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Big 12 links: Will ground attack return to Nebraska?

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Nebraska's punishing ground attack historically has been as big a part of the Cornhuskers' storied program as Herbie Husker, sellout crowds at Memorial Stadium and Academic All-Americans.

Consider that between 1977 and 2003, Nebraska ranked at least seventh or higher every season in the national rushing rankings. That's right: seventh or better. And in 13 of those seasons the Cornhuskers led the nation in rushing.

That's why the rankings during the four seasons of Bill Callahan's tenure -- 34th, 107th, 23rd and 66th -- were so disappointing. Two of the four teams even threw the ball more than it ran. How un-Nebraskalike, even in this age of spread passing offenses.

Most observers are expecting Nebraska to more effectively run the ball this season. Some are even predicting a smash-mouth running attack keyed by an experienced offensive line and four strong I-backs led by Big 12 returning rushing leader Marlon Lucky.

Running the ball would also provide a way for new coach Bo Pelini to keep his defense off the field, dominating time of possession and lessening the time his defensive unit will have to make plays.

Senior Nebraska offensive guard Matt Slauson told the Omaha World-Herald it would be noticeable compared to his previous seasons.

"We're going to line up and smash guys, and if it works, we're going to keep doing it," Slauson told the newspaper.

Which tells me one thing. Simple dives and off-tackle smashes won't be nearly as unpopular among Nebraska fans as they might be at other places across the Big 12 this season.

And speaking of traditional, hearty fare, how about this lip-smacking collection of links this morning? It's good for what ails you.

  • Former Penn State DT Phil Taylor has enrolled at Baylor and begun practicing with the team. Taylor was dismissed from the Nittany Lions after his involvement in an on-campus fight last season. Freshman K Ben Parks has won the starting job for the Bears' opener Thursday night against Wake Forest.

  • Boulder Daily Camera coulumnist Neill Woelk said Colorado fans are providing a form of corporate welfare to Colorado State, buying tickets this week that weren't scarfed up by the Rams' fans.

  • Colorado TE Riar Geer avoided jail Monday after his friends and family members pleaded to a judge that his role in an off-campus fight was out of character. But he'll miss the first two games of the season as he recovers from knee surgery.

  • Heralded Colorado freshman TB Darrell Scott is trying to keep up with the other demands than just playing.

  • Iowa State will have 27 freshmen in its two-deep roster Thursday night against South Dakota State. But Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler writes that Iowa State coach Gene Chizik needs to choose a starting quarterback soon and stick with him.

  • Kansas State list four newcomers on its starting lineup for Saturday's game against North Texas. Three are from junior colleges -- RB Keithen Valentine, CB Blair Irvin and LB Ulla Pomele - and LB Olu Hall is arrives from Virginia.

  • Jeff Martin of the Kansas City Star/Wichita Eagle provides a few nuggets from Kansas State's press conference, including Coach Ron Prince uttering the word "confirmed" 14 times during a 30-minute stint at the podium.

  • Kansas State officials learned that top returning receiver and punt returner Deon Murphy has an extra year of eligibility. He will be considered a junior in the upcoming season.

  • Kansas has 10 freshmen and 15 sophomores in its two-deep roster, including PR Daymond Patterson as a starter.

  • The Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait writes about Kansas rebuilding its secondary without All-American CB Aqib Talib.

  • Dugan Arnett of the Lawrence Journal World wonders who would be the bigger chick magnet in downtown Lawrence -- Michael Phelps or Todd Reesing?

  • Manhattan Mercury beat writer Mark Janssen breaks down the ABC's of Kansas State football.

  • Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune's Big 12 notebook leads with Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger's comments about Texas.

  • Kansas City Star college columnist Blair Kerkhoff has Oklahoma ranked No. 5 in his top 25 countdown. Kerkhoff also expects faster play and shorter games with the new clock rules.

  • Missouri WR Jared Perry gave Dave Matter the quote of the day about how he hopes to impress the Illinois defense after struggling with injuries. "It's a big motivation," Perry said, "because people are just sleeping on me. So, I have to wake them up."

  • Nebraska coach Bo Pelini says he's not any more excited about Saturday's game against Western Michigan than any other. "My level of excitement really isn't any different than it was last year," said Pelini, who spent the last three seasons as defensive coordinator at Louisiana State. "I treat them all the same. I think we'll be prepared come Saturday and let it all hang out. It'll be a fun time, but at the same time I've got to keep my emotions in check, as does the team."

  • Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald says that Kansas State QB Josh Freeman has provided the best quotes of the preseason -- particularly those that threw Kansas State's seniors last seasons under the bus for their lack of leadership. Barfknecht also gives his preseason Big 12 rankings.

  • Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel wonders if ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit really likes Nebraska as much as he's saying - or if he's only try to throw a bone to his old Ohio State teammate and current Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.

  • The Lincoln Journal-Star's Curt McKeever doesn't expect any suprise teams from the Big 12 because of the conference's depth at the top.

  • Pelini met with the media for about two minutes Monday after an intense practice on the first day of classes. Former Nebraska coach Bill Callahan never practiced his team on the first day of classes.

  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy will be back calling plays for the Cowboys this season after delegating that job to assistants in recent years.

  • Oklahoman columnist John Rohde is expecting Saturday's Oklahoma State-Washington State game to be fun on Saturday.

  • Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman writes that Oklahoma's non-conference schedule shouldn't be a liability to their national title hopes - even as the Sooners start the season Saturday against Chattanooga, a 2-9 team last season.

  • Oklahoma State WR Damian Davis has been suspended for the Cowboys' opener against Washington State for an undisclosed violation of team rules.

  • Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter has set a goal of rushing for 1,000 yards this season according to Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World.

  • Tulsa World columnist John Klein said that Mike Gundy should have more talent at his disposal this season than any previous season when he was Oklahoma State's head coach.

  • Jimmie Tramel of the Tulsa World writes about Texas A&M's water balloon fight in his weekly Big 12 notepad, also providing a quotepad and his rankings.

  • Eleven positions remain up for grabs on Texas' depth chart, heading into Saturday's game against Florida Atlantic.

  • Kirk Bohls of the Austin American Statesman writes of Texas' new slogan worn on their orange wristbands: "Consistently good to be great."

  • Depth at tailback could produce Texas A&M's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2003, according to Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman.

  • Freshman WR Jeff Fuller is listed as a starter for Texas A&M's opener. And QB Stephen McGee told the San Antonio Express-News that backup QBs Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill are "two of our four top guys" at receiver.

  • Texas Tech CB Darcel McBath is determined that Eastern Washington won't sneak up on his team on Saturday night - particularly as Coach Mike Leach has repeatedly talked about Michigan's upset losos to Appalachian State last season. "I definitely don't want to make Sports Center for that," McBath told the Lubbock Avalanche-ournal. "We can't let that happen."