NCF Nation: Darrell Stuckey

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.

What we learned in the Big 12, Week 11

November, 15, 2009
11/15/09
12:25
PM ET
Here are some items that struck me while watching Big 12 games on Saturday.

Iowa State’s defensive resiliency has been stunning: Coach Paul Rhoads has helped the Cyclones respond after being gashed for 69 points in back-to-back losses to Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. The Cyclones rebounded to limit Colorado to its season-low in points and put them into bowl eligibility for the first time since 2005. ISU limited the sputtering Buffaloes to three points on three trips inside the 10-yard line. The Cyclones might not have talent to match many Big 12 teams, but they play exceedingly hard. With a team coached by Rhoads, you wouldn’t expect anything else.

Where do the Jayhawks go from here? Todd Reesing talked after the game Saturday about being part of “the transformation of Kansas football.” Hopefully for the Jayhawks, their struggles during his senior season won’t be a step back to the Kansas program before he arrived. But it’s not a good sign. The Jayhawks were a preseason North favorite. Instead, they have dropped five-straight games in a season where the North is clearly down from previous levels. And they have to win against either surging Texas or improving Missouri simply to make a bowl appearance. Mark Mangino will have his work cut out to keep the program moving forward -- particularly after the loss of key players of the transformation like Reesing, Kerry Meier, Jake Sharp and Darrell Stuckey after this season.

"Sooner Magic" appears to be turning around. Don't look now but Oklahoma’s blowout home victory over Texas A&M might have provided the Sooners with confidence heading into their final two games and could earn them the conference’s No. 2 bowl bid. With Texas Tech quarterback Steven Sheffield struggling with an obvious foot injury in the second half of the Red Raiders’ loss to Oklahoma State, the Red Raiders don’t look as daunting heading into Saturday’s game in Lubbock. And if Oklahoma can win that game, their chances will improve against Oklahoma State in the Bedlam Game the following week at home with Zac Robinson dinged up with an apparent concussion. Maybe we shouldn’t count Bob Stoops’ team out quickly with a schedule that appears to be providing some good fortune after so much bad luck earlier in the season.

Zac Robinson's health will determine Oklahoma State's BCS hopes: The biggest reason for Oklahoma State’s second-half transformation against Texas Tech was the stellar play of Robinson, who ran without abandon behind a beefy offensive line. It’s what the Cowboys need to be successful and conceivably could catapult them into the first BCS bowl appearance in school history. Losses by teams in front of them like USC, Arizona, Houston, Utah and Miami will provide the Cowboys with a chance to improve in the polls later Sunday. But in order to finish the season strong with hopes for that elusive BCS berth, Robinson has to be recovered from his concussion and productive for the Cowboys’ season-ending games against Colorado and Oklahoma.

Texas’ defense could face bigger-than-expected tests during the next two weeks: Fiery Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp was upset about his team allowing two window-dressing touchdowns against Baylor. But the Longhorns played exceptionally well early against the Bears -- particularly considering starting middle linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy was held out with a knee injury. The Longhorns lead the nation in rushing defense and total defense. They are the nation’s only team to rank in the top seven in total defense, rush defense, pass efficiency defense, scoring defense and turnover margin in the NCAA’s most recent statistics. And they will have a good chance to fine-tune for the Big 12 championship game and beyond when facing Kansas and Texas A&M in the next two weeks.

Remember, the Longhorns were carved up for 420 passing yards and three touchdowns by Texas Tech’s Taylor Potts. They have competed against injury-weakened offenses from Oklahoma and Oklahoma State earlier in the season and have faced backup quarterbacks the last two weeks against UCF and Baylor. Reesing and Jerrod Johnson will provide them with a beneficial challenge in their last two regular-season games.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here's a look at my preseason All-Big 12 team:

Offense

QB Colt McCoy, Texas
RB Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
RB DeMarco Murray Oklahoma
WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
WR Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas
TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma
OL Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
OL Kurtis Gregory, Missouri
OL Trent Williams, Oklahoma
OL Adam Ulatoski, Texas
C Chris Hall, Texas

Defense

DL Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma
DL Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
DL Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma
DL Sergio Kindle, Texas
LB Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
LB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri
LB Joe Pawelek, Baylor
DB Dominique Franks, Oklahoma
DB Darrell Stuckey, Kansas
DB Earl Thomas, Texas
DB Jordan Lake, Baylor

Special teams

K Alex Henery, Nebraska
P Derek Epperson, Baylor
KR Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State
PR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Kansas checks in at No. 22 in the preseason rankings compiled by my colleague Mark Schlabach.

