NCF Nation: L.A. Reed

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It may have been a surprise to most of the country.

 
 Vladimir Cherry/US Presswire
 Texas Tech didn't have any answers for Jevan Snead, who threw for a career-high 292 yards and three TDs in the Cotton Bowl.

But Mississippi might have proved a point about Southeastern Conference domination and the fallacy of Big 12 defenses when it lined up and whipped Texas Tech in the trenches to claim a convincing 47-34 victory in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.

And the score might not have done justice to just how overpowering the Rebels' performance was. After spotting Tech a 14-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game, the Rebels blew the game open by erupting for 38 of the next 45 points.

The 30,000 Mississippi fans who attended the final Cotton Bowl game were doing the singing at the end, serenading the Red Raiders with chants of "overrated" and "SEC! SEC!"

It would be hard to argue with them after Tech's uninspired bowl performance, which put a sour ending to a 11-2 season which began with 10 straight victories.

After the early struggles, Mississippi's underrated offense took control and kept the ball for most of the first half. It paid dividends in the second half when a gasping Tech defense down several starters in the secondary simply couldn't keep up with the Rebels.

Tech's struggles were understandable considering starting cornerback L.A. Reed didn't dress due to an arm injury. Darcel McBath was removed for much of the game because of a hamstring injury. And Jamar Wall left the field limping in the first half.

McBath snagged his seventh interception of the year (tied for most in the country) and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown, which boosted Tech's early lead to 14-0. But his replacement, Jordy Rowland, was blistered after McBath was hobbled.

It paved the way for elusive Dexter McCluster to have a career game with 98 rushing yards and a team-best 83 receiving yards. Quarterback Jevan Snead did the rest as the Rebels seemingly gained confidence after their early struggles to convert five-straight third downs in the first half -- leading to three touchdown drives -- that shifted the game's momentum.

The struggling performance ended the record-setting career of Tech quarterback Graham Harrell, and likely will be Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree's last game.

Harrell passed for a Cotton Bowl record 358 yards and four touchdowns, becoming the first player in college history to top 5,000 yards in two different seasons. And his touchdown binge enabled him to claim the FBS career record with 133 touchdown passes, jumping past Colt Brennan's previous record of 131.

But he also threw two interceptions caused by a relentless Mississippi blitzing defense. Rebels defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix repeatedly tormented Harrell with those blitzes, which came shooting through the Red Raiders' wide offensive splits.

The Rebels also did a strong job of tackling, keeping Tech from turning short passes into long gains. In fact, the longest Tech play of the game was a 44-yard scramble by Harrell on the last play of the first half that ended just short of the Mississippi end zone. Tech had only two passes of 20 yards or more.

That defensive pressure appeared to discombobulate the Red Raiders. That was best illustrated midway through the third quarter when Harrell unsuccessfully tried a quarterback sneak on a fourth-and-4 in Tech territory. The play came up more than two yards short after a rare Red Raiders defensive stand had given them some momentum.

Crabtree was hobbled by an ankle injury that plagued him for most of the second half. He produced three catches in the first half, but only one after that and finished with a career-low 30 receiving yards.

Tech's struggling performance casts doubt on the Big 12's credibility, despite record-breaking offenses which piled up yards and points all season. It will be up to BCS participants Texas and Oklahoma to reclaim some of that respect in the conference's remaining bowl games.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are a few tidbits from around the Big 12 this week as teams prepare for their games on Saturday:

COLORADO: The patchwork starting offensive line in front of Cody Hawkins is giving Colorado coaches more impetus to consider allowing backup quarterback Matt Ballenger to get more meaningful minutes. Despite Ballenger getting some playing time late in the Texas game, don't look for Colorado coach Dan Hawkins to bench his son -- yet.

