NCF Nation: Artrell Woods
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are some tidbits from around the conference that will shape how teams play their games this week.
1. Kansas: TB Angus Quigley, a third-stringer before the start of the season, has emerged as the team's most consistent rushing threat. Despite big expectations for Jake Sharp and Jocques Crawford before the season, it's been Quigley who's been the best runner. The Jayhawks need some kind of consistency rushing the ball for any kind of success against South Florida on Friday night.
2. Missouri: Coaches are hoping the return of S William Moore and LB Van Alexander will help boost their defense's production. The Tigers allowed 250 yards passing against Southeast Missouri State and surrendered 15- and 11-play drives in the first half of the game. That unit must improve before Big 12 play begins.
3. Iowa State: Look for the team to use Phillip Bates more against Iowa than in his first two games as he's backed up starting ISU QB Austen Arnaud. Bates' athleticism could give the Iowa defense some problems, particularly on option plays and other outside runs. Remember, Bates' 38-yard reception last season against the Hawkeyes was the key play in ISU's game-winning drive.
4. Oklahoma: Don't be surprised if top defensive recruit R.J. Washington gets his redshirt pulled this week. The Sooners' depth at defensive end is lagging as Frank Alexander recovers from a stab wound. And Washington has been routinely wowing coaches with his performance in practice. They believe it's about time for him to be tested in a game.
5. Oklahoma State: Despite Dez Bryant's huge game last week against Houston, look for Oklahoma State to try to develop other receiving threats this week against Missouri State. With Artrell Woods gimpy with a knee injury, players like Jeremy Broadway, Damian Davis, Josh Cooper and DeMarcus Conner need to produce to keep offenses from concentrating on Bryant.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Big 12 season will unfold with many things I can't wait to watch. Here are 25 of the most special to me.
1. Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin streaking into the secondary moments after returning a punt.
2. Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray getting loose on a sweep.
3. Listening to one of Texas Tech coach Mike Leach's postgame news conferences.
4. Watching the young Texas secondary grow up before my eyes, starting Saturday night against Florida Atlantic.
5. Experiencing the crunch of Kansas' linebackers swarming style from the sidelines.
6. Watching Colorado TB Darrell Scott likely earn a starting position over the course of the first few weeks of the season.
7. Rooting for a good kid like Oklahoma State WR Artrell Woods to make a complete return from an injury last year that nearly ended his career.
8. Watching Nebraska and Bo Pelini make their first steps onto the field at Memorial Stadium during the Cornhuskers' "Tunnel Walk."
9. Judging how much better suited Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee is to run Mike Sherman's offense than Dennis Franchione's. I bet McGee is, too.
10. Maybe having a chance to see Kansas State QB Josh Freeman uncork a ball 70 or 80 yards -- on the fly.
11. Waiting to see Iowa State coach Gene Chizik's decision on who is better -- Austen Arnaud or Phillip Bates.
12. Waiting for a chance to see Baylor QB Robert Griffin and Texas QB John Chiles play a position other than quarterback.
13. Seeing the Sooner Schooner march up and down the field. Something tells me a good night would be Saturday against Chattanooga.
14. Waiting to see the records that Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree can set this season.
15. Chase Daniel chewing out an offensive lineman who might have missed a block -- or maybe a coach he doesn't agree with.
16. Catching a few replays of Texas' mammoth Godzillatron scoreboard and wishing I had one just like it in my living room.
17. Seeing the "Waving of the Wheat" after a Kansas victory. This never gets old.
18. Ralphie the Buffalo leading Colorado on the field. Simply the best mascot in all of college sports.
19. The Texas A&M Marching Band in one of their stirring, patented halftime shows.
20. Watching how much playing time Marlon Lucky will receive with Nebraska this year. Bet he still is among the conference's rushing leaders.
21. Seeing how Texas Tech's young defense reacts to excitable coach Ruffin McNeill.
22. Standing next to Kansas State TB Keithen Valentine and judging if I'm really taller than he is.
23. Watching the pads pop when Oklahoma running backs run behind the mammoth left side of their offensive line keyed by T Phil Loadholt and G Duke Robinson.
24. Standing close -- but not too close -- to the Baylor bear mascot and Bevo the Longhorn along the sidelines.
25. Waiting for another big return by Kansas State so I can see Ron Prince happily stomp down the field in jubilation.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
How good will be the Big 12 be this season?
With an armada of strong quarterbacks and concentrated power at the top of both divisions, the conference could produce something really special this season. The Associated Press' preseason poll is stacked with five Big 12 teams among its top 14 teams. That respect is coming after four Big 12 teams finished in the top 10 last season and a Big 12-record eight consensus All-Americans were selected last season.
Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star speculates today that the Big 12 finally can come close to matching the SEC this season. Keys, he mentions, will be the performance of the Big 12 in tough nonconference games like Missouri-Illinois, Kansas at South Florida, Kansas State at Louisville and Virginia Tech at Nebraska. The Big 12 should win its only matchup this season against the SEC when Arkansas visits Texas.
The conference's true reputation will be built in bowl games. After struggles early in its history in bowls, the Big 12's 5-3 bowl record last season was its fifth above .500 in history and third in four seasons.
That trend will have to continue to help the conference's burgeoning reputation to keep growing. And it probably wouldn't hurt for Oklahoma to win a bowl game, too.
But those games are more than four months away. The season is approaching in a mere three days.
To whet your appetite for that start, here's a power-packed stack of morning links. Enjoy them.
- Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com breaks down the 10 best decisions of Mack Brown's coaching tenure at Texas.
- Boulder Daily Camera columnist Neill Woelk can't believe that Mark Mangino is making $2.3 million per season -- considering he's had two winning seasons in his six-year tenure as a head coach at Kansas.
- Baylor's three quarterbacks discuss battling for their starting job as coach Art Briles' decision appears no clearer.
- Four newcomers dot Kansas State's depth chart. RB Keithen Valentine, CB Blair Irvin, OLB Olu Hall and ILB Ulla Pomele all will be in the starting lineup Saturday against North Texas.
- Missouri sports information director Chad Moller has "something big" planned in his pitch for Chase Daniel's Heisman hopes, according to the Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond. Moller says cost of his surprise will be about $50,000.
- The Omaha World-Herald has virtually everything you'd ever want to know about the Cornhuskers in its preview edition. Among the highlights include World-Herald beat writer Jon Nyatawa's story on Bo Pelini's building plan, Tom Shatel's column on football motivation, a Husker inkblot test that shows how the Cornhuskers can finish 8-4 and Shatel's 14 predictions for the coming season.
- Not to be outdone, the Lincoln Journal-Star had a preview section with Bo Pelini as a superhero with "Bo Wonder. Villains, Beware!" shouting from the cover. Columnist Steve Sipple explains his rationale for the cover. Beat writer Brian Christopherson details the Cornhuskers' 1-2 offensive punch in QB Joe Ganz and I-back Marlon Lucky, and Curt McKeever's list of Husker villains for the 2008 season.
- The Big 12 is heavily represented on John Walter's 50 most intriguing people in college football. Included on the MSNBC.com list are Baylor QB Robert Griffin, Missouri WR/KR Jeremy Maclin, Missouri K Jeff Wolfert, Nebraska I-back Marlon Lucky, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State WR Artrell Woods and Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell and WR Michael Crabtree .
- Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel speculates on the chances that Bob Stoops will remain at Oklahoma for 10 more years.
- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy still hasn't announced who'll be calling plays for the Cowboys in their season opener Saturday against Washington State.
- Des Moines Register beat writer Andrew Logue interviews Iowa State quarterbacks Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates.
- Wichita Eagle columnist Bob Lutz writes that Ron Prince's junior-college laden recruiting class is nothing like Bill Snyder's recruiting strategy.
- Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman breaks down Sam Bradford's Heisman hopes.
- Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler predicts a 12-0 regular season for Oklahoma, capped by a loss to Missouri in the Big 12 championship.
- Terrance Harris of the Houston Chronicle has an extended sit-down with new Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman.
- Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman considers how the Texas roster would be broken down after a 44-man NFL-style draft.
- Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News produces an interesting comparison between Dallas-area natives Chase Daniel of Missouri and Matthew Stafford of Georgia.
- Kansas QB Todd Reesing tells the Fort Worth Star
-Telegram's Mike Jones about his interest in dancing and life in the fishbowl in Lawrence, Kan.
- Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal "there's a good possibility" the Red Raiders will face Oklahoma State in Dallas in 2009.
- Texas Tech coaches still haven't decided on starters at running back and center heading into Saturday's opener against Eastern Washington. Daniel Charbonnet has won the starting job at free safety, with the right corner and kicker jobs still open.
- The Tulsa World's Guerin Emig profiles TB DeMarco Murray, a key offensive weapon for Oklahoma's success this season.
- J. Brady McCullough of the Kansas City Star details the changing expectations around the Jayhawks' program.
- Heralded Colorado running back Darrell Scott has lost 17 pounds since arriving at college. He's now down to a trim 210 pounds and hopes to play close at close to 205 once the season begins.
- New Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is emphasizing speed in his rebuilding process, Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman writes.
- Colorado is preparing for uncertainty in its season opener against Colorado State. The Buffaloes will be facing an opponent featuring a new coach, new offensive coordinator and new starting quarterback.