NCF Nation: Danario Alexander

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- I hope you've enjoyed our coverage from Mizzou the past few days. If you aren't one of my most faithful readers, here's a refresher.
But not everything fit neatly into those stories. I've got plenty more on the Tigers from my visit to Columbia.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireJames Franklin may need to be more assertive if he wants to become a leader on offense.
Quarterbacks are the focus of spring for the Tigers, but there's no doubt, it's going to be a bit of an adjustment if James Franklin wins the job. That's no guarantee, and Tyler Gabbert has come on strong this spring, but Franklin is just a completely different type of person than the fiery Chase Daniel or uber-competitive Blaine Gabbert. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing. Offensive coordinator David Yost told me he wants each new quarterback doing things his own way, and that includes his demeanor and actions off the field.

"Blaine and Chase were different, and Blaine did a good job of not just copying Chase. He took what Chase did and tried to make it fit him and how he dealt with players, getting himself ready to play," Yost said.

Franklin will have to do something similar. Tyler Gabbert, who has come on strong of late in practices, is a much more heated competitor. "Sometimes you have to calm him down because he gets very, very 'on,'" Yost said. "He wants to make every throw. It’s great to have that, but you can’t let that affect the next play, so he’s kind of learning that."

Franklin is a much more easy-going type of guy. He's nowhere near as outspoken. It'll just be different. I believe it was Rene Descartes who said, "Different strokes for different folks." Seems to fit this scenario.

"I’m not too vocal as a quarterback. As a person, I talk a lot, but once I come on the field, I’m not as vocal. It’s something I hadn’t really done in the past, so it’s something I need to adjust to," Franklin said.

Coaches have told him that sometimes his silence, especially after negative plays, can come off as bad body language, so even if his head is clear, his actions have to communicate positive messages to teammates. Sometimes his quiet demeanor meant his teammates didn't even realize who had thrown them the ball in practice.

"They’d come back and say 'Hey, nice throw James' or 'Good call,' and I’m like, 'That wasn’t me, that was Ashton or that was Tyler," Franklin said. "To me, I’m thinking, 'How could they not know?' For one, I’m just a little bit taller and my skin is like 50 shades darker. But they’re just kind of in the zone, so if I’m more vocal and demanding of them, they kind of recognize 'hey, that was me.'"

The thing is, he has to do it naturally, and managing that balance will be a key for all three quarterbacks' development. Franklin can't just turn into an animated screamer overnight. That would only come off as disingenuous and be more counterproductive than anything.

"Being more vocal will help. Not only as a quarterback, but also as a person, because it should show you leadership and you demand things out of your offense.

  • You get the sense Yost could talk about Blaine Gabbert and what he's meant to the program for hours. I'm sure he could. But when it comes to influencing younger quarterbacks, it's easy to see why. "You’d go up for room check [the night before road games] and Blaine’s sitting in his bed with his iPod in and his computer on his lap watching cut-ups," Yost said. "Every week. That'd be at 11 o'clock and at meetings the next day I’d ask what he watched, and he'd tell me. I'd ask when he got to bed, and he’d say, 'Ah, it was about 1:30.'" Franklin roomed with Gabbert on the road, and his younger brother surely saw some of that.
  • Passing down lessons like that is nothing new. When Blaine Gabbert came into the program, he'd spend about two hours a day during the summer as a freshman with Chase Daniel watching tape. He wasn't watching the offense by then. He was looking at the defense. "Where are they moving? Backing up? Where can I get throws? When this guy does this, this opens up," Yost said. And because of those summer film sessions, "Blaine was way ahead of where Chase was in understanding defenses at the same spot in camp their sophomore years," he said. The idea, of course, is that continues with the younger quarterbacks.
  • Speaking of Gabbert, Yost loved how he blossomed into a "quarterback" after coming to Mizzou as a "thrower." "He was a tremendous, highly recruited thrower out of high school, but he bought into becoming a great quarterback," Yost said. He did it by first learning how to study film from Daniel and carrying it on once Daniel left and he became a starter. "People look and say, 'Well, his passing yards are down,'" Yost said. "But he became more of a quarterback because of how he prepared each week."
  • Part of the reason for that dip was Missouri's lack of a vertical passing game in 2010, which is are of focus this spring. Tyler Gabbert has the arm strength. Yost likes Franklin's deep ball a lot. But somebody's got to catch it. I did think it was funny that Yost cited my look at explosive plays across the Big 12 in our conversation. The number of plays longer than 20 yards didn't drop much for Missouri (73 in '08, 66 in '09 and 63 in '10), but the longer plays did. "We were still getting our 20-yard plays, but instead of having Danario [Alexander] take a 20 yarder to a 60-yarder, we were getting that 24-yarder. Even when you go back to 2008 when we had Maclin, the numbers were a lot higher than last year," he said. "Anytime you can get those, it takes off so much pressure. You could feel it last year. Guys were tightening up on us. We didn’t hit a lot downfield last year, and that was more disappointing than anything. We took some shots, and there were some games when we’d be at halftime and we’ve thrown the ball downfield eight times and we’re 0-for-8. Either we could have thrown it better, could have caught it, protected better and given him a better chance, there was a multitude of things. It wasn’t just one reason. But you hit those, it changes a game."
  • Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp have the ability to get vertical, even if they lack Alexander or Jeremy Maclin's straight-line speed. The potential is there for younger receivers such as Marcus Lucas and Wesley Leftwich, or older ones such as L'Damian Washington or Rolandis Woodland who have had modest careers thus far. But someone has to do it. Missouri has the rare opportunity to bring back every single receiver on its roster from last year, and it added Leftwich, who enrolled early and has 4.4 speed, according to Yost. But for Michael Egnew and T.J. Moe to be their most productive, someone has to stretch the defense.

Recruiting needs: Big 12 North

January, 26, 2011
1/26/11
9:00
AM ET
Signing day is exactly a week from today, and it's time to take a look at who needs what in its 2011 class.

Some schools have addressed these with their current class. Some haven't. Others are still trying.

We'll kick things off with the artists formerly known as the Big 12 North and examine the South later today.

COLORADO

Cornerback: Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith were pretty reliable for the Buffaloes, but both are headed to the NFL, and the Buffaloes could definitely use some depth behind their first-year starters. It's not quite as pressing of an issue considering their move to the less pass-happy Pac-12, but they still like to sling it out west.

Receiver: Colorado isn't exactly starving anywhere on offense, but receiver sticks out a bit. Toney Clemons was good, but maybe not quite what the Buffaloes hoped he'd be in 2010, but they caught a break in getting Paul Richardson back after a great freshman season. The Buffaloes need some complementary pieces around Clemons and Richardson to replace departed pass-catchers Scotty McKnight and Travon Patterson. Next year, that should be tight end Ryan Deehan and receiver Will Jefferson.

