NCF Nation: Jorvorskie Lane
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Every team is green someplace. Here are the specific areas of the most inexperience for each Big 12 team.
Baylor offensive tackle: The Bears need to break in two new starters after losing Jason Smith and Dan Gay.
Colorado defensive line: Help is needed along the defensive front where the Buffaloes lose starting defensive end Maurice Lucas, starting defensive tackle George Hypolite and starting nose tackle Brandon Nicolas.
Iowa State defensive line: Coach Paul Rhoads desperately wants somebody to emerge on the defensive line where the Cyclones lose starting defensive tackle Michael Tate, starting defensive end Kurtis Taylor and top backup defensive back Travis Ferguson.
Kansas linebackers: Even as Mark Mangino is contemplating going to a two-linebacker base defense because of the Big 12's spread offenses, he still needs to find those two players. The Jayhawks lose starters James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen at the position from last season.
Kansas State quarterback: Josh Freeman departed for the NFL early, leaving Carson Coffman and junior college transfer Daniel Thomas to compete for the starting job. It's not a pleasant introduction back to football for returning KSU coach Bill Snyder.
Missouri skill-position players: The Tigers need a quick infusion of playmakers after losing quarterback Chase Daniel, wide receiver/kick returner Jeremy Maclin and tight end Chase Coffman. All of them arguably were the greatest players at their respective positions in Missouri history. Blake Gabbert will receive first look at quarterback and Andrew Jones will work at tight end. It could take several players to fill in for what Maclin did.
Nebraska quarterback: It will be tough for the Cornhuskers to replace all that Joe Ganz did for them, both as a playmaker and a leader at quarterback. Zac Lee will get the first shot, along with freshman Cody Green and redshirt freshman Kody Spano. Maybe the Cornhuskers really could use former Miami quarterback Robert Marve next season.
Oklahoma offensive line: The departure of starting center Jon Cooper, tackle Phil Loadholt and guards Duke Robinson and Brandon Walker means that Sam Bradford will have an inexperienced group protecting him next season. Trent Williams moves to left tackle and Bob Stoops likes his incoming talent, if not its early work habits.
Oklahoma State defensive tackles: The Cowboys ranked last in the conference in sacks last season and lost starting defensive tackles Tonga Tea and Jeray Chatham. It will mean that new defensive coordinator Bill Young will need somebody to step up in the trenches to help shore up that weakness.
Texas defensive line: The major question dogging the Longhorns' national title hopes will be rebuilding a defensive front that loses All-American defensive end Brian Orakpo, defensive tackle Roy Miller, defensive tackleAaron Lewis and defensive end Henry Melton from last season.
Texas Tech offensive line: New quarterback Taylor Potts will be relying on a retooled offensive line protecting his blind side after left tackle Rylan Reed, left guard Louis Vasquez and center Stephen Hamby all departed from last year.
Texas A&M running backs: The Aggies' offensive backfield will need to restock players: Michael Goodson left school early to declare for the NFL draft and fullbacks Jorvorskie Lane and Nick LaMantia are gone. Look for Cyrus Gray to get most of the work this spring with heralded freshman Bradley Stephens arriving in the summer.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
1. Kicking problems for the power elite. I'm baffled at the kicking woes that have befallen the Big 12's top three teams. Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma all have struggled in recent weeks with reliable field-goal kicking. Usually sure Texas kicker Hunter Lawrence shanked kicks of 44 and 20 yards before he was removed for Ryan Bailey. Oklahoma kicker Jimmy Stevens missed from 30 yards and was involved in a sideline argument with 297-pound defensive tackle Cordero Moore. Despite his size disadvantage television replays showed the kicker grab the bigger player's facemask. And Texas Tech's prolonged slump with Donnie Carona makes that facet perhaps the Red Raiders' biggest question mark.
Of course, the three teams rank second (Oklahoma), third (Texas Tech) and fifth (Texas) in scoring in the national statistics through games of this week. What it's meant are that coaches for those three power squads have been more than willing to go for touchdowns rather than settle for field goals most of the season. But somewhere down the line, all will likely have to depend on a clutch kick. And I'm not sure that any of the coaches would feel certain about their chances today if they had to line up for a game-winning 45-yard kick to decide a BCS bowl trip.
2. Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson might be the conference's most underrated play caller. Watson cooked up a little bit of everything for Kansas on Saturday. Direct snaps to Marlon Lucky in the "Joker" package resulted in a touchdown pass thrown by the senior I-back. A pass to 300-pound defensive tackle-turned-fullback Ndamukong Suh produced another score. Another strong effort by Joe Ganz, the conference's most consistently underrated quarterback. It's not your father's Cornhuskers, but they looked pretty impressive on Saturday in stretching their home winning streak to 20 games against Kansas. It's likely pushed the Cornhuskers into a likely trip to the Sun Bowl and invaluable extra practice with the upcoming bowl trip.
