Sunday, October 4, 2009
What we learned in the Big 12
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are a few things we learned about the Big 12 during Saturday’s games.
- A forgettable weekend stripped the conference of much national credibility. The Big 12’s nonconference record is a rather pedestrian 34-13 mark with only Texas-UCF remaining on Nov. 1. Against foes from BCS conferences, the Big 12 finishes with a 4-7 record that included a 0-3 finish on Saturday. That’s a disappointment with really no other way to spin it. But in reality, the conference is only three one-point losses removed from having three teams solidly in the national rankings. If Oklahoma had notched victories in one-point losses to Miami and BYU, and if Nebraska had beaten Virginia Tech in another one-point game, the Big 12 arguably would have three teams in the top 10 today.
- The best story of any Big 12 quarterback is Kansas State’s Grant Gregory. His effort in the Wildcats' 24-23 victory over Iowa State boosts them into an early lead in the North Division. The sixth-year senior transferred from South Florida to Kansas State after his father was fired as the Bulls’ offensive coordinator and Bill Snyder arrived at KSU. He didn’t win the starting job until Saturday. It came just in time, however, for the veteran KSU coach.
- Texas Tech's rare quarterback injury. Tech coach Mike Leach could be facing some unchartered territory this week after starting quarterback Taylor Potts was treated for what the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal confirmed was a concussion after his first-half sack against New Mexico. The performance of backup Steven “Sticks” Sheffield should provide some comfort if Leach has to prepare for Kansas State next week without his starting quarterback for the first time in his 10-season coaching tenure at Tech. No Tech backup quarterback in the Leach era has ever thrown more than 56 passes in a season. But Sheffield might be uniquely qualified for extended playing time if Leach needs him to be -- if his efforts Saturday were any indication.
- Baylor has a deeper bench than we expected. Baylor coach Art Briles was supremely challenged Saturday night when he started third-string quarterback Nick Florence and used Jarred Salubi as his starting tailback with Jay Finley still injured. Those moves paid off handsomely as the Bears claimed a 31-15 victory over Kent State. And if nothing else, using those backups should help prepare the Bears if they face other injury woes later in the season during conference play.
- Oklahoma's sputtering, injury-ravaged offense could be a challenge the rest of the season. With injuries to Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham and Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma was stripped of its three biggest playmakers Saturday night against Miami. It was nowhere close to the offensive juggernaut that Bob Stoops expected coming into the season. The Sooners still have hopes of contending for an unprecedented fourth straight Big 12 title. But it will be the biggest challenge of Stoops’ coaching career to get them there.