Iowa State's Bowl Eligibility Surprise Storyline of Big 12 Season

  • Wednesday, November 18, 2009 11:16 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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Oklahoma's fallen far from where it was, and Texas could very well end the season as the consensus national champion. And let's not forget, Iowa State isn't even the sole surprise in its own division -- Kansas State had equally grim expectations and has out-performed the Cyclones to this point, including winning head-to-head (by virtue of a missed PAT). But I don't think anyone in America saw the Cyclones coming. It's bad news for the Big 12 Conference that Paul Rhoads can make a bowl game with a team of misfits, and even worse news that he's got a promising freshman quarterback who can run and throw.

In a season where Kansas and Missouri were supposed to bounce back from down years, they're playing the way Kansas State and Iowa State were supposed to. Where the Cyclones end up in the postseason is irrelevant. The fact that they've made it there is a borderline miracle. And you think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. Rhoads inherited a team that had won five games the past two years and hadn't won six games in a season since 2005.

I would be surprised if the Cyclones weren't perennial bowl teams now, particularly considering the improvement Rhoads can be expected to make in recruiting. It's further proof that a lot of times, it's not the school or the players that can't win games, it's the coach.

This week: 5-1 overall, 5-1 Big 12

Overall: 60-24, 27-10 Big 12

Hits

Oklahoma State 24, Texas Tech 17: It played out with less insanity than I'd expected, but OSU wins, surprisingly, thanks to its defense. What I fail to understand is why Tech started Potts, and why they've ever played Potts. His performance this season hasn't compared to that of quarterback Steven Sheffield.

Oklahoma 65, Texas A&M 10: Maybe in the wake of a 55-point rout isn't the best time to bring this up, but Oklahoma definitely does not look like a team two stars from a national champion. The Sooners look more like a middling team that is great against lesser competition but doesn't know how to win when it gets hit in the mouth. Good thing the Aggies are a good half-decade removed from being able to land a punch.

Nebraska 31, Kansas 17: Maybe Nebraska's offense is starting to get back to normal. On the other side of the field, Kansas is in completely disarray, losing five straight games while a probe of coach Mark Mangino's potentially-inappropriate conduct in practice surfaces. Could things be worse in Kansas?

Iowa State 17, Colorado 10: I won't rehash it, but what a great job by Iowa State. Now, Colorado, that's a different beast. Dan Hawkins has clearly lost control of his crew. His team's talent far exceeds its results, and Hawkins has struck out in motivational tactics since coming to Colorado from Boise State. In college football, that's a fatal error.

Texas 47, Baylor 14: Colt McCoy tied the mark for most victories by a major-college quarterback, and he needed less than 200 passing yards to do it. Now he has to keep his team awake for the next month, because the Longhorns will have a rude awakening if they get caught daydreaming of the BCS Title Game.

Misses

Missouri 38, Kansas State 12: Don't think this takes MU coach Gary Pinkel off the hot seat. The Tigers still have two losable games ahead of them. Still, Missouri seemed to exorcise some demons on both sides of the ball in a win that brought bowl-eligibility weeks later than they'd hoped or expected.

Big 12 Prestige Sinking In Down Year

  • Tuesday, October 6, 2009 11:48 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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While the ACC's reputation continues to elevate, the Big 12 Conference is plummeting. Ten months ago the debate was over which of three conference schools was worthy of a BCS Title Game appearance. Now, only Texas remains in the Associated Press Top 14, while the slide to mediocrity is illustrated by five Big 12 teams being ranked between 15th and 24th place.

But polls can be biased and stubborn, particularly early in the season. After all, Kansas and Missouri are still undefeated, and Nebraska's record is marred only by a one-point road loss to the nation's current No. 5 team. So here I present the Big 12's performance against the other notable football conferences, meaning the BCS auto qualifiers and the Mountain West. The results have been far from dominant:

Big East: 0-2

SEC: 1-1

ACC: 2-2

MWC: 5-2

Big 10: 1-1

Pac 10: 0-1

Other: Two losses to Conference USA (both at the hands of Houston), one to a MAC school, and one to the Sun Belt.

