Wednesday Forecast: End Of The Road For Big 12 Turkeys

  • Wednesday, November 25, 2009 8:18 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl


The last week of the Big 12 regular season is coming to a close, but few teams have anything worth playing for. The division championships have already been decided, and only Kansas is playing for a bowl berth. There's always rankings and prestige, but it's tough to predict what will motivate teams -- or if nothing will.

Typically, the highest entertainment value from these final games is the rivalries (of which most games this weekend are) and the potential for firings. Obscured by the media cloud hovering above Charlie Weis, there are a couple different Big 12 coaches sitting squarely on the hot seat, and at least a couple more headed that way if they repeat this season's success in 2010.

The picks:

Texas at Texas A&M: It's the last regular-season hurdle for Texas. But the Longhorns just seem too aware of themselves and the opportunity ahead of them to blow it against the Aggies. Plus, do you see coach Mike Sherman having the skill set to lead A&M in an upset of Texas? It's not that he's a bad coach -- it's that he's a bad college coach. But the ineffective pro-ball mentality will get at least one more season to reign in Aggieland, no matter how badly they lose this game.

Nebraska at Colorado: Last year, NU's Alex Henery booted a 57-yarder that gave Nebraska the lead late in the fourth quarter. It was this game that the Huskers regained the swagger they had been missing for the past half-decade -- they weren't back, but they put on a charmed performance that carries good programs to wins and bad programs to sucker-punch losses. This is always a great game and often hard to predict, but let's say Nebraska.

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma: You're telling me that if Oklahoma loses this game, it ends the season 6-6? No way. I just can't fathom that happening at the hands of its in-state rival. Plus, OSU tends to be unreliable. It seems like a trap game for the Cowboys, and besides, I pick the favorite too often. So it's Oklahoma.

Kansas at Missouri: Two years ago, both Mark Mangino and Gary Pinkel were candidates for national coach of the year. Now, KU is trying to find a way to get Mangino fired, and Pinkel has fallen out of favor in Missouri, although he won't be going anywhere this year. But I guarantee you, the Kansas athletic department is trying to find a way to can Mangino over his alleged verbal abuse of players. Why, you ask? It's all about the Benjamins: If they fire him for being awful, he gets around a $6.6 million buyout. If they have cause, he's on the street without a dollar's worth of severance. It doesn't help that he and athletic director Lew Perkins don't get along.

Baylor at Texas Tech: Overall, Tech's season has gone better than many would have expected. Its big win over Oklahoma exercised some demons, and with a win over Baylor it'll hit eight wins. You can't say it was a failed season for Baylor -- even when the quarterback position imploded, the Bears still managed four wins and proved they've got a respectable defense and solid prospects for the future. If Robert Griffin's behind center for the entire season next year, they'll make a bowl game. For now, they're limping (admirably) to the finish.

Huskers Win Battle Of Top Defenses

  • Tuesday, November 10, 2009 2:14 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl


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


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.


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.

Friday Forecast: Texas Clears The Hurdle

  • Friday, October 30, 2009 3:21 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl


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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Big 12 Midseason Review: Coaches

  • Tuesday, October 20, 2009 5:29 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl


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'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.

Every Week Matters For Suh's Heisman Hopes

  • Thursday, October 15, 2009 9:28 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl


I read at least three new articles every day telling me that Ndamukong Suh should win the Heisman or could win the Heisman. None, of course, say that he will, since no Heisman winner has ever exclusively played defense. That's what makes this quest so compelling -- the quest taken on by the media and fans, since Suh's only a football player, not a campaign manager. The stakes and significance are not as high for Suh as they were when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, but the circumstances are the same: Suh is the centerpiece of an uphill battle, and today's poster boy for an under-represented side of college football. Defense wins championships, but stars play offense -- that's what the Heisman award tells us.

Robinson didn't break his barrier by being good. It took being great -- that's usually a prerequisite to changing people's minds. If Suh wants to win the Heisman, it won't be enough to be the best player in the country. He'll have to be far and away the greatest, not only of this season, but of all time.

These parameters almost demand perfection from Suh. At the very least, he'll need to ace these three circumstances:

Have a good game every week: It sounds like common sense, but think about it: Few Heisman winners performed well in every single game. For Suh, that has to happen. Nationally-televised games have to be killer outings for the big man.

Emphasize the uncharacteristic stats: Tackles, tackles for loss and sacks are traditional stats for a defensive tackle. That is, they won't get you anywhere close to the Heisman. Suh needs to continue dominating in the unusual ways that have garnered him national attention, such as interceptions and passes defended, where he ranks sixth nationally (and is the only defensive tackle in the top 97).