3. Where were the Aggies? Texas A&M former students like to talk about the tradition and honor that the school has. But where were all the fans when two senior players who had played huge roles in the program in their career -- quarterback Stephen McGee and tailback Jorvorskie Lane - when Lane scored a late touchdown in garbage time against Oklahoma. Watching on television, I saw a lot of Aggies disguised as empty seats at Kyle Field at the end of the game.
4. Texas Tech's offensive line is the most underrated strength of the team. I stirred up a hornet's nest in my hot and not section Friday afternoon when I mentioned that the Red Raiders' line was not hot because it had allowed four sacks in the last two weeks. Relatively speaking, they were struggling because they had only allowed one sack all season before those two games against Kansas and Texas.
Maybe that inspired them, but the Red Raiders were in prime form in the trenches Saturday night against Oklahoma State as the major reason why Tech erupted for 629 yards -- Tech's fourth 600-yard performance of the season. Graham Harrell was barely touched en route to a 456-yard, six-TD pass performance. And Tech also rushed for 113 yards, its 10th straight 100-yard rushing performance.
5. Sunday dinner at the Hawkins' household in Boulder likely will be more pleasant today, I bet. The dramatic comeback orchestrated by Cody Hawkins took a lot of heat off his dad. The Buffaloes showed offensive flashes in their best half of the season against Iowa State. The big comeback likely will have the younger Hawkins in the starting lineup for the Buffaloes' final two games, making Misti Hawkins' meat loaf and broccoli casserole taste much better for all of those who are partaking at their table today.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are 10 things I'll be watching for around the Big 12 on Saturday.
1. The matchup between Oklahoma State's offensive line and Texas' defensive front -- The Cowboys have the most underrated offensive line in the conference, keying the most multi-faceted offense in the Big 12. But OSU's talented front will be tested by Texas' surging line led by defensive end Brian Orakpo and defensive tackle Roy Miller -- two likely all-Big 12 performers if the vote was taken today. Oklahoma State must be balanced in order to give Zac Robinson a chance to take advantage of Texas' youth in the secondary with play-action passes -- something that Chase Daniel wasn't able to do last week until it was too late.
2. Texas Tech's sputtering special teams -- After benching kickers Donnie Carona and Cory Fowler in back-to-back weeks, the Red Raiders could turn to walk-on Matt Williams as their primary kicker against Kansas. Could Williams, a former winner of an in-game kicking promotion at a Tech game earlier this season, really provide a key field conversion or field goal that would extend the Red Raiders' BCS hopes? And could quirky Tech coach Mike Leach really follow through with his intention of possibly going for two points after every touchdown because of his kicking woes? We'll see.
3. Robert Griffin's interception streak -- The Baylor freshman has thrown 155 passes without an interception to set an NCAA record for freshmen at the start of his career. Can Griffin keep it going against a Nebraska defense that has produced only five interceptions this season -- a figure way below expectations when Bo Pelini took over as head coach.
4. The Oklahoma running game against the weak Kansas State run defense -- The Sooners failed to produce 50 rushing yards in two of their last three games before erupting for 206 yards last week against Kansas. The Sooners will be facing a struggling Kansas State defensive front that has allowed an average of 229.2 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns in its last five games.
5. Missouri's response to its recent two-game losing streak -- Losses to South powers Oklahoma State and Texas have shown that Missouri might have been a paper tiger and virtually crushed Chase Daniel's Heisman hopes. A start for the Tigers against Colorado would be grabbing a lead, something they haven't done in the last two games. During the first five games of the season, the Tigers trailed for a total of 13 seconds. In the last two games, Missouri has trailed for a period of 92 minutes, 14 seconds.
6. Texas A&M's struggling running game -- With the return of players like Mike Goodson and Jorvorskie Lane back from last season's offense that ranked 13th nationally in rushing, the Aggies were expected to be able to consistently run the ball. But they floundered again last week, producing 20 yards against Texas Tech -- the lowest for any A&M team in nearly nine seasons. A&M's rushing offense ranks 100th nationally. Can it be resuscitated against an Iowa State run defense that ranks 95th in the country?
7. Will Oklahoma State finally break down the door against Texas? The Cowboys have blown huge leads in three of the last four seasons against the Longhorns, including a 21-point advantage early in the fourth quarter last season against them in Stillwater. OSU obviously has confidence it can make big plays and have success against the Longhorns. But can the Cowboys hold a lead if they get one Saturday in Austin with that mental baggage still around them?
8. The matchup between Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree and Kansas wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe -- Crabtree and Briscoe were almost college teammates as Crabtree considered attending Kansas before opting to go to Tech. Crabtree won the Biletnikoff Award last season and is poised for a big game against Kansas' leaky secondary. And Briscoe is coming off a school record-breaking 12-reception, 269-yard game last week against Oklahoma. The Big 12 record for single-game receiving yards is 300 yards set by Oklahoma State's Adarius Bowman against Kansas in 2006. It might be challenged by either Crabtree or Briscoe on Saturday.
9. Colorado's quarterback rotation -- Coach Dan Hawkins navigated the ticklish situation of benching his son, Cody, for freshman quarterback Tyler Hansen last week. The combination helped lead the Buffaloes to a gritty victory over Kansas State. How will Hawkins handle juggling his quarterbacks against Missouri in a virtual North Division title elimination game for the loser?
