Posts Tagged 'big 12'

College FootBlog Week 1 Recap

Robert Griffin III lit up the TCU defense in a huge opening week upset (photo courtesy of collegesportsmadness.com and google images)

The first week of the 2011 college football season is officially in the books, and while the January bowls are still months away, we did manage to learn quite a bit from opening week.  Here is College FootBlog’s Breakdown from Week 1.

Another year, another over-hyped Notre Dame team:  A lot of hype surrounded the hiring of former Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly.  Because of the dismal state that Charlie Weis left the program in, the expectations were not too high last season.  This season was a different story.  Most preseason polls had the Irish in the top 25, and last weekend’s loss to USF in South Bend was proof yet again that the Irish are not a dominant program.  Much credit needs to go to USF and Skip Holtz, but once again, Notre Dame folded in the face of pressure and played like a team that was afraid of losing, instead of a confident team that expected to win.

RG3 is good.  Very good: While most people who watched TCU fall to Baylor are discussing the fall of TCU from the nation’s elite, we prefer to look at the unbelievable play of Baylor QB Robert Griffin III.  The junior signal-caller did everything except park the cars and sell the popcorn in Baylor’s amazing 50-48 victory over the Horned Frogs.  Griffin III has somewhat flown under the radar because of other NFL prospects in the Big 12 like Blaine Gabbert, Josh Freeman and Landry Jones to name a few, but last weekend was not a fluke.  RG3 came into the season with 41 career touchdown passes, versus only 11 picks.  This will not be the first time you hear from Griffin or the Bears this season.

Auburn could be in for a long season:  The 2010 BCS National Champs had to recover an onside kick and score with less than a minute in their nail-biter against visiting Utah State last weekend.  Much has been made of the Tigers’ holes vacated by Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and 13th overall NFL selection Nick Fairley, and the cynics got it right this time.  Auburn could not slow down the Utah State, who racked up 227 yards rushing and 448 total net yards.  With a healthy dose of SEC West opponents, it is only going to get more difficult, and the Tigers will have to fight to be bowl eligible this season.

The SEC is still King.  Just ask the Oregon Ducks:  After Nick Fairley dominated the Oregon offensive line, this year was the Ducks’ opportunity to get respect for themselves and the newly expanded Pac 12, but LSU stood in the way of that, dominating Oregon in the first bigtime match up of the young season.  Despite only getting 98 yards passing from Jarrett Lee, the Tigers stuffed last year’s leading rusher in all of college football, holing LaMichael James to an anemic 54 yards.  Until Oregon can score against the SEC, they can rack up as many yards and points as they want–it just won’t get them back to a title game.

Maryland trumps Oregon in most hideous uniform challenge:  If you watched the Miami vs. Maryland game on Monday night, you may have thown up your hot wings.  The Terps’ uniforms rivaled the uni’s from “Any Given Sunday”–if you’ve seen that horrible movie, you understand the comparison.  Previously, Oregon’s all-fluorescent yellow uniforms took the cake, but Maryland trumped those on Monday.  If nothing else, new head coach Randy Edsall has people (including us) talking and writing about Maryland football, which hadn’t been on the radar since Al Davis, in his infinite wisdom, took former Terp wideout Darirus Heyward-Bey with the Oakland Raiders’ first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Big 12…11…10…9…

The Big 12 Conference is looking more like a countdown for a space shuttle launch than it is a football conference these days.  The 2011 season will be the first year since the inception that, despite still being called the Big 12, the conference will only have ten teams.

Nebraska bolted for the Big Ten (which now has twelve teams) and Colorado moved to greener pastures and potentially more revenue with their move to the newly established Pac 12 Conference.

The Big 12 seems to be shrinking by the day these days (logo courtesy of Big 12 Conference)

Over the last few days, there are more and more rumblings of Texas A&M moving to the SEC, which would likely be straw to break the dwindling Big 12’s back.  But the move to college football’s most powerful conference won’t go through without the Big 12 Conference pulling out all stops to maintain the status quo (if there is one).

