Dallas Colleges: Urban Meyer

What we learned in the Big Ten: Week 4

September, 22, 2013
9/22/13
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Five lessons from the week that was in Big Ten football:

1. Wisconsin-Ohio State could be the Big Ten's game of the year: In recent years, the Badgers-Buckeyes matchups have been more significant than Ohio State-Michigan or any other conference pairing. This week's showdown at Ohio Stadium could be just as significant. Ohio State is the Big Ten's best team, and Wisconsin might be No. 2 after another dominant rushing performance against Purdue. Both teams ascribe to the power run game but do it in vastly different yet equally entertaining ways. Although the Kenny G show has been terrific for the Buckeyes, top quarterback Braxton Miller should be back for the Big Ten opener. Miller might not be the biggest offensive star on the field, as Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon has performed as advertised, racking up 624 rush yards and seven touchdowns in the first four games. The game features first-year Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen going up against his former boss, Urban Meyer. One of these teams has held at least a share of the past eight Big Ten titles. The winner takes control of the Leaders Division. Should be a great one.

[+] EnlargeDevin Gardner, Jefferson Ashiru
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesMichigan quarterback Devin Gardner had another three turnovers in the Wolverines' close win over UConn.
2. Michigan has real problems: It was tempting to write off Michigan's struggle to beat Akron last week as a hangover from the high-stakes Notre Dame game. But no hangovers the past two weeks. The Wolverines found themselves down two touchdowns in the second half Saturday night at UConn, the same Huskies team that lost at home by 15 to Towson in the opener. Michigan rallied for the 24-21 win, and at least Brady Hoke's team has shown grit at the end of games the past three weeks. But quarterback Devin Gardner committed three more turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble), and he has devolved from potential Heisman candidate to a potential problem spot in just a fortnight. An even thornier issue is the continued inability of the Michigan offensive line to open consistent holes for the running game. If the Wolverines are having trouble running the ball against Akron and UConn, what's going to happen in Big Ten play? There's plenty of time for Hoke & Co. to right the ship, and the upcoming bye week is a welcome sight. But right now, Michigan does not look like the top-15 team we thought it was two weeks ago.

3. The Iowa-Minnesota game has added meaning: We love the pig, but there's a lot more than the Floyd of Rosedale at stake (steak?) this week as Iowa and Minnesota open Big Ten play in Minneapolis. Both teams have shown improvement, especially with their power running games, and enter the matchup with momentum. Iowa exploded for 38 first-half points Saturday against Western Michigan and finished with 59, its highest total since 2002. The Hawkeyes received contributions in all three phases, including two punt return touchdowns from receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley and two pick-sixes from cornerback B.J. Lowery. Iowa's defense has yet to allow a rushing touchdown. After a miserable offensive performance in 2012, Iowa is starting to establish an identity behind its line and a stable of running backs. Minnesota is doing the same, finally showing it can control the line of scrimmage and dominate on the ground. Despite not having its starting quarterback (Philip Nelson) or starting running back (Donnell Kirkwood), Minnesota racked up 353 yards and six rushing touchdowns, including four by backup signal-caller Mitch Leidner, in an impressive win against San Jose State. The Gophers are 4-0 for the second straight season. Both teams have very challenging league schedules, so getting off to a 1-0 start is huge. Big one at TCF Bank Stadium this week.

4. Bo Pelini is still standing, but needs time to regroup: The open week couldn't come at a better time for Nebraska's coach and his team, which ended an emotional week with a 59-20 thumping of FCS South Dakota State. The firestorm from audio-gate should die down, at least a little, as Pelini got through Saturday's game without any further controversy, and received mostly support from Huskers fans. Pelini is hardly out of the woods, though, and must turn his attention to a defense that needs a ton of work before Big Ten play begins Oct. 5 against Illinois. The Huskers surrendered 465 yards to the Jackrabbits, who had a balanced attack (238 yards passing, 227 yards rushing). Pelini called it the defense's worst performance in a season filling up with them. Whether it's youth, talent, scheme or attention to detail, Nebraska's defense must get back on track soon. Although the schedule remains favorable the next month or so, it's hard to see the Huskers repeating as Legends Division champs without some significant upgrades on D.