10. Josh Freeman's slump -- The Kansas State quarterback has struggled recently and has not thrown a touchdown pass since the opening possession against Texas Tech on Oct. 4. Since then, Freeman has gone 92 passes without a touchdown pass during a span that has stretched for nearly three games. He'll be facing an Oklahoma pass defense that has struggled recently before storming back to force five straight punts down the stretch to seal the victory against Kansas last week. Freeman must find his groove if the Wildcats have any hopes of notching the upset over the Sooners.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are some trends I'll be watching for across the Big 12 on Saturday:
1. How Texas and Oklahoma handle the emotional cauldron that is the Red River Rivalry. Saturday's game appears to be one of the most intriguing matchups in the storied series in years. Quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford are legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates. The battle between Texas' defensive front and Oklahoma's collection of hugely talented offensive linemen is dotted with future NFL standouts on both sides. Bob Stoops and Mack Brown are both headed for the College Football Hall of Fame one day. But I'm most interested in watching how these two teams -- both potential national title contenders -- overcome the challenges presented by their biggest rival on the Big 12's biggest annual stage. And the fried Twinkies and Fletcher's Corny Dogs are a bonus.
2. The battle of offenses at Faurot Field. Missouri and Oklahoma State both rank among the nation's top three offenses in scoring. Both teams have enough defensive questions to make it entirely possible that we might see them combine for more than 100 points and more than 1,000 yards when the two teams hook up Saturday night. It might resemble an Arena Football League game, but it should be fun watching it.
3. Kansas State's struggling rush defense against against Texas A&M's running attack. The Wildcats have been gashed for more than 300 yards twice in the last three weeks. Even Texas Tech looked good running the ball against KSU. The Wildcats will be tested to keep Mike Goodson, Brad Stephens, Cyrus Gray and even Jorvorskie Lane in check behind an improving Aggie offensive line that showed some flashes of life last week against Oklahoma State.
4. The Austen Arnaud/Robert Griffin battle. Sure, there are bigger games across the Big 12 this week but the matchup between Baylor and Iowa State will feature two of college football's most underrated quarterbacks. Arnaud has pumped some life into the Cyclones offense, nearly sparking an upset over Kansas and UNLV in the last two games. Griffin is the shining hope for better days in the Baylor program, along with being the nation's only quarterback with more than 100 pass attempts this season with no interceptions.
5. Colorado's makeshift offensive line. The Buffaloes are down to taking reinforcements from the defense after defensive tackle Eugene Goree was moved to guard this week. They must get some kind of running game going to reduce some of the pressure facing beleaguered quarterback Cody Hawkins. Kansas will present some challenges, but not nearly those that were seen last week against Texas. This might provide Colorado a chance to run the ball - as it has done when it's been most successful this season.
6. What gives in the battle of losing streaks at Waco? Somebody's futility has to end Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium. Baylor comes in with a 13-game conference losing streak that is the second longest among FBS schools behind only Idaho's 15-game conference losing streak. And the Cyclones' 13-game losing streak is for the nation's second-longest (with SMU) behind UAB's 17-game road losing streak.
7. Jake Sharp. After being relegated to the bench as what coach Mark Mangino considered a situational player, Sharp flourished in the second half last week against Iowa State. His continued use came when he was able to play long enough to gain rhythm with the Kansas offense. The result was an offensive eruption that enabled the Jayhawks to overcome a 20-0 halftime deficit and escape with a comeback win. Will that performance enable him to get more carries and prolonged use Saturday against Colorado?
8. Can Texas protect Colt McCoy? The Longhorns are counting on McCoy not only for his passing, but also to be their primary rushing threat. He'll have to do that against a ferocious Oklahoma defense that has knocked out a rival starting quarterback for at least a series in every game but one this season. Will McCoy be able to withstand the pounding in the pocket, but also as a ball carrier against a Sooner defense honing for kill shots when it gets an opportunity?
9. Nebraska's response to its embarrassing home loss against Missouri last week. The Cornhuskers were humbled by a trip to the woodshed against the Tigers, leading coach Bo Pelini to apologize to practically the entire state of Nebraska after the loss. A similarly talented team in Texas Tech is upcoming. On the Cornhuskers' last trip to Lubbock, they allowed 70 points. This Red Raider is much better than that 2004 squad. And the jury is still out about this Nebraska team and particularly its offense. So, it could get ugly at Jones AT&T Stadium.
10. Will Missouri overlook Oklahoma State with the huge game against Texas looming next week? After an emotional victory last week at Nebraska and an even bigger one at Texas approaching, it might be understandable if Missouri was looking past its game against the Cowboys. But that attitude isn't one that a national title contender can afford. And I don't think that Chase Daniel will let his team play that way, either.