IOWA STATE

Receiver: It's been a struggle for Iowa State in recent years, but they have to get better outside to help out their quarterback. Sedrick Johnson's transfer only worsens the Cyclones depth at the position, but Jake Williams and tight end Collin Franklin, the team's leading receiver, are gone. Shontrelle Johnson looks ready to become a big factor in the offense, but the Cyclones filling the space at receiver will make it easier for Johnson to replace running back Alexander Robinson.

Safety: Both starters, David Sims and Zac Sandvig, are gone. So is the Cyclones top reserve at the position, Michael O'Connell. Sims was a top-notch talent that will be tough to replace, but Iowa State needs more depth here. They should be solid at corner with Leonard Johnson, Ter'ran Benton, Jeremy Reeves and Anthony Young, which could make the new safeties' jobs easier.

KANSAS

Defensive line: KU is losing three of four starters on the line, including the team's only All-Big 12 talent, defensive end Jake Laptad. Turner Gill wants more speed, and this is a place to install it. Tackles that tip the scales at 320 pounds aren't too necessary in this league, but speed on the edge can go a long way in stopping the pass.

Quarterback: Neither Jordan Webb or Quinn Mecham look like long-term answers at quarterback for the Jayhawks. Mecham will be a senior, and Webb might develop into a better player as a sophomore next year, but Kansas needs other options. The Jayhawks hope Brock Berglund, the top-rated recruit in Colorado, is the solution to the problem.

KANSAS STATE

Running back: I hear your cries for Bryce Brown, Wildcats fans, but K-State can't expect to hitch their wagon to the former blue-chip recruit turned Tennessee transfer in the same way it did for Daniel Thomas. Thomas and his backup, William Powell, are gone, and the Wildcats need some depth at running back to show up.

Interior offensive linemen: K-State loses both guards and its center from an offense that produced the Big 12's leading rusher in 2010. Don't expect them to do it again in 2011 without Wade Weibert, Kenneth Mayfield and Zach Kendall, as well as Thomas and Powell, but finding some new talent behind them will help them come close.

Cornerback: David Garrett emerged as a budding star in 2010 ready for a breakout senior year in 2011, but the Wildcats lose Terrance Sweeney and Stephen Harrison, as well as safety Troy Butler. Like we've mentioned earlier, good secondaries are a must for success in the Big 12, and K-State had one of the league's worst in 2010.

MISSOURI

Receiver: Missouri has some good ones ready to suit up in 2011, namely Wes Kemp, Jerrell Jackson and T.J. Moe, but the Tigers don't have a true gamebreaker. They have some younger players in Marcus Lucas and Jimmie Hunt who they hope will develop into big-time, All-American caliber receivers, a la Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander. In Missouri's system, though, adding a few receivers is always a good idea. They certainly don't need any more running backs.

Defensive backs: Mizzou doesn't have any huge holes that need to be filled with recruiting, but the Tigers lose both corners, Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland from their 2010 team. Kip Edwards and E.J. Gaines look likely to fill those roles, but the Tigers could use some depth and keep recruiting in the secondary to help add some talent around Tavon Bolden and Matt White, safeties who will replace departed Jarrell Harrison, who actually had to play some linebacker in 2010 because of injuries.

NEBRASKA

Every kind of kicker: Alex Henery, the team's punter and kicker is gone. So is kickoff specialist and lover/producer of touchbacks, Adi Kunalic. Fan favorite Henery was hardly underappreciated by the Nebraska faithful, but they'll miss him even more if the Huskers can't find a suitable placekicker and punter. Bo Pelini was reportedly after Wake Forest commit Mauro Bondi this week.

Receiver: Niles Paul and Mike McNeill are gone. The Huskers need Brandon Kinnie to come through with another good year and it'd be nice if Quincy Enunwa broke through in 2011, but Taylor Martinez needs some more help at wide out, and a couple new recruits could provide it as Martinez's passing prowess matures.
1. Texas

The defending champs will have one of the nation’s best defenses again, and perhaps its best secondary. Garrett Gilbert spent the spring validating his performance in the national title game, showing some of his near-limitless potential. The Longhorns won’t be easy to unseat in 2010, especially if they finally discover a running game.

2. Oklahoma

Here’s why the Sooners are here: The gap between Oklahoma’s offense and Nebraska’s offense is wider than the one between the Sooners’ defense and the Huskers’ defense. If Oklahoma’s offensive line can show improvement next season, the Sooners won’t have trouble scoring with the amount of talent they have at the skill positions, talent that’s much better than Nebraska’s.

3. Nebraska

The Huskers get Missouri and Texas in Lincoln and don’t see the Sooners, which has Big Red looking for a big season, but don’t count on another 10-win season if the offense doesn’t improve. The offense previewed its fall reopening in the 33-0 bowl win over Arizona, but if the quarterback play isn’t solid, the reopening could be a bad thing. With what could be the best defense in football again, and two solid backs in Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead, the Huskers’ floor is pretty high and the ceiling is even higher.

4. Missouri

Home losses to Nebraska and Baylor ended any chance the Tigers had of winning the North in 2009, but they bring back a lot from last year’s eight-win team and have a lot of experienced talent at linebacker and receiver ready to replace the big names -- Sean Weatherspoon and Danario Alexander -- they lost from last year’s team. Blaine Gabbert has to show he’s ready to become a household name, and if he does, the Tigers could make a serious run at the North.

5. Texas A&M

The Aggies kept almost the entire core from last year’s team, but remember, A&M still only won six games last season. It’ll be replacing three offensive linemen who could stop the Aggies' skill position players -- cumulatively the best in the conference -- from being as productive as they could be. One of those replacements should be true freshman Luke Joeckel, but if the defense improves and the line re-establishes itself, the Aggies are South contenders. If not, they won’t be much better than a seven-win team.

6. Kansas State

The Wildcats aren’t built to win 10 games just yet, but if Nebraska and Missouri stumble, they’ll be there to slip into the North conversation just like last season, when they were one upset win over the Huskers from a trip to Arlington. Carson Coffman took hold of the starting quarterback job in the spring, but he’ll need to keep it in the fall and be productive with his three new receivers to lighten the load on running back Daniel Thomas. If that happens, there’ll be more happy Saturdays than sad ones in Aggieville.

7. Texas Tech

Injuries kept the Sticks vs. Potts debate from really heating up this spring, but the switch to a higher risk/reward strategy with an aggressive defense could be fun to watch next season. The Red Raiders are deep at running back and receiver, but look for the former to get more touches this fall than they have in over a decade.

8. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys grabbed hold of Dana Holgorsen’s offense this spring, and Brandon Weeden grabbed hold of the starting role. Oklahoma State should have an impact player at each level of the defense in defensive end Ugo Chinasa, safety Markelle Martin and linebacker Orie Lemon, but they’ll need the rest of the D to solidify for the Cowboys to climb to a higher rung of the South ladder.

9. Iowa State

Iowa State is getting better, but the tough schedule and young defense will make it difficult for the Cyclones to improve on their 7-6 record in 2009. Five linebackers from last year’s team graduated, and the three likely starters this year, sophomore A.J. Klein, Jake Knott and juco transfer Matt Tau’fo’ou have a combined 41 career tackles. Iowa State is solid in the secondary, but with the amount of quality running backs in the North, a good defense up front is more important. It's also replacing two starters on the defensive line.

10. Baylor

A bowl game isn’t out of reach for the Bears, but they’ll have to prove something before they move out of the South’s cellar. Robert Griffin gives Waco hope, but the other 21 guys have to provide substance for Baylor to succeed. Replacing two safeties, two linebackers who combined for 190 tackles last season and an offensive line shift to replace All-American center J.D. Walton could make Baylor’s early road a bumpy one.

11. Kansas

Kansas will be short on talent this year, but expectations are measured after losing plenty on both sides of the ball. The Jayhawks are a team that could get a lot better as the season progresses, but when it starts, they’ll have a lot of work to do. They’ll be competitive in the bottom half of the North, but slipping past rival Kansas State to finish in the top half of the division is about as good as it could get for the Jayhawks in Turner Gill’s first season. Not having Texas or Oklahoma on the schedule could help make that happen.

12. Colorado

Transfer Toney Clemons infuses some excitement into the Colorado faithful, and alongside Markques Simas and leading receiver Scotty McKnight, the Buffaloes could have one of the more underrated receiving corps in the conference, helping loosen things up for Rodney Stewart. But the defense gave up the second-most points in the conference last season, and there’s little reason to think they’ll be a lot better in 2010. Scoring 22 points a game and allowing just under 29 is the opposite of a recipe for success.

Pre-spring Big 12 Power Rankings

March, 5, 2010
3/05/10
4:00
PM ET
1. Texas

Texas has plenty of question marks, namely at receiver. Repeating as Big 12 champs would be a lot easier if one of its talented running backs emerges to flirt with 1,000 yards and takes some of the pressure off first-year starter Garrett Gilbert. Tre’ Newton is the most likely candidate, but Foswhitt Whittaker, or Fozzy Bear as I prefer to refer to the running back, wins if the tiebreaker is best name.

2. Oklahoma

The defense will be fearsome again, even after losing both starting cornerbacks and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. DeMarco Murray looks to take on an expanded role in the run game, but the offensive line will have to improve quickly for his increased touches to translate into increased yardage.

3. Nebraska

Nebraska finally made it back to the Big 12 title game after a two-year run by Missouri representing the North. Even after Ndamukong Suh’s exit, the teeth of the Husker D should be strong, with junior defensive tackle Jared Crick and sophomore defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler mucking up the front lines. Both will be on display during the spring. The offense had one of its best performances of the season against Arizona in the Holiday Bowl, but enters the spring with plenty to prove.

4. Missouri

Blaine Gabbert will continue to mature along with his young receivers, who lose the lanky Danario Alexander. Gabbert could put up gawdy numbers as a junior, but he’ll need the secondary to improve if the Tigers can challenge for the North.

5. Texas A&M

The Aggies looked like a trainwreck at moments in 2009, (48-point loss to Kansas State? What? 55-point loss to Oklahoma? Ouch.) but their entertaining offense will take a backseat to Tim DeRuyter’s new 3-4 defense as the main attraction for spring.

6. Kansas State

The dark horse to win the North in 2010 came within a game of matching up with Texas in Dallas in 2009. Year 2 of the Bill Snyder Reboot could be fun to watch. The Wildcats had the fewest turnovers (18) of any team in the Big 12 last season, but losing Brandon Banks removes some of K-State’s explosiveness on offense.

7. Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State hoped they could make a run at the Big 12 South last season, but got embarrassed in losses to Texas and Oklahoma. A South title in 2010 might be a stretch, but the spring could set up another solid season for Mike Gundy’s Cowboys.

8. Baylor

Finding replacements for All-Big 12 defenders Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake should be the prime concern for the spring, but it will definitely be good to see Robert Griffin III get back on the field.

9. Texas Tech

What injustice! The Red Raiders below the Bears? Tommy Tuberville is a good coach, but the transition to Tech could be a difficult one. Don’t be surprised if the Red Raiders prove me wrong, but somebody’s got to finish last in a great South division. There won’t be an easy win for anyone against South teams this season. I mentioned this in Thursday's chat, but I’m interested to see how Tuberville’s second go-around with the spread offense (see: Tony Franklin) goes. Easing up on his trigger finger might be a good idea.

10. Kansas

Turner Gill loses a lot of offense without Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe. Sophomore running back Toben Opurum could emerge as one of the conference’s young stars this spring.

11. Colorado

Tyler Hansen and Toney Clemons bring some excitement to the Buffaloes spring, but the offensive line is also a concern. Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner returns from injury to help talented lineman Nate Solder protect Hansen and pave the way for running back Rodney Stewart, one of just three scholarship backs who will practice this spring.

12. Iowa State

The Cyclones depleted defense (only four starters return) could make it tough for Austen Arnaud to produce wins no matter how well he plays. Plenty of spots up for grabs there, and linebacker Jake Knott is one to watch as a new starter. Paul Rhoads impressed with a bowl win last season, but what does it say about a team when its best win (Nebraska) came by only two points when it forced eight turnovers and committed none?

Thanks for the support the first week, fans. Enjoy the weekend.

Big 12 pre-spring power rankings

February, 10, 2010
2/10/10
11:19
AM ET
With spring practice set to begin soon -- Texas opens its camp on March 2 -- here’s a quick look at how I have the teams ranked heading into spring practice. In formulating my rankings, I took into account returning players, transfers, arriving freshmen and a teams’ schedules.

1. Texas (14 starters back: 6 offensive, 7 defensive, 1 special teams). Garrett Gilbert got a head start on replacing Colt McCoy with his considerable playing time in the national title game, an invaluable learning experience for a young player. The Longhorns return most of the defense that improved in its second season under Will Muschamp. The biggest chores will be for offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who has to boost running game production and find a replacement for record-breaking wide receiver Jordan Shipley.

2. Nebraska (18 starters back: 8 offensive, 8 defensive, 2 special teams). Bo Pelini has the Cornhuskers positioned for a potential top-10 preseason ranking. Most of the offensive weapons will be back from a unit that sputtered down the stretch before breaking out in the Holiday Bowl victory. Quarterback Zac Lee will miss some of spring practice as he recovers from postseason surgery. Cody Green and Kody Spano will get most of the work until Lee returns. Nebraska coaches think the defense can be better this season, even without the up-the-middle strength of Ndamukong Suh, Phillip Dillard, Larry Asante and Matt O’Hanlon.

