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Tag:Texas
Posted on: September 16, 2009 12:28 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2009 8:09 pm
 

National notes leading with Russell Shepard

Is  Russell Shepard being hidden?

LSU’s freshman has Tigers fans’ mouths watering, but didn’t play in the opener at Washington. He played handful of snaps last week against Vanderbilt showing how good he can be and how young he is.

Operating in the Wildcat on LSU’s eighth offensive play, Shepard ran around left end for 13 yards. On the next play he caught an eight-yard pass from Jordan Jefferson, then immediately fumbled. Later, Shepard ran for eight yards on the option keeper.

“We’ve have to get him some more touches and some more experience,” Les Miles said. “The second time with the ball in his hands, he coughs it up. He didn’t understand how important it is to get the yards and go down. Going down is OK as long as you have the ball.”

Shepard has been compared to everyone from Tim Tebow to Percy Harvin. Miles still hasn’t been clear on how his prize  eventually will be used. There is still time to tinker against Louisiana-Lafayette this week before the SEC schedule starts against Mississippi State.

So is Shepard being hidden? More like getting used to hot water. LSU ran only 48 plays against Washington so there were few opportunities for him to get in. Against Vandy, he had three touches for 29 yards which was a tease for those who can't wait for more.
 
“According to people I’ve talked to, his (off-field) abilities are Tebow-esque … On the field what he can do is similar to Percy Harvin,” said CBS network analyst Tim Brando.

CBS game day analyst Gary Danielson said it would be a mistake to throw Shepard in at quarterback for any legnth of time: “If Russell Shepard is the leader of this team, they are not going to be a good football team. If Florida would have hung it on Tebow, Florida would not have been good the first year either.”

CBS’ Spencer Tillman added this: “His talent is literally off the charts. This kid is more gifted than Vince Young was at this point in time.”

Shepard has some of those Tebow qualities, agreeing to a magazine cover shoot in high school but not without teammates. After committing to LSU in June 2008, he then began recruiting other players for the Tigers. One was five-star safety Craig Loston, a cousin.

This is probably not the week to be raising Terrelle Pryor’s name but Shepard has been compared favorably to Ohio State’s quarterback.

“I admire the way Tim Tebow handles himself off the field,” Shepard told the New Orleans Times Picayune . “I took a liking to that. He says, ‘God bless you,’ after every interview. He’s amazing … I want to be known like that.”

You can read more about Shepard here .

 USC might have the best quarterback situation in the country if Matt Barkley doesn’t go on Saturday. It still has its most experienced quarterback on the bench. If Aaron Corp starts for USC against Washington, that puts the forgotten Mitch Mustain a tweaked ankle away from being under center. Mustain might the most talented No. 3 quarterback in the country. He was 8-0 as a freshman starter at Arkansas in 2006. Don't forget that Corp won the job coming out of spring.

 Loved this anecdote from the Michigan press box. Announcing Central Michigan’s upset win over Michigan State, the press box announcer at Michigan Stadium said, “No cheering in the press box, but we will make an exception right now.”

  Joe Paterno his team being ranked fifth in both polls: “Are we No. 5? I take the paper and go to the bathroom. I scan it. First, I see who died.”

 After two weeks, the Pac-10 has the best record (4-2) against the Big Six major conferences and Notre Dame. Not surprisingly, the Sun Belt has the worst mark (1-8). The MAC has played the most games against the major conferences, 14, and gone 2-12.

 If SMU beats Washington State this week it will be 3-0 for the first time since pre-death penalty days in 1984.

 Tulsa has allowed one defensive touchdown in its first two games. Get ready for that to change. The Golden Hurricane travel to Oklahoma.
 
 Just warning all those BCS lovers out there: Florida is 11th in the Sagarin Ratings. That’s not the worst of it. The Colley Matrix  has Florida No. 35 and USC No. 13. Wes Colley’s top five – 1. Pittsburgh, 2. LSU, 3. Wisconsin, 4. Texas, 5. UCLA.

You shouldn’t have to be reminded that those are two of the six computer indexes used in the BCS standings.

