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  1. 2009 Aug 30

    Big 12 Preview: Year of the Horn


    By HuskerLocker

    Burnt orange makes a lot of Nebraska football fans see red.

    Texas, they’ll say, stole the Big 12 away from the Cornhuskers and the rest of the old Big Eight not named Oklahoma. Those rich, liberal, glitzy, gorgeous Lone Studs and Starlets spend too much money, and they make others do the same in futile pursuit. UT’s coach, Mack Brown, is to be trusted about as much as Don Draper in a hotel cocktail lounge.

    And, of course, there’s that business about the Horns pulling out wins every time Nebraska seems to have them roped.

    But NU faithful with a memory can appreciate a team on a mission. The Huskers had a few teams like that in the 1990s. And the 2009 Texas squad has polished that shoulder chip for eight solid months. On the doorstep of the 2009 college football seasons, it gleams.

    Shut out of the 2008 Big 12 and BCS title games because of a strange (and yet unchanged!) conference tiebreaker that essentially penalized the Horns for Arkansas’ bad season (while crediting Oklahoma for TCU and WKRP’s surprisingly good ones), UT whined (and wined) and dined every media toadstool from Bristol to Camaret (Yeah, really. The Brittany contingency. All the way the hell out there. Mack Brown’s got people, and they’re lobbying for a fishing village poll.)

    Brown held a mixer at the Big 12 Media Days. Colt McCoy grew a mustache. Sergio Kindle covered the grassroots campaign, one apartment building at a time.

    It was one serious summer. In the middle of it, UT’s John Grady Cole, if you will, in McCoy, an undersized, wiry, tough son-of-a-gun who scrambles and throws like Eric Crouch used to run: With so many herks, jerks and effort plays, it leaves the viewer a little worn out. He’s not Vince Young. He’s not a classic passer like Sam Bradford. Yet the kid just wins Red River Rivalries and bowl games like he wrote the book on it. Should UT run the table in 2009, McCoy would become the winningest starting quarterback in college football history.

    At least until Tim and his Ten Prophets roll into Pasadena with their traveling carnival of faith healing, arrogance (no shirt, Tim? Really?), counter treys, off-block options, tight end shovel passes and media hosannas fit for a Flannery O’Connor novel, this is the Year of the Horn. Root against our neighbors to the south if you wish, but just remember: Half of NU’s football team will soon be from there.

    Oklahoma takes a tiny step back. Oklahoma State isn’t quite ready. Kansas? Child, please. Iowa State prepares for full conversion to the MAC conference.

    Nebraska? Oh, we’ve got words for them. In another column. Suffice it to say Bo Pelini has a chance to take his team for a December soiree in Dallas, where Jerry Jones, Tony Romo, Brent Musberger, God and everyone will be watching to see if Alex Henery can boot a punt into the monster video board.

    For now, enjoy our offering of superlatives, league finishes, and whatnot. See, we’re smart. We wait until fall camp is practically over before we fry up our donuts. You know, in case somebody got tasered.

    Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year: Colt McCoy, Texas QB – His time and his turn. Sam Bradford would have to be, well, miraculous to surpass his numbers from 2008, and his creaky offensive line won’t make it possible. Runners Up: Bradford, OSU WR Dez Bryant

    Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year: Sergio Kindle, Texas LB – This is no knock on Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh. But the spoils go to the victors, and Kindle is just as special as Suh is. Well, on the field. Suh manages to stay away from crashing into apartment buildings off the field. Runners Up: Suh, Oklahoma LB Ryan Reynolds, Baylor LB Joe Pawelek

    Big 12 Freshman of the Year: Rex Burkhead, Nebraska RB – How’s that for unearned hype? Whoop whoop! The kid’ll back it up though. Runners up: Texas DE Alex Okafor, Mizzou RB Kendial Lawrence

    Big 12 Newcomer of the Year: Grant Gregory, Kansas State QB – Playing the odds here, as it seems Gregory might win the starting job at KSU, and thus accumulate big enough stats to win the award going away.

    Big 12 Coach of the Year: Art Briles, Baylor – If he gets the Bears to seven wins and a bowl game in two years? The award is for coaching, right? Not “happening to coach a great team.” Runners Up: Mack Brown, Mike Gundy

    Creampuff Award: Goes to team with the largest winning margin in a game. Right now, Oklahoma vs. Idaho State is looking pretty sexy.

    The Mike Leach “Soundbyte” Award: Leach, as you know, lost to Mike Gundy in 2007. But he’s the frontrunner.

    The “Ream The Refs” Award: Pelini probably took that one home in 2008. How bout ol Mark Mangino in 2009? He’s due for a conspiracy quote or two.

    Hot Seat: Dan Hawkins, Colorado. If his season goes according to our plan, he’ll be searching for Division 1-AA jobs by the end of the year. Mike Sherman is on a fairly tight leash at Texas A&M, too.

    Best Games Not Called the Red River Rivalry: We’re partial to Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, Nebraska at Missouri, Texas at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma at Texas Tech and Oklahoma at Nebraska.

    Predicted Order of Finish and Record (Excluding Bowl Games) (Click on the team name for in-depth profiles. Nebraska’s to come on Sunday)


    1. Texas (13-0, 8-0)
    2. Oklahoma (10-2, 6-2)
    3. Oklahoma State (10-2, 6-2)
    4. Texas Tech (7-5, 4-4)
    5. Baylor (7-5, 3-5)
    6. Texas A&M (4-8, 1-7)

    1. Nebraska (9-3, 6-2)
    2. Missouri (8-4, 5-3)
    3. Kansas State (7-5, 4-4)
    4. Kansas (6-6, 3-5)
    5. Colorado (5-7, 2-6)
    6. Iowa State (3-9, 0-8)

    Tags: big 12 breakdown, big 12, texas, colt mccoy, mack brown

  2. 2009 Aug 29

    Big 12 Breakdown: No. 1 Texas


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Husker Locker will be counting down and breaking down each of the teams in the conference. We hope you view this series as more interesting, comprehensive and definitive than what you may find elsewhere. Where we can make strong takes – we will.

    We rank the teams 12 to 1 in overall strength. Then we’ll provide for you the North/South breakdown – and the preseason All Big 12 team, as well.


    Today: No. 1 Texas

    Coach:Mack Brown
    2008 Record: 12-1 (Beat Ohio State 24-21 in the Fiesta Bowl)

    What’s Changed Since 2008: Brown launched a rather exhaustive media tour for both UT football and quarterback Colt McCoy following the Longhorns getting jobbed out of the Big 12 and BCS title games. McCoy grew a mustache which at least two opposing fan bases will mock during the season. Sergio Kindle ran a car into an apartment building, drove away, bought a pizza, saved a three cats from trees, jammed with a salsa band down Sixth Street, resolved the FCC’s dispute with Comcast, piloted a drone into Pakistan, then decided to tell someone about the car, and the apartment. Brown also signed an excellent recruiting class, maybe his best.

    2009 Non-Conference Schedule: Pretty dreamy, if you ask us. Louisiana-Monroe a trip to Wyoming, back home vs. UTEP, and a midseason classic against Central Florida.

    2009 Conference Schedule: UT makes or breaks its season with this trio: Vs. Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State, and at Missouri. And don’t forget the game at College Station on Thanksgiving. A&M is still a rival.

    Offense: Spread Passing

    Coordinator: Greg Davis – Smart in the sense that provide the quarterback with enough freedom to make plays. But if the quarterback can’t make those plays, the Longhorns tend to bog down a little. Fortunately, McCoy made those plays in 2008.

    Strength: McCoy, who we think is the nation’s best college quarterback. He’s more athletic than Sam Bradford, a better pure passer than Tim Tebow, and possesses just a little more moxie than former Horn Jevan Snead. A fearless runner who plays hurt, cut and dazed, McCoy was deadly accurate in 2008. The receiving corps, headlined by Jordan Shipley and the next great one, Malcolm Williams, is good. UT also has the league’s best offensive line, led by tackle Adam Ulatowski.

    Weakness:Texas has lost four tight ends for the season because of various lingering injuries. Vondrell McGee is still learning to be a superior running back.

    Defense: 4-3/attacking

    Coordinator: Will Muschamp, who has no problem letting his front four do the work – which they often did last year – but likes to mix an occasional five-man blitz featuring Kindle, a rare, exciting athlete who also runs cars into apartment buildings.

    Strength: The back seven should be excellent. UT’s defensive backs were a little beaten up last year – 259 yards per game through the air, only six interceptions – but most of the key faces return. The linebackers – Kindle, Roderick Muckelroy and Jared Norton – are the league’s best unit. Kindle is a special player used in a variety of ways. Big enough to stuff the run. Fast enough for coverage.

