NCF Nation: Jeff Wolfert

Big 12 games of the decade

January, 20, 2010
1/20/10
11:22
AM ET
Every football fan has a different definition of what makes a game great. Some fans might prefer defensive struggles. Other enjoy torrents of points.

The Big 12 has provided a few of latter -- and more -- over the last decade with some of the most entertaining games in recent college football history.

Here are my favorite 10 games of the past decade. There are 10 to 15 other games that legitimately could have been included on this list.

1. Texas 41, USC 38 (Jan. 1, 2006): The Longhorns claimed the 2005 national title with a dramatic comeback capped by Vince Young’s game-winning 8-yard TD run with 19 seconds left. Michael Huff’s critical fourth-down stop of LenDale White set the stage on the preceding drive. And many observers still think that Pete Carroll could have gone for a game-tying field goal attempt on the final play of the game if he hadn't squandered a timeout before a two-point try after Young's TD run.

2. Texas Tech 39, Texas 33 (Nov. 1, 2008): Michael Crabtree’s 28-yard touchdown reception from Graham Harrell with one second remaining capped the wildest victory in Tech history -- made even more improbable after Blake Gideon dropped an interception on the play before Crabtree’s game-winning touchdown.

3. Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42 (Jan. 1, 2007): The Broncos won the 2007 Fiesta Bowl by fooling Bob Stoops’ team with three gadget plays: a game-tying hook and ladder play in regulation, an option pass from wide receiver Vinny Perretta to Derek Schouman in overtime to pull within one point and a game-winning two-point conversion by Ian Johnson on a Statue of Liberty play. Johnson proposed to his girlfriend, Chrissy Popadics, on the field after the play. After all the excitement, of course, she accepted.

4. Oklahoma State 49, Texas Tech 45 (Sept. 22, 2007): This classic offensive battle produced 62 first downs and 1,328 yards and wasn’t settled until Michael Crabtree dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass in the end zone in the final minute of play. And we all still remember it more for the fireworks in the press conferences with Mike Leach and Mike Gundy than for what happened on the field, don’t we?

5. Oklahoma 35, Texas A&M 31 (Nov. 11, 2000): Torrance Marshall’s game-winning 41-yard interception return with 7:42 left enabled the Sooners to continue their charge to the 2000 national championship. Oklahoma overcame an 11-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter and a 10-point hole with less than 9 minutes remaining. Marshall’s heroics gave the Sooners the lead and the Oklahoma defense did the rest, turning away the Aggies twice deep in Oklahoma territory late in the game.

6. Kansas 40, Missouri 37 (Nov. 29, 2008): Four lead changes in the final 6:52 made this game memorable, even though Missouri had already clinched the North title coming into the game. Todd Reesing and Kerry Meier hooked up five times on the game-winning drive, capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds left. Missouri had one last hope, but Jeff Wolfert’s 54-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game was partially blocked by Phillip Strozier.

7. Texas 13, Nebraska 12 (Dec. 5, 2009) : In a conference that made its national reputation with wild offensive battles, it was refreshing to see a defensive struggle in the 2009 Big 12 title game. Nebraska, keyed by a ferocious defense that forced three interceptions and sacked Colt McCoy nine times, appeared to have taken control on a 42-yard field goal by Alex Henery with 1:44 left. Ndamukong Suh sacked McCoy a championship-game record 4.5 times. But McCoy withstood the rush and drove the Longhorns for the game-winning field goal after a controversial officiating decision put extra time back on the clock after it appeared the Longhorns had squandered their chance to win. Hunter Lawrence’s 46-yard field goal as time expired gave Texas the victory.

8. Texas 56, Oklahoma State 35 (Nov. 6, 2004): The Longhorns were in a 35-7 hole late in the second quarter before Vince Young hooked up on a 4-yard TD pass to Bo Scaife shortly before halftime. That opened the floodgates, as the Longhorns scored touchdowns on six straight drives. Cedric Benson rushed for 141 yards and five touchdowns and Vince Young rushed for 123 yards and completed 12 straight passes at one point en route to a then career-high 278 passing yards. The Longhorns piled up 600 yards of total offense in the wild comeback, outgaining the Cowboys 266-to-minus-5 in the third quarter of the comeback.

