NCF Nation: Barry Turner

Nebraska recruiting capsule

February, 4, 2010
2/04/10
12:02
PM ET
Nebraska Cornhuskers

Total class: 21

ESPN 150: 1

By position: DT 3, DE 3, ATH 2, QB 2, OT 2, CB 2, S 2, RB 1, WR 1, TE 1, OLB 1, G 1

By state: Texas 5, Nebaska 4, Florida 2, Colorado 2, California 2, Missouri 1, Illinois 1, Ohio 1, Minnesota 1, Louisiana 1, Mississippi 1.

Already enrolled in school: 3.

The big ones: Massive 298-pound guard Andrew Rodriguez, the nation's seventh ranked player at his position and the Cornhuskers’ only player on the ESPNU 150, looks like he could develop into a dominant player in the trenches. Safety Corey Cooper, a late decommittment from Illinois and the nation's No. 20 rated safety, arrives at Nebraska’s biggest defensive position of need.

Sleeper: WR/KR/DB Ken Bell, son of former Denver Broncos player Ken Bell, struggled with injuries during his senior season in high school. But he has played well at a variety of positions and has been clocked at 4.29 in the 40-yard dash.

Needs met: With the loss of Ndamukong Suh and Barry Turner to graduation and Pierre Allen entering his senior season, the Cornhuskers filled a gap with six defensive linemen. Corey Cooper and Harvey Jackson should fill the biggest defensive need at safety. But the Cornhuskers still are looking for offensive firepower and added only one wide receiver.

Analysis: The Cornhuskers added a couple of late additions when Cooper and QB Brion Carnes joined on Wednesday. But they missed on the really big recruit when Owamagbe Odighizuwa decided to go to UCLA. Coach Bo Pelini doesn’t agree with the perception that this class is lacking on offensive playmakers. But there's no debate that he addressed most of the Cornhuskers' most pressing needs with a typically wide-ranging class with players attracted from 11 states.

What Bo Pelini said: On recruiting ratings: "I don't pay that much attention to it, other then when I'm down and I really want to get a good laugh." On not attracting Owamagbe Odighizuwa: “It’s his mistake. Honestly, I don’t get all caught up in all that. I don’t get all stressed out about whether they’re going to come. I thought he was a pretty good player. But in my mind, the kids that don’t choose to come here I don’t believe do themselves a service because I believe we’ll develop them better than the other guy. That’s just the confidence I have.”

Scouts Inc. grade/rankings: C-plus, seventh in Big 12.

Cornhuskers lose Odighizuwa to UCLA

February, 3, 2010
2/03/10
2:55
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Nebraska missed out on its biggest potential recruit when Owamagbe Odighizuwa picked UCLA over the Cornhuskers and Oregon State.

In a nationally televised announcement on ESPNU Wednesday afternoon, Odighizuwa chose the Bruins after Nebraska was thought to have a strong chance at the prospect from David Douglas High School in Portland, Ore.

Odighizuwa would have given the Cornhuskers an immediate threat at defensive end as they lose senior Barry Turner and will lose Pierre Allen after next season.

His final choice was a difficult one and something he said he didn't take lightly.

"This decision will affect the next 40 years for me and not four," Odighizuwa said. "It's something I have to be proud about."

And in the end, he said that UCLA was the best place for him to play college football.

"UCLA is the right fit because I felt real comfortable with the coaching staff," Odighizuwa said. "The academics are good. Their football program is on the rise. At the end of the day I felt most comfortable at the school."

Odighizuwa's choice takes a little of the luster from Nebraska's strong start today that included earlier commitments from safety Corey Cooper and quarterback Brion Carnes.

But Odighizuwa would have been the Cornhuskers' biggest recruit. And not getting him hurts Bo Pelini and his program.

Holiday Bowl instant analysis: Nebraska 33, Arizona 0

December, 31, 2009
12/31/09
12:21
AM ET
Nebraska's 33-0 victory over Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl was much easier than anyone would have ever expected. It pushed the Cornhuskers to their 10th victory in a season for the first time since 2003.

Here’s how the Cornhuskers were able to produce their impressive victory.

How the game was won: Nebraska’s defense dominated the game from the opening snap. But the real reason the Cornhuskers cruised to an unexpectedly easy triumph over Arizona was the return of their offense. Nebraska scored on seven of its first eight possessions as they charged to their most one-sided bowl victory since the 2000 Alamo Bowl whipping of Northwestern.

Turning point: On the third play from scrimmage, Matt O’Hanlon stepped in front of a pass from Arizona quarterback Nick Foles and returned it 37 yards to the Arizona 5. Zac Lee scored two plays later and the Nebraska rout was on.