    Weakness:The front four won’t be weak, per se, but you don’t replace Brian Orakpo and Roy Miller – who combined for 17 sacks – easily. How quickly true freshman defensive end Alex Okafor adjusts to the speed of the college game could play a role in how well the Longhorns do.

    Special TeamsTerrific. Shipley will handle the punt and kickoff returns, Hunter Lawrence is one of the Big 12’s best kickers, and John Gold and/or Justin Tucker are fine punters. UT generally has good coverage units.

    Intangibles: Two big ones work in Texas’ favor. First, there’s a chip on the Horns’ shoulder, and there’s something to prove. UT smacked Oklahoma around for the last three quarters of a 45-35 win, and overcame a 22-0 deficit at Texas Tech – in the fourth game of a brutal stretch, mind you, facing four top 15 teams – only to lose on the game’s second-to-last play. And for all that…OU got the nod? Absurd. Texas is playing mad in 2009. Second is McCoy. The kid’s not afraid of Oklahoma, of bowl games, of injury, and not afraid, it seems, of failure (and he had his share of it in 2007). Every negative stereotype UT teams have – soft, uncertain, talk big and play little – McCoy defies it. He’s not as gifted as Vince Young, but the Eyes of Texas look to him just the same.

    Best-Case Scenario: BCS champions. No ties. No controversy.

    Worst-Case Scenario: Three losses.

    Our Take: We don’t think people fully appreciate how much of a juggernaut Florida’s going to be in 2009. OK, maybe they do. And they should; it’s the closest thing to a dynasty you’re likely to see. We think Texas gets to the Rose Bowl. But we’re not in 2005 anymore.

    Tags: texas, big 12 breakdown, colt mccoy, mack brown, sergio kindle

  3. 2009 Aug 29

    Big 12 Breakdown: No. 2 Oklahoma


    By HuskerLocker

    Husker Locker will be counting down and breaking down each of the teams in the conference. We hope you view this series as more interesting, comprehensive and definitive than what you may find elsewhere. Where we can make strong takes – we will.

    We rank the teams 12 to 1 in overall strength. Then we’ll provide for you the North/South breakdown – and the preseason All Big 12 team, as well.


    Today: No. 2 Oklahoma

    Coach:Bob Stoops
    2008 Record: 12-2 (lost 24-14 to Florida in the BCS national title game)

    What’s Changed Since 2008: That big, dominating offensive line is mostly gone. In its place, a big line that will probably dominate in 2010, but struggle, at times in 2009. OU lost two receivers, as well, but the Sooners generally just reload. Otherwise, this is the same mean, lean bunch it’s been for several years now.

    2009 Non-Conference Schedule: Kicks off in Cowboys Stadium vs. BYU, which is being billed as a bigger game than it will probably turn out to be. The key non-conference tilt is at Miami (Fla.), where, we suspect, Randy Shannon’s Hurricanes will already be 0-3, causing Shannon, who will either be fired by then or close to it, or his replacement to throw every stupid thing in the playbook at OU. It could be one of those 24-21 upsets or a 55-14 bloodbath. You just don’t know.

    2009 Conference Schedule: Second in difficulty only to Kansas. OU must play Texas, of course, travel to KU, Nebraska and Texas Tech, and tangle with Oklahoma State at the end.

    Offense: Spread/Multiple

    Coordinator: Kevin Wilson, whose no-huddle offense knocked every team but Florida and Texas for a loop last year. And, of course, the Sooners blew two key opportunities vs. Florida – probably because of the no huddle.

    Strength: Sam Bradford doesn’t look like much off the field, but on it he’s a cool customer. Canny – that’s the word for him. He knows where to place the ball and how to get it there. He’s exceedingly accurate, and he’ll press the ball downfield. Tight end Jermaine Gresham is almost – almost – good enough to surpass Keith Jackson as OU’s best tight end in history. We’re not as enamored with running backs DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown as some are, but they do run hard, and downhill. Murray is a superior receiver, and could play that role in the NFL.

    Weakness:OU made a killing on the right side last year in the running game. With a brand new guard and tackle, easy yards will be harder to come by. And Bradford, while terrific, can be sacked if he’s pressured. Let’s see how well he holds up without Phil Loadholt and Duke Robinson protecting him.

    Defense: 4-3/Attacking

    Coordinator: Brent Venables, who loves to stress the opposing quarterback with multiple looks and well-timed blitzes. Occasionally, he leaves his safeties left on an island, and if you can get OU’s linebackers peeking into the backfield and throw behind them, you’ve got a chance.

    Strength: The front seven is a jaw-dropping array of talent, really, and it should be even better with the return of middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds. OU’s run defense has been more susceptible to breakdowns in the last two years. Don’t expect that to be the case in 2009. The Sooners’ corners, Dominique Franks and Keenan Clayton, are NFL types.

    Weakness: Just the safeties, really, where Oklahoma must replace Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes. If OU’s defense is going to be tested, it’s right down the seam, preferably with playaction. BYU will certainly try.

    Special Teams Ryan Broyles is a capable punt returner. On kickoffs, DeMarco Murray was quite good, but can OU risk another injury to him? Jimmy Stevens is a fair kicker.

    Intangibles: That no-huddle offense is a real pain to prepare for in just one week; for a bowl game, it’d probably be easier. Oklahoma has chosen to become a rhythm, momentum team, which stuns and pummels lesser foes – Nebraska in 2008, for example - but can backfire against an equally matched opponent. It did against Florida, which weathered the initial onslaught and eventually dominated the fourth quarter, when the Sooners ran out of gas.

    Best-Case Scenario: Another Big 12 Championship, another shot at the national title.

    Worst-Case Scenario: Three, maybe four losses in the Big 12.

    Our Take: It’s OU vs. UT for all the glitz, again, and we like Texas by a hair. And trust us – Oklahoma isn’t winning that BCS tiebreaker again this year even if Christy Turlington personally lobbies on the Sooners’ behalf. 11-1 or 10-2. BCS or Cotton. Bradford third in the Heisman race.

    Tags: oklahoma, big 12 breakdown, bob stoops, jermain greshman, sam bradford

  4. 2009 Aug 29

    Big 12 Breakdown: No. 3 Oklahoma State


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Husker Locker will be counting down and breaking down each of the teams in the conference. We hope you view this series as more interesting, comprehensive and definitive than what you may find elsewhere. Where we can make strong takes – we will.

    We rank the teams 12 to 1 in overall strength. Then we’ll provide for you the North/South breakdown – and the preseason All Big 12 team, as well.


    Today: No. 3 Oklahoma State

    Coach: Mike Gundy
    2008 Record: 9-4

    What’s Changed Since 2008: OSU opened its new Xanadu football facility, among the swankiest in college football. The Cowboys also went out and bought A Winston Wolf, so to speak, in defensive coordinator Bill Young, who’s supposed to come in and fix a defense that gave up 56, 61 and 42 points in three of its last four games. And the expectations changed. Super booster T. Boone Pickens projects a calm, friendly exterior, but he didn’t bankroll an overhaul of the program just so the Cowboys could guard a Taco Bell.

    2009 Non-Conference Schedule: Every game is at home, but the first two are challenging: Georgia and Houston. OSU is better than both, but it must clear the mental hurdle of Georgia’s name in week one and avoid a letdown in week two vs. the Cougars. The non-conference slate finishes with a rebuilding Rice team and Grambling.

    2009 Conference Schedule: Manageable, with road games at Texas A&M, Baylor and Iowa State before Bedlam at Oklahoma to end the season. Texas in Boone Pickens Stadium on Halloween. You won’t get a crazier night in Stillwater than that.

    Offense: Balanced Spread

    Coordinator: Mike Gundy – He calls the plays during drives, and gameplans - by himself, with his back turned to the field – while the defense is on the field. Gunter Brewer has the title, but it’s nominal. At any rate, Gundy is an excellent coordinator. He mixes spread and West Coast principles together for the league’s sturdiest offensive design; OSU can run downhill with two tight ends, or spread out with four wide receivers. Last year, the Cowboys rushed for an average of 245 and passed for an average of 242. Can’t beat that.

    Strength: Exceptional skill players. Seriously – exceptional. Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant are the nation’s best running back and wide receiver, respectively. Hunter is quick-footed, instinctive runner – think Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams – with a nose for the end zone and the patience to wait for blocking. Bryant, meanwhile, is a cross of Steve Smith and Lee Evans who’s deadly effective in the slot. A possession receiver blessed with good separation skills and takeoff speed. At quarterback, Zac Robinson benefits from the excellence around him, but his feet make him a dangerous dual weapon. Robinson gets a little… too courageous at times, and needs to avoid injury. Russell Okung is the nation’s best pass-blocking left tackle, too.

    Weakness:Not much, frankly. Bryant and Robinson can’t get hurt.

