College Football Nation: Lamarr Houston
The two championship teams were the best of the conference's last 10 years. Some of the other BCS title participants were good, but not necessarily among the very best teams during the conference's recent history.
Here's how I rank the Big 12's top 10 teams over the last decade.
1. 2005 Texas: A star-studded team paced by All-Americans Michael Huff, Jonathan Scott, Rodrique Wright and Vince Young ran off 13 straight victories, capping the season with a BCS title-game victory over USC. The team averaged 50.2 points per game en route to a then-NCAA record 652 total points, earning Texas’ first undisputed national championship since 1969. It was the greatest team that Mack Brown ever coached and arguably the best team in the rich football history of Texas.
2. 2000 Oklahoma: Bob Stoops claimed a national championship in his second season coaching the Trojans behind Josh Heupel, who finished second in the Heisman race that season. All-Americans Heupel, linebacker Rocky Calmus and J.T. Thatcher helped the Sooners notch the first undefeated season and national championship in Big 12 history. After winning three of their final four regular-season games by less than five points, the Sooners dominated Florida State in a 13-2 triumph in the Orange Bowl for the national championship.
3. 2008 Oklahoma: Sam Bradford won the Heisman Trophy with this team, which overcame a midseason loss to Texas and still claimed the Big 12 title in a 12-2 season that was marred by a 24-14 loss to Florida in the national championship game. The Sooners rolled-up a record 702 points as Bradford passed for 50 touchdowns, Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray each rushed for 1,000 yards and Juaquin Iglesias topped 1,000 yards receiving. The Sooners scored 35 points in each regular-season game and finished the regular season with five straight games of at least 60 points before the BCS title-game loss.
4. 2004 Oklahoma: The Sooners charged to 12 straight victories before a dropping a 55-19 decision to USC in the Orange Bowl for the national title. Freshman running back Adrian Peterson rushed for an NCAA freshman record 1,925 yards to finish second in the Heisman. Jason White claimed the Heisman the previous season and his numbers were down with Peterson's arrival, but he still passed for 3,205 yards and 35 touchdowns. This group had strength in the trenches with All-Americans like Vince Carter, Dan Cody, Jammal Brown and Mark Clayton as it claimed Bob Stoops’ third Big 12 title.
5. 2009 Texas: After streaking to a school-record 13-0 mark through the Big 12 title game, the Longhorns dropped a 37-21 decision to Alabama in the national title game in a contest that changed when Colt McCoy was hurt on the fifth play of the game. McCoy became the winningest quarterback in NCAA history during this season, repeatedly hooking up with favorite target Jordan Shipley, who snagged a school-record 116 receptions, 1,485 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Longhorns led the nation in rush defense, and All-American safety Earl Thomas tied a school record with eight interceptions. Lamarr Houston and Sergio Kindle also added playmaking abilities to the defense.
6. 2004 Texas: The Longhorns overcame a midseason 12-0 loss to Oklahoma to finish the season with seven straight victories in a season capped by a dramatic 38-37 victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl. The Longhorns ranked second nationally in rushing offense and seventh in total offense as Young gradually found his confidence as a passer late in the season. Cedric Benson rushed for 1,834 yards and 19 touchdowns, and Young chipped in with 1,079 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. This team showed a knack for comebacks, overcoming an early 35-7 deficit against Oklahoma State and also coming from behind in an early-season victory at Arkansas.
7. 2007 Oklahoma: Bradford led the first of two consecutive Big 12 championships on a team that enabled the Sooners to become the first Big 12 school to win back-to-back titles. The Sooners dropped road games to Colorado and Texas Tech but still overcame Missouri in the Big 12 title game behind a huge defensive effort keyed by Big 12 defensive player of the year Rufus Alexander. Bradford led the nation in passing efficiency, but the Sooners' bowl struggles continued in an embarrassing 48-28 loss to West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl.
8. 2003 Kansas State: Don’t let the Wildcats’ 11-4 record fool you. After an early three-game losing streak to Marshall, Texas and Oklahoma State (by a combined margin of 15 points), Bill Snyder’s team won its final seven regular-season games by a combined margin of 271-66. That streak was culminated by a stunning 35-7 upset victory over Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game -- the last victory by a North Division team in the title game. The Wildcats ranked in the top 10 nationally in rushing, scoring, total defense, scoring defense and pass defense as Darren Sproles rushed for 1,986 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Wildcats dropped a 35-28 Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State in a game they fell into an early 21-0 deficit and had a chance to tie on the final play of the game after a frantic comeback directed by Ell Roberson.