TEXAS: Longhorn coaches have demanded that team photographers take pictures of ball carriers throughout practice and games this season to help develop better ball-handling techniques. Pictures of players with bad technique are prominently displayed in the Longhorns' meeting room. "We tell them that the eye in the sky doesn't lie," Texas coach Mack Brown said. The attention apparently has helped as the Longhorns have lost only three fumbles so far this season, including none by a running back.

TEXAS TECH: Tech cornerback Brent Nickerson will again start this week in front of L.A. Reed, although the two players have seen about equal action in the last two games. Tech coaches believe Nickerson will be better prepared to start against Nebraska because he's played against a similar offense to the Cornhuskers earlier this season.

NEBRASKA: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini acknowledges he made a big mistake in the scheme he cooked up to try to halt Missouri last week. The Cornhuskers employed a three-man front with a fourth lineman shifting before the snap who tried to blitz through one of the wide gaps on Missouri's offensive front. Chase Daniel wasn't fazed and Derrick Washington gashed them for 139 rushing yards -- third-most ever by a Missouri running back against Nebraska.

MISSOURI: The Tigers cooked up some additional defensive pressure against Nebraska with some new looks that got a better push up the middle. The Tigers had seen a lot of seven-man and eight-man fronts that made pressure difficult to generate defensively. More defensive pressure will be vitally important in the next two games for the Tigers against Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson and Texas' Colt McCoy, who both rank among the top four nationally in passing efficiency.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Bob Stoops turned 48 earlier this week. And while the Oklahoma coach is revered in the Sooner State, it wasn't a holiday or anything.

At least not that we know of.  

Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel put his spin on Stoops' birthday in a unique way. He compared the career stages for other notable Oklahoma football coaches when they turned 48.

Barry Switzer's wishbone was struggling a little when he turned 48 in 1985 with Troy Aikman as his starting quarterback. Bud Wilkinson was in the middle of his run for the U.S. Senate in 1964. Chuck Fairbanks was trying to rebuild a struggling program at Colorado, well after his salad days at OU. Bennie Owen was getting ready for his 19th season as the Sooners' head coach. And Howard Schnellenberger was preparing for his fourth season as Miami's head coach, only 23 victories into his college head-coaching career.

With Stoops apparently excited about continued coaching at Oklahoma, it will be interesting to see what happens for him in the years after his 48th birthday.

Of a more immediate interest for him will be his team's trip to Washington to attack some nasty road karma. Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle writes that Stoops currently has a nation-best 20-game home winning streak at Owen Field. During that same time, the Sooners are a more pedestrian 12-9 on the road.

Those recent road woes have raised the stakes for Saturday's game at Husky Stadium.

"For me, this is the game of the year because this sets the tone for our future road games and sets the tone for our team," redshirt freshman LB Travis Lewis told the Chronicle. "It's easy playing in front of 85,000 who love you, but what about the 80,000 who hate you?"

It will make Saturday's game the biggest test for the Sooners so far this season. If Stoops can win, he would become the fourth OU coach to have won 100 games during their careers at the school, joining Wilkinson, Switzer and Owen.

Pretty select company, indeed.

Kind of like being included with these morning links:

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Kansas coach Mark Mangino can finally rest, not worrying about whether his words, gestures or coaching methods on the practice field will be picked apart by the prying eyes of the public.

Of course, it was nothing a little horticuture couldn't help -- or hide.

The Kansas athletic department will spend $90,000 to strategically plant 100 pine trees around the $31 million Anderson Family Football Complex with hopes of enhancing the team's privacy during its workouts.

Kansas assistant athletic director Jim Marchiony told the Lawrence Journal-World that the additions will help the campus in several ways.

"You can say we're doing it for the sake of those who use Mississippi Street so they won't feel like they're disturbing practice if they make noise," Marchiony joked. "Also, it's an effort to assist the campus in going green."

"The real reason," he added, "is just to allow for more privacy during practice with respect to how much can be seen and heard."

Mangino told the Journal-World that he didn't have a problem with the location of the practice fields and the exposure they provided.

