NCF Nation: Larry Asante

Some of you have asked for it, and since it makes sense to do it early on, I’ll be breaking down the Big 12 over the next couple of days. Today, I’ll give my take on the North and South races. Tomorrow, I’ll put them together for my own pre-spring power rankings.

Update: My pre-spring power rankings will go up later this afternoon.

1. Nebraska
The Huskers will do without the services of the House of Spears, but the Pelini brothers’ defense was hardly built around one player. Replacing linebacker Phillip Dillard and safeties Matt O’Hanlon and Larry Asante won’t be easy, but the Nebraska defense should still be stout.

As for the offense, last season’s home loss to Iowa State in which the Huskers had more turnovers (8) than points (7) would suggest the only way to go is up.

To repeat in the North, the Huskers must defend Memorial Stadium, where they’ll get to face Missouri and Texas.

2. Missouri
Missouri returns 18 starters, including junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who threw for 3,593 yards and 24 touchdowns as a sophomore.

He’ll need support from still-maturing senior corners Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland, who gave up 427 yards passing to Baylor freshman quarterback Nick Florence (almost 200 more yards than he had in any other game last season) in an ugly home loss to the Bears, negating Gabbert’s career high of 468 yards.

For Missouri, taking back the North will mean surviving a difficult early conference schedule, which opens with Colorado but then forces the Tigers to play at Texas A&M before hosting Oklahoma. The next week, they travel to Lincoln for another showdown with Nebraska that would give the winner the inside track at a North title.

3. Kansas State
The Wildcats busted in their bowl-or-bust game against Nebraska to close out last season, but will try and rebound with a run at the North title. They’ll miss Brandon Banks’ kick returns, but Daniel Thomas (1,265 yards in 2009) wouldn’t mind getting his number called almost 250 times again like he did last season. For Kansas State, the earlier the uncertainty ends at quarterback, the better. Three candidates enter spring with a chance to start.

4. Kansas
The personnel behind Kansas’ missing offensive firepower last season is gone. Kansas standouts QB Todd Reesing, receivers Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier and running back Jake Sharp won’t return, and new coach Turner Gill will try to patch back together a team that finished last season on a seven-game losing streak after winning its conference opener against Iowa State.

Sophomore running back Toben Opurum provides a nice foundation for Gill’s new offense after playing well when Sharp sat out or was slowed with injuries.

5. Iowa State
Paul Rhoads’ team showed progress in 2009, finishing the season with a win over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl for the program’s first winning season since 2005. He’ll try to improve on that with only four defensive starters returning this season.

Quarterback Austen Arnaud and running back Alexander Robinson return, but on the Cyclones’ schedule, so do Oklahoma and Texas. They’ll also face Utah, Iowa and Northern Illinois in nonconference games. Returning to a bowl for a second consecutive season won’t be easy.

6. Colorado
The Buffaloes didn’t earn much respect around the conference after giving up 54 points to Toledo in an early-season loss in 2009. They finished with three close losses at Iowa State and Oklahoma State before finishing the season with a home loss to North champ Nebraska.

If Colorado wants to dig itself out of the North basement, it’ll need Tyler Hansen to play like he did in the first half of a win over Kansas in Hansen’s first start, when the Buffaloes charged to a 24-3 second-quarter lead behind two Hansen touchdowns.

Big 12 pre-spring power rankings

February, 10, 2010
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With spring practice set to begin soon -- Texas opens its camp on March 2 -- here’s a quick look at how I have the teams ranked heading into spring practice. In formulating my rankings, I took into account returning players, transfers, arriving freshmen and a teams’ schedules.

1. Texas (14 starters back: 6 offensive, 7 defensive, 1 special teams). Garrett Gilbert got a head start on replacing Colt McCoy with his considerable playing time in the national title game, an invaluable learning experience for a young player. The Longhorns return most of the defense that improved in its second season under Will Muschamp. The biggest chores will be for offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who has to boost running game production and find a replacement for record-breaking wide receiver Jordan Shipley.

2. Nebraska (18 starters back: 8 offensive, 8 defensive, 2 special teams). Bo Pelini has the Cornhuskers positioned for a potential top-10 preseason ranking. Most of the offensive weapons will be back from a unit that sputtered down the stretch before breaking out in the Holiday Bowl victory. Quarterback Zac Lee will miss some of spring practice as he recovers from postseason surgery. Cody Green and Kody Spano will get most of the work until Lee returns. Nebraska coaches think the defense can be better this season, even without the up-the-middle strength of Ndamukong Suh, Phillip Dillard, Larry Asante and Matt O’Hanlon.

3. Oklahoma (15 starters back: 9 offensive, 4 defensive, 2 special teams). The Sooners overcame a debilitating run of injuries last season to finish with a flourish, knocking Oklahoma State out of a BCS game and winning the Sun Bowl in their final two games. Landry Jones will be infinitely better in his second season as a starter and Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray may be the best one-two receiving/running back combination in the conference. Bob Stoops will be facing a big renovation on defense where key players like Gerald McCoy and Dominique Franks left early for the NFL draft. Look for Travis Lewis to be the key to a defense that will need to improve by the time Big 12 play begins if the Sooners are to have any hope of claiming a seventh Big 12 title this season.

4. Missouri (19 starters back: 9 offensive, 9 defensive, 1 special teams). The Tigers will miss Danario Alexander and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who were arguably the best players at their positions in the conference last season. But Blaine Gabbert is back for a second season as starting quarterback and some talented recruits are expected to emerge on defense. A key for the Tigers’ success will be a more productive running game and consistency from the offensive line. Improvement on both will be critical for coordinator David Yost during the spring.

5. Texas Tech (15 starters back: 7 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). New coach Tommy Tuberville immediately will have to sort through a potentially difficult decision at quarterback between Taylor Potts and fan favorite Steven Sheffield. New coordinator James Willis hopes to install a 3-4 defense that should be a haven for athletic linebackers. But the group’s success will hinge on replacing Jamar Wall at cornerback and finding some pass-rushing threats to replace Brandon Sharpe, Richard Jones and Daniel Howard along the front.