Stat of the game: Nebraska’s shutout was the first ever posted by a Big 12 team in the 94-game bowl history of the conference since it started play in 1996.

Player of the game: Ndamukong Suh was playing until the end of the Cornhuskers’ victory -- long after the game’s result was settled. But considering the relentless drive and determination that Suh has always shown, it wasn’t surprising he was out with the Blackshirts until the final defensive stop. He produced only three tackles, but was a force on nearly every play for Nebraska.

Best call: Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson was determined to juice production in the offense after its struggles against Texas in the Big 12 title game. He had a few wrinkles Wednesday night, like having I-back Rex Burkhead get direct snaps in Wildcat formations. On one of the first Wildcat plays, Burkhead charged in for a 5-yard touchdown run. It helped spark him to a game-high 92 rushing yards on 17 carries.

What it means: Nebraska likely has staked a top-10 position in preseason polls next season. And that’s even without Suh, safeties O’Hanlon and Larry Asante, center Jacob Hickman and defensive end Barry Turner. But the Cornhuskers return 10 offensive starters, six on defense and kicker/punter extraordinaire Alex Henery. Bo Pelini should be loaded for a run at the Big 12 title next season.

Worth remembering: “Nebraska is back and we’re here to stay,” Pelini’s comments when he accepted the winning trophy after the Holiday Bowl.

Why I voted McCoy for the Heisman

December, 10, 2009
12/10/09
5:36
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The Heisman Trophy balloting was tougher than I can ever remember it being.

I labored long and pondered my vote for several days before I finally made it late Monday afternoon.

[+] EnlargeColt McCoy
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesColt McCoy didn't play his best in the Big 12 championship, but he did enough to win.
Voting for Colt McCoy isn’t an easy decision and after reading countless e-mails and letters this week assuredly wasn’t a popular one. But I think it’s the right one for a lot of good reasons.

Like an electorate that is swayed by the last thing they hear at a debate, I fear that some of my fellow voters and most fans across the country put too much importance on what happened in the most recent game. I don't think they considered the body of work for a season.

McCoy was intercepted three times in a tight 13-12 victory over Nebraska. One of the picks was tipped at the line of scrimmage. Another one was snatched by DeJon Gomes on an outstanding athletic play were he ripped it away from a Texas receiver.

I don’t think it was McCoy’s fault that he was sacked nine times against Nebraska. Instead, it was most indicative of playing behind the weakest offensive line he's had during his career.

But in the end, McCoy persevered to take his team to the conference championship and advance to the national championship game. Detractors talk about how he disappeared in that Nebraska game. I actually look at the toughness he showed to engineer his team to its biggest victory during the time he has been Texas’ quarterback -- despite the fierce pounding he took.

And other Heisman finalists struggled through bad games this season as well.

Mark Ingram produced 30 yards against Auburn -- a defense that was ranked 80th nationally in rush defense. Earlier in the season, he rushed for 50 yards against Arkansas's defense, which finished 68th in rush defense.

I also hear from some of my friends that cover the Southeastern Conference that other backs on Alabama’s team could have done the same thing as Ingram if they had gotten the opportunity.

People talk about the Heisman not being a career award and how previous years shouldn’t matter.

But I think Colt McCoy did enough this season to take his team to the brink of the national championship. On top of becoming the winningest quarterback in FBS history with a 45-7 career won-loss record.

That statistic resonates in a year where one candidate doesn’t stand out to me.

Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh had phenomenal individual numbers. But I still can’t get away from the biggest statistic in my mind: 9-4. As in Nebraska’s won-loss record.

Suh also had a few clunkers thrown in as well. There was the game against Texas Tech when he had four tackles and no sacks in a 21-point loss to the Red Raiders. He had four tackles and no sacks against Oklahoma. And three tackles and no sacks against Kansas.

It’s also likely that Suh played as a part of one of the great defensive lines in Big 12 history. Jared Crick set a school record for sacks against Baylor. Barry Turner was an underrated defensive end who repeatedly beat Adam Ulatoski last week. Pierre Allen had his moments as well.

The argument could be made that those opponents schemed to take him away from the game. But shouldn’t a Heisman Award candidate be able to overcome those offense plans, particularly playing with as strong a defensive front as the Cornhuskers had this season?

The top individual statistics belong to Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, who rushed for 1,736 yards and 26 touchdowns. But his numbers were swollen by playing six teams with rushing defenses ranked 60th or worst, including a 205-yard season-ending effort against a Notre Dame defense that ranked 90th in rush defense this season.

But Gerhart rushed for 82 yards in a loss against a Wake Forest team that was 5-7 and ranked 82nd in run defense. He also rushed for 96 yards in a loss against Oregon State. The Cardinal were 8-4.