"I'm not at all concerned about that stuff," he said. "I think it's a tempest in a teapot. Much ado about nothing."

Ah, Coach ... If I'm going to believe that, you probably have some swamp land for me just outside Olathe, right?

No matter. The Kansas practice field is shrouded and the season is only a week away.

But most importantly, here are some tasty Big 12 links for a Saturday morning.

  • Bob Stoops' seldom-publicized compassion for sick children is profiled in a touching story by the Oklahoman's John Helsley. Stoops wears a gold pin of hope on his coaching visor for a special reason.
  • Austen Arnaud earned the starting QB job for Iowa State's Aug. 28 opener against South Dakota State. But backup Phillip Bates will get a few snaps, Iowa State coach Gene Chizik said. "Some people will say that when you have two quarterbacks, you have none," Chizik told the Des Moines Register. "That's not our case."
  • Boulder Daily Camera columnist Neill Woelk lays out the steps to an 8-4 record for Colorado this season, capped by a trip to the Alamo Bowl.
  • Texas CB Deon Beasley tells the Houston Chronicle's Joseph Duarte in a video interview about the Longhorns' development in the secondary.
  • Have Bartles & Jaymes come to sports journalism? Check out the Austin American-Stateman's columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden's most recent video effort and you might think so.
  • The Austin American-Statesman has taken the humble depth chart one step into the future, creating an easy-to-use PDF file highlighting Texas' roster. 
  • Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel blogs that Oklahoma State's home schedule isn't the most attractive for ticket buyers.
  • Line of the day comes from Topeka Capital-Journal reporter Austin Meek, who had this to say about the Kansas State-Iowa State game in Kansas City next year: "A K-State-Iowa State matchup has all the sex appeal of Al Roker, with considerably less star power."
  • Missouri athletic director Mike Alden told the Kansas City Star that no changes are imminent in the Tigers' annual football games in St. Louis against Missouri and in Kansas City against Kansas. Alden also denied that the Kansas State-Iowa State game announced earlier this week would affect where the Border War game ends up. "I think our game is something that's pretty special," Alden told the Star, "and it wouldn't be affected by that game."
  • Sophomore CB Carl Gettis is emerging as a leader in Missouri's secondary.
  • Heralded freshman Nebraska WR Khiry Cooper is off-limits to the media because of Coach Bo Pelini's media-relations rules. But Cooper's teammates say he hasn't talked much about his decision to play college football and baseball rather than accepting a huge potential baseball contract with the Los Angeles Angels.
  • Bruising 245-pounder Quentin Castille is playing like the most physical of Nebraska's I-backs. "I look at Quentin as a guy who's a thumper," Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson told the Omaha World-Herald. "He's a guy who you just pound people with."
  • Dust off your pom-poms. The Kansas City Star has video of a Kansas City-area pep rally where thousands turned out to watch coach Mark Mangino talk about the upcoming season. And he didn't mention his tree-planting plans anywhere.
  • A hearty welcome to the Big 12 media corps to Brian "Boom Goes the Dynamite" Collins, a new sports anchor at KXXV-TV in Waco, Texas.
  • Baylor's three competing quarterbacks got equal time in the Bears' final scrimmage and all had their moments.
  • Lawrence Journal-World columnist Chuck Woodling looks into the Big 12's future - complete with 150,000-seat stadiums and salary caps for players.
  • Manhattan Mercury columnist Mark Janssen breaks down the good and bad of Kansas State's special teams.
  • Oklahoma State and Texas Tech agreed months ago to move their 2009 game to the Dallas area. Andrea Cohen of The Oklahoman reports, however, that the two schools still haven't decided where to play the game.
  • Oklahoma MLB Ryan Reynolds hopes to disprove doubters who wonder if he can remain healthy for an entire season.
  • Texas Tech's AaRon Moore and Brent Nickerson have emerged as the likely replacements at cornerback for L.A. Reed, who appea
    red at practice with an orthopedic boot on his injured right ankle.
  • Despite the arrival of heralded junior-college transfer Lucien "The Punisher" Antoine, Quinton Moore remains entrenched as Oklahoma State's top free safety.
  • Punt returner Niles Paul is expecting big things from Nebraska's special teams. "It should be an explosive year as a return game," Paul told the Lincoln Journal-Star. "I know we can make a splash on returns."
  • Unlike last season, Bob Stoops expects a number of freshmen to see action for the Sooners. Only one true freshman played for Oklahoma in 2007.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

