994) because it was more than about just this team," the junior for Copperas Cove said this week. "It was about all of the guys that had come through who didn’t get to experience the bowl game and just to get that burden off of Baylor Nation."
With a 7-3 record (4-3 in Big 12), Griffin and the Bears will be bowling again, but more team goals are within their grasp. They can finish as high as tied for second in the conference, and a 10-win season is a possibility for the first time since 1980 when the Bears won the Southwest Conference.
They'll seek to post an eighth victory for the first time since the 1991 season Saturday night at Cowboy Stadium against Texas Tech before closing the regular season at home against Texas on Dec. 3.
Perhaps if Griffin guides the Bears through those two final traps after stunning the Sooners, he'll have to reconsider his most memorable moment. Or at least reclassify it in the plural, as his most memorable moments.
Andy Dalton diced the Bears for 11 consecutive completions to start the game and touchdowns on TCU's first five drives. By halftime the Frogs had racked up 558 yards and led hopeful, yet woefully overwhelmed Baylor, 35-3.
The teams meet again Friday night to open an intriguing 2011 season for both. This time the game will be played in Waco. This time the Bears return the experienced QB in Griffin as the 14th-ranked Frogs break in Dalton's replacement, sophomore Casey Pachall.
So what did the Bears take away from last season's 45-10 spanking?
"I guess you can't take a lot away from it because we didn’t leave much there," Baylor coach Art Briles said during Monday's Big 12 coaches teleconference. "We haven’t really discussed it that much."
Maybe not, but TCU coach Gary Patterson certainly doesn't buy that Bears have forgotten that September pummeling. Why else, Patterson noted, would the Bears, eager contenders in the Big 12 South, supposedly sign "Beat TCU" on posters during a meet-and-greet with fans?
"We know this, when a team plays with hatred, which is what they are going to be, then you have a caged animal," Patterson said. "You’re going to have to go in and take the ballgame. They signed every one of their posters down there, “Beat TCU” at Meet the Bears Days. We get online. We see what’s being said and I hear everything that’s below the line. You don’t hear anything from us because we’ve been where we’ve been and we understand we have to be the best football team we can be."
You also don't hear anything because for more than two weeks Patterson has had his practices locked down to outsiders and his players' mouths under lock and key as far as the media is concerned. The lone voice emanating from TCU practices for most of this long, hot month has been that of the head coach.
That's Patterson's M.O. before playing in-state opponents. He doesn't want to give his players an opportunity to fire up a foe with words. But, it's also because Patterson isn't exactly sure what he'll see from a team with plenty of new starters that don't get as much attention as the one under center.
As for Briles' bunch, he's certainly hoping that after rebounding to finish 7-6 and end a 16-year bowl drought last season that his team will more prepared to handle TCU this time around.
"Quite honestly, I think our mentality will be better possibly than what it was a year ago," he said. "Last year, certainly we were in a stage of wondering where we were as a football team. I think we grew a little bit as a team as the year went on as most teams do. But this year, I think starting out we’re farther along than what we were a year ago at this time."
With the college football season just around the corner, the Maxwell Football Club announced watch lists for two of its awards Tuesday.
The Maxwell Award has been presented to the country's top collegiate football player since 1937. The Bednarik Award, which has been around since 1995, goes to the nation's top defensive player.
The lists include 15 candidates from Big 12 South and DFW schools. Returning Maxwell semifinalists include Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin.
The Big 12 South landed 11 players on the lists. TCU has three representatives on the list: running back Ed Wesley and linebackers Tanner Brock and Tank Carder. SMU running back Zach Line is also up for the Maxwell.
Semifinalists for the awards will be announced Oct. 31st, and the three finalists for each will be revealed Nov. 21. Winners will be announced as part of the Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Show on Dec. 8.
Watch lists for the Biletnikoff and Mackey Awards will be released Wednesday.
It's Big 12 day for ESPNDallas.com, so let's preview the upcoming season with a cavalcade of content for you to digest. So let's get rolling ...
* There was little doubt that Jerrod Johnson would follow in his father's shoes to Texas A&M. Even though his father has passed, Johnson is still following his advice. Click here for David Ubben's story on the A&M quarterback.
* Last season, Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Texas' Garrett Gilbert were thrown into impossible situations. Both quarterbacks emerged from their trial by fire stronger and more focused. Click here for Pat Forde's story.
* Tommy Tuberville ushers in a new era at Texas Tech.
* David Ubben provides five things to watch in the Big 12 in 2010. You can chat with David at 1 p.m. today.
* Tom Osborne has been the steady hand behind the wheel for Nebraska football for many years. But this offseason, Osborne and the Cornhuskers had to embrace a change to the Big Ten because change to the Big 12 already had compromised what it held dear. You can chat with Pat at 3 p.m. today.
Want to hear it straight from the players and coaches. Here are a few videos for your viewing pleasure:
* Oklahoma's Bob Stoops talks about facing a tough 2010 schedule with a roster at full strength.
* Texas' Mack Brown talks about replacing Colt McCoy and adapting a new offense to Garrett Gilbert.
* David Ubben talks to Texas A&M QB Jerrod Johnson about his Aggie upbringing.
* Baylor’s Art Briles and QB Robert Griffin III discuss Baylor's upcoming season for First Take.
"Not many people are perfect and not many people repeat being perfect," Patterson said afterward. "But we're going to try to be."