I’m not here to belittle the other candidates, but merely to show that all of them had their failings over the course of the season. They all struggled through games that weren’t as good as their best.

And in the end, there’s something to be said about a quarterback who took his undefeated team to the national championship game while completing 70 percent of his passes. He had the biggest single rushing game and the longest rushing play of the season for a team that had no backs that rushed for more than 520 yards.

McCoy had one consistent receiver and an offensive line -- at least if Saturday night’s performance is an indicator --that left a lot to be desired.

One Heisman moment for him came on that 65-yard touchdown sprint through the Texas A&M defense.

But another one came six games earlier after one of his biggest disappointments.

After McCoy had thrown a fourth-quarter interception in the red zone, he made a crunching form tackle that saved many yards on a return and likely saved the Longhorns’ 16-13 victory over the Sooners.

A play like that showed me more than any mere statistic could have.

I voted McCoy for first place, Suh at second place and Gerhart at third.

I think it’s the right vote.

But because of the late interest, I’m more interested in this Heisman balloting than any I can remember in a long time.

It ought to be fun Saturday night.

Pre-game ponderables from Lincoln

November, 21, 2009
11/21/09
6:44
PM ET
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska and Kansas State used to be the Big 12 North’s two Tiffany programs as they combined for every championship game appearance from the division in the first five years of the conference’s history.

Neither program has approached the levels of those earlier days. But tonight’s winner-take-all battle between the Cornhuskers and Wildcats still will settle who will be playing in Arlington on Dec. 5.

Bo Pelini and Bill Snyder have had their moments over the years. Pelini angrily accosted Snyder after the Wildcats’ 38-9 victory in Lincoln in 2003 when he was the Cornhuskers’ defensive coordinator when he felt the Wildcats tried to tack on a late touchdown against a young Nebraska defense.

Both have made their amends since then. But their first matchup as rival head coaches will be an interesting one with huge stakes.

Here are some of the things I’ll be watching:

For Nebraska:

Follow Legate in the I-formation: Nebraska has seen much recent success when redshirt freshman fullback Tyler Legate was inserted into the lineup. His blocking has helped open holes that have sparked Roy Helu Jr. to back-to-back 100-yard rushing games as the Cornhuskers have run off three consecutive victories. I look for them to utilize a similar offensive strategy – particularly early in the game as they dare KSU to stop them.

Senior Day for the Cornhuskers: It will be an emotional game tonight for key Nebraska players like Suh, center Jacob Hickman, guard Andy Christensen, linebacker Phillip Dillard, safety Matt O’Hanlon and defensive end Barry Turner who will be concluding their home careers at tonight’s game. This group was here to start their careers with Bill Callahan before finishing up with the first two seasons of Pelini’s coaching tenure. They’ve seen the Cornhuskers return to the cusp of another title. Will they be able to get them back there tonight?

Will Cody Green get a call for Nebraska: If starting quarterback Zac Lee struggles early, it will be interesting to see if Pelini and Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson make a change -- even for a couple of series -- to freshman Cody Green. He’s had his moments earlier this season, but lost his job after struggling against Oklahoma. Lee has played with much confidence in the last couple of weeks, so I wouldn’t expect the Nebraska coaches to have a quick hook tonight.

Bo’s money ball: If the Cornhuskers can win tonight, it would be worth an extra $150,000 to Bo Pelini for qualifying for the Big 12 title game. He also stands to make an extra $100,000 by taking the Cornhuskers to a Big 12 title and another $100,000 bonus by leading the Cornhuskers into a bowl game.

For KSU:

Protect inside: There will be much pressure against KSU guard Zach Kendall and Kenneth Mayfield and center Wade Weibert to account for Nebraska’s talented tandem of defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Jared Crick. The middle of the Kansas State defense must do a good job in keeping them away from starting quarterback Grant Gregory.

Thomas the Train: Bullish 227-pound tailback Daniel Thomas expected to challenge for the starting job at quarterback when he arrived at Kansas State. Instead, he’s become the focal point of the Wildcats’ offense in another way. Thomas has accounted for about 35 percent of the Wildcats’ offense, leading the team with 1,166 yards. Expect the same kind of use tonight as the Wildcats will try to lengthen their possession with multi-play drives keeping the ball away from the Cornhuskers.

Tackle with abandon: The Wildcats have been very turnover-productive this season, ranking second in the conference and 19th nationally with a plus-eight turnover ratio. Nebraska has been susceptible to turnovers throughout the season, committing eight against Iowa State. The KSU defense will similarly need a couple of big plays, to take the loud sellout crowd of the game.