The Jayhawks are ranked that high because of a potent offense keyed by quarterback Todd Reesing and a strong cast of offensive weapons around him.

The biggest concern about the Jayhawks has been their defense and specifically the loss of starting linebackers James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen from last season.

Any time you have to replace consistent producers like them, it's a big worry. But it might not necessarily be as troublesome for Kansas as you might expect.

First, Coach Mark Mangino is tinkering with a 4-2-5 defense that he expects he will use in most base situations. It's a good idea because of the heavy aerial attacks in the Big 12, but also because the four players he started in the final six games of the season all return. That group is keyed by a potential big-time producer in strong safety Darrell Stuckey, free safety Phillip Strozier and starting cornerbacks Justin Thornton and Daymond Patterson.

But the biggest reason I expect the Jayhawks to improve will be their depth up front along the defensive line. I really like Jake Laptad at defensive end who is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league. And I expect junior college transfer Quinton Woods to be an immediate force on the other side.

The Jayhawks also have a nice set of experienced tackles returning in Jamal Greene and Caleb Blakesley. Their experience will help them immeasurably in their second season together as starters.

It will be interesting to see how much the Jayhawks' statistics are altered with the losses at linebacker. Needless to say there's a lot of pressure on returnees like Dakota Lewis and Arist Wright. And I'm intrigued how much playing time that converted running back Angus Quigley will receive.

Another factor that will be interesting in the team's development will be what the addition of veteran co-defensive coordinator Bill Miller means to the group. Bill Young had all kinds of success with the defense and got much of the acclaim for the team that won the Orange Bowl two seasons ago.

When Young left, it was left to first-year coordinator Clint Bowen to start his program. There were some rocky parts along the way, considering they allowed at least 33 points in seven of their final 11 games.

Development in the defense will be the biggest key in the Jayhawks fulfilling their high preseason ranking and determining whether they will be able to contend for their first berth in the Big 12 championship game.

It won't necessarily be a surprise because Kansas' defense might not be as depleted as some might presume.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 1

Now, we're finally at the top player.

After counting down the Big 12's best over the last 39 days, is there any real question who the conference's ultimate player is?

Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford's career has been memorable over his first two seasons. He's already become the only player in Big 12 history to lead his team to back-to-back championships.

After winning the Heisman Trophy last season, most draft observers thought he would declare for the draft, collect his millions in a pro contract and leave college behind.

The Sooners' disappointing losses in back-to-back BCS losses have stung Bradford and brought him back for more this season.

Whether his draft status will be affected is debatable. He'll be playing behind a green offensive line that will feature four new starters and he'll be throwing to a new group of wide receivers.

It likely will give him a different perspective after his first two seasons.

But if it pays off with a national championship, it will all be worth it for him.

Player: Sam Bradford
Team: Oklahoma
Position: Quarterback
Vitals: 6-foot-4, 218 pounds; Jr.; Oklahoma City, Okla. (Putnam City North)

Why he was picked: Bradford had a superlative season in winning his Heisman last season, leading the nation in touchdown passes (50) and passing efficiency (180.84). He also set the school record for single-game passing yards with 468 against Kansas and set the school career record for touchdown passes (86) Other honors he received last season included the Davey O'Brien Award, the Sammy Baugh Trophy, the Chic Harley Award and the Associated Press and Sporting News' first-team All-American. His numbers bordered on the amazing at times last season as he threw five TD passes in four different games and notched 11 300-yard passing games. But most importantly, he's led the Sooners to Big 12 championships in both of his seasons as a starter.