9. Nebraska 40, Colorado 31 (Nov. 28, 2008): Alex Henery’s school-record 57-yard field goal with 1:43 left gave the Cornhuskers the lead for good in this classic that Colorado needed to win to qualify for a bowl game. And Ndamukong Suh foreshadowed his monster season to come by icing the victory with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown with 55 seconds left.

10. Baylor 35, Texas A&M 34 (Oct. 30, 2004): The Bears had been waiting for a long time for a chance to beat Texas A&M -- particularly after losing 73-10 to the Aggies in College Station the previous season. So it was understandable that Guy Morriss didn’t hesitate to go for the win after pulling within one point in overtime on Shawn Bell’s pass to Dominique Ziegler. Bell and Ziegler then hooked up again for the two-point conversion, snapping an 18-game winless streak to the Aggies.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

With only two teams still holding spring games, we're nearly down to the bitter end in terms of practices across the Big 12. 

Colorado and Kansas State still have work to do. But there are other stories around the conference today that merit some consideration as well.

  • Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune writes an outstanding story that delves into the unconventional coaching background of new Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Yost.
  • Former Nebraska All-American linebacker Trev Alberts has emerged as the leading candidate for the Nebraska-Omaha athletic director job, Rob White of the Omaha World-Herald reports. Alberts is set for two days of meetings with school officials and students in Omaha later this week.
  • Dave Curtis of the Sporting News lists Kansas State running back Keithen Valentine and Nebraska wide receiver Curenski Gilleylen as prime examples of "Mr. April" from 2008.
  • Former Texas A&M football coach Jackie Sherrill tells Victoria Advocate reporter Mike Forman why he remembers Texas fans chanting "Poor Aggies" only once during his coaching career.
  • Robert Cessna of the Bryan Eagle proposes a way for Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne to make his budget by selling the roughly 200 empty seats in the press box for the Aggies' spring game.
  • An argument with a former girlfriend lead to felony and misdemeanor drug charges for Oklahoma State wide receiver Bo Bowling, the Oklahoman's Scott Wright reports.
  • Fast-rising former Oklahoma tackle Phil Loadholt could sneak his way into the first round of this weekend's NFL draft, according to the Oklahoman's Jake Trotter.
  • David Youngblood of the Oklahoma State Daily O'Collegian writes about the Cowboys' defensive progress this spring.
  • Bobby La Gesse reports for the Omaha World-Herald that new Iowa State defensive coordinator Wally Burnham has started his transformation of the Cyclones' defense, but still has much work to do.
  • Record-breaking Missouri kicker Jeff Wolfert expects to be a free-agent selection in this weekend's draft, but told Randy Covitz of the Kansas City Star he remains confident he can play in the NFL.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The weekend is coming. If you can't wait for the spring games, here are a few links to get you ready.  

  • Don't look for much of a statement from Texas A&M's running game at Saturday's spring game. The Aggies will have only seven scholarship offensive linemen and two running backs healthy for the workout, Robert Cessna of the Bryan Eagle reports.
  • Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill worked with a retooled defensive front to accommodate the loss of McKinner Dixon, Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports.
  • Quarterback Zac Robinson's playing time will be limited at Saturday's Orange-White game, but most other starters will play in the game, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy told the Oklahoman's Scott Wright.
  • Missouri kicking coach Dave Yost expects a stiff three-way battle to replace Jeff Wolfert to play out throughout the summer, Matt Schiffman of the Columbia Missourian reports.
  • Hey, blame them and not me. Sporting News college football writers Matt Hayes and David Curtis will make a lot of Big 12 fans angry after both picked Tim Tebow over either Sam Bradford or Colt McCoy as the best quarterback in college football.
  • Multi-faceted Colorado standout Josh Smith had to overcome an initial fear of returning kicks, Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera reports.
  • Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler opines on the rock-solid Oklahoma defense.
  • Former Oklahoma State defensive back Eric Roark was among the first assistant coaches named Wednesday to Larry Coker's inaugural coaching staff at Texas-San Antonio.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

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

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

So much for Chase Daniel's Alamodome curse.