6. Texas A&M (19 starters back: 8 offensive, 9 defensive, 2 special teams). With Jerrod Johnson, Jeff Fuller, Uzoma Nwachukwu and Christine Michael back, the Aggies shouldn’t have trouble scoring points, although the line needs to do a better job of protecting Johnson. But the Aggies’ success will depend on the returning starters quickly taking to new coordinator Tim DeRuyter’s teachings. The group was blistered for at least 35 points in seven games last season and allowed at least 30 points in two other games. So needless to say that even with nine starters back, DeRuyter has his work cut out.

7. Kansas (16 starters back: 7 offensive, 7 defensive, 2 special teams). New coach Turner Gill inherits an uncertain quarterback situation, but has the framework for a strong running attack with all of his starting linemen back, along with Toben Opurum and heralded back Brandon Bourbon as running threats. The Jayhawks will need to fill in for the loss of Darrell Stuckey in the secondary, but new coordinator Carl Torbush should find the elements for a blitzing, attacking defense among the returnees. But the biggest reason the Jayhawks might be bound for a bowl game in Gill’s first season is swapping Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma for Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Baylor in their cross-divisional schedule.

8. Iowa State (13 starters back: 8 offensive, 4 defensive, 1 special teams). Paul Rhoads returns most of the offensive weapons that led the Cyclones to the Insight Bowl, most notably quarterback Austen Arnaud and running back Alexander Robinson. But the team loses all of its starting linebackers; veteran coordinator Wally Burnham will be challenged to cobble together a serviceable unit. The Cyclones could actually be a better team in 2010 but post a worse record. A tougher schedule featuring nonconference games against Utah, Iowa and Northern Illinois and the addition of South Division powers Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech will make last season’s bowl trip much tougher to duplicate.

9. Oklahoma State (10 starters back: 4 offensive, 4 defensive, 2 special teams). The Cowboys must find replacements for key players like Zac Robinson, Keith Tosten, four offensive linemen (including Outland finalist Russell Okung) and six of their back seven on defense. New offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen finds an uncertain quarterback situation but will lean heavily on a healthy Kendall Hunter. A manageable nonconference schedule should have them in bowl contention, but this should be a step back from Mike Gundy’s last two teams.

10. Kansas State (15 starters back: 7 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). The Wildcats missed out on a bowl trip last season only because they scheduled two FCS teams, but they surprisingly challenged for the Big 12 North title up to their last game of the season. It might be tougher to do that this season, although Daniel Thomas will provide the foundation on offense. Carson Coffman has the inside track at quarterback, but keep an eye out for Oregon transfer Chris Harper at either that position or wide receiver. Players like Jeffrey Fitzgerald and John Houlik will be missed on defense, but all four starters are back in the secondary.

11. Colorado (16 starters back: 8 offensive, 7 defensive, 1 special teams). Dan Hawkins’ seat is the hottest in the Big 12 and arguably in college football after missing a bowl for a second straight season last year. Tyler Hansen returns as the starting quarterback, but the Buffaloes need to find some help in the backfield with only three scholarship backs in spring practice. The defense was young last season and should be improved, but will miss the leadership provided by Jeff Smart and Cha’pelle Brown. A bowl trip likely will be necessary to save Hawkins’ job and a tough nonconference schedule featuring games at California and against Hawaii and Georgia will prove troublesome even before Big 12 play begins.

12. Baylor (14 starters back: 6 offensive, 6 defensive, 2 special teams). The Bears’ hopes of stopping the conference’s longest bowl drought will hinge largely on the health of Robert Griffin, who is recovering from knee surgery that forced him to miss the final nine games of the 2009 season. New offensive lineman “Big” Robert Griffin will have to protect his quarterback if coach Art Briles has any hope of making a bowl trip. Jay Finley and Kendall Wright are underrated offensive threats, but the Bears will miss key defensive leaders like Joe Pawelek and Jordan Lake who were stalwarts for several years.

Cornhuskers nab second big commitment of day with S Corey Cooper

February, 3, 2010
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Bo Pelini nabbed his second big recruiting commitment of the morning when touted four-star safety Corey Cooper of Maywood, Ill., accepted Nebraska's scholarship offer.

Cooper chose the Cornhuskers over Notre Dame, Arizona and Illinois.

Cooper, a 6-foot-2, 205-pounder, played wide receiver as well as defensive back in high school, but he is committed to playing defense for the Cornhuskers.

“When I visited there and talked with the coaches, I just felt comfortable,” Cooper told the Lincoln Journal Star. "I feel I can go in there and contribute."

With the loss of starters Larry Asante and Matt O'Hanlon, the Cornhuskers need safeties. Cooper might be good enough to contribute immediately.

His decision came on the heels of Brion Carnes' commitment to the Cornhuskers earlier on Wednesday.

It's been a good day for the Cornhuskers with an announcement set early this afternoon with Owamagbe Odighizuwa. If they can get him it would be an unprecedented late recruiting hat trick by Pelini and his staff.

Holiday Bowl instant analysis: Nebraska 33, Arizona 0

December, 31, 2009
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Nebraska's 33-0 victory over Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl was much easier than anyone would have ever expected. It pushed the Cornhuskers to their 10th victory in a season for the first time since 2003.

Here’s how the Cornhuskers were able to produce their impressive victory.

How the game was won: Nebraska’s defense dominated the game from the opening snap. But the real reason the Cornhuskers cruised to an unexpectedly easy triumph over Arizona was the return of their offense. Nebraska scored on seven of its first eight possessions as they charged to their most one-sided bowl victory since the 2000 Alamo Bowl whipping of Northwestern.

Turning point: On the third play from scrimmage, Matt O’Hanlon stepped in front of a pass from Arizona quarterback Nick Foles and returned it 37 yards to the Arizona 5. Zac Lee scored two plays later and the Nebraska rout was on.

Stat of the game: Nebraska’s shutout was the first ever posted by a Big 12 team in the 94-game bowl history of the conference since it started play in 1996.

Player of the game: Ndamukong Suh was playing until the end of the Cornhuskers’ victory -- long after the game’s result was settled. But considering the relentless drive and determination that Suh has always shown, it wasn’t surprising he was out with the Blackshirts until the final defensive stop. He produced only three tackles, but was a force on nearly every play for Nebraska.

Best call: Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson was determined to juice production in the offense after its struggles against Texas in the Big 12 title game. He had a few wrinkles Wednesday night, like having I-back Rex Burkhead get direct snaps in Wildcat formations. On one of the first Wildcat plays, Burkhead charged in for a 5-yard touchdown run. It helped spark him to a game-high 92 rushing yards on 17 carries.