Get a cheap touchdown -- or two: Brandon Banks needs one more kickoff return to tie the NCAA career record for kickoff returns. With Nebraska’s defense likely to be extremely difficult to dent, a special-teams score would be huge. Even if Banks just dictates field position with his returns, it would be important for a KSU team that figures to struggle to producing consistent yardage against the Cornhuskers.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Ndamukong Suh knew he wanted to return for another college season.
Related Coverage
• Recap: Nebraska wins in the rain
• Griffin: Suh, D-line spark rally
• Griffin: Cornhuskers in the driver's seat
• Big 12 blog: Complete game coverage
• Virtual Pressbox | Section 140


He just didn’t realize the reason would be revealed to him on a wet, clammy night that tested his competitive will. The miserable conditions got worse as little went right for his team until the very end.

Nebraska’s 27-12 victory over Missouri wasn’t an artistic masterpiece. But being a part of the gritty performance was why Suh was beaming about giving up a chance at NFL millions to come back for his senior season.

“A game like tonight was a huge reason why I came back,” Suh said. “I knew I had great teammates and we would have games like this. We just had to wait a little while for it to happen.”

But the cumulative effect of Suh and his teammates along the defensive front helped keep the Cornhuskers close enough until a fourth-quarter offensive spark. And when it kicked in, Nebraska streaked to the largest fourth-quarter comeback in school history.
 
 John Rieger/US Presswire
 Ndamukong Suh and the Nebraska defensive line made life miserable for Blaine Gabbert.


Suh helped change the momentum of the game with a fourth-quarter interception during a flurry of 20 Nebraska points in 3 minutes, 22 seconds that enabled the Cornhuskers to claim the lead for good. Earlier in the game, he also forced a fumble, notched a sack and broke up a pass.

“Suh played his you-know-what off,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said.

But another big play came in the first quarter when he rudely slung Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert to the turf while recording a sack. It left the Missouri signal-caller limping, and his abilities regressed as the game went on.

It was reminiscent of a heavyweight fight. The body shots early in the fight didn’t deck Gabbert, but paved the way for his demise as the game progressed.

Gabbert had thrown his first 164 passes of the season without an interception before Suh’s acrobatic play, which was amazing in itself. And considering Suh weighs near 300 pounds, it made the play even more remarkable.

“I sat at the line of scrimmage and read his eyes and he just threw it to me,” Suh said.

That played helped spark a feeding frenzy that eventually smashed the Tigers’ competitive drive.

It represented a huge change from last season, when Pelini didn’t think he had enough defensive talent to match Missouri’s strength up front. Instead, he played with a wrinkle, having one of his lineman play as a stand-up defender rather than relying on the unit’s growing pass-rushing strength.

But this season, with an inexperienced quarterback in Gabbert and more confidence in his defensive front, Pelini turned his defense loose. For much of the game, the Cornhuskers played a 4-2-5 defense where they rarely relied on blitzes and depended almost entirely on the pressure from the front.

“Suh played great,” Pelini said. “But those other guys -- Barry Turner, Cameron Meredith, Pierre Allen, Baker Steinkuhler -- all had big games. They played hard and well, which you can say about everybody who lined up on defense for us. They played pretty good defense against a good football team.”

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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


Here are three things that Nebraska and Missouri need to tonight in order to win tonight at Faurot Field.

Three things Nebraska needs to do to win:

1. Dominate in the trenches. Nebraska’s front four has to dominate the Missouri offensive line and get to Blaine Gabbert often. Nebraska doesn’t necessarily need sacks, but they do need to knock him around. Ndamukong Suh, Barry Turner and Co. can’t let the sophomore get into a comfort zone or it could be a long night. Interestingly, Bo Pelini didn’t think his defensive line was good enough last season so he came up with a wrinkle of a stand-up lineman he thought would fool Missouri. Instead, it paved the way for a 52-17 Missouri win. The Cornhuskers are better and more experienced this season. No gimmicks needed. Just beat them with straight four-man pressure.

2. Have strong, mistake-free games from their cornerbacks. Missouri loves to spread its wide receivers, trying to get matchup advantages. Starting Nebraska cornerbacks Anthony West and Prince Amukamara often are on an island. They can’t get beat by the Tigers’ athletic bunch of receivers.

3. Run the ball effectively. If the Cornhuskers can climb onto Roy Helu Jr.’s back, they likely have a good shot of winning. That would enable them to keep Missouri’s high-powered team off the field and dominate the game. But remember, Nebraska averaged only 2.3 yards per carry against Missouri last season. It has to do a better job to win.

Three things Missouri needs to do to win

1. Early success by Gabbert. The sophomore has played as well as any Big 12 quarterback in the first month of the season, but he hasn’t played a defense anywhere like Nebraska’s. The Tigers like to beat opponents with short passes. Look for Nebraska to play Missouri’s receivers tight and challenge Gabbert to beat them deep.