Daniel overcame a struggling three-interception performance to orchestrate a dramatic comeback as Missouri claimed a 30-23 overtime victory over Northwestern in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

Earlier in his career, Daniel lost a high school state championship game and struggled through a blowout victory in the 2007 Big 12 championship game to Oklahoma at the San Antonio domed facility.

 
 Margaret Bowles/US Presswire
 Jeremy Maclin won the Most Valuable Player trophy.

It looked like more of the same after his early struggles Monday night. After being booed by Missouri fans earlier in the fourth quarter, Daniel hooked up with Jeremy Maclin for a game-winning 7-yard pass to cap the first possession of overtime. Daniel bobbled the snap, but still got the ball away for the score to finish his record-breaking career for the Tigers.

Missouri's maligned pass defense did the rest. A couple of key blitzes helped secure the victory, which was settled by a game-sealing interception in the end zone by William Moore.

Maclin was the best player on the field Monday night. His 75-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the first half pumped life in the moribund Missouri offense that sleepwalked through most of the first half.

As Daniel struggled with any kind of vertical passing game, Maclin became more involved in the offense as he finished by accounting for 187 all-purpose yards.

And Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was dominant as the Tigers finally clamped on Northwestern's pesky spread offense by holding it scoreless on its final four possessions. Weatherspoon ended up with 13 tackles, including three for losses. He also contributed a sack, forced a fumble and also notched two quarterback hurries.

But as Daniel and the Tigers' ballyhooed offense sputtered, the game turned into exactly the kind of contest that Missouri coach Gary Pinkel feared. The underdog Wildcats jumped to an early lead and seemed to be emboldened as they seemingly played with house money for much of the game as they converted eight of their first 11 third downs.

Their luck appeared to have held at the end of regulation, when Jeff Wolfert misfired on a 44-yard field goal at the final buzzer that would have won the game. Wolfert was the most successful kicker in NCAA history before his late miss, converting 95.5 percent of his field goals and point after touchdowns in his career.

But Daniel shrugged off his early struggles to lead the Tigers to the comeback, capping off a 10-4 season that marked the the first time in school history that Missouri has won 10 games in consecutive seasons.

The loss continued Northwestern's bowl game struggles. The Wildcats have not won a bowl game since Jan. 1, 1949 -- a stretch of 21,912 days.

But they certainly made the Tigers sweat to extend the streak Monday night.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Hope everybody got what they really wanted on Christmas.

Me? Just the chance to spend the day with my family was great, along with a couple of classic Humphrey Bogart movies last night -- "Casablanca" and "The Big Sleep."

Here are some links to help the holiday leftovers go down a little easier at lunch.

  • The San Antonio Express-News' Chris Ferrell writes that Missouri coach Gary Pinkel's love of motorcycles will have him riding through the San Antonio area as his team prepares for its upcoming Valero Alamo Bowl against Northwestern Monday night.
  • Oklahoma State tailback Kendall Hunter's career has been marked by resiliency. The Oklahoman's Jenni Carlson writes about how Hunter overcame an impoverished childhood in Tyler, Texas, and a serious ankle injury in high school to become the Big 12's leading rusher.
  • Mack Brown's status as one of the nation's great coaches was solidified by his 2005 national championship and then bolstered by his current streak of eight straight 10-win seasons, the Columbus Dispatch's Bill Rabinowitz reports.
  • The Tulsa World's Guerin Emig profiles Oklahoma backup quarterback Landry Jones, who is poised to become Oklahoma's quarterback if Sam Bradford leaves school.
  • Missouri's Jeff Wolfert came to college with a partial scholarship as a diver. He will leave after the Valero Alamo Bowl as the greatest kicker in school's history and the NCAA record-holder for combined percentage in field goals and extra points, the Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond writes.
  • Although he still considers himself a quarterback, Kansas wide receiver Kerry Meier has grown into liking playing his new position, according to the Lawrence Journal-World's Dugan Arnett.

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

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It hasn't been the smoothest of starts for Oklahoma so far.

But even after losing starting tailback DeMarco Murray on the opening kickoff and having the Sooner Schooner damage a wheel after its first touchdown, Oklahoma is cruising with a 10-0 lead over Missouri after the first quarter.