That's life in a non-automatic-qualifying conference. Ninenty-nine percent of the time a BCS berth is going to require a perfect season. The pursuit begins Wednesday when the team reports and practices begin Thursday, just as temperatures are expected to soar above 100 degrees.
"We've got 54 lettermen coming back with a bunch of starters coming back on offense and defense, but chemistry and all the other things and how you stay healthy go into it," Patterson said. "People expect you to be 12-0. To live up to that you have to have something go right for you and it will be tougher to do this year. The teams are better than they were a year ago that we'll play in the conference and we play an unbelievable non-conference schedule."
The nonconference schedule begins in grand fashion on Sept. 4 when the Horned Frogs play Oregon State at Cowboys Stadium. TCU also faces improved SMU on the road, plus a home game against a bowl-or-bust Baylor team excited about the return of quarterback Robert Griffin.
"We understand what we have in front of us," Patterson said, "and what we have to be able to get accomplished to get done what we need to do."
*Stadium renovation funding near complete: Patterson said the school will soon announce that it has hit its fundraising goal and will begin a much-needed overhaul of Amon G. Carter Stadium after the season. Also, Patterson said, plans are in place to completely revamp the football weight room and locker room over the next two seasons.
*Uniform surprise? Patterson hinted that the Frogs could be wearing new duds for the Sept. 4 season opener at Cowboys Stadium. "We've got a couple games -- at least one game, could be two games -- where we've got a chance for a special uniform this year," Patterson said. "Who knows, it may even be the first game."
TCU debuted the Nike Pro Combat uniform that included the grey helmet with thin red striping (supposed to represent blood real Horned Frogs spit as a defense mechanism) last season against Utah and brought them back for the Fiesta Bowl against Boise State. Patterson said the team still has those uniforms, but he seemed to be suggesting that a new uniform could be in the fold for the opener. The Frogs, Patterson said, will also still wear their traditional uniform -- black paints, purple jerseys and purple helmets -- although he said those uniforms have changed "just a little bit."
*Practice at JerryWorld: TCU is working out a date for the team to practice at Cowboys Stadium in anticipation of the Sept. 4 opener against Oregon State.
Healthy squad: Patterson said his team enters fall camp with no significant injuries. Linebacker Tank Carder, who had shoulder surgery during spring practice, is cleared to begin practice.
So we couldn't ask Griffin himself how he was feeling. But Briles said he's been pleased by Griffin's progress, though he won't no for sure if Griffin is 100 percent until the first snap of the regular season.
"He's really done exactly what we thought he would do," Briles said. "When you get something taken away from you, you respond two different ways. You can pout, complain, sulk, cry and fall into a shell, or you fight, you grind, you have vision, you have hope and you work harder than you've every worked in your life. That's what Robert has done and that's what we knew he would do."
Briles said Griffin weighs 217 pounds, up nine pounds from where he was a year ago.
"Everything he's done since his injury has been [in] a structured atmosphere," Briles said. "So in that structured atmosphere, he's really in great shape."
Briles acknowledged that there's no way to tell if Griffin has completely returned to form until he gets on the field.
"That's how you determine where you're physically is when you make movements without your brain working first," Briles said. "And so that's the thing that I think we'll see as the season goes along. But from a physical standpoint right now, he's in really good shape."
SMU sophomore Kyle Padron heads into a highly anticipated sophomore season after leading the Mustangs to its first bowl game in a quarter-century. He threw for 460 yards and two touchdowns in the 45-10 victory over Nevada to run away with the MVP trophy.
To the west, TCU senior Andy Dalton is finally on the national radar as a top-notch quarterback. He heads into his final season attempting to guide the Horned Frogs to a second consecutive BCS bowl berth.
The five Big 12 quarterbacks on the list are: Robert Griffin (Baylor), Taylor Potts (Texas Tech), Jerrod Johnson (Texas A&M), Blaine Gabbert (Missouri) and Landry Jones (Oklahoma).
Houston quarterback Case Keenum, who opted to return to school rather than enter the NFL draft, is also a nominee.
The list will be narrowed to 16 semifinalists on Oct. 25 and pared to three finalists on Nov. 22. Texas' Colt McCoy won the 2009 honor.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Part 2 of the articles on OSU's involvment in academic fraud was released. Some claim the expose is unfounded. Ian and Richard warn that there are two sides to all stories.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mack Brown, Manny Diaz and all the latest with the Texas Longhorns.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett give you the latest on the Johnny Manziel story and Charles Barkley weighs in. You won't believe who the outspoken NBA Hall of Famer is disappointed in and what he thinks about the autograph allegations.
Play Podcast Kirk Herbstreit joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett for his weekly visit to preview the 2013 college football season.
Play Podcast Former TCU and current Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the expectations for the Bengals this season, give a prediction for the TCU-LSU game and talk about what it's like having the Hard Knocks cameras follow him.
Play Podcast Randy Galloway, Matt Mosley, and Mark Friedman react to Dez Bryant's comments regarding the NCAA's ongoing investigation of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Play Podcast Richard Durrett, Ian Fitzsimmons and Glenn "Stretch" Smith react to Dez Bryant sounding off yesterday after practice about Johnny Manziel and the shadiness of the NCAA.
Play Podcast Former NCAA investigator and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to weigh in on the Johnny Manziel drama and give some insight as to what goes on during an NCAA investigation.