9. 2007 Missouri: Chase Daniel led Missouri into the Big 12 title game for the first time in school history, taking the team to No. 1 nationally heading into the conference championship game. The Tigers lost twice to Oklahoma during a 12-2 season that was capped by 38-7 beatdown over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. Tony Temple made that game memorable by rushing for a record 281 yards and four TDs that pushed Missouri to No. 4 nationally at the end of the season. A star-studded collection of talent including Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman, Martin Rucker and Sean Weatherspoon helped the Tigers rank among the top-10 teams nationally in passing, total offense and scoring and 11th in turnover margin.
10. 2007 Kansas: The Jayhawks earned Mark Mangino the national coach of the year award by running to an 11-0 start before losing to Missouri in the regular-season finale. The Jayhawks rebounded for a 24-21 victory over Virginia Tech in their first BCS bowl appearance in school history, finishing a 12-1 season that set a school record for victories. Todd Reesing passed for 33 touchdowns to highlight a high-powered offense that scored 76 points against Nebraska and scored at least 43 points in eight games. The Jayhawks were a balanced team that ranked second nationally in scoring offense, fourth in scoring defense and in the top 10 nationally in eight different team statistics. Anthony Collins and Aqib Talib earned consensus All-America honors.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images Trent Richardson's 49-yard touchdown run was part of Alabama's 205-yard rushing effort.
But despite those numbers, Texas made adjustments in the second half and the defense was one of the key reasons the Longhorns had a chance to win. Texas allowed only 57 rushing yards after the break, and continually came up with the key plays that were missing in the first half.
"The defense was out there a lot with (quarterback) Colt McCoy being gone,” Houston said. “We were playing tough and played through a lot of adversity all night long. And we were right there.”
The Longhorns’ defense came up with three, three-and-out possessions to start the second half, and Alabama's only two scores of the second half came off late turnovers. The Texas defense gave the Longhorns a chance to pull back into the game when the offense finally started clicking behind freshman quarterback Garrett Gilbert.
“We did all we could do to keep the game close,” Muckelroy said. “The defense stepped up and made some plays. They got us early, but in the end, about four plays killed us.”
Richardson’s 49-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter sliced through the middle of the Texas defense. It was one of four rushing touchdowns the Longhorns allowed Thursday night after giving up five rushing TDs in the 13 previous games.
“It was disappointing they got to us like that,” Houston said. “But we bounced back and did what we could to make adjustments to get back in the game.”
It was the second-most rushing yards against a Texas defense since Will Muschamp arrived last season. Only Oklahoma State's 217-yard effort last season surpassed the title game.
While Texas struggled containing the running game, Muschamp cooked up a pressure-heavy defensive front that sacked Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy five times.
The ringleader of the Texas pass rush was Sergio Kindle, who had his best game of the season with eight tackles, 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for losses.
“Our game plan was to get pressure on their quarterback,” Kindle said. “We thought their lineman were good in run blocking but might have slip-ups in pass coverage. We tried to get speed off the edge and middle. And those plays started coming for us as the game went on.”
But there weren’t enough of those big plays for the Longhorns to overcome the way the Tide won the battle in the trenches, using a methodical offensive philosophy.
“I’m not disappointed at all,” Houston said. “I’m proud of the team and our players for stepping up and almost winning this game. It was a good effort, but in the end it just wasn’t good enough.”
Monroe missed the final three games of the season after he was arrested on Nov. 15 on charges of driving while intoxicated. Those charges eventually were dismissed, possibly paving the return for the nation’s No. 2 kickoff returner back onto the Longhorns’ team.
While playing in Texas’ first 10 games, Monroe returned 14 kickoffs for a 35.8 yard-per-return average and two touchdowns.
Despite that breakaway ability, Monroe has not been told if he’ll play Thursday night against Alabama, a team that has struggled in kickoff coverage this season. The Tide rank 116th nationally, allowing an average of 25.6 yards per return with two touchdowns.
“I’m not sure where he (coach Mack Brown) wants to put me right now,” Monroe said. “He hasn’t said the final word. I catch balls every day, but I’m not sure about where I’ll be used.”
Monroe’s departure was a wrenching one for him. Since his return, he has leaned on senior leaders like Lamarr Houston, Jordan Shipley and Sergio Kindle to get back in the good graces of the rest of the team.
“What I did was a bone-headed mistake. It was very hard and took a little toll not to be with my brothers who were there every day,” Monroe said. “But it’s a stepping stone I’ll learn from.”
Marquise Goodwin has emerged as a prime returner since Monroe’s departure. Goodwin's 95-yard return against Texas A&M was the clinching fourth-quarter touchdown in that wild 49-39 triumph.