The numbers aren't always fair. UCLA-Kansas State is not an accurate barometer for comparing the Big 12 and Pac 10. The ACC and SEC games, however, all featured games between schools that were perceived as worth opponents, Kansas-Duke aside. And while the MWC numbers look nice, Wyoming and New Mexico accounted for four of those victories.

So if Texas loses at any point this season, don't expect a Big 12 team in the BCS Title Game. The ACC, on the other hand, has been playing its way back in to high regard and has two teams with viable hopes, provided they run the table. And there's always USC, who is seventh despite losing to a team that lost 15 of its prior 16 teams.

Don't underestimate the power of reputation.

A quick review of the weekend:

Week 5 record: 3-3, 1-0 Big 12

Overall record: 34-14, 2-0 Big 12

Hits

Kansas State 24, Iowa State 23: You know what, Kansas State's going to be all right under Snyder. I had my doubts, but his decision to start quarterback Grant Gregory over Carson Coffman was probably the biggest factor in the Wildcats' win -- even more than the Cyclones' missed extra point with two seconds left. Just a cruel way for ISU to lose.

Texas Tech 48, New Mexico 28: Slow start for Texas Tech, and I guess it's understandable with the disappointment that there early season has been. The good news: backup quarterback Steve Sheffield is a lightning rod. After taking over when Taylor Potts went down injured, Sheffield created a QB controversy in Lubbock.

Baylor 31, Kent State 15: Down to its third-string quarterback, the Bears did a reasonable job on Kent State, playing it safe with Nick Florence in the pocket. He managed this game well enough to win, but they need Blake Szymanski back in the pocket ASAP.

Misses

West Virginia 35, Colorado 24(Thursday): When Colorado scored early in the third quarter to cut the lead to four, I thought the Buffs were in good shape, having won the first five minutes of the second half and reclaiming momentum. But West Virginia just pounded the defense on the ground. The defensive line was overpowered and exhausted, and Dan Hawkins didn't look much different on the sideline.

Arkansas 47, Texas A&M 19: Whoa, Nellie. Who saw that coming? So much for both teams being in the same place. Arkansas has made its presence known to the rest of the SEC, while Texas A&M looks very much like the team I thought could finish in the South Division cellar. It really surprises me that Mike Sherman could do nothing to stop the hemorrhaging in this game. A&M just lost everything it had gained while rolling through its cakewalk of an early schedule.

Miami (FL) 21, Oklahoma 20: It's a huge testament to Miami that it was able to rebound, not just from the Virginia Tech loss, but from falling behind early in this game. I hadn't come to a solid conclusion on Miami, particularly when the early stretch of the schedule can be so deceiving, but I don't think you can deny the Canes have returned as a power. Oklahoma, on the other hand, can't do much better than win its division and play spoiler to Texas, turning what was supposed to be a BCS title-contending season into a nightmare.

Disappointment Plagues Big 12

  • Monday, September 14, 2009 11:13 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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The Big 12 Conference didn't do much to improve its reputation nationally. Far more teams performed well below expectations than those that played like they should have. Three programs lost to teams outside the major BCS conferences, and one had their fledgling national championship hopes all but crushed. Only Kansas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma met expectations (so did Iowa State, though losing by 25 shouldn't be praised.) But the rest of the conference showed why no one should look ahead. It's only week three, and we've seen two of the projected top three teams lose, and one team that expected to be near the top smoldering at the bottom as the conference's only winless team.

Week 2 record: 7-3

Overall record: 14-7

Hits

Kansas 34, UTEP 7: Total rushing yards: Kansas 255, UTEP 4. That's four on 20 attempts. As good as the offense is, the team's defense will be the determinant in its success this season, as it has been in the past. So far, so good.

Oklahoma 64, Idaho State 0: Kind of expected, but Landry Jones did a great job in Sam Bradford's absence. The Sooners are smart enough to know their season is far from over.

Texas Tech 55, Rice 10: I expected more scoring from Rice, but I'm not heartbroken over it. Quarterback Taylor Potts was more comfortable this week than last, throwing for seven touchdowns in typical Red Raiders fashion.

