Hawkins, Mangino Safe For the Moment

  • Wednesday, December 2, 2009 6:27 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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What should we expect from Big 12 athletic directors this off-season? Or, better yet, will we see what we should see? Early on, it looks like most of the Big 12 offices mulling a firing of the head football coach are inclined to give it one more year; really, the two hot seats are Colorado and Kansas.

We've already heard that Colorado plans to give coach Dan Hawkins one more year. Maybe it does believe in Hawkins, and maybe there are signs of improvement. I think there might be, but I'm convinced of Colorado's fear of the buyout in Hawkins' contract more than I am its fear of ruining forward progress. In a recession, and at a school with a meager athletic fund, it's not surprising that Hawkins is coming back. Coach should be thanking the state of economics more than the grace of his athletic director, but he lives on regardless.

The verdict is still out on Mangino, but that doesn't mean Kansas isn't trying to get rid of him. It's more likely the Jayhawks are trying to find cause to fire him and save the school a boatload of money. Until the investigation of Mangino gets sorted out, you can expect him to remain head coach. The longer they wait to fire him, though, the tougher it will be to pull the trigger, knowing the potential ramifications such a move could have on the recruiting front.

This week: 4-1 overall, 4-1 Big 12

Overall: 69-26, 36-12 Big 12

Hits

Texas 49, Texas A&M 39: The Aggies made an impressive show of their battle with the Longhorns, but all it ended up doing was provide Texas QB Colt McCoy to have a signature Heisman performance.

Nebraska 28, Colorado 20: Nebraska didn't instill much faith that it can keep close to Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game this week, but it's hard to predict how the game should have gone given the pretenses leading up to it: Nebraska had won the Big 12 North, and Colorado had already solidified its losing season. Add on Colorado's decision to retain Hawkins regardless of the game result, and you have a perfect storm of disinterest.

Oklahoma 27, Oklahoma State 0: I'll tell you what, only the loosest gambler would ever make a wager in an Oklahoma State football game. Even if you picked Oklahoma to win, no one with a brain would have predicted a shutout. But hey, that's OSU football: They have no idea who they are.

Texas Tech 20, Baylor 13: Baylor kept it close with some impressive defense, and it's too bad its late drive to tie the game stalled. Both teams had impressive moments this season, but I doubt you'd find many people aligned with either school that was happy with the season results.

Misses

Missouri 41, Kansas 39: If Mark Mangino remains the head coach at Kansas, that school doesn't deserve a good football team. Forget the Orange Bowl win a few years back. The Jayhawks just missed a bowl trip with the best quarterback in school history (Todd Reesing), two of the best receivers in school history (Desmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier) and a defense that was supposed to be revamped and respectable. There's no upside to this program. And now Mangino looks like an overweight, angry man that eats players' self-esteems for lunch (with a side of Crisco). I realize firing Mangino means you're basically saying the forward movement the program made was an illusion. But let's take the body of work for what it is. Mangino brought the Jayhawks to heaven and back to hell. Tell him thanks for the honeymoon, and send him on his way.

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Iowa State: Not the Cyclones We Know

  • Monday, October 26, 2009 2:12 PM
  • Written By: Jonathan Crowl

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Paul Rhoads probably knows his Iowa State team got lucky at Nebraska. But you can bet he doesn't care.

How bad is Iowa State? It's coming off a winless conference season in 2008, after which its touted coach left two years in, leaving an unapologetic mess in his wake.

And then comes Rhoads, who brought optimism, understanding and energy to the sideline. Suddenly, Iowa State knows how to play football.

Four games remain on the Cyclones' schedule. With one more win, they're bowl eligible and likely bowl-bound. They pushed Kansas to its limit. They beat Nebraska at its own game -- defensive fortitude. And maybe they needed a trick play to extend a drive that led to their only touchdown, and maybe Nebraska's eight turnovers were unprecedented, but it doesn't matter.

Iowa State isn't an easy place to build a program. It's got all the attraction Nebraska does, minus the program prestige -- which is to say, none. Jack Trice Stadium is small and the athletics department doesn't have much money. But when you have a good coach, you can usually get things done, at least in the short term. Right now, there's no question Rhoads is doing just that.

This week: 4-2 overall, 4-2 Big 12

Overall: 46-20, 14-6 Big 12

Hits

Texas 41, Missouri 7: Everyone's saying that Colt McCoy returned in this game after struggles with illness and injuries earlier in the season. Missouri pulled quarterback Blaine Gabbert midway through en route to its first 0-3 conference start since 2002.

Oklahoma 35, Kansas 13: How awful did Todd Reesing look? Three interceptions on the first three drives is no way to start a game against the Sooners. Of course, he didn't get much help from his offensive line, which gave up three sacks and let OU get to Reesing all day.

Oklahoma State 34, Baylor 7: No intrigue, no surprise. But OSU hosts Texas next weekend in possibly the only legitimate game standing between Texas and a BCS Title Game appearance.

Kansas State 20, Colorado 6: What a contrast of coaching jobs. Kansas State is on an absolute roll right now. Meanwhile, the Buffs have to go 3-2 to finish with a 5-7 record. It seems even my five wins prediction was above and beyond Colorado.

Misses

Texas A&M 52, Texas Tech 30: Cyrus Gray had a field day against Texas Tech, scoring four touchdowns. Texas Tech can't be feeling good about losing by 22 to the team that Kansas State railed 62-14. It was a much-needed win for Texas A&M, which is still in pretty poor shape but at least won't feel as much heat this week.

Iowa State 9, Nebraska 7: Had I waited a week to write my midseason coaching review, Bo Pelini's efforts this season would place him solidly at No. 10. Losing to Iowa State, at home, via eight turnovers, by a score ofnine to seven no less, is among the ugliest home losses in Nebraska football history. This team has struggled from the get-go with its personnel, which lacks a serious playmaker. But credit to Iowa State: it looks like it has found a quarterback, and there are a lot of reasons for that program to be optimistic.

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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.

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 | 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.