3. Oklahoma (15 starters back: 9 offensive, 4 defensive, 2 special teams). The Sooners overcame a debilitating run of injuries last season to finish with a flourish, knocking Oklahoma State out of a BCS game and winning the Sun Bowl in their final two games. Landry Jones will be infinitely better in his second season as a starter and Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray may be the best one-two receiving/running back combination in the conference. Bob Stoops will be facing a big renovation on defense where key players like Gerald McCoy and Dominique Franks left early for the NFL draft. Look for Travis Lewis to be the key to a defense that will need to improve by the time Big 12 play begins if the Sooners are to have any hope of claiming a seventh Big 12 title this season.

4. Missouri (19 starters back: 9 offensive, 9 defensive, 1 special teams). The Tigers will miss Danario Alexander and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who were arguably the best players at their positions in the conference last season. But Blaine Gabbert is back for a second season as starting quarterback and some talented recruits are expected to emerge on defense. A key for the Tigers’ success will be a more productive running game and consistency from the offensive line. Improvement on both will be critical for coordinator David Yost during the spring.

5. Texas Tech (15 starters back: 7 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). New coach Tommy Tuberville immediately will have to sort through a potentially difficult decision at quarterback between Taylor Potts and fan favorite Steven Sheffield. New coordinator James Willis hopes to install a 3-4 defense that should be a haven for athletic linebackers. But the group’s success will hinge on replacing Jamar Wall at cornerback and finding some pass-rushing threats to replace Brandon Sharpe, Richard Jones and Daniel Howard along the front.

6. Texas A&M (19 starters back: 8 offensive, 9 defensive, 2 special teams). With Jerrod Johnson, Jeff Fuller, Uzoma Nwachukwu and Christine Michael back, the Aggies shouldn’t have trouble scoring points, although the line needs to do a better job of protecting Johnson. But the Aggies’ success will depend on the returning starters quickly taking to new coordinator Tim DeRuyter’s teachings. The group was blistered for at least 35 points in seven games last season and allowed at least 30 points in two other games. So needless to say that even with nine starters back, DeRuyter has his work cut out.

7. Kansas (16 starters back: 7 offensive, 7 defensive, 2 special teams). New coach Turner Gill inherits an uncertain quarterback situation, but has the framework for a strong running attack with all of his starting linemen back, along with Toben Opurum and heralded back Brandon Bourbon as running threats. The Jayhawks will need to fill in for the loss of Darrell Stuckey in the secondary, but new coordinator Carl Torbush should find the elements for a blitzing, attacking defense among the returnees. But the biggest reason the Jayhawks might be bound for a bowl game in Gill’s first season is swapping Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma for Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Baylor in their cross-divisional schedule.

8. Iowa State (13 starters back: 8 offensive, 4 defensive, 1 special teams). Paul Rhoads returns most of the offensive weapons that led the Cyclones to the Insight Bowl, most notably quarterback Austen Arnaud and running back Alexander Robinson. But the team loses all of its starting linebackers; veteran coordinator Wally Burnham will be challenged to cobble together a serviceable unit. The Cyclones could actually be a better team in 2010 but post a worse record. A tougher schedule featuring nonconference games against Utah, Iowa and Northern Illinois and the addition of South Division powers Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech will make last season’s bowl trip much tougher to duplicate.

9. Oklahoma State (10 starters back: 4 offensive, 4 defensive, 2 special teams). The Cowboys must find replacements for key players like Zac Robinson, Keith Tosten, four offensive linemen (including Outland finalist Russell Okung) and six of their back seven on defense. New offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen finds an uncertain quarterback situation but will lean heavily on a healthy Kendall Hunter. A manageable nonconference schedule should have them in bowl contention, but this should be a step back from Mike Gundy’s last two teams.

10. Kansas State (15 starters back: 7 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). The Wildcats missed out on a bowl trip last season only because they scheduled two FCS teams, but they surprisingly challenged for the Big 12 North title up to their last game of the season. It might be tougher to do that this season, although Daniel Thomas will provide the foundation on offense. Carson Coffman has the inside track at quarterback, but keep an eye out for Oregon transfer Chris Harper at either that position or wide receiver. Players like Jeffrey Fitzgerald and John Houlik will be missed on defense, but all four starters are back in the secondary.

11. Colorado (16 starters back: 8 offensive, 7 defensive, 1 special teams). Dan Hawkins’ seat is the hottest in the Big 12 and arguably in college football after missing a bowl for a second straight season last year. Tyler Hansen returns as the starting quarterback, but the Buffaloes need to find some help in the backfield with only three scholarship backs in spring practice. The defense was young last season and should be improved, but will miss the leadership provided by Jeff Smart and Cha’pelle Brown. A bowl trip likely will be necessary to save Hawkins’ job and a tough nonconference schedule featuring games at California and against Hawaii and Georgia will prove troublesome even before Big 12 play begins.

12. Baylor (14 starters back: 6 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). The Bears’ hopes of stopping the conference’s longest bowl drought will hinge largely on the health of Robert Griffin, who is recovering from knee surgery that forced him to miss the final nine games of the 2009 season. New offensive lineman “Big” Robert Griffin will have to protect his quarterback if coach Art Briles has any hope of making a bowl trip. Jay Finley and Kendall Wright are underrated offensive threats, but the Bears will miss key defensive leaders like Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake who were stalwarts for several years.

Big 12: Biggest shoes to fill in 2010

February, 8, 2010
2/08/10
12:17
PM ET
The nature of college football is filling in positions for departing players.

But some Big 12 players will be facing bigger challenges than most.

Here's a look at the players who will be the toughest to replace across the Big 12:

1. Texas QB Colt McCoy: He leaves school as the most statistically proficient quarterback in school history, although his career will forever be marked by his near misses in the Heisman Trophy balloting over the past two seasons and his injury in his final college game against Alabama. Garrett Gilbert will be facing some big shoes to replace when Texas practice starts later this month.

2. Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh: He will go down in history as arguably the greatest Blackshirt ever, a player who stayed in school for an extra season and cashed in with a haul of individual trophies. Terrence Moore will accept the huge challenge to replace the most dominant defensive force in Big 12 history and in recent college football history.

3. Oklahoma State CB Perrish Cox: His ability as a shutdown cornerback and a punt returner helped marked the Cowboys' defensive effort last season. Cox led the Big 12 with 19 passes defensed and he didn't play in his final game in the Cotton Bowl. Overachieving 5-foot-8, 180-pound Brodrick Brown will have the unenviable task of trying to replace Cox in the Cowboys' secondary.

4. Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy: Although he was sometimes overshadowed by Suh in the conference, McCoy was the anchor of the Sooners' defense during the past three seasons, notching six sacks and 15.5 tackles for losses last season. Heralded Jamarkus McFarland will get the first shot at replacing McCoy -- not only in his production but also in his leadership.

5. Missouri WR Danario Alexander: The Tigers will bring back starters Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp, along with heralded rising sophomore T.J. Moe. But it still won't lessen the contributions of Alexander, who blossomed into the nation's top receiver over the second half of the season, finishing with school-record single-season totals of 113 receptions and 1,781 receiving yards.

Missouri recruiting capsule

February, 4, 2010
2/04/10
11:47
AM ET
Missouri Tigers

Total class: 23

ESPN 150: 0

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

By state: Texas 9, Missouri 6, Kansas 1, Michigan 1, Arkansas 1, Iowa 1, Oklahoma 1, Florida 1, Illinois 1, North Carolina 1.

Already enrolled in school: 4.

The big ones: Bookend OTs Nick Demien and Mitch Morse both could develop into standout pass-blockers with proper seasoning and development. Demien is a four-star recruit who is the No. 17 offensive tackle in the class. And Morse is the No. 19 tackle in the nation. DE Kony Ealy is a rangy, 6-foot-5, 230-pound pass-rusher who is ranked No. 49 among defensive ends and shows plenty of room for growth. He could blossom into a pass-rushing beast.

Sleeper: Darvin Ruise is a converted high school quarterback who likely will be a running back, receiver or a returner because of his athletic ability. Missouri coaches love his explosive speed and running ability with the ball.

Needs met: The Tigers added three receivers and a couple of athletes who could help bridge the loss of Danario Alexander and Jared Perry. Running back Greg White would appear to have a shot at eventually breaking into the logjam at the position. And Gary Pinkel appears to have addressed next season’s loss in the secondary with quantity as the Tigers attracted three safeties and three cornerbacks.

Analysis: This is the best recruiting class that Pinkel has attracted in his 10 seasons at Missouri. Surprisingly, he almost admitted it at his news conference on Wednesday. It’s a class of depth that answered almost every need for the Tigers, with heavy emphasis at wide receiver and the secondary. The Tigers had the best class in the North Division and should have the personnel to keep them in the mix for the Big 12 North title for the next few years.

What Gary Pinkel said: "I think the consistency of winning in our program and the great results we're having academically make Missouri a place a lot of kids look at now rather than five or six years ago. … “In our evaluation system, this is significantly a higher level of total recruits than we’ve had since we’ve been here. I don't know about anybody else's system, but that's the way ours reads, and we're excited about that."

Scouts Inc. grade/rankings: B-minus, fifth in Big 12.

Missouri first from Big 12 with all letters in

February, 3, 2010
2/03/10
1:32
PM ET
Gary Pinkel put a bow on his strongest recruiting class yet and he did it quickly.

The Tigers were the first Big 12 school to have all of their letters in.

Missouri has 23 commitments from 22 high school players and junior college transfer, Kenronte Walker of City College of San Francisco.

Pinkel has done a masterful job in the past of taking underrecruited players, particularly those from Texas, and turning them into stars once they hit college.

The Tigers again have dipped heavily in Texas with nine recruits. This group has a high benchmark to reach, considering the development of Texas players such as Chase Daniel, Danario Alexander and Sean Weatherspoon.

I like prospects like defensive linemen Kony Ealy and Lucas Vincent and running backs Greg White and Marcus Murphy.

This is Pinkel's strongest class yet. It should keep the Tigers in contention in the North Division for the next several seasons.

2009 stacked with Big 12 moments to remember

January, 13, 2010
1/13/10
2:00
PM ET
The 2009 season in the Big 12 didn't turn out as planned because of the rash of injuries and suspensions that began before the season and continued through the final bowl game of the year.

Here are my 10 most memorable moments of the Big 12 season. They aren't ranked in any specific order, but all played a huge part in the conference this season.

    [+] EnlargeColt
    Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesColt McCoy's injury in the BCS title game left fans wondering what could have been.
  • Colt McCoy's injury: When the senior Texas quarterback was lost for the game with a pinched nerve after five offensive snaps in the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama, the Longhorns' hopes were doomed. Even a strong and gutty relief performance by freshman backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert won't alter Texas fans from thinking what could have happened if McCoy had not been injured.
  • Sam Bradford's injuries: Oklahoma's hopes of a national championship were crushed after Bradford sprained an AC joint in his throwing shoulder shortly before halftime in the Sooners' season opener against BYU. Their dreams of a four-peat of consecutive Big 12 titles died when Bradford was reinjured early in the first quarter of its South Division showdown against Texas.
  • “I'm so proud to be your coach”: Without starting quarterback Austen Arnaud and top rusher Alexander Robinson, and with a sapping flu bug depleting his team, first-year Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads was overcome with emotion in the locker room following his team's 9-7 upset at Nebraska. His heartfelt reaction captured by an ISU film crew became an immediate YouTube sensation.
  • Sticks' dramatic comeback: With the Texas Tech program in limbo after Mike Leach's firing three days earlier, the Red Raiders fell behind underdog Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl. Interim coach Ruffin McNeill pulled Taylor Potts from the lineup and inserted backup Steven “Sticks” Sheffield at quarterback with 8:05 left to give his team a boost. Sheffield responded by hitting his first six passes and going 9-for-11 in the game to help direct the Red Raiders to a 41-31 victory. Potts earned Most Valuable Player honors in the game, but Sheffield saved the Red Raiders' victory.
  • Colt McCoy's "too early" Heisman moment: McCoy was presumed to have locked up the Heisman with a 65-yard touchdown run through the middle of the Texas A&M defense, helping spark a 49-39 victory over the Aggies. It punctuated an effort in which McCoy accounted for 479 yards and five touchdowns against A&M. That was, until …
  • "Big Suh" dominates Texas: Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh provided a game for the ages against Texas in the Big 12 title game before losing to the Longhorns, 13-12. Suh had a Big 12 title game record 4.5 sacks, and the Cornhuskers harassed McCoy into three interceptions and sacked him nine times. The big effort not only doomed McCoy's Heisman hopes, but undoubtedly sparked Suh's trip to the Heisman presentation at the same time.
  • Broyles slices through the Cowboys: Oklahoma wide receiver/punt returner Ryan Broyles punctuated a 209-yard punt return effort with an 87-yard scoring return to lead the Sooners' 27-0 victory over Oklahoma State, ending the Cowboys' hopes of making a trip to a BCS game. Broyles' 316 all-purpose yards were the third-best effort in school history.
  • Robert Griffin's injury: Baylor's worst fears were realized during the Bears' 68-13 victory over Northwestern State when their stellar sophomore quarterback suffered a season-ending knee injury. It killed their hopes of snapping a 15-season bowl drought -- tied for the longest among schools with automatic BCS bids -- just when promise under Coach Art Briles had never appeared brighter.
  • Danario's late-season explosion: Missouri wide receiver Danario Alexander progressed into the nation's most explosive receiver during the final half of the season. He nearly became the first player in college football history to notch back-to-back-to-back-to-back 200-yard receiving games. He finished with 214 yards against Baylor, 200 against Kansas State, 173 yards against Iowa State and 233 yards against Kansas in his final four regular-season games.
  • Hunter Lawrence's field goal: After it appeared Texas had mismanaged its way to losing the Big 12 title game, one second was put back on the clock. Hunter Lawrence took advantage on the reprieve with a 46-yard field goal that gave the Longhorns a 13-12 victory over Nebraska and a berth in the BCS title game. It was the first time in Lawrence's career -- dating back to pee-wee football -- that he had ever attempted a game-winning kick.