 


Posted on: September 14, 2009 4:34 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2009 9:54 am
 

Breaking down the polls and Heisman race

USC walks into the belly of the beast, slays Ohio State with a dramatic game-winning drive and picks up two first-place votes in the coaches’ poll. One in AP.

Obviously, Florida is still the overwhelming No. 1 in both polls but I’m already starting to wonder what it would take to pass the Gators if they keep winning. The two teams below them are from different conferences (Texas, USC) and don’t play each other. No. 4 Alabama doesn’t play Florida in the regular season.

At first glance, Florida looks safe. It has 56 of the 60 first-place votes in the AP poll and 56 of the 59 votes on the coaches’ poll. Those numbers didn't change after the Gators mopped The Swamp with Troy, 56-6. 

The other teams getting first-place votes are Texas (one in AP), USC (a combined four) and Alabama (two in AP).

The rest of the way Florida plays only two teams that are currently ranked (LSU and Georgia). Same for Alabama (Ole Miss, LSU). Texas faces five ranked teams (Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Kansas). USC plays one (Cal, Oregon State).

Alabama had a similar lead at No. 1 before it lost to Florida in last year’s SEC title game. The Tide had 58 of the 61 first-place votes going in. After Bama lost and Oklahoma and Florida won their championship games, the final regular-season coaches’ poll was the closest in the BCS era.

Oklahoma (31 first-place votes, 1,482 points) ended up one point ahead of Florida (26 first-place votes, 1,481 points). Third-place Texas had four and 1,408.

Just for grins, I figured up the top six final regular-season first-place vote getters since 2004:

1. USC, 90 1/3 points
2. Ohio State, 62
3.  Oklahoma, 49 1/3
4. Florida, 26
5. LSU, Texas, 11
6. Auburn, 9 1/3

 One of the better poll results Saturday was Florida State beating Jacksonville State. I know, I know, FSU has looked shaky and isn’t ranked.

But this is about BYU. The Cougs need FSU to win as often as possible, aside from this week when the Noles go to Provo. If FSU somehow gets back into the polls, BYU could make a more solid case for playing for the national championship. If it goes undefeated, it would have beaten four ranked teams (Oklahoma, Florida State, TCU and Utah). 

If you’re wondering where this going consider that total would be more than Florida, LSU or USC.

 If the BCS championship game were played today, it would be USC vs. Alabama according to our old friend Jerry Palm. Check out the most accurate BCS projections and collegebcs.com.

 Live by the pass, die by the pass: SMU’s nine interceptions lead the country but it has thrown four interceptions which ties for third-most nationally ... Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen has thrown the most passes this season without an interception, 76 ... Purdue is  home of the leading rusher (Ralph Bolden) and the quarterback who is tied for No. 1 in interceptions. Joey Elliott is tied Tennessee's Jonathan Crompton. Each have six.


The right-now, no-hype, no-b.s., not-what-they-did last year Heisman rankings for this week

Case Keenum, Houston: When he lost his coach (Art Briles who went to Baylor) everyone thought Keenum would go in the tank, or transfer. He bonded immediately with second-year coach Kevin Sumlin who might make him a Heisman finalist. Keenum threw for 366 yards against Oklahoma State as the Cougars beat a top-five team for the first time in 25 years.

Tim Tebow, Florida: Four passing touchdowns and one rushing in the rain against Troy add to the legend.

Colt McCoy, Texas: Three passing touchdowns against Wyoming in Texas’ 15th consecutive non-conference win. That ties a school record.

Max Hall, BYU: A week after beating Oklahoma, Hall gets a rocking-chair game against Tulane. Led the Cougars to scores in seven of eight possessions.

Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh: A workhorse freshman who is averaging 7.4 yards per carry.

 

 

Posted on: September 14, 2009 4:34 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2009 9:54 am
 

Breaking down the polls and Heisman race

USC walks into the belly of the beast, slays Ohio State with a dramatic game-winning drive and picks up two first-place votes in the coaches’ poll. One in AP.

Obviously, Florida is still the overwhelming No. 1 in both polls but I’m already starting to wonder what it would take to pass the Gators if they keep winning. The two teams below them are from different conferences (Texas, USC) and don’t play each other. No. 4 Alabama doesn’t play Florida in the regular season.

