NCF Nation: Aqib Talib

Big 12's teams of the decade

January, 20, 2010
1/20/10
9:05
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The Big 12 had two national championship teams and five others that played in the BCS title game in the decade.

The two championship teams were the best of the conference's last 10 years. Some of the other BCS title participants were good, but not necessarily among the very best teams during the conference's recent history.

Here's how I rank the Big 12's top 10 teams over the last decade.

1. 2005 Texas: A star-studded team paced by All-Americans Michael Huff, Jonathan Scott, Rodrique Wright and Vince Young ran off 13 straight victories, capping the season with a BCS title-game victory over USC. The team averaged 50.2 points per game en route to a then-NCAA record 652 total points, earning Texas’ first undisputed national championship since 1969. It was the greatest team that Mack Brown ever coached and arguably the best team in the rich football history of Texas.

2. 2000 Oklahoma: Bob Stoops claimed a national championship in his second season coaching the Trojans behind Josh Heupel, who finished second in the Heisman race that season. All-Americans Heupel, linebacker Rocky Calmus and J.T. Thatcher helped the Sooners notch the first undefeated season and national championship in Big 12 history. After winning three of their final four regular-season games by less than five points, the Sooners dominated Florida State in a 13-2 triumph in the Orange Bowl for the national championship.

3. 2008 Oklahoma: Sam Bradford won the Heisman Trophy with this team, which overcame a midseason loss to Texas and still claimed the Big 12 title in a 12-2 season that was marred by a 24-14 loss to Florida in the national championship game. The Sooners rolled-up a record 702 points as Bradford passed for 50 touchdowns, Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray each rushed for 1,000 yards and Juaquin Iglesias topped 1,000 yards receiving. The Sooners scored 35 points in each regular-season game and finished the regular season with five straight games of at least 60 points before the BCS title-game loss.

4. 2004 Oklahoma: The Sooners charged to 12 straight victories before a dropping a 55-19 decision to USC in the Orange Bowl for the national title. Freshman running back Adrian Peterson rushed for an NCAA freshman record 1,925 yards to finish second in the Heisman. Jason White claimed the Heisman the previous season and his numbers were down with Peterson's arrival, but he still passed for 3,205 yards and 35 touchdowns. This group had strength in the trenches with All-Americans like Vince Carter, Dan Cody, Jammal Brown and Mark Clayton as it claimed Bob Stoops’ third Big 12 title.

5. 2009 Texas: After streaking to a school-record 13-0 mark through the Big 12 title game, the Longhorns dropped a 37-21 decision to Alabama in the national title game in a contest that changed when Colt McCoy was hurt on the fifth play of the game. McCoy became the winningest quarterback in NCAA history during this season, repeatedly hooking up with favorite target Jordan Shipley, who snagged a school-record 116 receptions, 1,485 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Longhorns led the nation in rush defense, and All-American safety Earl Thomas tied a school record with eight interceptions. Lamarr Houston and Sergio Kindle also added playmaking abilities to the defense.

6. 2004 Texas: The Longhorns overcame a midseason 12-0 loss to Oklahoma to finish the season with seven straight victories in a season capped by a dramatic 38-37 victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl. The Longhorns ranked second nationally in rushing offense and seventh in total offense as Young gradually found his confidence as a passer late in the season. Cedric Benson rushed for 1,834 yards and 19 touchdowns, and Young chipped in with 1,079 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. This team showed a knack for comebacks, overcoming an early 35-7 deficit against Oklahoma State and also coming from behind in an early-season victory at Arkansas.

7. 2007 Oklahoma: Bradford led the first of two consecutive Big 12 championships on a team that enabled the Sooners to become the first Big 12 school to win back-to-back titles. The Sooners dropped road games to Colorado and Texas Tech but still overcame Missouri in the Big 12 title game behind a huge defensive effort keyed by Big 12 defensive player of the year Rufus Alexander. Bradford led the nation in passing efficiency, but the Sooners' bowl struggles continued in an embarrassing 48-28 loss to West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl.

