NCF Nation: Austen Arnaud

ISU's Rhoads wowed by Obama shout-out

August, 29, 2012
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President Barack Obama visited Iowa State on Tuesday, and just so happened to utter a quote that will live forever in Iowa State history.

"I won’t pretend I can give a speech like Coach [Paul] Rhoads can, but I’m going to try," Obama said.

Somebody get that thing on a wall up in Ames. Rhoads is famous for his post-upset locker-room speeches, and he's had plenty of chances after upsetting Nebraska in 2009, Texas in 2010 and derailing No. 2 Oklahoma State's national title run a year ago, all as underdogs of more than 20 points.

Rhoads spoke to the media later on Tuesday and the significance of the shout-out wasn't lost on the coach.

"That is really, really cool," Rhoads told reporters.

The catchphrase most closely associated with the Cyclones coach is "So Proud," the hook on his first speech that caused the locker room to explode a few moments after upsetting Big 12 North champion Nebraska in 2009, despite missing two of the team's best players, including starting quarterback Austen Arnaud.

"There was some good research done there by his writers," Rhoads said. "They had him prepared. He didn’t know my name before he said it, and he forgot it right after he said it, nonetheless, still pretty cool."

Humble as always. I wouldn't be so sure those speeches are as forgettable as Rhoads thinks they were.

He's the best thing to happen to Iowa State football since Seneca Wallace, and as long as he's in Ames, it's hard to imagine Tuesday's occurrence being topped, even by a second bowl win.

Big 12 power rankings: Week 1

August, 29, 2011
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Oh, yes. It is game week.

Today is Monday, which means we'll kick off our weekly power rankings and continue doing so each week throughout the season.

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners are clearly the class of the Big 12 but will have to start proving it early with a hyped trip to Tallahassee to face a Florida State team that yours truly thinks is a bit overrated. Saturday, though? Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles will open the season at home against an underrated Tulsa team that won more games in 2010 than Florida State but will travel to Norman perhaps without its top playmaker, Damaris Johnson. G.J. Kinne is great, but he'll have to be spectacular for the Golden Hurricane to be a serious threat.

2. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys gave college football fans a treat with the return of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, who will kick off their encore seasons against Louisiana-Lafayette, a team that spawned Weeden's trust in Blackmon originally last season. The opener should be a snoozer, but next week's rematch of the Alamo Bowl against Arizona could produce big fireworks on a Thursday night national broadcast.

3. Texas A&M: This is an absolute coin flip. Until the teams meet on Sept. 24, I'll probably flip OSU and A&M depending on who was more impressive the previous week. The Aggies will have the best chance to impress with a Sunday nighter against an underrated SMU team coming to Kyle Field with a crowd that could get a huge boost from the prospect of a future in the SEC, which might be announced later this week.

4. Missouri: We'll get our first real look at James Franklin when the Tigers suit up against Miami (Ohio). After struggling early in spring camp during his competition with Tyler Gabbert, Franklin has only gotten better. This week will be big for the Tigers' offensive line, which has to find a suitable replacement for stalwart left tackle Elvis Fisher, a 40-game starter who will miss the season with a torn patellar tendon. The Tigers' first big test is just six days from Saturday, when they travel to Tempe, Ariz.,to play Arizona State.

5. Baylor: Baylor's new-look defense will get a pretty good test from TCU. The Bears are the Big 12's lone team matched up with a ranked opponent in Week 1. A win against the defending Rose Bowl champs with the nation's eyes watching a Friday night ESPN broadcast could be a big coming-out party for Art Briles and Robert Griffin III on a national scale.

6. Texas: obody knows what to expect from the Longhorns, but we might find out who'll be starting at quarterback for the Horns later today. The defense, which has led the Big 12 in total defense the past four seasons, should still be stout in spite of a young secondary, but an amorphous offseason depth chart will take shape this week.

7. Texas Tech: There are a lot of new faces on the field for the Red Raiders, but Year 2 under Tommy Tuberville will probably get off to a yawn-worthy start with FCS Texas State heading to Lubbock for the opener. Tech is a bit of a wild card that might be as good as the league's fourth-best team. This is probably as low on the power rankings as you'll see the Red Raiders all season.

8. Kansas State: The Wildcats caught a break with Arthur Brown and Bryce Brown being given limited immunity by the NCAA and avoiding eligbility issues from the mess at Miami, but we'll finally get a chance to see K-State's hyped transfers take the field. Arthur Brown emerged as one of the defense's top playmakers during the spring, but what will Bryce Brown have to offer? And has Collin Klein improved enough as a passer to help the Wildcats claw into the next tier of Big 12 teams?

9. Iowa State: The Cyclones might be better than this, but they're going to have to prove it. No one above them in the power rankings finished with a worse record last season. The Big 12 had only one team (Kansas) that finished with a record worse than 5-7. New quarterback Steele Jantz, replacing three-year starter Austen Arnaud, should be fun to watch.

10. Kansas: Improvement is the name of the game for the Jayhawks, who dropped a game to an FCS team in Week 1 last year. It's doubtful we'll see a repeat against McNeese State this time around, but how much better will Kansas be? We'll get a better sense when the Jayhawks tangle with an underrated Northern Illinois team in Week 2 and ACC foe Georgia Tech the next week.
We'll kick off our look today at the position rankings for each team in the Big 12 before looping back around to rank the top 10 at every position in the Big 12.