5. Indiana still hasn't arrived: Indiana entered the year with high hopes for a bowl game this year, and with a warp-speed offense averaging 50 points a game through three weeks, the Hoosiers didn't appear to be deluding themselves. But after an impressive showing last week against Bowling Green, Kevin Wilson's team found itself right back in a familiar spot: unable to defend a good team. Missouri racked up 623 yards -- the most in Memorial Stadium history -- in a 45-28 win in Bloomington on Saturday. The game wasn't even as close as the final score, as Indiana tacked on a touchdown and two-point conversion with 10 seconds to go, and Missouri had three turnovers in the first half to kill promising drives. The Hoosiers' vaunted offense failed to score from the 6:31 mark of the second quarter until there was 11:24 left in the game, and IU punted nine times after punting only five times in the first three games combined. The loss to Navy now hurts even more, as Wilson's team would have to go 4-4 in Big Ten play to become bowl eligible. That seems like an awfully tall order. Penn State comes in next after a bye for both teams, and the Nittany Lions just righted their defense in a 34-0 shutout of Kent State. Penn State has never lost to Indiana and will be favored soundly again on Oct. 5. It might be wait for next year time again in Hoosierland.

Johnny Manziel’s autograph problems didn’t stop Associated Press poll voters from signing their name next to Texas A&M.

The Aggies came in at No. 7 in the preseason AP Poll released Saturday, just one spot below their place in the preseason coaches' poll, which came out days before ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” reported that the NCAA is investigating whether Manziel was paid for autographing photos and memorabilia in January. Despite Manziel’s troubles and Texas A&M losing several key players from last year’s 11-2 squad, the voters still believe in Kevin Sumlin’s crew.

There was decidedly little drama in the initial AP rankings aside from A&M. The voting mirrored that of the coaches' poll, as the same 25 teams appeared, 19 in the same place. The AP Top 5 -- Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, Stanford and Georgia -- is the same as the coaches.

Alabama not surprisingly was the overwhelming choice at No. 1, receiving 58 of 60 first-place votes, tying the 2009 Florida team for the highest percentage of first-place votes in the preseason rankings. That two voters drifted from the Tide -- one to Ohio State, one to Georgia -- might be the real surprise. Sure, every year is different, but it’s hard to make a case for any other team at the top after watching Nick Saban’s crew dominate the college football landscape in recent years.

Both Oregon and Stanford won BCS bowls last season but come in behind Ohio State, the only Football Bowl Subdivision team to go undefeated last season. The Buckeyes hardly were dominant, nearly stumbling against Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan State. The voters clearly think bigger things are ahead for the Buckeyes in Year 2 under Urban Meyer, who won a national championship in his second season at Florida, thumping the team he now leads.

Notre Dame’s rough offseason affected the AP voters more than the coaches, as the Irish came in at No. 14, three spots below their coaches' poll ranking. Brian Kelly’s team will have chances to prove itself as it plays four ranked squads, culminating with the regular-season finale at Stanford.

Could this be the year the Big Ten finally puts itself back on the national stage? The much-maligned league has five teams in the poll, tied with the Pac-12 for the second most of any conference. The problem for the Big Ten: Only Ohio State cracked the top 15, while the SEC, Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC all have multiple teams. It’s still very much an SEC world as five squads made the top 10.

The Pac-12 might be the best bet to unseat the SEC as both Oregon and Stanford have been branded as preseason title contenders. The Big 12 enters the season with zero top-10 teams but a potentially appetizing race between Oklahoma State, Texas and Oklahoma.

The poll features just two teams -- No. 9 Louisville and No. 19 Boise State -- from outside the “big five” conferences. Neither squad will play any teams in the preseason poll, so a path to Pasadena for the BCS National Championship, even with an undefeated record, seems difficult.

The near consensus between the AP and coaches' polls creates a clear landscape entering the season. Someone needs to catch Alabama. We’ll see if Manziel gets a chance when the Aggies welcome the Tide to College Station on Sept. 14.