8. 2003 Kansas State: Don’t let the Wildcats’ 11-4 record fool you. After an early three-game losing streak to Marshall, Texas and Oklahoma State (by a combined margin of 15 points), Bill Snyder’s team won its final seven regular-season games by a combined margin of 271-66. That streak was culminated by a stunning 35-7 upset victory over Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game -- the last victory by a North Division team in the title game. The Wildcats ranked in the top 10 nationally in rushing, scoring, total defense, scoring defense and pass defense as Darren Sproles rushed for 1,986 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Wildcats dropped a 35-28 Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State in a game they fell into an early 21-0 deficit and had a chance to tie on the final play of the game after a frantic comeback directed by Ell Roberson.

9. 2007 Missouri: Chase Daniel led Missouri into the Big 12 title game for the first time in school history, taking the team to No. 1 nationally heading into the conference championship game. The Tigers lost twice to Oklahoma during a 12-2 season that was capped by 38-7 beatdown over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. Tony Temple made that game memorable by rushing for a record 281 yards and four TDs that pushed Missouri to No. 4 nationally at the end of the season. A star-studded collection of talent including Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman, Martin Rucker and Sean Weatherspoon helped the Tigers rank among the top-10 teams nationally in passing, total offense and scoring and 11th in turnover margin.

10. 2007 Kansas: The Jayhawks earned Mark Mangino the national coach of the year award by running to an 11-0 start before losing to Missouri in the regular-season finale. The Jayhawks rebounded for a 24-21 victory over Virginia Tech in their first BCS bowl appearance in school history, finishing a 12-1 season that set a school record for victories. Todd Reesing passed for 33 touchdowns to highlight a high-powered offense that scored 76 points against Nebraska and scored at least 43 points in eight games. The Jayhawks were a balanced team that ranked second nationally in scoring offense, fourth in scoring defense and in the top 10 nationally in eight different team statistics. Anthony Collins and Aqib Talib earned consensus All-America honors.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It's been a long time between bowl trips for Baylor.

The Bears' last bowl trip came in 1994 when they were defeated by Washington State in the Alamo Bowl. Current Baylor starting quarterback Robert Griffin was 4 years old when that game was played.

But excitement is rampant along the Brazos River and the Bears are ready to snap a bowl drought that is tied with Duke for the longest in schools in BCS-affiliated conferences.

Considering that Grant Teaff was coaching Baylor then and Steve Spurrier was directing the Blue Devils, it has been an extensive drought for both schools.

The Bears have their best hope this season and I'm thinking they squeak in. It will be critical for them to win at least one of their first two games against Wake Forest and Connecticut. They also need victories over Northwestern State and Kent State to enter Big 12 play at 3-1.

If Baylor does make that remarkable step, it will likely mean the Big 12 will be able to fill its full complement of bowls. It was unable to fill two bowls at the bottom of its list of partners. But that likely won't be the case this season if the Bears live up to their preseason hype.

Here's a look at how I predict the Big 12's bowl slots will be filled this season with a record nine teams making trips. The last two or three might be 6-6 teams, but there won't be much complaining from any of them.

Baylor Bears

Bowl bid: Possibly.

Best case: Robert Griffin electrifies the nation with stunning victories over Wake Forest and Connecticut to start the season and the Bears are already at six victories by mid-October. It makes them the feel-good story of the conference, places Art Briles in prime consideration for a couple of top jobs and pushes the Bears into the Alamo Bowl where they last went bowling in 1994.

Worst case: Offensive tackle Danny Watkins can't protect Griffin's blind side and the Bears stumble early with two-straight losses. Those pass-protection problems fester all season as the Bears revert to their losing ways and miss a bowl for another season.

Prediction: Texas Bowl.

Colorado Buffaloes

Bowl bid: Possibly.

Best case: In a nod to soothsayers everywhere, the Buffaloes indeed live up to Dan Hawkins' preseason "prediction" and win 10 games, claiming a surprise Big 12 title game and ending up in the Holiday Bowl.

Worst case: The Buffaloes don't settle on either quarterback and tumble out of bowl contention for the third time in the last four seasons under Hawkins, making his seat extremely toasty this winter.

Prediction: Independence Bowl.

Iowa State Cyclones:

Best case: The Cyclones become the surprise story of the conference as Austen Arnaud immediately blossoms in Tom Herman's new offense. The defense shows steady improvement under Wally Burnham, providing a surprise trip to the casinos and crawfish boils at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.