We’ll have to wait to see if Brown will return Monroe to the kick return rotation or if he’s satisfied with Goodwin and Shipley in the returning roles.
For his part, Monroe says he is ready if called upon.
“I’m never rusty in football,” Monroe said. “I think I’ll do fine if I have a chance to play.”
Houston came to Texas as a super-sized 260-pound linebacker/running back prospect. He has kept growing during his career, transforming himself from a defensive end to a 300-pound defensive tackle.
“It was a little strange when it happened, but you just have to kind of accept being a 3-bill guy,” Houston said.
John Albright / Icon SMILamarr Houston has evolved to become one of the leaders of the Texas defense.
That aspect of his job took some getting used to. But Houston has gradually progressed into one of the Longhorns’ top players and a defensive force who will be important in their hopes of containing Alabama’s fearsome running game Thursday night at the Rose Bowl.
Earlier in his career, Houston dreamed of being a running back who broke long runs and scored touchdowns after rushing for 3,325 yards and scoring 49 touchdowns during his high school career at Doherty High School in Colorado Springs, Colo. But he outgrew those hopes as he kept getting bigger and found himself moving from defensive end to tackle before his junior season.
“Obviously, it’s not a glory position,” Houston said. “A lot of guys don’t want to buy into playing defensive tackle. It’s just a whole different style of technique.”
And one where Houston has persevered despite getting pounded every play.
“Playing outside isn’t a physical in what you face on a constant basis,” Houston said. “You just have to change your mind frame to get used to it. It’s taken me some time to get used to it.”
Another change has been that he no longer can concentrate on the field play. Houston’s focus is usually riveted to the man across the line of scrimmage rather than the field as when he was a defensive end.
“I do kind of miss seeing that,” Houston said. “But it’s a habit I had to break because I don’t want to be too high when I’m coming out of my stance. It’s neat when you have guys in front of you and make a tackle. But it does take some getting used to after playing at tackle.”
The native of Anniston, Ala., began his career as an assistant coach in Lineville, Ala., in 1971, and later served as an assistant Guntersville and Minor high schools in the state. He also served as a graduate assistant and defensive coordinator at Livingston University and was a defensive line coach for the old Birmingham Stallions of the USFL in 1984-85.
Not only has he told his players about growing up there, but has also retold many of the legendary stories surrounding Alabama football.
"Coach 'Tolly' is a born-and-raised 'Bama boy," Texas defensive tackle LaMarr Houston said. "He's had a couple of stories about the history of the Alabama program."
Houston then retold the story about how Alabama got its nickname of the Crimson Tide and why an elephant is the Alabama mascot. The Crimson Tide dates from a 1907 game against Auburn, when sportswriter Hugh Roberts of the Birmingham Age-Herald referred to the "Thin Red Line" that led to a 6-6 upset of heavily favored Auburn. And the elephant dates to 1930 when a huge Alabama line overwhelmed Mississippi.
"We've learned all about the history," Houston said. "He told us about the previous games between Texas and Alabama and the previous games. He's a great coach and has told us those stories about the Crimson Tide as we got ready. We've heard all about it."
There was no chance for any of Will Muschamp's group to sneak away to any "Black Friday” sales. The Texas defensive coaches were working long and hard trying to rebuild some schemes heading into the Big 12 championship game after a struggling performance against Texas A&M.
Among the painful reminders were the most rushing yards, total yards and points allowed this season by the Longhorns. It was a game where defensive players felt like the offense bailed them out to continue their 12-0 season.
“We’re going to self-evaluate what we did,” Muschamp said. “But obviously, whatever we did wasn’t right.”
Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson befuddled the Longhorns with 439 total yards, including 97 yards rushing. That total was more than what nine teams had produced against the Longhorns this season.
“We had some missed communication, assignments, alignments, 13 missed tackles ... critical errors on third down," Muschamp said. "It makes for a long night. And it all falls on my shoulders.”
Those struggles are coming as the Longhorns prepare for their biggest game of the season. Nebraska looms, and with it , the Longhorns' first chance to play in the BCS title game since the 2006 Rose Bowl.
But in order to get there, the defense will have to show marked improvement this week against the Cornhuskers.
Texas coach Mack Brown doesn’t expect any hangover after last week’s struggles. In fact, he said the defense's struggling performance in College Station might be a benefit against the Cornhuskers.
“They will play their tails off," Brown said. "They were mad and embarrassed. They are very prideful kids. They were not happy, which I like. They were happy we won, but they know it was not good.”
That realization has the Texas defense excited about its chance at redemption.