At first glance, Florida looks safe. It has 56 of the 60 first-place votes in the AP poll and 56 of the 59 votes on the coaches’ poll. Those numbers didn't change after the Gators mopped The Swamp with Troy, 56-6. 

The other teams getting first-place votes are Texas (one in AP), USC (a combined four) and Alabama (two in AP).

The rest of the way Florida plays only two teams that are currently ranked (LSU and Georgia). Same for Alabama (Ole Miss, LSU). Texas faces five ranked teams (Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Kansas). USC plays one (Cal, Oregon State).

Alabama had a similar lead at No. 1 before it lost to Florida in last year’s SEC title game. The Tide had 58 of the 61 first-place votes going in. After Bama lost and Oklahoma and Florida won their championship games, the final regular-season coaches’ poll was the closest in the BCS era.

Oklahoma (31 first-place votes, 1,482 points) ended up one point ahead of Florida (26 first-place votes, 1,481 points). Third-place Texas had four and 1,408.

Just for grins, I figured up the top six final regular-season first-place vote getters since 2004:

1. USC, 90 1/3 points
2. Ohio State, 62
3.  Oklahoma, 49 1/3
4. Florida, 26
5. LSU, Texas, 11
6. Auburn, 9 1/3

 One of the better poll results Saturday was Florida State beating Jacksonville State. I know, I know, FSU has looked shaky and isn’t ranked.

But this is about BYU. The Cougs need FSU to win as often as possible, aside from this week when the Noles go to Provo. If FSU somehow gets back into the polls, BYU could make a more solid case for playing for the national championship. If it goes undefeated, it would have beaten four ranked teams (Oklahoma, Florida State, TCU and Utah). 

If you’re wondering where this going consider that total would be more than Florida, LSU or USC.

 If the BCS championship game were played today, it would be USC vs. Alabama according to our old friend Jerry Palm. Check out the most accurate BCS projections and collegebcs.com.

 Live by the pass, die by the pass: SMU’s nine interceptions lead the country but it has thrown four interceptions which ties for third-most nationally ... Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen has thrown the most passes this season without an interception, 76 ... Purdue is  home of the leading rusher (Ralph Bolden) and the quarterback who is tied for No. 1 in interceptions. Joey Elliott is tied Tennessee's Jonathan Crompton. Each have six.


The right-now, no-hype, no-b.s., not-what-they-did last year Heisman rankings for this week

Case Keenum, Houston: When he lost his coach (Art Briles who went to Baylor) everyone thought Keenum would go in the tank, or transfer. He bonded immediately with second-year coach Kevin Sumlin who might make him a Heisman finalist. Keenum threw for 366 yards against Oklahoma State as the Cougars beat a top-five team for the first time in 25 years.

Tim Tebow, Florida: Four passing touchdowns and one rushing in the rain against Troy add to the legend.

Colt McCoy, Texas: Three passing touchdowns against Wyoming in Texas’ 15th consecutive non-conference win. That ties a school record.

Max Hall, BYU: A week after beating Oklahoma, Hall gets a rocking-chair game against Tulane. Led the Cougars to scores in seven of eight possessions.

Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh: A workhorse freshman who is averaging 7.4 yards per carry.

 

 

Posted on: September 12, 2009 7:43 pm
 

Viva Houston!

Maybe Georgia was just that bad. Oklahoma State is back to being Oklahoma State. Good luck, Cowboys, trying to outscore everyone the rest of the year. Meanwhile, Houston made a major statement for itself and Conference USA. Read on, notes hot off the press from Conference USA ...  

 Houston’s 45-35 win over No. 5 Oklahoma State marks Conference USA's first win over a top 5 team since 2002 and the second-highest ranked team a C-USA school has defeated since the league’s inception in 1995 (Louisville defeated No. 4 Florida State on Sept. 2002).

 Houston’s 45-35 win over No. 5 (AP) Oklahoma State marks Conference USA's first win over a top 5 team since 2002 and the second-highest ranked team a C-USA school has defeated since the league’s inception in 1995 (Louisville defeated No. 4 Florida State on Sept. 2002).