We'll start at the most obvious position: Quarterback, a position that I'd argue is more important in the Big 12 than in any other conference.

Depth will be a huge factor in these rankings, though at quarterback, it's the toughest to gauge, considering how little we see of backup quarterbacks.

Here's how each Big 12 team ranks at the quarterback position:

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireLandry Jones leads the Big 12's deepest and best group of quarterbacks.
1. Oklahoma

Oklahoma learned the hard way in 2009 about the importance of the backup quarterback, but even in his limited experience, Drew Allen has impressed Bob Stoops after narrowly losing out on the backup job behind Sam Bradford in 2009. Landry Jones is a great one, and with his opportunities, has become a Heisman Trophy favorite. Could Allen have done the same if he had beaten out Jones in 2009? Blake Bell, the nation's No. 3 quarterback in the 2010 class, will likely be Oklahoma's No. 3 in 2011.

2. Oklahoma State

Brandon Weeden's profile spiked when he led the Cowboys to a comeback win over Colorado on a Thursday night game in 2009. He took over as the starter shortly after, but going into that game Weeden was a third-stringer. Alex Cate transferred after it became evident that Weeden would be the starter in 2010, and behind Weeden is Clint Chelf and two solid recruits: Johnny Deaton and J.W. Walsh, who was the nation's No. 10 QB (just outside the ESPNU 150) in 2011 and enrolled early.

3. Texas A&M

Ryan Tannehill is entrenched at the starting spot, with a lot of youth behind him. Matt Joeckel and Jameill Showers will try to hold off incoming freshman Johnny Manziel for the No. 2 spot this fall. Manziel was impressive during the spring, and will contend for the starting job in 2012, but he'll likely redshirt unless he wins the backup job.

4. Texas Tech

Seth Doege looks ready to grab the reins for two seasons, barring injury. Jacob Karam is probably ready to start in the Big 12 right now, he's just not as good as Doege. Behind them are two promising prospects with upside and development to do: Scotty Young and Michael Brewer. The Red Raiders are the last of the Big 12 teams who have truly solid depth at quarterback.

5. Baylor

Robert Griffin III will probably hold every school record for quarterbacks by the time he leaves Waco, but the Bears need to find a true replacement behind him. Nick Florence filled in well in 2009 when Griffin missed the final nine games with a knee injury, but he's a junior like Griffin and their eligibility will expire simultaneously. Redshirt freshman Bryce Petty and 2012 commit Jared Johnson could battle for the spot in 2013.

6. Missouri

The Tigers depth took a hit after Tyler Gabbert's transfer following spring practice, but expectations are high for sophomore James Franklin, who got a bit of experience in 2010 behind Blaine Gabbert. Senior Jimmy Costello quit the team after last season to focus on an impending fall enlistment in the Army, but rejoined after the Gabbert brothers' departures from Columbia. He's likely to be the backup, with Ashton Glaser and walk-on Ryan Howerton filling out the rest of the quarterback spots. Corbin Berkstresser, a 6-foot-3, 218-pound quarterback from Kansas City that ESPN ranked No. 43 at his position, will arrive in the fall, too.

7. Texas

How long until we see a quarterback make the kind of plays Garrett Gilbert made against Alabama in the national championship? Those kinds of long scores were rare last year, but the Longhorns will have a competition this fall that sounds like it's pretty open heading into camp. If Gilbert wins, he'll likely have a much shorter leash in 2011 than he did in 2010, before Case McCoy or Connor Wood gets a crack, and dark horse true freshman David Ash could make things interesting, too.

8. Kansas State

Collin Klein made a nice move toward winning the job with a strong spring game performance. But coach Bill Snyder says he still didn't see a ton of separation between Klein and his backups, Sammuel Lamur and Boston College transfer Justin Tuggle, who spent last year replacing Cam Newton at Blinn College in Texas.

9. Iowa State

James Capello transferred after the spring, but Iowa State's race has likely boiled down to two men: Jerome Tiller and Steele Jantz. Jantz, a juco transfer, is the wild card and Tiller will need to show that his struggles in spot duty last season were temporary. He didn't show the progress you'd expect from a maturing player when he played for an injured Austen Arnaud in a few games early and late in 2010. Jared Barnett is still battling in Ames, but him winning the job would be a huge upset.

10. Kansas

The Jayhawks could use a couple more years of Todd Reesing. The Jayhawks saw a huge drop off at the quarterback position in 2010, as Jordan Webb, Quinn Mecham and Kale Pick all got time under center. Kansas will likely run its offense through a strong group of running backs, but unless newcomer Brock Berglund shows potential and proves he's the best of the group, expect Kansas to remain near the bottom of the Big 12 by the end of 2011.

Checking the Big 12's health

May, 31, 2011
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Colleague Mark Schlabach recently took a look at every major program, handing out a 1-5 health rating on the state of the program.