And people thought it was known just for its jazz history and barbecue.  

Kansas City is undoubtedly the northern hub of the Big 12. It was always the center for the old Big Eight Conference and some of the locals still haven't forgotten the interlopers from Texas who pushed the Big 12's offices to Dallas when the conference opened.

But "The City of Fountains" is bigger than just a few fax machines and file cabinets. And it will be proved again today when Iowa State and Kansas State announce they are coming soon.

Multiple newspapers reported this morning that the Cyclones and Wildcats will move 2009 and 2010 games to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Sources told the Topeka Capital-Journal the two teamswill receive payments of at least $1.8 million per game. KSU nets about $1 million from a normal game in Manhattan, according to the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle.

Kansas City is on a roll attracting Big 12 events. Arrowhead Stadium will be the site for the Big 12 championship game on Dec. 6. The breathtaking new Sprint Center was the host for the Big 12's men's basketball championships in March and will be solidly in the rotation for future tournament events. And the venerable Municipal Auditorium, with its stately art-deco ambience, is the best arena around for the women's title.

It's surprising that more regular-season Big 12 games don't end up in facilities like Arrowhead Stadium. The Missouri-Kansas game last season was one of the most ballyhooed sports events I've ever seen and the atmosphere lived up to the hype.

That game was bigger than any Texas-Oklahoma game I had ever attended because it had significant championship ramifications penned solely on that game. Now if we could get those Kansas City engineers to figure out how to get traffic moving a little faster, the next time might be easier.

The Kansas City Chiefs' organization appears more than willing to shell out big guarantees for games that it feels will be successful. I'm surprised that Nebraska hasn't convinced an opponent to move a home game to Arrowhead for those kind of windfall profits after a successful game there in 1998 against Oklahoma State.

So don't be surprised to see more Big 12 events end up at "The Paris of the Plains" in the future.  

Just save a few extra cinnamon rolls for me at the legendary Stroud's Restaurant when you get there.

Until then, here are some tasty Big 12 links. They are almost as habit-forming and not nearly as gooey on your fingers.