2. Run the ball better than earlier this season. The Tigers during their Big 12 title seasons ran the ball effectively. But they’ve struggled this season, averaging only 3.8 yards per carry. Derrick Washington, who rushed for 1,000 yards last season, hasn’t played as well this season. He needs a big night against the Cornhuskers. The Tigers seem to have closed ranks this season from the wide splits that marked the Chase Daniel era. Maybe they need to go back to that strategy to provide some running lanes for Washington, Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore.

3. Play with the defensive intensity of the Illinois game. As predicted before the season opener, Missouri’s Sean Weatherspoon indeed “squeezed the pulp” out of Illinois quarterback Juice Williams. The Tigers haven’t played as well since, barely escaping against Bowling Green, allowing Furman to pass for 305 yards and Nevada to run for 218 yards. In order to beat Nebraska, the Nebraska front seven needs to turn up its intensity of that first game as it tries to contain Helu. If Missouri can control the ground game defensively and force Zac Lee to beat the Cornhuskers, it has a good shot at winning.

Big 12 predictions, Week 6

October, 8, 2009
10/08/09
9:01
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


Here are my picks for this week. It’s a bounce-back weekend for yours truly after an embarrassing 3-3 performance last week.

I bought into Texas A&M’s offensive hype and also believed that Iowa State would persevere against Kansas State. Little did I know that Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett and KSU kick-blocking specialist Emmanuel Lamur would have something to say about both games. And Oklahoma did me no favors against Miami -- particularly after Ryan Broyles went down early in the game.

Here are my picks for this week:

Nebraska 38, Missouri 31: The Cornhuskers have been waiting for their shot at the Tigers for a long time, particularly after losing the last two games to the Tigers by a combined margin of 93-23. That hasn’t gone down smoothly for the Cornhuskers and particularly Bo Pelini, who has never beaten Missouri after also losing to them as Nebraska's defensive coordinator in 2003. I think that trend changes Thursday night in the slop in Columbia, Mo., where I look for the Cornhuskers to dominate in the trenches. If the weather is nasty, as expected, I think the running of Roy Helu Jr. becomes even more effective. Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert will have his moments with his talented crew of athletic receivers. But I just don’t think the Missouri offensive line can keep Ndamukong Suh, Barry Turner, Pierre Allen and Jared Crick away for the whole game.

Texas A&M 27, Oklahoma State 24: The wheels come off the Cowboys’ bandwagon Saturday afternoon, playing without Dez Bryant. With many of their primary offensive weapons questionable with injuries, Oklahoma State won’t be able to afford to get into a shootout with the Aggies. A&M is still smarting from last week’s offensive effort when they piled up 28 first downs and outgained Arkansas, 458-434, and still lost 47-19. But if the Aggies can take control early and get the large crowd at Kyle Field involved, they have a great chance of upsetting the Cowboys.

Oklahoma 38, Baylor 14: Even without Sam Bradford, I would like the Sooners' chances with Landry Jones starting his fourth game. But with Bradford’s intention to play, I think it makes Oklahoma that much more inspired -- particularly after last week’s disappointing loss at Miami. The Sooners have to develop more offensive rhythm and find some receiving threats who can fill in for Broyles. Look for Blake Szymanski to start for the Bears. He’s not a novice after starting 13 games for the Bears in 2007. But the Sooners’ pass rush should feast against a young, inexperienced Baylor offensive front that will keep the Bears' quarterback harried throughout the game. Without Robert Griffin, the Bears have little hope of making this game competitive.

Texas Tech 42, Kansas State 28: The Red Raiders could make history Saturday night as Steven Sheffield is poised to become the first backup quarterback to start a game for a Mike Leach-coached team. Taylor Potts is recovering from a concussion and likely won’t be ready to play. But it shouldn’t matter against the Wildcats, who haven’t faced an offense nearly as potent as Tech will provide. Kansas State’s best hope will be to try to dictate the tempo with quarterback Grant Gregory and rely on underrated running back Daniel Thomas. But the Red Raiders are allowing only 3.0 yards per carry and that will be pivotal in trying to keep Gregory in long down-and-distance situations. Tech has too many offensive weapons for Kansas State and should be able to win handily.

Texas 49, Colorado 10: The surging Longhorns will be looking to build momentum for next week’s game against Oklahoma. Standing in their path this week is Colorado, which has struggled in two previous road losses to Toledo and West Virginia and been embarrassed three times on national television this season. The Longhorns will make it four. Texas has the best talent the Buffaloes have faced and should be able to score easily against Dan Hawkins’ team. Look for Texas’ athleticism to allow it to jump ahead early as Colt McCoy and his receivers should have another huge game.