What it means: Nebraska likely has staked a top-10 position in preseason polls next season. And that’s even without Suh, safeties O’Hanlon and Larry Asante, center Jacob Hickman and defensive end Barry Turner. But the Cornhuskers return 10 offensive starters, six on defense and kicker/punter extraordinaire Alex Henery. Bo Pelini should be loaded for a run at the Big 12 title next season.

Worth remembering: “Nebraska is back and we’re here to stay,” Pelini’s comments when he accepted the winning trophy after the Holiday Bowl.

Texas gets breaks on final drive

December, 6, 2009
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ARLINGTON, Texas – It likely won’t go down in history as “The Drive.”

The game-winning Texas possession depended more on one big play and one extra second, leading to Hunter Lawrence’s field goal and a 13-12 victory.

[+] EnlargeColt McCoy
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesColt McCoy was 20 of 36 for 184 yards with three interceptions but did enough to get Texas the Big 12 championship.
But Texas’ final drive boosted the Longhorns into the BCS title game – even if it didn’t come with many style points.

Texas coach Mack Brown said quarterback Colt McCoy’s gritty determination on a day when he was intercepted three times and sacked nine times will resonate with Heisman voters.

“Everybody wants a Heisman moment and I thought that was it,” Brown said. “I think that’s his 12th fourth-quarter comeback. We saw there was 1:49 left … That was plenty of time for our offense to score. It’s just so many times before the half or the end of the game where we’ve driven down to win the game.”

The Longhorns got a huge break on the kickoff when the normally reliable Adi Kunalic shanked the kickoff out of bounds. Kunalic had led the Big 12 in touchbacks this season. But his mistake gave the Longhorns 20 extra yards they ended up needing.

Before the Longhorns broke the huddle, McCoy calmed his team and reminded them of the opportunity they had in front of them.

“I walked into the huddle and told the offensive linemen it’s one at a time,” McCoy said. “I love each and every one of them and let’s make it happen.”

On the first play, McCoy hit Jordan Shipley for a short pass that he turned into a 19-yard gain. The Longhorns got 15 more yards on the play because Nebraska safety Larry Asante was flagged for a horse collar tackle.

McCoy then was sacked twice and threw an incomplete before Lawrence drilled his game-winning kick.

Even in the excitement of the dramatic victory, McCoy was excited about what the Longhorns had done.

In a sense it was poetic justice from last season’s disappointment. The Longhorns’ only loss came last season at Texas Tech with one second left. This season they were able to convert their chances and are 13-0 after getting their ugliest victory of the season.

“To be an undefeated team at 13-0, you have to win in different ways,” Brown said. “You’ve seen Alabama block field goals in the last second. You saw this team run up and down the field last week and the defense struggled. But you saw the offense do enough to win tonight.”

On a day when McCoy left the field banged up, he was more excited about nailing down his first Big 12 championship than any personal goals.

“It was just one of those nights. Those guys played tough defense all night. It came down to one second,” McCoy said. “We knew it was going to be tough coming in. We didn’t want to let it come down to the wire like that, but we were able to pull through.”

Pregame ponderables from Big 12 title game

December, 5, 2009
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The South Division has dominated play in these recent Big 12 title games.

Most people expect more of the same tonight with Texas heavily favored to beat Nebraska.

Here are some of the things I'll be watching during the game tonight to see if the No. 3 Longhorns can continue that trend.
  • Will Nebraska be able to exploit an advantage they feel is in place for inside running? Although Texas ranks as the nation's leading rushing team, Nebraska coaches believe they can run the ball "downhill" with Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead. Watch for this to happen early. If Nebraska can gain some momentum, it will be a good sign for their chances.
  • Keep Zac Lee in favorable down-and-distance situations. Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson has done a good job of pulling in the reigns of his unit over the Cornhuskers' five-game winning streak. They haven't asked Lee to beat people, but have kept him in good situations. It will have to be that way tonight as well. If they can keep Lee in third-and-2 and third-and-4 and out of third-and-8 or third-and-10, it will make it much easier on him and the Cornhuskers.
  • Can the secondary check the second and third Texas receivers? The Cornhuskers' have a couple of first-team All-Big 12 players in Prince Amukamara and Larry Asante. That group will have to do a good job to check the receivers other than Jordan Shipley who have emerged for Texas over the last several weeks.

And here are some items that Texas needs to watch tonight:
  • Colt McCoy can't get frustrated. The Longhorns will be facing their toughest defensive challenge since Oklahoma. Heck, tonight's challenge might be tougher than the Sooners. McCoy could likely find yards difficult to come by. He doesn't have to play the perfect game to beat the Cornhuskers or put the finishing touches on his Heisman Trophy bid. But his statistics likely won't be anything like they were last week at Texas A&M. If he has some early struggles, he can't get down about his effort as he seemed to do at times during the Oklahoma game.
  • Come back Sergio: Coming into the season, Texas defensive end Sergio Kindle was expected to be their top defensive player and a sack-producing machine. He's been tied up by double-team blocks by opposing teams, but his numbers haven't been anywhere near what was expected. Tonight in his final college game in his hometown area would be a big time night for a huge time game from Kindle.
  • Make their special teams come through: Alex Henery and Adi Kunalic have been weapons all season for Nebraska in dictating field position. But Texas is pretty good in returns, averaging 28.3 yards on kickoffs and 13.4 yards on punts. The Longhorns also have blocked five kicks and Hunter Lawrence has converted 20 of 23 field goals. Whoever wins on special teams will have a big edge tonight.

A crowd of more than 80,000 is expected, making this crowd the largest in Big 12 history for a championship game. Almost all of the fans are in their seats and looks to be about 80 percent Texas supporters inside the stadium.

Cornhuskers' defense bracing for Texas-sized challenge

December, 3, 2009
12/03/09
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If Nebraska has any hopes of stunning Texas Saturday night in the Big 12 championship game, the Cornhuskers’ defense will be the major key.

The Cornhuskers have developed into one of the nation’s stingiest defenses after allowing only one opponent to score more than 21 points against them so far this season. But they will have to play one of their best games of the season to boost them to their first Big 12 title since 1999.