Missouri 27, Bowling Green 20: This doesn't seem like a Missouri win, and I'm sure the Tigers don't feel like it after scrapping to rally and save their season at home, no less. A week after trouncing Illinois, the Tigers nearly botch a sure-win. So we're back to having no clue what kind of a team MU is.

Texas 41, Wyoming 10: After a rough first half and a three-point halftime lead, Texas put together a solid second half to reassert itself as the dominant team. I'd chalk it up to a mix of lack of focus by the Longhorns and a mad crowd in Laramie. But unlike other teams yet to be mentioned, Texas shook off the dust and refocused with plenty of time to spare.

Nebraska 38, Arkansas State 9: It would have been a bigger blowout if not for some questionable calls favoring Arkansas State, but the Huskers were never threatened by the Red Wolves. Zac Lee had a solid game to balance Roy Helu Jr.'s relatively quiet one. If he can carry the load against teams of relevance, the Huskers will be in great shape down the road.

Iowa 35, Iowa State 3: Iowa State sure can make people's careers, as it did for the Hawkeyes' Tyler Sash. Sash collected three interceptions and a fumble recovery against the Cyclones. Sad day for Austen Arnaud, who threw for interceptions and got pulled.

Misses

Toledo 54, Colorado 38: Holy Toledo, the Buffs are terrible. Giving up 624 yards to Toledo is inexcusable (and the defense is supposed to be CU's strong suit). Few 0-2 teams rally for a 10-win season, and I guarantee you that team does not believe it can win even close to 10 right now. More on this later in the week.

Houston 45, Oklahoma State 35: In my predictions, I talked about Oklahoma State fans too lost in the smoke standing from the Georgia game to care much about Houston coming to town. Apparently, that went for the Cowboys, too. They got down early, put it together in the third quarter and took the lead, but couldn't lock down on defense in a fourth quarter they lost, 21-0. They've completely erased everything gained from the Georgia win.

Louisiana-Lafayette 17, Kansas State 15: I knew it. Knew it, knew it, knew it. At least I had the foresight to bet against my bet when I picked KSU in this game. His recruiting may be great, but the suggestions Bill Snyder made in the preseason about letting his coaches have lives outside of football -- I admire it, for sure. But it doesn't win football games. I'm not sure this won't be par for the course this year.

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Big 12 Preview | Texas Tech No. 6

  • Tuesday, August 25, 2009 8:08 AM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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2008 record: 11-1 overall, 7-1 Big 12 Conference, co-Big 12 South champions

2009 projection: They're the only team in the South Division to get worse (except maybe Oklahoma -- but dropping from second to third nationally only matters to one team). It'll be bad.

Reason to get excited: Coach Mike Leach is still around -- good news for Tech fans and reporters looking for a quote.

Reason not to get worked up: Think back to that 65-21 loss to Oklahoma. Remember pregame? The anticipation? That was the high point for Texas Tech football. Coming that close to a national title run won't happen again while Leach is there.

The gist: Junior Taylor Potts is Tech's new quarterback, and there are a lot of reasons to expect success from him: Leach's proven system; a proven corp of wide receivers with Lyle Leong, Edward Britton and Detron Lewis; and running backs Baron Batch and Harrison Jeffers. The interior offensive line returns starters and should be of little concern. The Red Raiders defense, however, proves problematic. Brandon Williams has left for the NFL, and McKinner Dixon is suspended until who knows when. They've lost Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonnet from an otherwise impressive secondary, but strong safety Franklin Mitchell looks poised to become a stud. Colby Whitlock is the strength of a weak defensive line that will struggle to stop the run and pressure the quarterback.

Rallying point: Potts. In Leach's system, it all rides on the quarterback.

Cover your eyes: When the defense takes the field. I keep hearing there won't be a big drop-off, but a quick look at the talent lost, coupled with Tech's historic tendency to be at or slightly below average on defense, means bad things in the Big 12. They face six offenses that could kill them.

For what it's worth: The tone when discussing TT may sound negative, but it's only because this season's performance should be a big drop-off from 2008. Still, Texas Tech had in 2008 what it had always lacked: a strong defense. Without that, even a reloaded offense will struggle to keep the Red Raiders in the Top 25, though schedule will make them look worse than they are.