 The win marks Houston’s first victory against a top 10 team since defeating No. 10 Wyoming, 34-10 on Nov. 12, 1988

 The win is Houston’s first over a top- 10 team on the road since defeating No. 3 Texas, 29-15 on Nov. 10, 1984

 Today’s victory is Houston’s third in a row over against a nationally-ranked opponent (defeated No. 23 East Carolina and No. 24 Tulsa last season).

 Junior QB Case Keenum, the nation’s leader in total offense in 2008, was 32-of-47 for 365 yards and three touchdowns.
Posted on: September 8, 2009 4:22 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2009 4:32 pm
 

Analyzing the polls

Thoughts on the first regular-season polls of the season:

If the BCS bowls started today (based on compilation of the polls and Jerry Palm’s collegebcs.com)

BCS title game: Alabama vs. USC
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Cal
Fiesta Bowl: Texas vs. BYU
Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Oklahoma State
Orange Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech

Top 10 in the BCS (Only a few of the computers are available so this is very preliminary but still interesting. These are Palm's standings from collegebcs.com.)

1. USC
2. Alabama
3. Florida
4. Texas
5. Oklahoma State
6. Ohio State
7. BYU
8. Boise State
9. Penn State
10.  LSU


Strange

Florida lost two first-place votes in the AP poll (from 58 to 56) and gained three votes in the coaches poll (53 to 56).


Biggest gainers, most slippage

Brigham Young, up 12 spots in coaches (from No. 24 to No. 12)
Oklahoma down 11 spots in coaches (from No. 3 to No. 14)


Game of the week

No. 3 USC and No. 8/7 Ohio State remains a top 10 game. Ohio State has lost its last five against top five teams. That’s the second-longest streak in school history.


The penalty for playing Charleston Southern

Florida’s first-place margin shrank in both polls  -- from 74 points to 69 in AP and from 80 to 65 points in coaches.


Barely Out

Oregon State No. 26 in AP. Michigan State No. 26 in coaches

New to the AP: Missouri, Cincinnati, Miami. New to coaches: Kansas, Cincinnati, Miami.



Another take

SI's Andy Staples weighs in

Posted on: September 6, 2009 2:53 am
Edited on: September 7, 2009 10:39 am
 

Thoughts on a football Saturday

And you thought the Big Ten had a bad day?

At least Ohio State and Iowa, won – clumsily -- but they got out alive on college football’s first Saturday.

ACC doesn’t stand for All Crap Conference but it sure feels good writing it.
 
How about 1-4 for the ACC against I-A competition on Saturday? That’s before getting into embarrassing losses to Richmond (by Duke) and William & Mary (by Virginia)?

At this point, No. 3 Oklahoma is probably hoping for a Holiday Bowl invitation. No. 7 Virginia Tech is now 0-21 against top five competition away from Blacksburg.

Can you say, Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Low?

All this translates to a shocking opening week. Two top 10 teams went down Saturday night, changing everything. Florida and Texas can breathe a little easier, for now, atop the polls. The Sooners lost their Heisman winning quarterback Sam Bradford and then the season-opener to BYU, 14-13.


It’s hard to tell what hurt Oklahoma more – the loss Bradford or the game itself. Enduring both together was a body blow to the Sooners lost their season opener for only the second time since 1998.

Both losses have come in the last five years. TCU upset the Sooners to kick off 2005.

Bradford suffered a sprained right shoulder in the second quarter against BYU and returned to the sidelines in the second half with the arm in a sling. He could be out two to four weeks.

Another Heisman might be out of reach. Considering the mounting losses (tight end Jermaine Gresham missed the game), so might be Texas.

 --Coach of the day: Baylor's Art Briles who is making his sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin III into a star. Briles' call of an option pass (coming from an inside receiver, mind you) helped seal the deal against Wake Forest. The huggable Bears needed this one to keep alive hope of a bowl for the first time since 1994.

--Michigan had 31 points in the second quarter against Western Michigan. it scored 30 points once all last season.