Murray hobbled off with what appeared to be an ankle injury on the opening kickoff. He hasn't played since, but hasn't been missed as Chris Brown has rushed for 44 yards on eight carries and a touchdown.

Sam Bradford has showed little effect of his thumb injury, passing for 96 yards. The Sooners have used the shotgun, an easier snap to handle, almost exclusively. 

Oklahoma has played several snaps at the end of the first quarter in a defensive formation featuring two down linemen. The first play resulted in a loss and the second was a 15-yard gain from Chase Daniel to Tommy Saunders -- the Tigers' longest gain of the first quarter.

The Sooners have attacked Missouri early with a fierce defensive performance so far, limiting the potent Missouri offense to only 49 yards and 3.1 yards per snap.

The Oklahoma defense turned away the Tigers on two possessions inside their own 40. Jeff Wolfert missed a field goal on the Tigers' first possession and a devastating hit by Keenan Clayton on Daniel killed the Tigers' drive after Missouri had taken over at the Oklahoma 41.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Oklahoma 52, Missouri 31 -- The first rematch in Big 12 title game history from the previous season will take place at Arrowhead Stadium. And the streaking Sooners appear to be ready.

Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford has the offense humming as the Sooners have scored at least 61 points in each of their last four games. They have the balanced kind of attack that will pose problems to a Missouri defense that has struggled this season despite returning 10 starters from last season. The Sooners' offensive balance will prove difficult for Missouri defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus to contain.

Bradford has a torn ligament in his non-throwing hand that will be braced for Saturday's game. That injury could affect the Sooners' rushing game as he could be forced to take the majority of his snaps from shotgun formations like he did last week against Oklahoma State after the injury. But Bradford should be effective against a banged-up Missouri secondary that will be missing its best cornerback after Castine Bridges went down with a season-ending knee injury last week.

Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel has struggled recently with interceptions, throwing at least two in three of his last four games. He can't afford that in Saturday's game as he must be more patient and avoid throwing the ball into tight Oklahoma coverage. The Tigers are going to have to do a good job of keeping Daniel from being pressured against an Oklahoma defense that should be getting top pass-rushing threat Auston English back from injury for spot duty.

The Tigers needs to exploit their advantage in the special teams and will need some big plays for Jeremy Maclin to nab the upset. And they also have an advantage at kicker, where Jeff Wolfert is more consistent and has better range than Jimmy Stevens.

But when everything is considered, the Sooners have too many weapons. And the controversy about their legitimacy of playing in Saturday's game should spur them to a strong performance. A victory will provide them with a shot at a history-making third straight conference title and a likely berth in the BCS Championship Game next month.

My record for last week: 4-1 (80 percent)
My record for the season: 83-13 (86.5 percent)

Final: Kansas 40, Missouri 37

November, 29, 2008
11/29/08
5:57
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The drive from Oklahoma City was a long one, but was made more tolerable by the radio station I was able to pick up from Bartlesville, Okla., so that I could listen to Kansas' dramatic 40-37 victory over Missouri.

And yes, that hissing sound is the background is the excitement seeping out of the Big 12 championship game next week.

Todd Reesing came up with a masterful performance, directing Kansas' dramatic victory over the North Division champions. Reesing completed the game-winning touchdown pass to Kerry Meier with 27 seconds left. And then the Jayhawks held on as Jeff Wolfert's 54-yard field goal at the buzzer was partially blocked.

The victory is a testament to the pluck of the gritty Jayhawks. After the game, Kansas coach Mark Mangino said that 10 of his starting players couldn't practice earlier in the week. All of them played Saturday, leading them to victory.

Kansas' upset sucks a lot of the excitement out of next week's Big 12 Championship Game in Kansas City. Missouri defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus has a lot of work between now and next week to prepare for whichever one of the potent Big 12 South offenses his team will be facing.

And Kansas' victory gives the team a boost as they likely head to the Insight Bowl.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Bo Pelini has been told to simmer down along the sidelines.

The bombastic Nebraska head coach has pumped some life back into the moribund Nebraska program in his first season directing the program. But sometimes, as even Pelini admits, he goes too far.