    Defense: 4-3 or 4-2-5

    Coordinator: Bill Young – Architect of Kansas’s one-year defensive renaissance in 2007. Worked with Miami last year. He’s a bit of a gun for hire, frankly. He’s here to win a Big 12 Championship.

    Strength: The linebackers. Andre Sexton moves from strong safety to a hybrid safety/linebacker role, and he’s the most active, disruptive player on the defense. Orie Lemon and Patrick Levine are complete players who handle pass coverage pretty well. Perrish Cox is a top-shelf cornerback and kick returner. Defensive end Ugo Chinasa could be ready to make the leap to all-conference caliber in 2009.

    Weakness: OSU couldn’t pressure the quarterback last year (only 15 sacks all season) and gave up 4.3 yards per carry. If a team had a good offensive line, the Cowboys were pretty sunk. OSU was badly exposed – beaten up, really – in the Holiday Bowl vs. Oregon, which amassed 565 total yards, 307 on the ground. OSU has to start with the front four, and go from there. Too often in recent years, the front just hasn’t been very good.

    Special TeamsExcellent. Dez Bryant and Perrish Cox are the best punt/kick return combo in America. Dan Bailey made 15-19 field goals. Joe DeForest was hired to solely focus on special teams, and it shows.

    Intangibles: OSU hasn’t beaten Texas or Oklahoma in five years, despite many chances, especially vs. the Longhorns. Gundy’s teams, in general, struggle in big games. For a couple years, that was related to talent, but that’s not the case now. The other intangible is Gundy himself. He’s part of pop culture thanks to his rant two years ago, and that both works for and against him. No matter what OSU becomes this year – national title contender or disappointing flop – he’ll be the story.

    Best-Case Scenario: 11-0 heading the Norman. It’s absolutely possible.

    Worst-Case Scenario: Dumping the first two games and struggling from there. It’s absolutely possible.

    Our Take: So much hinges on the first game vs. Georgia. We like OSU there, and vs. Houston (whom we’re picking to upset Texas Tech) but we still want to see the Cowboys beat Texas and Oklahoma when it counts. Until then, we must predict 10-2, with an outside shot at the BCS, depending on how OU fares with its difficult schedule. Otherwise, a Cotton Bowl tilt with old friend Les Miles and LSU.

    Tags: big 12 breakdown, mike gundy, oklahoma state, dez bryant, zac robinson, kendall hunter

  5. 2009 Aug 17

    Big 12 Breakdown: No. 5 Missouri


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Husker Locker will be counting down and breaking down each of the teams in the conference. We hope you view this series as more interesting, comprehensive and definitive than what you may find elsewhere. Where we can make strong takes – we will.

    We rank the teams 12 to 1 in overall strength. Then we’ll provide for you the North/South breakdown – and the preseason All Big 12 team, as well.


    Today: No.5 Missouri

    Coach: Gary Pinkel
    2008 Record: 10-4

    What’s Changed Since 2008: Mizzou lost its best quarterback (Chase Daniel) and receiver (Jeremy Maclin) and second-best tight end (Chase Coffman) in history. The Tigers also lost their two coordinators, neither of whom we consider huge losses, especially defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, whose defensive schemes were too cute with a talented unit last year. The Tigers also have a greater sense of purpose in 2009 after being summarily dissed by most major publications in terms of the Big 12 North race.

    2009 Non-Conference Schedule:Challenging enough, with the neutral site St. Louis tilt vs. Illinois, which some think is a top 20 team, and a game at defensively-challenged-yet-offensively-exciting Nevada. Bowling Green and Furman should be easy wins, but this non-conference schedule looks tougher than what Mizzou has planned in later years.

    2009 Conference Schedule: Favorable. Toughest road game is at Oklahoma State, which is winnable. Mizzou hosts Texas, Nebraska and Baylor, plays Kansas in Kansas City and travels to Kansas State and Colorado.

    Offense: Spread/Passing

    Coordinator: David Yost – The quarterbacks coach at Mizzou for eight years, Yost knows the offense as well as anyone and helped install the no-huddle, wide-open attack upon Chase Daniel’s arrival (with some help from Daniel’s high school coach). At any rate, Yost is a unique guy – Missouri’s version of Mike Leach. If Andy Warhol had decided to be a football coach, he’d probably look like Yost. His demeanor will help the Tigers, who really seized up in key situations over the last two years.

    Strength: We expect some drop-off from Missouri’s 2007 and 2008 production, but not much. That’s because MU sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert is as talented as Daniel was, only taller. It’ll take Gabbert time to settle in, but we expect him to be a top-flight guy by the end of the season, and certainly by 2010. Missouri’s offensive line is a little young, but it has size, depth, and good experience. Finally – Missouri’s offensive design is proven to work. Nebraska’s figured it out once in the last four years. Colorado’s been hapless against it. Kansas State, Iowa State and Kansas haven’t had much success, either. Only Texas and Oklahoma – and only one of those teams in on the regular season schedule.

    Weakness: Derrick Washington is a big, plodding, overrated back who, yes, was hurt for some of 2008, but isn’t as good as his production (1,036 yards and 5.9 yards per carry) suggests. And there is no suitable replacement for Coffman, who was money on third down, and around the goal line.

    Defense: 4-3/Attacking

    Coordinator: Dave Steckel. Another new guy, replacing Eberflus. Last year, the Tigers had a ton of talent, but still gave up 412 yards and 27 points per game. Eberflus will now try to work some 3-4 magic at the Cleveland Browns. Steckel, meanwhile, is all ex-Marine in his approach, a bit of a throwback to the old Big Ten days of Bo and Woody, if you will. He’d fit in on a Bo Pelini coaching staff.

    Strength: Solid linebacking corps led by the league’s best, Sean Weatherspoon, who turned down the NFL to return for his senior season. He’s a classic linebacker – everywhere, all the time – as his 155 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions suggest. Mizzou already seems to have found Weatherspoon's replacement, too, in true freshman Donavan Bonner.

    Weakness: The defensive line lost Stryker Sulak and Ziggy Hood, two of the better linemen in the league last year. Their absence should hurt what was a fair run defense in 2008. The secondary should be OK, but safety William Moore (not as good in 2008 as his second round NFL draft status would suggest) has to be replaced.

    Special Teams Mizzou takes a pretty good shot here. Maclin was invaluable as a kickoff and punt returner, accounting for 1280 return yards and two touchdowns. Then you had kicker Jeff Wolfert, arguably college football’s best in 2008 (we’ll take Nebraska’s Alex Henery, thanks) who needs to be replaced, too. Missouri has a ton of ground to cover here, and there’s just no way to do it in one year.

    Intangibles: One week after a 52-17 win over Nebraska, Missouri hit a curious wall, of sorts, and fell backward, losing 4 of the last 9. So, in a sense, it was time to flush the system a little bit, and start over. And the Tigers do it with a chip on their shoulder, aiming to prove that the last three years weren’t a fluke. And Gabbert is as good of a guy to try it with as any.

    Finally – Missouri really wants to beat Nebraska. No, it’s not the Border War. But it is personal, and borne out of a number of on-field incidents and off-the-field comments during the last six seasons. These two teams don’t like each other.

    Best-Case Scenario: A third-straight Big 12 North title.

    Worst-Case Scenario: Phil Steele’s prediction of 5-7.

    Our Take: Phil’s often right, but here he’s wrong. Missouri finishes 8-4 or 9-3, depending on the non-conference schedule and the Nebraska game, which we predict will be, in essence, for the Big 12 North title.

    See other Big 12 Breakdowns: No. 12 ISU, No. 11 A&M, No. 10 CU, No. 9 BU, No. 8 KU, No. 7 KSU, No. 6 Texas Tech
    Agree? Disagree? Tell us about it.

    Tags: missouri, big 12 breakdown, big 12, gary pinkel, hlss, blaine gabbert, sean weatherspoon

  6. 2009 Aug 10

    Ranking the Big 12 OCs


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Ranking the offensive coordinators in the most offensively diverse and exciting league in college football: The Big 12.

    1. Kevin Wilson/Oklahoma – Hard to argue this spot, considering the Sooners scored 60-plus points four games in a row. Wilson orchestrated a dazzling no huddle last year, and the result was one of great offenses in college football history. OU had it all: Power, speed, flexibility and explosiveness. Few offenses can rival the breathtaking nature of Nebraska’s 1983 “Scoring Explosion” attack. But Oklahoma did.

    2. Shawn Watson/Nebraska – His biggest strength is his ability to adapt and take different ideas, incorporate them into a West Coast Offense framework, and then call those plays on Saturday. You won’t find another WCO around that looks quite like what Watson is doing. Best of all, NU’s offense gained the yards last year, but also helped out its defense with the way Watson called the game. You can’t say that about most Big 12 head coaches and coordinators.