What 2009 will hold: Bradford unabashedly says his return was influenced by the Sooners' BCS national title game loss to Florida. He'll have a chance to become the first back-to-back Heisman Trophy winner since Archie Griffin in 1974-75. But he'll be doing it with a completely different supporting cast as the Sooners break in two new starting wide receivers and four new offensive linemen. It will give Bradford a chance to expand his leadership roles and perhaps show other facets of his game. He rarely has been pressured in Big 12 games and that will likely change this season behind the rebuilt line. He'll also have a chance to show off his arm in a different way with the new receivers. It wouldn't be a surprise if his statistics fall off a little this season - both because of the flux among his pass catchers and the return of two potent running weapons like DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown. But if the Sooners claim the national title, Bradford won't be complaining.

The countdown:

2. Texas QB Colt McCoy
3. Oklahoma State WR-KR Dez Bryant
4. Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham
5. Baylor QB Robert Griffin
6. Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh
7. Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy
8. Oklahoma State RB Kendall Hunter
9. Oklahoma LB Travis Lewis
10. Kansas QB Todd Reesing
11. Oklahoma RB-KR DeMarco Murray
12. Oklahoma State T Russell Okung
13. Texas DE-LB Sergio Kindle
14. Oklahoma T Trent Williams
15. Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon
16. Baylor LB Joe Pawelek
17. Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson
18. Texas WR-KR Jordan Shipley
19. Oklahoma RB Chris Brown
20. Nebraska I-back Roy Helu Jr.
21. Texas Tech DT Colby Whitlock
22. Kansas WR-KR Dezmon Briscoe
23. Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal
24. Kansas S Darrell Stuckey
25. Texas Tech RB Baron Batch
26. Kansas QB-WR Kerry Meier
27. Texas T Adam Ulatoski
28. Oklahoma State LB Andre Sexton
29. Missouri G Kurtis Gregory
30. Missouri RB Derrick Washington
31. Texas Tech LB Brian Duncan
32. Texas S Earl Thomas
33. Kansas State WR-KR Brandon Banks
34. Oklahoma LB Keenan Clayton
35. Baylor S Jordan Lake
36. Oklahoma State CB-KR Perrish Cox
37. Texas C Chris Hall
38. Texas Tech DE-DT McKinner Dixon
39. Kansas State DE Brandon Harold
40. Oklahoma FB Matt Clapp

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 21

Texas Tech nose tackle Colby Whitlock has some unusual talents for a nose tackle.

You can tell something is a little out of of the ordinary will be found with Whitlock, considering his uniform number is 6. He's the only Big 12 nose tackle with his uniform in single digits.

Whitlock, a former standout high-school heavyweight wrestler, is a vital cog in the Red Raiders' defensive transformation last season that carried them to a three-way share of the Big 12 South Division title.

His quickness and brute strength are his best attributes. But an underrated talent that is noticeable is his footwork.

There will be more demands on Whitlock and the Tech defense after the Red Raiders' offensive losses from last season. It will be interesting if he can improve and help take them to another level.

Player: Colby Whitlock
Team: Texas Tech
Position: Nose tackle
Vitals: 6-foot-2, 281 pounds; Jr.; Noble, Okla.

Why he was picked: Like most nose tackles, Whitlock's true value can't be judged merely by looking at statistics. While typically battling two blockers, Whitlock helped control the middle of the line of scrimmage on Tech's improving defense. He notched 26 tackles and 39 total stops, including 5½ stops for a loss, a pass deflection, a blocked kick and a sack. Those efforts enabled him to earn second-team sophomore All-America honors from College Football News. His bullish pass rush helped the Tech defense set the tone in the upset victory over Texas and continued throughout the season.

What 2009 will hold: Whitlock must help key defensive improvement in the Red Raiders. The Red Raiders' defensive growth was one of the major story lines of the Big 12 in 2008 before a late collapse against Oklahoma and Mississippi in the Cotton Bowl that led to two late losses after a 10-0 start. Without offensive weapons like Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree and Shannon Woods this season, Whitlock and his defensive mates need to take another step. If they don't, it might be a long season in West Texas for Red Raider fans.