Here's his scale:

5: Consistent winner with potential to be BCS bowl contender every season
4: Potential to join the sport's elite in the near future
3: Recent mediocre results but seems to be building momentum
2: Recent success but seems to be headed in wrong direction
1: Below-average program with little success in past or future

And here's what he had to say about each team in the Big 12:

Baylor
Rating: 3
The Bears have a star quarterback (Robert Griffin III) and underrated coach (Art Briles), who guided them to their first bowl game in 16 years in 2010. Building a consistent winner will be Briles' biggest challenge.

My take: Agreed. The Bears are moving in the right direction, but still far from becoming an annual elite team.

Iowa State
Rating: 2
The Cyclones can't seem to get over the hump, going 7-6 in 2009 and 5-7 in '10 in coach Paul Rhoads' first two seasons. At least Rhoads won seven more games than Gene Chizik did in his two seasons at Iowa State from 2007-08.

My take: I'd probably give the Cyclones a 3. Iowa State's fall from the postseason had more to do with its schedule, and Paul Rhoads' teams have gotten better every year. This year's team, he feels, is still his best yet, despite losing most of his offense in Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson.

Kansas
Rating: 2
Turner Gill's first season as the Jayhawks' coach was an unmitigated disaster, as they limped to their second straight losing record at 3-9. Gill had a lot of success at Buffalo, but competing in the Big 12 might be a different animal.

My take: Agree. There's no telling what's in store for Turner Gill at Kansas, but last year's team was one of the worst in Big 12 history. The Jayhawks should be better in 2011, but KU hasn't proved its two-year free fall in 2009 and 2010 is officially over.

Kansas State
Rating: 2
Even legendary Wildcats coach Bill Snyder is having a hard time cleaning up the mess former KSU coach Ron Prince left behind. In Snyder's second go-around in Manhattan, the Wildcats are 13-12 in two seasons combined.

My take: The 'Cats are straddling 2-3, but 2011 will be a telling year. The Brown Brothers will have a big influence on if Snyder succeeds in "calming the waters" for his second successor.

Missouri
Rating: 4
Gary Pinkel has guided the Tigers to unprecedented success, winning 40 games over the last four seasons and going to six straight bowl games. The only things missing: A Big 12 championship and BCS bowl game.

My take: Agreed. Missouri and Oklahoma State are the closest two teams in the Big 12 to joining college football's elite, and the Tigers took a huge step last year by beating Oklahoma for the first time under Pinkel.

Oklahoma
Rating: 5
Even the sport's best teams suffer a mediocre season every once in a while (OU went 8-4 in 2005 and 8-5 in '09), but Bob Stoops has built one of the most consistent winners in the country. Under his watch, OU has won seven Big 12 titles and played in four BCS National Championship games since 2000.

My take: Eight BCS appearances and one title make anything but a 5 impossible to argue here.

Oklahoma State
Rating: 4
The Pokes won 29 games during the last three seasons combined, including a school-best 11-2 record in 2010. Of course, in-state rival Oklahoma might be OSU's biggest obstacle in joining college football's upper crust.

My take: Oklahoma State missed a golden opportunity to get over the hump last year against Oklahoma, but there's no doubt the Cowboys are getting closer and closer under Mike Gundy, beginning with last year's historic season.

Texas
Rating: 4
The Longhorns have more talent, money and resources at their disposal than just about every other program in the country. That's what makes last season's 5-7 finish so perplexing. With a new coaching staff in place, it shouldn't take Mack Brown long to get UT back on track.

My take: Handing out a three would be a little harsh for the Longhorns, who made it easy to forget this season that they were in the national title game 17 months ago. But is 2011 the next step towards the end, or a rebound year from a shocking 2010?

Texas A&M
Rating: 4
Mike Sherman led the Aggies to a 9-4 record in 2010, nearly equaling his victory total (10-15) from his first two seasons in College Station. Sherman has upgraded the Aggies' talent and has them in position to become a Big 12 challenger every season.

My take: The Aggies finally had their first winning season under Sherman in 2011, and this year's team should be even better. This game is tough to predict, but it's hard to see A&M not ending up in a BCS bowl in the very near future.

Texas Tech
Rating: 3
The Mike Leach fiasco seemed to suck life out of the Texas Tech program, but then former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville produced an 8-5 record in his first season in Lubbock. At least Tuberville is teaching the Red Raiders how to play defense.

My take: He's teaching them to play defense, but last year, the Red Raiders weren't fast or healthy enough to do it. Changing that is step one to getting Tech back to contender status.
We'll do this category a bit different. We're all about the wild cards here on the Big 12 blog. Fear of the unknown? How about the anticipation of the unknown?

In this poll, pick the unknown player that will have the most impact on the 2011 season. (alternate title for this poll: What can Brown do for you?)

Malcolm Brown is one of the nation's top running backs in the 2011 class, and appears to have an opportunity with a pair of underachieving seniors as the featured backs on campus. Can he be the guy to bring the Longhorns running game to life?

Bryce Brown was once a five-star running back prospect just like Malcolm Brown. But his career took a detour to Tennessee before he transferred back closer to his home in Wichita. Is he the answer to replace Daniel Thomas, running behind an offensive line that must replace three starters?

Sheldon Richardson is another former five star who had to go to junior college and committed to USC before re-committing and signing with Missouri. He's expected to be on campus this June, but once he arrives, will he be a game-changer?