“We’re excited to get back out there and have another chance to play football,” Texas defensive tackle Lamarr Houston said. “All of us can’t wait.”
Defensive end Sam Acho was even more direct.
“We know we made some mistakes, but we know we can improve on our performance,” Acho said. “We’ve moved on.”
The Longhorns might be receiving some benefits because they are playing Nebraska. The Cornhuskers don’t feature a dual-threat quarterback like Johnson or the Aggies’ squadron of speedy playmakers.
Instead, the Cornhuskers rank a pedestrian 11th in the Big 12 in total offense and have pulled back on some of their play-calling strategy during a recent five-game winning streak after Zac Lee reclaimed the starting quarterback position.
The Cornhuskers’ ground-based attack should play well into Texas' defensive strength, which remains the nation’s stingiest against the run, allowing only 61.8 yards per game.
“We’re anxious about the challenge about how they will play us,” Texas safety Earl Thomas said. “It will test how physical we are. Our defense is all about effort. I think we’ll be OK.”
Houston is particularly looking forward to that direct, physical challenge after last week.
“There is no linger,” Houston said. “A&M is a top-10 offense and no one gives them credit. We had some mental breakdowns we’re going to fix. And we’ll get ready for Saturday.”
Brown also thinks the struggles against the Aggies were a one-game aberration, and nothing like how his team will play in the Big 12 championship game.
"The lack of performance will get our attention for this week,” Brown said. “We probably tried to do too much last week. But we’ll go back and be who we are this week.”
The media interviews Lamarr Houston about the Big 12 title game.
As Texas streaks to its second 9-0 start since 1983, it’s understandable that some are already comparing this year’s team to the other team that started that fast.
Texas’ 2005 national championship team is the benchmark for all of the other Texas teams coached by Mack Brown. And this team appears to be the closest to the national championship squad in many respects.
While Brown says such comparisons are premature, he does say his current team’s fast start makes for some inevitable comparisons.
|Brendan Maloney/US Presswire|
|Colt McCoy and the Longhorns have drawn comparisons to the 2005 national championship team.|
“I would think you could compare them because there’s been only one close game for this team and for that team in 2005,” Brown said. “It was the Ohio State game in 2005 and the Oklahoma game this year that was in question late in the ballgame.”
But in order to meet the challenge of matching the 2005 team, Colt McCoy’s team will have to match the finishing kick of Vince Young’s team.
“At this time, they’ve earned the right to be in conversation with the 2005 team,” Brown said. “But they haven’t earned the right to be considered as good because they have to finish like that bunch did.”
The 2005 national championship led the conference in 11 statistical categories; the current team leads it in five. The 2005 team was the nation’s leading scoring team and led the nation in pass efficiency. The current team is more defensively oriented as it leads the nation in rushing defense and scoring defense and ranks second in kickoff returns.
The 2005 title team ranked 10th or better in 10 of the 17 team statistical categories tracked by the NCAA. The 2009 team ranked 10th or better in eight of those team statistical groups.
Here's a position-by-position comparison of the two teams:
Quarterbacks: Both teams featured quarterbacks who were involved in the Heisman Trophy race. The 2005 team had Vince Young, a multi-purpose player who accounted for 3,036 passing yards and 26 touchdown passes. Most importantly, he provided leadership for a team that had never won a Big 12 title under Brown. McCoy redshirted on that team, earning the opportunity to soak up lessons watching Young’s leadership. He’s capping the most productive statistical career for a Texas quarterback by passing for 2,447 yards and 17 touchdowns with at least three games remaining -- not counting a potential Big 12 championship game and a bowl. And his leadership skills are comparable with Young’s in guiding his team to an undefeated season so far.
Rushing game: The 2005 team relied on Young, who rushed for a team-high 1,050 yards and scored 12 touchdowns and also had a strong starter in Jamaal Charles and an outstanding change-of-pace player in Ramonce Taylor. That team produced 55 rushing touchdowns and had five different backs with eight rushing touchdowns or more. The current team’s rushing game might be its major weakness without a featured rushing threat, as no current back has rushed for more than 275 yards. Depending on game situations, the team has utilized any of three starters, but its most consistent producer has been Cody Johnson, who will become its fourth starter this week against Baylor.
|Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire|
|Vince Young quarterbacked the 2005 Texas team to the national title.|
Receivers/Tight end: The 2005 team had a stacked collection of receivers led by top deep threat Billy Pittman and Limas Sweed. But the most consistent receiving threat for Young was tight end David Thomas, who produced 50 receptions, including a career-best 10 in the BCS title game victory over USC. But that team had no receiving threat to match Jordan Shipley, who has already produced 75 catches, four double-figure reception games and broken the school single-game receiving yardage record. Dan Buckner developed early into a receiving threat at flex end and Malcolm Williams, James Kirkendoll and John Chiles all have been strong in an offense that has lived by short passes. But Shipley has been the focal point of a passing game that features short, quick passes as its primary offensive weapon.