The countdown:

22. Kansas WR-KR Dezmon Briscoe
23. Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal
24. Kansas S Darrell Stuckey
25. Texas Tech RB Baron Batch
26. Kansas WR-QB Kerry Meier
27. Texas T Adam Ulatoski
28. Oklahoma State S Andre Sexton
29. Missouri G Kurtis Gregory
30. Missouri RB Derrick Washington
31. Texas Tech LB Brian Duncan
32. Texas S Earl Thomas
33. Kansas State WR Brandon Banks
34. Oklahoma LB Keenan Clayton
35. Baylor S Jordan Lake
36. Oklahoma State CB/KR Perrish Cox
37. Texas C Chris Hall
38. Texas Tech DE/DT McKinner Dixon
39. Kansas State DE Brandon Harold
40. Oklahoma FB Matt Clapp

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

No. 22

In only two seasons, Dezmon Briscoe has developed into one of the most explosive players in Kansas football history.

Now, if the Jayhawks could be absolutely sure he'll be playing for them this fall.

Earlier this spring, Kansas coach Mark Mangino suspended Briscoe for all of their practices so far for an undisclosed violation of team rules. He still isn't back yet heading into the Jayhawks' spring game Saturday afternoon.

It's hard to imagine the Jayhawks being able to contend for the North Division championship if Briscoe isn't a big part. It would be hard to fathom if Briscoe doesn't fulfill whatever demands that Mangino has for him to rejoin the team.

Player: Dezmon Briscoe
Team: Kansas
Position: Wide receiver/kick returner
Vitals: 6-foot-3, 200 pounds; Jr.; Dallas (Cedar Hill)

Why he was picked: Briscoe blossomed into one of the Big 12's most explosive players last season, snagging 92 passes for team-high totals for 1,407 yards and 15 touchdown receptions. He also set the school's single-game record with 269 receiving yards against Oklahoma - a total that was the nation's single-game high last season for FBS teams. He also and tied the single-game record with 14 catches in the Jayhawks' Insight Bowl triumph over Minnesota.

Briscoe already has broken the school career mark for touchdown receptions after only two seasons. And he showed flashes of being able to counteract one of Kansas' biggest weaknesses when he produced 195 yards in kickoff returns in Kansas' final regular-season game to spark the upset over Missouri.


What 2009 will hold: First, he's got to get back in Mangino's good graces. But if he does that, it's not unimaginable that Briscoe could develop into one of the nation's most explosive players. Considering he has another season of experience in coordinator Ed Warinner's offense and Todd Reesing back throwing passes, it wouldn't be out of the question that Briscoe could grab more than 100 passes and produce 1,600 receiving yards. And if he continues his late-season success running back kicks, he might emerge as one of the biggest keys in the Jayhawks' Big 12 title hopes.

The countdown: 

23. Oklahoma DE Jeremy Beal
24. Kansas S Darrell Stuckey
25. Texas Tech RB Baron Batch
26. Kansas WR-QB Kerry Meier
27. Texas T Adam Ulatoski
28. Oklahoma State S Andre Sexton
29. Missouri G Kurtis Gregory
30. Missouri RB Derrick Washington
31. Texas Tech LB Brian Duncan
32. Texas S Earl Thomas
33. Kansas State WR Brandon Banks
34. Oklahoma LB Keenan Clayton
35. Baylor S Jordan Lake
36. Oklahoma State CB/KR Perrish Cox
37. Texas C Chris Hall
38. Texas Tech DE/DT McKinner Dixon
39. Kansas State DE Brandon Harold
40. Oklahoma FB Matt Clapp

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are the choices for my All-Big 12 team for the 2008 season.