Oklahoma 31, Texas 24 -- I'm expecting one of the best Red River Rivalry matchups in a long time. Both 5-0 teams could win Saturday with the right breaks. Texas needs to dominate in the trenches, particularly with their defensive front against Oklahoma's star-studded offensive line. If they can get to Sam Bradford consistently, they'll keep a young, untested secondary from being hung out to dry. The Sooners also have been susceptible to big plays on special teams, another area where the Longhorns appear to have an edge. Colt McCoy is playing like one of the best players in the country, but Oklahoma simply has too many weapons for the Longhorns. Look for the Sooners to win this one late, maybe on another dramatic Bradford-led fourth-quarter drive, perhaps? Anybody for a Corny Dog on the midway later?
Texas Tech 52, Nebraska 20 -- The Cornhuskers are finally playing a road game and this one isn't coming at a good time. Coming off their worst home loss in more than 50 seasons, they have to face a sizzling offense that hung 70 points on them during the last trip to Lubbock four seasons ago. It won't be that one-sided this season, but things could get out of hand early. Nebraska must play more disciplined and try to pressure Graham Harrell for any hope of winning. Tech's huge offensive line will make that difficult to happen.
Kansas 42, Colorado 27 -- Todd Reesing and Co. were lucky to escape Ames last week with a victory, but I bet they learned their lesson. The running game showed some resiliency after Jake Sharp was inserted into the lineup. And the defense showed some fire after going into a blitzing frenzy in the second half. The Jayhawks should have a favorable matchup against a makeshift Colorado line that will be called to protect struggling Buffaloes quarterback Cody Hawkins. Look for the Jayhawks to claim their 13th straight home victory, pushing them into a big game at Oklahoma next week.
Missouri 51, Oklahoma State 38 -- Two interesting offensive philosophies will clash here. Oklahoma State prefers controlling the ball while Missouri's quick-strike, no-huddle attack ranks next-to-last nationally in time of possession. Oklahoma State has to find some kind of pass rush to keep Chase Daniel honest. The Cowboys have notched only five sacks this season, so it could be a difficult proposition. The difference in this one will be defense, as Missouri safetyWilliam Moore will be rounding into shape and ready to provide a couple of key plays. And Oklahoma State's defense doesn't have enough playmakers to keep up with Missouri's array of offensive weapons.
Texas A&M 27, Kansas State 24 -- What a difference 10 years has made. In 1998, this game was for the Big 12 championship and produced one of the greatest games in conference history. Now, it won't even be televised. The Aggies should have enough offense to pull a mild home upset, taking advantage of a rushing game that showed flashes last week. Kansas State's run defense still is struggling and the Aggies won't be a good team for them to play. Mike Goodson and Jorvorskie Lane will mean the difference, although Josh Freeman and Brandon Banks will have their moments against a sputtering A&M secondary.
Baylor 31, Iowa State 28 -- Despite the expected last-place finishes for both teams, the matchup between Baylor's Robert Griffin and Iowa State's Austen Arnaud should be an entertaining battle of play-making quarterbacks. The Cyclones have been making a habit of forcing turnovers, even as they struggle to match up with most opponents. It could be even worse if starting free safetyJames Smith isn't ready to play. Look for Baylor's running game, keyed by Griffin and Jay Finley, to batter an Iowa State defense that ranks 93rd nationally against the run.
My predictions last week -- 6-0 (100 percent)
My predictions for the season -- 50-4 (92.6 percent)
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are my Big 12 power rankings for this week.
1. Oklahoma: The Sooners are the nation's No. 1 team, even after struggling running the ball and covering kicks against TCU.
2. Missouri: Looking for a statement game in Lincoln, where the Tigers haven't won since 1978.
3. Texas: Can't fly under the radar any more after Colt McCoy's binge and rapid defensive improvement.
4. Texas Tech: Red Raiders' surprising running game could flourish against weak KSU rush defense.
5. Kansas: Lack of running game remains huge concern heading into conference play
6. Oklahoma State: Offense is sizzling, but defense remains a mystery. We're about to find out quickly.
7. Nebraska: Anger management might be advisable for Pelini, particularly as his defense prepares for Missouri onslaught.
8. Colorado: Special teams meltdowns and Cody Hawkins' struggles cost them dearly against Florida State.
9. Kansas State: Recent defensive woes aren't a good sign with conference play approaching.
10. Baylor: Have matched up well with Oklahoma in recent seasons -- and that was before Robert Griffin arrived.
11. Iowa State: QB Austen Arnaud poised to seize the starting job after strong work in recent games.
12. Texas A&M: So that's what Jorvorskie Lane looks like. We were wondering after the first few weeks of the season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Texas' defense finally is playing up to Will Muschamp's standards. The Longhorns' defense dominated Arkansas from the opening snap, posting seven sacks and limiting them to 11 yards rushing and a season-worst 191 yards of total offense. The resurgence of Brian Orakpo, Sergio Kindle and Henry Melton led to a feeding frenzy on beleaguered Arkansas QB Casey Dick that lasted throughout the game. The only touchdown the Longhorns allowed in a 52-10 beatdown came on a returned fumble late in the fourth quarter. Texas has notched 14 sacks in the last two games and appears to be peaking as conference play approaches.