    T3. Mike Leach/Texas Tech – The track record speaks for itself. The guy does a ton with average talent. But here’s what else the track record says: Once or twice a year, Tech’s offense grinds to a halt and becomes vulnerable to a decent pass rush. Leach has never been able to remedy that. And he can dig his team a deep hole with his risk-taking on fourth downs (although, generally, we’re in favor of the practice).

    T3. Mark Mangino and Ed Warriner/Kansas – Mangino’s fingerprints are still all over this offense, so we make them a pair. We’ll just put it this way: KU stunk, for a long time, on offense before Mangino took over. And now, the Jayhawks are pretty dangerous, game in and game out, with their passing spread offense. If KU had a better offensive line, it’d be even better. The Jayhawks need to vary their running game a bit more, though.

    T3. Art Briles/Baylor – Briles has co-offensive coordinators, but he’s really running the show. And it’s a neat version of the spread, mixing trick plays, no huddle and option football all into one package. Imagine if he had, say, Texas A&M’s talent.

    6. Mike Gundy/Oklahoma State – Sorry Gunter Brewer (officially the OC)…when Gundy has his back turned to the field, diagramming plays while the defense is on the field, we all know who’s running the offense. Gundy is an excellent play caller, and he’s achieved balance and explosiveness. OSU always runs the ball well. But the passing game is a little erratic, and too often becomes a playaction bomb to Dez Bryant. Problem is, Bryant got hurt in the Holiday Bowl, and the Cowboys shut down. In big games, OSU doesn’t throw it well.

    7. Greg Davis/Texas – The Longhorns have great talent more than anything else, and a head coach in Mack Brown who knows how to get that talent up for big games. But the offense itself is a little too dependent on the quarterback’s skills. Also – development remains a question. Why do UT players, talented as they are, struggle in the NFL? Another reason why Colt McCoy earned the Heisman last year. He made a lot of plays outside of scheme, on his own. Of course, the Texas system allows for that. Is that a kind of “genius?” We suppose. Not really.

    8. Del Miller and Dana Dimel and Bill Synder/Kansas State - It remains to be seen if Snyder chooses to call all the plays again or not. He may, and if he does, expect a lot of diversity. Initially, Snyder was interested in running a spread offense, as he hired former Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig in December 2008. Then Ludwig ditched KSU for California. So who knows exactly what it’ll look like. Snyder changed from year to year, according to personnel. Apparently – expect some Wildcat formation. You know the “Wildcat,” not the mas…never mind.

    9. Tom Herman/Iowa State – Fairly proven results at Rice, although not against major conference programs. He’ll employ a no huddle at ISU, which ought to be interesting on grass, in a wind tunnel, with few offensive weapons. Oh well, Herman’s a Mensa. He’ll figure it out.

    10. David Yost/Missouri - Nothing personal, but the guy’s new to the job, the old OC is now the head coach of Wyoming, and there’s always been this running (and somewhat pointless) side debate as to whether the Southlake (Texas) Carroll High School head coach was responsible for transforming the offense to Chase Daniel’s liking, or Christensen/Yost were. Anyway, new kid on the block. Deal with it, Tiger faithful.

    11. Nolan Cromwell/Texas A&M – Fell into the trap of forcing a conversion on the Aggies’ offense last year when a more measured transition would have been wiser. Basically wasted running backs Mike Goodson and Jorvorski Lane. Not necessarily his fault – head coach Mike Sherman was behind the switch. But, still, it didn’t consistently work. A&M racked up some passing yards, but not many wins.

    12. Eric Kiseau/Colorado – Young and unproven. CU will return to WCO principles, and certainly have the running backs to do it. But the quarterback? We’re not as sure. He’s a Jeff Tedford disciple. We’ll see if he calls plays like Tedford does. Apparently, Tedford doesn’t even want to call plays like Tedford does, if he’s hiring Andy Ludwig.

    Tags: big 12, shawn watson, big 12 unit rankings, big 12 breakdown

  7. 2009 Aug 10

    Big 12 Breakdown: No. 6 Texas Tech


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Husker Locker will be counting down and breaking down each of the teams in the conference. We hope you view this series as more interesting, comprehensive and definitive than what you may find elsewhere. Where we can make strong takes – we will.

    We rank the teams 12 to 1 in overall strength. Then we’ll provide for you the North/South breakdown – and the preseason All Big 12 team, as well.


    Today: Texas Tech

    Coach: Mike Leach
    2008 Record: 11-2

    What’s Changed Since 2008: Leach and Red Raider brass settled their differences and agreed to a long-term contract; Tech lost record setting quarterback Graham Harrell and wide receiver Michael Crabtree, and also lost the two best defensive backs in recent program history in Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonnet. The two top pass rushers, too, in McKinner Dixon (who simply left Tech after falling into Leach’s doghouse) and Brandon Williams.

    2009 Non-Conference Schedule:The usual buffet of non-major conference teams, but a trip to Houston, in front what should be a decent home crowd, will be a test. Don’t be surprised if Houston is a slight favorite. The Cougars might have the better team. Otherwise, it’s home games against Rice, New Mexico and North Dakota, all of which will be routs.

    2009 Conference Schedule: The Red Raiders foolishly agreed to move a game at Texas up to Sept. 19; that’s an invitation to slaughter for a defense that won’t even have its sea legs. Two more difficult road trips to Nebraska and Oklahoma State. Tech hosts Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Kansas State, while playing Baylor in the JerryDome in Arlington.

    Offense: Air Raid/Spread

    Coordinator: Leach, essentially. Year after year, this offense works in all but a few games. Defenses are now so fearful of the short crossing and flat patterns that Leach likes to run that downfield routes, especially for running backs, have opened up. Tech became much more vertical in 2007 and 2008 with Crabtree drawing double teams, and guys like Edward Britton and Tremain Swindoll zooming through the deep seam. The question now, of course, is whether Tech most go back to the short stuff now that Crabtree has left for the NFL.

    Strength: The running game, if you can believe it. Returning starter Baron Batch, and redshirt freshman Harrison Jeffers should be the best 1-2 punch Leach has had in his tenure at Tech. The line is huge and reasonably experienced. The receivers are still pretty good, despite the absence of Crabtree. Detron Lewis and Edward Britton. We do not expect the offense to experience much drop off. Maybe in that early game vs. Texas; not much otherwise.

    Weakness: New quarterback Taylor Potts is the biggest, strongest of all the Leach quarterbacks. He also has a beard and long hair, looking like a lawman out of the 1970s. But traditional size and strength doesn’t make a great Leach quarterback. Intelligence, and the ability to hit receivers running short routes in stride, does. It’s going to take Potts a month to really find the rhythm, and, by then, Tech may have two losses.

    Defense: 4-3

    Coordinator: Ruffin McNeill, who took over midway through 2007 and has amped up the pressure and tenacity of the front four. That said, Tech’s pass defense last year wasn’t anything special – even with two all-league safeties.

    Strength: Tech returns all three starters at linebacker, and all three were reasonably productive, active players in 2008. It’s a place to start.

    Weakness: Two new safeties and, essentially, a brand new defensive line (senior nose tackle Rajon Henley returns after injury) doesn’t bode well for Tech’s pass defense. Look for teams to test the Red Raiders deep, and often.

    Special Teams Not great. Punter Jonathan LaCour has been suspended for the first month and kicker Donnie Carona might as well be, considering he went 4-9 in field goals last year. Tech turned to a guy out of the stands halfway through last season, if that tells you anything. The return game is OK. It’s not like Wes Welker is back there or anything.

    Intangibles: Jones Stadium works some kind of magic at night, as it’s become a difficult place for the best teams in the Big 12 South to play. During the day, though, it’s perfectly ordinary. Weird, huh?

    And Leach himself is an intangible. He’s a good coach, a gambling coach, a coach who plays the “Moneyball” percentages better than most, if you will. But once or twice each year, it backfires spectacularly on him. Last year’s 65-21 loss was a poster child for what happens when Leach rolls craps again and again. His approach invariably wins Tech more games than the talent level in Lubbock has any right to win. But that same approach makes an undefeated season almost impossible to achieve.

    Best-Case Scenario: 10-2, with losses to Texas and Oklahoma State, and upset wins over Oklahoma and Nebraska. Could happen.

    Worst-Case Scenario: Potts can’t continue the string of Tech QB magic, the defense can’t defend the pass, and Tech falls to 6-6 or 5-7. It’s highly possible, especially if the Red Raiders drop games to cagey Houston and upstart Baylor.

    Our Take: 8-4, with a thrilling loss to Houston, and losses in every other true road game.