Final 2009 Big 12 power rankings

January, 13, 2010
1/13/10
10:08
AM ET
Here's my final look at the Big 12 power rankings for this season.

1. Texas: Longhorn fans will always remember Colt McCoy’s injury in the national championship game and what could have been. Texas overcame every challenge during the regular season, but came up lacking without its leader in the biggest game of the year. The way the Alabama game played out will always haunt Texas fans. If they could have ever grabbed a touchdown lead or more over Alabama, was there any real indication that Alabama could have won with Greg McElroy and the Crimson Tide’s leaky offensive line? But it went the other way and the Longhorns were ground into submission by Alabama’s potent rushing attack to put a disappointing capper on an otherwise memorable season.

2. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers finished 10-4 and were only five or six plays removed from winning three of those games -- losses to Texas, Iowa State and Virginia Tech. If that had happened, it’s not out of the realm of possibility the Cornhuskers could have finished in the top five or six teams nationally. But the convincing victory over Arizona, especially with the unexpected offensive firepower, should build confidence and embolden Bo Pelini and his team for bigger and better things next season.

3. Texas Tech: A roller-coaster season finished with Mike Leach and Ruffin McNeill looking for work despite an impressive 9-4 record where the Red Raiders overachieved to a Top 25 finish. Tommy Tuberville’s arrival will bring changes, but Tech returns with a strong nucleus starting of quarterbacks Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield and running back Baron Batch. If Tuberville can get the Red Raiders up and running quickly, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that his new team could challenge Texas and Oklahoma next season. But it will be tough as he tries to change the culture of the most memorable era of Tech football.

4. Oklahoma: A fast finish took some of the sting out of Bob Stoops’ most disappointing recent season. The Sooners’ hopes of a Big 12 four-peat were doomed as soon as Sam Bradford was lost for the season. And Jermaine Gresham’s injury before the season changed the way Kevin Wilson’s offense could operate. But at the end of the season, Landry Jones showed enough promise to give him a foothold for the starting position next season. The defense developed some young playmakers like David King and Demontre Hurst who showed promise in the bowl game for future growth. The Sooners will be back challenging for the Big 12 title next season if those players build on their late-season efforts.

5. Oklahoma State: All of the promise at the start of the season unraveled with a disappointing string of injuries and suspensions. And even with all of those struggles, the Cowboys still had a chance to play in a Bowl Championship Series game if they had beaten Oklahoma. Losses in the last two games of the season left a bad taste for what could have been Mike Gundy’s breakout season. The defense played much better than expected under new coordinator Bill Young, but the offense didn’t live up to the promise -- especially when Zac Robinson was hurt and his offensive weapons were stripped away. All things considered, a 9-4 record with everything the Cowboys overcame this season was better than could be expected.

6. Missouri: As well as the Tigers played at times during the season, their season was marked by their fourth-quarter home collapse against Nebraska and their confounding Texas Bowl upset loss to Navy. Truthfully, it was expected to be a rebuilding year after losing Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and Co., but some of that was lost after a four-game winning streak to start the season. Blaine Gabbert surpassed expectations and is in line to become the conference’s best quarterback over the next couple of years. And Danario Alexander was the best receiver in the nation over the second half of the season. Defensive woes hurt them, but Gabbert’s return and some young defensive talent should have the Tigers pointed to improvement next season and maybe a challenge at the North title.

7. Iowa State: Was there a better moment in the 2009 Big 12 season than Paul Rhoads’ emotional response to his team’s upset victory over Nebraska which became a YouTube staple? Rhoads’ first season far surpassed expectations with a 7-6 record, the Insight Bowl victory over Minnesota and all of the other surprising accomplishments. Alexander Robinson was the most underrated player in the Big 12 and the gritty Iowa State defense played just like you would expect from a Rhoads-coached team. It won’t be easy for them to duplicate next year as they switch to the Texas-Texas Tech-Oklahoma gauntlet of South Division opponents. But it was a nice first step for Rhoads in building his program.

8. Kansas State: The Wildcats missed out on a bowl trip because of playing too many creampuffs during the nonconference season, but Bill Snyder’s first season was better than expected. The Wildcats received huge contributions from Grant Gregory and Daniel Thomas, who both arrived before summer practice with no real expectations coming into the season. Thomas developed into one of the conference’s best backs and should return for more next season. If Oregon transfer Chris Harper can develop into a playmaker at either quarterback or wide receiver and the defense comes together, the Wildcats might be a threat to make a bowl appearance in 2010.

9. Texas A&M: For all of their offensive weapons, the Aggies’ defense and special teams were the primary culprits in a 6-7 season capped by a disappointing Independence Bowl loss to Georgia. Jerrod Johnson posted the top statistical numbers ever produced by an A&M quarterback and he’s surrounded by a bevy of strong offensive weapons. But Mike Sherman’s new coordinator is going to need to produce more improvement from a young defense if the Aggies have any hopes of contending in the South Division next season and beyond.

10. Kansas: The Jayhawks’ leaky defense did it with mirrors against a weak early schedule, but it all caught up with them during a seven-game losing streak to close the season that precipitated Mark Mangino’s resignation. Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe all finished careers that will go down among the top players in Kansas history. But the challenge for new coach Turner Gill and defensive coordinator Carl Torbush will be to rebuild a defense that allowed at least 31 points in seven of eight conference games.

11. Colorado: Dan Hawkins popped off about challenging for a Big 12 North title at the end of last season. Instead, his team’s struggling performance ended his hopes of “10 wins and no excuses” before conference play even began. The season started off badly with embarrassing nationally televised losses to Colorado State, Toledo and West Virginia and didn’t get much better once conference play began. The Buffaloes did start Kansas’ losing streak and beat Texas A&M, but sputtered offensively as they ranked in the bottom 10 teams in rushing, passing efficiency and sacks allowed and in the bottom 20 teams in total offense. Tyler Hansen emerged as the quarterback of the future. His development will be critical in Hawkins’ hopes at a contract extension.