The J-Train appears to be back on the track. Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman must have had a late-game revelation against Army on Saturday. With the Aggies flirting with a third-straight home loss to start the season, Sherman turned to tailback Jorvorskie Lane, who responded with 34 yards on six-straight carries to salt away a tougher-than-expected 21-17 victory over the lowly Black Knights. With Stephen McGee doubtful with an injured shoulder, it behooves Sherman to keep using Lane to keep bleeding the clock. It might be his best hope for future success.
Bo Pelini has to learn to harness his emotions on the sidelines. The new Nebraska coach picked up a crucial unsportsmanlike penalty late in the game after he argued with officials when nose tackle Ndamukong Suh was flagged for a late hit. The penalties helped Virginia Tech wrap-up its 35-30 victory with a clinching touchdown. Something tells me that Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne will have a talk with his new coach about anger management. A bigger concern will be the play of Pelini's defense that yielded 377 yards by a team that came into the game ranked 112th nationally in total offense. Hey, Bo! Deep breaths. Start practicing, because you'll need them when Chase Daniel and Missouri's top-ranked offense visits next week.
Oklahoma State's offense might be its best defense. The Cowboys rolled up 612 yards and hung more than 50 points for the third straight week en route to an impressive 55-24 victory over Troy. But the most impressive statistic of all was that the Cowboys held the ball for 40 minutes and 25 seconds. If they can continue that trend in Big 12 play, it will give them a chance to keep an inconsistent defense off the field. Oklahoma State has notched only two sacks this season and forced only one punt on Saturday. That production has to improve if the Cowboys have any hopes of challenging the South Division powers.
Ron Prince's nocturnal sprints for his defense last week didn't teach much. The Wildcats were gashed for 335 yards rushing by Louisiana-Lafayette, marking the second straight week they gave up at least 300 yards on the ground. Prince was so perturbed after the first struggles that he made his team run when it got back home in the middle of the night. He probably didn't do it after Kansas State's 45-37 victory over the Ragin' Cajuns on Saturday, but he'll still be steamed when he watches the game tape nonetheless. The Wildcats nearly squandered a 28-3 first-half lead, permitting 27 points in the second half and 509 yards in the game. And it could get a lot worse when Texas Tech's high-powered offense, complete with a resurgent ground game, visits in the conference opener next week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim GriffinHere are a few tidbits from around the conference that have people talking:
1. Even with the presence of super-sized 285-pound FB Jorvorskie Lane, it's clear that Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman has other options in short-yardage plays. Lane had a remarkable streak earlier in his career, converting 27 of 29 plays for first downs in short-yardage situations. But Sherman opted to use 201-pound junior Keondra Smith twice on third-and-1 against Miami because of his pad level and his possibility of breaking a big gain. Smith converted one of the two plays. Lane has had trouble getting into shape and his usage could be greatly curtailed after only seven carries so far this season.
2. It might have been a coming-of-age moment for Austen Arnaud, even as Iowa State coaches say they are still open to playing two quarterbacks. But Arnaud's dramatic 98-yard touchdown drive in the closing moments of regulation at UNLV appear to have given him the inside track to more playing time as the Cyclones' starting quarterback. Phillip Bates will still get some looks, but Arnaud's performance clearly puts him in the driver's seat as the team's assured leader.
3. Oklahoma coaches have been concerned with DeMarco Murray's running style so far this season. They believe he is running against the grain too much with hopes of making big plays. It's understandable why after Murray broke touchdown runs of 92 and 65 yards last season and returned kickoffs 91 and 81 yards for touchdowns. He remains one of the most explosive players in college football. But his longest run in the Sooners' first three games this season has been "only" 49 yards.
4. After strong success running the ball against West Virginia, look for Colorado to employ the I-formation as a way of boosting production from the running game, rather than the shotgun formation they have heavily relied upon in recent seasons. Running from the I will be a way of boosting production keyed with a veteran offensive line and emerging running backs like Rodney Stewart and Darrell Scott. But it will be a bigger challenge for the Buffaloes against a Florida State defense that will return four additional starters from suspension this week.
5. Baylor will use its off week with plans of trying to get more players involved offensively. After Robert Griffin accounted for 48 plays against Connecticut (23 runs, 25 passes) there was concern that his teammates were relying too much on him. Look for Jay Finley and Jacoby Jones to get more work to try to keep the Bears from relying too much on their playmaking freshman quarterback.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are a few tidbits we gleaned after watching the Big 12 this week.
1. The only team that can stop Missouri is Missouri. The Tigers slogged through a sloppy 42-21 victory over Buffalo despite some immense individual heroics by QB Chase Daniel. Despite a record-breaking single-game performance by Daniel, the Bulls stayed close because of three Missouri fumbles, some costly penalties and even the first kickoff return for a touchdown that has been allowed in Gary Pinkel's Missouri coaching tenure. The Tigers can make those mistakes and still beat Buffalo. Doing it against Big 12 power teams will be a different story.