Edge: 2009 Texas
Offensive line: The 2005 team featured three-first team All-Big 12 picks in Justin Blalock, Jonathan Scott and Will Allen. Because of Young's mobility, that team allowed only 14 sacks and produced 5.9 yards per carry and 55 rushing touchdowns. The current team is nearly as strong with key players like Adam Ulatoski, Charlie Tanner and Chris Hall, who have currently combined for 99 career starts and should be peaking as the season continues. The current team is producing 3.9 yards per carry, 16 sacks and 20 rushing touchdowns.
Edge: 2005 Texas
Defensive line: The 2005 team featured first-team All-Big 12 players like Rodrique Wright and Tim Crowder and pass-rushing specialist Brian Robison, a converted linebacker who led the team with sacks. But that team didn’t feature anybody as proficient as Sergio Kindle or a run-stuffing tackle like Lamarr Houston. It’s the main reason the current Texas team leads the nation in rush defense (55.33 yards per game), total defense (230.78 yards per game) and ranks in the top 20 in both sacks and tackles for losses. The 2005 team was 39th nationally in sacks and 29th in tackles for losses.
Edge: 2009 Texas
Linebackers: The 2005 unit was at its weakest at linebacker where no players earned All-Big 12 first-team or second-team designation. Robert Killebrew was that team’s only player to earn honorable mention. The current team features an anchor in the middle in senior linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy, flanked by Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho. Will Muschamp’s unit seldom uses three linebackers except in run-stuffing situations, preferring to use a nickel formation. But his current group still has the edge at linebacker over the championship team.
Edge: 2009 Texas
Secondary: The 2005 team might be one of the great college units of all time. That team featured the Thorpe Award winner in Michael Huff and another all-league player in Cedric Griffin. Huff, Cedric Griffin, Michael Griffin, Aaron Ross and Tarell Brown all were drafted in the NFL and had eventual pro careers. The unit was nearly impermeable as it broke up 85 passes and permitted only two teams to pass for more than 200 yards against them. The current group is young and skilled and might develop into as strong of a group with experience.
Earl Thomas has played like the best defensive back in the country this season with six interceptions, including two touchdown returns. Curtis Brown, Chykie Brown, Aaron Williams and Blake Gideon have already helped the defense combine for 16 interceptions. And the group is playing with swagger as the season continues.
The current group could match the eventual production of the 2005 team, but it still has to get there.
Edge: 2005 Texas
Special teams: Neither team had to punt very often, but Hunter Lawrence has a narrow edge over David Pino at kicker for his consistency and range. The biggest difference is in the return game. The current team features two threats with D.J. Monroe (two TDs, 36.5 yards kick return average) and Shipley (14.5 punt return average, two TDs), giving it an edge over Ramonce Taylor and Aaron Ross (14.7 punt return average, two TDs).
Edge: 2009 Texas
Coaching: With largely the same cast of coaches, the 2009 team appears to be better coached. In 2005, Brown was trying for his first Big 12 title and utilized defensive co-coordinators with Gene Chizik and Duane Akina. It often seemed that the individual talents of Young took over the game during that championship season. But this team features a better job by Greg Davis as he compensates for his team’s lack of a consistent running game by developing a crafty passing game utilizing quick short passes. And the defense has taken big steps this season in its second season under Muschamp.
Intangibles: The 2005 team was trying to become Brown’s first Big 12 title team and played well throughout. It started with a dramatic comeback victory over Ohio State and continued with a run through the Big 12 that featured no victory less than 19 points. The 2005 team needed a comeback over Oklahoma State, but Young helped the team peak as the Longhorns scored at least 40 points in 12 games. The team rolled to victories of 62, 52 and 11 points in November before notching a record-breaking 70-3 triumph over Colorado in the Big 12 title game and the 41-38 BCS title game victory over USC.
This team hasn’t faced many tests, although it did handle Oklahoma in a 16-13 triumph that ranks as its closest margin. Other than that game, the 2009 Longhorns have rolled up at least 34 points in every game and allowed more than 20 points on only two occasions. But it still has its chance to finish strongly in November like the 2005 team did.
Edge: 2005 Texas
If they met: The 2005 team still would merit a slight edge, mainly because this team doesn’t have a transcendent talent like Young. But the current team is developing and could have a chance to match the championship with a strong finish.