  • Club Med in cleats? Colorado prepared for its opener against Colorado State earlier this week by playing dodge ball, having a diving/belly flop contest, a 3-point basketball shooting competition and playing video games at a Boulder-area restaurant. "I just really believe there is so much magic in the world and so much magic in people, and sometimes we let life trample that down," Colorado coach Dan Hawkins told the Boulder Daily Camera.
  • Missouri TE Chase Coffman was back catching passes for the first time Wednesday as he recovers from a broken right pinkie finger. Coffman scored touchdowns on consecutive red-zone plays.
  • After watching Usain Bolt perform in the Olympics, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach believes that Jamaica could be a recruiting and vacation paradise. (Tip to the Dallas Morning News)
  • Heralded Nebraska WR prospect Khiry Cooper talks about his early practices in a video interview with huskers.com.
  • The Oklahoman's Jake Trotter details how important Bob Stoops has been in turning the Oklahoma program solidly in the black financially. "We can tie everything back to Bob Stoops," Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione told the newspaper. "The success of our football program has been like the high tide in the harbor that has raised all of the boats." 
  • Billionaire financier T. Boone Pickens is pumping up support for Oklahoma State across Nebraska.
  • The Tulsa World's Guerin Emig writes about Oklahoma backup QB Joey Halzle, who earned his teammates' respect with a strong relief performance last season against Texas Tech.
  • The dog days of training camp brought a water balloon fight to Texas A&M on Wednesday. "Humor is one of the greatest components of having great chemistry when you can laugh at things together," A&M coach Mike Sherman told the Bryan-College Station Eagle.
  • Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger expanded on his comments about his team's opener with Texas with the San Antonio Express-News' Natalie England. "I was trying to explain to the kids on campus here that the University of Texas has a long tradition of winning," Schnellenberger said. "They have such great players. There's no way we're going to match up with as good as players as they have, but we're coming down there to try and win the game."
  • Massive 305-pound T Rylan Reed is back healthy for Texas Tech after suffering a serious ankle injury in last year's Gator Bowl.
  • Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley are set as Texas' top receivers. But after that the Longhorns' receiving rotation is a jumble, Austin American-Statesman's Alan Trubow reports.
  • Colorado and Colorado State appear to have different ideas where they want future games in the series to be played, according to B.G. Brooks of the Rocky Mountain News. The Buffaloes want games played at Boulder to provide a six-game home package of games, starting next season. The Rams are interested in continuing the series in Denver.
  • WR Howard Morrow's return from an injury could settle one of Texas A&M's biggest questions, San Antonio Express-News reporter Brent Zwerneman writes.
  • Brent Nickerson and LaRon Moore are emerging as likely replacements for injured starting Texas Tech CB L.A. Reed, whose condition remains undetermined.
  • Nebraska offensive line coach Barney Cotton told the Lincoln Journal-Star he's energized after spending last season as a volunteer assistant coach at Ames (Iowa) High School. "As hard as it was getting fired," said Cotton, who previously was an offensive coordinator three years at Iowa State, "it was also a blessing in disguise, because it kind of gave me a chance to re-energize myself and refocus on why I was a coach."
  • Nebraska QB Joe Ganz tells the Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel that he grew up in suburban Chicago wanting to be Tommie Frazier.
  • NFL scouts are telling Kansas State coach Ron Prince that QB Josh Freeman could be the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. "That's what NFL people tell me," Prince told the Manhattan Mercury.
  • Iowa State freshman DE Cleyon Laing, a Canadian native,  is adjusting to American football before the new culture. "I haven't really had time to get culture shock yet," Laing told the Ames Daily Tribune. "It's just practice, sleep, meetings, sleep, and repeat. It's football 24/7."
  • Baylor coach Art Briles is intent on boosting production from a running game that ranked 113th nationally last season and last in the nation in 2006.
  • Heralded freshman TB back Darrell Scott sprained his left thumb at Colorado's morning practice, but returned for the Buffaloes' afternoon work.
  • Lawrence Journal-World columnist Tom Keegan predicts that Kansas still will have a productive running game this season, despite the loss of two starting offensive tackles and leading rusher Brandon McAnderson.
  • Missouri coach Gary Pinkel expects his younger players will receive most of the snaps Thursday at his team's final training-camp scrimmage.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Kansas coach Mark Mangino is notoriously reclusive, preferring to prepare his team behind locked gates to maintain some semblance of privacy.

That's all changing after the Jayhawks moved to the new Anderson Family Football Complex, which provides a more expansive viewing by spectators outside the complex of Mangino's practices.   

And according to Lawrence Journal-World columnist Tom Keegan, it's providing the Kansas coach with a tough decision. He can practice behind closed gates, irritating fans who want to watch the proceedings. Or he can open his practices and allow all the world to see.

I've known Mangino a long time. I first met him back when he was working as an offensive assistant for Bill Snyder at Kansas State. That same Bill Snyder who used to order his players to huddle around injured teammates along the sidelines at games to keep the prying lens of television cameras away so they couldn't provide a picture that could determine the severity of the injuries.