Worst case: Paul Rhoads is a willing worker, but his new team just never jells with his philosophy. More road woes continue against Kent State as the Cyclones see their nation-worst road losing streak stretch to 22 games as they stay home from a bowl for a fourth-straight season.

Prediction: Home for the holidays.

Kansas Jayhawks

Bowl bound: Count on it.

Best case: The Jayhawks find a couple of defensive reincarnations of Aqib Talib to help them spring a couple of upsets over South Division powers. Confidence gleaned from those games helps them surprise the South Divison champion in the Big 12 title game and send Mark Mangino and his team skipping into their second BCS bowl in three seasons -- this time to the Fiesta Bowl.

Worst case: Todd Reesing struggles behind a retooled offensive line and the Jayhawks' offense isn't nearly as potent as expected. Without a high-powered scoring team, the Kansas defense is exposed as posers, falling to the Insight.com Bowl for the second-straight season.

Prediction: Sun Bowl.

Kansas State Wildcats

Best case: Bill Snyder brings the magic back to Manhattan, picking up a couple of upset victories to restore some pride in the Kansas State program from early in the season. The Wildcats ride that momentum for a surprise trip to the Insight.com Bowl.

Worst case: A quarterback never emerges and a struggling pass defense regresses into a horrific unit against the Big 12's high-powered aerial attacks. Those defeats make Snyder wonder why he ever left retirement as the Wildcats finish out of a bowl trip for the fifth time in six seasons.

Prediction: Home for the holidays.

Missouri Tigers

Bowl bid: Possibly.

Best case: Blaine Gabbert provides steady leadership as Derrick Washington becomes the most versatile back in the Big 12. The retooled defense emerges as the Tigers claim a surprise Big 12 North title and end up at the Cotton Bowl.

Worst case: The loss of Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman and both coordinators cause the wheels to fall off the Missouri program and they miss a bowl trip for the first time since 2004.

Prediction: Insight.com Bowl

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Bowl bound: Count on it.

Best case: Zac Lee is a revelation at quarterback and the defense emerges in Bo Pelini's second season to push the Cornhuskers to a upset victory in the Big 12 title game and into the Fiesta Bowl.

Worst case: The hype for Lee is just that. The new quarterback struggles and the Cornhuskers' defense backslides all the way t
o the Texas Bowl.

Prediction: Holiday Bowl.

Oklahoma Sooners

Bowl bound: Count on it.

Best case: The young offensive line jells and the defense plays better than expected as the Sooners earn another chance to play in the BCS title game -- restoring order in the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 17 along the way.

Worst case: The offensive front struggles to protect Sam Bradford and the defense isn't as good as expected, dropping the Sooners to their first visit to the Alamo Bowl.

Prediction: Fiesta Bowl.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Bowl bound: Count on it.

Best case: The offensive triplets exceed expectations as Bill Young cobbles together enough defense to enable the Cowboys to outduel Texas and Oklahoma for their first Big 12 championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.

Worst case: The defense still can't match up with Oklahoma and Texas -- and some of the other teams in the South Division either. Those struggles send the Cowboys skidding all the way to the Insight.com Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., where they play second-fiddle to the Sooners who are playing up the road in the Fiesta Bowl.

Prediction: Cotton Bowl.

Texas Longhorns

Bowl bound: Count on it

Best case: The Longhorns find a featured running back and enough push from the defensive front to make all of the BCS rankings meaningless en route back to another shot at the national title in Pasadena.

Worst case: Colt McCoy gets hurt, the running game struggles and the Longhorns keep playing dropsy with key turnovers chances for another season. Instead, Texas players fumble their way to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego where they munch fish tacos and feed the whales at Sea World for the fourth time in the last 10 years.

Prediction: BCS National Championship Game.

Texas A&M Aggies

Bowl bid: Possibly.

Best case: Jerrod Johnson plays so well at quarterback that Ryan Tannehill moves back to wide receiver full time. The Aggies respond to defensive coordinator Joe Kines' defense with vast improvement through the season, stunning Texas in the regular-season finale to push them into the Alamo Bowl.