Ten wins for Nebraska: And only on the condition that the Huskers lose to Oklahoma despite Suh hounding Sam Bradford for a full 60 minutes. The more Nebraska wins, the more credit Suh will get. The more they lose, the more his bright star will fade, no matter how spectacular he is.

And even then, the best he can expect from voters is an invitation to New York.

The picks:

Texas Tech at Nebraska: The Red Raiders only plan to put one lineman on Suh and don't seem overly concerned about him getting into the backfield, where Texas Tech leads the Big 12 in most plays per sack. But you could also argue that Suh can cause just as much disruption batting throws and complicating passing over the line. He and the Blackshirts will find a way to slow down Tech's offense and let Nebraska get ahead for the win.

Texas vs. Oklahoma: Unlike last year, Oklahoma's trying to play spoiler in this game. And while Texas has stayed out of national headlines so far this year, the Colt McCoy-Jordan Shipley combination will carry Texas past the Sooners.

Texas A&M at Kansas State: Neither of these teams have much reason for optimism this season, but A&M played well against Oklahoma State and has far too much for Kansas State to handle.

Baylor at Iowa State: Robert Griffin goes down for the season, and suddenly, this is a tough game to call, particularly given how well Iowa State played against Kansas. But Baylor's not a one-man team and still has a decent defense. I can't imagine Iowa State can feel good about itself after the letdown against the Jayhawks.

Kansas at Colorado: Does Dan Hawkins get fired before the end of the season? Kansas suffered a moral loss last week, lowering its profile. The Jayhawks take out their frustration on Colorado.

Missouri at Oklahoma State: Missouri has to be kicking itself for its letdown against Nebraska. Both these teams have similar offenses and similar inconsistency. Given the home field and more experienced starting lineups, Oklahoma State wins.

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Thursday Forecast: Teams Charging Up for Conference Slate

  • Thursday, October 1, 2009 12:12 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl


Only seven Big 12 teams are in competition this weekend, with the rest taking a breather to prepare for the upcoming conference season. Consider it the lite portion of the schedule, but even with only six games on the schedule, there's still more to look forward to than there have been in weeks past. Most of the fluff has been flushed out by now. In fact, only two of the 12 teams competing in Big 12 games this weekend are from non-automatic qualifier schools, and four out of six games offer at least some reason to tune in.

The picks:

Colorado at West Virginia (Thursday): There's still intrigue to this game, despite how it may look. Colorado is coming off a win and a bye week, giving them time to regroup mentally, while West Virginia has a shot at starting 5-1 if it can just win the games it's supposed to. I think Colorado comes into this game hungrier, approaching it as a do-or-die game, and wins on the road.

Iowa State vs. Kansas State: Alright, the Cellar Dweller Bowl! Enjoy this one, because it could come to matter at the end of the season. I put Iowa State slightly below Kansas State in my preseason rankings, and I think it holds true here. Iowa State is simply lacking the talent to win. Pity, because it's probably the Cyclones' best shot the rest of the way.

New Mexico at Texas Tech: Strange seeing the Red Raiders at 2-2, and certainly not what they'd hoped for. They played well against Houston and regroup against New Mexico.

Kent State at Baylor: The Bears will win, but who cares? Robert Griffin's out, the end-of-season bowl game a likely bust. I'll bet you alcohol consumption at that little Baptist school has spiked.

Arkansas vs. Texas A&M: We'll call this the Man in the Mirror Bowl. Both teams are in their second year under new coaches. Both teams have recruited well but are still waiting for the payoff on Saturdays. Both programs have their heads just above the water in their conferences, and both teams will be measured by how they perform against their perceived counterpoint in a different power conference. The Aggies and Razorbacks even have similar colors. But more than anything, both teams MUST win this game to convince critics they're progressing. I say A&M does it.

Oklahoma at Miami (FL): Obviously, this is the big ticket, although what I think you'll see is a solid Oklahoma win. The Hurricanes were far from the Top 10 team they were pegged to be when they went up to Virginia Tech, but losing to Oklahoma won't be a setback. Their nonconference schedule has to be the toughest in the country, and for a rebuilding program to come out of it 2-2 is solid progress.