Steele Jantz, aside from possessing the league's most intimidating name, is entrenched in a four-man race to be Iowa State's new quarterback. Is he the man to replace Austen Arnaud?

Arthur Brown, like his brother Bryce, was once one of the nation's top recruits, but signed with Miami. Also like his brother, he's back closer to home and made a big impact this spring. Will that continue through to the fall?
Of the handful of quarterback competitions in the Big 12 this spring, none was more muddled than Iowa State's.

"There is by no means a two-man race that has surfaced," said Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads.

[+] EnlargeJerome Tiller
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireJerome Tiller has the most experience among the candidates battling for Iowa State's QB job.
Austen Arnaud, a three-year starter, is gone, and Rhoads is left sorting out four candidates to replace him. He's not all talk when he says it's a four-man race, either. All four got time with the first-team offense throughout the spring and in Saturday's spring game in Ames.

Jerome Tiller, a junior, started three times and got various other spot duty when Arnaud was injured during his three-year run behind center. He looked like a possible front-runner for the job, but has been limited after suffering a shoulder injury early in spring camp.

"There was a fumble during practice and a guy landed on it. Half of spring ball he’s not been at full strength and that’s hurt his velocity, and when that happens, your accuracy is going to be affected," Rhoads said. "We have not gotten a fair assessment of where Jerome’s growth is at this point, which is why we’ll need to go into August."

That status as front-runner was challenged by Steele Jantz's arrival this spring, a speedy juco transfer from California who showed up to spring camp with a mohawk.

The transition from junior college to the Big 12 is still in its early stages, but Rhoads is hoping for big strides in the fall from Jantz.

"The game has not slowed down for him yet, but he's still very fast," Rhoads said. "He’s by far the fastest quarterback we put out there on the field. That has shown up and he has the ability to throw the soft ball, intermediate and the vertical ball. He just hasn’t done it on a consistent basis."

That has kept two younger quarterbacks, James Capello and Jared Barnett, in the competition.

"James Capello and Jared Barnett have both thrown the ball in between the numbers of our receivers with a lot more consistency than the other two," Rhoads said. "They’re not as athletic, but that doesn’t mean they’re not effective in the run game. Both have made a number of big plays off zone reads and keeping the ball off designed runs."

Rhoads knows exactly what he wants from his quarterback. It's little more than a checklist of three big factors

The first? Decision-making in pressure situations.

"It’s easy to do it in the classroom and it’s easy to do it sometimes on the practice field, but when the 40-second clock is running and bullets are flying, he’s got to be able to make the right decisions on a consistent basis," Rhoads said.

He also wants accuracy and a quarterback who has the ability to make plays with his feet. For now, no one has proved themselves in all three areas.

Tiller's experience helped him in the first, but he's lacked Jantz's speed and the younger pair's accuracy, in part because of the shoulder injury. Jantz's transition has made decision-making a tougher task than a player like Tiller, who already has a win at Nebraska against one of college football's top defenses in 2009.

The less-athletic pair has had the advantage in accuracy, but with limited experience and athleticism, winning the job could prove difficult.

For now, the inevitable choice for Rhoads doesn't look easy.

"It’s a competition. A dead heat probably wouldn’t be an accurate way of explaining it, but we’ve got four guys that have all done good things," Rhoads said. "Time is on our side, so we’ve got to take advantage of that as we go into fall training camp and find out who that guy is for out September 3 opener."

The rest of the Big 12's bowl misses

December, 15, 2010
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We took a look at how Texas missed a bowl game earlier today, and here's what happened to the Big 12's other three teams home for the holidays:

Colorado

The Buffaloes started hot, finishing their nonconference season at 3-1 with wins over bowl-bound opponents Georgia and Hawaii, but didn't get it done in conference play. The defense held conference opponents under 30 points just three times, and in one of those games, Colorado was shut out. The offense, despite a solid year from Rodney Stewart, just couldn't keep up. Playing the second half of the season without quarterback Tyler Hansen (spleen) didn't help, either. A meltdown at Kansas (blowing a 28-point lead in the game's final 11 minutes) led to coach Dan Hawkins getting fired, and the Buffaloes rallied to win their only two conference games of the year, but to reach a bowl they needed to beat Nebraska in Lincoln with the Huskers playing for a Big 12 North title. That wasn't going to happen.

Iowa State

Iowa State's schedule ended up not being quite as difficult as it seemed in the preseason, thanks to disappointing years from Texas, Texas Tech and Utah, but the Cyclones got a chance to play for a bowl berth against Missouri in their regular season finale. The problem was they had to do it without three-year starter at quarterback Austen Arnaud, and lost 14-0. Iowa State got a lot closer to a bowl game than most thought, and beat Texas for the first time in school history. Nebraska and Iowa State went to overtime in Ames, and when the Cyclones scored what looked like a game-tying touchdown, they faked the extra point. Tight end Collin Franklin was open, but the pass was intercepted, costing the Cyclones a precious sixth win for the second consecutive season.