--"We should have won this thing hands dwn." That comes from a Northern Iowa player after a 17-16 loss to Iowa. Ya think? Iowa blocked two field goal attempts in the last 10 seconds to preserve the win.

--It feels like football again: Michigan-Notre Dame means something.

Posted on: August 28, 2009 12:17 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2009 8:17 am
 

Seven more "things" to consider this season

You've read "25 Things". Here are seven more also getting votes ...


Terry Bowden

Eleven years out of the game and unable to find a suitable job in I-A, Bobby’s boy settled in at Division II North Alabama.

It seems that the celebrated former Auburn coach (.675 winning percentage) isn’t planning on retiring in Florence. He has brought in 24 I-A transfers, seven from his dad’s program alone. Not that the Lions were about to fall off the edge of the earth. They reached the I-AA semifinals last season and have won at least 10 in the last four years.

The idea is to win fast, win a lot and maybe grab a I-A job. Among the notable transfers are former North Carolina State and Nebraska quarterback Harrison Beck and FSU receiver Preston Parker.

Parker was kicked off Florida State in February after his third arrest since 2006. But he can play. Parker caught 104 passes in three seasons with the Noles. 



Mike Gundy is a man, he’s 42 but he’s no less paranoid

It hasn’t made much national news, but Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is up to his old media-baiting self.

Gundy recently cut off the team from media (practice, interviews, everything) saying the team needs to focus for its Sept. 5 opener against Georgia. That’s bad enough, but he hasn’t restricted all media. A couple of Cowboy-friendly types have been allowed in. Not surprisingly they are a guy who works on the Cowboys recruiting site and the radio color man.

So maybe “media” is too definitive a word in that case.

What grinds the legit media is that Gundy is a 27-23 coach bankrolled by a billionaire booster at a state institution. Where's the accountability? We don’t know if Gundy is beating players, denying them water breaks, hell, holding illegal tryouts.

Not saying it’s happening but with the doors closed, can’t say it’s not happening. It’s not just me talking. Read this excellent piece by the Tulsa World’s Bill Haisten. Pay particular attention to the lead.

I remember catching up to Gundy 3 ½ years ago the day it was announced that Pickens had donated $165 million to Oklahoma State.  Coaches were kidding him at the American Football Coaches Association annual convention about getting a loan. Gundy was almost oblivious. Pressure? What pressure?

Pickens is now 81 and is perhaps wondering what happened to all that money. Where has Gundy’s three-year old rant and this stunt gotten him? Nothing tangible. He is a YouTube celebrity. Recruiting hasn’t been hurt. It’s like an old hat in the closet. You pull it out years later and remark, “Man, did that look silly.”

Now the Cowboys are no longer a curiosity. Oklahoma State has a top 10 ranking. It’s about time Gundy started winning big. Unfortunately, that ranking and a quarter will get you a bag of chips.

The problem for Okie State, as it always has been, is Oklahoma and Texas. Those powers form a cement ceiling above Stillwater every season. That hasn’t changed. Neither has Coach Clandestine. Maybe he is feeling the pressure of having to deliver on Boone Pickens’ investment.
 


Chill pill

In the middle of one of the hottest Southwest summers in recent history, Oklahoma and Texas can agree on one thing:

Taking a pill to monitor players’ core temperature is a good idea. The CorTemp capsule is about the size of a vitamin and ingested about five hours before practice. Players thought to be at high risk of heat-related maladies are selected each day.

Trainers pass a monitoring device over a player’s stomach (the pill  is somewhere in the intestines) to check body temperature. Texas trainer Kenny Boyd calls it an “ingestible thermometer.”

The $35 pill is too pricey for some programs but with heat-related illnesses killing players at a record pace this decade, no price is too high. Sickle cell trait (usually brought on my physical exertion) became the leading killer of Division I players this decade.

The Eagles, Vikings and Jags in the NFL use the pill as well as Nebraska and North Carolina on the college level.

If you’ve read this far you’re still wondering how the players get rid of a pill filled with electronics. It is, um, passed. No word on how, or why the pills are recycled.



… Or they could just forget the whole thing and let those state troopers fight it out

A proposal from the American Football Coaches Association calls for both coaches and ADs to accompany their teams on the field for a pregame handshake before each game. The initiative starts with next week’s opening games.