Pelini already has been flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty earlier this season during a loss to Virginia Tech. And his comportment was again called into question during a 62-28 loss to Oklahoma on national television last week.

"I'm a fiery guy, and I'm not going to change that," Pelini told the Lincoln Journal-Star. "But I have to be careful. You always have to be careful about what you say, what you do. And that's whether you're a head coach or coordinator."

Some have wondered if Nebraska's lack of discipline on the field might stem from their coach. Nebraska has been flagged for 17 personal foul penalties in nine games. Seven have come in the past two weeks. And against Oklahoma, redshirt freshman nose tackle Terrence Moore was ejected for throwing a punch at an opposing player.

"This is not an undisciplined football team in how they act either on or off the field, because that will not be permitted ever," Pelini told the Omaha World-Herald. "They know that."

But Pelini's open admission of his troubles in controlling his temper became prime discussion points at his weekly press conference in Lincoln Tuesday.

Jon Nyatawa of the Omaha World-Herald writes about Pelini's plans to change it.

But perhaps the best judge of Pelini's character is veteran Lincoln Journal-Star columnist Steve Sipple, who has known him as well as anybody in the Nebraska media corps.

Sipple writes that he appreciates Pelini's fire and passion, as long as it's kept at a controlled burn most of the time. That's made the job of a rookie coach difficult at times as he learns sideline decorum along with other aspects of becoming a head coach.

Obviously, Pelini is familiar with defense being played at a certain, exacting standard -- like the national championship team last season at LSU on which he served as defensive coordinator.

The Cornhuskers are playing far from that level. They have given up 16 rushing touchdowns in their last five games and will be facing a huge challenge in stopping Kansas' Jake Sharp, who is merely one of the hottest running backs in the country.

Which should make Pelini's reactions some good theater for those watching Saturday's game -- and maybe even make it worth the price of the pay-per-view telecast merely to focus on Pelini.

Until then, here are some other links from around the conference:

  • Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune breaks down his current choices for the Big 12 offensive, defensive and freshman players of the year.
  • Heralded Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp better hope news of his team's recent struggles doesn't start seeping out to some of his suitors. The Longhorns were gashed for 217 yards rushing by Oklahoma State and then were blistered for 474 passing yards last week by Texas Tech. In those two games, the Longhorns have missed 27 tackles, according to Natalie England of the San Antonio Express-News.
  • Eric Sorrentino of the Lawrence Journal-World looks at some of Texas Tech's most memorable comebacks under Mike Leach.
  • The weekly "Bazooka Drill" has helped prepare Missouri kicker Jeff Wolfert for the pressure of facing game-winning kicks, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold. Wolfert's success has earned him the nickname "Mr. Reliable" from Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel.
  • John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald said that Baylor's upcoming games against Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech will be critical in creating momentum for the upcoming recruiting season.
  • Standout Texas A&M freshman receiver Jeff Fuller will be facing some familiar faces Saturday at Kyle Field, Bryan-College Station Eagle beat writer Robert Cessna writes. Fuller was an early commitment to Oklahoma before deciding to come to Texas A&M to follow in his father's footsteps.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I love nicknames and always have. I think it started when I was a kid playing APBA baseball and football and found the occasional nickname found on a player card. It always seemed to give a player a little more color and pizzazz back in those pre-cable television days when I'd be lucky to watch one or two games a week.

Today, those nicknames don't seem to be nearly as prevalent. But when they come, it still sticks out to me.

That's why I liked Dugan Arnett's notebook so much this morning in the Lawrence Journal-World where he discusses the play of Kansas wide receiver Kerry Meier.

It seems that Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing has christened Meier with the nickname of "Old Faithful" because of his reliability to the Kansas offense.

"I don't know about the 'old' part," Meier told Arnett, "but 'faithful' is good."

It's not surprising that Reesing would be the one giving the nicknames. Reesing is known by his teammates as "Sparky," bestowed to him by Kansas coach Mark Mangino because of his fiery attitude.

They are bonded by more than their nicknames. "Sparky" and "Old Faithful" are going to be integral parts of the Jayhawks' upcoming charge to the Big 12 North Division title.