Kansas 38, Iowa State 17: This game was competitive last season in Ames, as Kansas was lucky to escape with a 35-33 victory. The margin won’t be nearly that close this time around for the rested Jayhawks, who are coming off last week’s bye in good physical shape. Iowa State can’t match Kansas’ deep collection of tall, talented receivers, providing another chance for Todd Reesing to torment the Cyclones. Reesing has thrown eight touchdown passes and produced a quarterback rating of 202.44 in helping beat ISU in three previous games. The Jayhawks will be tested by Iowa State’s emerging offense. But I expect Kansas to build on a strong fourth-quarter defensive effort against Southern Mississippi to help it beat the Cyclones.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


Here are some items I'm interested in following in the Big 12 games this weekend.

1. Colorado handling adversity after its opening-game debacle: The Buffaloes suffered an embarrassing loss to cross-state rival Colorado State in their opener Sunday night. Coach Dan Hawkins and his team have only five days as they travel halfway across the country to try to blot those painful memories against Toledo. It will be interesting to see how much heralded Colorado tailback Darrell Scott will play against the Rockets -- particularly after his pointed criticism of his lack of playing time earlier this week.

2. Landry Jones’ first career start: Oklahoma’s replacement for Sam Bradford shouldn’t be tested by Idaho State, which was drubbed by Arizona State last week. But it will still be telling to see how much leeway Bob Stoops will give Jones, a redshirt freshman. Coaches say they like his poise and demeanor, but I expect a conservative game plan that will feature heavy use of Oklahoma’s running game that unexpectedly struggled to produce 118 yards last week against BYU.

3. What the Oklahoma State defense does for an encore: The Cowboys punched out an impressive 24-10 victory over Georgia last week. The revelation for the Cowboys was a strong defensive effort that allowed a touchdown on its opening possession and three points during the rest of the game. They showed a physical nature that had been missing in recent seasons -- particularly noticeable because starters Orie Lemon and Markelle Martin were out of the lineup. It will be even tougher this week against Houston quarterback Case Keenum, who led the nation in total yards last season and got off to a fast start with four touchdown passes against Northwestern State last week. As good as Georgia was supposed to be offensively, the Cowboys will face a bigger test this week against the Cougars.

4. Can Blaine Gabbert match his opening-game success? One game into his career, some Missouri media members are already anointing Gabbert after his scintillating 319-yard passing effort against Illinois. His big outing earned him the Big 12’s offensive player of the week. He’ll be challenged to duplicate that success against an underrated Bowling Green team that allowed 263 passing yards in a victory over Troy last week, but still notched two interceptions. Gabbert’s continued development is the critical element that can help the Tigers continue as the Big 12’s surprise early power.

5. Nebraska’s front four: The Cornhuskers’ defensive front of Ndamukong Suh, Jared Crick, Pierre Allen and Barry Turner was expected to be the team’s strength. The group struggled last week against FAU quarterback Rusty Smith, failing to notch a sack. Those struggles were part of the reason Bo Pelini rebuked his defense earlier this week, calling the Blackshirts “soft.” And it won’t be easy for them as they try to harass Arkansas State quarterback Corey Leonard, who wasn’t sacked last week.

6. Wyoming freshman cornerback Shamiel Gray continue his success against Colt McCoy: Gray had an auspicious start to his college career with three interceptions in the Cowboys’ season-opening victory over Weber State. But he’ll face a huge challenge against McCoy, who has been intercepted only six times in his last 335 attempts dating back to last season. Gray hasn’t faced the athletic collection of receivers he’ll meet from Texas, which will make continuing his turnover spree that much more difficult.

7. How Iowa’s defense will handle Iowa State’s new no-huddle offense: The Hawkeyes and veteran defensive coordinator Norm Parker have seen a variety of offenses come and go over the years at Iowa State. But they haven’t faced anything quite like Tom Herman’s no-huddle attack that seemed to work well in the Cyclones’ first game against North Dakota State. The Cyclones likely didn’t show everything and will be ready to try to continue their recent success that has enabled them to win four of their last five games against the Hawkeyes at Jack Trice Stadium.

8. Ground-bound Jayhawks: After gashing Northern Colorado for 328 yards, Kansas may have similar opportunities against the Miners, who allowed 150 yards in a loss last week to Buffalo and 199 yards per game last season. Mark Mangino has growing confidence in his ball carriers with Jake Sharp, Toben Opurum and quarterback Todd Reesing all rushing for at least 79 yards rushing last week. Dezmon Briscoe will be back with a chance to stretch the UTEP defense, but the Jayhawks have been so successful in the trenches that I look for them to at least start the game with a similar strategy against the Miners.

