Huskers Win Battle Of Top Defenses

  • Tuesday, November 10, 2009 9:14 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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Oklahoma's visit to Nebraska represented the top two defenses in the country taking on offenses with more than their fair share of offensive struggles. The Sooners' issues are well-documented: the careers of Sam Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham were prematurely ended by injuries, putting a freshman quarterback behind a sub-par offensive line. Nebraska's woes are largely from a tactical point of view -- they haven't settled on a starting quarterback because neither is able to move the ball down the field, though that assignment has grown tougher as the season has progressively neutered the running game. First Quentin Castille was dismissed for failing his fifth drug test, and then Roy Helu Jr., probably their best offensive weapon, is hampered by a shoulder injury that's reduced his effectiveness and caused him to miss snaps.

So there shouldn't be much surprise that the game was low-scoring, a 10-3 Nebraska win, given their offensive reputations. Oklahoma finished first nationally in scoring last season, averaging more than 51 points per game. The Huskers scored 35.4 points per game and were ranked 25th nationally.

The game was also significant in regards to the disparity between the Big 12 North and South Divisions. Nebraska's win was the first time since 2007 a Big 12 North team beat Oklahoma, and the first Nebraska win over the Sooners since 2001, when Eric Crouch caught a touchdown pass on his way to a 20-10 win and a Heisman.

It's a down year for Oklahoma, but if the North wants to rebuild its reputation, games like this must be won. Nebraska can rest easy, now that it has a signature win under coach Bo Pelini.

This week: 3-3 overall, 2-3 Big 12

Overall: 55-23, 22-9 Big 12

Hits

Oklahoma State 34, Iowa State 8: Keith Toston is a nice storyline in the Big 12. The senior got his chance to start after running back Kendall Hunter went down injured in the second game of the season. He had his day in the sun against the Cyclones, rushing for 206 yards and three touchdowns.

Kansas State 17, Kansas 10: Manhattan and Lawrence are only a few hours apart, but they might as well be at the North and South poles. You'd think they're cashing each other's checks every weekend, with the Wildcats soaking up all the success the Jayhawks were supposed to have and KU wallowing in KSU's shoulda-been failure. Back to the same old mantra for Kansas: When does basketball start?

Texas 35, Central Florida 3: I can't help but feel that a game against Central Florida after a schedule featuring Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech has to feel like a vacation. I doubt Jordan Shipley would disagree. The wide receiver decimated the school record for receiving yards in a game, finishing with 273.

Misses

Nebraska 10, Oklahoma 3: How many teams can upset a ranked team with only 39 passing yards and seven first downs? About as many as can boast the top defense in the nation. Nebraska's offense was completely inept, but it took care of the ball and did what it needed to win. Best stat: The lone touchdown drive was one yard long.

Colorado 35, Texas A&M 34: There's just no telling what these teams will do. A&M had the win and was running away with it, but they tripped over themselves and let Colorado surge back for the win.

Baylor 40, Missouri 32: I can tell you Gary Pinkel's having trouble sleeping. This was supposed to be the Tigers' "let's get back on track" game. Instead, Baylor quarterback Nick Florence turned it into the "who's Robert Griffin?" show. Next up for Mizzou: Kansas State. Uh oh.

Big 12 Midseason Review: Coaches

  • Tuesday, October 20, 2009 1:29 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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What I love about college football is the emphasis and control coaching has. There aren't GMs or contracts to blame. Coaches build their teams, select every player. Coaches develop players. Coaches win games. Coaches. In the NFL, mediocre coaches can make it to the Super Bowl when they have a good team -- Sam Wyche, Jim Fassel and Bill Callahan are sterling examples -- but few coaches in college football reach the highest levels of achievement by accident.

Credit the slim margin of error. You can lose seven games in the NFL and win the Super Bowl. In college football, you might be able to withstand two losses, but you'll need a lot of upsets, a tough conference to play in and hype.

I've never been a huge fan of midterm grades -- they've always woken me from a daydream in which I believe I'm doing well in school -- but when it comes to coaching, I inhale them. I put a lot of emphasis on the direction a school seems headed, rather than where they stand. It's not the records that matter, it's the progress of rebuilding schools and the standing of established programs in regards to their expectations.

