NCF Nation: Robert Griffinn
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim GriffinHere are a few tidbits from around the conference that have people talking:
1. Even with the presence of super-sized 285-pound FB Jorvorskie Lane, it's clear that Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman has other options in short-yardage plays. Lane had a remarkable streak earlier in his career, converting 27 of 29 plays for first downs in short-yardage situations. But Sherman opted to use 201-pound junior Keondra Smith twice on third-and-1 against Miami because of his pad level and his possibility of breaking a big gain. Smith converted one of the two plays. Lane has had trouble getting into shape and his usage could be greatly curtailed after only seven carries so far this season.
2. It might have been a coming-of-age moment for Austen Arnaud, even as Iowa State coaches say they are still open to playing two quarterbacks. But Arnaud's dramatic 98-yard touchdown drive in the closing moments of regulation at UNLV appear to have given him the inside track to more playing time as the Cyclones' starting quarterback. Phillip Bates will still get some looks, but Arnaud's performance clearly puts him in the driver's seat as the team's assured leader.
3. Oklahoma coaches have been concerned with DeMarco Murray's running style so far this season. They believe he is running against the grain too much with hopes of making big plays. It's understandable why after Murray broke touchdown runs of 92 and 65 yards last season and returned kickoffs 91 and 81 yards for touchdowns. He remains one of the most explosive players in college football. But his longest run in the Sooners' first three games this season has been "only" 49 yards.
4. After strong success running the ball against West Virginia, look for Colorado to employ the I-formation as a way of boosting production from the running game, rather than the shotgun formation they have heavily relied upon in recent seasons. Running from the I will be a way of boosting production keyed with a veteran offensive line and emerging running backs like Rodney Stewart and Darrell Scott. But it will be a bigger challenge for the Buffaloes against a Florida State defense that will return four additional starters from suspension this week.
5. Baylor will use its off week with plans of trying to get more players involved offensively. After Robert Griffin accounted for 48 plays against Connecticut (23 runs, 25 passes) there was concern that his teammates were relying too much on him. Look for Jay Finley and Jacoby Jones to get more work to try to keep the Bears from relying too much on their playmaking freshman quarterback.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It was inevitable that the Big 12 would lose some nonconference games again after last weekend's history-making sweep. So this weekend's results weren't really that astounding.
The conference could have gotten a bump if Kansas QB Todd Reesing had hooked up with Ray Brown late in the South Florida game. The pass, instead, was intercepted by USF's Nate Allen and provided the window that the Bulls needed for a game-winning field goal on the final play of the game.
Iowa State's loss at Iowa really wasn't that surprising. The Cyclones struggled against a tougher-than-advertised Iowa defense. And special-teams breakdowns in field goals and kick coverage bit them again as coach Gene Chizik still is looking for his first career road victory.
But other than that, the Big 12 looked strong. After three weeks, the conference has a combined 28-4 record with three of the defeats coming against foes from BCS conferences.
Here's a look at a few specific things we learned over the weekend.
1. The lack of a running game finally caught up with Kansas -- For as well as Reesing played -- save for that one fateful play -- the Jayhawks would have been much better off with at least a semblance of a token running attack. Kansas produced 61 yards rushing against Florida and is averaging 105 yards rushing per game to rank 101st nationally. The Jayhawks won't be able to beat many Big 12 foes without balancing the offense a little and taking some of the pressure from Reesing.
2. The biggest loser this week was Texas -- Hurricane Ike's postponement has put the Longhorns in a tough scheduling bind. Instead of having a week off before a tough Big 12 start that will include games against Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri, the Longhorns now will have Arkansas thrown on top of it. I bet coach Mack Brown liked it better the old way. And it probably didn't make him feel any better that there wasn't a drop of rain in Austin on Saturday.
3. Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford is progressing nicely, thank you -- Want to know the best way to judge that? He makes everything look so easy that throwing five touchdown passes and running another one -- a performance for the ages in the Sooner annals -- almost seems routine. Oklahoma delivered a 41-point beating to Washington that was the Huskies' worst home defeat since 1929. Bradford's handling of the Sooners' no-huddle offensive attack has been superb. That improvement, on top of the Sooners' other offensive and defensive weapons, have placed them as a legitimate BCS title game threat.
4. Forget about Michael Crabtree, Josh Smith, Josh Freeman or Jeremy Maclin -- The most exciting player in the Big 12 is Baylor QB Robert Griffin. His record-setting performance against Washington State -- even if it was against a jet-lagged Cougar defense -- was a memorable one. And sorry, Big 12 defensive coordinators, but he'll only be getting better with more experience.
5. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has to be smiling as he reviews his game film today -- Pelini finally saw the Cornhuskers play with the hard edge that he craves in their systematic dismantling of New Mexico State. For the first time this season, the Huskers ran the ball with authority, piling up 330 yards. And the Nebraska secondary had its best game of the season, too. New Mexico State QB Chase Holbrook, a career 70 percent completion percentage passer coming into the game, was 15-for-30 for 142 yards and two interceptions. The Cornhuskers are looking good heading into their nonconference finale against Virginia Tech in two weeks.