Did you know: Texas A&M-Alabama

November, 9, 2012
11/09/12
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It's that time when we check out news and notes from this week's key SEC game:
  • The Texas A&M at Alabama matchup is one of the two most efficient offenses in the SEC. The Aggies lead the SEC in highest average points per drive (3.09 / 336 points in 110 offensive drives) with the Tide second at 3.07 (332 in 108) points per drive. The Tide leads the SEC in overall scoring-efficiency percentage (50.9 percent / 55 scoring drives out of 108 total drives) and the Aggies are second at 49.6 percent (60 of 121). In touchdown scoring efficiency, the Aggies lead the SEC at 40.5 percent (49 TD drives out of 121 overall drives) while the Tide are second at 38.9 percent (42 of 108).
  • Alabama leads the series history, 3-1. It’s the first visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the Aggies. The teams played in the 1942 and 1968 Cotton Bowls, in 1985 at Legion Field in Birmingham and 1988 in College Station.
  • Alabama’s Jeremy Shelley is the only kicker in the nation not to miss an extra-point (40-40) or field goal (9-9) this season.
  • The Aggies are 1-10 in games against No. 1 ranked teams, with the lone victory being a 30-26 win over Oklahoma in 2002.
  • A&M has scored first in every game in 2012, and in 14 straight games dating back to 2011.
  • Johnny Manziel has already broken A&M’s record for quarterback rushing yards in a season (922).
  • Manziel is the only player in FBS to average at least 10 yards per rush and 10 yards per pass attempt in those situations, and his 11 touchdowns responsible for in those situations are three more than any other FBS player. He has gained 634 rushing yards on scrambles. That is 182 more yards scrambling than Denard Robinson, Braxton Miller and Collin Klein have combined. Manziel has scrambled for 28 first downs this season, including 18 first downs on third down.
  • Manziel is completing 71.8 percent of his passes on first down this season, one of only six players to complete at least 70 percent of his passes on first down this season (min. 140 attempts).
  • Alabama is 21-6 against the AP Top 25 during the last four seasons and 12-4 against AP Top 10 teams.
  • Alabama QB AJ McCarron has gone 204 pass attempts this season and 289 dating back to last season without an interception. Since 2000, he is the only player in FBS with at least 25 career touchdown passes (38) and as few as five interceptions.
  • The Tide defense averages 5.44 three-and-outs per game and its 45.4 percent rate is second highest in the nation.
  • The Aggies and Tide have shared three head coaches in their histories -- Bear Bryant (A&M 1954-57; Alabama 1958-82), Gene Stallings (A&M 1965-71; Alabama 1990-96) and Dennis Franchione (A&M 2003-07; Alabama 2001-02).

Ohio State to play TCU in 2018, '19

October, 3, 2012
10/03/12
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Last week, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told the Associated Press that the Buckeyes planned to scale back their games against MAC opponents and beef up nonconference schedules to get ready for the four-team playoff.

The first possible evidence of that arrived today, as the Ohio State announced it would play a home-and-home series with TCU in 2018 and 2019. While we can't know how good the Horned Frogs will be in six years, Gary Patterson has turned them into a program with staying power, as TCU ranks fifth among FBS teams with 97 wins the past 10 years. TCU's recent climb paved the way for the school to be accepted into the Big 12.

Relations between the Buckeyes and Horned Frogs have come a long way in a short time, too. The schools had tentative plans to open the 2009 season in Columbus, but Ohio State refused to give TCU a return game. In 2010, Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee lumped then-undefeated TCU and Boise State into his infamous "Little Sisters of the Poor" comment, saying they didn't play a hard enough schedule to deserve a shot at the title.

Now, Ohio State will go to TCU first in this home-and-home deal and views the Horned Frogs as a way to upgrade its schedule. In this week's Associated Press Top 25, the No. 12 Buckeyes are ranked three spots ahead of TCU.

Ohio State is also scheduled to play Cincinnati in 2018 in what has the makings of a pretty good nonconference slate, especially if another major-conference opponent is added. TCU is the only opponent booked so far for the 2019 nonconference schedule. Remember that Ohio State, like other Big Ten schools, was told to reserve some space for the Big Ten/Pac-12 series that fell apart this summer.

Going to Texas for a game also can't hurt Urban Meyer's future recruiting efforts, as he has made it known that he will hunt nationally for players. The Dallas/Fort Worth area is full of big-time prospects every year, and Meyer will be able to promise Texas prospects a game in their home state.

We'll wait to see how the rest of Ohio State's future schedules shape up. But this looks like a good start, and an improvement on the very bland nonconference slate the Buckeyes played last month.

Ohio State to play TCU in 2018, '19

October, 2, 2012
10/02/12
3:30
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Last week, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told the Associated Press that the Buckeyes planned to scale back their games against MAC opponents and beef up nonconference schedules to get ready for the four-team playoff.

The first possible evidence of that arrived today, as the Ohio State announced it would play a home-and-home series with TCU in 2018 and 2019. While we can't know how good the Horned Frogs will be in six years, Gary Patterson has turned them into a program with staying power, as TCU ranks fifth among FBS teams with 97 wins the past 10 years. TCU's recent climb paved the way for the school to be accepted into the Big 12.

Relations between the Buckeyes and Horned Frogs have come a long way in a short time, too. The schools had tentative plans to open the 2009 season in Columbus, but Ohio State refused to give TCU a return game. In 2010, Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee lumped then-undefeated TCU and Boise State into his infamous "Little Sisters of the Poor" comment, saying they didn't play a hard enough schedule to deserve a shot at the title.

Now, Ohio State will go to TCU first in this home-and-home deal and views the Horned Frogs as a way to upgrade its schedule. In this week's Associated Press Top 25, the No. 12 Buckeyes are ranked three spots ahead of TCU.

Ohio State is also scheduled to play Cincinnati in 2018 in what has the makings of a pretty good nonconference slate, especially if another major-conference opponent is added. TCU is the only opponent booked so far for the 2019 nonconference schedule. Remember that Ohio State, like other Big Ten schools, was told to reserve some space for the Big Ten/Pac-12 series that fell apart this summer.