Worst case: A leaky offensive line can't open holes or pass block and the Aggies' defense struggles against all Big 12 quarterbacks in another season that finishes without a bowl.

Prediction: Home for the holidays.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Bowl bid: Count on it.

Best case: Taylor Potts exceeds all expectations and the Red Raiders defense plays so well that some start accusing the school of being a "defense-first" program. The Red Raiders don't win the Big 12 South, but they revisit the location of Mike Leach's biggest bowl victory at the Holiday Bowl.

Worst case: The Red Raiders miss Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree more than expected and skid out of bowl contention for the first time under Leach.

Prediction: Alamo Bowl.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Big 12 has been dotted by several intriguing recruiting stories during its brief history. Here are some of my personal favorites.

1. Oklahoma's Jamar Mozee spurns Kansas State: Mozee, a bruising running back from Blue Springs, Mo., was an apparently solid commitment for Kansas State until late in the 1999 recruiting period. But as signing day approached, Mozee followed several of the Kansas State assistants who had been recruiting him as they joined Bob Stoops' fledgling program at Oklahoma. The late switch earned the wrath of Wildcat fans everywhere, but also provided Stoops one of his top early recruits. Mozee never materialized for the Sooners like expected, but his recruitment fueled an intense early rivalry between the two schools.

2. Kansas' underrated class of 2004: Unheralded prospects like Aqib Talib and Anthony Collins were barely recruited by most powers, but developed into All-Americans while working with coach Mark Mangino's staff by the time they left college. Defensive starters Joe Mortensen, Mike Rivera and Charlton Keith also didn't catch much recruiting attention, but also became key starters for the Jayhawks' team that made history by claiming the 2008 Orange Bowl and making back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in school history. It also made some recruiting analysts blush, considering they missed so badly with this group.

3. Ryan Perrilloux heads for home: Perrilloux committed to Texas before his senior season and was presumed to be the natural successor for Vince Young after recording a slew of records in his senior season at East St. John's High School in Reserve, La. Throughout the recruiting process, Perrilloux remained committed to Texas. But he made a late switch, signing with the first recruiting class of LSU coach Les Miles. Perrilloux's career never materialized and he was kicked off the LSU team for violating team rules after several earlier legal skirmishes. And his departure opened a place on Texas' roster for Colt McCoy, who developed into a Heisman Trophy runner-up with the opportunity.

4. Darrell Scott picks family and the Buffaloes: The nation's top running back recruit waited until the last minute before choosing Colorado and Texas, following his uncle Josh Smith, a wide receiver/kick returner who already was on the Buffaloes' roster. Scott apparently had given the Longhorns a private commitment which changed when running backs coach Ken Rucker became the team's director of high school relations and player development and was replaced by Major Applewhite. His announcement was carried live on ESPNU, where he became Colorado's highest-ranking recruit since Marcus Houston in the 2000 recruiting class.

5. Travis Lewis chooses Oklahoma: Not all of the most heated battles take place over five-star recruits. Lewis had played little linebacker in Lee High School in San Antonio and had barely even played defense. But several schools saw promise in his unique combination of speed and size, leading to a spirited recruiting battle that intensified as the 2007 signing day approached. Lewis eventually decided on Oklahoma from a fervent group of suitors that also included Oklahoma State and fast-closing Nebraska. After a redshirt season, Lewis developed into an All-Big 12 linebacker and the conference's freshman defensive player of the year in 2008.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin 

Here are some of the stories that are making news after Hurricane Ike drastically affected this weekend's Big 12 schedule.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Nebraska's punishing ground attack historically has been as big a part of the Cornhuskers' storied program as Herbie Husker, sellout crowds at Memorial Stadium and Academic All-Americans.

Consider that between 1977 and 2003, Nebraska ranked at least seventh or higher every season in the national rushing rankings. That's right: seventh or better. And in 13 of those seasons the Cornhuskers led the nation in rushing.

That's why the rankings during the four seasons of Bill Callahan's tenure -- 34th, 107th, 23rd and 66th -- were so disappointing. Two of the four teams even threw the ball more than it ran. How un-Nebraskalike, even in this age of spread passing offenses.