Edge: 2005 Texas
Halloween and football always have had a close association to me since I was a small boy.
I'll be celebrating it tomorrow night by dressing up just like everybody else. My costume will be a button-down shirt, khaki pants and a warm jacket that I’ll probably need in the chilly winds of Boone Pickens Stadium.
Others will be taking to the streets, arriving for goodies on Halloween night.
And if I had some special treats for some Big 12 coaches and players, here is what I'd give:
Haunted House: Owen Field in Norman has been a frightening locale for visiting teams ever since Bob Stoops took over the Oklahoma program. The Sooners are 63-2 at home with Stoops coaching, including only one conference loss during his 10-plus season coaching tenure.
|Tim Heitman/US Presswire|
|Sam Bradford's shoulder injuries have been a nightmare for Oklahoma.|
Ghosts, Goblins and Ghouls: The Texas’ “Goon Squad” defense is frightening signal-callers across the Big 12 after knocking out three rival starting quarterbacks in the last three games. Lamarr Houston gave the team the nickname because of its determined nature playing defense. And they're living up to it so far.
The Graveyard: Although Baylor is still three losses from being effectively eliminated from bowl consideration, the Bears might as well be dead after Robert Griffin’s season-ending knee injury. The season turned for Baylor when Griffin was hurt against Northwestern State in the Bears’ third game.
Cursed team: Maybe winning the national championship so early in his career explains the bad karma that’s dogging Bob Stoops, at least for this season. The Sooners lost potential NFL first-round draft picks Jermaine Gresham before the season and Sam Bradford in the first game and later against Texas when he was attempting a comeback. Those losses effectively ended the Sooners’ hopes of an unprecedented four-peat of Big 12 titles. Oklahoma will still have a good bowl trip to play for, but Stoops has to be wondering what he could have accomplished this season with his complete roster.
Trick or treat: Texas will be facing its most difficult game left on the regular-season schedule Saturday night at Oklahoma State, where the Cowboys seemingly are due after losing 11 straight to the Longhorns. Texas’ easiest game will be coming up Nov. 14 at Baylor where Mack Brown has never lost and has won games by margins of 62, 39, 56, 62 and 21 points.
Monster mash: Texas defensive end Sergio Kindle ripped Taylor Potts’ helmet off late in the Longhorns victory over Texas Tech earlier this season. Amazingly, Potts stayed in the game after the hit, which was not penalized.
Witchcraft: Keep an eye on veteran Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who has his team in the unexpected spot of first place in the North Division heading into Saturday’s games. It will test all of Snyder’s sorcery to be able to keep his overachieving team there as they navigate a punishing season-ending schedule.
Costumes: How about Kansas coach Mark Mangino dressed up as the Great Pumpkin? Or Nebraska coach Bo Pelini as a prison guard, swinging a cattle prod to keep his team aware of his presence, like he threatened earlier this week? Mike Leach could be a swashbuckling pirate? Gary Pinkel as a biker. And owing to his resemblance to actor Tommy Lee Jones, how about Art Briles as one of the Men in Black.
Nightmare on Colorado Avenue: Colorado’s Dan Hawkins needs a quick turnaround, or else he might be looking for another job at the end of the season as his Buffaloes fall out of North Division title contention.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are 10 players who developed as names to remember during spring practice across the Big 12.
Colorado CB Jimmy Smith: Emerged as the Buffaloes' most talented one-on-one pass defender and the Buffaloes' key player in the secondary.
Iowa State QB Jerome Tiller: Lanky freshman who might still have a chance to compete for playing time with starter Austen Arnaud. Tiller didn't hurt his chances by throwing for 250 yards and two touchdowns and also adding a 65-yard touchdown run in the spring game.
Kansas WR Johnathan Wilson: Took advantage of the departure of top deep threat Dezmon Briscoe to emerge as the Jayhawks' prime deep threat when he was gone. Wilson led all receivers with 133 receiving yards and could be a capable featured receiver if Briscoe or Kerry Meier is injured.
Kansas State DE Brandon Harold: After struggling after being moved inside, Harold flourished with a big spring after moving back to defensive end.
Missouri RB De'Vion Moore: As Derrick Washington recovered from offseason knee surgery, Moore played as the Tigers' No. 1 tailback during most of the spring. Not only did he show tough between-the-tackles running ability but also developed into a strong receiving threat out of the backfield.
Nebraska LB Matthew May: The converted sophomore safety earned a role at weakside linebacker in both the Cornhuskers' nickel and base defenses.