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Houston Spoils Big 12 Sweep

  • Monday, September 28, 2009 11:48 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl


The one game I got wrong had me punching the coffee table. Hindsight makes it easy to say Houston was the right call, but wasn't the evidence there beforehand? It wasn't just Houston's upset of Oklahoma State that was convincing, it was the way they outscored the Cowboys 21-0 to rally and win. Underdog teams don't do that -- the script almost always has them running out to a lead and seeing if they can hold on. Houston got punched in the mouth, and it responded.

And that had just been its most recent big win under coach Kevin Sumlin. The man has a Mike Tomlin demeanor on the sideline, and he just doesn't lose when the spotlight's on him. Nevertheless, I bet against the Cougars, and I got burned.

That was the final game out of 10 Big 12 contests this weekend, most of which went as planned. Nebraska and Kansas State get kudos for exceptional performances after losses -- signs of great coaching.

Week 2 record: 9-1

Overall record: 31-11, 1-0 Big 12 Conference


Missouri 31, Nevada 21 (Friday): Nevada's not terrible, but if Missouri were good, they would have made the Wolfpack look terrible. Final verdict on Missouri: middling.

Texas A&M 56, UAB 19: The Aggies got off to a slow start but piled it on UAB. Then they got unexpected good news that will likely improve their standing at the end of the season (see Baylor below).

Kansas 38, Southern Miss 28: Didn't expect the Jayhawks to be tied entering the fourth, and they needed most of their 433 yards to pull out the win. Running back Jake Sharp was injured, but it was the defense that looked sluggish in KU's final nonconference game.

Kansas State 49, Tennesee Tech 7: I really, honestly thought the Wildcats would win by 10 or 15. They hadn't done much this season offensively, and Carson Coffman still isn't impressing as K-State's quarterback, but the running game was solid and Brandon Banks' two kickoff returns for touchdowns provided a spark.

Texas 64, UTEP 7: Another week, another big win rolled out by Texas. If Tim Tebow's concussion forces him out of multiple games, Colt McCoy has to be the Heisman frontrunner. Texas A&M 56, UAB 19: The Aggies got off to a slow start but piled it on. Next up is Arkansas, a border state representative in a similar rebuilding mode as TAMU.

Baylor 68, Northwestern State 13: There's no amount of points or margin of victory that could make this game good for Baylor. Robert Griffin suffered a season-ending knee injury over the weekend and is out for the season. And thus, the big jump Baylor was expected to take is stuck in the mud.

Oklahoma 56, Grambling 6: Another mindless blowout for which there is little to say except: that was expected.

Iowa State 31, Army 10: I really thought Iowa State's defense played well in this game. Army's not a good team, but they're not miserable, either, and they threw a couple different quarterbacks with different strengths at the Cyclones. Pitching a second-half shutout was a strong performance for a team that's mostly looking to improve as the season goes on.

Nebraska 55, Louisiana-Lafayette 0: Nebraska scores its first shutout since 2006 over a team that beat Kansas State earlier this season. The Huskers are currently third nationally in points per game allowed, trailing only Oklahoma and South Florida. And I think Virginia Tech's melee of Miami illustrates how good the Huskers might actually be.


Houston 29, Texas Tech 28: Case Keenum is the real deal. Houston's the real deal. If you didn't catch that last scoring drive of the game, you missed a beautiful series. Keenum threw for 435 yards but ran a quarterback draw four yards for a touchdown and the win over Houston's former Southwestern Conference foe.

Tech Surprises, Colorado Notches First Win

  • Monday, September 21, 2009 1:26 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl


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


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.


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.

Friday Forecast: Texas-Texas Tech Open Big 12 Play

  • Friday, September 18, 2009 12:04 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl


The season's first Big 12 Conference match-up is Saturday night, with Texas Tech traveling to Texas for a likely punishment after the Red Raiders shattered the Longhorns' BCS Title hopes last season. Like last year, it's a prime-time game that will be shown across most of the country, but unlike last year, it shouldn't be expected to deliver solid entertainment, as close games go.

Of course, we could be wrong about Texas Tech and the long fall they're assumed to have taken. TTU won't be alone when they stand up next to the yardstick. Baylor and Nebraska both have games that will test them and possibly burn them. A couple other teams will enter their games as underdogs. The predictions:

Duke at Kansas: Fans of the color blue will love this game. Even though Duke seems to be making small strides with its program, the Blue Devils are nowhere near ready to handle a team like Kansas, which is on a campaign to assert itself as the nation's greatest flyswatter. Perhaps someday the Jayhawks will trip into a compelling non-conference match-up.