[+] EnlargeNdamukong Suh
Marc Piscotty/Icon SMINdamukong Suh and the Nebraska defense will need to contain Colt McCoy in Saturday's game.
“You hope when you have a challenge that is so great that it brings out the best in your team,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “I think our kids have an edge to them that should help them out. They have things to prove and this gives you the next opportunity. It’s a tremendous challenge and one that we look forward to.”

The Longhorn offense is third in the country in scoring (43.0 points) and 11th in total offense (451.6 yards). Texas is one of the most balanced offenses in the country after running the ball 447 times and passing it 462 times this season.

“They do everything well,” Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. “They have balance and great receivers. I don’t see a problem in their offense. They have a mobile quarterback who can hurt you with his arm and his feet. It will be a big challenge that we’ll be up for.”

Nebraska is third in the country in scoring defense (11.1 points) and 11th in total defense (291.4 yards). The Cornhuskers rank among the top 25 teams nationally in six major defensive statistical categories -- rush defense, pass efficiency defense, scoring defense, total defense, sacks and pass defense.

Their star-studded defensive cast is headed by their strength inside with Suh and Jared Crick, who are the best pair of defensive tackles in the Big 12. Suh undoubtedly is the best defensive player in the conference and maybe in the nation. Crick is a solid producer who set a school single-game record for sacks earlier this season with five against Baylor.

The secondary also is dotted with playmakers, including All-Big 12 first-team selections Larry Asante at safety and cornerback Prince Amukamara.

The Nebraska talent has caught the attention of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who says it could be the toughest defense he has faced this season.

“They're really physical,” McCoy said. “They're really well coached. You see that on the film. They're not going to make mistakes. They're just really good at what they do. It's going to be a huge challenge for us.”

The team that has been the most successful against the Longhorns this season was Oklahoma, which brought a variety of new blitz packages against McCoy. It caused him to fumble and throw an interception in his worst game of the season.

[+] EnlargeJared Crick
Manny Flores/Icon SMIJared Crick recorded a school-record five sacks earlier this season against Baylor.
Pelini was a former member of the Oklahoma staff and has several close friends still there, including defensive coordinator Brent Venables and coach Bob Stoops. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Pelini had contacted the Oklahoma coaches to find out what they thought was successful against McCoy.

Former Nebraska defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove elected to utilize a similar strategy against McCoy and Texas in 2007. While they blitzed on virtually every down, the gambling strategy paid off for a 17-9 Nebraska lead after three quarters.

The Longhorns adjusted in the fourth quarter with a heavy use of a zone-read play with Jamaal Charles, who rushed for 216 of his 290 yards in the fourth quarter alone. The result was a wild 28-25 comeback victory for the Longhorns.

McCoy, then a sophomore, struggled in that game by completing only 12 of 28 passes for 181 yards.

But that Texas offense and McCoy’s sputtering performance is a marked contrast from this season, when he’s developed into the conference’s best offensive player and a likely finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

“He can do it all,” Asante said. “He can look you off, come back the other way. He can scramble. He's a better runner now. ... He's a better passer, more accurate. He's just an overall good quarterback.”

In order to combat McCoy, Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini has said that his team can’t afford to rush four down linemen and send seven players back in pass coverages.

One key might be gleaned from a defensive alignment that was used regularly against Colorado. The Cornhuskers used a five-man front with six defensive backs. It was the defense that was employed when safety Matt O’Hanlon produced a 20-yard interception return for a touchdown.

“I believe we have to play mistake free defense,” Asante said. “We have to put it together and play the best football we’ve played all year to beat these guys. It’s as simple as that.”

Brown, McCoy, Suh are major award winners

December, 1, 2009
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Texas coach Mack Brown, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh were announced today as the Big 12's coach of the year, offensive player of the year and defensive player of the year, respectively.

McCoy and Suh also were the only two unanimous first-team selections to the All-Big 12 team picked by coaches.

McCoy becomes the fourth Texas player to be selected as OPOY and the third Longhorn quarterback. Previous Texas selections included Ricky Williams (1997 and 1998), Major Applewhite (1999) and Vince Young (2005).

Suh becomes the second Nebraska defensive player to be honored, joining Grant Wistrom (1996 and 1997).

And Brown earns his second coach of the year honors after winning it in 2005.

One interesting note that shows the balance in the conference this season is that every team in the league was represented by at least one player on the first-team squad.

Coaches also announced their All-Big 12 teams. They were forbidden from voting for their own players.

Here's a list of the award winners, as selected by the league's coaches:

Coach of the Year: Mack Brown, Texas

Offensive Lineman of the Year: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State

Defensive Lineman of the Year: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska

Offensive Freshman of the Year: Christine Michael, Texas A&M

Defensive Freshman of the Year: Aldon Smith, Missouri

Special Teams Player of the Year: Brandon Banks, Kansas State

Defensive Newcomer of the Year: David Sims, Iowa State

Offensive Newcomer of the Year: Daniel Thomas, Kansas State

Defensive Player of the Year: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska

Offensive Player of the Year: Colt McCoy, Texas

And here's a look at who the coaches chose for their first-team offensive and defensive units.

OFFENSE:

QB: Colt McCoy, Texas

RB: Daniel Thomas, Kansas State

RB: Keith Toston, Oklahoma State

FB: Bryant Ward, Oklahoma State

WR: Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas

WR: Jordan Shipley, Texas

WR: Danario Alexander, Missouri

TE: Jeron Mastrud, Kansas State

OL: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State *

OL: Trent Williams, Oklahoma *

OL: Nick Stringer, Kansas State

OL: Brandon Carter, Texas Tech

OL: Nate Solder, Colorado

K: Grant Ressel, Missouri

KR/PR: Brandon Banks, Kansas State

DEFENSE

DL: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska

DL: Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma *

DL: Von Miller, Texas A&M

DL: Brandon Sharpe, Texas Tech

DL: Jared Crick, Nebraska

LB: Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri *

LB: Jesse Smith, Iowa State

LB: Travis Lewis, Oklahoma

DB: Earl Thomas, Texas

DB: Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State

DB: Larry Asante, Nebraska

DB: Prince Amukamara, Nebraska

P: Derek Epperson, Baylor

Note: Bold notations are unanimous selections. Those selections with an asterisk are repeat choices from last season.

I was a little disappointed that the coaches can make a decision to pick a fullback as a specific positional choice and then not designate one of the picks specifically for a center. Every team in the league has a center. Not every team in the Big 12 has a true fullback that plays the majority of his snaps.