And since nothing makes or breaks a program like coaching, there's no better way to forecast a school's future. So here you go -- the best coaching jobs in the Big 12 this season:

1. Bill Snyder: I'm not afraid to say I love this coach. I love his dedication to his school, I love the charred remains of a football team he inherited, and I love that he has them chugging along like the tortoise vs. the hare. Kansas State seems to get better every week -- remember, it lost to Louisiana-Lafayette 17-15 earlier this season. Now the Wildcats are dropping 62 on a Big 12 school? Part of it is that the depth chart is sorting itself out, but make no mistake: This team has tons of momentum. They're better than everyone thought. They're probably better than Snyder thought. But he's a legendary coach who made a career out of achieving unexpected things. He's doing it again.

2. Paul Rhoads: Let me reiterate what I've said in past blogs: Iowa State could so easily be 3-0 in Big 12 play. The Cyclones missed an extra point at the end of the game with Kansas State. A game-winning touchdown pass against Kansas sailed just beyond an open receiver. They're playing good defense, and they're doing it with a roster that Rhoads has admitted to be too thin and weak for the Big 12. Plus, Rhoads was an assistant under former ISU coach Dan McCarney. He was already familiar with the school, brought a ton of energy, and got his players to commit to his style. They've accomplished more halfway through the season than I thought they would all year.

3. Mack Brown: You could do a lot worse than being undefeated and in the heat of the national title race, so it's hard to discredit Brown's coaching efforts. But even then, Texas hasn't exactly blown anyone out. The Horns beat Texas Tech and Oklahoma by a combined 10 points, struggled at Wyoming and were down 14-3 to Colorado at one point. But as unimpressive as they are, they've still passed two huge tests, and they're in the position every team America covets. Besides, it's tough to please people when you're in the Longhorns' shoes. They can't go anywhere but down, yet despite everyone's best efforts, they remain at the top.

4. Mike Gundy: They've drifted into obscurity after their loss to Houston, but Oklahoma State is still plugging away, undefeated in conference play, and is one upset of Texas away from being in the division driver's seat. It handled Missouri well, stands a good shot against Texas Tech and Oklahoma this season, and currently has a Top 10 recruiting class coming in next February.

5. Art Briles: That Baylor program is changing, and Briles is the catalyst. Never mind if the Bears lose the rest of their games this season (they won't); if they hadn't lost their starting quarterback -- arguably the brightest star in Waco since they joined the Big 12 -- we'd be hearing and fearing Baylor's resurgence. Briles shouldn't be faulted for an on-field injury. And aside from Robert Griffin, the coach has assembled a decent defense and is developing his talent -- a key for the only Big 12 South school outside Scout.com's current Top 25 recruiting classes for 2010.

6. Mike Leach: People had middling expectations about Texas Tech, and the results have been equally middling. So placing Leach smack in the middle of this list seems appropriate. He does seem to have found a solid option at quarterback, and the Red Raiders' two losses are by a combined eight points. Leach makes the top half by virtue of a win over No. 7's program.

7. Bo Pelini: I've always thought Pelini was a sure thing. He seems poised for success, and he's got a coaching staff with an offensive background that nicely complements his strengths as a defensive coach. And even though I think Pelini will eventually put together a power program at Nebraska, the results this season have been sub-par. The offense is struggling, the defense is good but prone to big errors, and the Huskers followed up their first big win of Pelini's era with a letdown at home. We can talk about being headed in the right direction, and it seems the Huskers are. But they're also good enough that they should be producing now, and they're faltering.

8. Bob Stoops: Landry Jones is a good quarterback. So as good as Sam Bradford is, I'm surprised that the Sooners have gone 3-3 to this point. I don't think the switch from Bradford to Landry can be entirely blamed, even if the Sooners have lost their three games by only five points. The reality is that the offensive line isn't what it was last year, and neither are the Sooners. They're better than their record shows, but this season is still a nightmare.

9. Gary Pinkel: Missouri started off fast, but Nebraska and Oklahoma State have cooled it quickly. This was a big year for Pinkel, who was supposed to show the country that his system was built to reload with talent every year, rather than wait for a few exceptional athletes to boost Missouri up into relevancy. Maybe that system is still in place, but they're not showing it. Missouri is the only Big 12 North team without a conference win, and there's still plenty of difficult season remaining.