12. Baylor: The Bears started the season with a confidence-building upset at Wake Forest, but their season for all intents and purposes ended as soon as Robert Griffin sustained a season-ending injury in the third game. Griffin should be back next season but key defensive players like Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake won’t be. The quarterback's return will be critical in rebuilding offensive confidence that was booming heading into the season. The Bears might have the opportunity to snap the conference's longest bowl drought next season in a more balanced Big 12 South, but the key for the season will be developing a defense that can better challenge the South Division’s powers.

What we learned in the Big 12's bowl games

January, 12, 2010
1/12/10
2:08
PM ET
After watching all of the Big 12's bowl games, I came away with a clearer picture of the conference and it's relative position in college football.

[+] EnlargeGarrett Gilbert
Kirby Lee/US PresswireAfter a rough start to the BCS title game, Garrett Gilbert showed why he was such a highly sought recruit.
Here are some specific observations I gleaned after watching the conference's bowl games.

  • Garrett Gilbert looks like a keeper at quarterback. Although the national championship game was a difficult learning laboratory, the freshman Texas quarterback showed the kind of flashes that helped make him last season's most heralded quarterback recruit. Gilbert will still be learning as he goes into his sophomore season, but appeared to have confidence in throwing the ball downfield against the tough Alabama secondary as the game progressed. That success was the major reason the Longhorns were able to improbably climb back into the game against the Crimson Tide. With speedsters Malcolm Williams, Marquise Goodwin and D.J. Monroe back for next season, expect the Longhorns to employ a more vertical passing game with Gilbert in charge than the short-passing game that was favored with Colt McCoy during his career.
  • Texas Tech's quarterback battle in 2010 will be the most interesting in the conference. Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield both were productive in the Red Raiders' Valero Alamo Bowl victory over Michigan State. Potts claimed the Valero Alamo Bowl's most valuable offensive player honors and Sheffield directed the Red Raiders' comeback over the Spartans. But both quarterbacks will come in even with new coach Tommy Tuberville and a new offensive coordinator taking over. The job is there for the taking for either one of them.
  • Iowa State's surprising success likely will be short lived. The Big 12's feel-good story of the season was capped with Iowa State's victory over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl. Paul Rhoads' victory should resonate for the ISU program for the next several months. And the way it finished couldn't have been more fitting as cornerback Ter'ran Benton, who missed most of the season with a broken leg, iced the victory by recovering a Minnesota fumble in the final minutes. But as sweet as the bowl victory might have been for ISU fans, a significantly more difficult schedule looms next season. They better enjoy the spoils of a bowl victory while they can with Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Utah and Northern Illinois looming on the 2010 schedule.
  • Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson had the best bowl game of anybody around the Nebraska program. And he needed it. Complaints about Watson's offensive philosophy were growing after the Cornhuskers' offense limped toward the finish line at the end of the regular season. Watson utilized the time off before the Holiday Bowl to help rebuild Zac Lee's confidence, find a way to get Niles Paul involved and utilize a Wildcat attack with Rex Burkhead running the ball. All worked masterfully in the Cornhuskers' 33-0 victory over Arizona in their top offensive performance of the season. That production should help turn around public perception about Watson's offense and catapult the Cornhuskers into spring practice with some badly needed offensive confidence.
  • Missouri's refusal to run the ball against Navy was the biggest shock in the Texas Bowl. The Tigers had all kinds of chances to take control of the game, utilizing their superior size in the trenches against Navy's undersized read-and-react defense. And they still didn't do it in a stunning 35-13 loss to the Midshipmen. Even as Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green used a two-man defensive front, Missouri offensive coordinator David Yost stubbornly tried to keep throwing the ball. Missouri's running backs only ended up with 16 carries in the game. It was understandable that Yost thought the Tigers could keep passing with Blaine Gabbert and Danario Alexander. But a little balance would have kept the game from getting away from them.

Instant analysis: Navy 35, Missouri 13

December, 31, 2009
12/31/09
7:57
PM ET
It was a good day for the service academies as Navy's convincing 35-13 victory over Missouri came on the heels of Air Force's triumph over Houston.

There was nothing fluky about the Midshipmen's victory. Here's how they got it done.

How the game was won: Missouri looked ready to blow Navy out of Reliant Stadium after jumping ahead on the second play from scrimmage on a 58-yard toss from Blaine Gabbert to Danario Alexander. From that point forward, Navy bounced back and allowed the Tigers only a pair of field goals during the rest of the game as they were limited to 298 yards.

[+] EnlargeRicky Dobbs
AP Photo/Dave EinselQuarterback Ricky Dobbs accounted for four of Navy's five touchdowns.
Turning point: After Missouri had pulled within 14-10 at the half, Navy answered with a 58-yard scoring drive to immediately seize momentum. Alexander Teich returned the second half kickoff for 46 yards to spark the drive. Navy converted a fourth-down play and punctuated a drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ricky Dobbs to Bobby Doyle to cap the drive.

Player of the game: Dobbs expertly sliced up the bigger Missouri defense to power the Midshipmen’s upset victory. Dobbs rushed 30 times for 166 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 130 yards and another score to lead Navy to its first bowl victory since the 2005 Poinsettia Bowl. Dobbs joins Craig Candeto from 2003 as the only Midshipmen to run and pass for more than 1,000 yards in a season.

Stat of the game: Navy dominated the game in the trenches as they controlled the ball for 40 minutes and 54 seconds. The punishing thrust enabled them to pile up 519 total yards and gash Missouri’s 12th-ranked rush defense for 385 yards in a convincing whipping.

Best call: Navy’s ground-based offensive attack opened up Dobbs’ passing abilities throughout the second half. Dobbs completed all of his second-half passes for 71 yards and a touchdown to help Navy put the game away. The biggest was a 47-yard strike to Marcus Curry on the first play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter that set up the Midshipmen's clinching touchdown.

Second guess: Trailing 21-10, Missouri appeared ready to score and keep the game close later in the third quarter. Missouri’s running game was clicking after accounting for 38 yards on seven previous attempts on the drive. But on third-and-goal from the Navy 2, Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert tried a pass and was sacked by Craig Schaefer for a huge 10-yard loss. Missouri got a field goal on the drive, but could have scored a touchdown that would have kept them in the game.