    See other Big 12 Breakdowns: No. 12 ISU, No. 11 A&M, No. 10 CU, No. 9 BU, No. 8 KU, No. 7 KSU, No. 6 Texas Tech
    Agree? Disagree? Tell us about it.

    Tags: texas tech, mike leach, taylor potts, harrison jeffers, big 12, big 12 breakdown, ruffin mcneill

  8. 2009 Aug 03

    Big 12 Breakdown: No. 7 Kansas State


    By HuskerLocker

    Husker Locker will be counting down and breaking down each of the teams in the conference. We hope you view this series as more interesting, comprehensive and definitive than what you may find elsewhere. Where we can make strong takes – we will.

    We rank the teams 12 to 1 in overall strength. Then we’ll provide for you the North/South breakdown – and the preseason All Big 12 team, as well.


    Today: No. 7 Kansas State

    Coach: Bill Snyder
    2008 Record: 5-7 (under Ron Prince)

    What’s Changed Since 2008: Heh – everything. Prince was fired – and deservedly so. Snyder was brought back to heal the family. Then, in the spring, it got really crazy, with secret deals to Prince and audits, and firings and resignations and turmoil. KSU is in a hurtin’ place as an athletic department.

    2009 Non-Conference Schedule: Snyder worked a little magic, as UMass and Tennessee Tech worm their way onto the slate. A game at Louisiana-Lafayette shouldn’t be a sweat, and the game at UCLA, poor, no-offense UCLA, is winnable.

    2009 Conference Schedule: Highly favorable. KSU hosts Texas A&M, Colorado, Missouri and Kansas, plays at Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas Tech (all losses there) and plays Iowa State in Kansas City, which will probably end up being a home game for the Wildcats. We see 4-5 wins in there.

    Offense: Power/Spread

    Coordinator: Del Miller and Dana Dimel. Don’t be surprised if Snyder’s imprints are all over the offense, though. Miller worked at San Diego State for the last three years, while Dimel was at Arizona. Both know their way around a spread passing offense; Dimel built a balanced attack at Zona last year. Preferably, Snyder would like a mobile QB who can run and pass, but he’ll settle for a guy who keeps the Cats out of bad situations.

    Strength: Wide receiver Brandon Banks (1049 receiving yards, 126 rushing yards) is the kind of dynamic player Snyder loves, and he’ll get 10-15 touches per game. One way or another, Banks will be the team’s primary offensive weapon. KSU has intriguing running backs, too, in Logan Dold, Keithen Valentine and transfer Daniel Thomas, a JUCO guy who could play QB in a pinch.

    Weakness: Quarterback. After the Josh Freeman show for three years, Coffman essentially takes over, and while he’s not terrible – he was actually decent in spot duty last year – he’s not a guy who can beat you by himself. On the offensive line, arguably KSU’s best lineman, Brock Unruh, was lost for the year to a weight room injury.

    Defense: 4-3/4-2-5

    Coordinator: Co-coordinators again, with Vic Koenning, Clemson’s former DC and Chris Cosh, the former DC at Maryland, which was one of the few teams to shut down California running back Jahvid Best. This was an awful defense in 2008. We sense that, at some point, KSU simply gave up on that side of the ball, especially the linebackers, who played with little overall discipline.

    Strength: The defensive line could be very good, with super-soph defensive end Brandon Harold (45 tackles and 3 sacks as a freshman) and University of Virginia transfer Jeffrey Fitzgerald at an inside defensive tackle. But this bunch didn’t get great push last year. That part of it has to improve. With Fitzgerald, who started 25 games at UVA, we think it will. The secondary, led by cornerback Joshua Moore, might be, fair, too. Moore was the best pure cover guy on the team last year, and one of the best in the Big 12 outside of Norman, Okla.

    Weakness: The linebackers are a little undersized, a little slow, and were really chewed up by the spread last year. Then again, they seemed to be getting some iffy coaching as the year went on (like when Nebraska ran the same zone read play over and over, and the Wildcats refused to adjust to it) so maybe that will change. The co-DCs may try to counteract that by getting an extra safety on the field.

    Beyond that, the Wildcats are in need of a better pass rush.

    Special Teams It was good under Prince, and it’ll remain good under Snyder. Banks is an excellent return man for kickoffs or punts. DJ Fulhage returns as punter, and freshman Ryan Doerr now becomes the kicker. KSU coverage units should be pretty good, too; Snyder likes to populate those units with JUCO guys.

    Intangibles: By year two or three of the “Miracle in Manhattan,” Snyder found a way to keep his Wildcats in games where they were severely overmatched. A few years later, KSU was winning those games. Few coaches prepare like this guy. He never strays too far from the plan, his teams don’t often get blown out, and Kansas State will commit to a solid running game. You watch. The formula typically works.

    Best-Case Scenario: Kansas State wins nine – all four non-conference games, and five more in the league. Long shot, but doable.

    Worst-Case Scenario: Last in the Big 12 North.

    Our Take: Same record as Kansas, with the tiebreaker going to the Wildcats on head-to-head matchup. The Wildcats simply get a favorable schedule this year. They’ll need it, and take advantage of it.

    See other Big 12 Breakdowns: No. 12 ISU, No. 11 A&M, No. 10 CU, No. 9 BU, No. 8 KU, No. 7 KSU, No. 6 Texas Tech
    Agree? Disagree? Tell us about it.

    Tags: big 12 breakdown, big 12, kansas state, football, bill snyder, carson coffman, joshua moore, brandon harold, brandon banks

  9. 2009 Aug 03

    Big 12 Breakdown: No. 8 Kansas


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Husker Locker will be counting down and breaking down each of the teams in the conference. We hope you view this series as more interesting, comprehensive and definitive than what you may find elsewhere. Where we can make strong takes – we will.

    We rank the teams 12 to 1 in overall strength. Then we’ll provide for you the North/South breakdown – and the preseason All Big 12 team, as well.


    Today: No. 8

    Coach:Mark Mangino
    2008 Record: 8-5

    What’s Changed Since 2008: KU lost its three starting linebackers. None of them were great, per see, but all of them were experienced, solid tacklers and skilled blitzers – 14 sacks among the three of them. The Jayhawks also lost three starters off an offensive line that wasn’t terrific in the first place.

    2009 Non-Conference Schedule: Tougher – much tougher – than it seems at first blush. Kansas must host Southern Mississippi and travel to UTEP. Two Conference USA teams, sure – they’re also the best two teams in Conference USA. Throw in an improved Duke squad, and we see the potential for a loss in the non-conference slate.

    2009 Conference Schedule: It’s brutal. No other word for it. Oklahoma, Nebraska at home, with Texas, Texas Tech, Colorado and Kansas State on the road. We see four losses in that bunch, maybe five, and there’s still a rival in Missouri to play in Kansas City at the end of the season.

    Offense: Spread
    Coordinator:Mangino and Ed Warinner run this together, it’s fair to say, and though the offense changes a bit from year to year, it’s was heavy on the zone read game in 2008 with a lot of downfield passing. KU made a killing on screen passes in 2007, but we didn’t see nearly as many of those last year. Kansas lacks a Jeremy Maclin type to effectively run a lot of wide receiver sweeps and fancy stuff. Fundamentally – the Jayhawks still aren’t that fast.

    Strength: Todd Reesing. The kid’s small, smart, tough, and one amazing football player. Why? Because he improvises when plays break down. Where ordinary quarterbacks hit the panic button, Reesing is just getting started. A good portion of KU’s offense – and almost all of the action in that thrilling 40-37 win over Missouri – is because Reesing simply refuses to give up on a play. Kansas had no offensive line last year. Still won eight games. Kansas also has two good receivers in Dez Briscoe and Kerry Meier, but, aside from their chemistry with Reesing, they’re a little overrated. Well, check that – Briscoe, when he runs his route right, uses his height and leaping ability quite well.

    Weakness:Reesing was sacked 31 times last year, and who knows how many sacks his scrambling ability saved. KU’s offensive line struggled to open holes for running back Jake Sharp, and KU only averaged 3.7 yards per rush. We don’t expect the line to be any better this year.

    Defense: 4-3
    Coordinator: Clint Bowen will run it with journeyman Bill Miller, who joins the staff in 2009. Expect KU to lean on its experienced secondary and get daring with its front seven.

    Strength: The secondary is probably good enough in 2009 for KU to rely on them in man-to-man coverage at least some of the time. Strong safety Darrell Stuckey is a particularly good player in run and pass support. The pass defense was indeed fairly torched last year, but part of that was a so-so defensive line that didn’t get much pressure, and part of that was the teams KU played. Of course, the Jayhawks play those teams again this year.