Furman at Missouri: You're probably not as quick to pull the Missouri trigger now as you were last week. But that was when we thought Missouri had reloaded with a great team on both sides. Now we have no idea what to think, although we know not to place bets on Missouri either way. Alas, I'm obligated. Missouri it is, though there's no money riding on it.

Tulsa at Oklahoma: It's more of a challenge than Idaho State, mostly on the Sooners' defensive side. Meaning, expect Tulsa to actually score. That'd be about it, though.

Nebraska at Virginia Tech: That's what I'm talking about, a toss-up. Say what you want, but Virginia Tech's never impressed me that much. It should have lost in Lincoln last year, and even though the Hokies have a dynamic run game, I think Nebraska has the best defensive line they'll have faced this season. I'll take Nebraska ending VT's 31-game home non-conference win streak.

Wyoming at Colorado: Alright, another toss-up! I wish I were kidding. Colorado's accounted for two of my seven miscues this season, and the Buffs are looking worse than ever. Wyoming's coming off a game where it got pounded by Texas after a close first half but managed to walk away feeling good about itself. I can't begin to tell you how tempting Wyoming is. But if I bet against Colorado and it decides to win, I'll never get over it.

Connecticut at Baylor: Connecticut has had a tough go in this early season and comes off a 12-10 loss to North Carolina, but that's still a good football team. They won't make it easy, but Baylor's had two weeks to prepare for UConn, and if Wake Forest's defense couldn't contain Robert Griffin, I'm not seeing the Huskies making much headway.

Iowa State at Kent State: There's no way I'm betting against a Mid-America Conference team playing Iowa State. The Cyclones were terrible in every way against Iowa, and the MAC seems to be steadily improving top-to-bottom.

Utah State at Texas A&M: The battling of rebuilding Aggies programs will probably go down as a big TAMU win. We won't know until they start playing games of consequence, but Texas A&M seems to have improved after last year's disappointment.

Rice at Oklahoma State: If Oklahoma State struggles, I guess we call that a letdown following a letdown following a win. After a fast start last season, Oklahoma State sputtered to four losses. Expect them to win this one, but watch to see what team steps onto the field. That'll tell us how well coach Mike Gundy has rallied his team.

Texas Tech at Texas: We've gone over this already, but let's set it in stone: Texas will win, and Texas will not relent. Texas fans will go wild, and it will not be pretty. But it will be a fun atmosphere, and that's key to those prime-time games.

Kansas State at UCLA: Boy, the Bruins are going to take it to the Wildcats. We're going to see just how bad K-State is under the lights in southern California. Hopefully at the end of the day, Kansas State fans remember to blame Ron Prince.

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Mountain West Gives It To The Big 12

  • Monday, September 7, 2009 11:52 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl


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.


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.

Thursday hangover, Friday forecast

  • Friday, September 4, 2009 12:20 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl


Any college football fan who tuned in last night saw Boise State humble Oregon on the Smurf Turf. What you might not have seen was the postgame aftermath, in which Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount completely lost his head -- first punching Broncos defensive lineman Byron Hout square in the jaw (a beautiful punch, for what it's worth) in front of BSU coach Chris Petersen, then attacking a group of heckling Boise State students, bringing us to this week's *cue booming voice* Big 12 Alum of the Week:

Frost, a former Nebraska quarterback, wrangled and contained Blount after he went for the kill in the stands. Not only did this former Husker more or less overpower and manhandle a young man in his athletic prime, he saved the lives of at least three BSU students, whose Krispy Kreme bodies had no shot of defending Blount's attack.

That said, it's time to look ahead to the weekend's games and make some predictions. I'll be keeping track of my overall and conference prediction record over the course of the season. I'm late getting to Iowa State, which defeated North Dakota State 34-17, and to the three of you who cared, I apologize. But really, what do you want me to say? Here's my after-the-fact prediction:

North Dakota State at Iowa State: The Cyclones will win but will offer no encouragement that they can do any better than worst in the Big 12 Conference. I expect ISU quarterback Austen Arnaud to throw for between 226 and 228 yards and think Grant Mahoney will boot a 50-yard field goal, if given the chance.

Yeah, it's a gift. Now for the real predictions:

Baylor at Wake Forest: It's a pretty tall order for Baylor to go into hostile ACC territory on opening weekend and hope to bring home a win. And I believe in Robert Griffin -- I believe he is Baylor's savior, that much like in The Beauty and the Beast he is the spellbound red rose, floating and wilting ever so precariously, the only remaining hope Baylor has of transforming into something other than the ugly football wannabe it currently is -- but I don't believe he can win this game. I think senior quarterback Brian Skinner produces just enough offense to help out the Demon Deacons' defense.