Also, it's an age-old pet peeve of mine that they don't break down the defensive choices into specific positions like ends, tackles, linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties.

Here's a link to the Big 12's Web site for a complete listing of the first-team, second-team and honorable mention choices.

What to watch for in the Big 12, Week 13

November, 24, 2009
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The Big 12’s final weekend of the regular season will feature several key games over a three-day period that will have serious national championship and BCS ramifications.

And we might be seeing two coaches riding off into the sunset.

Here are 10 things to look for in the Big 12’s games this week.

Can Texas' tackling problems be resolved? Will Muschamp was very angry with Texas’ missed tackles against Kansas as the Longhorns allowed 97 extra yards on nine whiffs against the Jayhawks. Some of it was because of the athleticism of Kansas players like Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier. But the Longhorns will be facing a stronger unit in the Aggies with skill-position players like Christine Michael, Cyrus Gray, Uzoma Nwachukwu and Jeff Fuller. Muschamp has had his unit working before daylight this week intent on improving their tackling and swarming techniques. It will be an important exercise to get them ready for the better teams they will face during the rest of the season.

Will the Kyle Field jinx bite Texas again? The Aggies will be excited about their chance at springing an upset to ruin the Longhorns’ national title hopes. Kyle Field has been a difficult place for the Longhorns in the past as the Aggies have won eight of the last 12 games there since 1985. But after losing his first game there in the Bonfire game in 1999, Mack Brown won his next three games in College Station before losing there in 2007 in Dennis Franchione’s last game. Texas players say that the incessant noise from Aggie fans makes it difficult to run their offense. Can Colt McCoy do things differently in his second start there after his loss earlier in his career?

How Nebraska reacts to winning the Big 12 North title last week: Bo Pelini started preaching about Colorado soon after the victory over KSU pushed his team into the title game. He’s emphasized that beating the Buffaloes is the final goal his team needs to accomplish before it starts preparing for Texas and the Big 12 title game next week. Despite the coach’s pleading, it would be understandable if the Cornhuskers didn’t approach the road game on a short road week with unbridled intensity. But a veteran defense keyed by Ndamukong Suh, Phillip Dillard, Matt O’Hanlon and Larry Asante should have the Cornhuskers focused against the sputtering Buffaloes.

Dan Hawkins' possible last game in Boulder: The embattled Colorado coach’s job has been in question since a slow start after he boldly predicting his team would challenge for the Big 12 North title. Instead, the Buffaloes were the first team in the conference eliminated from bowl consideration. The Buffaloes showed some promise in last week’s narrow loss at Oklahoma State, although they repeatedly made critical mistakes and penalties that kept them from winning. Will the Colorado coach be able to circle the wagons and get his team to play one final strong performance? Or is it already too late for him to save his job after a disappointing 16-32 career record?

Will Oklahoma State turn the tables on Oklahoma? Throughout the years, the Sooners have been the team playing for championship and BCS bowl opportunities while their cross-state rivals were playing for bowl positioning and winning seasons. The roles have been reversed this season as the Cowboys play their biggest game since the start of the Big 12 in Bedlam this year. If OSU can win this game, they likely will qualify for a BCS at-large berth with a strong shot at the Fiesta Bowl. Whether the experienced Cowboys can snap the Sooners’ nation-best 29-game winning streak remains to be seen. But Mike Gundy’s chances of winning at Owen Field have never looked stronger -- even with quarterback Zac Robinson's uncertain status.

The Oklahoma defense can’t possibly be as bad as the one that showed at Texas Tech, can it? The Sooners suffered through a humbling performance in Lubbock last week, allowing their most points, yards, rushing yards and passing yards of the season. They will be challenged by a determined Oklahoma State team on the verge of its biggest team accomplishment in years. Bob Stoops and Brent Venables will appeal to the pride of their defense, the backbone of the team this season. It will be interesting to see if the Sooners respond “in a big way,” as Stoops likes to say.

Baron Batch versus the weak Baylor rush defense: The junior Texas Tech running back is coming off his best performance of his career after ripping Oklahoma for 136 yards last week. He should find an inviting opponent against Baylor, which ranks 100th nationally in rush defense and ranks last in the conference allowing an average of 185.91 yards per game. He’ll be important in dictating the Red Raiders’ offense as they play for better bowl positioning with a victory.

Baylor’s determined defensive duo plays its last game: Middle linebacker Joe Pawelek and free safety Jordan Lake will never make a bowl trip with Baylor, but both will go down in history among the greatest players in school history at their positions. It will be an emotional game at Cowboys Stadium for both senior leaders. And both will be challenged by Texas Tech’s sizzling offense in a competitive final game in college football.

Danario Alexander’s big-play exploits: Missouri wide receiver Danario Alexander has been the most explosive receiver in the Big 12 this season, ranking third nationally in receptions and average yards receiving. Alexander has two games remaining -- the regular-season finale against Kansas and a bowl game -- to reach the school career record as he needs 297 receiving yards over those two games. Considering his recent surge in Missouri last six games, he’s got a great shot after averaging 160.7 yards per game with 57 receptions for 964 yards (a 16.9 avg. per catch) and eight touchdowns during that period. And he’ll be playing a struggling Kansas secondary that ranks 88th in pass defense and was blistered for season-worst totals of 396 passing yards and four touchdown passes last week against Texas.

Is this the end for Mark Mangino? Embattled Kansas coach Mark Mangino is a victim of a “witch hunt,” according to Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. But the internal investigation into the program appears to have developed enough dirt that likely will have enough substance to cost Mangino his job. The howling became louder when the Jayhawks have lost their last six games after starting the season 5-0. They can still rebound and qualify for a bowl berth by beating Missouri in Kansas City. Mangino has won four of his last six games against Missouri. And none would be sweeter than Saturday’s game if he could pull it off with his team on the mat and claim an upset over his school's biggest rival.

Big 12 helmet stickers, Week 12

November, 22, 2009
11/22/09
12:10
PM ET
Here are my weekly choices for my Big 12 helmet stickers:

Oklahoma State running back Keith Toston: Rushed for 172 yards on 30 carries and also caught two passes for 45 yards to spark the Cowboys’ 31-28 triumph over Colorado. Toston scored a pair of touchdowns on a 45-yard TD run and a 47-yard TD pass from third-string quarterback Brandon Weeden to spark the triumph. Toston has topped the 1,000-yard mark for the season, producing 1,130 yards heading into the Bedlam game with Oklahoma on Saturday.