Most observers are expecting Nebraska to more effectively run the ball this season. Some are even predicting a smash-mouth running attack keyed by an experienced offensive line and four strong I-backs led by Big 12 returning rushing leader Marlon Lucky.

Running the ball would also provide a way for new coach Bo Pelini to keep his defense off the field, dominating time of possession and lessening the time his defensive unit will have to make plays.

Senior Nebraska offensive guard Matt Slauson told the Omaha World-Herald it would be noticeable compared to his previous seasons.

"We're going to line up and smash guys, and if it works, we're going to keep doing it," Slauson told the newspaper.

Which tells me one thing. Simple dives and off-tackle smashes won't be nearly as unpopular among Nebraska fans as they might be at other places across the Big 12 this season.

And speaking of traditional, hearty fare, how about this lip-smacking collection of links this morning? It's good for what ails you.

  • Former Penn State DT Phil Taylor has enrolled at Baylor and begun practicing with the team. Taylor was dismissed from the Nittany Lions after his involvement in an on-campus fight last season. Freshman K Ben Parks has won the starting job for the Bears' opener Thursday night against Wake Forest.
  • Boulder Daily Camera coulumnist Neill Woelk said Colorado fans are providing a form of corporate welfare to Colorado State, buying tickets this week that weren't scarfed up by the Rams' fans.
  • Colorado TE Riar Geer avoided jail Monday after his friends and family members pleaded to a judge that his role in an off-campus fight was out of character. But he'll miss the first two games of the season as he recovers from knee surgery.
  • Heralded Colorado freshman TB Darrell Scott is trying to keep up with the other demands than just playing.
  • Iowa State will have 27 freshmen in its two-deep roster Thursday night against South Dakota State. But Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler writes that Iowa State coach Gene Chizik needs to choose a starting quarterback soon and stick with him. 
  • Kansas State list four newcomers on its starting lineup for Saturday's game against North Texas. Three are from junior colleges -- RB Keithen Valentine, CB Blair Irvin and LB Ulla Pomele - and LB Olu Hall is arrives from Virginia.
  • Jeff Martin of the Kansas City Star/Wichita Eagle provides a few nuggets from Kansas State's press conference, including Coach Ron Prince uttering the word "confirmed" 14 times during a 30-minute stint at the podium.
  • Kansas State officials learned that top returning receiver and punt returner Deon Murphy has an extra year of eligibility. He will be considered a junior in the upcoming season.
  • Kansas has 10 freshmen and 15 sophomores in its two-deep roster, including PR Daymond Patterson as a starter.
  • The Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait writes about Kansas rebuilding its secondary without All-American CB Aqib Talib.
  • Dugan Arnett of the Lawrence Journal World wonders who would be the bigger chick magnet in downtown Lawrence -- Michael Phelps or Todd Reesing?
  • Manhattan Mercury beat writer Mark Janssen breaks down the ABC's of Kansas State football.
  • Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune's Big 12 notebook leads with Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger's comments about Texas.
  • Kansas City Star college columnist Blair Kerkhoff has Oklahoma ranked No. 5 in his top 25 countdown. Kerkhoff also expects faster play and shorter games with the new clock rules.
  • Missouri WR Jared Perry gave Dave Matter the quote of the day about how he hopes to impress the Illinois defense after struggling with injuries. "It's a big motivation," Perry said, "because people are just sleeping on me. So, I have to wake them up."
  • Nebraska coach Bo Pelini says he's not any more excited about Saturday's game against Western Michigan than any other. "My level of excitement really isn't any different than it was last year," said Pelini, who spent the last three seasons as defensive coordinator at Louisiana State. "I treat them all the same. I think we'll be prepared come Saturday and let it all hang out. It'll be a fun time, but at the same time I've got to keep my emotions in check, as does the team."
  • Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald says that Kansas State QB Josh Freeman has provided the best quotes of the preseason -- particularly those that threw Kansas State's seniors last seasons under the bus for their lack of leadership. Barfknecht also gives his preseason Big 12 rankings.
  • Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel wonders if ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit really likes Nebraska as much as he's saying - or if he's only try to throw a bone to his old Ohio State teammate and current Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.
  • The Lincoln Journal-Star's Curt McKeever doesn't expect any suprise teams from the Big 12 because of the conference's depth at the top.
  • Pelini met with the media for about two minutes Monday after an intense practice on the first day of classes. Former Nebraska coach Bill Callahan never practiced his team on the first day of classes.
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy will be back calling plays for the Cowboys this season after delegating that job to assistants in recent years.
  • Oklahoman columnist John Rohde is expecting Saturday's Oklahoma State-Washington State game to be fun on Saturday.
  • Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman writes that Oklahoma's non-conference schedule shouldn't be a liability to their national title hopes - even as the Sooners start the season Saturday against Chattanooga, a 2-9 team last season.
  • Oklahoma State WR Damian Davis has been suspended for the Cowboys' opener against Washington State for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
  • Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter has set a goal of rushing for 1,000 yards this season according to Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World.
  • Tulsa World columnist John Klein said that Mike Gundy should have more talent at his disposal this season than any previous season when he was Oklahoma State's head coach.
  • Jimmie Tramel of the Tulsa World writes about Texas A&M's water balloon fight in his weekly Big 12 notepad, also providing a quotepad and his rankings.
  • Eleven positions remain up for grabs on Texas' depth chart, heading into Saturday's game against Florida Atlantic.
  • Kirk Bohls of the Austin American Statesman writes of Texas' new slogan worn on their orange wristbands: "Consistently good to be great."
  • Depth at tailback could produce Texas A&M's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2003, according to Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman.
  • Freshman WR Jeff Fuller is listed as a starter for Texas A&M's opener. And QB Stephen McGee told the San Antonio Express-News that backup QBs Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill are "two of our four top guys" at receiver.
  • Texas Tech CB Darcel McBath is determined that Eastern Washington won't sneak up on his team on Saturday night - particularly as Coach Mike Leach has repeatedly talked about Michigan's upset losos to Appalachian State last season. "I definitely don't want to make Sports Center for that," McBath told the Lubbock Avalanche-ournal. "We can't let that happen."