Kansas

Kansas lost its three best players, receivers Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier and quarterback Todd Reesing, from a 5-7 team in 2009, and 2010 looked like a rebuilding year all along. That's exactly what football fans in Lawrence got. The Jayhawks lost their first three conference games by a combined score of 159-24, but for the most part, they were at least competitive and got a comeback conference win against Colorado. They also found some reliable offensive options in running back James Sims and receiver Daymond Patterson. Expect more uncertainty at quarterback through next season, though.

NU secondary ready to see Jones again

December, 1, 2010
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Nebraska's secondary won't see the same Landry Jones on Saturday, but Jones won't see the same Nebraska secondary, either.

"Last year when we played him, he was a young quarterback just learning the system and everything," defensive back DeJon Gomes said. "One of the biggest things we took away from that game is he’s a competitor and he’s going to do the best he can to get his team into a situation to win."

And one more thing.

[+] EnlargePrince Amukamara
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesPrince Amukamara and the Nebraska secondary have had success against Oklahoma in the past.
"He also likes throwing the ball. That’s good for our secondary," Gomes said.

No kidding. Jones has racked up 527 pass attempts in 2010, in part because of Oklahoma's hurry-up offense and in part to find more success as a sophomore passer.

No quarterback in the Big 12 has more than 500, and Dominique Davis at Eastern Carolina is the only quarterback in America with more attempts than Oklahoma's Jones.

The Blackshirts picked off Jones five times in Lincoln in 2009 -- including three by departed safety Matt O'Hanlon -- though Huskers coach Bo Pelini tossed a wet blanket on talk of that game having any relevance over a year later.

"It's a different time, different place, different offense, new challenges," Pelini said. "The furthest thing from my mind is what happened in that game last year."

What does matter is what's happened this year. Nebraska has put together the No. 2 pass defense in the country, allowing just 144 yards a game. Jones averages almost 330 a game, good for No. 3 nationally.

"It’s going to be an exciting game, especially with them having one of the top offenses in the country and us priding ourself on defense," Gomes said. "It’ll be a fun one to watch."

If history repeats itself, it'll be a lot more fun for Huskers fans than Oklahoma fans when it comes to passing the ball. On the way to that No. 2 ranking, the Nebraska secondary has ruined the days of a handful of good quarterbacks. A sampling:
Only Iowa State's Austen Arnaud, Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill at Texas A&M managed decent days against the secondary. Part of Weeden's success was in finding receiver Justin Blackmon, one of the nation's best, for 135 of his 283 yards and both touchdowns. Only Tannehill got a victory with his success, however moderate (19-29, 172 yards).

Jones has another of the nation's best receivers, Ryan Broyles, to throw to, but even Broyles could only manage eight catches for 74 yards in 2009, one of his lowest outputs of the season while healthy.

"They have a trigger man who can get the ball to everybody," Pelini said of Jones. "They stretch the field on you. It's a good challenge for us."

It could be an even bigger challenge for Jones.

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 13

November, 22, 2010
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» Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Lots of movement at the top, but very little at the bottom, where lots of teams lost or beat up on overmatched opponents. Oklahoma State is a slight cut above every one else, but the next four teams are almost entirely interchangeable.

1. Oklahoma State (10-1, 6-1, last week: 2) No team in the Big 12 has been more consistent than the Cowboys, who have shown up in every game this year and are the only team in the Big 12 with just one loss. Best of all the loss was to a very good Nebraska team.

2. Texas A&M (8-3, 5-2, LW: 5) The Aggies momentum is more tangible than ever, and it lifts them to No. 2 here after a five-game winning streak that featured two wins over top 10 teams.

3. Nebraska (9-2, 5-2, LW: 1) The Huskers continue to look very average on offense without a full-strength Taylor Martinez. They should be able to beat Colorado, even if Martinez still isn't back to his old self, but he'll have to be healthy in the Big 12 title game for Nebraska to reach a BCS bowl.

4. Oklahoma (9-2, 5-2, LW: 3) The Sooners dominated Baylor, but Oklahoma State made it clear when it played Baylor two weeks ago that beating the Cowboys is a much different, much more difficult task. Oklahoma will have its hands full trying to win the South.

5. Missouri (9-2, 5-2, LW: 4) Nebraska's game against Colorado on Friday will have a major effect on the intensity level of Saturday's Border Showdown. If the Huskers clinch the North, Missouri will be trying to avoid an embarrassing loss and maybe improve on its bowl standing. If the Huskers lose, the Tigers will have an entire season at stake against the rival Jayhawks.

6. Texas Tech (6-5, 3-5, LW: 8) Regardless of who you're playing, a 44-0 halftime lead is a good day. The Red Raiders have to clean up their season with a hopeful seventh win against Houston, who knocked them off last year.

7. Baylor (7-5, 4-4, LW: 7) The Bears season came to a disappointing end with three consecutive double-digit losses. But seven wins is still more than most pegged them for this year, and they'll be back in 2011 hungry for more after tasting bowl season over the holidays.

8. Kansas State (6-5, 3-5, LW: 6) The Wildcats win for the most perplexing loss of the week. Bill Snyder's team couldn't stop Colorado running back Rodney Stewart. This week they'll face another interim coach with a quarterback, Riley Dodge, whose father was fired during the season.