10. Mark Mangino: Kansas is 5-1 and nationally ranked, so why would they be this low? Pure inference, my friend, and it goes like this: If we are to assume Kansas' record is weak, then we can assume that their record is not representative of their talent level. If we assume that Iowa State and Colorado are both bad teams, and we look at Kansas' record to discover that the Jayhawks lost to Colorado and were lucky to beat Iowa State, then we can conclude that while anything can happen in one game, two games goes a long way towards identifying a trend. And the trend I'm seeing is that Kansas can't play defense well, and its offense isn't what it used to be. That they are nationally ranked blows my mind.

11. Mike Sherman: Remember my general inclination to appreciate everything Bill Snyder does? I have a similar inclination to assume Sherman will fail at Texas A&M. It's nothing personal. He was a fine NFL coach, but many NFL coaches struggle to acclimate to college football, and I've always expected Sherman would struggle to adapt. He's got a strong roster, he's got good recruits coming in, but he just isn't a college football coach. I don't blame him for trying, but like 98 percent of romantic comedies, we know how this one will end. I'm already looking ahead to the next guy.

12. Dan Hawkins: Now here's a guy you blame for his own predicament. I'm talking more about the 10 wins prophecy that is currently being supplanted by the seven losses reality, but that has more to do with public embarrassment than job security. In fact, the statement suggests that Hawkins himself understood the urgent need to win and rolled the dice. Nevertheless, this program is mired in a free-fall, and Hawkins has been there long enough to absorb complete blame. I don't see a future in which he's not the next Big 12 coach fired.

Big 12 North Turned Upside Down

  • Monday, October 19, 2009 12:57 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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Seven weeks of college football, and who leads the Big 12 North? Kansas State, the team some picked to finish last (I was not far behind, tabbing them 11th). A couple weeks ago it looked like the Big 12 North was split in two, with half the teams rising to the Top 25 and half slumming it in obscurity. Instead, we've got three teams at 1-1 in conference play, another at 1-2, with Kansas State leading and Missouri in the basement.

Unfortunately, parity doesn't earn you respect -- at least not this early in the season, in this division. Maybe the SEC East could get away with a logjam, but the Big 12 North has been the dunce for a few years now. And we've seen too many poor performances to buy stock in the belief that perhaps it's back to being highly competitive. More likely, what we have is a few C-grade teams trying to pull down a few B-grade teams to their level. And so far, so good.

Week 6 record: 2-4, 2-4 Big 12

Overall record: 42-18, 10-4 Big 12

Hits

Oklahoma State 33, Missouri 17: Missouri's had a hard run. Nebraska and Oklahoma State are a hard way to open Big 12 play. Nevertheless, the Tigers are still 0-2, and clearly not a Top 25 team -- for now, at least. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State is 2-0 in conference play, but that counts for very little when your wins are over Mizzou and A&M (see below).

Texas 16, Oklahoma 13: Texas was a little less than inspiring. Even against Oklahoma, I expected more than 16 points. On the other side of the ball, I imagine Bob Stoops wants to choke a doctor right about now. Preferably the one that said Sam Bradford ran no risk of re-injuring his shoulder.

Misses

Iowa State 24, Baylor 10: Sure, it's Baylor, but Iowa State is competing well. Paul Rhoads is doing a great job with the Cyclones, who have been in the game for every second of Big 12 play this season.

Colorado 34, Kansas 30: In the preseason, this wouldn't have seemed so unlikely. But that was before the Buffs fell apart. And Kanssa was supposed to have a solid defense. So does this mean Colorado's turned it around? No, not at all. Rather, the Jayhawks are no good this year. Cue the Iowa State footage if you don't believe me. They don't deserve their Top 25 ranking.

Kansas State 62, Texas A&M 14: Talk about a flashback to 2003. This has to be the most unlikely line score I've seen this season. Never mind how pitiful Texas A&M is -- Kansas State is supposed to be running on fumes, limping through 2009. Guess what? The Wildcats are 4-3, a bowl game is a possibility, they're recruiting well, and Bill Snyder has a long-term contract. Things are looking sunny in Manhattan.

Texas Tech 31, Nebraska 10: A lot went wrong for Nebraska, but the Huskers did their fair share wrong. Like failing to commit to the run. Having an ineffective offensive gameplan. Playing Zac Lee too long. Letting Ndamukong Suh get handled in the second half. The list goes on. But at the end of the day, Nebraska blows it right when it seems on the cusp of reaching the next level.