Regardless of what the Big 12 officials and the state of Texas choose to do, in the end, A&M would be crazy not to jump at this opportunity.  The SEC has long been the best conference in all of college football, and with their recent contract with ESPN, their recent dominance of the BCS National Championships (an SEC team has won the National Championship in each of the last five years), and recent talk of courting Florida State or Virginia Tech to create two, separate 7-team divisions, the SEC shows no signs of looking back.

When the dust settles, we take a quick peak at where the other teams in the conference could end up:

Texas: The Longhorns should be kicking themselves for not jumping at the opportunity to join Colorado when the Pac 10 came calling last year.  Instead, Utah jumped at the chance to get out of the BCS purgatory known as the Mountain West.  Look for the Pac 12 to become the Pac 14 in an attempt to rival the SEC 2.0 version in 2012 or 2013.

Oklahoma: Like their hated rivals, Texas, there was a lot of talk last year of the Sooners joining the Pac 12, despite the fact that Texas and Oklahoma are nowhere near the Pacific coast, which was the original geographic concept of the conference when they were the Pac 8.  You lost yet?  Anyway, look for the Sooners and Longhorns to continue their rivalry within the same conference, which will likely be the Pac 14.

Missouri: Like the Huskers, the Big Ten courted the Tigers last season, but Mizzou opted to stay, especially once it was confirmed that Texas was staying.  The Big Ten would love to bring on the Tigers and bring a great rivalry with Nebraska inside the conference.  This would make the Big Ten’s thirteenth team, and maybe at this point, they really should think about dropping the “Big Ten” name, even though they have retained that name despite having eleven teams since Penn State joined the conference in 1993.

Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State will have to scramble to find a home.  These programs have had flashes, but unlike Mizzou, Oklahoma and Texas, they haven’t quite been able to crack or stay in the Top 25 for more than a year or two at a time.  And that will hurt them and possibly leave them with no choice but to join a new version of the Mountain West, but for basketball, Kansas may have to pull a Notre Dame and go independent.  Confused yet?

Rumors and scenarios will run rampant in the coming months, but one thing is for sure.  The Big 12 was already on life support, and A&M’s likely departure will be the death of the conference.

Mega-Conferences: Be Careful What You Wish For

The fate of the Big 12 Conference was in the hands of the Texas Longhorns, and earlier this week, the conference was finally able to exhale.  After more guaranteed revenue, the University of Texas agreed to keep the conference intact, and they were soon followed by Oklahoma.  And despite the departures of Nebraska next fall and Colorado in 2012, the threat of the mega-conferences is on the back burner.  Now the question is how long the current situation will last.

Mack Brown and his Texas Longhorns are staying with the Big 12....at least for now (google images)

It appears that this is a band-aid on an issue that could require plastic surgery.  Had Texas and Oklahoma left for the Pac 10 and Texas A&M bolted for the SEC, it would have had a domino effect in the rest of the college football world.  All conferences must learn from what could have happened and they need to prepare themselves for the same situation 3-5 years down the road.   College FootBlog takes a look at what might have been had the Longhorns set the mega-conferences into motion and weighs two potential impacts it would have had.

1.  The ACC and Big East would have been dead in the water.  The ACC thought they were going to challenge the SEC when they on-boarded Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College a few years ago.  Instead, Miami and Florida State have struggled to live up to their prestige from the 80’s and 90’s, and with huge losses in out of conference and bowl games, they have been little more than an automatic bid to a BCS Bowl because the BCS has to have a representative from their conference.

The Big East has come a long way since losing their coveted teams to the ACC.  But it hasn’t been easy.  Despite having three teams finish in the Top 25 last season, the Big East is still trying to prove they belong with the big boys.  The emergence of Pitt, Cincinnati and Rutgers has helped give them some respectability, but they are still largely considered a second-tier league.  With the depth they had last season, that is somewhat unfair, but that is still the general consensus. 