    Weakness:No linebacker experience, which Kansas fans brush off by pretending the departing three seniors weren’t very good. Well, poppycock. KU had to move one potential starter, Angus Quigley, from running back in order to cover the position. Much like Nebraska last year – do not expect excellence out of this group, especially when there isn’t a Cody Glenn-type athlete in the bunch.

    Special Teams Jacob Bransetter made 9-of-12 field goal attempts last year, but the longest was only 34 yards. Kansas had the nation’s worst kickoff return unit last year, and we’re not sure Mark Mangino will risk using Dez Briscoe on it. Alonso Rojas was a fair punter in his year as a sophomore with a 40.7 overall average.

    Intangibles: Kansas gets two key benefits from most pundits going into 2009 – beating Missouri in its wild regular-season finish, and drawing an easy assignment in the bowl game with Minnesota, which lost its last five games last year. Beware of the small sample size! KU is a team that was lucky to beat Iowa State, still the team that was badly outplayed by Nebraska in the second half, aside from a couple turnovers, still the team that was stoned by Texas Tech and Texas at home.

    Best-Case Scenario: Kansas wins the Big 12 North by sweeping all five opponents in its division. That’s what it’ll take, too.

    Worst-Case Scenario: A seven-loss season – which could happen. Two non-conference losses and five inside the Big 12.

    Our Take: KU finishes 7-5 and 4-4 in the Big 12, losing the tiebreaker to Kansas State.

    See other Big 12 Breakdowns: No. 12 ISU, No. 11 A&M, No. 10 CU, No. 9 BU, No. 8 KU, No. 7 KSU, No. 6 Texas Tech

    Agree? Disagree?Tell us about it.

    Tags: big 12 breakdown, mark mangino, kansas, todd reesing, dez briscoe, kerry meier, darrell stuckey, football

  10. 2009 Aug 03

    Podcast 8/3: Beware of Small Sample!


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Tags: podcasts, big 12, jordan larson, natalie willer, kansas, todd reesing, big 12 breakdown

  11. 2009 Jul 23

    Big 12 Breakdown: No. 9 Baylor


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    In preparation for Big 12 Media Days, Husker Locker will be counting down and breaking down each of the teams in the conference. We hope you view this series as more interesting, comprehensive and definitive than what you may find elsewhere. Where we can make strong takes – we will.

    We rank the teams 12 to 1 in overall strength. Then we’ll provide for you the North/South breakdown – and the preseason All Big 12 team, as well.


    Today: No. 9 Baylor

    Coach:Art Briles
    2008 Record: 5-7

    What’s Changed Since 2008: Expectations! All of the sudden, the national media knows where Waco is. Thank Briles and QB Robert Griffin, who wowed a lot of folks in a lot of losing causes. There’s now talk of the first Baylor bowl since 1994. The Bears have been the doormat of the Big 12 since its inception. Now, for once, there’s tangible hope.

    2009 Non-Conference Schedule: It seems harder than it is, and is the key to BU’s bowl hopes. A game at Wake Forest isn’t only winnable – Baylor should win it; Wake’s due for a hard fall in 2009. Similarly, Connecticut lost a ton of talent to the NFL Draft and is starting at a five-win season. Northwestern State and Kent State are pushover wins. But take note: Pundits will be fooled if Baylor starts 4-0.

    2009 Conference Schedule: And here’s why: BU still plays in the Big 12 South, and we don’t honestly see Baylor winning more than three league games. The schedule isn’t in the Bears’ favor. Home games vs. Oklahoma State and Texas don’t do Briles much good; Baylor won’t win them. Games at Missouri and Oklahoma don’t look promising either. That boils it down to winning three of these four: vs. Nebraska and Texas Tech (in Dallas) and at Iowa State and Texas A&M.

    Offense: Spread/Mulitple
    Coordinator:Briles, for intents and purposes. He’s smart, creative and a gambler. He incorporates elements of the old veer offense, Texas Tech’s “Air Raid,” I-formation, option football, and good, old-fashioned single-wing. Unlike some spread offenses, Briles has a package for short yardage situations. His offense is hard to stop, period. An NFL team should hire him.

    Strength: Sophomore Griffin, the heir apparent to the Vince Young throne. In fact, Griffin (2,091 passing yards, 843 rushing yards) has more raw tools, if not the surrounding cast and offensive line. Griffin is faster and a smarter passer. But he doesn’t have Young/Tommie Frazier’s “literally impossible to sack” quality, though. Griffin tends to run around – a lot – East-West, and he got sacked 26 times last year. And now he won’t have that the franchise left tackle around to protect him. At running back, Jay Finley is a decent, bruising compliment.
    Weakness:The offensive line needs to replace the two best tackles in recent school history, most notable Jason Smith, the first-round NFL Draft Pick who covered Griffin’s backside. The other tackle, Dan Gay, was a three-year starter.
    Defense: 4-3
    Coordinator: Brian Norwood, a Penn State guy who returned the Bears to some sanity in 2008, with a base scheme that takes advantage of the Bears’ talented safety Jordan Lake and a solid linebacker corps.

    Strength: It’s really individual players, but expect Baylor to be pretty tough against the run. It has the 360-pound defensive lineman (Phil Taylor, a transfer from Penn State) to gum up the trenches, the tough-as-nails middle linebacker (Joe Pawelek) headed who reminds so much of Nebraska’s Barrett Ruud, and a free safety (Lake) who plays more like a strong safety against the run. The Bears will stack the box and force teams to beat them over the top

    Weakness:Which teams will do. Baylor showed little ability to get to the QB in 2008, and teams completed 67.4 percent of their passes against the Bears. BU got a lot of turnovers, but 10 of them came in two games vs. Washington State (the worst major conference team we’ve ever seen) and Texas A&M. Always beware of the small sample size.

    Special TeamsThe league’s best punter in Derek Epperson (38.8 yard average), and an up-and-coming kicker in Ben Parks, who made 6-of-9 tries last year. As a kick returner last year Mikail Baker average 25.3 yards per return and scored a touchdown. We expect receiver Kendall Wright to take over as the punt returner.

    Intangibles: Casey Stadium is a morgue to play in, often half full of dispassionate, reasonably wealthy fans looking for a suntan. It’s simply no kind of home field advantage. It might be in 2009. But we’ll see. Usually, it’s home for the opposing team’s getaway day.

    But BU has some intangibles in its favor. One of them is Briles, who is, right now, a smarter football coach than a lot of the guys in the Big 12. And he had the guts to put Griffin out there right away. Against all logical odds, Griffin rarely turned the ball over. And that’s because Briles put him in plays to succeed. It helped Baylor stay in a lot of games last year. A lot of coaches are just too stubborn to limit their playbook.

    Best-Case Scenario: Baylor goes 4-0 in the non-conference and wins all four of those swing games, including beating Nebraska. We see at least four losses on Baylor’s slate no matter what.

    Worst-Case Scenario: Griffin falls into a sophomore slump, and that defense is forced to bear too much of the burden of winning. Trust us: The defense can’t do it. The line isn’t good enough yet.

    Our Take: It’ll come down to the last two games – A&M and Tech – as to whether Baylor makes a bowl. We think they do – at 6-6.

    See other Big 12 Breakdowns: No. 12 ISU, No. 11 A&M, No. 10 CU, No. 9 BU, No. 8 KU, No. 7 KSU, No. 6 Texas Tech

    Agree? Disagree?Tell us about it.

    Tags: baylor, big 12 breakdown, big 12, big 12 media days, robert griffin, art briles

  12. 2009 Jul 23

    Big 12 Breakdown: No. 10 Colorado


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    In preparation for Big 12 Media Days, Husker Locker will be counting down and breaking down each of the teams in the conference. We hope you view this series as more interesting, comprehensive and definitive than what you may find elsewhere. Where we can make strong takes – we will.

    We rank the teams 12 to 1 in overall strength. Then we’ll provide for you the North/South breakdown – and the preseason All Big 12 team, as well.


    Today: No. 10 Colorado

    Coach:Dan Hawkins
    2008 Record: 5-7

    What’s Changed Since 2008: CU lost its offensive coordinator to Oregon, the Buffs switched back to the West Coast Offense, QB Matt Ballenger bolted, WR Josh Smith, the team’s most dynamic player, chose to bolt, too, in order to pursue a rap career (and play football). Hawkins, believing the only place a rap career can flourish, apparently, released Smith only to USC and UCLA. Top-notch running back recruit Darrell Scott lost 30 pounds. Hawkins made a “10 wins and no excuses” guarantee. He’d better have the excuses ready. An old lady left all of her money to CU upon her death. Hawkins went in the hospital for kidney stones.

    2009 Non-Conference Schedule: Easier than it has been, but still no cakewalk. The toughest game on paper is a Thursday night trip to West Virginia after a bye date, but a Friday game at Toledo could be tricky, too. CU hosts Colorado State and Wyoming, the latter of which we identified as a potential upset.