A thoughtful gesture, but college football isn’t exactly the Stanley Cup playoffs where teams form a handshake line at the end of playoff series. These guys are minutes away from tearing each other’s heads off. It’s hard to imagine Alabama and Auburn exchanging handshakes. More like haymakers.

Forced to confront Lane Kiffin on Sept. 19 in Gainesville, will Urban Meyer shake hands or whip out a taser?

AFCA executive director Grant Teaff says the association’s code of conduct calls for coaches to shake hands before the game. Is that the same code of conduct that Rick Neuheisel adhered to when he committed 50-plus secondary violations?

 

Possible bowl rematches

The bowls are loathe to stage regular-season matches in their games, but with the rash of TV-arranged non-conference games, rematches could become more frequent. The reason these games are being arranged in the first place is because the teams are TV draws.

And what are bowls looking for? These big regular-season games could be the first of a doubleheader to be completed in the postseason.

Sept. 5: Georgia at Oklahoma State, also in the Cotton Bowl.
Sept. 5: BYU vs. Oklahoma in Irving, Texas, also in the Fiesta Bowl
Sept. 19: Kansas at UCLA, also in the Insight Bowl
Oct. 17: Texas vs. Oklahoma in Dallas, also in the BCS title game (don’t laugh, it could happen)
Oct. 24: Boston College at Notre Dame, also in the Gator Bowl



Technology meet the economy

It's possible now to go an entire season in the Sun Belt, Ohio Valley and Big Sky conferences without ever meeting another human coach.

Those conferences cancelled their in-person preseason media days as a way to save money. In the case of the Sun Belt, it went to video streaming its media days. You already know that several schools no longer print media guys, the assumption being that everyone has a large hard drive, a speedy processor and time to stop in the middle of a story, slip in a CD and look up something.

Now that human contact has been removed from the equation, can alien probes of various orifices be far behind?

Point being, the cost-saving excuse in some ways is a sham. Michigan is saving one-half of one percent on its budget. There are ways to save money, but once the boulder gets rolling down the hill there are a lot of copy cats.

These schools wouldn't be in this economic crunch if they weren't all operating under the same model. Remember, teams have been staying overnight in a hotel for years the night before home games.


Smelly, cussing guy in overalls? Text CNHSKRHELP

By allowing fans to text for help, isn't Nebraska admitting it has a problem?

Campus police say they will accept "citizen crime reports" in the form of texts from fans at games. Nice move. But when are they going to do something about that freakish mascot?

 

Posted on: June 29, 2009 3:01 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2009 12:09 pm
 

Picking the Big 12


The Big 12 South Division race, the Big 12 title game, the Heisman race and the national championship hinged on the conference's three-way tiebreaker. We found out about the 11-year-old rule when Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech each tied at 7-1 in the South Division.

Oklahoma "won" the tiebreaker because it finished the regular season as the highest-ranked team in the division  -- by .0128 of a point in the BCS standings. Instead of reliving the Austin angst, let's just say that one Longhorn suggested that if the tiebreaker rule wasn't changed in the offseason his school ought to pull out of the Big 12.

What's changed? Not much. The rule wasn't changed and Texas is still in the league. At the spring meetings, the Big 12 ADs accepted the coaches' vote that the tiebreaker remain the same. Why?

 One theory is that Texas probably doesn't get much sympathy from the other coaches because ... it's Texas. The school is perceived to have the best of everything so it didn't get much sympathy from schools that don't. Yeah, jealousy sucks.

 There is nothing to be gained for schools like Missouri, Iowa State, Colorado, Baylor, etc., so why change? Hey, the league got two teams in the BCS. To the other schools it doesn't matter who plays in those games as long as the money keeps rolling in.

 The tiebreaker makes sense. Why wouldn't you want your highest rated BCS team to win the tiebreaker? There was some feeling that the SEC tiebreaker is fairer.

In a three-way tie, the SEC drops the lowest-ranked team and decides things head-to-head. But since you're chasing a BCS title, the SEC tiebreaker potentially keeps the highest-ranked team out of a title shot.