Here are some other stories from across the conference today.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Big 12 featured its top collection of talent last season with eight conference players selected to consensus All-America teams. It might be even more pronounced this season with another strong cast back.

Here's my list for all-conference players before the season:

OFFENSE 

QB: Chase Daniel, Missouri
RB: Marlon Lucky, Nebraska
RB: DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma
WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
WR: Jeremy Maclin, Missouri
TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri
T: Phil Loadholt, Oklahoma
T: Ryan Miller, Colorado
G: Duke Robinson, Oklahoma
G: Louis Vasquez, Texas Tech
C: Jon Cooper, Oklahoma
K: Jeff Wolfert, Missouri
KR: DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma

DEFENSE

DE: Auston English, Oklahoma
DT: George Hypolite, Colorado
DT: Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma
DE: Ian Campbell, Kansas State
LB: Mike Rivera, Kansas
LB: Joe Mortensen, Kansas
LB: Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri
CB: Chris Harris, Kansas
CB: Jamar Wall, Texas Tech
S: William Moore, Missouri
S: Nic Harris, Oklahoma
P: Justin Brantly, Texas A&M
PR: Jeremy Maclin, Missouri

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The Big 12 has received more notoriety this summer than in any recent memory for its collection of talent at the top. It should result in one of the most intriguing seasons in history.

Without further adieu, here are my picks for the conference this season. I purposely waited until this late to check on the developments from training camp across the Big 12.

North Division winner -- Missouri. A deep collection of offensive players and nearly every major defensive player is back, making Tigers the clear team to beat in the North. And they still have that guy named Daniel around, too.

South Division winner -- Oklahoma. The Sooners look loaded again, too. The best collection of offensive talent should enable them to outscore most opponents. And while several key players are gone from last season's championship team on defense, Bob Stoops will figure out a way to win with these guys. He always seems to -- except in bowl games.

Big 12 championship game winner -- Missouri. I know that Oklahoma is a back-to-back Big 12 champion and beat Missouri twice last season. But Curtis Lofton, Reggie Smith and Malcolm Kelly all are gone. Missouri won't meet Oklahoma until the end of the season. The game will be played at Arrowhead Stadium -- a virtual homefield advantage for the Tigers. And I'm giving them a slim edge -- maybe a Jeff Wolfert field goal -- because of better special teams.

Offensive Player of the Year -- Missouri QB Chase Daniel. After leading the Tigers to the Cotton Bowl last season, Daniel is hungry for much more. Look for him to take them to the Bowl Championship Series if he can stay healthy.

Defensive Player of the Year -- Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy. He won't pile up the impressive statistics of teammate Auston English, but know that every offensive coordinator in the Big 12 knows he has to account for McCoy's presence on every play.

Newcomer of the Year -- Colorado TB Darrell Scott. Sure, he's listed as a third-stringer heading into the Buffaloes' regular-season opener. But look for him to emerge as their most consistent offensive weapon, particularly as he runs behind what should be an improved offensive line.

Coach of the Year -- Missouri's Gary Pinkel. Why not give him the award if the Tigers win their first Big 12 title? It's amazing how far he's come in the last 18 months. His job was in question before then, but he's mellowed over time and has his team positioned for another history-making run.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

How good will be the Big 12 be this season?

With an armada of strong quarterbacks and concentrated power at the top of both divisions, the conference could produce something really special this season. The Associated Press' preseason poll is stacked with five Big 12 teams among its top 14 teams. That respect is coming after four Big 12 teams finished in the top 10 last season and a Big 12-record eight consensus All-Americans were selected last season.

Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star speculates today that the Big 12 finally can come close  to matching the SEC this season. Keys, he mentions, will be the performance of the Big 12 in tough nonconference games like Missouri-Illinois, Kansas at South Florida, Kansas State at Louisville and Virginia Tech at Nebraska. The Big 12 should win its only matchup this season against the SEC when Arkansas visits Texas.

The conference's true reputation will be built in bowl games. After struggles early in its history in bowls, the Big 12's 5-3 bowl record last season was its fifth above .500 in history and third in four seasons.

That trend will have to continue to help the conference's burgeoning reputation to keep growing. And it probably wouldn't hurt for Oklahoma to win a bowl game, too.