    2009 Conference Schedule: Tough road games at Texas and Oklahoma State practically bookend the schedule, but CU gets to host Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. That schedule advantage has led some pundits, most notably Phil Steele, to suggest the Buffaloes are headed for an upper division finish.

    Offense: West Coast/Spread
    Coordinator:Eric Kiseau, another young guy who takes over for the departed Mark Helfrich, who kept CU in the shotgun much of the time, using a modified spread rushing offense. Kiseau is a high-energy guy, but he prefers the control of the West Coast Offense. Kiseau has openly said his offense will resemble that of California, where he coached under Jeff Tedford.

    Strength: Running backs. Colorado has three pretty good ones, and two of those three are potential stars. Sophomores Darrell Scott and Rodney Stewart – the first is built like a bowling ball, while the second is a 5-7 scatback - are an effective 1-2 punch, and senior Demetrius Sumler is good around the goal line. The offensive line, while young, has the potential, later in 2009, to be CU’s best in years. Sophomore guards Ryan Miller and Blake Behrens are both all-league candidates over the next two years.

    Weakness:There just no way around it: Cody Hawkins has been the worst starting quarterback over the last two years in the Big 12. He gets sacked a lot, his adjusted yards per attempt average is under five – which is anemic, among the nation’s worst – and he throws interceptions. He may be smart. He may be Dan Hawkins’ kid. But he is not a good passer, and there is no indication that the more mobile Tyler Hansen, who is recovering from a broken thumb, is ready to replace him. Hansen looked awful in a 40-31 loss to Nebraska – like he didn’t belong on the field.

    Beyond that, CU will have to adjust to a new offense. It’s going to take time, and the front of the Big 12 schedule, which includes games at Texas and vs. Kansas and Missouri, will be a tough test.

    Defense: 4-3
    Coordinator: Brian Cabral, the longtime CU assistant who has lasted through four different head coaches. It speaks to his personality and his talent of getting a lot out of a little. After going through some rough patches in 2003 and 2004, his defenses have been pretty solid, considering the anemic nature of the CU offense under Hawkins.

    Strength: Cabral is a linebackers coach at heart, and he’s always got a pretty good crew. No exception in 2009, as the team’s two leading tacklers, Shaun Mohler and Jeff Smart, both return. Jon Major, one of the nation’s recruits in 2008, redshirted last year, and may fill a starting role now. Also look for former NU commit Doug Rippy, a redshirt, to get some playing time. The secondary could be pretty good if two new safeties can support solid corners Cha’pelle Brown and Jimmy Smith.

    Weakness:The defensive line was raided by graduation. Gone is George Hypolite, Brandon Nicolas and Maurice Lucas. That’s more than 100 tackles. You don’t just replace that in a few weeks of play, no matter how talented the replacements are. And there’s some evidence that they may not be as talented. Colorado will struggle to generate a pass rush without blitzing.

    Special Teams The big weapon in the kickoff and punt return game, Josh Smith, is off working on his flow. Matt DiLallo wasn’t much of a punter for the alititude he kicks in (just a 34.0 net average) and Aric Goodman was positively awful at kicker last year, missing 9 of 14 attempts.

    Intangibles: Colorado seems to play Nebraska well since Hawkins arrival – even that awful 2006 team hung with NU for a half - and that may color Huskers’ fans concern for the Buffs. In recent years, however, CU seems utterly flummoxed when playing Missouri. Hawkins is an emotional leader, and his teams tend to go into the Big 12 conference with some emotion. Then it hits a brick wall. There’s just a lot of bad voodoo around this joint in general. Hawkins is probably getting fired after this year. Then…expect a full push for Turner Gill.

    Best-Case Scenario: It’s not 10 wins, that’s for sure. Maybe eight. CU isn’t going to sweep KU, NU and MU and it’s got no shot on the road at Okie State and Texas.

    Worst-Case Scenario: The Buffs drop two before the Big 12, lose to Texas and Kansas, and Hawkins goes on execution watch. Colorado won’t mess around waiting for the Hawk to make it work. His offenses have stunk thus far. And it’s not all Gary Barnett’s fault for leaving the cupboard bare.

    Our Take: We just don’t get Phil Steele’s vision here for picking CU No. 2 in the Big 12 North. While the Buffs might have a pretty good running game, it’d better be wondrous to account for a below-average passing game. On defense, Colorado’s small defensive line figures to get shoved around. We see four, five wins, depending on whether Iowa State upsets CU in Ames.

    See other Big 12 Breakdowns: No. 12 ISU, No. 11 A&M, No. 10 CU, No. 9 BU, No. 8 KU, No. 7 KSU, No. 6 Texas Tech

    Agree? Disagree?Tell us about it.

    Tags: colorado, big 12 breakdown, big 12 media days, big 12, dan hawkins, cody hawkins, darrell scott

  13. 2009 Jul 21

    Big 12 Breakdown: No. 11 Texas A&M


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    In preparation for Big 12 Media Days, Husker Locker will be counting down and breaking down each of the teams in the conference. We hope you view this series as more interesting, comprehensive and definitive than what you may find elsewhere. Where we can make strong takes – we will.

    We rank the teams 12 to 1 in overall strength. Then we’ll provide for you the North/South breakdown – and the preseason All Big 12 team, as well.


    Today: Texas A&M

    Coach:Mike Sherman
    2008 Record: 4-8

    What’s Changed Since 2008:A&M’s in a big feud with Texas Tech over comments Mike Leach made about former A&M QB Stephen McGee, the heat’s been turned up a little more on Sherman, and the entire team has another spring of experience in this modified NFL system. The Aggies weren’t very good in 2008, and they probably won’t be in 2009, either. Chalk it up to transition and the overall difficulty of the Big 12 South.

    2009 Non-Conference Schedule: The first three opponents, New Mexico, UAB and Utah State, are figured to be reprobates in 2009 – UNM is probably staring down the gun barrel of an 0-12 season - but that didn’t stop A&M from dumping a game to Arkansas State last year. The fourth game is a tilt with old SWC foe Arkansas at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium. We expect the Razorbacks to be much improved this year, and win the game in JerryWorld.

    2009 Conference Schedule: Trips to Oklahoma and Texas Tech are probably losses. A&M hosts Texas, Oklahoma and Baylor. The mini-slate of Big 12 North squads is pretty favorable, with winnable games at Kansas State and Colorado and a home date with Iowa State. The Baylor game, if A&M’s record is what we think it will be around that time, may determine whether Mike Sherman has a job in 2010.

    Offense: Pro-style/West Coast Offense
    Coordinator:Nolan Cromwell, a long-time disciple of Mike Holmgren, under whom he coached from 1992-2008. Holmgren’s WCO likes to feature two backs when it can, prefers to operate from under center and use play-action and can, with the right offensive line and running back, be a quite effective rushing offense. Expect toss plays and zone plays. Like most WCOs, there is typically a smaller back and a bigger one. The receivers are usually big. And the tight end has a defined, significant role. A&M incorporated most of that in 2008.

    Strength:The receiving corps, which includes tight end Jamie McCoy. They’re all uniformly big targets for QB Jarrod Johnson. The best of the bunch is backup QB Ryan Tannehill, who has an NFL future at the position, and caught 55 passes for 844 yards and five touchdowns as a true freshman. He’s a reliable guy, and can make the big grab downfield. But Tannehill will compete for the QB job, and Sherman doesn’t necessarily want to use the guy at WR. Why? For fear of injury. This, and A&M is bringing in two top-notch QB recruits in 2010. Foolishness.

    Weakness:The offensive line returns all five starters. Just one hitch: They weren’t very good last year, giving up 39 sacks and only producing 89 rushing yards per game. The WCO is too controlled a passing offense to win games by itself. At quarterback, Johnson is fair. You see the 2,435 yards and 21 touchdown and presume something, but remember how awful the Big 12 as a whole was on defense in 2008. He had a pretty paltry 6.2 yards per adjusted pass average. That’s pretty low. That’s also the WCO.

    Defense: 3-4/multiple front
    Coordinator: Joe Kines, who’s been to a lot of schools before A&M, most notably Alabama for four seasons with David Shula. Kines is a riverboat gambler, a chess player, a guy who likes to put offenses in matchups they don’t like. Well, none of it worked last year, as A&M gave up 462 yards per game and 37.4 Was it just the personnel? Nah, not solely that. A&M’s defense often looked bewildered in coverage, and too small and overmatched at the point of attack. Kines committed to using a base 3-4 in spring ball with a “jack” linebacker serving as a potential rusher, run stopper, or cover guy.

    Strength: The best player on the defense is either Matt Featherston or Von Miller; they’ll be “jacks” in 2009 And, at the very least, the 3-4 gives you some flexibility. Anything has to be better than last year.