Texas Tech running back Baron Batch: Who said Texas Tech can’t produce top running backs? Batch rushed for a career-high 136 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown and also added seven receptions for 68 yards to spark the Red Raiders’ 41-13 thumping of Oklahoma.

Nebraska safety Larry Asante: Notched a team-high 10 tackles and provided an interception and a clutch forced fumble to pace the Cornhuskers’ 17-3 victory over Kansas State. Asante’s rattling hit caused a fumble by Keithen Valentine at the Nebraska 1, preventing KSU from scoring a touchdown which would have brought it back into the game. His big effort helped boost the Cornhuskers into a Big 12 North title-clinching performance.

Missouri wide receivers Danario Alexander and Jerrell Jackson: Combined for 19 receptions for 315 yards to pace the Tigers’ 34-24 victory over Iowa State. Alexander produced 11 catches for 173 yards and a 63-yard TD grab from Blaine Gabbert, enabling him to set a Missouri single-season receiving yardage record with 1,411. Alexander is second in single-season receiving with 92 receptions. Jackson set career-high totals of eight receptions, 142 yards and a 70-yard TD grab from Gabbert.

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy: Passed for 396 yards and four touchdowns to lead Texas to a 51-20 victory over Kansas. In the process, McCoy notched his 43rd career victory as a starting quarterback to give him the NCAA record. He also rushed for 29 yards and even punted. He capped off his memorable evening by shooting off Texas' Big Smokey cannon and banging on the Texas band’s “Big Bertha” bass drum three times before leaving Darrell K. Royal/Texas Memorial Stadium for a final time as a player.
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Larry Asante arrived on the field Saturday blinking away tears as he prepared for his final home game.

As he left the field, the Nebraska senior safety again was dabbing at his eyes.

But after a big performance in the Cornhuskers’ 17-3 North Division-clinching victory, Asante was trying to get rid of the remnants of a post-game Gatorade shower he and Nebraska coach Bo Pelini got along the sidelines.

“He was giving me a hug, telling me how much he loved me and how far along I’d come as a player,” Asante said, chuckling at the memory. “Then out of nowhere, I got dumped. But I didn’t get mad. It was joyous. I was happy.”
[+] EnlargeBo Pelini
John Rieger-US PRESSWIREBo Pelini's Huskers will play third-ranked Texas in the conference championship game Dec. 5.

So were the Cornhuskers, who rode a gritty defensive effort into the Dec. 5 Big 12 championship game for the first time since 2006.

“We want to be known as a hard-hitting, hard-nosed defense,” defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. “One where everybody is making tackles and making things happen.”

Asante keyed a stellar defensive performance by Nebraska which limited the Wildcats to a field goal on their first drive and no more scoring after that. It was the 10th time in 11 games that a Nebraska opponent has scored 17 points or less, including the Cornhuskers’ last five opponents.

His big night included an interception and a forced fumble which turned away KSU’s best scoring opportunity when he hammered KSU’s Keithen Valentine, causing a fumble at the Nebraska 1.

Saturday’s triumphant performance is a remarkable transformation from where Pelini inherited the team less than two years ago.

To call that group defensive waifs might be an insult to all of the lost souls who wander the Earth.

The missed tackles and busted coverages that marked the Kevin Cosgrove era are nothing but a bad memory for those seniors who remained in the most dramatic transition in Nebraska’s history.

That team allowed six opponents to score at least 40 points on them as they finished in the bottom ten nationally in rushing defense, scoring defense, total defense, turnover margin and sacks. The Cornhuskers were torched for 76 and 65 points in losses in two of their final three games in that lost season.

“They’ve come a long way in the last two years,” Pelini said. “When I got here, especially the guys on defense, they were written off and told how bad they were.”

But from those humble origins, Pelini nurtured the confidence and got this group to believe in his methods.

The result has been a run of games just like Saturday night.

“They kept getting better,” Pelini said. “Now, look at how far they have come. It’s been fun to watch.”

Many of those same players were integral contributors to Nebraska’s huge defensive effort. After KSU produced a field goal on its opening possession, the Wildcats were turned away on their final 10 possessions without a score. Included in that run were two possessions inside the Nebraska 20-yard line and three other stops at the Nebraska 27, 33 and 41-yard lines.

The reason for that toughness was instilled by Pelini and his older brother, Carl, who serves as Nebraska’s defensive coordinator.

“We take it personal as a unit. We don’t want to give up any points,” Asante said. “We didn’t have that culture back then. They’ve taught us how to play every play like it’s our last. And we wanted to go out there the right way.”

Suh, who finished in his final home game with nine tackles, 1.5 sacks and two passes broken up, said that Pelini's coaching has been the major reason for the change.

"We've grown tremendously, but there still is a lot of work to do,” Suh said. “His message when he first got here has been embraced by everybody. We’re not to what he expects from us, but I think we’re on a good path.”

Asante might be the best example of Pelini’s transformation. He came to Nebraska as one of the nation’s top 10 junior college prospects. But he looked lost in Cosgrove’s defense and there were some early thoughts he couldn’t play in Pelini's defense.

His seven tackles Saturday enabled him to tie for third on Nebraska’s career list for tackles.

There were still some areas of concern, like a sputtering offense that will never be confused with the Cornhuskers’ glory era when Eric Crouch, Scott Frost and Co. wreaked havoc across the Big 12.

The Cornhuskers are built to win games like Saturday’s battle over Kansas State. They will challenge Texas, but likely don’t have the firepower to dent the Longhorns’ emerging defense.

But the recent play of the Blackshirts will give them a puncher’s chance of sticking close to Texas, who might be looking ahead to their BCS title game prospects rather than worrying about the Cornhuskers next month.

“The way we played seems like it’s a recurring theme,” Pelini said. “We still have a long way to go, but there’s still a lot out there. Our kids are hungry and it’s on to the next challenge for us.”