9. Colorado (5-6, 2-5, LW: 11) The Buffaloes look rejuvenated under Brian Cabral, and beating K-State is way more impressive than beating Iowa State. Now, time to crank up the difficulty level to 11 for a season-ending trip to Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

10. Iowa State (5-7, 3-5, LW: 9) The Cyclones couldn't go out in style without Austen Arnaud, but as the season closes, the future is bright for Paul Rhoads' Cyclones, who are moving in the right direction.

11. Texas (5-6, 2-5, LW: 10) The Longhorns didn't fall as much as they were leapfrogged by a surging Colorado team now a win away from bowl eligibility. The 51 points on the board look pretty good, but Texas did score on a Hail Mary and a defensive touchdown. And it was Florida Atlantic. We'll see if the offense can take a step forward next week against a Texas A&M team playing some of the best defense in the league.

12. Kansas (3-8, 1-6, LW: 12) The Jayhawks showed some first-half fight, but Oklahoma State has too much offense for Kansas to handle. Turner Gill could tie a nice bow on the season with an upset of rival Missouri to close a first year filled with frustration.

Thoughts on Oklahoma, Missouri games

November, 20, 2010
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After three less-than-stellar weeks, Missouri's defense returned to its early-season form, shutting out an Iowa State offense that was playing without its leader, quarterback Austen Arnaud. Either way, that's a much-needed win for the Tigers, who notch their second shutout of the season.

They beat Colorado 26-0 earlier this year in the conference opener.

The interesting thing for Missouri is its offense got outgained by Iowa State, 332-206, and both teams had 17 first downs. Missouri didn't turn the ball over, and Iowa State had just one.

Two missed field goals by Iowa State's Grant Mahoney were obviously huge. That said, Missouri knows any road win in the Big 12 is good, and with Nebraska currently struggling with Texas A&M in College Station, their Big 12 North hopes are still alive.


Oklahoma will be sure to note to anyone who'll listen after its game at Baylor that it made it on the plane away from Norman.

Few would have been surprised if the 50-10 beatdown Oklahoma is currently putting on Baylor would have happened in Norman. No one was too surprised when Oklahoma did the same to Texas Tech with a 45-7 win at Owen Field last week.

But these Sooners came to play Baylor as seven-point favorites, and have played by far their best game of the season away from home.

They've forced three turnovers, including an interception returned for a touchdown by Ronnell Lewis early in the third quarter. Landry Jones has topped 300 yards passing and Ryan Broyles has 11 catches.

Meanwhile, Baylor's high-powered offense hasn't been able to do what it's done for most of the season, and just gave up a safety on kickoff coverage. Baylor has only 192 yards of offense.

So, Oklahoma has done what it's always done against Baylor. Now, the question becomes: Can they do it with the season on the line next week against Oklahoma State in Stillwater?

Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 12

November, 15, 2010
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» Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

1. Nebraska (9-1, 5-1, last week: 1) The Huskers did it ugly against Kansas, but they did it, and that's all that really matters. The offense will have to be sharper in College Station next week to beat the red-hot Aggies.

2. Oklahoma State (9-1, 5-1, LW: 2) The Cowboys took care of business in Austin, and are inching toward a first-ever trip toward a Big 12 title. Don't be looking for a slip-up in Lawrence next week, but hype is building for what should be a heated Bedlam battle in Stillwater in two weeks.

3. Oklahoma (8-2, 4-2, LW: 3) Bob Stoops-coached teams at Oklahoma continue their home dominance, but Owen Field will remain quiet for the rest of the season. The Sooners have to get by Baylor in Waco next week to still have a chance to play for the South title in Stillwater a week later. That's not as easy as it used to be.

4. Missouri (8-2, 4-2, LW: 4) Blaine Gabbert redeemed himself in a big way, but the Tigers defense made plays everywhere against Kansas State. Good luck finding a team that loses with a 4-1 advantage in turnovers and a defensive touchdown. This week, even with Iowa State missing senior quarterback Austen Arnaud, Missouri's trip to Ames won't be easy.

5. Texas A&M (7-3, 4-2, LW: 5) The Aggies are the league's hottest team, but it's hard to move them above any of the four teams higher than them. That'll change if Mike Sherman's team can knock off Nebraska this week. Texas A&M played one of its best halves of the year in its comeback win against Baylor. And by the way, how does that last-second loss to Oklahoma State back in the conference opener look now? A lot more impressive.

6. Kansas State (6-4, 3-4, LW: 6) Kansas State burned itself with costly fumbles, but the Wildcats would be well-served to ride Collin Klein to the finish line in 2010. A second dynamic running threat adds a lot more to the offense than a second average-at-best passer.

7. Baylor (7-4, 4-3, LW: 7) Baylor's offense got deadlocked by Tim DeRuyter's defense in a frustrating loss, but the Bears will try to go out with a bang against Oklahoma in their season finale this week.

8. Texas Tech (5-5, 3-5, LW: 9) Texas Tech didn't move up as much as the four teams below them moved down. The Red Raiders looked pretty helpless in Norman, but that's nothing new for Texas Tech or anyone. The Sooners haven't lost a Big 12 game at home since 2001. A late switch back to Steven Sheffield didn't help much, either. Expect Taylor Potts to start again next week.