2. Texas A&M FB Jorvorskie Lane is the biggest 285-pound decoy in the conference. It's clear that the Aggies have little confidence in their short-yardage running abilities, despite the presence of Lane, who used to gobble up first downs like he would munch on postgame cheeseburgers. The main reason is a green offensive line with four new starters who got little push in a 41-23 loss against Miami -- or against anybody else earlier this season. The Aggies failed on a critical third-and-1 early in the third quarter against Miami when the game was still close, using Lane as a struggling lead blocker on the play. And later in the game, they opted to throw on a third-and-1 from the goal line rather than drive the ball like the old days.
3. Mark Mangino should be worried about Kansas' sputtering running attack. Despite playing against an FCS opponent in Sam Houston State that the Jayhawks should have dominated, Kansas produced only 161 yards and a 3.4 yard-per-carry average. Mangino hinted after the game that changes in the offensive line might be forthcoming. Something needs to be done, because the lack of consistency is run blocking is causing QB Todd Reesing to force plays. That can't continue when conference play begins.
4. Don't look now, but Texas is quietly developing some defensive confidence. The Longhorns made Rice QB Chase Clement miserable with seven sacks and five pass deflections. They even held the Owls scoreless after 11 chances after a first-and-goal from the Texas 2 on a drive that was extended twice by pass interference penalties. The Longhorns have allowed one second-half score in their first three games. That's a good sign from what was perceived to be the Longhorns' biggest weakness coming into the season.
5. Colorado is good now, but wait until next season. The Buffaloes had an impressive victory against West Virginia and could have a shot at another one against Florida State on Saturday. But I still worry about their pass defense, and that will be exposed once Big 12 begins. Their better hopes will come next season -- when Chase Daniel and Joe Ganz will be gone and Josh Freeman might have opted for a shot at some big bucks in the NFL draft. Colorado should have the North's most experienced collection of talent in place by then.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are some of the stories that are making news after Hurricane Ike drastically affected this weekend's Big 12 schedule.
- Austin American-Stateman columnist Kirk Bohls said the postponement could help the Longhorns or it could hurt them. The Longhorns will have extra time to build confidence in a developing defense. But it also would set up a punishing four-game schedule with consecutive games against Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri.
- Kansas coach Mark Mangino and South Florida coach Jim Leavitt have come a long way since they were toiling on Bill Snyder's staff at Kansas State. So has former Kansas standout CB Aqib Talib, who plans to watch the game tonight against USF along Kansas' sidelines. The Jayhawks hopes will rely on unconventional QB Todd Reesing, who crams his backpack with copies of the Economist and dreams of studying abroad after his college career ends.
- Iowa State's rivalry with Iowa is critical as coach Gene Chizik searches to create an identity for his program.
- Miami and Nebraska, opponents in five bowl games over the last 25 seasons, have announced a two-game contract for regular-season games in 2014 and 2015.
- Oklahoma coaches are bracing for the challenge of containing versatile Washington QB Jake Locker.
- Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman has called out Jorvorskie Lane, saying the massive fullback needs to be a better blocker. The team's vaunted rushing game has struggled during its first two games.
- Texas Tech coach Mike Leach isn't drinking any Black and Red Kool-Aid about how good his team is supposed to be.
- With an easy game approaching against Missouri State, Oklahoma State can't afford to look ahead to its Big 12 schedule.
- Missouri's young defenders are excited about their chances of playing against Nevada after a solid effort against Southeast Missouri last week.
- Kansas State punter George Pierson has punted only three times this season -- never after drives engineered by QB Josh Freeman.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
We're learning some new nuggets about Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree every week in his missives for the New York Times' "The Quad," a blog about college football.
Crabtree writes this week about his in-season class load this semester including classes in RHIM (Restaurant and Hotel Management), atmospheric science, personal and family finance and sociology.
The Biletnikoff Award winner also describes his family barbecue after his game last week, while avoiding an explanation of how Eastern Washington limited him to 74 receiving yards. When you get to answer your own questions, you don't have to necessarily worry about answering tough ones, I guess.
And we also learned that this weekend will be Crabtree's first visit to Reno, home of the University of Nevada, although he's visited Las Vegas six times. Maybe he'll get to experience some of the charms of "The Biggest City in the World" this weekend, but I kind of doubt it.
I'll run into Crabtree and the Red Raiders out in Reno, too. I can't wait, and I imagine my schedule will allow for a tad more time in the casinos than his will.
But until then, here's a trimmed-down version of the morning links, more adaptable to those with breakfast-on-the-go plans.
- Baylor QB Robert Griffin's plans for football and beyond are detailed in a strong feature by the Waco Tribune Herald's John Werner.
- The Topeka Capital-Journal's Rick Dean writes about the long and short of Big 12 quarterbacks.
- Austin American-Statesman columnist Cedric Golden is learning to be careful along the sidelines at Texas games.
- Look for massive Texas A&M FB Jorvorskie Lane to play more against New Mexico this week.
- Oklahoma will try to neutralize Cincinnati's no-huddle attack by utilizing three safeties against the Bearcats' quick-paced offense.
- Missouri DE Stryker Sulak explains the derivation of his unusually alliterative name for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Kathleen Nelson.