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Don't Underestimate The Underdog

  • Sunday, October 11, 2009 2:47 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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Every team favored to win in the Big 12 did so this weekend. But the first full week of conference matchups proved that underdogs shouldn't be underestimated. Missouri had the Huskers hogtied for three quarters on Thursday. Iowa State and Texas A&M both threatened to knock off Top 25 teams early in the day Saturday, and Colorado came out of the gates in Texas looking like the Buffs were the team with the No. 2 ranking.

The end result saw every game go the way it should, but it's clear that parity is calculated in different ways among conference teams. You simply can't look at the paper and find a reason Iowa State could have -- should have -- beat Kansas. But that's how it happens.

Week 6 record: 6-0, 6-0 Big 12

Overall record: 40-14, 8-0 Big 12

Hits

Nebraska 27, Missouri 12: I was ready to pull out my hate mail stationery and look up the mailing addresses of Craig James and Jesse Palmer, the way they were giving gratuitous credit to Missouri for such a dominant game. Four reasons: 1) Nebraska's special teams gave them every opportunity possible for big plays; 2) Missouri's offense failed to put together a single field-length drive; 3) Blaine Gabbert threw at least a dozen passes right between the numbers of Nebraska's Blackshirts before one of them finally grabbed it for an interception; and 4) Nebraska's offensive play-calling was as bad as I've seen it under offensive coordinator Shawn Watson. Despite this, they scored all their points in the fourth quarter and picked off Gabbert twice.

Oklahoma State 36, Texas A&M 31: While the Aggies' loss to Arkansas looked less and less embarrassing as the Razorbacks steamrolled Auburn, Oklahoma State had its hands full. The Cowboys still seem to lack the consistency needed to crack Oklahoma or Texas.

Kansas 41, Iowa State 36: The Cyclones were about four feet from winning this game, when Austen Arnaud's final pass of the game carried just beyond the arms of an outstretched receiver in the end zone. How bad must it hurt to be an Iowa State fan? Their team is a missed extra point and a slightly overthrown pass away from possibly being 2-0 in the conference. Paul Rhoads seems to be on the right track.

Oklahoma 33, Baylor 7: Sam Bradford wasn't always in rhythm, but if his receivers hadn't dropped so many passes, the Sooners would have dropped 60 on the Bears. Third-string quarterback Nick Florence played admirably for Baylor, given the circumstances.

Texas Tech 66, Kansas State 14: Steven Sheffield threw seven touchdown passes amid 490 passing yards. Kansas State had no chance.

Texas 38, Colorado 14: The Buffaloes came out on fire, taking an early lead. Cody Hawkins' passing was on point. Who could have guessed that he would have fallen apart to the point of being pulled mid-game?

Thursday Forecast: It's All About the Quarterbacks, Baby

  • Thursday, October 8, 2009 10:21 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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This season is reminding us how critical quarterbacks are to their teams -- not only the starters, but the second string (and if you're Baylor, third-string). Last week alone, we saw Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas Tech look to quarterbacks other than the ones who took the helm at the start of the season. That's four out of the seven teams that played last week. Half the Big 12 has clear issues at quarterback, by virtue of either injuries or poor performance. You wouldn't be surprised to know that, by and large, the schedule thus far has favored the schools with stability under center.

This week's Thursday night ESPN game features a Big 12 contest that has been zeroed in on the quarterbacks since the day Chase Daniel left school. Blaine Gabbert leads Missouri against Nebraska, the team he had originally made a verbal commitment to back in 2007. He's currently undefeated as a starter and has yet to throw an interception, and Husker fans hope the top scoring defense in the nation can humble him.

Quarterbacks aside, this is a key game in the Big 12 North, where Missouri looks sharper than expected. The winner of this game will get an early inside track in the division, not to mention bragging rights in a rivalry that has already gotten ugly.

That aside, six conference games this weekend will provide some much-needed stratification among Big 12 schools, although schedule-makers did a great job at providing some pretty one-sided affairs, Nebraska-Mizzou aside.

The picks:

Nebraska at Missouri (Thursday): Tune into this game. The past two seasons Missouri has picked Nebraska apart using its spread, speed and prowess. That won't be enough to beat the Huskers this year, with their old-school defense. The Tigers don't have the physicality to stand up to the Blackshirts. Huskers win.