The Big Ten flirted with Pitt when they originally wanted to have 14-16 teams in their league, and much like when the ACC raided them a few years ago, the conference seemed ready to take their lumps and move on.  There is talk that if and when the SEC comes calling, they will go after Virginia Tech, but even if the mega-conferences leave the ACC and Big East alone, each conference could easily become a footnote in the BCS title hunt if the big conferences get bigger and deeper.  That would result in far less revenue and could effectively make each conference a new-aged mid-major. 

If they don’t want that to happen, representatives from each conference need to take advantage of the new three-year window and fight for stability and/or growth.  Otherwise, FSU, Miami and Virginia Tech could easily look to jump ship before it goes down.

2.  The Mid-Majors would have dropped further into obscurity.  Even with Boise State making the move to the Mountain West, they simply will not be able to compete in terms of revenue and overall respectability vs a 16-team Pac 10.  Add to it that Utah is likely jumping ship from the MWC to become the Pac 10’s 12th team, and they will continue to fight for some well-deserved attention in college football.  Should the Pac 10 increase to a 16-team league in the future, all hope of having a representative in the BCS National Championship will be gone.

The conference already had an uphill battle due to the lack of television coverage and the perception that they, along with the other mid-majors are the little brother of the bigger, more traditional BCS conferences, but one or two mega-conferences would effectively shut the door on their chances for a title.

That would be a shame, considering what Boise State and Utah have more than represented themselves and their conferences on the big stage of a BCS bowl game.  A one-loss or even a two-loss team from a mega-conference could easily get the nod from voters to play in a title game over an undefeated mid-major team.  Considering the strength of schedule from a 16-team SEC and/or Pac 10, it would be very difficult to keep a conference champion from a dominant conference out of the National Championship.

The other major issue facing the non-BCS Conferences would be their ability to schedule decent out of conference games.  Boise State and TCU are already teams that present a no-win situation for a major program.  If the larger program wins, they were supposed to win.  If they lose, the upset becomes an instant classic.  A 16-team conference would provide more than enough competition and national recognition without scheduling a couple tough out of conference games, leaving the cupboard bare for the mid-majors to challenge the big boys.

College FootBlog wants your input.  Let us know your thoughts on the Mega-Conferences and the pros and cons if they become a reality.

Who Will Win the Big 12 North?

With the departure of Mark Mangino and several key players like wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe and four-year starting quarterback Todd Reesing, new Kansas coach Turner Gill will have his hands full this season.  Kansas State had six wins in 2009, but two of those victories came at the hands of FCS schools UMass and Tennessee Tech and only one of the other four wins came against a team with a winning record (Iowa State).  There is a good possibility that Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins could lose his job if he has a similar season to last year’s 3-9 team.  And Iowa State is….let’s face it…Iowa State.  They finished with a 7-6 record, but they should have with their out of conference schedule, which featured North Dakota State, Army and Kent State.

If all goes as expected, there are two teams left, and their showdown on October 30th could very well determine who will represent the northern division in the Big 12 Championship Game–Mizzou and NebraskaCollege FootBlog takes a look at the two early favorites and will offer up a way-too-premature preview of the head to head match up in October.

Nebraska

In his two years as head coach of the Huskers, Bo Pelini has delivered, going 20-8.  He has the Sea of Red excited about football again, boasting one of the top defenses in the country last season.  The Huskers will not be able to replace All-World defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in the middle, but they do have a couple solid players who should fill in nicely, in Jared Crick and sophomore Baker Steinkuhler.  Look for redshirt freshman Thaddeus Randle to get in the rotation as well, and many believe he could be the next great DT to come out of reinvigorated Black Shirt Defense.