Going to Texas for a game also can't hurt Urban Meyer's future recruiting efforts, as he has made it known that he will hunt nationally for players. The Dallas/Fort Worth area is full of big-time prospects every year, and Meyer will be able to promise Texas prospects a game in their home state.

We'll wait to see how the rest of Ohio State's future schedules shape up. But this looks like a good start, and an improvement on the very bland nonconference slate the Buckeyes played last month.

Which coaching tree has the best fruit?

August, 17, 2012
8/17/12
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Colleague Brad Edwards had an interesting ESPN Insider post looking at the top coaching trees around the nation Insider, and two from the Big 12 made his list of the top five, with plenty more mentioned.

Oklahoma's Bob Stoops grabbed the top spot in the league at No. 2, behind only Ohio State's Urban Meyer.

No arguing that spot, in theory. Stoops has four former assistants who jumped from OU to become head coaches: Kevin Sumlin (Houston, now at Texas A&M), Mike Leach (Texas Tech, now Washington State) and Kevin Wilson (Indiana).

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini spent 2004 as the co-defensive coordinator before eventually getting the Huskers job in 2008 after three years coordinating LSU's defense.

Not bad, and that's without even mentioning other guys from Stoops' tree who have been fired since becoming head coaches. Mark Mangino is out at Kansas now, and brother Mike Stoops is back as defensive coordinator after nearly a decade as the head man at Arizona.

Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach even gets credit for his own tree. He checked in at No. 4 on the list for spawning Art Briles (Baylor), Sonny Dykes (Louisiana Tech) and West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen.

Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy just missed the list, but may join it soon with former coordinators Larry Fedora (North Carolina), Holgorsen and Tim Beckman (Illinois) in charge of big-time programs.

Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville and Kansas State's Bill Snyder just missed the list. Snyder's tree begat Stoops and Wisconsin's Brett Bielema, which is impressive enough on its own. Without Snyder, plenty of the guys mentioned in this post wouldn't be the coaches they are today.

What other coaches' trees impress you?

Blog debate: Will Aggies thrive in the SEC?

February, 10, 2012
2/10/12
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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.
How will Kevin Sumlin do at Texas A&M?

The stat gurus and recruitniks weighed in, and things are looking up for Sumlin in College Station.

Brian Fremeau of Football Outsiders looked at three coaches that may have an immediate impact, and Sumlin made the list, alongside Urban Meyer at Ohio State and Larry Fedora at North Carolina.

The biggest need for growth is rather obvious: third-quarter failures. The Aggies famously lost five games this year despite holding a double-digit halftime lead and another with a nine-point lead at halftime.

There's reason for encouragement, though.
One thing Sumlin can build from is the Aggies' overall game efficiency, a combination measure of raw offensive, defensive and special teams success. Texas A&M ranked 20th nationally in game efficiency this season, much better than its record would indicate. The top-25 teams in game efficiency averaged 10 wins apiece this year.

We run a metric called "mean wins" to calculate the likely record of a team with a given rating against its schedule, a way to roughly account for "luck". Texas A&M fell 1.7 wins below expected this year. There's no reason to assume they'll recover that luck and those wins immediately, but several teams last year with similar bad luck included the Georgia Bulldogs, Clemson Tigers and Houston, three teams that improved dramatically on their win totals from 2010 to 2011.

And what do recruits say? There was some natural uneasiness after Mike Sherman's firing. With Sumlin officially in charge, though, they're encouraged, writes colleague Damon Sayles.

Quarterback Matt Davis, one of the top commits in the Aggies' top-flight 2012 class, is particularly excited.

"I've been a little biased with this whole situation. With him being the Houston coach and me being in Houston, I know little bit about him," said Davis, No. 108 in the ESPNU 150. "It's great to know you're getting a great, young coach with some swagger who can come in and help us win football games."

"Terrific hire," said four-star Houston Westside offensive tackle Germain Ifedi. "He'll keep the program headed in a good direction."

Ifedi waivered on his commitment, according to Sayles, but reaffirmed after Sumlin got the job.
Over the weekend, Houston Dekaney four-star running back Trey Williams talked to reporters after leading his team to the Texas Class 5A Division II state championship game wearing an A&M hat. Aledo (Texas) High School four-star offensive tackle Michael Wilson, who has helped his team advance to the Class 4A Division II state championship game, said he likes the coaching hire but still wants to speak with Sumlin.

In his introductory news conference on Monday, Sumlin emphasized the need to hold together the 2012 class, and it looks like there's some momentum for him to be able to do it.

Ranking the Big 12 bowl games

December, 12, 2011
12/12/11
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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?

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