Considering every one of Snyder's coaching proteges has shared a similar disdain for open practices, I'm betting you won't teach the Jayhawks coach new tricks. And that's why I would imagine some kind of barrier will be erected to keep unwanted eyes from watching Kansas' practice.

On the other hand, these links are present for your enjoyment. Don't be satisfied with just one reading. Come back many times throughout the day. Tell your friends about them.

Read them often. They're good for you.

  • Colorado LB B.J. Beatty (fractured bone in left leg) and CB Cha'pelle Brown (fractured left hand) continue to participate in practice drills despite their injuries. Beatty originally thought the injury was a bad bruise and spent one practice pushing wheelbarrows full of sand for Colorado strength coach Jeff Pitman, according to the Boulder Daily Camera.
  • John Helsey of the Oklahoman delves deeply into the background of how Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione hired Bob Stoops in 1998. And a healthy dose of pragmatism helped convince Stoops to come to Oklahoma rather than take an open job at his alma mater at Iowa.
  • Iowa State TB Alexander Robinson is bracing for a lot of work as the Cyclones break in two new quarterbacks.
  • Veteran Wichita Eagle columnist Bob Lutz admires the moxie of Playboy sports editor Gary Cole, who ranked Kansas State 22nd in his preseason top 25 poll. It's the only top 25 mention the Wildcats have received this season.
  • As a team, Kansas watched the movie "The Express," about 1961 Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis of Syracuse. And Mangino gave it a solid endorsement. " 'The Express' was both inspiring and educational," Mangino told the Kansas City Star. "It is a movie not just for sports fans, but for everyone. It was outstanding."
  • Missouri's experienced linebackers should provide the backbone of the Tigers' rapidly improving defense.
  • Tad Stryker of the Web site huskerpedia.com writes that Nebraska must reclaim its home-field advantage. The Cornhuskers were lucky to escape with a 4-3 home record last season. Hall of Fame Nebraska coach Tom Osborne lost 15 home games in his 25-year coaching career.
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy will put his team through a "mock game" on Friday, practicing every detail of game day. "[We'll practice] putting the game uniform on, substitutions," Gundy told the Oklahoman. "Everything."
  • Oklahoma WR Ryan Broyles has been waiting two years for his chance to play with the Sooners, Tulsa World beat writer John Hoover writes.
  • Austin American-Statesman columnist Cedric Golden calls T Adam Ulatoski the Longhorns' most important offensive starter, considering he has the job of protecting Colt McCoy's blind side.
  • Houston Chronicle reporter Joseph Duarte had a busy day as a multitooled reporter Tuesday in Austin. He captured Texas LB Sergio Kindle for a video interview and provided one of the first glimpses of the Longhorns' new wall of fame at Darrell K. Royal/Texas Memorial Stadium's Ring of Honor, which honors five players with retired jersey numbers.
  • Starting Texas Tech CB L.A. Reed was carted off the field with his right knee and right ankle iced after suffering an injury at practice Tuesday afternoon. Tech coach Mike Leach declined to release any information about his injury. Sophomore LaRon Moore took Reed's spot for the rest of the practice.
  • Backup Oklahoma SS Quinton Carter will miss at least two weeks after undergoing knee surgery. Freshman Joseph Ibiloye will take his place.
  • Lincoln Journal-Star columnist Steve Sipple says that Nebraska hasn't has this much depth and talent along its offensive line since the 2001 team that played for the national championship.
  • Texas CB Deon Beasley said the Longhorns didn't always play with passion during their 10-3 season last year.
  • Missouri WR Danario Alexander was running routes and doing catching drills after being cleared for light practice as he recovers from a torn ACL.
  • Kansas State S Chris Carney was so disappointed in his team's late-season collapse, he failed to watch any bowl games last season.
  • Des Moines Register beat writer Andrew Logue breaks down the Cyclones in his weekly chat. Logue said that QBs Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates remain even in the battle for the starting job and calls the Big 12 North more competitive this season than in any previous year.
  • Baylor extended a four-year contrac
    t
    with former Southwest Conference rival Rice. The series begins in 2013 in Houston, with games in 2014 and 2015 in Waco and 2016 in Rice.
  • Nebraska coach Bo Pelini still hasn't distributed "Blackshirt" jerseys to his top defensive players and said there's no timetable. "When I feel it's right," he told reporters.  "It's not right yet."
  • Nebraska CB Anthony Murillo promises a more aggressive secondary under Pelini. "We're going to attack the ball this year," Murillo told the Lincoln Journal-Star. "That's what we're going to do -- no ifs, ands or buts about it."