The Huskers’ running game should be solid, highlighted by senior Roy Helu, but sophomore tandem Rex Burkhead and Dontrayevous Robinson both had solid springs and will get their carries this fall.  The big question mark, and ultimately what needs to improve if Nebraska wants to compete for a Big 12 Championship is the play at quarterback.  Despite leading the offense to a 10-win season, quarterback Zac Lee didn’t exactly light it up last season, and as such, the buzz coming out of Nebraska’s spring practices actually have Cody Green and Taylor Martinez with a legitimate shot at replacing the senior signal caller. 

If Mizzou's Blaine Gabbert can stay healthy, he will put up big numbers in 2010 (google images)

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert headlines the Tigers’ returning starters this fall, and if he can stay healthy, he will have a very big year, even with the departure of All-American wideout Denario Alexander.  After rushing for over 1,000 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2008, starting tailback Derrick Washington had a drop in production in ’09, only rushing for 909 yards and 10 touchdowns.  The word from the spring is that Washington has dropped some unnecessary weight and looks more the part of the 2008 version.  At wideout, someone will have to step up this fall, like Alexander did last year after All-American Jeremy Maclin left early for the Philadelphia Eagles.  Wes Kemp and Jarrell Jackson are two of the likely starters, but it will be difficult to replace Alexander’s eye-popping 1,781 yards and 14 TDs from last season.

Like Nebraska, Mizzou must find a way to replace an NFL first round selection on defense as well.  Sean Weatherspoon was all over the field and gave head coach Gary Pinkel a coach on the field.  Despite this huge loss, linebacker should actually be pretty solid for the Tigers.  Luke Lambert had a solid spring and appears to finally be healthy at the MLB spot, and redshirt sophomore Zaviar Gooden and senior Andrew Gachkar add experience and speed that should be a strength of the 2010 team.

The biggest strength of the defense, however, should be the defensive ends.  The Tigers return a ton of experience and athleticism at this position, and there is some quality depth here.  Look for at least six different players to get quality reps this fall, highlighted by Jacquies Smith and Aldon Smith.

The October 30th Showdown

As we mentioned this will be a huge game for each team and will likely have the divisional championship on the line.  In order to make a realistic prediction, we really need to see how these teams perform in the first seven weeks of the season.  At that time, we will have our full breakdown of each team with a score prediction. 

But in the meantime, we have a few things to consider.  Mizzou has been very lucky at wide receiver–they have had a go-to receiver for the last several years.  So far this spring, no one WR has stepped up as that guy.  Gabbert has the ability to spread it around, but someone needs to assume that role of the primary target if they want to be effective.  They have the summer and two-a-days to figure it out, but Mizzou fans would have liked to have resolved that this spring. 

Nebraksa should have another great defensive football team.  They host the Texas Longhorns two weeks before the rivalry game with Mizzou, so we should have a much better idea of what the offense will do after that game.  They simply must get better offensively this season if they want to make a run, and all signs point to the Huskers being better than last season on that side of the ball.  At 99th nationally in total offense, they can’t get much worse, and Zac Lee will either need to step up his play or one of the younger, more athletic QBs on the roster will fill in and provide a different look. 

An improved offense and some key returners on last year’s dominant defense (despite losing Suh), along with this game being played in Lincoln gives Nebraska the slight edge, at least for now.  However, a lot can change before this game (it is, afterall, only May right now).  We will do a more comprehensive breakdown of this match up the week of this game with more insight, but hopefully, this is a serviceable appetizer.

College Football Preseason Top 25 (#16-#25)

As the end of Spring Football draws near, some major college football programs have answered some questions, while others have more questions than they had in February.  In this three-part series, College FootBlog will release our Preseason 2010 Top 25 with some insight on each team and the season that will be here in five months.  In this first edition, we will break down #16-#25.

Oregon State RB Quizz Rodgers is one of the most electric players in college football (google images)

16.  Oregon State:  The Beavers surprised many outside of their conference last season, but to the Pac 10, their rise in ’09 was a continuance of what they have been doing for the last four years, the Beavers are 36-17 and have finished second in the Pac 10 in each of the last two years.  The Rodgers brothers (Quizz and James) return to lead the offense.  There is a battle between Ryan Katz and Peter Lalich to replace Sean Canfield at quarterback, but if the last four years are any indication, Oregon State is for real and they are here to stay.