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Video may have killed the radio star, according to the old English new wave band the Buggles. But expanding mediums are providing additional opportunities for reporters to share their insights with consumers in the rapidly expanding marketplace.

The Big 12 is no different, stocked with a boatload of good weekly vlogs.  And work has started early, even before the season starts, at many newspapers.

The spirited competition between the Lincoln Journal-Star and the Omaha World-Herald in the coverage of all things concerning Nebraska football has spilled over into a video war of sorts.

Omaha World-Herald beat writers Mitch Sherman and Rich Kaipust talk about the need for increasing sacks and turnovers in their most recent video chat. And Lincoln Journal Star columnist Steve Sipple and beat writer Brian Christopherson discuss freshmen who will play for the Cornhuskers this season. It will continue for both papers throughout the season.

But the most effective use of video by a newspaper that I've seen so far is what the Oklahoman has done for its stellar series on Bob Stoops. A group of Oklahoman reporters provide analysis of Stoops' leadership, done with tight videography in a style much like ESPN Classic has used in its Sports Century documentaries. Despite the lack of live action footage, the use of some memorable still pictures of Stoops and Sooners was still very effective.

More newspapers are going to this synergy using different formats. I'll try to include some of the more notable ones in my upcoming posts.  

But the written word still remains supreme in my mind. And here are some scrumptuous morsels for a Friday morning links collection.  

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Good morning from the Cornhusker State. New coach Bo Pelini conducts his first news conference later Monday morning before fall practice begins this afternoon. It's a momentous time. Media outlets from across the state are tripping over themselves to try to outdo the next. There will be streaming media shows from a number of sources as Pelini breaks down his thoughts heading into his first fall camp.

I'll be there too, which makes me feel like I'll be witnessing history. Hard to believe the Cornhuskers finished 5-7 last season with their worst defensive team in history.

Most of the Nebraska citizenry think that Pelini will fix that. I'll be interested to hear his thoughts about his task at hand.

Pelini-mania dominates the news as a couple of other teams across the conference have started practice this weekend. Here's a breakdown of some of what people are talking about.