Oklahoma State at Texas A&M: Both teams have issues looming over this game. For Oklahoma State, it's the loss of Dez Bryant after the NCAA ruled him ineligible. The Aggies are more concerned with their propensity to suck. It's a pretty big issue, one that seems nowhere close to being resolved this season. Given that, OSU wins.

Iowa State at Kansas: I'm sure Iowa State is reeling from that loss to Kansas State, but I'm not sure if abysmal teams have letdown games. Either way, the point is moot. Kansas rolls, and yet again makes it to mid-October without facing a team of consequence.

Baylor at Oklahoma: Will Sam Bradford return? He hopes so. On the other side, Baylor's hoping Blake Szymanski will be able to replace Nick Florence. It's right about here where Baylor's disappointing slide begins.

Kansas State at Texas Tech: Mad props to my friend that took one look at Carson Coffman at Big 12 Media Days and concluded he wouldn't make it in the Big 12. He's been replaced by Grant Gregory, and so far, so good. Just don't judge Gregory when his team gets buried beneath at least 50 Texas Tech points.

Colorado at Texas: You know, I keep hearing how hard it's going to be for Colorado to win 10 games. "Impossible" is a term thrown about loosely. And yes, maybe it would take them running the regular-season table and winning their bowl game to hit 10 wins. But perhaps you failed to realize that running the table would give them a Big 12 Championship Game appearance and -- dare I say -- a shot at 11 wins? It's true, mathematically speaking, though I'm still saying seven losses, and No. 4 comes this weekend.

Tech Surprises, Colorado Notches First Win

  • Sunday, September 20, 2009 9:26 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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It'd be hard to build an argument for the Big 12 being the strongest conference in the country this year. Not when two of its preseason Top 10 teams have already lost, and certainly not after a weekend in which teams lost to schools from the Pac 10, ACC and Big East. Much like last week, few teams played as well as they could have or should have. Consequently, my predictions continue to let down when it comes to the toss-up games.

Week 2 record: 8-3, 1-0 Big 12 Conference

Overall record: 22-10, 1-0 Big 12 Conference

Hits

UCLA 23, Kansas State 9: The Wildcats played better than expected, holding down UCLA until the fourth quarter. Even if UCLA was a bit hungover from its victory at Tennessee the week before, this was a respectable performance from a Kansas State team I expected to get blown out.

Texas 34, Texas Tech 24: The result is no surprise, but that Tech stayed so close -- and better yet, stifled Texas' offense early -- is surprising. I doubt many expected the defenses to perform so well early on, but it's worth remembering that this was the first game either team played against a worthy opponent. Tech looks better than expected.

Oklahoma State 41, Rice 24: I would have thought the Cowboys could do better than beat Rice by 17. Take it as an indication OSU is still deflated after its loss to Houston.

Texas A&M 38, Utah State 30: This is textbook under-performing, even for a team that lost two offensive starters in the game. The first-half defense was much too sloppy for a team looking to move up the rankings.

Oklahoma 45, Tulsa 0: Who would have expected the Sooners would shut out high-flying Tulsa? I'm guessing about as many who thought Landry Jones would hold the OU single-game passing touchdowns record. Oklahoma's defense seems out to prove the Sooners have a strong team outside of Sam Bradford.

Colorado 24, Wyoming 0: My perseverance has paid off with the Buffs' first win, and what a surprising one it was. The defense found itself against Wyoming, shutting out the Cowboys after allowing more than 600 yards to Toledo the week before (which, if you were wondering, was shut out by Ohio State this past weekend).

Missouri 52, Furman 12: The Tigers bounced back from a sad effort against Bowling Green, scoring six straight touchdowns and taking a 42-0 halftime lead. Really, about what you could expect. Blaine Gabbert seems to have passing and running skills that will cause trouble in the Big 12.

Kansas 44, Duke 16: Todd Reesing scores a win over the only other Division I school that recruited him. That's a testament to Mark Mangino's thorough recruiting job at Kansas.

Misses

Iowa State 34, Kent State 14: I tell you, it really hurts you credibility when you have no idea what Iowa State is going to do in a given week. I guess it's the result of paying minimal attention to a school that's won five games the past two seasons.