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Texas Tech cornerback L.A. Reed has been around the Red Raider program long enough to know about the predominant public perception about his team.

The Red Raiders are the only Big 12 team to be bowl-eligible in every season in the conference's history. But a frustrating knack of stumbling against lesser opponents has kept the Red Raiders from ever qualifying for a BCS bowl game or winning a Big 12 title.

Tech hasn't won an outright conference championship since winning the Border Conference in 1955 and hasn't won 10 games in a season since 1976.

"I've been here for four years and we were right there about winning the Big 12. And we always lost a game to mess it up," Reed said. "This year, we don't have any excuses."

With a talented array of returning players led by Heisman Trophy candidates Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree, the Red Raiders have been the boys of summer -- at least in terms of preseason publicity.

Tech was ranked 14th in the preseason USA Today coaches' poll -- its highest preseason ranking in 31 seasons -- and cracked the top 10 in several preseason magazines. But in order to fulfill those lofty expectations, the Red Raiders will have to bring a different attitude than in previous seasons.

 
 AP Photo/Waco Tribune Herald/Jerry Larson
 Texas Tech's Mike Leach isn't fazed by the lofty expectations surrounding his program.

Last year, Tech fell out of the South Division race with a crushing streak of three losses during a four-week period after starting 5-1. Losses at Missouri and Texas weren't really surprises, but a home loss to Colorado was.

In 2006, Tech dropped a 30-6 decision to Colorado after the Buffaloes had started the season 0-6. Their outside hopes for a BCS berth in 2005 were snuffed out by a 24-17 late-season loss at Oklahoma State that was the Cowboys' only Big 12 victory that season.

Tech dropped a 27-24 loss at New Mexico in 2004 against a Lobo team that started that season 2-4. And in 2001, the Red Raiders squandered a 34-31 home double-overtime loss to Kansas that was the Jayhawks' only Big 12 win that season

"In the past, we've been known to come up with one or two big victories a year that we shouldn't get and then turn around the next week and lose a game that most people think there's no way we should have lost," Tech inside receiver Eric Morris said. "We're just trying to stay on more of an even keel this season."

Although expectations are shooting through the roof around the Tech program, coach Mike Leach says his outlook hasn't changed despite this season's lofty goals.

"I've never coached a game in the Big 12 that, before the game started, I didn't think we were going to win," Leach said. "Our expectations are already high. So what that means to me is that we just have to ignore expectations and everybody needs to do their job."

And the preseason hype, Leach says, hasn't affected his coaching style or his demeanor.

"You do the best you can every day," he said. "That's all anybody can do. I don't feel any pressure."

Leach has been a consistent during his time coaching the Red Raiders. Tech has never won less than seven games or won more than nine games in his eight previous seasons at the school. But whether the Red Raiders can take the next step and become a BCS challenger remains to be seen.

"Everybody thinks about Texas Tech, they always think we'll have that stumble somewhere," Reed said. "We've got to push through that. We've got everything we need. We just need to prove everybody wrong this year."

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It's always struck me how different Colorado seems from the rest of the Big 12 every trip I make to Boulder.

The scenery for Folsom Field is breathtaking, making it one of the jewels of college football. And school officials and fans seem intent to keep it that way, too.

