Tony's Top 10: Say this for the Big 12, its football is good


After a week like this, there are no preliminaries necessary. Here are Tony's Top 10 for Sept. 24:

1. Hey look! The Big 12 is playing a big football game! It's too bad that we're all obsessed about the potential demise of the Big 12 conference. Because right now this league, which seemed on life support earlier in the week, happens to be playing some pretty damned good football with three teams in the top 10 of the AP Top 25.

Two of those teams will play Saturday as No. 8 Texas A&M (2-0) hosts No. 7 Oklahoma State (3-0) at Kyle Field. The game, quite frankly, is having to fight to get on the front page. The matchup of Oklahoma State's passing combination of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon against an Aggie defense that leads the nation with 11 sacks in two games should be the talk of college football. It's not.

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People want to talk about the fact that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe was forced out and that Texas A&M is trying to escape this dysfunctional family to join the SEC.

"I brought it up to our team once and we never spoke about it again," Coach Mike Sherman said when I asked him about conference realignment. "We've got our hands full. We can't control the other stuff."

The winner becomes the top challenger to No. 1 Oklahoma in the Big 12. If Oklahoma gets into the BCS championship game, a Fiesta Bowl berth could go to Saturday's winner. Oklahoma State-Texas A&M preview

2. Better get to your seats before kickoff. If you're going to Saturday's game between North Carolina (3-0) and Georgia Tech (3-0) in Atlanta, you would be wise not to tarry outside the stadium.

In Georgia Tech's first three games this season, the Yellow Jackets have scored on their first offensive play. In the opener against Western Carolina, Georgia Tech scored on a 5-yard run after a turnover. On the first play at Middle Tennessee State, Georgia Tech threw a 73-yard touchdown pass. On last week's first play against Kansas in Atlanta, Orwin Smith ran 95 yards for a touchdown. North Carolina interim coach Everett Withers said he has been using practice time to get ready for Georgia Tech's option attack since last summer. "If you try to get ready for what they do in just one week you have no shot," said Withers. "Now they not only can wear you down, they can strike quickly." North Carolina-Georgia Tech preview

3. The Hot Seat Bowl. Seriously? Georgia coach Mark Richt was amused this week to hear that Saturday's game between Georgia (1-2) and Mississippi (1-2) in Oxford has been dubbed "The Hot Seat Bowl."

"Not surprised," said Richt. "A kindergartner could have thought of that."

Here is the reality. Houston Nutt, who took Ole Miss to two straight Cotton Bowls in his first two seasons, has an upset fan base to be sure. The Rebels just got pounded last week by Vanderbilt (30-7) and shouldn't fare a whole lot better on Saturday with a Georgia team whose losses are to No. 4 Boise State (35-21) and No. 12 South Carolina (45-42).

"I think Georgia is pretty good," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier told me this week. "We were very lucky to beat them."

Richt's fan base is grumbling, but he has the team and the schedule to get it turned around. Nutt does not. His athletics director, Pete Boone, stepped out this week and said that losing to Vanderbilt was "not acceptable." It sounds like they are both feeling the heat.

4. West Virginia wants the shirt off your back. ESPN's College Game Day is coming to Morgantown for the first time Saturday as No. 16 West Virginia hosts No. 2 LSU. The powers that be at WVU are trying to clean up their act before the national television cameras arrive.

They have already turned couch burning, once a staple of celebration at West Virginia, into a felony. Now they have created a T-shirt amnesty program.

I kid you not.

The offending T-shirt offers the slogan "West [expletive] Virginia." The school will buy back all of the offending T-shirts from fans for $20 a pop.

I get the feeling that security around the College Game Day set is going to be very busy on Saturday. This probably won't be the best time to be selling beer at the stadium. LSU-West Virginia preview

5. It's time for Tyler Wilson to experience Big Boy football. Wilson, the Arkansas quarterback, impressed us all last season when he came off the bench for an injured Ryan Mallett at Auburn. Wilson threw for more than 300 yards and four touchdowns, but Arkansas just couldn't keep up with Cam Newton and lost 65-43. Wilson has played reasonably well as a starter this season, but in the second half of last week's game with Troy the offense slipped. Wilson had an interception that was returned for a touchdown and Arkansas saw a 31-7 lead turn into a sloppy 38-28 win.