Oklahoma LB Tom Wort: Became an immediate producer for the Sooners as a true freshman. He could be ticketed to immediate play on special teams as he provided immediate depth.
Texas DT Ben Alexander: The 310-pound senior claimed the starting job next to Lamarr Houston as the Longhorns look for a playmaker in the trenches to replace Roy Miller.
Texas Tech DE Brandon Sesay: After losing 21 pounds before spring practice, a slimmer Sesay notched two sacks in the spring game to showcase a strong finish as he challenges for a starting position left open when McKinner Dixon was suspended for academic reasons. .
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
AMES, Iowa -- Good afternoon from the nation's heartland.
Day four of my swing through the North Division continues today with a visit with new Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads and several players.
But like a basket of yeast rolls and a big slice of raisin and sour cream pie -- local delicacies from what I've heard -- these links are meant to provide some daily sustenance.
- Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman writes about how Texas defensive linemen Sergio Kindle and Lamarr Houston are taking boxing lessons as a way to work on their hand speed to better ward off blockers.
- Mike Gundy tells Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World that he has no problems with his new $15.7 million, seven-year contract, but still hasn't signed it yet. Gundy might want to ask Billy Gillispie about the sagacity of that decision.
- Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram details six under-the-radar players and coaches who could emerge as important personalites during the upcoming season.
- Lawrence Journal-World publisher Dolph C. Simons Jr. wonders if the recent success for athletic fundraising programs has come at the expense of a campaign for the school's endowment.
- Four players are set to compete to replace Daniel Sanders at center when Colorado starts practice on Tuesday, the Boulder Daily Camera's Kyle Ringo writes.
- Bo Pelini wants his offense to be "multiple" in the upcoming season, Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel writes.
- Stephen Montemayor of the University Daily Kansan checks in with several quick hits from recent Jayhawks practices.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
There were several worthy candidates who almost were able to share in the largesse of a helmet sticker. Here are the players I thought were most deserving in this week's games.
Texas' defensive line -- I can't separate the sticker from any of the key contributors -- defensive ends Henry Melton and Brian Orakpo and defensive tackles Roy Miller andAaron Lewis and key backups Sam Acho and Lamarr Houston. The line helped stifle Texas A&M's running game, limiting the Aggies to minus-24 yards rushing. And it contributed four of the Longhorns' six sacks and also forced and recovered a fumble, produced 11 quarterback hurries and broke-up two passes in the Longhorns' convincing 49-9 victory over the Aggies.
Nebraska kicker Alex Henery -- Produced a school-record 57-yard field goal for the game-winning points of the Cornhuskers' 40-31 triumph over Colorado. Henery drilled four field goals in the game with successful kicks of 35, 27 and 37 yards in addition to his game-winner with 1:43 left in the game.
Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing and wide receiver Kerry Meier -- This should be a shared award, considering the duo's big game in the Jayhawks' 40-37 triumph capped by a 26-yard TD pass from Reesing to Meier with 27 seconds left. Reesing finished with 375 passing yards and four touchdowns. And Meier produced a career-best 14 receptions for 106 yards, including touchdown grabs of 26 and 8 yards -- both in the final 4:26 of the game to key the comeback victory.
Kansas safety Darrell Stuckey -- Produced two interceptions, forced and recovered a fumble and matched the team lead with six tackles in the Jayhawks' triumph over Missouri.
Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford -- Blistered Oklahoma State's secondary for 370 yards and four touchdown passes and rushed for another touchdown to lead the Sooners' 61-41 victory over the Cowboys. Bradford misfired on his first four passes, but rebounded to help the Sooners convert nine consecutive third-down plays at one point of the game. He also became the Sooners' single-season passing yardage record holder and set the school record for most career touchdown passes during the game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It's a little bit easier sorting through the chaff with five games instead of six. But there were still numerous strong candidates who were turned away.
Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz -- Passed for 270 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for a career-high 95 yards and two more TDs to lead the Cornhuskers' 56-28 whipping of Kansas State. The Cornhuskers piled up 600 yards. Ganz broke the Nebraska season school record for completions (247) and needs only 95 yards to become the school's single-season passing yardage leader.
Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp -- Despite injuries to key playmakers like Brian Orakpo, Chykie Brown and Lamarr Houston, Muschamp cooked up a defensive scheme that flummoxed Kansas in a 35-7 victory. An aggressive, swarming Texas defense notched nine tackles for losses, broke up 10 passes, produced four sacks, seven quarterback pressures and forced three fumbles in the easy victory. The Longhorns limited Kansas to season-low totals of seven points and 305 yards of total offense.