Connecticut 30, Baylor 22: This is a momentum-killer for Baylor, and it also shows the Bears' areas of weakness. UConn forced Robert Griffin to throw, and he couldn't do enough from the pocket to win.

Virginia Tech 16, Nebraska 15: If you didn't watch this game, you have no idea the sucker-punch kind of ending this game provided. After dominating VT on defense all day, blown coverage gave the Hokies the ball on the three-yard line with a minute left. The Hokies scored, and fans left in complete shock over the win. For Nebraska, it was a missed opportunity to put itself back in the national spotlight.

Jermaine Gresham: Unfortunate Cautionary Tale

  • Wednesday, September 9, 2009 11:20 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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There's a name that will mentioned often this coming spring, mostly to college football stars trying to decide between playing their games on Saturdays or Sundays. They will weigh the pros and cons, gauge opportunity versus risk. When the conversation turns to risk, agents, parents -- even coaches -- will know the name.

Remember what happened to Jermaine Gresham?

The Oklahoma tight end is the biggest loser in the Sooners' mess of early-season troubles after arthroscopic surgery determined stitches were need to repair damaged cartilage in his right knee. That ends his season for OU, one for which he spurned the NFL Draft.

Sure, the NFL Draft will be there again next year, but so much of what was once available to Gresham is out the window. That final season with quarterback Sam Bradford -- the reason he returned to Oklahoma -- ended before it started. Even though Bradford's been knocked out of at least the next couple games, he'll return without Gresham, finish up a final season that likely won't play out as successfully as 2008's, and make a new home in the NFL.

Odds are, Gresham will, too. But while Bradford can still be a Top 10 NFL pick, Gresham's stock will undoubtedly take a hit. By the time his knee is fully recovered, he'll have just weeks to prepare for the NFL combine, making for an unimpressive showing. The draft will come more than 15 months after his last game action and a season boasting 66 receptions for 950 yards and 14 touchdowns, which won't sit well with NFL scouts. And let's not forget it was his knee that he injured. Trying selling a 6-foot-6, 258-pound guy recovering from knee problems as a first-round draft pick. He'll have to have tremendous upside to overcome those concerns.

And when spring rolls around -- assuming Gresham leaves OU, which he's almost certain to do as long the NFL shows an interest where money is concerned -- when Gresham is being projected lower in 2010 than he was in 2009, expect the parties of NFL-caliber NCAA underclassmen to notice, and put themselves in the same position and ask: is it worth the risk? For Gresham, it was -- at least at the time. Hindsight is 20/20, but Gresham was part of a considerable group or athletes -- Bradford and Colt McCoy included -- who returned to college despite assurances of big NFL paychecks. What fuels that decision? The weight of each variable is different for everyone, but for the three mentioned, championships, college degrees and potentially more lucrative NFL rookie contracts were all part of the deal.

It seems to ebb and flow, the trend of underclassmen opting early or sticking around as seniors. Even in a year when Mark Sanchez makes the hotly-debated decision to leave USC a year early and go pro, there was far more talent that stayed when it could have gone on the first day. Where Jermaine Gresham's name is mentioned, don't be surprised if that trend declines.

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Mountain West Gives It To The Big 12

  • Monday, September 7, 2009 7:52 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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So much for Big 12 domination, right? It fell on its face when the Mountain West Conference came to town, with two teams losing to MWC schools over the weekend. Orrin Hatch never made so much sense -- the Mountain West deserves an automatic bid. It keeps getting better despite the BCS' efforts to keep it at bay. It's at least better than the ACC, right? We'll put that conversation on hold until TCU plays Virginia next week.

In the meantime, consider this: Boise State joining the MWC, maybe Fresno State, too. Now that's a football conference. San Diego State and New Mexico would still be hanging around at the bottom, but hey: the Big 12 has dealt with Baylor as long as its existed.

Ahh, Baylor. What a great show this weekend. What, you missed it? Well, so did America. Baylor-Wake Forest isn't a big pull, but maybe the Bears will get more airtime with Robert Griffin playing quarterback. The first week is always a bit of an unknown, and it doesn't get easier when the former Heisman winner goes down in a Top 25 match-up. Here's the weekend wrap-up for the Big 12, starting with what I got right before bemoaning my errors:

Week 1 record: 7-4

Overall record: 7-4

Money Shots

Oklahoma State 24, Georgia 10: I'm proud of this prediction, and it went much the way I had expected. OSU's offense is good even against a good defense, and its defense is strong against a mediocre offense, picking up three turnovers. Dez Bryant caught for 77 yards and two touchdowns on three catches.