17.  Miami:  Many doubted the Hurricane offense going into last season, but then sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris proceeded to light up defensive secondaries en route to a 3,000-yard passing season.  Harris and his receiving corps faltered against Wisconsin in their bowl game, but with only one wideout leaving for graduation (Leonard Hankerson), look for Miami to put up good numbers on offense again in 2010.  Couple that with a very athletic defense led by linebacker Sean Spence, and the ‘Canes will be tough this fall.

18.  LSU:  The Tigers were a decent offense away from ending Tim Tebow’s BCS Championship long before Alabama knocked the Gators off in the SEC Championship Game.  Les Miles had a solid defense last season, and senior linebacker Kelvin Sheppard returns to anchor this season’s unit.   Do-everything offensive game-breaker, Russell Shepard should make a name for himself in his sophomore season.

19.  Nebraska:  Bo Pelini brought respect back to the storied program that had been in a major drought since the days of Eric Crouch.  Pelini has brought back the “black shirt” defense as opposed to what had looked more like the “mesh shirt” defense in the earlier part of the last decade.  The loss of Ndamukong Suh is significant, but luckily for Husker fans, the rest of the Big 12 is not good at tackle football.

20.  Georgia:  After a disappointing 8-5 season, look for the Bulldogs to bounce back this fall.  The offense should take a step forward, with one of the top receivers in the country in AJ Green and running back Washaun Ealey.  The defense was a major reason the ‘Dawgs underachieved in 2009, so head coach Mark Richt has revamped his coaching staff on that side of the ball, and the buzz coming out of Athens so far this spring sounds like those changes are already having a favorable impact.

21.  Penn State:  Look for JoPa to make one last run in 2010, although we believe the Nittany Lions don’t quite have enough to dethrone Ohio State for a run at the Big Ten title.  The thing that Penn State has going for them is their conference.  While there are four teams that should be very good in 2010, the rest of the conference takes a significant nosedive, and PSU should benefit from that.

Senior quarterback Josh Nesbitt is the key to GT's triple option attack (google images)

22.  Georgia Tech:  After scoffing at Paul Johnson bringing the triple option to a major college offense a couple years ago, we have all learned one thing–he is a great football coach.  And we have learned to not count him out.  The loss of stud running back Jonathan Dwyer will hurt the Yellow Jackets, but if quarterback Josh Nesbitt can stay healthy, GT will make another run at an ACC Championship Game.

23.  North Carolina:  Butch Davis has the Tarheels playing great football…well, at least on defense.  UNC boasted the nation’s 6th ranked total defense, allowing opposing offenses just under 270 yards per game.  Unfortunately, for the ‘Heels, the offense was as bad as the defense was good.  UNC was ranked a pathetic 108th in total offense.   If the offense can improve at all (which isn’t exactly a tall order), look for Butch Davis’ squad to give teams fits in 2010.

24.  West Virginia:  The Mountaineers will have to overcome the loss of quarterback Jarrett Brown, but Geno Smith will look to show why he was such a highly-touted QB out of Florida.  Noel Devine has been one of the most explosive players in the country since his freshman season, and the fact that he returned for his senior means that the Mountaineers can always one play away from breaking one.

25.  Auburn:  The heavily criticized hiring of Gene Chizik worked out well, as he led the Tigers to an 8-5 record and a bowl victory over Northwestern in his inaugural season.  Look for even more improvement from the offense and a stout defense.  Look for freshman running back Michael Dyer and freshman DE Corey Lemonier to make immediate impact this fall.

2009 BCS Conference Power Rankings Part 2

In Part 2 of our three-part coverage, College FootBlog continues our breakdown of the top six BCS conferences from the 2009 season.  In case you missed it, we ranked the fifth and sixth conferences earlier this week (see link).  We continue our analysis by providing a recap of last season and an outlook for next year for conferences #3 and #4 in our Power Rankings.