Georgia at Oklahoma State: Big 12 game of the week here. I subscribe to the school of thought that Georgia will almost always, almost surely lose a game early in the season that Bulldog fans will bemoan when the bowl bids get handed out. This is that game.

Illinois vs. Missouri: This has been a fun game to watch the last couple years. That may be the case this year, too, but Illinois will claim redemption over a down Missouri squad.

Florida Atlantic at Nebraska: I prefer to look at is as Nebraska v. Howard Schnellenberger, the coach at Miami when the Canes claimed their first championship after Tom Osborne's famous-but-failed two-point conversion attempt in the 1984 Orange Bowl. All-time classic game. This one's on pay-per-view. Why? Easy Nebraska win.

North Dakota at Texas Tech: What's with all these Big 12 teams scheduling sure-win games with schools from North Dakota? I swear, if Kansas State has Bismark Tech on the sked ...

New Mexico at Texas A&M: What I love about this game -- and I know, it's sick to delight in one team's pain -- but I love that this is not a sure A&M win. I'm picking them, but I'm not convinced.

Northern Colorado at Kansas: Another boring Big 12 home-opening win. I'm sorry, I wish I could be more interesting, but I'm not being given much to work with. Alright, here's something: KU hangs 50!

Massachusetts at Kansas State: The only thing coming to mind is Marcus Camby. But on a more serious note, I'd actually like to watch this game. I'm a big Bill Snyder fan, and with all that's gone on in Manhattan this offseason, even if the game's boring the commentary will pull me through. Oh, and I'm going with KSU.

Oklahoma vs. Brigham Young: That's what I'm talking about, a real game. It gets more interesting with Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham out. I still think they'll win, but BYU is just good enough to scare the Sooners and expose their problems on the offensive line.

Louisiana-Monroe at Texas: This is just a stats-grab, but it matters if my Colt-for-Heisman prediction will come through. I'll say 300 total yards for McCoy, no turnovers, and he sits the fourth.

Colorado State at Colorado: The Buffs' dubious road to 10 wins starts against their in-state rival. Expect them to win this game, but don't count on double-digit victories.

Finally, for those of you who made it this far:

Creepy coincidence: Also on the Ducks' staff with Frost is a tight ends coach named Tom Osborne. I wonder how it would feel to be the second-best football coach with your own name?

Big 12 Preview | Baylor No. 9

  • Thursday, August 13, 2009 8:12 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl


2008 record: 4-8 overall, 2-6 Big 12 Conference

2009 projection: They'll be better, but the schedule is just as brutal a year later.

Reason to get excited: Sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin. He's the biggest thing to hit Baylor since Daniel Sepulveda, which is to say the Bears have had almost nothing to be excited about since joining the Big 12 Conference.

Reason not to get worked up: The top of the Big 12 South is too stacked for a breakthrough. Fourth-place in their division is about the best you can expect for the Bears.

The gist: Griffin has been top dog in Waco, Texas, since he first arrived. True, that's not an impressive piece of flair to carry around. What does impress, however, are his first 209 passing attempts as a college quarterback before throwing an interception -- a Division I-A record. Griffin also ran for 846 yards, just 19 shy of the team rushing leader Jay Finley. Along with wide receivers Kendall Wright and senior center J.D. Walton, Baylor's offense will need to fill holes on the offensive line if it wants to improve on the 28 points per game it scored last season. Coach Art Briles is hoping JUCO transfers Jason Smith and Dan Gay can make an immediate impact. The Bears' weak spot is on their defensive line, which lacks size and strength outside of Penn State transfer Phil Taylor. Baylor's defense will look porous against top tier teams, but it should do well enough against the lesser two-thirds of their schedule to keep them in most games.

Rallying point: Griffin's poise. For all his talent, the quarterback's calm in the pocket and decision-making abilities are what got him so far into the season without throwing a pick. There is no player at any other school in Division I-A whose presence is so large. That's because without Griffin, Baylor wouldn't be headed in the direction it's going.

Cover your eyes: During non-conference play, where the Bears could go 2-2 as easily as they could go 4-0. If anxiety isn't your thing, better pop a Xanax and wake up in Week 5.

For what it's worth: It's a good time to be a Baylor fan. The program is improving, a bowl game is imminent in the Robert Griffin era, and at least one upset among the Big 12's top four this season is on tap.