The tiebreaker would have been a footnote on the national scene had not Texas and Oklahoma been involved. The rivalry was bitter enough without having to explain why the Horns lost out when they beat the Sooners on the field. Yeah, Oklahoma's fortune might cause a bit of consternation in Austin.

"They got a huge break," Texas' Colt McCoy said.

Like I said, nothing has changed. Texas and OU still hate each other. There is a good chance we could have another tiebreaker train wreck at the end of this season. Only the teams will change.


Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State could all start the season in the top 10. The Red River Shootout on Oct. 17 shapes up as one of the most intense in the history of the rivalry. Just for controversy's sake let's assume the Horns win in Dallas, they still have to play in Stillwater on Halloween. If the Cowboys win they could win out until a Nov. 28 date in Norman. If the Sooners win that one, we're looking at another three-way 7-1 finish.

Who wins it in the BCS tiebreaker? In that scenario, you'd have to like Oklahoma again. The Texas loss would be six weeks old by then and beating Oklahoma State impressively would be the emphatic final statement for the computers the pollsters. That same thing happened last year when OU blew out Texas Tech.

Closer to the field, for the second consecutive year the Large Dozen remains the conference of quarterbacks. It sports a Heisman winner (Sam Bradford), a runner-up (Colt McCoy) and well as 2009 Heisman candidate Todd Reesing of Kansas. You can add Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson, Baylor's Robert Griffin and Texas Tech quarterback du jour Taylor Potts as difference makers.

Just giving you a fair warning, Texas fans. Grow your hair out now. You might be pulling it out in December.

Picking the Big 12 ...


North Division

1. Kansas -- If this were Miami, Dezmon Briscoe, Kerry Meier and Reesing would be on the cover of every preseason mag in the country. Meier is the leading returning receiver in catches per game (10.8). Briscoe is second in receiving yards per game (108.2). Reesing already has led the Jayhawks to an Orange Bowl and is in line to become the school's best quarterback ever. Mark Mangino already has proven he can coach. If a new set of starting linebackers can tackle and if KU can beat either Oklahoma, Texas or Texas Tech (he is a combined 0-9 against the three) this could be a special season. The Jayhawks get the slight edge in the North because the Nebraska game is at home.

2. Nebraska -- Bo Pelini is slowly building Huskerville back to its usual standards. Slowly is the key word because defense is Pelini's thing and the D showed astounding lapses last year. Slowly, because Nebraska has not had a first-team All-American on the defensive line in 12 years. Tackle Ndamukong Suh could break the streak. Some draft boards already have him in the top five. There is little room for error where Pelini is a turned ankle away from having real problems at quarterback. Zac Lee is the guy after Patrick Witt, who was being counted on, left before the spring. A lot of folks think Nebraska has the advantage in the North because of its schedule. I see road trips to Missouri, Baylor, Kansas and Colorado, plus a home game against Oklahoma. Please tell me how that is favorable?

3. Missouri -- The Tigers will take a dip after back-to-back Big 12 North titles. Missouri knows it. The fans know it. The league knows it. The key is trying to make an 8-4 season seem like a success. Six-foot-five Blaine Gabbert takes over for Chase Daniel, only the greatest qb in Missouri history. He would be wise to spread the ball out to 1,000-yard rusher Derrick Washington and receivers Danario Alexander and Jared Perry. The Tigers will score, just not as often. If the defense is shored up at all this team could be on the fringes of contending in the North. At times, the secondary looked like a fire drill. Linebacker All-American linebacker candidate Sean Weatherspoon passed up the draft and will chase the school's career tackles record as a senior.

4. Colorado -- Has Hawk Love turned into Hawk Doubt? Entering his fourth season in Boulder, Dan Hawkins has won only 13 games. The pressure is on to produce (hint: Big 12 North contention and a bowl game). Hawkins isn't backing down, saying this at the senior banquet: "Ten wins, no excuses." The quarterback situation is unsettled with son Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen maybe sharing the job again. Freshman tailback sensation Darrell Scott was upstaged by fellow freshman Rodney Stewart who led the team in rushing. Here's the scary thing: In a league with unrelenting offenses, CU has lost six of its top 10 tacklers.