Texas quarterback Colt McCoy -- Passed for 255 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for a game-high 78 yards to lead the Longhorns' victory over Kansas. McCoy's touchdown passes gave him the school's single-season record with 30. And the triumph boosted his career record as a starter to 30-7 as he tied Vince Young's career record for victories.
Baylor linebacker Joe Pawelek -- Notched seven tackles and produced two interceptions, including a fourth-quarter pick in the Baylor end zone, to lead the Bears' 41-21 triumph over Texas A&M. It was his third end-zone interception this season. And Pawelek leads all FBS linebackers nationally with six interceptions this season, providing interceptions in his last three games.
Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel and running back Derrick Washington -- I can't split up the sticker between these two. Daniel passed for 328 yards and two touchdowns and Washington rushed for 128 yards and two TDs to lead the Tigers to a 52-20 North Division title-clinching victory over Iowa State.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Texas gave one of its best efforts of the season Saturday with a 35-7 triumph over Kansas. But whether it will resonate enough to keep the Longhorns in the BCS conversation over the next two weeks remains to be seen.
The Longhorns likely shouldn't drop from their No. 3 spot in the BCS this week, considering that No. 2 Texas Tech and No. 5 Oklahoma aren't playing today. The bigger question remains whether Texas' positioning will stand up through the Texas Tech-Oklahoma game next week - particularly as Texas is off until its Thanksgiving Day game against Texas A&M.
Pollsters who were watching today had to be impressed with a punishing Texas defensive performance that produced three sacks and dominated in the trenches. Kansas was limited to 47 rushing yards and couldn't get anything going all day long. The Texas defensive front was strong without starters Brian Orakpo and Lamarr Houston for most of the game. And a young Texas secondary grew some fangs as they were all over the field with big plays.
Colt McCoy accounted for 333 yards of total offense and was sharp throughout the game. His performance should keep him high in Heisman Trophy chatter.
But a bigger consideration for McCoy and his teammates will be their Bowl Championship Series standings. And they won't know that until tomorrow afternoon.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The most important Big 12 game today will be the first one. Texas travels to Kansas in the only game in the conference today with any real Bowl Championship Series consequences.
The Longhorns need a convincing win over the Jayhawks and some style points along the way wouldn't hurt. And Texas struggled in an almost identical situation four seasons ago.
In 2004, Texas needed some heroics from Vince Young and a questionable offensive pass-interference call on Charles Gordon to escape with a 27-23 victory in that game. Kansas coach Mark Mangino complained bitterly and was even fined by the Big 12 for his postgame comments, but the Longhorns kept winning and later advanced to their first BCS berth that season.
It will be a similarly bitter-cold day at Memorial Stadium, but I'm betting that's where the coincidences end. The Longhorns should have a decided advantage in the trenches, even though they will be missing starting center Chris Hall with a sprained knee. Freshman David Snow gets his first career start.
Texas sack specialist Brian Orakpo is listed as questionable for the game, as is Lamarr Houston. But I still think Texas' substitutes should be able to generate enough pressure to keep Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing discombobulated, particularly if the Jayhawks don't protect him any better than they did against Nebraska's defensive front last week.
The Kansas game is also important because of the North Division title ramifications for later in the evening. If Texas can win, it will provide Missouri a chance to wrap up its second-straight Big 12 North title-game berth by winning at Iowa State.
So I'm betting that the Longhorns have a lot of fans in the "Show-Me State" for the next few hours.
Kickoff is just around the corner, so let's go check it out.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Colt McCoy has thrown three touchdown passes to boost Texas to a 28-14 halftime advantage over Baylor.
After enabling Baylor to battle back to a 14-14 tie, the Longhorns charged back with two second-quarter touchdowns on Ryan Palmer's 22-yard interception return and McCoy's 26-yard strike to Quan Cosby.
The first half was marred by several injuries for Texas, including Coach Mack Brown. After he was nicked by a player along the sidelines, Brown suffered a nasty looking gash on his left ear.
The cut was not bandaged and was even exhibited when Brown was interviewed after the first half. He should return -- hopefully with a band-aid -- when play resumes after the half.
The Longhorns already are playing without starting defensive end Brian Orakpo and starting cornerback Chykie Brown. And they lost starting defensive tackle Lamarr Houston for the game with a foot injury early in the first quarter.
McGee was struggling with heavy Baylor pressure from a variety of blitzes. He has been intercepted twice in the first half.
And in the other early game today, Iowa State has jumped ahead of Colorado, 3-0, late in the first quarter. Grant Mahoney drilled a 24-yard field goal for the Cyclones to give them the lead after their first possession.