9. Iowa State (5-6, 3-4, LW: 8) The loss to Colorado was crushing, but not as crushing as losing Arnaud. Expect Paul Rhoads' team to rally around experienced backup Jerome Tiller this week and give Missouri a tough time with a bowl berth on the line.

10. Texas (4-6, 2-5, LW: 10) Don't think a lopsided win against Florida Atlantic is a given for the Longhorns. Howard Schnellenberger's Owls gave Sun Belt leader Florida International its only conference loss of the season, 21-9, and have won three in a row.

11. Colorado (4-6, 1-5, LW: 12) The Buffs won a big one for Brian Cabral, and might tap into something down the stretch. If Kansas State turns it over like it did against Missouri, Colorado might string together a two-game winning streak.

12. Kansas (3-7, 1-5, LW: 11) Kansas is getting better, but the season's finish will be tough against Oklahoma State and Missouri.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 11

November, 14, 2010
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[+] EnlargeCyrus Gray
Brett Davis/US PresswireCyrus Gray had 28 carries for 137 yards and four touchdowns in Texas A&M's win over Baylor.
Texas A&M is clearly a new team. You can look at this one any way you want, but Texas A&M wouldn't have made that comeback earlier in the year. The Aggies rallied from 16 down to score the game's final 28 points and beat Baylor, 42-30. They did it with a punishing running game from Cyrus Gray and a dominating defense for the second half. There are so many other factors outside of him, but it's hard to not point at quarterback Ryan Tannehill as a big reason for the rise, too. And quietly, Texas A&M has moved to 2-0 with Tannehill in televised games, where former starter Jerrod Johnson infamously struggled. That might not mean anything inside the locker room, but plenty of people have seen the Aggies pull off a pair of impressive wins in consecutive weeks now.

So is Colorado. You've seen plenty of teams pack it in after a coach is fired, but Colorado did the exact opposite on Saturday, beating an Iowa State team in Boulder with a bowl berth on the line. The defense played well, everyone on offense had a good game, and you have to wonder what practice had been like the last week to get produce one of the Buffaloes best performances of the season. Brian Cabral, a 20-year coaching veteran who has been at Colorado since 1989, probably doesn't have a great shot to get the full-time job after the season. But his stock definitely has to have risen after coaching Colorado to its first conference win of the year.

Without Taylor Martinez at full strength, Nebraska's offense can look very average. We saw it last week, when the Huskers had to intercept a pass in overtime to beat Iowa State, but without a suffocating performance from the Blackshirts, Saturday's game against Kansas might have come down to a few key plays in the fourth quarter. The Huskers eased Martinez, who says he's nearing 100 percent, back into the game, but he wasn't running with the frequency he usually does. Without that consistent threat, Nebraska's offense doesn't look much different from a year ago, when its defense was much better but the team still lost four games.

Sometimes, college football just isn't fair. You won't hear anyone in the league have anything negative to say about Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud or Oklahoma defensive tackle Adrian Taylor. But both saw their seasons and careers come to painful ends. Arnaud suffered a knee injury and will be forced to watch his team play for its bowl lives next week on Senior Day in Ames. That's a heartbreaking end to a career for Arnaud, who is in his third year as the Cyclones' starting quarterback. Rhoads lauded Arnaud all offseason as his team's most improved player and hardest worker, and he's the squad's unquestioned leader. Taylor, meanwhile, battled back from a horrific dislocated ankle in Oklahoma's bowl game last year, fighting through the season without being 100 percent. Now, his career is over with a torn achilles tendon in his opposite foot. No player wants to be carted off the field during his final game, especially his final game on his home field. "It crushes you with what he's invested in this program with everything he's gone through,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables told reporters after the game. “He's given us a lot more than we've given him. His legacy will be incredibly strong here."

Missouri figured out its offensive issues. Maybe it was playing on the road, but last week's loss to Texas Tech was one of the more curious results in the Big 12 season. Especially when you consider Blaine Gabbert's horrific day, completing 12 of 30 passes for 95 yards. Nebraska was clearly a better team than Missouri in its win, but Missouri's offense looked like its old self for most of Saturday's win over Kansas State. The Tigers added a few new wrinkles on Saturday, but the basic pass-and-catch execution that was absent in Lubbock last week was there this week. Missouri is all but out of the Big 12 North race, but they'd improve their bowl destination with wins at Iowa State and against Kansas in Kansas City to close the season.

Both quarterbacks sharp in Boulder

November, 13, 2010
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Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud and Colorado quarterback Cody Hawkins are Nos. 9 and 12, respectively, in the Big 12 in completion percentage this year with neither completing at least 60 percent of his passes.

Both have been sharp early as they've faced off, and Hawkins' first touchdown pass of the day has Colorado up 10-7 in its first game since coach Dan Hawkins was fired earlier this week.

Hawkins is 7-of-7 for 135 yards and a score. Arnaud is 11-of-13 for 115 yards. Alexander Robinson scored Iowa State's touchdown.

It's worth noting that both defenses rank in the bottom third of the Big 12 in defensive completion percentage.