5. Kansas State -- This isn't the old Big Eight for Bill Snyder. Back in 1989, he was taking over Kansas State from a zero position. This time he is chasing his own legacy. Not to diminish what Snyder accomplished, but back in the early 1990s, Missouri and Kansas were jokes and Oklahoma was sliding. There was no Texas to play two out of every four years. The Big 12 has more depth and strength than the Big Eight as Snyder tries for Miracle In Manhattan II. Snyder got K-State from dregs to the brink of a national championship game in nine years. Will the 69-year-old have that much time this time around?

6. Iowa State -- Iowa State swapped coaches with Auburn. Gene Chizik went. Paul Rhoads came. Rhoads, from nearby Ankeny, seems like he wants to stay awhile. He'll be looking up at the rest of the Big 12 North for a while. Ripping Wally Burham from South Florida to be his defensive coordinator was a huge get for Rhoads. The offense will have a chance with dual-threat Austen Arnaud at quarterback


South Division

1. Texas -- Mack Brown smiled when I told I had his pregame speech ready for the OU game. "We beat the Sooners last year, boys. Now let's go out and get some revenge!" Yeah, it's about that and a lot of things for Brown and the Horns. Except for perhaps some suspect running backs, Texas is loaded. Brown has his best team since the 2005 national championship crew. Hybrid defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle should be this season's Brian Orakpo. McCoy is driven not only by the tiebreaker but also his second-place finish in the Heisman. Still, it all boils down to Oct. 17 in Dallas.

2. Oklahoma -- Sam Bradford won the Heisman, became the first quarterback to win back-to-back Big 12 titles and got the Sooners to the national championship game. What is there left to accomplish? Plenty for Bradford who listened to family and advisors and put off the NFL. His body can fill out a bit and it doesn't look like there will be a Matthew Stafford to compete with in the draft this year. Oklahoma's questions are at offensive line and receiver. If this were anywhere else but the Big 12 South, the Sooners would be prohibitive favorites to repeat. With a break here or there, they still might end back up in the national championship game.

3. Oklahoma State -- With apologies to Texas and Oklahoma, this could be the best offense in the Big 12, if not the country. Returning are a 1,500-yard rusher (Kendall Hunter), an All-American receiver (Dez Bryant), and a 65 percent passer with 25 touchdowns (Robinson). The problem remains defense. New defensive coordinator Bill Young is the Cadillac of his profession. Okie State will be better just because of his presence. Perrish Cox is developing into an NFL talent at corner and is one of the nation's best returners.

4. Texas Tech -- The Red Raiders slip back to the 8-4 level this season. You know the drill: Potts will throw for eight million yards. There will be a 1,000-yard receiver or two. Mike Leach will be his usual quote-machine self. However, last season was a once-in-10-year event. There is payback waiting at Texas, at Oklahoma State and at Nebraska.

5. Baylor -- Does any Big 12 school have more upside? Joe Pawelek is an All-Big 12 linebacker. Center J.D. Walton anchors the offensive line now that Jason Smith is gone. But let's be honest, the moment quarterback Robert Griffin followed coach Art Briles to Baylor (from his commitment to Houston), things took off. A sprinter with Olympic aspirations, Griffin gave up the Big 12 track season to concentrate on what should be his breakout season in Waco. If there is a one-man team in the league, this is it. Griffin also was the team's No. 2 rusher. With more weight and more knowledge, Griffin should become the most elusive dual-threat in the Big 12 since Vince Young. At stake is a 14-year bowl drought. That ties for the longest active streak among BCS schools.

6. Texas A&M -- One former Big Eight coach said it during the offseason: This is A&M. It should be able to go over to the Houston high schools and scrounge up a couple of defensive linemen. In Mike Sherman's second season, d-line is a good place to start. The one-time Wrecking Crew was Charmin soft as one of the worst defensive units in the country. After the non-conference games, the Aggies gave up less than 35 once. Once! Nineteen players had surgery in the offseason. The Aggies better get fat early. The season ends with Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas.
 

 
 
 
 
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