Nebraska 49, Florida Atlantic 3: I expected a win, but this score is a bit beyond what I thought possible. FAU doesn't have a slouch offense (and it didn't look like one against the Huskers, gaining more than 350 yards) but Nebraska locked down on defense and kept them out of the end zone. That says good things about its division title hopes.

Kansas 49, Northern Colorado 3: Everything I just said about Nebraska you can say here. Except for: Reesing is solid out of the gates.

Texas 59, Louisiana-Monroe 20: Colt McCoy accounted for 381 yards and left the game early. But I'm more impressed by Jordan Shipley's eight passes for 180 yards and a touchdown.

Wholly uninteresting games I was right about

Texas A&M 41, New Mexico 6: Maybe Mike Sherman will put it together down there this season.

Iowa State 34, North Dakota State 17: This game gets stricken from my personal record book since I failed to make a prediction before the game.

Texas Tech 38, North Dakota 13: I remain fully committed to my stance of ignoring all football games played by schools from North Dakota. I have nothing else to say.

Kansas State 21, Massachusetts 17 I barely got this one right, after the Wildcats gave up three interceptions and a blocked punt for a touchdown.

Incompletes

Baylor 24, Wake Forest 21: Holy Mike Singletary, it's happening. Baylor is rising from the muck like Swamp Thing. I thought Griffin and coach Art Briles could put something together, but here's what I didn't expect: the Bears' defense thrice picking off the all-time ACC leader in completion percentage. Now they get two weeks to prep for UConn, and then two easy wins that could lead them to a 4-0 record when they travel to face Oklahoma -- a possibly Sam Bradford-less, weak, broken, defenseless, ripe-for-the-taking Oklahoma (more on that later). Shudder.

Missouri 37, Illinois 9: Alright, either Illinois is a mess of poor-color-schemed suckage, or criticism of Missouri's offense was premature. That did not look like the third-best team in the Big 12 Conference. That looked like a team that will be tough to beat.

BYU 14, Oklahoma 13: On the one hand, I really hate this game. To watch Heisman winner Sam Bradford go out of the game in the first half, and to see that team lose by one point playing the entire second half with a freshman quarterback who found himself in a heck of a situation, is too bad for everyone. But on the other hand, I don't know why everyone's condemning Oklahoma's season. After all, the Sooners lost to Texas last season but proceeded to win a tiebreaker for the division title and, ultimately, a spot in the national title game over Texas. They've got all season to climb the rankings, and if they win out, don't you think voters would have sympathy over the way they suffered their only loss? Of course, the key to all this is the Sooners going undefeated from this point on, which I don't think they can do. Exhibit A on why that can't happen is currently undergoing a battery of diagnostic tests.

Synonyms for "Awful" don't do this game justice

Colorado State 23, Colorado 17: Wow. Wow wow wow. Ten wins, right? That's the goal? Going off this game, I'd bet five before 10. The two-back, run-heavy offense was uglier than Oregon's last Thursday night. Just awful. Pack up and go home. It's over.

Just awful.

Big 12 Preview | Texas No. 1

  • Thursday, September 3, 2009 3:25 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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2008 record: 13-1 overall, 7-1 Big 12 Conference, co-Big 12 South champions

2009 projection: Chip or not, the Longhorns are the best team in the country, and my pick to win the BCS Title Game.

Reason to get excited: "... my pick to win the BCS Title Game."

Reason not to get worked up: High expectations leave no room for error. One loss could derail the Longhorns' season.

The gist: I wouldn't choose anyone other than Colt McCoy to be my quarterback, even though two others in the NCAA have Heismans. He's got more balance than either Sam Bradford or Tim Tebow. But he probably won't have to lead the team in rushing again this season as the running backs mature and take on a greater workload. Jordan Shipley will once again be McCoy's favorite target, and the attention he draws will create a perfect situation for sophomore wideout Malcolm Williams -- who has drawn comparisons to former Longhorn Roy Williams -- to become the star he's expected to be. The offensive line will once again be strong, let by tackles Adam Ulatoski and Kyle Hixx. Sergio Kindle leads the defense, playing both defensive end and linebacker. Lamarr Houston joins him on the line, and linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy returns after leading the team with 112 tackles. Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp's unit is solid overall but needs to improve on forcing turnovers.