QB - Colt McCoy, Texas
RB - Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
RB - DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma
WR - Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
WR - Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
TE - Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma
OL - Duke Robinson, Oklahoma
OL - Jason Smith, Baylor
OL - Rylan Reed, Texas Tech
OL - Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
C - Jon Cooper, Oklahoma

DL - Brian Orkapo, Texas
DL - Brandon Williams, Texas Tech
DL - Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
DL - Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma
LB - Joe Pawelek, Baylor
LB - Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri
LB - Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
DB - Darcel McBath, Texas Tech
DB - Darrell Stuckey, Kansas
DB - Lendy Holmes, Oklahoma
DB - Daniel Charbonnet, Texas Tech

AP - Jeremy Maclin, Missouri

KR - Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State
PR - Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
K- Jeff Wolfert, Missouri
P- Justin Brantley, Texas A&M

Big 12 helmet stickers, Week 14

November, 30, 2008
11/30/08
1:34
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

There were several worthy candidates who almost were able to share in the largesse of a helmet sticker. Here are the players I thought were most deserving in this week's games.

Texas' defensive line -- I can't separate the sticker from any of the key contributors -- defensive ends Henry Melton and Brian Orakpo and defensive tackles Roy Miller andAaron Lewis and key backups Sam Acho and Lamarr Houston. The line helped stifle Texas A&M's running game, limiting the Aggies to minus-24 yards rushing. And it contributed four of the Longhorns' six sacks and also forced and recovered a fumble, produced 11 quarterback hurries and broke-up two passes in the Longhorns' convincing 49-9 victory over the Aggies.

Nebraska kicker Alex Henery -- Produced a school-record 57-yard field goal for the game-winning points of the Cornhuskers' 40-31 triumph over Colorado. Henery drilled four field goals in the game with successful kicks of 35, 27 and 37 yards in addition to his game-winner with 1:43 left in the game.

Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing and wide receiver Kerry Meier -- This should be a shared award, considering the duo's big game in the Jayhawks' 40-37 triumph capped by a 26-yard TD pass from Reesing to Meier with 27 seconds left. Reesing finished with 375 passing yards and four touchdowns. And Meier produced a career-best 14 receptions for 106 yards, including touchdown grabs of 26 and 8 yards -- both in the final 4:26 of the game to key the comeback victory.

Kansas safety Darrell Stuckey -- Produced two interceptions, forced and recovered a fumble and matched the team lead with six tackles in the Jayhawks' triumph over Missouri.

Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford -- Blistered Oklahoma State's secondary for 370 yards and four touchdown passes and rushed for another touchdown to lead the Sooners' 61-41 victory over the Cowboys. Bradford misfired on his first four passes, but rebounded to help the Sooners convert nine consecutive third-down plays at one point of the game. He also became the Sooners' single-season passing yardage record holder and set the school record for most career touchdown passes during the game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are a few tidbits from across the conference heading into this week's games.

1. A transformed Kansas secondary has been readied for the Jayhawks' late push for the North Division title. Kansas coach Mark Mangino has gradually broken in new cornerbacks Daymond Patterson and Justin Thornton and moved up former backup Darrell Stuckey to the starting job at free safety. Those moves have left early-season starting cornerbacks Kendrick Harper andChris Harris buried in Mangino's playing rotation. The change is being made to boost Kansas' athleticism before huge tests against the horde of playmaking wide receivers the Jayhawks will be facing against Texas and Missouri in upcoming weeks.

2. Oft-injured playmaking Oklahoma defensive end Auston English will be missed during the rest of the regular season, although Sooner coaches privately aren't disappointed that redshirt freshman Frank Alexander will be the player replacing him. Alexander's comeback from an early-season stabbing injury has been strong and he's shown some noticeable instinctive defensive moves. There will be a drop-off from English to Alexander, but not as much as might be expected.

3. One of the major reasons for Texas Tech's recent defensive success has been the simplification of schemes since Ruffin McNeill took over as defensive coordinator midway through last season. Two players who have particularly thrived up front have been defensive endsBrandon Williams and McKinner Dixon, who have combined for 17 sacks this season. And Tech's starting safeties, Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonnet, merely are playing like the best pair at their position in the conference since the change.