But those games are more than four months away. The season is approaching in a mere three days.

To whet your appetite for that start, here's a power-packed stack of morning links. Enjoy them.

  • Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com breaks down the 10 best decisions of Mack Brown's coaching tenure at Texas.
  • Boulder Daily Camera columnist Neill Woelk can't believe that Mark Mangino is making $2.3 million per season -- considering he's had two winning seasons in his six-year tenure as a head coach at Kansas.
  • Baylor's three quarterbacks discuss battling for their starting job as coach Art Briles' decision appears no clearer.
  • Four newcomers dot Kansas State's depth chart. RB Keithen Valentine, CB Blair Irvin, OLB Olu Hall and ILB Ulla Pomele all will be in the starting lineup Saturday against North Texas.
  • Missouri sports information director Chad Moller has "something big" planned in his pitch for Chase Daniel's Heisman hopes, according to the Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond. Moller says cost of his surprise will be about $50,000.
  • The Omaha World-Herald has virtually everything you'd ever want to know about the Cornhuskers in its preview edition. Among the highlights include World-Herald beat writer Jon Nyatawa's story on Bo Pelini's building plan, Tom Shatel's column on football motivation, a Husker inkblot test that shows how the Cornhuskers can finish 8-4 and  Shatel's 14 predictions for the coming season.
  • Not to be outdone, the Lincoln Journal-Star had a preview section with Bo Pelini as a superhero with "Bo Wonder. Villains, Beware!" shouting from the cover. Columnist Steve Sipple explains his rationale for the cover. Beat writer Brian Christopherson details the Cornhuskers' 1-2 offensive punch in QB Joe Ganz and I-back Marlon Lucky, and Curt McKeever's list of Husker villains for the 2008 season.
  • The Big 12 is heavily represented on John Walter's 50 most intriguing people in college football. Included on the MSNBC.com list are Baylor QB Robert Griffin, Missouri WR/KR Jeremy Maclin, Missouri K Jeff Wolfert, Nebraska I-back Marlon Lucky, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State WR Artrell Woods and Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell and WR Michael Crabtree .
  • Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel speculates on the chances that Bob Stoops will remain at Oklahoma for 10 more years.
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy still hasn't announced who'll be calling plays for the Cowboys in their season opener Saturday against Washington State.
  • Des Moines Register beat writer Andrew Logue interviews Iowa State quarterbacks Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates.
  • Wichita Eagle columnist Bob Lutz writes that Ron Prince's junior-college laden recruiting class is nothing like Bill Snyder's recruiting strategy.
  • Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman breaks down Sam Bradford's Heisman hopes.
  • Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler predicts a 12-0 regular season for Oklahoma, capped by a loss to Missouri in the Big 12 championship.
  • Terrance Harris of the Houston Chronicle has an extended sit-down with new Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman.
  • Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman considers how the Texas roster would be broken down after a 44-man NFL-style draft.
  • Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News produces an interesting comparison between Dallas-area natives Chase Daniel of Missouri and Matthew Stafford of Georgia.
  • Kansas QB Todd Reesing tells the Fort Worth Star
    -Telegram's Mike Jones about his interest in dancing and life in the fishbowl in Lawrence, Kan.
  • Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal "there's a good possibility" the Red Raiders will face Oklahoma State in Dallas in 2009.
  • Texas Tech coaches still haven't decided on starters at running back and center heading into Saturday's opener against Eastern Washington. Daniel Charbonnet has won the starting job at free safety, with the right corner and kicker jobs still open.
  • The Tulsa World's Guerin Emig profiles TB DeMarco Murray, a key offensive weapon for Oklahoma's success this season.
  • J. Brady McCullough of the Kansas City Star details the changing expectations around the Jayhawks' program.
  • Heralded Colorado running back Darrell Scott has lost 17 pounds since arriving at college. He's now down to a trim 210 pounds and hopes to play close at close to 205 once the season begins.
  • New Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is emphasizing speed in his rebuilding process, Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman writes.
  • Colorado is preparing for uncertainty in its season opener against Colorado State. The Buffaloes will be facing an opponent featuring a new coach, new offensive coordinator and new starting quarterback.

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