Rallying point: McCoy. The senior says the right things, does the right things and could put together a memorable season if he can lead his team to a national title.

Cover your eyes: At the Red River Shootout. Losing to Oklahoma would be the ultimate suckerpunch to a team who watched the Sooners play in the BCS Title Game last year after beating them in the regular season.

For what it's worth: Texas' schedule this season is favorable, particularly the non-conference. The Longhorns have the benefit of sympathy running in their favor, this year -- expect the voters to give them an extra boost if they find themselves on the fringe of the title game. If they win the Big 12 Championship Game, McCoy will win the Heisman.

Big 12 Preview | Oklahoma No. 2

  • Wednesday, September 2, 2009 3:05 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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2008 record: 12-2 overall, 7-1 Big 12 Conference, Big 12 Champions

2009 projection: The Sooners will be in the thick of the national title race until the very end, but they might only be the second-best team in their division.

Reason to get excited: Great coach, great program, Heisman-winning quarterback, high preseason ranking ... what's left?

Reason not to get worked up: Let's face it -- at this point in the rankings, there's no reason not to get worked up.

The gist: Sam Bradford returns as Oklahoma's quarterback, but his spot may not be as comfortable as it was last year. DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown return at running back, and Jermaine Gresham is one of the nation's best tight ends, but the offensive line loses four of its starters from last season. Tackle Trent Williams is the only returner, though he was arguably the best of the lot. None of the wide receivers is exceptional, but they're good enough. The defensive front seven is as strong as any other group on the team, led by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Linebackers Ryan Reynolds and Travis Lewis lead a strong second line, of defense, but pass defense remains a question mark. If teams go into four- and five-receiver sets, OU's depth at defensive back beyond Dominique Franks could be exposed.

Rallying point: Is a Heisman Trophy winner ever NOT the rallying point? It's Bradford.

Cover your eyes: At Nebraska and Kansas. Both teams have quarterbacks with arms and balanced offenses that could cause trouble in the Sooners' secondary, and both have improved defenses. Losing to either could kill OU's BCS title hopes.

For what it's worth: Making the BCS title game two years in a row is a tough order, but expecting Texas to beat Oklahoma twice in a row isn't much easier. Nebraska over OU is a trendy pick, maybe because of NU coach Bo Pelini's familiarity with OU after one season as a co-defensive coordinator in 2004. I'd expect OU to beat Texas but stumble elsewhere later in the Big 12 season.

Big 12 Preview | Kansas No. 5

  • Thursday, August 27, 2009 7:37 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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2008 record: 8-5 overall, 4-4 Big 12 Conference

2009 projection: With the best quarterback and strongest offense in the Big 12 North, Kansas should be headed for a Top 25 finish.

Reason to get excited: The Jayhawks have star talent at all the offensive playmaker positions.

Reason not to get worked up: Defense will create a lot of shootouts, leaving KU at the wrong end of the winning bullet.

The gist: Quarterback Todd Reesing continues to be underrated in the shadows of Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy, but I can't imagine Kansas trading him for either. He threw for 3,888 yards and 32 touchdowns last season. This season, many of his helpers return, including the best wide receivers corp in the Big 12 led by Dezmon Briscoe, who merits All-America consideration, and Kerry Meier. Also back is Jake Sharp, who ran for 860 yards last season. The offensive line is Kansas' greatest weakness on offense. The defense is led by preseason All-Big 12 defensive back Darrell Stuckey and a strong defensive line, but the Jayhawks have lost all their starting linebackers from a season ago and must find replacements.

Rallying point: Reesing. He's among the most exciting players in KU history.

Cover your eyes: If teams can get past KU's D-line. Expect the linebackers to be bad and the secondary outside Stuckey to be mediocre.

For what it's worth: Kansas gets Nebraska at home in what should be the division title-determining game. It's easier to put Kansas over the Huskers when we don't know what NU quarterback Zac Lee will become, but if he's 80 percent of what they say he is, Kansas' defense will be the weakest link in what should be a narrow Nebraska win.