4. Kansas State coach Ron Prince took over the play-calling responsibilities in the second half of the Wildcats' 52-21 loss last week at Kansas, helping spark a late offensive charge after the Wildcats had fallen into an early 31-0 hole at the half. While Prince was careful to say he hasn't lost confidence in offensive coordinator Dave Brock's calls from the press box, he wanted to provide his team immediate feedback from the sideline by taking a more active play-calling role.

5. Missouri tight end Chase Coffman has been listed as questionable for Saturday's game against Kansas State because of a sprained toe. But Coffman has a little extra inspiration to return to the lineup quicker. It's not only his final home game at Missouri, but he'll be playing against the old college team of his father, former NFL tight end Paul Coffman. And his little brother, Carson, is a backup quarterback for the Wildcats. If Chase Coffman can't go, freshman Andrew Jones would get the start, but expect him to at least to try to play early in the game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

NORMAN, Okla. -- There was a natural tendency for Kansas players to beat themselves up after being steamrolled by Oklahoma on Saturday.

The Jayhawks will wake up Sunday morning sore from the after effects of the loss but still sitting in first place.

The Jayhawks control their destiny to their first North Division title even after becoming the Sooners' 22nd consecutive home victim in a 45-31 loss to the nation's No. 4 team.

"We've rebounded from losses time after time and 22 teams in a row have lost in Norman," Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. "I think we're in pretty good company, don't you think?"

And maybe even better. The Jayhawks failed in their first test against a South Division power. They have tough games against South Division elite teams Texas and Texas Tech approaching, but both will be played in Lawrence. Their game against Oklahoma was their toughest road game of the season.

"There's disappointment in here for sure," said Kansas running back Jake Sharp, who rushed for 103 yards and scored a touchdown. "Everybody gave everything we could, but we just made too many mistakes. We played a great ball club and made some plays, but just didn't make enough to come out on top."

Mangino's group showed this wouldn't be a typical Kansas team that might have come into Owen Field intimidated. The Jayhawks picked up a first down on its first three plays of the game and eventually rolled up 26 first downs. They produced 491 yards which was the most that Oklahoma had yielded this season.

Mangino knew his team would have to turn the game into a shootout to win. The Jayhawks were able to do that deep into the third quarter as Sharp's running and the passing of Todd Reesing kept the Sooners off-balance.

Kansas was trailing by only seven points midway through the third quarter before the Sooners blew the game open, taking advantage of a tiring Kansas defense that had to play 97 snaps in the game.

"We came in expecting to have to score a lot of points to win," Mangino said. "We had some mistakes and penalties that slowed drives and ended up costing us in the long run."

Kansas' biggest problem was in converting third-down plays. The Jayhawks came in to the game ranking third in the nation in third-down conversions, but misfired on their first 10 third-down plays before finally converting one.

By then, the game was safely in hand. It left the Jayhawks trying to put the best spin on the loss, even sitting in first place.

"A loss is always going to be disappointment, now matter how it happens," Kansas safety Darrell Stuckey said. "We just have to be optimistic and realize that we're going to learn from today. You always learn more from a loss than you do from a win. So we'll go from there."

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

 
 Marc Serota/Getty Images
 Kansas QB Todd Reesing is second in the nation in total offense.

During its last trip to Florida, Kansas grabbed a chunk of national credibility with an impressive victory in the Orange Bowl.

Less than nine months later, the Jayhawks are back in the Sunshine State looking for more.

The Jayhawks will be facing South Florida in an early battle of top 20 teams. It will be a litmus test for both programs, but especially for a Kansas team that has received unprecedented publicity earlier this season.

"I think this is a good measuring stick, to some degree," Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. "But I don't think it's a game where, if we win, we feel like we're going to win all the rest, and if we lose, we're going to have a bad season."

This year's game is a huge transformation from the first game of the series in 2006. Kansas eked out a narrow 13-7 victory that featured little pregame acclaim.

"I remember playing them two years ago and it meant nothing to the mass media," Kansas safety Darrell Stuckey said. "I was hearing from fans thinking that we should beat those guys because they hadn't heard much about them. They were a very good team then and they've grown a lot since then. Now, they are a phenomenal team."