Big 12 power rankings: Week 5

September, 28, 2009
9/28/09
9:58
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


Here’s a look at the Big 12 rankings for this week:

1. Texas: The Longhorns finally put together a complete game, snuffing out UTEP with a huge effort. Their big victory resulted in their largest margin of victory since the 2005 Big 12 Championship Game, taking apart the Miners with their best offensive and defensive effort of the season. Colt McCoy overcame an early interception to help the Longhorns score on eight of their first nine possessions. The offense gained 639 yards with more than 300 yards rushing and passing in the same game for only the second time in school history. And the defense was even better, limiting UTEP without a touchdown and 53 yards on 51 snaps.

2. Oklahoma: The week off gave the Sooners a chance to rest up for the game against Miami, which lost to Virginia Tech. Sam Bradford left to meet with Dr. James Andrews, providing some hope that he will be able to return by Saturday’s game. But if he’s not ready, there’s not the immediate pressure because of Landry Jones’ recent passing binge. The Sooners' defense will remain pivotal for whoever plays at quarterback. Oklahoma’s defense has notched back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1987 and hasn’t allowed a score in opponents' last 32 possessions.

3. Oklahoma State: Even without Dez Bryant, Kendall Hunter and Perrish Cox, the Cowboys cruised to a big victory over Grambling State. Zac Robinson orchestrated an offensive explosion that produced 587 yards, despite having the starters play for only a half. Jeremy Smith raced for 160 yards in his first substantial action to set a school first-game freshman rushing record. And the Cowboys only passed 23 times in the game. The defensive starters were nearly as good, keeping Grambling without a first down on its first six possessions and only one first down in their first seven.

4. Kansas: The Jayhawks had their toughest game of the nonconference schedule, but their best building block with the strong late finish that propelled them past Southern Mississippi. The offense overcame some uncharacteristic mistakes to still pile up 35 points. Todd Reesing passed for 331 yards and stretched his touchdown pass streak to a nation-best 22 games. The Jayhawks played without leading rusher Jake Sharp, but backup Toben Opurum provided 109 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns. Wide receiver Kerry Meier had a career day with 141 yards and two TD grabs. But the defense was the biggest story as it turned away Southern Mississippi without a score on four-straight fourth-quarter possessions to salt away the victory. It’s a defensive performance for the Jayhawks to build on heading into Big 12 play.

5. Nebraska: Bouncing back from their loss at Virginia Tech, the Cornhuskers had no hangover against Louisiana-Lafayette. Nebraska scored 27 points in the first 19 minutes of the game, scoring on their first five possessions. Zac Lee rebounded from last week’s struggles to complete 15 of 18 passes for 238 yards. And the Nebraska defense limited Louisiana-Lafayette to 222 yards, forcing three turnovers and even getting a touchdown on Larry Asante’s 74-yard pass interception return. It was a good victory that should build some momentum heading into their pivotal early-season showdown at Missouri next week.

6. Missouri: The Tigers’ national television performance at Nevada punctuated the Tigers’ record 14th-straight nonconference victory. Blaine Gabbert threw for a career-high 414 passing yards and had five passes of at least 30 yards. Danario Alexander is emerging as one of the Big 12’s top deep threats with a career-high 170 receiving yards. The running game struggled a little, but Gabbert picked them up. And the defense overcame allowing 218 rushing yards to produce two interceptions against Nevada. Still the Tigers have room for much defensive improvement heading into the Nebraska game.

7. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are kicking themselves for losing at Houston. The Red Raiders appeared to have taken control when their running game starting kicking in late in the first half. Baron Batch rushed for a career-best 114 rushing yards as they repeatedly gashed the smaller Houston defense. But they got away from that strategy and inexplicably started throwing the ball when they could have killed the clock on the ground. The defense played well before wearing down in the cauldron of heat and humidity at Robertson Stadium. The best example could be seen by the fact that four Texas Tech defenders had double-figure totals in tackles, and two others had nine and eight stops. That’s the best indication of how tough it was to withstand Houston’s 94-play onslaught.

8. Baylor: It was fun while it lasted. Robert Griffin gave the Bears hope of making their first bowl trip since 1994. But his season-ending knee injury could be too much for Art Briles’ team to overcome. The Bears are coming off a landmark performance in Griffin’s last game this season, rolling for a 68-13 victory over Northwestern State. Jarred Salubi rushed for 137 yards as he started in place of Jay Finley as the Bears had a balanced offensive attack. And the defense played well after allowing a touchdown on the opening drive, yielding only two field goals during the rest of the game as they limited the Demons to 248 yards.

9. Texas A&M: We’ll find out about the Aggies soon enough -- like Saturday in Arlington against Arkansas. The Aggies rank among the top seven teams nationally in rushing, passing, total offense and scoring. For good measure, they also rank in the top 10 nationally in sacks, tackles for loss, net punting and pass efficiency. A&M’s 56-19 beatdown of UAB featured Jerrod Johnson accounting for six touchdowns -- three TD runs and three passes -- as they didn’t seem to miss Jeff Fuller very much. Most impressively, the Aggies converted 14 of 17 third downs as they limited UAB to a season-low 74 passing yards and thoroughly dominated play.

10. Iowa State: Very quietly, Paul Rhoads has boosted his team to a 3-1 start, which might not make a bowl trip such a far-fetched scenario for the Cyclones. It's the best start for an Iowa State coach since George Veenker in 1931, who started 5-1. Alexander Robinson has keyed the recent offensive spurt with three-straight 100-yard rushing games and also added a pair of touchdown grabs against Army. The Cyclones are tied for the national lead after allowing only two sacks in their first four games and also rank fifth in net punting with Mike Brandtner. The defense came up big against Army, limiting the Black Knights to a season-low 186 rushing yards. This week's "Farmageddon" against Kansas State at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City will be huge in determining what team will be able to avoid the Big 12 North cellar.

11. Kansas State: Brandon Banks kick-started the Wildcats' big victory over Tennessee Tech, scoring a pair of touchdowns on kickoff returns. His recent struggles as a deep receiver appear to be over after he averaged 30 yards a catch. Sure, it was an FCS opponent. But rushing for 296 yards -- best for Kansas State since 2005 -- had to build confidence for the running game. Carson Coffman wasn’t asked to do too much and he was fine. And the defense came up big by limiting Tennessee Tech to minus-19 yards rushing and 107 yards of total offense -- the best outing by a KSU defense since 2000. But the Iowa State game will determine how far the Wildcats still have to go.