9. Improvement on Kansas State’s special teams: Blunders in the kicking game led to two easy touchdowns for Massachusetts, making the Wildcats’ 21-17 season-opening victory way too close for comfort. Back in the day, Bill Snyder’s teams were always renowned for their special-teams success and Ron Prince continued that strategy during his tenure. They can’t afford similar mistakes Saturday night, or it could mean a long, nightmarish visit to hot, sticky Cajun Field.

10. Texas Tech’s running game looks for a comeback: After struggling to produce only 40 yards rushing and only two rushes of at least 10 yards against FCS opponent North Dakota, the Red Raiders’ running backs, and particularly Baron Batch, were called out by coach Mike Leach. It will be noteworthy if that lights a fire under them -- especially considering that Rice was gashed for 295 rushing yards last week by UAB.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Luck is part of football success, sometimes as important a part of winning as corned beef, cabbage and green beer are to St. Patrick's Day.

Here are several Big 12 coaches and players who could stand to benefit from an extra four-leaf clover or two to improve their good fortune this season.

  • Dan Hawkins, Colorado: No Big 12 squad faced more injuries last season than Hawkins' Buffaloes. Losses in the offensive line to Ryan Miller and Maxwell Tuioti-Maxwell and Rodney Stewart's broken fibula helped cripple the Buffaloes' title hopes. Another similar run of injuries could put Hawkins' job in jeopardy.
  • Sam Bradford, Oklahoma: A veteran offensive line helped power Bradford to the Heisman Trophy last season. How much different will it be in 2009 with four new starters along the offensive line? Bradford hopes he won't have too much green in the form of grass stains on his jersey from opposing team's hits, as his young protectors must grow quickly into their new roles.
  • Art Briles, Baylor: The only coach in the conference who makes green part of his game-day garb could use some good fortune to hope nothing happens to Robert Griffin. If Griffin can stay healthy and productive, the Bears can contend for a bowl berth. If not, it will be another long season in Waco.
  • Jordan Shipley, Texas: Injuries have cost him two seasons of eligibility. When healthy, he plays like one of the most explosive wide receivers in the nation. He will be particularly important this season as Colt McCoy's veteran receiving threat and a potential kick-return menace every time he touches the ball. Just ask Oklahoma.
  • Barry Turner, Nebraska: The Cornhuskers' top pass-rushing weapon sustained a broken leg in the second game last season and missed the rest of the season. His return and good health could provide a much-needed outside pass-rushing threat for the Cornhuskers and take some of the double-team pressure away from massive defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Sad news this morning as Oklahoma wide receiver Corey Wilson fights for his life in an Oklahoma City hospital.

John Hoover of the Tulsa World reports that Oklahoma players received an e-mail earlier this week from coaches telling them that Wilson is paralyzed from the waist down after he was involved in an automobile accident last week.

That sobering information puts everything into perspective as three schools continue spring work across the Big 12 and others are getting ready for the start of practice next week.

Hopefully, there's will be better news for Wilson in the future. We all are praying for his recovery.

Here's some other news from across the conference this morning.  

  • Boulder Daily Camera columnist Neill Woelk thinks it's "borderline delusional" to consider that Colorado can fill Folsom Field for its spring game.
  • Nebraska senior defensive end Barry Turner will be arraigned Thursday on suspicion of assaulting a 20-year-old woman in Lincoln last week, the Lincoln Journal-Star reports.
  • Austin American-Statesman columnist Cedric Golden writes that Texas cornerback Chykie Brown appears recovered from an ankle injury that hampered him late last season, although he's still hooked up in a tight battle for a starting job.
  • The Lawrence City Commission is mulling an idea of naming Missouri Street for two blocks in honor of former Kansas coach Don Fambrough, Chad Lawhorn and Janet Reid of the Lawrence Journal-World report.
  • Oklahoma State offensive line coach Joe Wickline received a promotion to co-offensive coordinator, the Oklahoman's Scott Wright reports.
  • Kevin Haskin of the Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the formation of a search committee to name Kansas State's athletic director is a sure sign that things are changing around the school.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are some of Friday's more notable stories from across the conference. Enjoy them.
  • Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler provides the scoop on why Oklahoma might not necessarily be interested in re-entering the Bryce Brown Sweepstakes.
  • Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram consults with Dr. Makum Playbetter for information about Texas as the Longhorns prepare for Friday, the first day of spring practice.
  • Texas fans planning to attend the Longhorns' Sept. 12 game at Wyoming who don't already have tickets better prepare to dig deeply in their pockets to pay. Austin Ward of the Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune reports that some online ticket brokers are already commanding nearly $350 per ticket for the game.
  • Nebraska defensive backs John Levorson and Justin Rogers are not a part of the Cornhuskers' roster as the team prepares for the start of spring practice, Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star reports. But defensive end Barry Turner, who sustained a broken leg early in the second game last season against San Jose State, will be back.
  • Record-breaking Missouri kicker Jeff Wolfert tells Elisabeth Rentschler of the Columbia Missourian that his return to the pool at this week's Big 12 diving meet is coming with some inherent challenges.
  • More respondents to a Manhattan Mercury poll view outgoing athletic director Bob Krause as a fall guy rather than a villain.
  • Kansas is hoping to start a "Gridiron Club" offering premium seating among other perks to capitalize on the Jayhawks' recent run of success, the Lawrence World-Journal's Dugan Arnett reports.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