After last season, the perception of both programs has been transformed. Both teams were briefly ranked No. 2 in the nation last season. The Jayhawks won their bowl game, beating Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl for the first program's first victory in a BCS bowl game. USF started 6-0 before losing three straight games that knocked them out of the Big East title hunt.

"It's matchup of a couple of similar programs," Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing said. "They popped up on the scene much like we did last year. They got high in the ratings and made a lot of headway with some guys that weren't highly recruited. It's something that's been the same for both of us."

Despite outscoring opponents by a combined margin of 69-10 in its first two games, the Jayhawks will enter Friday's game with several lingering questions. Kansas has struggled running the ball so far, averaging 3.7 yards per carry. It's down more than a yard per carry from last year's average.

Some of the problems have been caused by breaking in new starting tackles Jeff Spikes and Jeremiah Hatch into the lineup after losing All-American Anthony Collins and four-year starter Cesar Rodriguez from last season.

And the Jayhawks have been slow to fill the contribution of running back Brandon McAnderson, who rushed for 1,125 yards last season. The biggest disappointment has been the play of junior-college transfer Jocques Crawford, who brashly predicted before the season that he would like to run for 2,000 yards. After the first two games, Crawford is still 1,951 yards from his stated goal.

Third-stringer Angus Quigley has emerged as the most consistent Kansas running threat, piling up 131 yards. Crawford and Jake Sharp, the most experienced Kansas back, have both been inconsistent as the Jayhawks rank 10th in the Big 12 with an average of 127 rushing yards per game.

Despite the running game struggles, Mangino has been pleased in how Reesing has moved the Jayhawks through the air. He leads the nation in pass completions, is second in total offense, seventh passing yards and is eighth in passing efficiency after the first two games of the season.

"Sure, we haven't run the ball as effectively as I'd like for us to," Mangino said. "But on the other hand, we've been throwing the ball so well. We're facing a situation where it's 'Are we being patient enough for the running game?' And the second question is, 'Do we need to be patient enough for the run game?' As long as the run game can complement the passing game a little bit, we feel good about it."

Some are still questioning the Jayhawks and their national credentials. The South Florida game starts a punishing stretch of their schedule which will also include games with South Division powers Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Kansas played none of those teams during last season's 12-1 campaign.

"This game will be an opportunity for us to establish ourselves in the national mindset," Stuckey said. "This will define us as a team and show that we weren't a one-year wonder. It's an opportunity to show we really deserve to be considered as a strong contender."

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Considering the spread passing offenses in the Big 12, the conference's defensive backs should receive an extensive workout this season. The Big 12 has some productive players. Here is my choice for the 10 best.

  1. William Moore, Missouri: Unquestioned heart and soul of Tigers' defense after leading conference with eight interceptions last season.
  2. Nic Harris, Oklahoma: Physical safety has knack for making big plays and delivering shivering hits.
  3. Jamar Wall, Texas Tech: Closest thing that the Big 12 has to a lockdown cornerback.
  4. Jordan Lake, Baylor: Counted on for too many tackles in Baylor's sieve-like defense, produced 120 stops last season -- 30 more than any Big 12 secondary players.
  5. Darrell Stuckey, Kansas: Hard-hitting strong safety who led Kansas secondary in tackles; broke up six passes last season.
  6. Chris Harris, Kansas: Big 12 newcomer of the year last season after producing 65 tackles, two interceptions in 2007.
  7. Devin Gregg, Texas A&M: Workmanlike player who has started 32 straight games for the Aggies.
  8. Larry Asante, Nebraska: Once a special-teams tackling machine, he now is a disciplined pass defender after working with Bo Pelini.
  9. Chris Carney, Kansas State: Produced 64 tackles and four interceptions last season and should be even better with infusion of junior college talent around him.
  10. Lendy Holmes, Oklahoma: Can be torched deep occasionally, but Sooners have opted to move him around the secondary to help plug holes.

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