What it means: Navy posted a 10-win season for only the third time in the 129-season history of the program and for the first time since 2004 as they emphatically proved they can play with BCS-level schools. Missouri’s loss put a disappointing conclusion in a game that really wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. The Tigers need to get more consistency from Gabbert and improvement from a defense that couldn’t seem to adjust to the Midshipmen’s triple-option despite having nearly a month to prepare for the bowl game. With Nebraska loaded for next season, the Tigers will be challenged to maintain pace with them in 2010.

video

Texas Bowl: Missouri (8-4) vs. Navy (9-4)

December, 30, 2009
12/30/09
11:16
AM ET
Here’s all you need to know about the Texas Bowl matchup between Missouri (8-4) and Navy (9-4) on Thursday.

WHO TO WATCH: Danario Alexander, WR, Missouri

Biletnikoff Award voters made a dreadful mistake by not adding Alexander to their watch list late in the year after Alexander's one-man assault on Big 12 defenses over the last half of the season. Alexander nearly made history by becoming the first wide receiver in NCAA history to post four straight 200-yard receiving games after notching 214 yards against Baylor, 200 against Kansas State, 173 yards against Iowa State and 233 yards against Kansas in his final game. He produced 107 catches this season after recording 78 catches over his first three seasons at Missouri, finishing 2009 as the nation’s leader in receiving yards (1,644) and average receiving yards per game (137.0). The tall, angular Alexander will be difficult for the undersized Navy secondary to contain. And his breakaway speed will be a concern for Navy every time he touches the ball.

WHAT TO WATCH: Missouri’s run containment against Navy’s triple-option

Missouri defensive ends Aldon Smith and Brian Coulter will be challenged to stop Navy’s strong outside running game keyed by quarterback Ricky Dobbs and his pitches to running backs Marcus Curry and Bobby Doyle. Missouri doesn’t see this offense very often, but the Tigers have had a long time to prepare for Thursday’s game after ranking 15th in rush defense during the regular season. Missouri’s defensive linemen need to do a good job of staying on their feet against Navy’s undersized offensive linemen and its storied ability at cut-blocking. Missouri linebackers Andrew Gachkar and Sean Weatherspoon also need to maintain their lanes of pursuit as they try to stop Dobbs, who rushed for 1,037 yards and set an NCAA single-season record for a quarterback with 24 rushing touchdowns.

WHY WATCH: Contrasting offensive styles make for entertaining games

Navy and Missouri have two of the nation’s most intriguing offenses. They just account for their yards in different ways. The Midshipmen rank fourth nationally in rushing, but 119th in passing offense. Missouri is 14th passing, but are 81st rushing. Missouri’s quick-strike offense keyed by quarterback Blaine Gabbert and Alexander would appear to give the Tugers a firepower edge, although Navy has been effective this season and would have its first 10-win season since 2004 with an upset.

PREDICTION: This should be a classic battle of different offensive styles. Tiger fans have been vociferous about their disappointment in getting the Texas Bowl, their fourth Texas-based bowl in the last four seasons, despite other Big 12 teams with lesser records being snapped up ahead of them in the conference’s pecking order. Gary Pinkel’s team can’t afford to let those bad feelings linger, or it could be a long day against the underrated Midshipmen. But this game looks like a good draw for Missouri, whose big-play passing offense and strong rush defense appear well-suited to control Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo's plucky team. Missouri 42, Navy 24.

McCoy, Suh head All-Big 12 team

December, 8, 2009
12/08/09
3:12
PM ET
Here's a look at my All-Big 12 team. There were couple of late selections that were affected by the Big 12 championship game. If you look closely enough, you probably will see where I made my switches.

Oklahoma leads the team with five selections, Texas had four and Nebraska and Missouri three picks apiece.

Offense:

QB: Colt McCoy, Texas

RB: Daniel Thomas, Kansas State

RB: Keith Toston, Oklahoma State

WR: Danario Alexander, Missouri

WR: Jordan Shipley, Texas

TE: Riar Geer, Colorado

OL: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State

OL: Brandon Carter, Texas Tech

OL: Trent Williams, Oklahoma

OL: Adam Ulatoski, Texas

C: Reggie Stephens, Iowa State

K: Grant Ressel, Missouri

KR: Brandon Banks, Kansas State

Defense:

DL: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska

DL: Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma

DL: Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma

DL: Brandon Sharpe, Texas Tech

LB: Von Miller, Texas A&M

LB: Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri

LB: Joe Pawelek, Baylor

DB: Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State

DB: Earl Thomas, Texas

DB: Brian Jackson, Oklahoma

DB: Prince Amukamara, Nebraska

P: Alex Henery, Nebraska

PR: Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma

Texas Bowl

December, 6, 2009
12/06/09
9:40
PM ET
Missouri (8-4) vs. Navy (8-4)

Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Missouri take by Big 12 blogger Tim Griffin: Missouri was one of the Big 12’s hottest teams down the stretch, but fell to the conference’s lowest bowl affiliation as it was jumped by Iowa State and Texas A&M. Texas Bowl officials might not be complaining too much considering the interesting contrast they will receive in their game against Navy.

Danario Alexander was the conference’s most explosive offensive player in the final month of the season, emerging as the nation’s leader in receiving yards per game (137 yards per game) and third in receptions (8.92 receptions). Sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert played strong during a three-game winning streak to finish the season and completed the year by passing for 3,302 yards and 23 touchdowns.

The Tigers ranked 109th in pass defense, but that shouldn’t be a concern against Navy, which ranks third in rushing but next to last nationally in passing. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo is familiar with bowl games after directing the Midshipmen into bowl games in each of his three seasons as a coach.

Navy's rushing attack is keyed by junior quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who rushed for 913 yards and 23 touchdowns, which ranks second nationally. It will mark the first time these teams have played since Missouri claimed a 21-14 victory in the 1960 Orange Bowl.


Navy take by Independents and others blogger Graham Watson: Navy came into this season not knowing whether it would be able to keep its streak of eight-win seasons alive.

The Midshipmen have won at least eight games every year since 2003, but this year’s schedule was supposed to be the toughest the Midshipmen have faced in quite some time.

Those feelings were assuaged in late October when the Mids defeated Wake Forest without their starting quarterback or slotback. They went on to defeat Notre Dame and currently have eight wins with a game against Army still remaining.

If Navy wins out, it would be the first 10-win season since 2004, but that won’t be easy against a Missouri team that has one of the most potent offenses and dangerous receivers in the country. Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert and receiver Danario Alexander probably would be likened to Notre Dame with quarterback Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate. But unlike Notre Dame, Missouri has a pretty good rushing defense allowing just 96.42 yards per game.

For the first time since 2004, Navy will not finish as the nation’s best rushing team, but it ranks third with 279.67 yards per game.

A lot of Navy’s success this season is because of junior quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who has rushed for 913 yards and passed for 860 yards and accounted for 27 of the Midshipmen’s 46 total touchdowns this season.

SPONSORED HEADLINES