A change in the top has been reported after Oklahoma's second-straight impressive victory to start the season:

1. Oklahoma -- Surging Sooners hope for better luck -- and better officiating -- at Washington than they received on their last trip to the Pacific Northwest.

2. Missouri -- No problems with the Tigers, even though the decision to play Jeremy Maclin against SE Missouri State looks a little more dubious with the final margin of victory.

3. Texas -- A bow to the past this week as Arkansas visits. Only trouble is that Bobby Petrino is anything but the normal Razorback coach that Texas fans have loathed over the years.

4. Texas Tech -- Defense saves the Red Raiders from crapping out in Nevada, despite a career-worst start for Graham Harrell, in terms of completions.

5. Kansas -- Remember when Jocques Crawford talked about rushing for 2,000 yards? The lack of a productive running game is the Jayhawks' biggest concern heading into the South Florida showdown.

6. Oklahoma State -- Forget about Adarius Bowman and Dantrell Savage. The Cowboys might be more talented this season offensively with replacements Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter.

7. Kansas State -- Maybe Josh Freeman wasn't bragging. He is playing like the best of the Big 12's quarterbacks, even though he hasn't played against a competent defense yet.

8. Nebraska -- The Cornhuskers' defensive woes get more serious with the loss of top pass-rusher Barry Turner for the season. And it's coming at a bad time as pass-happy New Mexico State approaches.

9. Colorado -- The Buffaloes have work to do as they prepare for West Virginia's visit. CU's defense improved in the second half, but was still lucky to escape with victory over plucky Eastern Washington.

10. Iowa State -- The Cy-Hawk Trophy has looked good in the Cyclones' athletic offices the last few years. Gene Chizik would like nothing more than claim his second-straight win over Iowa.

11. Texas A&M -- Hold off on a potential quarterback controversy because of their week off. But Jerrod Johnson's improvisational skills might be better suited for working with A&M's young line.

12. Baylor -- Beating up on Northwestern State felt good for the Bears. It also represented Robert Griffin's impressive coming-out party as a starting college quarterback.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Big 12's 12-0 record last week made history as the conference's first perfect week. It just didn't get a lot of respect from columnists around the area.

San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger says the conference remains an enigma after two weeks of the season. The Dallas Morning News' Kate Hariopoulos noted that even the Big Ten was perfect on Saturday. And the Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff tempered the excitement by adding that only one victory in the Big 12's weekend sweep came against a foe from a BCS-affiliated conference.

No matter. It still goes down with no losses. And that's the most impressive statistic of all.  

The only thing better than a perfect week are a stack of Monday morning links.

  • Kansas coach Mark Mangino plans to make utilizing TB Angus Quigley a priority to boost its struggling running game against South Florida. Lawrence Journal-World columnist Tom Keegan reminds us that the Jayhawks played well in their first two games, despite their ground woes.
  • Intrepid Columbia Tribune reporter Dave Matter tracked down the identity of the one Associated Press balloter who's voting Missouri as his No. 1 team in the Associated Press media poll. Even as heralded backup QB Blaine Gabbert gave Tiger fans a look at the future without Chase Daniel.
  • Nebraska coach Bo Pelini braces for a defensive test after losing top pass-rushing threat Barry Turner with a likely season-ending knee injury.
  • In an offense that produced monster numbers against Houston, Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant is emerging as the Cowboys' biggest weapon. But the defense is another story, especially after losing backup FS Lucien "The Punisher" Antoine with a season-ending knee injury.
  • Texas A&M is pegged between the seventh- and 12th-best team in the conference by Bryan Eagle columnist Robert Cessna. And the season could get worse as QB Stephen McGee will have his injured shoulder examined today, sources told the San Antonio Express-News.
  • Dallas Morning News columnist Chuck Carlton said the numbers aren't adding up at Texas Tech, despite a 2-0 start. Tech's defense is particularly a mystery after being gashed for 488 yards, but allowing only a touchdown and four field goals on 10 possessions inside its own 30-yard line against Nevada.

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