- The Austin American-Statesman's Alan Trubow describes Texas' visit to El Paso as the biggest home game in UTEP school history.
- Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star ranks this week's Big 12 games and details why four Big 12 teams will face Football Championship Series opponents on Saturday.
- Texas QB Colt McCoy has marked nine years since drinking his last Dr Pepper - ending what once was a sugary six-soda-a-day habit.
- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is turning into quite the prankster at his post-practice news conferences. Maybe whoopee cushions will be next.
|John Albright/Icon SMI|
|Mike Sherman returned to Texas A&M after spending time in the NFL.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Former Green Bay Packers coach Mike Sherman returned to Texas A&M where he had served as an assistant coach on R.C. Slocum's power-packed teams of the early 1990s. Whether he can return the Aggies to that lofty position remains to be seen. It might be a challenge for Sherman to crack the expected Oklahoma/Texas Tech/Texas logjam at the top of the South Division.
With eight days before the Aggies' Aug. 30 opener against Arkansas State, here are five major questions that have to be settled for the Aggies to have a successful season:
1. Can the offensive line develop?
Only one starter returns and the Aggies will be green in the trenches. Whether this group can open enough holes to accentuate the talents of Mike Goodson and Co. remains to be seen. It will be A&M's biggest question this season.
2. Are there any playmaking linebackers on the roster?
Losing Misi Tupe and Mark Dodge will hurt. But A&M coaches look for some of the young talent to surprise people. Keep an eye on converted DE Von Miller, converted DB Garrick Williams and Matt Featherston.
3. Will Jerrod Johnson see much action this season?
The Aggies' backup has been compared to Vince Young and Randall Cunningham because of his athleticism. Interestingly, he showed more at the Aggies' recent scrimmage as a tight end. But don't be surprised if he gets some playing time during the season at quarterback, particularly if Stephen McGee struggles against some opponents. But it wouldn't also surprise me if he got a chance to work at tight end as well.
4. Can Sherman find any consistency at wide receiver?
Don't be surprised if freshman Jeff Fuller becomes an immediate playmaker after arriving at school for the spring semester. The Aggies also need some consistency from players like E.J. Shankle, Howard Morrow and Pierre Brown. All have received extensive previous playing time but need to show more in order to be featured. Somebody has to step up.
5. How will Jorvorskie Lane handle the move to fullback?
Lane has been battling his weight throughout his college career and has missed several recent practices with a neck injury. But don't look for him to get many carries with a deep tailback rotation that includes Goodson, Cyrus Gray and Bradley Stephens. Lane will be more of a receiver and short-yardage threat. And if he pouts about his role, he won't play.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The quote of the day comes from Scott Wright of the Oklahoman, who caught up with Troy coach Larry Blakeney and asked him about Oklahoma State's aim for revenge after losing at Troy last season. "They might have a bonfire and burn some of T. Boone's money to get ready for the game," Blakeney said, referring to the megabuck Oklahoma State booster.
Meanwhile, new Baylor coach Art Briles has shucked a traditional playbook in favor of his new team learning his philosophies by seeing and doing rather than reading. It's targeted to a younger generation that doesn't have the attention span to sit and learn by reading a book.
"It does require a lot of film study, because you've got to know what to do in live action in case anything happens," junior receiver Ernest Smith told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "If there's a check or an audible, you've got to be able to react fast. I've watched a lot of U of H film ... just getting familiar with it all."
Briles was successful with his new-age strategy, at least if four bowl appearances in the last five seasons at Houston is any indication. We'll see how it works at Baylor this season.
And for those readers out there who are too impatient to wade through 20 newspapers that cover the Big 12, I've take something from Briles' approach. Here's a condensed version of what's happening around the conference in about 20 quick links.
- Kansas sophomore RB Carmon Boyd-Anderson has opted to transfer from the program for "personal reasons," the Kansas City Star reported.
- A massive offensive line has prompted a new word around the Colorado team to describe them: "gifreakinnormous."
- Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler has to cover Iowa State and Iowa relatively equally. That's why he listed his top 23 ranking for a combination of the Big Ten and Big 12 conferences on his blog. Hope that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany doesn't see this. He might get an idea for some kind of "gifreakinnormous" super-conference.
- The Topeka Capital-Journal's Tully Corcoran unearthed an interesting nugget buried deeply in Ron Prince's new contract.
- Colorado DE Drew Hudgins will miss the season with a knee injury. Hudgins told the Denver Post he plans to petition the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility.
- Massive Texas A&M FB Jorvorskie Lane tells the Houston Chronicle's Terrance Harris that he's come to terms with his lessened role in the Aggies' backfield.
- New Texas director of high school relations and player development Ken Rucker is credited for the Longhorns' lack of off-the-field incidents this summer, according to Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls.
- Mike Leach's European vacation is fodder for the San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger's report on Texas Tech. Leach earlier described the trip as something like the Griswolds might have made.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Daily Oklahoman columnist John Rohde might have found the secret for Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy's vigor. And it doesn't come from his excitement about being around his players.