Hawkins and Arnaud have both struggled for stretches of their senior seasons, but today is not one of those days.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 10

November, 4, 2010
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I'll be in Stillwater on Saturday checking out a big South battle between Oklahoma State and Baylor, but I'll have my eye on every game as usual. Here's what I'm watching:

1. The scoreboard at Boone Pickens Stadium. You saw it in my pick this morning, there's going to be a lot of points on the board this Saturday, featuring some of the best skill-position talent in the league. Oklahoma State's triplets -- quarterback Brandon Weeden, running back Kendall Hunter and receiver Justin Blackmon -- go head-to-head with Robert Griffin III, Jay Finley and Kendall Wright.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden and Kendall Hunter
John Rieger/US PresswireOklahoma State's Brandon Weeden (3) and Kendall Hunter (24) -- along with receiver Justin Blackmon -- have been tough to stop this season.
2. Big hits. This should be something to keep an eye on for the rest of the season, really. I had it on last week's what to watch, but I'm interested to see if receivers over the middle go unjacked-up, or if there's any noticeable difference with how defenders hit. Oklahoma safety Quinton Carter, one of the league's hardest hitters, says his style is changing because of the crackdown. Nebraska's defense says it won't change the way it plays after linebacker Eric Martin was suspended. Courtney Osborne's hit on Blaine Gabbert (clean in my book) went unpunished after Missouri's Gary Pinkel sent it to the league for review in hopes of educating his players on which hits were legal and which hits weren’t.

3. Texas' defense. It completely shut down the league's best rushing offense earlier in the season in a marquee 20-13 victory at Nebraska. Now, it takes on the Big 12's No. 2 rushing team, Kansas State, in Manhattan. What's in store for running backs Daniel Thomas and William Powell?

4. Texas Tech's receivers. Jacoby Franks and last year's leader, Alex Torres, are out. They the are Red Raiders' Nos. 3 and 4 targets. Franks is gone for the year, and Torres could be too, but arthroscopic surgery earlier this week provided hope he could return in a few weeks. Those who will be playing, namely seniors Lyle Leong and Detron Lewis, will need to play well to keep up with Missouri's offense. Younger players like Austin Zouzalik and Tramain Swindall have to elevate their play.

5. Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert actually played pretty well for what was available last week, running when he needed to and throwing without any real misses on the rare occasion when a receiver was open. This week should be much easier against a Texas Tech secondary that is the worst in the league and one of the worst in the nation. Is he due for a big week? His targets will be back open, and he won't get hit nearly as much. The Red Raiders gave up 449 yards to Ryan Tannehill, 274 yards to Cody Hawkins and 356 to Brandon Weeden in the past three weeks. Not a sparkling résumé.

6. Oklahoma on the road. Bob Stoops says it's not a real problem. The Sooners' win-loss margin at home is 22.7 points higher than away from Owen Field, by far the highest of any other elite program. This year, the Sooners have a loss to Missouri and a two-point win over Cincinnati, the last-place team in the Big East at 3-5, on their record. Texas A&M is a renewed team with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. Is an upset in store?

7. Tannehill's next test. Like we mentioned above, Texas Tech's secondary ranks last in the league, giving up 45 more yards per game through the air than any other team. That ranks 119 out of 120 teams nationally. Oklahoma isn't way, way better (sixth in Big 12, No. 83 nationally), but they'll be tougher than Texas Tech. What does Tannehill have in store for his encore after a school-record 449 yards and four touchdowns in his first start last week?

8. Quarterback controversies. Texas Tech has reopened the competition between Steven Sheffield and Taylor Potts, and hasn't officially announced a starter. Kansas' top two passers may be back this week, but their status is in doubt as No. 3 Quinn Mecham hopes to make his second career start. Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman hasn't explicitly said Tannehill will start on Saturday, but it would be hard to imagine he wouldn't after last week. Keep an eye on how all this shakes out on Saturday.

9. Kansas climbing. The Jayhawks led at halftime last week at Iowa State. Now, they host the next-worst team in the league, Colorado, the Big 12's only other 0-4 team. There's no doubt this is the best chance for either team to get their first -- and maybe only -- conference win of the year.

10. Huskers taking care of the ball. I'm not 100 percent sure, but I think the definition of a football nightmare is finishing a game with more turnovers than points. That's what Nebraska did last year, turning the ball over eight times in a 9-7 home loss to an Iowa State team missing its two best players, running back Alexander Robinson and quarterback Austen Arnaud. They'll face a full-strength Iowa State team in Ames on Saturday for control of the North. The Huskers have an incredible 26 fumbles in eight games, but have lost only nine of them. What are the odds history repeats itself?
Iowa State just threw its second touchdown pass of the game to take a 21-6 lead late in third quarter.

Most notable: It came on third down, just like the first one.

Across the field, Texas has had two third downs inside Cyclones' 5-yard line and another in the red zone. They didn't convert any of them and have just six points to show for those drives after a missed field goal at the end of the half.

For as many moving parts as there are in the game of football, sometimes it's that simple. Iowa State's senior quarterback, Austen Arnaud, has made plays in tight spots on third downs.

Texas' sophomore first-year starter, Garrett Gilbert, hasn't. If any of those plays go the other way, it's a very different game. Worse, he's thrown a pair of interceptions, including one in the end zone on a 2nd-and-10 that could have changed the game as well.

Instead, the Longhorns are in a big hole and need a big play from somewhere to climb out.

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