  • Pelini's resuscitation plans for Nebraska's defense.  along with a sidebar about his reaching back to the roots of the Cornhuskers' walk-on program, are detailed in a big spread written by Steve Wieberg in USA Today. It doesn't get much bigger than that, does it?
  • Baylor coach Art Briles is weighing his options as he decides on a starting quarterback. "It might be decided as we jog out on the field for pregame," Briles told Chad Conine of the Waco Tribune-Herald. "Seriously, I wish I was kidding."
  • Missouri QB Chase Daniel has a clear goal this season. "I want to play in Florida," Daniel told the Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond. And he's not talking about the Gator Bowl, either. The BCS title game will be staged in Miami. 
  • The Columbia Tribune's Dave Matter ratchets up the pressure on Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and the Tigers. He picks them to finish second nationally and play for the national championship against USC. Matter also predicts Oklahoma to face its third-straight BCS buster as the Sooners will draw BYU in the Fiesta Bowl in his preseason predictions.
  • Sure, Missouri's offense will score a lot of points. But with 10 starters back from a team that led the Big 12 in total defense in conference play last year, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the Tigers' defense will determine how far the team goes this season. And he's right.
  • Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star said that Pelini isn't intimidated by facing all of the Big 12's potent spread offenses. "We try to have an offensive mentality on defense," Pelini told Sipple. "We want to dictate to the offense as much as it's trying to dictate to us." Easier said in August than when facing Bradford, Daniel, Harrell, etc., later this season.
  • The Oklahoman's John Rohde almost was turning cartwheels after Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops purged his roster of WR Josh Jarboe.
  • Oklahoma State has been successful starting seasons against Pac-10 teams on the road. The Tulsa World's Jimmie Tramel said that the Cowboys set the tone for bowl seasons with double-digit victories at Arizona State (1984), Washington (1985) and UCLA (2004). The Cowboys travel to Seattle to face Washington State on Aug. 30.
  • Although Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford somehow didn't attend last month's Big 12 media days, the San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger did a nice job of gauging his importance for the Sooners' hopes of claiming their third-straight Big 12 title.
  • Texas A&M reported for practice Sunday without two freshmen who signed in February. TE Blake Chavis and DB/WR Derrick Hall didn't meet NCAA eligibility requirements. And several Texas newspapers reported that DE Mike Bennett, who missed the Alamo Bowl last season because of academics, will be eligible for his senior season this year.
  • The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal breaks down Texas Tech's roster with a depth chart as the Red Raiders' practices begin Monday. Notable points of interest include Rylan Reed back starting at LT, Stephen Hamby ahead of incumbent Shawn Byrnes at C and Aaron Crawford, Baron Batch and Shannon Woods listed as co-starters at RB. On defense, heralded transfers Brandon Sesay and McKinner Dixon both are listed as third-string at DE.
  • The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel says improvements at "The Boone Bowl" will take your breath away. That's a big step forward from the old days when I thought Lewis Field was the worst stadium in the Big 12.
  • Hawaii-born LB B.J. Beatty is continuing Colorado's rich tradition of recruiting in the islands. And he's a pretty good football player, too. There's also a great picture of Beatty's flowing red hair on the Boulder Camera's Web site.
  • Iowa State coach Gene Chizik is looking for more production from a puny offense that scored a conference-worst 18.2 points per game last season. It may start with reinvigorating a running game that ranked 95th nationally -- a big decline from the Cyclones' salad days under former coach Dan McCarney.
  • Forget about losing CB Aqib Talib to the NFL. The Oklahoman's John Helsey says that Kansas' biggest loss from last season will be the departure of wizened coordinator Bill Young to Miami. His protégé, Clint Bowen, tries to fill his shoes. Young was an underrated element of the Jayhawks' 12-1 record and Bowen will be sorely pressed to match that production -- particularly against a much-tougher schedule.
  • Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman said Oklahoma is searching south of the Red River for more players than in recent teams coached by Bob Stoops. Oklahoma is slated to start eight Texans this season, compared to six Oklahoma products. Looks like Stoops has been studying the blueprint that Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer employed to turn the Oklahoma program into a monolith -- lots of great players from Texas.
  • Suzanne Haliburton of the Austin American-Statesman lists a lengthy to-do list
    for Texas coach Mack Brown during fall practice. The Longhorns started practice this morning almost as early as a typical ESPN.com conference blogger this morning --  beginning at 6 a.m.

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