    Weakness: The defensive line is just small, it replaces three starters, and a 3-4 defense doesn’t work properly, in this day and age, without a 300-pound hoss at nose tackle. A&M doesn’t have that guy, so you’re asking a lot of those linebackers, especially in playaction. Unless Kines can scheme the opponents’ every move in the running game, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that A&M can stop the run.

    Special Teams New punter Ryan Epperson is a walk-on freshman, but that doesn’t mean much; kickers often are. Sophomore Kicker Randy Bullock got off to a nice start in 2008, making 6 of 7 field goals. As a freshman, Cyrus Gray was an excellent kicker returner, averaging 24 yards and scoring a touchdown. Of course, he got about four chances a game at it, too.

    Intangibles: For A&M’s overall athletic program, it’s been a pretty good two years. For the football program, it’s been close to a disaster. AD Bill Byrne and Sherman have both gotten bad press, and some Aggies fans are crying foul over the exorbitant prices for the JerryWorld game. This is a team that can’t afford an early slip-up. A&M could, theoretically, roll into a Nov. 21 game vs. Baylor looking to clinch a bowl berth. Baylor probably will be, too. While Kyle Field is a wonderful stadium, it's difficulty on opposing teams is a tad overrated. Think about it: If you made the same noise for three hours, wouldn't you get used to it? It's like eyes adjusting to the dark.

    Best-Case Scenario: A&M rides a comfy non-conference and Big 12 North schedule to a 7/8 win season. The “jack” entertains all. The offense develops a running game.

    Worst-Case Scenario: Sherman is fired after A&M dumps a game to Baylor on its home field. The Aggies finish with another 4-8 record.

    Our Take: We’re not convinced the new defense takes hold completely, but it does stop some of the bleeding. We see the offense remaining a bit stagnant: Efficient one game, and brutal the next. We expect the Baylor game to be for a bowl berth, and considering we have Baylor ranked higher on this list, we expect the Bears to win.

    See other Big 12 Breakdowns: No. 12 ISU, No. 11 A&M, No. 10 CU, No. 9 BU, No. 8 KU, No. 7 KSU, No. 6 Texas Tech

    Agree? Disagree?Tell us about it.

    Tags: big 12 breakdown, big 12, texas a, m, mike sherman, nolan cromwell, joe kines

  14. 2009 Jul 20

    Podcast 7/20: Bo's Full 2009 Class Ready to Go


    By HuskerLocker

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    Enjoy today's podcast for free. Listen to other podcasts via a Locker Pass. Click here for more information.

    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    See also: Ten Huskers with the Most to Prove

    Tags: podcasts, bo pelini, eric martin, big 12 breakdown, iowa state, track and field, nicolas gordon

  15. 2009 Jul 19

    Big 12 Breakdown: No. 12 Iowa State


    By HuskerLocker

    In preparation for Big 12 Media Days, Husker Locker will be counting down and breaking down each of the teams in the conference. We hope you view this series as more interesting, comprehensive and definitive than what you may find elsewhere. Where we can make strong takes – we will.

    We rank the teams 12 to 1 in overall strength. Then we’ll provide for you the North/South breakdown – and the preseason All Big 12 team, as well.


    Today: Iowa State

    Coach: Paul Rhoads
    2008 Record: 2-10 (0-8)

    What’s Changed Since 2008: The old coach, Gene Chizik, quit and left for Auburn. The AD shed tears over it. In an effort to define irony, ISU hired Auburn’s defensive coordinator, Paul Rhoads to become the new head coach. The defense, awful last year (453 yards and 36 points per game), lost five of those players who made it so awful.

    2009 Non-Conference Schedule: Aside from the annual tilt with Iowa, an embarrassment. But Iowa State will struggle to win three games out of four. Home-opener vs. North Dakota State screams trap, and Craig Bohl’s boys have done it before. Next the Cys host Iowa, then travel to Kent State, then host Army. The Knights will run the triple option. ISU will struggle to stop it, we’re sure.

    2009 Conference Schedule: A pail full of kittens, comparatively. Toughest road game is at Nebraska. Other road games are A&M, KU, and Zou Zou. Hosts Okie State, Buffs, Baylor. Kansas State will be held in the Chiefs’ revamped Arrowhead palace to give ISU fans a change of scenery.

    Offense: Spread/Pass, No-Huddle
    Coordinator: Tom Herman, a 33-year-old wunderkind – the guy’s a Mensa! - who studied under Art Briles for a cup of coffee before calling plays at Texas State for a deuce and ditto at Rice. The Owls set records under his tutelage, and finished 10-3 last year. That said, Rice went 0-5 vs. major conference foes in his two years and lost by average of 33 points. As we’ve said: Not the scheme, but the team.

    Strength: Austen Arnaud is smart-but-cautious QB; he racked up scads of meaningless yards among his 2,792 in garbage time of games already lost. He rushed for 401, too, but ISU punted an average a four times per game, tied for most in the Big 12, so the offense wasn’t particularly efficient. He averaged just 5.9 adjusted yards per pass attempt when you figure in interceptions. Still, he has a decent arm, a good pocket presence, and can get on hot streaks. He needs more playmakers and needs to get a touch faster as a runner. The offensive line has four returning starters, but who knows what’s that’s really worth.

    Weakness:This just isn’t a team of playmakers. The receiving corps is experienced, but not dynamic. Save one big run vs. Nebraska last year, Alexander Robinson mostly plodded for few yards in between tackles. Mostly, though, Iowa State was out of so many conference games after a heartbreaking 35-33 loss to Kansas that it simply never had to produce against a properly motivated defense. The one time it did, vs. Nebraska, the Cys looked like kids.

    Defense: 4-3/Cover 2
    Coordinator: Rhoads/Wally Burnham, who previously coordinated South Florida’s defense, where the head coach Jim Leavitt, did most of the playcalling. That’s why nobody wanted the job after Burnham left.

    Strength: Iowa State isn’t going to try and outsmart itself, which we like. Linebacker Jesse Smith is a bit slow afoot in pass defense, but he’s a capable run stuffer. Safety James Smith doesn’t fall from that apple tree, either. As a true freshman, cornerback Leonard Johnson (47 tackles, 2 INT) was one of the best players on an awful, maligned defense. Short/squat Nate Frere has his days at nose tackle, we suppose.

    Weakness: You can’t give up 176 rushing yards per game and expect to be any good. ISU probably had one of the slower, and certainly the smallest, defenses in the league. When you don’t have one lineman over 290 pounds or one defensive back taller than 5-10, you’re simply stacking the deck against yourself. Bigger, stronger, faster offenses simply overwhelmed the Cys over the last half of last year.

    Special Teams Johnson led the Big 12 in kickoff return yard average, but he notched one-third of that total (1089)in one game vs. Oklahoma State (319 yards). Grant Mahoney cost ISU a win over Iowa, but he was generally a pretty good placekicker (17-25, 5-8 from 40+) otherwise. Mike Brandtner was a fair punter, which is common in the wind tunnel that is Jack Trice Stadium.

    Intangibles: Iowa State has no real tradition to speak of, it ran off the one mildly successful coach it did have in Dan McCarney, and it’s putting its chips on a lifetime defensive coordinator with ISU ties in Rhoads. Yep. Not a lot a karma in Ames these days. Oh well – the grass turf at Jack Trice is really nice. Wish Nebraska would get it.

    Best-Case Scenario: 5-7, with wins over Kansas State, Colorado or possibly Baylor.

    Worst-Case Scenario: 0-12 with the easiest schedule in the league.

    Our Take: The schedule plays into ISU’s favor. The Cys will have some chances to steal a win or two at home. But, fundamentally, installing a no-huddle in Ames, in that potentially bad weather, with that lack of speed, size and talent, is courting disaster. Iowa State could play itself right out of games in the first quarter. Previous coach Gene Chizik spent most of his energy recruiting fourth-tier types from California and Florida, guys only the MAC and Sun Belt Conferences were after, in an effort to jolt the overall speed profile. But Florida and California generally spawn more pro-style, rush-oriented offenses. So ISU has redirected its focus now to the cutting edge Texas high school market.

    All that to say this: The rebuilding process two years ago at Iowa State seemed manageable. It now seems daunting. Here is, officially, the first MAC school to enter the Big 12. It’s gonna be that way for the next three years. At least.

    See other Big 12 Breakdowns: No. 12 ISU, No. 11 A&M, No. 10 CU, No. 9 BU, No. 8 KU, No. 7 KSU, No. 6 Texas Tech

    Agree? Disagree?Tell us about it.

    Tags: big 12 breakdown, iowa state, paul rhoads, austen arnaud, leonard johnson, big 12

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