Seven Big 12 Bowl Bids On The Line

  • Friday, November 6, 2009 11:36 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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Depending on how things shake out, we could see 10 bowl-eligible teams in the Big 12 this year. Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech have already reached or passed the six-win mark needed for bowl eligibility, while seven teams enter this weekend with five wins.

It's a particularly big week in the Big 12 North, where all six teams are within one loss of each other and the majority have significant challenges this weekend. The Big 12 South is less dynamic, with Tech off, Texas playing a non-conference game and the other four teams taking on North Division foes.

The picks:

Central Florida at Texas: My favorite part of this game is that it's playing second fiddle to Marcus Jordan's shoes on the Florida sports pages. Will Air Jordan provide signature football cleats for the game? Doubtful, though it wouldn't make a difference in a Texas romp.

Kansas at Kansas State: It's a huge game, in my mind -- as significant as Oklahoma-Texas. Why? Kansas State can run its mark to 4-2 and bury overrated Kansas at 1-4 in conference play with a win. That, with a Nebraska loss to Oklahoma, would give Kansas State a huge lead in the Big 12 North race. This team's gotten better all season, and I think the energy in Manhattan is going to be at a new level for a lot of the players. Wildcats win.

Texas A&M at Colorado: The division models for inconsistency meet in this game, but there's no way Jerrod Johnson is going to succumb to Colorado, even if they come out of the gate like Gerald Ford in a potato sack race.

Baylor at Missouri: The Tigers have to approach every game as a must-win to salvage any of their goals for the season. Baylor comes at a good time. The Bears play respectably against a Nebraska offense that's coming apart at the hinges, but they won't be so lucky this time.

Oklahoma State at Iowa State: The bigger story is that they refused to let Dez Bryant return this season. Just another reason to hate the NCAA's politics. Honestly, for all the great things college football has done for itself in its ascension to the top tier of popular sports, the NCAA sure knows how to kick the sport in the nuts. Cowboys win.

Oklahoma at Nebraska: A friend said it best: Nebraska's defense will play well, but they're going to get exhausted when all the Husker offense can manage is three-and-outs for the whole game. We don't even know Nebraska's starting quarterback this game, so it's hard to know how they will come out, but like the last month of Nebraska football you should expect a slow grind that wears the Blackshirts out. By the end of the third, Oklahoma will probably look like a runaway train. I hope I'm wrong, but I doubt I am.

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Friday Forecast: Texas Clears The Hurdle

  • Friday, October 30, 2009 11:21 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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Texas has been far from exceptional while remaining undefeated this season, producing unimpressive wins that tempt voters to drop the Longhorns in the Associated Press rankings. Part of that can be credited to Colt McCoy, who has battled the flu and nagging injuries that have held him back for much of the season. Even so, this weekend might be the most realistic shot any team has at beating Texas prior to the national championship game. Oklahoma State is down Dez Bryant and won't have a fully healed Kendall Hunter, but it has a defense that can lock down when it commits itself and an offense that's as good as any.

Personal interests aside, there aren't many more compelling matchups in the Big 12 this weekend, unless you believe upstart Kansas State has a shot against Oklahoma. You're quite the optimist, if that's the case.

The picks:

Nebraska at Baylor: If Baylor hadn't lost Robert Griffin to injury, I'd pick Nebraska to lose this game. They're starting Zac Lee again, and Baylor's defense is good enough that if the Huskers continue to play out of sync, they'll get manhandled by the Bears. However, Nebraska also has an exceptional defense that won't give up much to Baylor's offense. Husker fans with high blood pressure should still consider taking the day off.

Missouri at Colorado: Talk about two teams that both need wins. Mizzou is winless in the Big 12, and the Buffs are 2-5 with almost no reason for optimism. But unlike Colorado, we've seen Missouri can play well, despite its record. Its conference schedule this far has been Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Texas. Expect the Tigers to find Colorado much easier.

Iowa State at Texas A&M: Iowa State's offense looks positioned to improve every week. It's still putting the pieces together. Meanwhile, the defense overachieves on a daily basis. And that win against Nebraska was big, but the Aggies don't have as many offensive problems as the Huskers did. They may get slowed but Jerrod Johnson won't be stopped. I'll pick A&M, but I'm rooting for Iowa State. Did you realize they're one win from bowl eligibility?

Kansas at Texas Tech: Texas Tech clearly needs solidarity at the quarterback position, and it is struggling this season. It's interesting, because Tech so rarely has quarterback problems. It comes down to whether the Red Raiders can be stable behind center. I think they will, and I don't think Kansas will be able to keep up.

Kansas State at Oklahoma: Bob Stoops and Bill Snyder always put on a good show. For that reason, I don't think this will be a blowout. And what a win it would be if the Wildcats could pull it out. It's just too much to ask of this young, confident Kansas State team. They've done well, but Oklahoma is a different beast than they've faced thus far.

Texas at Oklahoma State: This could be McCoy's Heisman performance, and it might have to be. Texas' offense has excelled at doing just enough to win, but it won't be able to hide in this game. Oklahoma State will get its points, and Texas will have to keep up. Expect the Longhorns to do so, but remember that the spotlight's on McCoy, now more than ever. It's his team, and his play will decide who wins.

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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.

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 | Oklahoma State No. 3

  • Tuesday, September 1, 2009 6:14 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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2008 record: 9-4 overall, 5-3 Big 12 Conference

2009 projection: In any other conference, OSU might be outside national title contenders in 2009. In the Big 12, they're underdogs for a division title.

Reason to get excited: While the Cowboys' explosive offense returns big weapons, a Top 10 preseason ranking is all it takes to be optimistic.

Reason not to get worked up: Texas and Oklahoma still form a soul-crushing 1-2 punch.

The gist: Oklahoma State's offense may be the best in the nation. Quarterback Zac Robinson is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation (but then, so are half the Big 12's QBs) and has a buffet of talent around him. Wide receiver Dez Bryant, a potential All-America candidate, running back Kendall Hunter and tackle Russell Okung help provide balance and stability across the field. Hunter and Okung are near-locks to go in the first round of the NFL draft next year and could be all-conference athletes, if not All-Americans with Bryant. The Cowboys will need to make sure the rest of the line fills in with talent, but even an average one will be enough to keep the motor running. The defense needs to improve from last year, when they were prone to lapses that led to 176 points being scored against OSU in the last four games. Andre Sexton, Patrick Lavine and Orie Lemon form a linebacking core that is the strength of the unit, but passing defense is a concern, both in coverage and quarterback pressure.

Rallying point: Gundy. His "I'm a man! I'm 40!" rant is getting smaller in the rearview mirror, but it's only helped the influence, authority and dedication his players continually give him. It helps that he's been there, as a Cowboys QB in the 1980s.

Cover your eyes: When OSU faces a passing offense. Here are the points allowed last season to offenses led by prolific passers: 37 points to Houston; 23 to Missouri; 28 to Texas; 56 to Texas Tech; 61 to Oklahoma; 42 to Oregon.

For what it's worth: Though it really only had one impressive win last season, Oklahoma State is a threat to every team it faces. The Cowboys could make the Big 12 South interesting if they can knock off Texas or Oklahoma, but until that happens, many fans will remain hesitant. After all, the Cowboys did lose to the Longhorns, Sooners, and Texas Tech by a combined 60 points last season. The season-opener against Georgia could derail their ambitions, but I don't see Georgia pulling that game out on the road.