It was clear that Troy did some things defensively to confuse Wilson. Well, wait until he gets to Tuscaloosa on Saturday to play No. 3 Alabama. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart do a lot of things very well on defense. One of the best things they do is disguising coverages to confuse the quarterback. Last year in Fayetteville, Arkansas had the game under control until Ryan Mallett threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter and Alabama won 24-20. Arkansas-Alabama preview

6. We've got to go where? Florida State hung in there with No. 1 Oklahoma last week despite losing quarterback E.J. Manuel to a shoulder injury in a 23-13 loss.

"We can't sit around and feel sorry for ourselves," said coach Jimbo Fisher.

He's right. But the schedule makers in the ACC did Fisher no favor by sending him to Clemson's Death Valley on Saturday. Clemson (3-0) is coming off the biggest win of the Dabo Swinney era as the Tigers rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat Auburn 38-24 and snap the defending national champions' 17-game winning streak.

"I told our team before the [Auburn] game that no matter what happened -- win or lose -- we would have to get ready to play Florida State," said Swinney.

Clemson, who is 1-5 against Florida State when both teams are ranked, is seeking its first 4-0 start since 2007.

Manuel's status is still up in the air for Saturday's game. If he can't go, redshirt freshman Clint Trickett, son of offensive line coach Rick Trickett, will get his first career start. Florida State-Clemson preview

7. Is Will Muschamp worried about his reputation with officials? Nope. Florida's new coach is a passionate guy. He was passionate as a player when he walked on at Georgia and eventually became the Bulldogs' defensive captain. He was passionate as an assistant coach. While his bosses -- Nick Saban, Tommy Tuberville, and Mack Brown -- were trying to remain calm on the sidelines, Muschamp was screaming, prodding and doing everything he could to make his defense play well.

So it should come as no surprise that Muschamp is still passionate now that he is a head coach. The 39-year-old Muschamp worked the officials really hard in last week's game with Tennessee in The Swamp. He was particularly incensed by a series of pass interference calls against his secondary. At the halftime break, he had to be restrained as he gave the officiating crew a piece of his mind.

By the way, the players love it.

"It's crazy, man," guard Jon Halapio told The Palm Beach Post. "It just shows how much he cares about his players for him to go out there and scream and yell at the officials like that."

Muschamp, whose team goes to Kentucky on Saturday, was asked this week if he was concerned he might be getting a reputation that could hurt him down the road.


By the way, Florida has won 24 straight games against Kentucky.

8. Beware of the Commodores. Vanderbilt is 3-0 under new coach James Franklin and has done it the old fashioned way -- by running the ball and playing defense. The Commodores ran all over Ole Miss last week, averaging 5.7 yards per carry in a 30-7 victory. It was Vanderbilt's largest margin of victory in an SEC game in 40 years. Vanderbilt leads the nation in passes intercepted with 10.

Now Vanderbilt plays its first road game of the season at No. 12 South Carolina (3-0), which has had to rally the past two weeks to beat Georgia (45-42) and Navy (21-17).

"We've got a team that is going to sort of live on the edge all season," said coach Steve Spurrier. "That's just the way it is."

Spurrier well remembers the 2007 season when South Carolina was 6-1 and ranked No. 6 in the nation when Vanderbilt came to Columbia. The Commodores dominated to win 17-6. South Carolina lost its final five games to finish 6-6. Vanderbilt-South Carolina preview

9. Don't look now, but Ohio State is in trouble. Ohio State didn't just get beat by Miami last week. The Hurricanes ran for 240 yards. Nobody should run for 240 yards against Ohio State.

The Buckeyes (2-1), who had struggled the week before against Toledo (winning 27-22), have decided that the future is now and will start freshman Braxton Miller at quarterback on Saturday when they host Colorado. Coach Luke Fickell went with senior Joe Bauserman in the first three games. Bauserman was overwhelmed by Miami's athletic defense, completing only 2 of 14 passes.

Fickell is starting Miller against Colorado because he has looked at Ohio State's October schedule: Michigan State, at Nebraska, at Illinois, Wisconsin. Ouch.

10. Vontaze Burfict is a bad, bad dude. Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict plans to celebrate his 21st birthday on Saturday. He would like to do it by making Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley as uncomfortable as possible. Barkley will see Burfict up close and personal when the two teams meet at Sun Devil Stadium.

Barkley, The Los Angeles Times points out, is not a fan of Burfict, dating back to their high school days in California.

"He's a dirty player," Barkley told The Times. "His switch is always on. And it's not a good switch."

Even Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson admits that Burfict, while talented, lacks discipline at times on the field.

Keep your eye on this one folks. It could get ugly.

Watch The Tony Barnhart Show on Wednesday at 8 p.m. on The CBS Sports Network.

Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.

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