4.  Big 12

 

Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh was one of very few bright spots for the Big 12 in '09 (google images)

2009 Recap:

If not for Texas making it to the BCS National Championship Game, the Big 12 would have ranked fifth or sixth in the ’09 Power Rankings.  Nebraska came out of nowhere, but their offense was anemic.  Oklahoma lost Sam Bradford and never really got on track all year.  Add in Mizzou and Texas Tech not living up to high expectations coming off successful 2008 campaigns, and the Big 12 didn’t have much to talk about beyond Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley and Ndamukong Suh.

2010 outlook:  Next season will likely be more of the same for the Big 12.  Although the loss of Colt McCoy in the first quarter of the BCS National Championship was a huge blow, it provided valuable experience to Freshman Garrett Gilbert.  Oklahoma’s offense should be improved with Landry Jones having a year of experience under his belt, but their dominant defense will likely take a step back.  The Sooners lose six defensive starters, including both corners and projected first-round DT Gerald McCoy.

Texas Tech will likely take a year or two before they truly integrate to Tommy Tuberville’s system, Oklahoma State will have to replace starting quarterback Zac Robinson and will lose WR Dez Bryant to the NFL.  Mizzou loses playmakers on each side of the ball in WR Denario Alexander and projected first round linebacker, Sean Weatherspoon.  Add to that, Nebraska’s departure of Suh (who many project as the number one overall pick in April’s draft), and the Big 12 North will have trouble keeping points off the scoreboard.

3.  Big Ten

2009 Recap:  The major reason the Big Ten did not claim the #2 spot in the ’09 Power Rankings was depth.  Iowa surprised many experts by effectively shutting Georgia Tech’s offense down, thanks in large part to All-Big Ten DE Adrian Clayborn, who is planning on returning for his senior year.  Terrelle Pryor saved his best performance for last, as he dominated in Ohio State’s Rose Bowl win over Oregon.

The Big Ten finished with a bowl record of 4-3, with a surprising win from Wisconsin over Miami and a Penn State victory over an offensively inept LSU team.  A more in depth look at the top two teams from the conference, however, shows a couple of teams that were far from juggernauts.

Iowa had one of the best defenses in the nation, but their offense was nothing to write home about.  The Hawkeyes struggled to beat Arkansas State at home and had to depend on two blocked field goals at the end of the game to defeat another FCS opponent, Northern Iowa 17-16 in Iowa City.

The Buckeyes nearly lost their opener to Navy at home and fell to a struggling USC team, and they later fell to 5-7 Purdue.

 

Look for Terrelle Pryor to have a huge year in 2010 (google images)

2010 Outlook:

Look for the Big Ten to make a serious run at the #2 conference in the country next season.  Jim Tressel continues to put great defenses on the field for the Bucks and the offense should take a huge step forward with the return of running backs Brandon Saine and Boom Herron.  And if Terrelle Pryor’s Rose Bowl performance was a sign of things to come, the Bucks will be the real deal come fall.

Iowa is also very young on offense–the ‘Hawks will return both freshman running backs, quarterback Ricky Stanzi and wideout Marvin McNutt, who exploded onto the scene in 2009.  Couple that with Adrian Clayborn and several returners on an already dominant defense, and the ‘Hawks could make a serious run in 2010.

Three other teams from the Big Ten to keep an eye on next year are Northwestern, Wisconsin and Michigan.  Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald is one of the most underrated coaches in the country.  Wisconsin’s John Clay took full advantage of being the work horse last year, and expect more of the same in 2010, and watch out for the Wolverines.  This will be Rich Rodriguez’ third full season in Ann Arbor, and Tate Forcier will have a spring to put some much needed weight on.  If UM can assemble an average defense, the Big Blue will be bowling again at year’s end.

Look for the breakdown of the top two conferences in College FootBlog’s countdown in the next few days…