12. Colorado: The Buffaloes got the week off before a tough trip to West Virginia, which still remembers the Mountaineers' tough loss in Boulder last season. Rodney Stewart was the key in that triumph with a career-best 166 yards. He likely will be called on again against a tougher West Virginia run defense that ranks No. 14 nationally. Defensive improvement will be key this week for the Buffaloes as they gear up for a challenging West Virginia team led by multi-purpose quarterback Jarrett Brown and Jock Sanders, who ranks third nationally in receptions per game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

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

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

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Oklahoma is going to have one of the interesting teams in the country this season. The Sooners' national reputation has been besmirched over the last couple of years with upset losses to Boise State and West Virginia in the last two Fiesta Bowls.

And while those defeats might have tempered some expectations for this coming team, Oklahoma S Nic Harris had an interesting quote for the Tulsa World's Dave Sittler about how the Sooners are reacting.

"In the face of adversity," Harris told Sittler, "some men break and others break records."

The Sooners will have the opportunity to do both. Another disappointing finish would continue their recent slide. Or they could turn things around and claim their eighth national championship since 1950.

That's why the Sooners will be one of the key stories to follow this season in the Big 12.

There will be a lot of morning links to follow along the way and we'll be right there with them. Here's a start with some of the stories that have got people talking across the Big 12.

  • Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops explains in an Oklahoman video clip why he's decided to close off all preseason scrimmages. I think the biggest reason is because he doesn't want those nasty Internet spies to know that QB Sam Bradford's learning of the team's new no-huddle offense is still a work in progress.
  • New Texas A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines has shaken up his secondary, with Jordan Pugh moving to cornerback and Jordan Peterson to safety. The Aggies have five different defensive backs who have combined for 91 career starts. That experience better translate to increased production, or it could be a long season for the Aggies.
  • Texas Tech RB Shannon Woods appears to have climbed out of coach Mike Leach's doghouse after missing his final four games last season, including a suspension in the Gator Bowl. "He's worked ridiculously hard in the offseason, then had a good spring," Leach told reporters earlier this week. "My suspicion is he's going to be pretty good, if I were to guess right now, based on the material of several months." Woods' return would make Tech's ridiculously talented offense that much better.
  • Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky isn't buying that former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione is suited for a new radio gig, as has been rumored for the last week or so. "With his flat Midwestern accent and nasal whine, Franchione sounds like Ferris Bueller's teacher on helium," Scarbinsky wrote. Ouch!
  • Kansas State coach Ron Prince can start honing in on his plans for the opener. North Texas coach Todd Dodge announced Wednesday that sophomore QB Giovanni Vizza will be starting in the Aug. 30 game in Manhattan.
  • Houston Chronicle Texas A&M beat writer Terrance Harris had an interesting Q&A with A&M starting QB Stephen McGee. Among other topics, McGee talks about coach Mike Sherman's new offense, his competition with backup QB Jerrod Johnson and his lingering feelings about Franchione's dismissal.
  • Peter Bean of Burnt Orange Nation had a detailed report and list of items he noticed at Texas' open practice last night. Of particular note was how the Texas offense looked when backup QBs John Chiles and Sherrod Harris were at controls. Aren't open practices wonderful to provide a glimpse of how players have progressed over the summer? Even if the practices are more vanilla than something that Dreyer's would churn out.
  • Tom Dienhart of Rivals.com had an interesting column earlier this week about why Leach deserves a contract extension as Texas Tech struggles to balance its athletic books. Seth Jungmann of Double T Nation retorts, saying that veteran former head basketball coaches Bob Knight and former baseball coach Larry Hays both raise more money for the school than their salaries. Keep an eye on Leach's contract talks. It will be interesting to see if it festers over the upcoming season.
  • Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch profiles Missouri TE Chase Coffman, who is ready to emerge as the Tigers' top player at his position after sharing time with Martin Rucker throughout his career. If there was such a thing as a Big 12 fantasy football league, I'd put Coffman among my top receivers. I think he's ready to develop into a 75-reception player this season.
  • Want to feel like you're actually at Missouri's practices? Check out Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune's Behind the Stripes blog. His reports almost make you feel the heat and hear the crash of the pads. Of particular note are his daily podcasts with Missouri coach Gary Pinkel.
  • Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins is ahead in Time Magazine's list of Best and Worst Sports Executives of 2008. Signing Mark Mangino and Bill Self to contract extensions apparently have Jayhawk fans repeatedly willing to click their mouses in his support.
  • The Waco Tribune-Herald's Brice Cherry didn't have a favorable report on Baylor's experimentation with wearing yellow Day-Glo uniform pants. Cherry said it looks like something Brett Favre wore in another life. Myself, I can't imagine the Bears decked out in anything but their traditional green-and-gold color scheme in anything.
  • Colorado's roster is taking a hit in the early days of practice. Senior G Erick Faatagi's college career is over before it started because of academic ineligibility and redshirt freshman G Mike Iltis suffered a knee injury that will keep him idled for eight weeks.
  • Colorado coach Dan Hawkins notices everything at practice. The Boulder Camera's Kyle Ringo reports that junior college transfer LB Shaun Mohler walked through the gates to the Buffaloes' practice field with his helmet off. Hawkins made him leave and return by walking through the gate with his helmet on.
  • Iowa State coach Gene Chizik has indefinitely suspended freshman WR Wallace Franklin from the team after two earlier arrests this spring. Franklin's loss shouldn't be huge as he produced only two catches last season.
  • Kansas City Star Big 12 reporter Blair Kerkhoff is breaking down his top 25 with a different team released each day on the Star's Vlog. Oklahoma State was his No. 25 pick. I love the idea, although I'm getting a "Truman Show" kind of feeling following Kerkhoff around to different places in his house and office as he makes his reports.
  • Massive 300-pound Nebraska NT Ndamukong Suh doesn't mind if his team is flying under the radar in most preseason polls.
  • Nebraska S Larry Asante tells Omaha World-Herald reporter Rich Kapuist that he's aiming to break the NCAA single-season interception record of 14. And Asante also says the Cornhuskers can deliver 40-plus turnovers this season, after producing a Big 12-low 11 last year. Ah, the confidence of August.
  • John Hoover of the Tulsa World delved into Oklahoma DE Auston English's background. He learned that English is the son of Church of Christ missionaries who lived for a time in Ireland and Gainesville, Fla., before settling in tiny Canadian, Texas.

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