Colorado school officials announced Tuesday that they are pledging "zero waste" at home games, hoping to recycle 90 percent of the 10 tons of trash generated at each home game this season. They are even offering valet parking for those fans who arrive at games on bicycles.

Such environmental recognition is refreshing -- particularly considering some of the mounds of empty nacho cartons and liquor bottles I've had to wade through heading out of stadiums over the years. It's commendable, but I'm thinking that only in Boulder can you valet-park your bicycle close to a stadium.

Hopefully, these morning links won't prove to be quite as disposable to my readers. Sorry the links are a little light today. The hamsters powering the wireless at the beautiful Fairfield Inn in Topeka, Kan., must have been tired this morning. Some of the more involved Web sites -- yeah, I'm talking about you guys at the Oklahoman -- were difficult to access.

  • Only three Big 12 coaches grace the cover of their team's media guides this season, according to Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star. They are Kansas' Mark Mangino, Baylor's Art Briles and Iowa State's Gene Chizik. It's particularly hard to believe that Nebraska's Bo Pelini isn't found on the cover of the Cornhuskers' guide. At least until he plays his first game, Bo is bigger than the program there.
  • This isn't a misprint. Baylor's offensive line might be a team strength this season for a change, the Waco Tribune-Herald reports.
  • Take a number and wait your turn. Colorado offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich is sorting through reps for six quarterbacks this summer.
  • Like most college freshmen, TB Darrell Scott's introduction to college football is coming with some growing pains, the Denver Post's Tom Kensler writes. Superman has to learn to crawl before he can fly, I guess.
  • Converted WR L.A. Reed is working with Texas Tech's first-team defense at cornerback. Reed has been a tackling machine on special teams for the Red Raiders. If he can bring that same desire to covering wide receivers, Big 12 wide receivers better beware.
  • New Texas defensive coordinator Will "Mr. Boom" Muschamp wants to turn up the defensive pressure this season -- even if he doesn't always see many sacks against the Big 12's spread offenses.
  • The Oklahoman's Scott Wright says in a video chat that Oklahoma State TE Brandon Pettigrew might be the state's top NFL prospect this season.
  • Oklahoma backup QB Landry Jones isn't flinching, despite the likelihood that he'll be watching a lot of Sam Bradford for the immediate future.
  • Texas coach Mack Brown talked about why playing two quarterbacks will be important this season on "Jim Rome Is Burning." The neatest part of the interview could be seen in the background with the new additions at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium highlighted.
  • Bo Pelini's early emphasis has been on producing turnovers. His Cornhuskers have a long way to go, however, considering they had one forced turnover over the final seven games in 2007. "It's embarrassing," CB Armando Murillo told the Lincoln Journal-Star's Brian Rosenthal. "I'm not going to lie. It is."
  • Maybe those national title expectations are a pretty good inspiration. Missouri LB Van Alexander returned to practice several weeks ahead of schedule after off-season knee surgery.
  • New Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen is a tried and true Jayhawk, according to the Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff. Bowen used to sell soft drinks at Memorial Stadium as a kid, hustling to get rid of his first tray and then knocking off to watch the game. Bowen told me an even better story yesterday about how he and his brothers "know every crack" in the stadium from sneaking into the facility at other games.
  • Kansas RB Jocques Crawford admitted to some mixed feelings watching Kansas beat Memphis, his father's old alma mater, for the national basketball championship earlier this year.
  • Anybody in the Sunflower State with a little extra room in their attic? The city of Wichita is threatening to evict the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame from its city-owned home within 30 days, the Wichita Eagle reports. Who knows, you might get a Wilt Chamberlain warm-up suit or a jersey worn by Veryl Switzer in the deal?
  • Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson has backtracked a little, saying that Marlon Lucky is still his team's No. 1 I-back. But Watson added that Roy Helu Jr. will also get reps with the No. 1 offense.

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