Rohde details Gundy's three Red Bull energy drink-a-day habit in his column Tuesday. I know that Gundy has long enjoyed the drink, stocking a refrigerator in his office with the product. He even offered me one during a visit to Stillwater earlier this year.
The combination of taurine, caffeine, glucose and B12 appears to get Gundy's juices flowing -- almost as much as a negative newspaper column.
He could joke about his habit in Rohde's column. After showing up at a recent press conference, he wondered what soft drink that Oklahoma State had a sponsorship deal with.
When somebody answered "Red Bull," Gundy had a quick answer.
"You've got that right," he said.
And he later joked that he wasn't showing the signs of a Red Bull addict, despite playfully twitching his head several times in quick succession after the question.
I hope all of the Big 12 readers out there are similarly charged with the early-morning lift that these morning links are meant to provide as Gundy is with his favorite drink.
If so, maybe I should bottle them.
- Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman provided the scoop that former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione will be doing color for ESPN Radio broadcasts this season. His first game will be Alabama-Clemson from Atlanta on Aug. 30. Let's hope the Tide fans don't taunt the former coach with those once-popular cutouts that were defacing as he left for the A&M job.
- Blast-furnace conditions greeted Missouri on its first day of practice. But even with the heat index climbing to 110 degrees, 56-year-old coach Gary Pinkel joined the Tigers in a run before starting practice.
- Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee will be pushed by backups Jarrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill for the starting job in fall camp. "These three could all be starters in the Big 12, in my opinion," A&M quarterbacks coach Tom Rossley told Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman.
- Texas coach Mack Brown said that the school will be seeking a sixth season of eligibility for injury-plagued WR Jordan Shipley.
- Biletnikoff winner Michael Crabtree will be featured more in Texas Tech's return game. Interesting that Tech coach Mike Leach would willingly risk potential injury for his All-American by playing him in those situations.
- The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams says it's been a long time between truly memorable seasons for Texas Tech. Williams, the little brother of a Tech Saddle Tramp, said he turned 12 in 1976 -- the year the Red Raiders were ranked in the top 5 in early November. Now, he says he's sometimes mistaken for a grandfather.
- Colorado will begin fall camp without designated captains. Coach Dan Hawkins wants to see how the leadership will develop for his team without them in training camp.
- Lincoln Journal-Star columnist Steve Sipple said that selflessness should keep the close competition for the starting I-back from becoming a distraction. I'm still surprised that coach Bo Pelini listed Marlon Lucky, the conference's only returning 1,000-yard back, as co-No. 1 with Roy Helu Jr. Nebraska QB Joe Ganz thinks it won't hurt the team. "Marlon and Roy are really good friends," Ganz told Sipple. "Marlon knows he's not going to get every carry in the fall anyway. In the Big 12, you need at least two running backs."
- Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel says that "Bo Law" doesn't leave much gray area for interpretation after the Nebraska coach's decision to dismiss DT Kevin Dixon. Of course, it's easier to make those kind of calls when a coach is new and expectations for his team aren't at title levels -- yet.
- Oklahoman beat writer Jake Trotter spells out the options for former Oklahoma WR Josh Jarboe after he was kicked off the Sooners' roster late last week. Trotter speculates that Jarboe could end up at a Football Championship Subdivision school like Savannah State or Georgia Southern, or perhaps Central Florida. I still think that coach Bob Stoops' decision to kick off Jarboe will hurt the Sooners more next year than this season. And it's placed finding a tall, rangy receiver at a priority during the Sooners' upcoming recruiting class.
- Texas' student newspaper is throwing some brickbats at Stoops on his decision to dismiss Jarboe. Daily Texan columnist David R. Henry says that Stoops showed a double-standard by purging himself of Jarboe and keeping players like DeMarcus Granger on his roster.
- Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman told the San Antonio Express-News' Brent Zwerneman that FB Jorvorskie Lane needs to lose about 25-30 pounds to get where he wants him to be. Sherman said after Monday's practice that Lane weighs in the "290 category." As someone who is fighting a "battle of the bulge," I can only suggest that nagging wives serve a similarly inspirational role for sportswriters as coaches do for football players.
- The Oklahoman wonders if the stars are falling in line for Oklahoma's first national championship since 2000?
- Iowa State coach Gene Chizik said competition for the Cyclones' starting quarterback job between Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates is very close. "It's 50-50," Chizik told the Ames Tribune. "May the best man win."
- Starting Colorado TE Riar Geer has been reinstated to the team after he was suspended over the spring for his role in an off-campus scuffle. "It feels good to have this all behind me," Geer told the Boulder Daily Camera. "It was a great lesson, and hopefully everybody else can learn from my mistake."
- A pair of players converted from other positions h
ave emerged atop Baylor's depth chart as the Bears' starting cornerbacks. Former WR Krys Buerck and former starting S Dwain Crawford both are showing strong instincts at the new position. "It was a matter of need," Baylor coach Art Briles told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "One of the first meetings I had with the cornerbacks in my office, I saw we had two guys on scholarship. At any university, much less a Big 12 university, you need more players than that in the room."